Kalamazoo and surrounds


Today I met up with my friend Hillary Rettig and her partner Jan. I had met Hillary nine years ago, back when I began my East Coast Empathy Tour in Boston, where she was living at the time; she and her housemates hosted me for a few nights. Shortly afterward, she moved to Kalamazoo to be with Jan, who teaches at a local university, and then she founded Vegan Kalamazoo, which has built up a thriving vegan community in this small city. (Hillary will be organizing the city’s first vegan festival in September!)

They picked me up from the home of my Warmshowers host south of town, and took me first to the local farmers market, then to lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant. Then we went for a brief walk in downtown Kalamazoo, including a vegan ice cream cone at a local shop.

Then we headed out for a tour of their friend’s permaculture farm, but first we drove through a neighborhood full of houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and then past the Kalamazoo College Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, a cool building designed by architect Jeanne Gang. Her design was influenced by Native American design elements, including the logs in the walls.

Afterward, we continued out to the small town of Lawton, to see the four-acre edible forest garden their friend PJ has been building and maintaining for the past twelve years. He gave an interesting and informative tour, although it was challenging because the day felt very hot and humid, and there wasn’t much shade. There were probably about a dozen people in our tour group, most of them local folks who were interested in permaculture for their own properties; some of them had been practicing it for some time.

There wasn’t much edible stuff growing at this time—we just missed the window on several fruits, including peaches, pears, apples, and service berries—but I did get to sample a couple new-to-me berries, including a white blackberry(!) which was developed by Luther Burbank, whose name I remember from my time in Santa Rosa.

After the tour, we decided I would spend tonight at their place, since it’s much closer to the train station than my Warmshowers host’s place. That should make it easier to get to my 10:26 am train to Chicago.

I plan to spend a week or so in Chicago, but the first three nights I’ll be taking some “downtime” from the frenetic pace of my travels, hanging out with a friend. So, I may take a break from blogging for the next few days, but then I’ll be back with some sights and tales of Chicago!

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