Archive for January 2011 | Monthly archive page

Thanks to the great results and wonderful feedback coming from our Bambu Batu blog, and because the Internet already hosts a profusion of Top Ten lists, and due to the ever-shrinking attention span of online readers, we’ve decided this week to launch our own semi-regular feature of lists called “Eight Is Enough”.

Just one more way for you, our reader, to follow our unique perspectives on topics ranging from local news to gardening tips to metaphysical conjecture. So to initiate the Eight Is Enough series, we begin with a subject close to home, new findings that name San Luis Obispo “the happiest city in America.”

Eight Way To Know You Live In The Happiest Place On Earth

1. You know you live in the happiest place on earth if your town has no panhandlers, thanks to a city-wide ban on homelessness.

2. Every other car you see has a “Coexist” bumper sticker, each owned by a middle-aged white person with an upper-middle class income.

3. Wider sidewalks, as reported by Jenny McCarthy of the Oprah Show, reduce the risk of physical contact with strangers who might otherwise violate your personal sphere of happiness.

4. The natural human need to discriminate against those who are different is satisfied by cigarette smokers who have been stripped of civil rights and equal access.

5. Almost everyone you know is either a massage therapist, a yoga instructor, or an astrologer.

6. An exceptional climate and a strict adherence to the adage “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all” results in many profound discussions about the local weather.

7. You live in the only city on earth to have both an all-hemp store and an all-bamboo store.

8. Every business you walk into is staffed by beautiful young college students with huge smiles that more than compensate for the lack of knowledgeability.

People Magazine. When you see someone on the cover of this syndicate, you know they’re important. But rarely do we give thought to the details of the picture. For example, what brand of hair gel, or what cosmetics, or what brand of clothing the center of attention is sporting. I mean, sure, you may ask yourself who their designer was, but you never think, “I wonder if they’re wearing cotton or hemp or bamboo?” Until, well, now.

Kicky Pants is a small-ish company dedicated to producing sustainable bamboo apparel for munchkins. And now they’ve made it to the cover of People Magazine. John Travolta has a brand new baby. His name’s Ben, and in his first ever public appearance (what a way to meet the world, by the way) he was adorned in cozy bamboo coveralls.

Kicky Pants was created by CEO’s Erin and Nick Cloke. Erin had the idea for the company while on bedrest with her then newborn. All of the company’s lines are designed by her.

This is good news. It means the being environmentally conscious has finally become trendy. It means that John Travolta has good taste in clothing (something people may have doubted after, say Saturday Night Fever.) And it means that businesses that make every effort to uphold sustainable and ethical business practices will not be forgotten about.

On that note, we are proud to carry an extensive line of organic baby clothing, including Kicky Pants bamboo dresses and coveralls, as well as several other bamboo clothing lines, such as Yala Spun Bamboo, and Arbor. Come in and check it out!

*This is a now household phrase, thanks to Steve Jobs. And apparently, there’s now an app for yoga. That’s right boys and girls, you can yoga on the goga. Rough work meeting? Instead of a cup of coffee, step out for triangle pose or a series of hip openers. Can’t make it to your 6 p.m. Vinyasa class? How about a quick round of power yoga at the park, or the highway rest stop, or even the airport.

With All-in YOGA (available from iTunes for just $1.99), or any other of a host of yoga apps, you can personalize your session by length of time, level of fitness, and intention. There are a few different formats, as well. You can have a narrator or flash cards if you chose.

The benefits of yoga are well known. From flexibility and core strength to mental discipline and focus, great for young and old, men and women. And now it’s in your pocket!

Those who stand to benefit the most from this kind of easy access, are those who have hectic or strange schedules, such as mothers, artists and big time business folk. Though really, everyone can benefit from yoga. In the same way that anyone can enjoy a pair of bamboo yoga pants or a some bamboo athletic wear, whether they practice yoga or not. : )

Be on your merry way, smart phone users, and stand tall, because your posture is already improving! Namaste.

Remember back when talk of green building was cause for deep-seated suspicion? Remember when President Reagan removed the solar panels from the roof of the White House? Well we’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

I ran into some old friends this weekend, and they we’re telling me all about their passive solar home in the hills of rural Sonoma County. Every aspect of the home’s design was intended to integrate with the surrounding forest, conserve energy and minimize environmental impact. They built it all themselves, and the pictures were beautiful.

Consistent with their desire to exalt all things renewable and sustainable, they even planted several varieties of bamboo on the property. “We expected this huge forest of bamboo,” they told me, and then went on to describe their meager results.

True enough, bamboo is considered to be about the fastest growing plant on the planet (surpassed only be a couple types of seaweed). So where did they go wrong?

Well, it’s hard to know exactly without some closer examination, but when it comes to gardening, there’s nothing “greener” than native landscaping. Native plants have co-evolved for the best match to the soil and the climate; they have established relationships with local birds, insects and other wildlife; and they will not attract invasive, non-native pests and predators.

When it comes to sustainable resources, you can’t get much greener than bamboo, but it is certainly not a native California grass. Looking again at these photos of the Sonoma County countryside, I noticed something. There’s gold in them hills! Golden-brown, that is. An obviously arid landscape. Not the kind of place where tropical, Asian grasses will thrive.

OK, I don’t know if they planted tropical varieties or not, for there are some 1500 species of bamboo. But in any case, bamboo is a grass, and it does like regular water. But it doesn’t need good, clean water; in fact, dirty, brackish water is just fine. And that makes it a perfect candidate for planting around the grey water outfall. Of course, a home just isn’t green without a good grey water recycling system, pumping the dirty, used water from the sinks, baths and appliances (but not the toilets) right into the garden.

Ideally, unless the property is all perfectly flat, the grey water should come out onto a slope, so that it can run downhill and cover the most territory, rather than pooling all in one spot. Now bamboo makes a pretty good filter of dirty water, not that your dishwater would need filtering before it hits your lettuce, but it couldn’t hurt. Furthermore, bamboo’s got pretty shallow roots — extensive and convoluted, but not particularly deep. So the grey water could run past the bamboo, keeping it happy and moist, and still provide thorough irrigation to the the veggies.

On the other hand, if you’d rather keep your veggies within sight, and then run a privacy hedge of bamboo on the outer perimeter, that would work just as well. It all comes down to personal preferences and the specific terrain of the property you’re planting on.

Statistics indicate that about 70% of household water could be classified as grey water and reused for irrigation. That’s an awful lot of water that would otherwise go to waste and end up at your friendly neighborhood sewage treatment facility, when you could be beautifying your landscape and growing your own food instead. It’s as easy as this.

For more info, stop by Bambu Batu and check some of our books on green building or just come in and talk to Fred about gardening.

“I’m telling you, THIS is why astrology is a bunch of bs! You’re telling me that all of a sudden, I’m just magically a different sign, all because some yahoo from the mid-west finally realizes that the earth has shifted? I don’t buy….”

Man, he wouldn’t stop. My boyfriend is a serious skeptic about things like astrology. For him to go out on a limb and believe that something he always took with a grain of salt was shifting completely, was asking too much. Apparently, a lot of people have their panties in a grand cross over the issue. It is quite the reflection on how society handles change in general.

But has that change really changed ANYTHING? Sure, the earth tilted a scooch. And now this constellation, Ophioucus (pronounced O-Few-cus), is in big bold bright view. Does that really make you a Taurus now, dear?

Well, even though his response was bull headed and stubborn, no, it doesn’t. To get to the root of this, I called up Dr. Craig Martin, an astrologer based in L.A. He was a funny man, short and to the point. He made it  clear from the beginning that Ophioucus was a bunch of phooey. I asked him why he thought so.

“I’ll tell you why I KNOW so… Astronomy and astrology are different. Astrology is an interpretive art.” One that an astronomer knows little about. As you may already know, the hubbub began when an astronomer named Parke Kunkle (poor bastard) proposed that because of the shift in the earth’s axis, a new astrological sign would come about and shift all of the other signs back to make room.

The point that Dr. Martin was making is that on the whole, astronomers don’t fuddle much in astrology. It’s an art that compromises the credibility of their science in the science community. So, according to Martin, the link between astronomy and astrology is tenuous at best.

He acknowledged the shift in the earth’s axis, but then he also went on to point out that this was something astrologers have known about for a long, long time, and that it’s already been accounted for. It’s called precession, and while it does have an affect on our signs, they knew that already. Duh.

He’s not alone in his conviction either. He has been interviewed by quite a few major media syndicates and publications since the uproar, and when he gave his take to Fox News and the Associated Press, they looked less than shocked. “That’s what everyone has said,” seems to be the overwhelming consensus.

Additionally, he pointed out that in order to make room for the new sign, you have to take time away from the other signs. “There is no way you could move through Leo that quickly… It’s huge.”

I must admit, I was a little bummed about the debunking. My birthday lands right in the middle of what would have been the new sign’s territory. Ophioucus would have been sort of awesome! And I still can’t understand for the life of me why people would be opposed to the change. But hey, if it doesn’t add up, it doesn’t add up.

For further counsel on the matter, I highly recommend getting in touch one of our local astrologers. Harry Farmer is a great person to contact, as well as Barb Heiam-Bjornsen.

Wabi Sabi

With the dawn of a new decade, many of us may find ourselves groping for stability; reaching for touchstones of constancy to keep us grounded in the tumultuous adventure we call life; seeking people, objects or ideas that will ensure our security amidst an ocean of uncertainty.

But according to the millennia-old teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, all this yearning for long lasting steadiness and reliable permanence will be done in vain. One of the greatest keys to peace of mind lies in the acceptance of transience, and feeling otherwise will lead only to misplaced attachments and identification with illusions, or what another tradition might call the veneration of false idols.

In Japan, this easy acceptance of all that is imperfect, incomplete and impermanent goes by the catchy name of Wabi Sabi. But don’t confuse it with the minty green paste in the upper corner of your sushi plate. Although Wabi Sabi — like a good dose of horseradish — does have the potential to clear your head of turbid congestion.

The cornerstone of Japanese aesthetics, Wabi Sabi reveres beauty that can be seen in its natural state, flawed and ephemeral. In art, landscaping and architecture, one may spend years trying to reproduce this state of simplicity, with a carefully manicured bonsai tree, for example, or a meticulously arranged rock garden.

Such is the great paradox of Eastern philosophy, for the quest for simplicity is anything but simple. Learning to accept the people, objects and circumstances that surround you, in their natural state of imperfection, may require diligent mental and spiritual training. But once you recognize that less is more, you will find your heart and soul running over with abundance.

2011 is well underway, and more than a few things have changed. Mrs. Giffords is showing wonderful signs of recovery, people now feel comfortable openly mocking scientology, and there are rumors of the thirteenth sign of the zodiac. So with things moving forward, I have to wonder if anyone will catch on to the crazy and outlandish concept of baby swinging. Yeah. You read that right.

Technically, it’s called baby yoga. A very fit and outgoing Russian woman, named Lena Fokina is attempting to make the practice a more acceptable and common part of child rearing.

Everyone has heard of baby yoga. But the image it conjures in the mind is a little different than the viral video that has been circulating youtube, where Fokina is swinging a child around by its limbs like a baton. (It’s not been removed from Youtube, but you can still see it here.)

The practice also goes by the name “extreme developmental gymnastics.” Perhaps we can have baby swinging competitions (with energy drink sponsorships.) The idea is that baby hurling speeds up developmental processes such as talking, singing, reading and swimming. In her defense, Fokina claims that she has done this with her own two daughters, who are now wonderfully talented free diving instructors.`

When asked about the American outrage to her youtube video, she responded  “Did they notice that the babies aren’t crying—they’re even laughing—and that this system has been used for over thirty years in Russia and the children are all alive and healthy? If you need more proof, the best thing is to come see us.”

Well, it certainly sounds interesting. Fox News is against it, so it can’t be all bad. Though I have to admit, it’s probably not something people should try at home.

Song Of The Day

Wow. Why so trigger happy these days, America? Did somebody declare January to be National Second Amendment Appreciation Month?

The red fever has made its way from Tucson to the sunny Central Coast. Thankfully, it wasn’t a person, or a child that was taken away from the world by someone’s trigger, but I don’t think anyone sees a zebra and thinks, “that animal is a threat to society.”

That’s right. The Owner of Green Valley Cattle Co., shot, killed, and SKINNED two of three escaped Hearst Castle zebras. (The third zebra was shot by his neighbor.) The zebras wandered onto his nearby property after their escape from the castle. According to quick draw McGraw, they had posed a threat to his horses and cattle.

What I would like to know is, are zebras really dangerous? Really? That’s good to know, because honestly, if a zebra wandered into town, I’d be anxious to run up and say “here, zebra zebra zebra. You’re soooo cute, yes you are, shmooopikins.”

So I looked it up. Zebras, like anything else, are hostile when a threat is imposed upon them. They have sharp hooves, and powerful muscle strength. But they’re not aggressive creatures.

It would be lovely if people were that way. Only hostile when attacked. However, lately, it’s difficult to believe that people aren’t aggressive predators. Or maybe, it’s just that we’re so scared of everything, that we believe, as a species, that we are constantly under attack. Perhaps, if the fear campaigns would kindly leave our media, we wouldn’t use our defenses so often. (Whether in the form of slander or a sawed off shot gun.)

If you’re asking yourself, ‘what’s the point of this rant? This isn’t informative’ Here it is. If you don’t strike fear in to the hearts of millions, then they won’t attack. If you don’t go up and punch a zebra in the nose, it won’t bite. Live and let live. Even if it means you won’t have that nice zebra skin rug by your fireplace. Personally, I think that bamboo mats are more tasteful anyhow.

Song of the day

Heaven and Hell Zen Parable“Of Heaven and Hell” |  A Zen Parable from Bambu Batu


A samurai warrior makes his way home after a long and arduous campaign against the barbarian tribes of the hinterlands. His robes are stained with the blood of enemies and allies alike, and the specter of death weighs heavy on his mind.

Before heading back to his own village, the weary soldier takes a detour into the forbidden forest to seek counsel with the wise Hermit of the woods. Making his way into an enchanted grove, penetrated only by the thinnest splinters of sunlight, the samurai swordsman comes upon the simple cabin of a solitary, old monk.

The hermit, taciturn, looks the warrior over and raises his eyebrows in expectation. “I come in search of your fabled wisdom,” says the visitor. The sage shrugs his shoulders, then nods, inviting his guest to continue.

“I’ve travelled to every corner of the kingdom, and beyond,” the warrior explains. “And I think I’ve come to know the ways of this world. But I keep hearing people speak of Heaven and Hell. Every battle I fight, I see more and more death. And with each battle it grows more senseless and more meaningless.”

“But,” he says, “I keep thinking about this business of Heaven and Hell, and I don’t understand. I can’t help thinking that Heaven and Hell are merely an empty promise and a hollow threat. Tell me, Wise One, are there truly such things?”

The wise hermit scratches his chin. Then he clears his throat. Then he looks his visitor in the eye and asks, “What kind of soldier are you? You don’t look very brave, and you certainly don’t sound very bright.”

Startled by this language, the samurai jumps to his feet and furls his eyebrows. The sage continues: “I don’t see the strength of a warrior in you. Who would possibly want the likes of you in their army?”

With his heart pounding and his blood boiling, the insulted samurai now reaches for his sword, and gripping it fiercely, begins to draw it from its scabbard. Noticing this aggression, the old man asks calmly, “And what do you intend to do with that? I doubt you even know the first thing about how to use such a weapon. You don’t frighten anyone.”

At this, the warrior raises his mighty sword over his head and drives a piercing glance into the hermit’s eyes. The wise old sage now raises his boney finger and says softly, “There, you see, you have reached the gates of Hell.”

The flummoxed warrior pauses to make sense of this. Then, finding his poise, he returns his blade carefully into its sheath and nods silently.

“And now,” the guru concludes, “you stand at the gates of Heaven.”

And so the soldier bows to the sage with gratitude and continues home.



For more enchanted Zen Parables to tickle your mind and soothe your soul, be sure to check out Everything FlowsThe Magician and the Prince, and Mind is the Forerunner of All Things.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sensō-ji, Taitō-ku, Japan (Unsplash)

Martin Luther King Day is quickly approaching. It’s the time of year when we think of a man that spoke radically, and made enemies to promote civil rights. It’s a time to appreciate people who work to make the world a better place.

Unfortunately, another great human being has fallen prey to hatred and unnecessary violence. Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords, a heralding hero for solar energy, natural resources and conservation, amongst many other great causes, was recently shot it the head, and critically injured along with fourteen other people. Six were killed.

While there is some controversy as to the motivation of the shooting, there is no doubt that Giffords is a woman of incredible strength, integrity, and intelligence, and certainly did not deserve to be the target of hatred (not that anyone ever does).

Amongst her many personal and professional achievements, including being the youngest woman ever elected to the Senate, she has worked hard as a Congresswomen to get three very important environmental bills passed.

In 2007, she put into motion the Solar Energy Research and Advancement Act. This legislation creates research and development programs for solar technology, includes a report of how to draw solar energy from high solar resource areas, and examines ways to reduce water consumption during the solar conversion process.

In 2008, she added the Renewable Energy Assistance Tax Act to her credentials. This extended the 30% commercial solar property and residential tax credit for eight years. It also extended energy efficient appliance credit, and the energy efficient doors, windows and insulation consumer tax credit, thereby extending the financial incentive for people to adopt more environmentally responsible lifestyles.

In 2007, she created the Levee Like Structures Consideration Act, which would have required FEMA to create a process for considering the effects of levee-like structures when revising of updating flood maps. While this passed the committee on Financial Services, the issue was resolved through negotiations with FEMA.

In addition to the work she’s done for the environment, Gifford has also fought hard for our health, both mental and physical, our public education, and our employee rights. She is a compassionate, intelligent and motivated woman. I hope for the sake of her, her family, our government and our environment, that she recovers to her full capacity.