Coming Full Circle

Day 32, Carpinteria to Ojai Full Circle Farm, 40 miles

One could say I met Ray Cirino through the internet. Facebook in particular. We began following each other’s cob oven and rocket stove postings soon after I joined the social media platform in 2008. A couple years later, I made my first of what would become annual bicycle tour down the Pacific Coast. Ray was in the middle working on Sparky, the wood fired dragon pizza oven, with a cob oven core and artisan metal working on the exterior. The LA Weekly featured Ray in an article entitled “LA’s Permaculture Mad Scientist”. Later we went to see the space shuttle at the LA science center, which I wrote about in my blog, titled Rocket man. Rocket stoves. Recycled rocket parts from military junkyards. Ray is a rocket of permaculture passion and determination.

Ray has invited me up to Ojai, his current digs, for a few years now. I’ve always declined, staying on the coast. This tour, I decide to take him up. Checking elevations, the climb doesn’t seem that bad, especially after what I’ve already completed. A lovely flat morning ride, sun rise over the Santa Barbara coastline, cruising along to Ventura, first on that fancy new bike path, then Route 1, which is now a side road hugging the busy 101, Ventura Freeway.

I reach Ventura, stop for coffee and chat with a motorcyclist who is also adventuring the states. Then I head east, into the desert of California. I say desert, because a short distance from the coast, temperatures begin to climb. I follow the Ojai Valley Trail, which climbs along what must be a river, though no water is to be seen. A couple hours, then I reach Ojai, a quaint town with the Spanish architecture I love so much. I pause at a natural food store, then head out. Temperature is above 90°F. I drink a lot of my water, ride slowly. The road climbs switchbacks, then I see the evidence of last year’s Thomas Fire.

I miss the turnoff, double back, then roll down what was the old highway to FCF, Full Circle Farm. I roll right on in, seeing scattered buildings of various hippy styles, a group of young men taking down burnt trees, them I find Ray, working in his shop on another invention. Like old times, greetings move quickly into a tour of all the projects Ray is currently juggling. Adding metal shutters on the earth dome that survived the fire, but post the wooden framing on the windows. Scale models of a cob playhouse for children, and a fire proof cob cottage with metal window and door shutters. A wooden model of a fire tornado biochar generator he hopes Burning Man will adopt. A bio char outhouse, and biochar compost pile with rich dark soil.

His most current creations are an owl house and a rat catching box, which he will then feed to raptors at a restoration preserve. It’s hard to follow ray, so many things to finish, but the passion he carries is apparent. We walk through Full Circle Farm, he shows me where animals were kept until the fire, gardening projects needing more attention. And the most important feature: a hot shower. I duck out and get cleaned up from the road. Ray sends off another resident for pizza making supplies. He fires up his metal wood heated oven.

Folks are gathering now, a fire pit is also blazing, pizzas cooking in Ray’s oven. The pizza is delicious, a gluten free dough that rises as well as any wheat crust.  The conversation also feeds me, as we talk late around the fire pit. There are several other permaculture apprentices, I hear their excitement. Is this possible, saving the earth from what seems inevitable environmental collapse? These young people, men and women, seem to have no doubts. I remember this confidence, this spirit, this zeal for making a difference, for changing the way things are. For saving the world. I am breathing in their enthusiasm again, a rarified air of commitment, inspiration and optimism.

I’ve come full circle again, here at Full Circle Farm. Remembering why I got involved in healing work so many years ago, why I built the cob Kiva at Ahimsa Sanctuary, why we built an organic vegetarian restaurant with a wood fired earthen oven. Art and function, fantasy and devotion, passion and the hardest work I’ve ever experienced. Somehow, I wandered from the path, lost my focus, my dream, my vision. Here, I’m reminded again. Here, I see it isn’t that far off. Here, right in my memory, now in my sight again, and on the far horizon. Thank you Ray and all these wonderful dreamers and builders.


Other posts featuring Ray Cirino, Rocket Man and Permaculture Mad Scientist:

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