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That Was Zen, This Is Tao

The Anderson Valley Foodshed advocates growing and eating local, organically grown produce, meat and grain, and promotes local food sovereignty by supporting small farmers in our bio-region. Since most of the rural living skills needed to run a smoothly functioning homestead revolve around growing food, the Not-So-Simple Living Fair is one of the instrumental ways the AV Foodshed fulfills its mission.

In a way, the Not-So-Simple Living Fair reminds me of Lao Tzu… the Chinese sage whose mother was pregnant with him for 80 years until finally, he was born an old man. Even though the Not-So-Simple Living Fair is only five years old, the idea was conceived a long time ago. I don't mean just as far back as 1976, when the original Simple Living Workshops started in Ukiah, moving to Boonville in 1978. But, even farther back in time to a mostly pre-urban era when a majority of folks lived a rural lifestyle and came together, usually in sync with the seasons of the year, to compare notes about how the crops were coming along; to sell or barter what they grew, raised or made; to recruit neighbors to hire or help build a new barn; or to see the latest tools and equipment to be had. Food is shared, the musical instruments come out, the children play together and stories are told.

It's interesting to look at some of the workshop topics that were offered and what transpired at the Simple Living gatherings of the 1970's.... goat husbandry, rolfing, home birth, nomadic living, sweat lodges, herbicides, people shearing (or learning how to trim a hedge, if you speak Boontling). Now, we're still offering Goat Basics, and we've still got the herbicides issue. It probably won't be addressed at the NSSLF but it's a topic that worries many beekeepers. Back in '79 there was a band of gypsy clowns called the Illuminated Elephant Company traveling in a colorful school bus practicing “Simple Living on the Road.” Today we have the Gypsy Jam by the campfire on Friday nights comprised mostly of locals who never want to leave Anderson Valley. There was always music, with Pura Vida being the band who bridged the decades.

New this year will be contra dancing on Friday evening, prompted by Lea Smith with Tim & Linda O'Laughlin & Friends of the Bolt the Door band. Then, on Saturday night it's Candelaria, an exhilarating ensemble of musicians who really know how to get you up on your feet. Sunday afternoon at 2:00, Penny Livingston-Stark of the Regenerative Design Institute and Commonweal Farm in Bolinas will talk about their thriving experiments in Permaculture. Her keynote will address the topic, “Living with Drought.” Dr. Solar's Goodtime, Sunshine, Traveling Medicine Show will be performing throughout the weekend.

CorinnePierce1When you get to the fair on Saturday and Sunday you will have six workshops to choose from in any given one hour and 20 minute period. Check the website for current information. Expect to find a schedule with workshops categorized by Wild Foods, Shelter/H20/Energy, Homesteading Skills, Food, Farming and Gardening, Animal Husbandry, and the Conversation Cafe. New this year will be a Yoga Weekend at SOBO across Highway 128 from the fairgrounds. Mary Pafford will offer yoga and meditation sessions early Friday evening and then Saturday and Sunday mornings before workshops begin and Saturday just before the potluck. These donation-based classes are suitable for a wide range of students.

Some of the other ways the AV Foodshed promotes eating local, organic food and learning rural living skills all year long is through the Third Sunday Potluck at the Philo Solar Grange. A different educational demonstration is featured each month. In May we ate Tom Melcher's homemade bread and Cindy Wilder's organic lamb stew with meat raised at the AV Community Farm. We learned about vermiculture from Jim Devine, who will be at this years NSSLF talking about his custom designed worm bin. July’s Third Sunday event is replaced by the NSSLF.

On the first Saturday of the month at the Boonville Farmer's Market you will find local folks giving Homesteading Skill Presentations. In June, Alice Woellfel-Erskine demonstrated sheep shearing. She and her sheep will be at the NSSLF too.

The AV Foodshed also initiated a Bee Club about a year ago. We meet often to share our apiary successes and challenges, visit each others hives, watch bee movies, etc. The other day, Wendy Read called Jill Lutz, a bee club member, to say there was a swarm clustered in her passionflower vine. Jill didn't have a spare hive super so she called us. She and Lynda drove off to the site, suited up, then handily scooped them into a cardboard box. After deciding where to situate them in our field, we hustled in the heat to pull together a super full of frames to offer them a new home. Thanks to the AV Foodshed Bee Club, the people and skills came together to make it possible for us to steward the bees who will hopefully one day bestow us with honey… one of the most miraculous of foods.

I would be remiss if I did not mention what many consider to be one of the brightest stars of the NSSLF constellation... the organic, local foods potluck and barbecue on Saturday evening. Here you will find the most artfully presented offerings of lovingly prepared foods made with organic ingredients from local gardens and pastures. You can learn how to butcher from John Bemesderfer early on Saturday morning and get down to the source of the local meat you will eat later. Local food will be available from vendors all day on Saturday and Sunday including a Grange Pancake breakfast on Sunday morning. We practice a zero waste policy throughout the fair... there is no such place as “away.” So remember to bring your own (BYO) place settings, cups and utensils to the potluck along with your favorite main dish, or salad, desert or beverage to share. A homemade solar dishwashing station will be available. Potluck organizers have cards to list ingredients so those with food allergies can knowingly partake.

Humans have always naturally come together to find what they need within their own communities through periodic gatherings. The AV Foodshed is continually shepherding the local flock together to celebrate and share our knowledge and abundance with each other. Through the Not-So-Simple Living Fair we honor the skills and traditions handed down by the now old or gone men and women who were the original homesteaders when life seemed simpler but was certainly not easy.

Gates to the Not So Simple Living Fair at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville open to campers Friday at 5 p.m., cost is $10/night. Admittance to events: $5 for Friday night, $25 per day or $35 full weekend, children 16 & under are free, and there is a senior discount. Sorry, absolutely no dogs. Tickets are available on site or online at For more information about the NSSLF go to http// or call 707-895-2949.

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The Connecting With Local Food series is sponsored by AV Foodshed and all previous articles are available at, which is also the home of the Mendocino County Food Guide where you can read about the farmers and their produce in your area. Many more CWLF articles on AV food producers, restaurants whose menus include local food, and venues that sell local food products are in the mix. Email to receive our monthly newsletter of events.

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