Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 Wisconsin Garden Expo

This is a quick note to let you know that I will be speaking at the 2018 Garden Expo This February 9-11. On both Friday and Saturday I will be speaking for about an hour about my adventure to Peru, but mostly about the Potato Park and the important work a group of 6000 indigenous people are doing to protect potatoes and the many varieties that originate high in the Andes Mountains. Would love to see you at one of the sessions I am leading.

Friday, Feb. 9, 4 p.m. Waubesa/Kegonsa room
Saturday, Feb. 10, 2:15 in Mendoda 5 room

Below is the program notes about my talk

Where 6,000 People are Protecting Potatoes for the World
Joshua Feyen
Madison Area Permaculture Guild

Josh Feyen visited Paru Paru, one of six villages in a uniquely-designated area high in the Andes Mountains. This is the birthplace of the potato, and Josh returned with video, photos and stories about a small group of people dedicated to growing, preserving and sharing potato plants, culture and knowledge. Learn about traditional planting and harvesting, and the Park's modern-day efforts to keep potato seed stock free from biotech company royalties, for humanity to share this amazingly adaptable staple crop. And photos of llamas and alpacas, because they're just cute.

See the full schedule here

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Most significant moment in Paru Paru, Peru

The second week of my time in Peru was spent in the Cusco region, where the Inca wonders such as the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu are located. Just an hour outside Cusco is an entirely underappreciated region called "Potato Park." This video shares my impression that they are doing service work for the world. Yes, the entire world.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My most significant moment while in Arequipa

Yes - The Urbane Farmer has been away, far, far away. Like, Peru.

I spent three weeks in Peru as part of a three credit international engagement elective class for my Masters program. I don't have a lot of time right now so I'm simply going to share a link to a video that talks about the most significant moment I had while in our Arequipa, Peru, the first stop on our two week adventure.

Video one of three - visiting gardens in an unlikely place and the conflict the gardeners have with sharing their water supply.

YouTube video

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Article on Unintended Consequences of Changes to the Automotive Industry

I read this article and want to share it with you and also hold onto it "for the record."

Cars and second order consequences

The article covers many of the (unintended) consequences of both electric vehicles and autonomous cars. Part of his argument is in line with questions I've asked about the impact on gas tax, and how road construction is actually paid for (TIP: it's not all about gas tax).

I hope you enjoy  reading the article.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

My February Family Reunion

Brian - of the Permaculture Guild. He lives in my neighborhood and last
summer, my nieces and nephew were walking through the neighborhood
we stopped by Brin's house to say hi. He gave us a tour of his back yard - 
bees, cats, raised beds, a green house and some berry samples. Thank's Brian
you helped my evil plan to make five new gardeners!
Rodney, friend from our bi-weekly "Friday Night Dinner" group and
amazing flower gardener. My favorite story from Rodney is when his back
yard flooded and his fish took advantage of the opportunity and "ran away."
I attended the Wisconsin Garden Expo for the first time in 2014. At that time I admonished all of my gardening friends for not having told me about this amazing annual event in my backyard. I mean, it's warm, green, full of people and a respite from February! It's an extrovert gardener's dream next to a trip to Mexico!

The Wisconsin garden Expo is a fundraiser for Wisconsin Public Television. That's the official explanation for this convergence of home and professional gardeners, landscapers, tchotchke sellers, non-profit organizations of all flavors (The Wisconsin Day Lilly Society! and many others) implement dealers, equipment sellers, and even the Mini dealership and a bathroom remodeler. Not quite sure how that last one fits...

Jenny is my two-doors-down neighbor and super good friend. She encouraged
us to get chickens, is generous with time when I have questions and one night
came to the rescue when I was up-potting seedlings and ran out of pots.
In addition to aisles and aisles of amazing garden goodness,  there is an amazing education component to the Expo as well. On the other side of the cinderblock wall, where it is (just a little) less crowded, there are a dozen or more rooms with a huge variety of classes taught by professionals and amateurs alike. In 2015 I taught two sessions of the same class titled "Using permaculture principles to design an urban orchard, store water, reduce work and build community."

I have now attended the Expo for four years, and while I am by no means a seasoned veteran (I am sure there are people who have been attending for decades) I am now familiar enough with the rhythm that I have found my favorite way to attend.

Mark is Rodney's partner and also a very talented gardener. He's done what
I've always wanted to do; asked and took over his neighbor's yard.
The unofficial explanation for this amazing event is that it's become my annual February family reunion. The Expo opens at 2 PM on Friday and I take the afternoon off from work to get there when it opens. While there are classes throughout the day weekend, it's worth missing the Friday ones because the exhibition floor is far less crowded on the first day, and it's the best time to walk around and visit my friends and favorite vendors. Over the years I have made new acquaintances at the Expo, and by hanging around with cool garden people throughout the year I invariably run into them as well. This year I decided to make a photo album of all of my gardening buddies that I ran into at the Expo.

Think of the rest of this blog post as my Valentine to the following amazing people, and my gratitude to the Wisconsin Garden Expo for bringing us together during a February weekend when we are all in the midst of cabin fever.

I met Jane through Jay's best friend Dale, but now we're gardening buddies
on our own. She's an amazing gardening educator and volunteer extraordinaire.
I lost count of all the booths she was helping at this year.
There are a few people I didn't get photos of including my permaculture mentor Kate, one of my best friends, Drew, and all those I spotted across the Expo floor but couldn't through the walkers, stroller or other masses of people to say "hi." This is your Valentine too!

Petrovnia is new(ish) to gardening but oh my enthusiastic. Her quest for
knowledge is infectious, we had a lot of fun bumping into one another several
times this weekend.

I met Pablo and Maria at a Madison Area Permaculture Guild meeting last
summer and immediately decided we needed to be friends. They are from
Uruguay; Pablo is doing his PhD at UW and Maria is improving her
English and working with Pablo on his projects. We meet regularly to exchange
time speaking English and Spanish, and are having fun planning garden
projects together.

I met Patrick years ago at Friday Night Dinner. He and his partner Keith are
two of the handiest guys I know and are always digging into or building something.

Dave and Paul are long-time friends and I was lucky enough to run into them
to add them to my Garden Expo album.

I met Emily through the Permaculture Guild and we instantly knew we had to
do some orchard things together. Emily loves trees and now that she has no
more room at home to plant them, adopts them out. We have one of her Mount
Royal Plumb trees - and we're all hoping this will be the year from some fruit!

I met Karina through the Guild too, and she's in my neighborhood. But there's just
something incredibly infectious about her personality that I have a total crush on.
Maybe it's her smile, maybe it's her design sense, maybe it's that when I'm talking
with her, I'm the only person in her world. Regardless, I'm grateful to know her.

I know Jill and her husband through my community garden leader's "support group."
OK, it's not really a support group, but it is. During the growing season, leaders from
community gardens throughout the city gather to share ideas, solve problems and, well,
shake our heads and have a therapy session about our members. Jill is the outgoing
leader of the Troy Gardens community garden, and I have the deepest respect for her
as she has kept our support group going for many years. 

I met Rob at my workplace when he approached me asking for some land near
our employee garden to build a monarch butterfly garden. Last year he planted and
tended an amazing collection of monarch-friendly plants. But he doesn't just
provide habitat and food, he collects the egg sacks, feeds the caterpillars,
guards the chrysalises and releases the butterflies after they emerge. His method has
a 90% survival rate, where in the wild they have a 10% survival rate. 

I know Brad and Dani through the community garden "support group" (see Jill above).
Thanks to the wonders of Facebook I got to congratulate them on their engagement,
to which Brad told me they are getting married in two weeks (and they're at the expo?!)
Lovely couple who manage a community garden in downtown Madison.

My last stop of the day to see Kathy at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press booth.
Each year we say "we have to get together" and then we don't. OK KATHY, this is the
year that we actually get together BETWEEN Expos. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


We finally received our vanity license plate today! I've always eschewed vanity plates, but guess I couldn't resist the confluence of new car + electric car + solar panels on the house.

We charge our car overnight at our house which (obviously) doesn't use electrons we make, but it does debit the "banked" electricity we made during the day. And when I drive the Volt to work, a few times a week I charge up at the Alliant Energy Madison headquarters where they have five free charging stations, and they are solar powered too!

So here's to a happy, sun-powered new year for us and many others.

I recently wrote two series about our electric car that you might enjoy reading.

One is about gas tax and electric vehicles, and the second is about our decision to buy an electric car and install solar panels on our house. 

Part 1 - How Volkswagen is Helping us Repay the Planet for Its Sins
Part 2 - Our Search for a Cleaner Car
Part 3 - Buying a Used 2016 Chevrolet Volt
Part 4 - A Lesson on Creating Clean Energy at Home
Part 5 - Making the Decision to Add Solar to our Urban Roof

Saturday, December 31, 2016

BONUS - The Electric Vehicle Owner’s Talking Points

This is the bonus in my series on gas tax, roadbuilding and electric vehicles. You can find links to the other parts at the bottom of this post.
  1. The gas tax does not fully fund road building and maintenance.Since the interstate highway system was implemented in 1947, U.S. spending on highways has exceeded the amount collected from fuel and vehicle fees by more than $600 billion.
  2. Most of the deficit is made up with local, state or regional bonds or municipal property taxes. So even if a person doesn’t drive, if they pay state or federal taxes, they’re paying for road construction and maintenance, a type of infrastructure that only cars, trucks and buses can use.
  3. Roads within cities are generally financed through local, property, and sales taxes. They do not get any of the gas tax collected at the pump.
  4. Electric cars not paying the small amount that purchasing gas contributes to road maintenance is a bit of a non-issue. Society is subsidizing roads big time.
  5. When Congress enacted Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, they mandated auto manufacturers to improve the fuel economy across their vehicle fleet. Most people agree this is a good thing. As vehicles become more efficient, they put more miles on roads per gallon of fuel, reducing their per mile contribution to the road tax. This is what's really killing the Federal Highway Fund and state fuel taxes collected at the pump.
  6. Hybrids vehicle sales account for 2.2 percent of overall vehicle sales, and have yet to hit four percent in a given year. This indicates that the problem of gas tax revenue lost through these vehicles is negligible compared to the decrease in tax collection that has resulted from the nation’s drastic drop in overall fuel consumption. 
  7. As of August 2015, the lost gas tax revenue from electric vehicle sales of 365,000 vehicles is shown to be $71.9 million or a loss of 0.23 percent. That's two tenths of one cent of every dollar collected. Cut a penny into 10 parts, remove two of them. Not much.
  8. Current assessment is that in 15 to 25 years EVs could make an impact on revenue. This means that now is the time to come up with a new way to tax vehicles for road construction and maintenance.The Highway Trust Fund has experienced a continuing shortfall that is attributed to three major factors:
    1. more fuel efficient internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles,
    2. the fact that federal gas rates has not risen since 1993 and
    3. the increased cost in highway construction and repairs.
...and not to the advent of electric vehicles.