The Good Dirt: May 29 2010

The Good Dirt from CECLA


Make A Difference

To all green-minded, healthy--eating, social types who like to make a difference:

We're very excited to issue our FIRST edition of "The Good Dirt", the newsletter for our new Maine non-profit organization, The Center For Ecological & Cultural Living Arts, and the Dancing Cricket Farm. If you enjoy what you read here, we hope you'll decide to become part of our movement, whether it's sharing or signing up for our newsletter, becoming a supporting member, or seeking us out at one of our farmers' markets.
THANK YOU so much for coming along!




Upcoming Events

We’re just getting going, admittedly, and we anticipate continuing to be quite busy getting the farm established right through June. Watch for many more programs throughout the summer and fall. This list is only the beginning:
  • Bird & Wildflower Walk (June 5)
  • Overnight Camping (July)
  • Youth Day (Late July)
  • Harvest Picnic (August)
  • Wildlife Tracking Workshop (August)
  • Dancing Cricket Music Festival (August)



    The CECLA...Why?

      Thinking and acting both locally and globally...Doing something positive for the Maine community and environment with old friends and meeting new friends...Learning and practicing skills related to a healthy lifestyle...Having a great excuse to throw excellent parties and play music...these are just some of the things we've set out to accomplish...

    Read more

    Get's how:


    There are so many ways you can get involved. By simply attending one of our upcoming events, you'll immediately have an impact on what we are trying to accomplish. You can do even more by leading a workshop/activity, volunteering at Dancing Cricket Farm (our flagship project), and contributing juicy tidbits to our blog.

    The easiest way to jump in, though, is to JOIN CECLA. Member benefits include discounted registration for all events/workshops, free use of our trails (ahem...hiking, bird watching, XC skiing...get it?) and more.

    Read more


    Thank You To Friends & Supporters

    A huge thanks to the following folks who’ve provided valuable assistance to CECLA:
    Eric and Peggy Cianchette (Portland Regency Hotel), Amy Simonds, Kristel Hayes (Mesh Marketing Creative Group), Jim Costello (Curtis Thaxter), Ron Leblanc, JudyGervais, Greg Leonard, Emily Santillo, Jenna Santillo, Arthur Bell, Amy Simonds, Eric Rishe, Lynn Holland, Tara Fahey, Linda Rivard, Charmy Cutler. We've come very far this year because of you!



    Dirt From the Field

    We've been busy bees over at Dancing Cricket Farm! The fields are prepared & planting has begun. A new access driveway is in, a pole barn & yurt are being planned. We're experimenting with edible & medicinal mushrooms, and recently hosted grad students from UVM for a weekend of camping & fun...

    Read more


    Cultural Connections

    Kevin Santillo has spent the majority of the past 3 years living abroad, traveling and seeking to learn from other peoples and cultures and gain new perspectives on life. His objective: to step off the beaten path and into the shoes of the people I met in order to get the most out of each opportunity. He brings you his first of many stories here...

    Read more


    Why We Are Growing Heirloom Varieties

    As organic growers, we have found that the stable, older heirloom varieties often give the most dependable results. Their importance lies in maintaining genetic diversity, historical significance, and superior flavor. We aim to build upon the revival of the public’s appreciation for these heirlooms and ask you to look for them at your local markets to ensure their re-establishment throughout Maine.

    Read more


    Dancing Cricket CSA Shares Still Available

    Shares are still available for the 2010 summer/fall CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). What better opportunity to support local organic farming, and enjoy a wonderful variety of healthy vegetables? If you do not wish to purchase a share for yourself, you may wish to consider purchasing a full or partial share and donating to a local food bank.

    Buy a Share


    How the Cricket
    Got Its Groove

    After we decided on the name, Dancing Cricket Farm, Amy Simonds came upon a book, Local Myths, by Bryce Muir, featuring the local wildlife and culture surrounding Merrymeeting Bay. It seems that Bryce may have been thinking of exactly the same character...

    Read more


    Andean Despacho in the Name of Dancing Cricket Farm

    During a recent visit to Cuzco, Peru, Dave Santillo & Kevin Santillo were priviledged to participate in an Andean Despacho to bless the opening of CECLA's projects Andean Style. It was a special & sacred experience for all involved...

    Read more


    Dancing Cricket Farm Natural History Notes

    We've been learning a lot about the land our farm & facilities occupy, as well as the birds, plants, & other creatures that are it's natural inhabitants...

    Read more


    The Cricket & The Ant

    Another fun tidbit that we have enjoyed as inspiration in developing our spokes-character, and overall essence of what we are doing on the farm...

    Read more


    Finding our
    Dancing Cricket

    If you look at the websites for CECLA and Dancing Cricket, one thing is conspicuously missing...the Dancing Cricket himself-or herself. We're looking for your help in finding him. If you've been visited by the vision of the very essence of the Dancing Cricket, sketch ‘em out, and email it to us...

    Read more


    CECLA / Dancing
    Cricket Farm Press

    We were recently featured in the mid-coast edition of the Forecaster in an article by reporter Alex Lear, on CECLA and Dancing Cricket Farm...

    Read more

    The Center for Ecological & Cultural Living Arts
    P.O. Box 222
    Bowdoinham, ME 04008

    Copyright © 2010 The Center For Ecological & Cultural Living Arts. All Rights Reserved

    The Planting Begins at Dancing Cricket Farm

    We've been busy bees over at Dancing Cricket farm...the planting has begun!
    Here are some pics we're excited to share with you...
    Get the flash player here:


    The Cricket and the Ant

    Contributed by friend of CECLA, Heidi Unruh.  Thanks Heidi! 


    Why Dancing Cricket Selected Heirloom Varieties to Grow

    By Nick Costello

    The trend in modern conventional farming has been towards intensive agriculture to produce more of fewer varieties of vegetables.  Older varieties, often referred to as heirlooms, are becoming scarce as seeds that are reliant upon more fertilizers, and tolerant of herbicides, are becoming more prevalent.

    There are many variables associated with producing quality organic vegetables, and the methods of tweaking these variables for the most optimal growing conditions have been developed, documented, and disputed, for thousands of years.  Any grower will agree that without high-quality seed, all other activities are fruitless. There are many new seed varieties bred for their ability to yield only under conventional fertilizer/ pesticide regimes.  As you know, we at CECLA/Dancing Cricket are proud to be raising our vegetables and flowers using organic methods and soil amendments.

    There are many older varieties of vegetables that would have been passed along, neighbor to neighbor, generation to generation for thousands of years before these new varieties were developed. Though they fell out of the mainstream during the green revolution, they are now making a breakthrough return to the seed markets. Heirlooms are open pollinating varieties, pre-dating modern breeding work. As organic growers, we have found that the stable, older varieties often give more dependable results. Their importance lies in maintaining genetic diversity, historical significance, and superior flavor. We aim to build upon the revival of the public’s appreciation for these heirlooms and ask you to look for them at your local markets to ensure their re-establishment throughout Maine.

    Some examples of our selection include the following:  Rattlesnake Pole Bean, Veronica Romanesco Cauliflower, Lacinato Dinosaur Kale, Dark Lolla Rossa Lettuce, Costata Romanesco Zucchini, Principe Borghese Tomato, and Cider Jack Pumpkin.   We’re growing about eight varieties of tomatoes, nearly 10 varieties of lettuce, and so much more.

    Those of you who are members of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) will be enjoying these and many other Heirloom varieties soon.  If you are not a member, watch for our stands at Farmers’ Markets in Yarmouth, Gardner, and Bowdoinham.


    An Andean Despacho on Behalf of CECLA and Dancing Cricket

    By Kevin Santillo

    An ancient custom in Andean culture is the Despacho ceremony – an offering to Pachamama, or Mother Earth. Archaeologists have found despachos in the Andes dating back to at least 1000 B.C. The offering is a gift back to the Earth, giving thanks for all the sustenance we receive on a daily basis, while at the same time asking for support with our endeavors, whether it be relationships, business, or a successful harvest. The objective of the Despacho is to restore the balance between human being and nature, bringing them into harmony together and insuring the continuation and renewal of life in many forms and ways.  This follows the Andean principle of reciprocity, which simply states that if you receive you must give, and if you give you will receive. These days it is common in the Andes for people to make offerings to promote abundance and receive assistance in all types of business and projects. 

    If you’ve looked over the CECLA website, you know that a major goal of CECLA is to conduct its activities in harmony with nature, with respect and appreciation for what the earth provides.  Incorporating Andean philosophies into our CECLA way of life is a natural and obvious thing to do!

    During most of the month of March my father came down to visit me in Cuzco, Peru, to see what I had been up to the past year and to meet the family that I had been living with. We spent about half our time out exploring some little-known areas of Manu National Park in the Amazon, keeping with our tradition of trying to do something off the beaten path when we travel thoughout Latin America, but for the rest of his visit I wanted to be sure he got to see and experience the side of Andean life and culture that is unique to this area and very different from the one we know at home.

    Since talk began about starting CECLA and running a farm, I knew that my experiences and friendships I had made in the Andes would be able to support these efforts in a unique way. When my father made plans to come down, I knew right away what we would do to assist the project, Andean style.

    The Despacho is performed by an Andean priest or shaman, who guides its participants and arranges the offering. Our shaman was Puma, my friend and mentor since I first arrived to Cuzco over a year ago. Many of his family members, including his father, brother, and 4-year-old son participated with us to give us their support.

    Up until a few decades ago, it was necessary to go around, collecting various items from markets and vendors to make the despacho. Now the items come in one ready-to-make kit from what tourists refer to as the ¨witch markets¨ in downtown markets in Cuzco. The kit is opened, the items taken out of their plastic bags and opened up from their paper packets, and the large sheet of white paper is unfolded and spread out. The shaman usually begins with a sea shell – the center of the despacho since ancient times, perhaps because our ancestors knew life originated in the ocean. There are a few dozen items, including herbs, seeds, llama fat, foods, flowers, candies, confetti, and much more. The items are placed one by one into beautiful patterns on the paper, usually in an order depending on the shaman and the significance of the object. Each item has its purpose and is stated by the shaman: for example – the foods are to give thanks for the sustenance we receive; the seeds for the continued production of our crops; the candies are to insure that life may always be sweet; the bits of gold and silver represent prosperity and the confetti so that everyday we may be in celebration of life. The list goes on and on. The significance of the item may change from shaman to shaman, and not all items in the kit are put into the offering depending on its purpose.

    The ceremony forces its contributors to concentrate on their intentions and initiatives. Before the despacho, you must ask yourself what exactly do you want to realize and at what level. The most important part of the despacho are the kintus, or sets of three intact coca leaves. Coca was sacred in ancient times in the Andes and many people still hold the belief to this day. It was called the divine leaf of immortality and referred to as mother coca, mostly because of its high nutritional value. They are the fundamental offering in the Andes. Kintus are still left by people walking long distances in the mountains so they may arrive safely to their destinations. The kintus are placed in patterns in the offering, each one holding a prayer that somebody has breathed into it, usually in the name of one of the Apus, or the powerful mountain spirits that still reign in traditional beliefs of the Andes.

    So why a despacho for CECLA and Dancing Cricket Farm?  For me there are many reasons, the biggest one being that I have seen many miracles in the Andes and have become a firm believer of reciprocity. Mother Earth has been very generous to me here, and my intentions with the offering were to bring these beliefs and energies home to the north, a place where I see the Earth, the living being that gives us life, as largely forgotten and mistreated. CECLA, in my opinion, has great deal of potential - most importantly the potential to bring balance and harmony back into the human relationship with nature in the western world. And of course, we asked for a successful harvest, an important component of our financial support for CECLA.

    When Puma finished wrapping up the offering in its white paper and tying it up with multi-colored threads, each of us was blessed by the completed offering and blew three breathes into it, following the old tradition. We all gathered around as it was burned in the fire to transmute and release the energy back to the Earth. To end the ceremony, we all congratulated one another and embraced.

    CECLA has extended an invitation to a member of Puma’s family, Rebe, to host him for the summer.  Rebe is a guide in training under Puma, for Cultural and Mystical tourism.   If approved by the Peruvian embassy, Rebe will be helping on the farm, and will be holding a number of programs for our members and the general community.  Although not quite with the same mystique of Cuzco, Peru, we may reenact the Despacho at our land in Bowdoinham this summer.  Watch in our newsletter!