Bugs in the Garden

July 5th, 2012


Dear Pixie – I see you have run up against the first big hurdle in organic gardening: BUGS. After successfully nurturing the seedlings into healthy plants just about to start bearing good things to eat, after all your care and hard work, the bugs show up one day and start wreaking havoc. It’s not fair!!

This is the time when you have to become a warrior gardener and protect what’s yours. It’s tricky because you have to be fierce but only selectively destructive. I’ve never met a successful organic gardener who wasn’t cut throat when it came to slaughtering without mercy any bug or fungi or other creepy thing that threatened their plants. But it must be done without causing harm to anything else. It’s not too hard when you have the right tricks.

First, water. Some bugs can be washed away with a strong spray of water. If that doesn’t work put some soapy water in a spray bottle and squirt the little suckers. Just don’t get any in the soil or on the roots of the plants. If that’s not the cure, try chili powder solution in the spray bottle, garlic maybe.

There are a gazillion non-toxic remedies for specific infestestations online. But the best cure is prevention. Keep your plants strong and healthy. Get rid of the weak ones, hand pull weeds, keep a good mulch around plants, feed them when they need it (never feed them after the fruit appears).

Probably most important, welcome the birds and the lady bugs. They will gladly do your work for you. And if you lose a few veggies to the bugs anyway, that’s the way it is with organic growing. If you lose them all, clear the ground, let it lie fallow and keep it cleaned out and bare. When the bugs are all gone, set out some strong seedlings and do it again.

What else would a good warrior do?

After many years of happy warrioring, I salute you and wish you well!

. . . love you . . . swan . . . .

What is that sound?

December 22nd, 2011

Wow – that is so cool how you made that poem into a song! I’m sitting here looking at the sound track and I realize it looks like the teeth of a chainsaw and I hear this undertone that could be a chainsaw in the distance – and I think that this time the wood is stronger than the metal. Big bad tree branch, windblown, beating up on flimsy, rusty little tin roof – maybe it’s the sound of nature winning!

Thanks Dennis!

Blessed solstice – may all our trees win . . .

Sunday, June 5

June 6th, 2011


The sun appears to rise

but it is we who are falling,

spinning into space,

out of control, out of our minds,

lost in birdsong and gently

expiring trees.

@Rebecca Swan
June 5, 2011

June 3rd, 2011


Our Temple of Being

April 19th, 2011

We have to fight, finally, without any guarantee that we are going to win. We have waited late to get started and our adversaries are strong and we do not know how this is going to come out. If you were a betting person you might bet we were going to lose because so far that is what’s happened, but that’s not a bet you are allowed to make. The only thing that a morally awake person can do when the worst thing that ever happened is happening is try to change those odds. – Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, an international climate campaign.

I’m reading this the same day that I’m reading that Entergy, the regulated utility that operates in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas, reported a $2.77 billion profit for the last quarter – that’s for 3 months – almost a billion a month profit! The hotter it gets, the more we crank up the air conditioners, the more money they make.

It was 20 degrees above seasonal average yesterday in central Texas – 95 degrees in Austin – in April in the middle of an extreme drought. The state is being consumed by wildfires. Entergy is making out like a bandit.

There was a brush fire on the outskirts of Austin. It got out of control in the extremely dry, windy conditions and burned a hundred acres, including several upscale homes. People were outraged. How could that happen here, in the city? They say it was started by some guy camped out in a brushy area that hadn’t been paved over and developed yet, a homeless person cooking breakfast over a campfire.

If you love this earth, if you love your children, all children, the future generations, please make this Earth Day a pledge to fight for your planet, for the redemption of the human race on this planet.

May we learn to respect all beings and respect the earth, the land and trees, the oceans and rivers, the air and clouds and rain, the frozen north and the tropical palm trees and all things that live and move and have being, all interconnected in the web of life, our life, our temple of being.


March 30th, 2011



(for my daughters)

I want to tell you that the world
is still beautiful.
I tell you that despite
children raped on city streets,
shot down in school rooms,
despite the slow poisons seeping
from old and hidden sins
into our air, soil, water,
despite the thinning film
that encloses our aching world.
Despite my own terror and despair.

I want you to know that spring
is no small thing, that
the tender grasses curling
like a baby’s fine hairs around
your fingers are a recurring
miracle. I want to tell you
that the river rocks shine
like God, that the crisp
voices of the orange and gold
October leaves are laughing at death,

I want to remind you to look
beneath the grass, to note
the fragile hieroglyphs
of ant, snail, beetle. I want
you to understand that you
are no more and no less necessary
than the brown recluse, the ruby-
throated hummingbird, the humpback
whale, the profligate mimosa.
I want to say, like Neruda,
that I am waiting for
“a great and common tenderness”,
that I still believe
we are capable of attention,
that anyone who notices the world
must want to save it.

~ Rebecca Baggett ~

Building a better world . . .

March 4th, 2011

For some time now, there has been an activist group protesting a third runway at Heathrow in London, one of the world’s largest airports. The group, Plane Stupid, decided a year ago to help create a Transition Initiative in Sipson, a community that was threatened by the runway. So they found an abandoned piece of land, full of trash and broken glass, and transformed it into gardens, workshops, kitchens and a meeting place to launch projects for the whole community. It was met with some skepticism at first but now . . . well, watch the video below and see for yourself. By the way, the local policeman says crime is down 50% since the initiative was set up.

Economic Justice

February 24th, 2011


Thousands of people gather in a public square, chanting and holding signs, calling for justice. All the riches of their country are going into the pockets of a few elites. Most of the people have no share and no say in how their country is run and who gets what. Those who disagree with this arrangement are jailed, tortured or disappeared.

There was no question of fighting that system and winning so the people were controlled by fear. Until they found enough strength in numbers, in coming together for their common cause, and broke through the fear together. Look at them. They are disciplined, they are organized, they are committed to nonviolence. They are open and inclusive. Everyone gets a seat at the table. They are the Facebook, Twitter, cell phone, internet generation. They are beautiful to watch, taking back their countries from the old, oppressive regimes.

Building a new world won’t be easy. I hope their steps are true and as sound as the justice and equality they are calling for. Democracy means the people rule and these are the people.

Cairo Facebook Revolution

February 9th, 2011

A crash pad in Cairo, university students, sons and daughters of the elite, fiercely committed, laptops open everywhere – this is the heart of the Egyptian revolution. It reminds me of the communal households and underground publishing scenes of the 60s and 70s.

Listen to the last speaker on this video: “We broke through that wall of fear. Nobody cares about himself any more. We don’t think individually. We just think of the whole country.”

The Joy of Solidarity

January 20th, 2011

It’s a summer afternoon in the early sixties. My sister and I, in our late teens, are cruising down a wide boulevard in a North Dallas neighborhood. We see a car coming toward us and another car coming up fast hits that car from behind, hard – whomp! – crunching it’s rear end, then backs up and squeals away with a crushed grill dangling in front. There are no other cars on the road at the moment. We stop and jump out. The impact has ruptured the gas tank (this was before they fixed that little design flaw – duh) and gas was spewing out on the road. The driver, a young woman, was slumped down behind the steering wheel and looked unconscious. As my sister and I reached the edge of the pavement, preparing to rush across the street and pull her out before the gas caught fire, there seemed to be an invisible force field stopping us. It was a physical force that I couldn’t move against and I looked over at my sister and she was looking at me – what the heck is this? Then we both snapped and it was gone and we pulled the woman from the car.

I have experienced all kinds of fear in my life. Some of it justified by the immediate situation (some fear is useful, like of a hot stove or an icy road) and some of it just the deep grinding rut of fear in the mind. It seems to me that that kind of fear shrinks our lives and keeps us from shining out with compassion and sharing and love.

It’s obvious that if we are going to save our planet, save ourselves, that we are going to have to work together. The capitalist model of competing for resources, winners and losers, doesn’t make sense any more when 95% of the beings on the planet are losers (98%? 99?). Fear holds us back. What we can’t see when we are afraid is the joy of collective action, the buoyant lift of solidarity in action that carries us over all the barricades of fear and hesitation.

I began writing when I was 11. I was published by the time I was 14. But I didn’t find my life’s work until my first experience with a radical newspaper with a purpose (saving an aquifer and stopping a nuclear power plant and publicizing and celebrating the writers and artists and musicians among us). The joy of the collective action kept us going 12-18 hour days, 7 days a week, because that’s what it took and I felt so lucky to be there.

And I still feel lucky about my work. In a way, it’s easier now to reach a lot of people. I just sit here at my keyboard and type and post! There is goes. No trees killed, no printers ink (or bills), no gasoline used to distribute (well, computers aren’t exactly purely green). But I am alone in this room. I don’t see the people I collaborate with and I never get to walk into a cafe and see people sitting around reading my newspaper, hot off the presses.

I love it that the EarthFirst! newspaper is still on newsprint. I’m thinking about printing up the book I’m writing right now on a copy machine, binding it by hand and distributing it by just passing copies around, hand to hand. Kind of like a bucket brigade . . . pass it on.