Monday, September 3, 2012

Bay Bound

After filming the electric tractor at work for a future video, We left Steve Heckeroth's and headed south back over the crazy goat tracks that California decided to pave and call highways. I admire them for their penuriousness but I curse them for the steep blind corners, their BMW convertible drivers and for all love, their bicyclists who choose to train on said "highways."  Having gotten the 27' long Land Whale safely all the way back to a real highway, 101, I felt there should have been a cold beer and a medal for me.

Our next stop was in Petaluma so Paul could give a talk at the local Seed Bank.  The Seed Bank is located in Downtown Petaluma in a former bank building which is a cool thing given its name.  What is even cooler is that this is a building that was designed to be as impressive as a temple for money you could imagine.  The ceilings in the Bank lobby is about 30 feet high with arched windows that go nearly the full height of the walls.  There are all sorts of medallions on the wall (a couple of matched griiffins were especially remarkable), marble floors, etc. that now serve the place as a temple to heirloom seeds.  That was a delightful reuse of a building a bank could no longer make it in.

Before Paul's speaking engagement we all enjoyed dinner at a Sushi restaurant with James, our delightful host (a Yorkshireman!) and one of Paul's fellow permaculture warriors, Toby Hemenway. Not surprisingly, they talked shop and permaculture gossip until it was time to leave.  Eivind soaked up every word and jumped in where he could.  This trip is turning out to be more than he hoped for with each of these encounters with permaculturalists.  James, who is a civilian like me, visited with me about a variety of non-permaculture topics.  James, by the way, was a terrific host.  He ferried us to and from our various obligations safely and timely.  On top that, he made sure we had a great breakfast before we dashed off 101 to San Francisco.  Thanks, James, for your brilliant hosting!

Now, San Francisco is one of my favorite cities.  Some of my most favorite memories occurred here and when I visit, they hang around like welcome ghosts.  The places and experiences will always be a rich source of things to remember fondly.  So, why are we here?  Well, Paul has this thing for the Palace of Fine Arts.  He saw it once and it has haunted him and never left his bucket list so we had to go see it.  My misgivings about taking the Land Whale to San Francisco's streets notwithstanding, the Parking Fairies looked out for us and plopped a three space spot for us and we took them all.  As I got out of the rig, a local police officer rolled up and I asked, "Can I park here?  That big guy needs to see the Palace of Fine Arts real badly" The cop said, "No." "Even for half an hour?" I countered.  He looked at the Montana license plates on the Whale and said, "OK."  How reasonable do you want your peace officers to be?  About that reasonable.  And it made Paul happy to see the Palace of Fine Arts.  I think it is the only thing I know of that dwarfs him:


The second reason we came to San Francisco was for Paul to meet up with Carol Steinfeld.  Carol is a waste water treatment pioneer who has planned a variety of ecological human waste systems and has authored three books Liquid Gold which is about the beneficial use of human urine.  Now, don't get all icky on me.  To hear her talk about the chemistry, the biology and the physics, it is clear there is room for open, adult conversation about this subject.  Her other books are Reusing the Resource and The Composting Toilet.  You can understand why someone involved in permaculture would be interested in Carol's ideas.  After lunch at Scoma's down on Fisherman's wharf, Paul and Carol sat down to record a good, long podcast about, I swear, 'your poop and pee.'   It will be up in a couple of weeks.  Her work and eco plumbing products are available at, and her books are available through  She invites your experiments in this field and welcomes your comments and experiences, so let her know what's going down.

(l to r) Carol, Jocelyn, Paul, Eivind at Scoma's
 Lunch and the podcast consumed more than our scheduled time in San Francisco so in spite of not going to Cha Cha Cha's, Rue Le Pic, Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store, and visiting friends and relatives (next time, Nephew Tim!), we must be off to visit a farm near Yosemite Park.  Now, how do I get a Land Whale out of San Francisco?


  1. I'm loving the photos! The Palace of Fine Arts looks like a destination for the bucket list of most everyone I know.

    1. Would you be amazed to know it it made out of concrete?