Monday, August 31, 2009

New Earth Times is changing its name!!! OLD JUPITER NEWS

September Fools!! We've had this tradition in our family since Neil, now 20, was a smidge. Our feeling was why should April Fools Day fun happen only once a year when there are 11 other perfectly good months with Fools Days.

Mine were always pretty lame--"Hey it is snowing outside!" "June Fools!!" "Wow, look at the elephants in the river!" "December Fools!" "No school today--you can sleep in!" "February Fools!"

G on the paternal side, is a natural clown at coming up with worthy tricks. None of us could remember any of his swell Foolers specifically, but they were usually plausible and shocking and hilarious. Something about paying off all of Neil's bills for the rest of his life, or not paying for anything for Neil for the rest of his life, or, we got you a Les Paul guitar for Christmas (opps, we really did that one year but it had the same initial effect as a good Fools Day). You get the idea--almost believeable whoppers. I think it is what made Neil a strong and compassionate comedian. He always landed on his feet with a laugh. He always walked silly and carried a big yuck.

So remember Fools Day--it's not just for April anymore! Get out there and try on your Fools Self and make someone smile for September Fools! Thanks to Neil for being born a good sport and a charmer.
-Laura Solberg-

Short and Sweet

Even though the economy will be tanking relatively soon, and healtcare as we know it will be a fond memory, I'm still doing my micro-bit to support the public option by writing our congresspeople. There's no need to say much, because at best all they do is keep a pro/con tally sheet. I use both names in the hopes they'll count it twice.

Regarding health care, we’ve always been in favor of single-payer. Since this has been declared “off the table,” we are adamantly in favor of a strong, robust public option, NOW. We aren’t interested in compromising with Republicans, health care co-ops, or accepting “half a loaf.” We want a strong public option, period.


Gordon Solberg
Laura Solberg

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Step, Step, Cat, Step, Step

Pearl takes a siesta amidst the flowerpots.

A Hummingbird Tragedy

For the past couple of weeks, we've noticed a female praying mantis lurking on the bottom of one of our hummingbird feeders. We assumed she was hunting bees, who are attracted to the sweet nectar. But she obviously had bigger game in mind:

On Friday afternoon, this is what we found. The mantis had caught herself a hummer. Notice the drop of hummingbird blood on the side of the feeder.

It looked to us like the mantis was sucking the hummingbird's blood and eating the meat to some extent. When she was through, the dropped the carcass, which landed on the feeder perch.

You don't realize how small a hummingbird really is until you can hold one in your hand.
Hummingbirds vibrate at a very high frequency, but are delicate creatures. A few years ago, a hummingbird got into our guest house. I opened the doors and tried to shoo it out with a broom, to no avail. I finally was able to grab it next to a window. I carried it outside, opened my hand, and the hummingbird was dead! I figured it had suffered a heart attack. Evidently the stress was more than it could bear.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Neil's Radio Show

Neil and two of his film buddies will be hosting a radio show on the NMSU student station, KRUX, 91.5 on your radio dial. The show will run from 8-10 pm Mountain Time every Monday evening. The show is called "Normal, Gray and Balding." Jaron is Gray, Devon is Balding, and for some unknown reason Neil is Normal. Go figure.

Out-of-towners can listen to it on the internet. Go to . On the left side of the page, under main menu, click STREAM. From there on out, your computer's software will take over and link you up, or something like that.

We're curious to hear what these three guys have planned!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Whatever Happened to Christianity?

I posted this last November but wasn't satisfied with it, so I deleted it after a couple of days. I've now honed it to a laser-like focus, so here it is:

A friend recently lent me a book by Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture. Bishop Spong puts forth what I would consider a common sense viewpoint: the Bible is not literally true; it is not the inerrant Word of God; it was actually written by flawed human beings. Spong believes, for example, that the Epistles were written by Paul, not by God. Makes sense to me.

Consider Spong’s predicament: he is now a retired bishop, who spent his entire career in the service of the Episcopal Church. Like many of us, he is too intelligent to believe that the Bible is literally true. But, because of his position in life, he feels obligated to not reject the Bible outright, so he ends up wrapping himself around the axle of his own justifications. A more elegant solution, it seems to me, is to view the Bible, along with other ancient religious texts, as documents of historical interest that contain some valid spiritual advice, but which are of only marginal relevance today. For our present age, in which we are witnessing the murder of our planet before our very eyes, we need to develop a modern spiritual message. We need to enter the Silence on our own, and develop a contemporary version of the universal, timeless spiritual message, using modern language directed toward modern sensibilities.

The original followers of Jesus were cultural creatives, the spiritual seekers of that generation, who weren’t satisfied with the existing dogmas. That’s why they were willing to listen to Jesus in the first place. But times changed. Christianity itself hardened into dogma, and became increasingly unable to fill our spiritual needs. Turn the clock forward 2000 years, and we find that very few cultural creatives now consider themselves to be Christian; in fact, almost without exception, cultural creatives are anything but Christian. Whatever happened?

First, let’s briefly look at a human characteristic that has made the blind acceptance of traditional religions possible: the fact that most people are unable to develop new beliefs in adulthood. Their minds harden up during adolescence. Whatever they are programmed with as children stays with them for the rest of their lives. I’ve seen no statistics to indicate what this percentage may be, but I would guess it to be a great majority – 80% or more. It is the other 20% (or less), the cultural creatives – the people who had been most likely to become Christians when the Church was new – who are now most likely to reject the Christian dogma they were programmed with as children and leave the established Church. A religion that loses its brightest believers each generation is in trouble in the long run.

According to Joseph Campbell in his epochal book, Creative Mythology, this process was already well underway by the 12th Century. Campbell says, “In Christian Europe, already in the twelfth century, beliefs no longer universally held were universally enforced. The result was a dissociation of professed from actual existence and that consequent spiritual disaster which... is symbolized in the Waste Land theme: a landscape of spiritual death, a world waiting, waiting... for the Desired Knight, who would restore its integrity to life and let stream again from infinite depths the lost, forgotten, living waters of the inexhaustible source... For those... in whom the authorized signs no longer work... there follows inevitably a sense both of dissociation from the local social nexus and of quest, within and without, for life, which the brain will take to be for ‘meaning.’ Coerced to the social pattern, the individual can only harden to some figure of living death; and if any considerable number of the members of a civilization are in this predicament, a point of no return will have been passed.”

(I’ve been asked to translate the previous paragraph. Here goes: Already by the 12th Century, people who knew better were forced to profess Christianity anyway. They were forced to fake belief in something they didn’t really believe in. This destroyed their integrity, which caused them to become empty inside. They became husks of what they could have been, and ended up always searching for “something,” they knew not what. When a critical mass of society is in this predicament, the society is in deep trouble. Or something like that.)

(This search for “meaning” describes not only my own quest, but the lives of millions of other former Christians: the search for the “infinite depths of the living waters of the inexhaustible source” -- which, fortunately, turns out to be the center of our very existence. It’s amazing how hard so many of us have had to search for something so close at hand! It would be far better if children were told the truth in the first place. How elegant it would be if adolescents didn’t have to rebel against what their parents taught them, and to waste so much of their adult lives searching for what they already have!)

The process of dissociation from the Church greatly accelerated in the middle of the 19th Century. By that time, modern geology had showed that the Earth was actually billions of years old. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was in direct conflict with Biblical Creationism. The more intelligent Christians could no longer accept the Biblical worldview of Adam and Eve, Heaven and Hell, Jesus dying on the cross to atone for our sins, and an all-loving God who will lovingly send us to eternal torment in Hell if we don’t profess the correct ideology.

Christianity has been bleeding away its most intelligent believers at a rapid rate for over 150 years now.

Laura and I were raised as Christians – she as an Episcopalian, me as a Baptist. We were sent to church and Sunday school every week. We were indoctrinated as well as the Church was able to indoctrinate us. But we were too intelligent to stay. As we reached adolescence, our response to Christian dogma was typical of cultural creatives – as soon as we were old enough to take control of our own lives, we quietly left the church and never looked back.

Multiply this by the millions of our fellow Baby Boomers who did the same thing, and you have a Church in trouble. Not only is the Church losing great numbers of believers, they are the most intelligent and creative believers. Or ex-believers, actually. One end of the Christian bell curve -- the intelligent end -- is continually being truncated. Sure, many intelligent, spiritual Christians remain. But taken as a whole, as the generations pass, the Christians who remain tend to be the least inquisitive and the most credulous members of society.

Add to this the recent phenomenon of politically active Christianity, and we have an entire planet in deep trouble. When the political process is unduly influenced by small-minded fundamentalists, then we as a civilization are unable to intelligently address the terrible problems – overpopulation, environmental destruction, global warming, peak oil, economic meltdown – now confronting us. Retrograde politics will prove lethal to us and the entire planet.

Bishop Spong is fighting a rear-guard, and ultimately impossible battle. He’s trying to make the Bible relevant for the most intelligent Christians by pointing out that it need not be taken literally. Christianity, in Spong’s view, is not about rigidly adhering to dogma, but is about compassion and love, of becoming an “authentic human being.” As Spong says in his book, “The call of Christ to me is an eternal call to love, to live, and to be. It is an invitation to work for those things that create life, to oppose those people, those attitudes, and those systems that distort life. It is to become aware of the freeing, exhilarating, consciousness-raising experience of the Holy God.” Sounds good to me.

But one need not be a Christian to do this. The Christian filter is strictly optional. There are a multitude of ways to approach spirituality, and Christianity is but one. Once a person admits the possibility that Christianity isn’t the “One True” religion, and that the Bible isn’t the inerrant “Word of God,” the whole edifice starts to crumble. And as millions of ex-Christians have found, once we’re free from the confines of Christian Faith, we don’t miss it at all.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Farmer's Market Kerfuffle

Here's a letter we emailed to all 6 Las Cruces city counsellors, plus the mayor and city manager. Someday I'll have to write an overview of the Farmer's Market situation.

Aug. 23, 2009

We are writing to you regarding the proposal to move Farmer’s Market into a couple of tents on the parking lot south of El Paso Electric.

There are a number of problems with this proposal, the main one being the impracticality of shoehorning the 3 blocks of Farmer’s Market into a ½ block area. This could perhaps be accomplished in a technical sense, but operationally, you would be creating a gridlock nightmare. Imagine 200 vendors with their vehicles trying to set up in a ½ block area. Then fill those tents with thousands of Farmer’s Market customers. This would be a most unpleasant experience for all concerned. On a good Saturday, Farmer’s Market is already crowded; squeezing all those people into 1/6 the space would create problems that would be best avoided. Farmer’s Market has grown significantly during the past three years, and needs more room, not less.

As Farmer’s Market vendors for the past 20 years, we have a problem with how this situation is being handled. We attended the “dry run” on Thursday to check out our new spot on the south end of Main Street. Then, two days later, we received a slip of paper while we were busy at Market informing us of this new proposal, with the necessity that a decision be made right now in order to meet the arbitrary deadline of moving Farmer’s Market by Sept. 5. We were not informed of the key fact that the cost of leasing the tents would be deducted from the permanent shade fund. If Farmer’s Market vendors had been fully informed about the proposal and given the opportunity to vote, they would have overwhelmingly rejected it. As things stand now, we are feeling railroaded.

We would prefer that Farmer’s Market be moved to the south end of Main Street as originally planned. If it has already been decided to remove Farmer’s Market from Main Street entirely, we would suggest Young Park as the new venue. It is already an excellent location for the Renaissance Faire, and would be for Farmer’s Market as well. There is already lots of shade, and grass is cooler than pavement. In terms of a pleasant environment with lots of parking, this would be the most user-friendly of all alternatives.

At the very least, we hope the Sept. 5 deadline will be postponed until a more reasoned decision can be made.

Thank you,

Gordon Solberg
Laura Solberg

Sunday, August 16, 2009

On the Margins of Civilization: Introduction to the Goat Path

I wrote this as the introduction to my column in the Gila Sustainable Community Forum, but decided to wait awhile before I posted it. Evidently I waited too long, because now I'm canceling my column due to lack of feedback. (There seems to be a pattern at work here, wouldn't you say?) At any rate, it's a good piece of writing, so I'm posting it here:

I have a confession to make: I’m no longer an “American” in any commonly-accepted meaning of the word. Though I was raised in the traditional American way, with Mickey Mouse, Elvis, flav-r-straws, pop-tarts, church on Sunday and insufferably boring school that taught me how to daydream if nothing else, as soon as I was able I took a different path that shaped me in a different way from anything that could be called “American.” I followed what I call the Goat Path, and I’m still following it. I know that there are others like me who chose their own version of the Goat Path instead of the Freeway Path. With the Freeway Path, it’s all mapped out: good education, good job, good benefits, paid-in-advance burial plan... wow, that was pretty slick, wasn’t it? How quickly life went by when you’re at the end looking back! With the Goat Path, on the other hand, you don’t really know if there’s a path at all. Maybe this is all just a waste of time? Maybe I’ve been lost all along? Is that a trail over there, or just a bunch of rocks? You’ve got to read the signs and trust the intuition, and even then you might be wrong. There are no guarantees. In the words of the bumpersticker on the back of my van: “I chose the path less traveled. Now, where the hell am I?”

One of my favorite pieces of writing back in the 60s was “Four Changes,” written by the poet Gary Snyder (with a little help from his friends) in 1969. Google it and read the whole thing; it’s great. Here’s one of my favorite parts: “We have it within our deepest powers not only to change ourselves but to change our culture. If we are to survive on Earth we must transform the five-millennia-long urbanizing civilization tradition into a new ecologically-sensitive, harmony-oriented, wild-minded scientific/spiritual culture... Master the archaic and the primitive as models of basic nature-related cultures -- as well as the most imaginative extensions of science -- and build a community where these two vectors cross.”

As a scientist with a mystical streak, I found that concept exciting. How very different from the conventional middle-class reality I had been exposed to until then! Imagine, an ecologically-sensitive, harmony-oriented, wild-minded scientific/spiritual culture! This sounded like something I could really pour my life into! So I did, and found myself doing literally megatons of heavy lifting, and enduring years of solitude, and a touch or two of madness, or was that the wind of God? Life on the margins of civilization isn’t for the faint of heart.

As Joseph Campbell said in his epochal book, Creative Mythology: “We today, willy-nilly, must enter the [pathless] forest... and, like it or not, the pathless way is the only way now before us... Precisely between their God and Devil, heaven and hell, white and black, the man of heart walks through. Out beyond those walls, in the uncharted forest night, where the terrible wind of God blows directly on the questing undefended soul, tangled ways may lead to madness. They may also lead, however... to ‘all those things that go to make heaven and earth.’”

Whoa, what did I sign up for, anyway? Wait, let me think about this! But it was already too late.

Somehow I learned to scrabble together a living while remaining as free as I was capable of. Sometimes I felt like the only one living this way, but that wasn’t really true.

This all might sound unbearably airy-fairy to some, but what I’m actually talking about is nothing more or less than reality, which is ultimately incomprehensible and is all right here, right now, with nothing hidden from those who have the eyes to see. As the Zen master Hakuin (1685-1768) said,

This very earth is the Lotus Land of Purity,
And this body is the body of the Buddha.

To me, this seemed in stark contrast to the traditional (and trivial) Western worldview of dominance and exploitation that is even today destroying what’s left of our planet.

I’ve been stumbling my way along the Goat Path for 40 years now, and from time to time I’ve written down whatever the Muse has info-dumped through my brain. These stories and essays aren’t so much descriptions of the Goat Path, as manifestations of it. I hope you will find them enjoyable, and confirming of your own Goat Path experiences.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Butterfly Emerging

A caterpillar had built its chrysalis on the edge of this water bucket, which provides a beautiful translucent background for the ritual of emergence. Laura spotted the butterfly as it was emerging, and shot a series of photographs. She left for a few minutes to do other tasks and when she returned, it was gone.

Tiny Toad

I saw this tiny toad hopping along the ground, so I scooped it up and took it in to show Laura, who adores all tiny creatures (as well as the not-so-tiny). She took this picture. I had to hold onto its foot to keep it from hopping off.

Getting a Lot Done Lately

Sorry for the scant posting of late. Not having photo software capability really cramps my style. Usually I would at least post a photo or two when I don't have anything to say. Neil says he'll be out to fix it whenever his movie shooting schedule allows.

Laura and I did a massive amount of divestment, preparatory to getting everything organized. We rented a huge dumpster -- 20 feet long, 6 feet high, and 6 feet wide -- and filled it to the brim in a little over a month. A lot of flood debris, but a lot of "wreckage from the past" as well. They hauled the dumpster out on Saturday, and what a relief. Now all we have to do is move stuff around and stack it neatly. Fortunately winter is on its way, which is the season for outdoor projects of all kinds.

The two large sheetmetal sheds (8x16 and 12x24) at the beeyard were the last major remnants of flood damage. We hired a guy to dig the flood-deposited sand out of the big shed (it was 6" deep in some places) and the lean-to on the side of the shed used for storing bee equipment. Then Laura and I climbed onto the shed before the sun got too hot and covered all the seams with latex roof patch. It rained a couple of days later, and there wasn't a drop inside. Then we took out all the particleboard shelves that had been ruined by the leaky roof. Next we'll put in new shelves, and organize our stuff into some sort of logical configuration. We even installed a new door. The old door had been bowed in by the water pressure and sediment of the flood, and allowed packrats inside for almost 3 years. They did remarkably little damage, all things considered.

Next we'll move all the hive boxes and other bee equipment under the lean-to. We are moving the remaining hives to a new spot a few hundred feet north, and will use the old beeyard area as a garden. It's the only spot on our property where we can have a truckload of manure dumped directly onto the garden, and I'm looking forward to it. This will be one kick-ass garden next year.

This is all part of my ongoing project to turn Soarbird Ranch into a model microfarm on the Amish model -- everything clean, organized, and productive. I've never achieved this goal before, and it looks like -- God and circumstance willing -- we'll have things pretty well under control by spring. I'm really enjoying this. Even though the planet is being destroyed in terms of being a friendly host for lifeforms, I'm still able, somehow, to get enthused about my little projects. Thank you Great Spirit for all the blessings you have bestowed upon me.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Movie Star

Neil usually works behind the camera, but occasionally he's an actor as well. There are a couple of examples of his acting on YouTube. Both of them are pretty funny. I wonder where he gets that?

The first, "A Fool's Gold", is a real shorty at 2:53.

The other one is "Professor Neil's Guide to Spelling and the English Language." This one clocks out at 6:26. (Note: this link doesn't work. Just Google "Neil Teaches You to Spell" for a link that works.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Computer Weirdness

We've been unable to post pictures of late because our computer has glitched up. We had a nice little photo program where we would click on the thumbnail, and a big version of the photo would appear that we could crop, etc. Now, we click on the thumbnail and it takes us to Netscape, an ancient web broswer from 1996 or so. Pretty weird. Laura and I spent an hour clicking around, to no avail. Neil thinks he can fix it, but it won't be anytime soon. Computers are like cars -- they're great when they work. Otherwise they're a total pain in the ass.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Thanks a million to all you enthusiastic New Earth Timesers! It is abundantly clear that you are a spunky bunch who love a good contest challenge. The response to our "Guess the Name of This Dog" Contest was overwhelming and it took us a while to wade through all the guesses. Our favorite wrong guess was by Jacques Conejo who rocked our socks off and had us rolling on the floor with his "Mash." Way to go Jacques! We are awarding him a Consolation Prize of a 5-year subscription to our blog!

So with no further ado, we are now ready to reveal that the dog's real name is "Face." He belongs to the hotdog vendor at our Las Cruces Farmers Market. What a hoot! Stay tuned here at New Earth Times because we have more contests and fun coming up than you could wag your tail at.

-Laura Solberg-

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Dry Monsoon

The rains have been very spotty so far this summer. There have been some heavy rains here and there, but nothing region-wide. Las Cruces has had several heavy rains that I've heard of. On July 22 I was harvesting honey south of LC and passed mile after mile of flooded pecan orchards -- a sure sign of heavy rain the night before. But here at Soarbird Ranch, the rainfall has been minimal.

Our rainfall totals so far this summer:

June 0
July 1.92"

Of that 1.92", 1.30" fell on July 4 (which added a lot of water to our rainwater catchment tanks). The second-greatest rainfall was .21" on July 21. All in all, not much of a month, rainfall-wise.

I talked to a guy in Silver City last week so said their monsoon was "pathetic." This is one of those summers where you might get 2 inches of rain in half an hour, or nothing. It's weather like this that caused people to invent rain dances.