A day with Dan Dorsey

Friday (18/11) I rode my bike to meet with Dan Dorsey. Dan is a consultant, teacher and designer for sustainable site planning. He dedicates much of his time to projects and organizations throughout the Southwest. He is an instructor of the Sonoran Permaculture Guild. I spent the late morning talking with him about the sustainable-focus projects in Pima County and southern Arizona, as well as his efforts and theory, over tea and biscottis.

Dan also has a history of adventure cycling. He had toured the west coast, riding north from California to Washington and east to Idaho. He is a Tuscon commuter and is also is a pedal powered caterer. He volunteers to transport a bike cafe to events that are set up in unused/vacant public spaces. These street parties are organized by the community to create an open gathering that are non-threatening and encourage neighbors to meet and build relationships.  His Bike Friday pulls a custom trailer that functions as a table, food shelf, music entertainment and to transport stacked chairs. A symbol of yin and yang is painted on a round table-top, which fits on top of the trailer and the back up food and music is stowed under the table. The table top can be tucked into the side of the trailer to fit chairs and food.  This project (and many others alike) is funded by PRO Neighborhoods. It’s Tuscon’s collaborative network who help fund grassroot community groups, which in turn, spend money at local business that build the projects. The PN granted $500, which paid for a custom made trailer built by a a local bike mechanic.

Dan gave me a tour of his property. His home serves as a demonstration site of urban sustainable strategies in the Southwest Desert. Dan incorporates appropriate species that thrive in the dry environment. He did away with peaches and apricots, because they required a lot of water.  An over-story of trees like mesquite, pomegranate, and jujubes provide shade and food. Under the canopy he grows dough sensitive and shade tolerant crops. The garden beds are shallow bowls, like small oasis, growing winter crops. The circle beds are close to one another, so that the rain runs off into the beds. He is backed up by two large cistern under the porch roof- the only other water resource to water his garden. He estimates that his site produces food to provide a family of four.

Dan shared his harvested crops that were stored in the fridge. Mesquite beans are legume and are grind-ed to make flour. I tasted Dan’s mesquite flour from the trees in his backyard that had been grind-ed at a co-op grinder. It has a natural sweet flavor- perfect for baking. Imagine if mesquite four could be the main-staple four, produced and use in Tuscon? I also tasted saguaro fruit from the saguaro cacti (the classic desert cacti with the arms). It was sweet and the texture crunchy like poppy seeds. I also tasted a Jujube. The jujube fruit is like a hybrid of a date and an apple, about the size of apricots. I imagined them to be tasty in pies!

Photo courtesy of Dan Dorsey- the loaded bike cafe

Photo courtesy of Dan Dorsey- the bike cafe serving

Photo courtesy of Dan Dorsey- the gatherings

It was a honor and pleasure to spend the day with Dan- my firs interview with a permaculturist on this tour. Thank you Dan Dorsey!


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