Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reforestation Weekend Retreat

25 people will travel in one of Common Vision's Veggie-oil powered Buses to the Mendocino National Forest to plant 1,500 trees.

The weekend includes:
~ Organic Meals
~ Campfire singing
~ Morning Yoga classes

Cost: sliding scale $75 - $108

For more information:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Framing the bus

It was a long arduous process but the ballots are cast, the votes are in, and the floor plan is laid out. Well, not just laid out, but built... the bus has been framed. There are lots of obvious puns to resist when writing about framing a bus, but none of them will be mentioned here.
I wish there was something more exciting to tell you about, I sincerely do, like solar arrays or skylights or disco balls, but there is not. There is only framing to speak of today, and not much to say about it. So, on second thought, here is a list of "framing" puns.

1) The bus has been framed, I hope the jury sees it.

2) We finally got the bus framed, now it just needs to be hung on the wall.

3) Our director of education is from "Framing"ham, Massachussetts.

Well, pun # 3 was a stretch but there really isn't much to say about framing a bus.


Friday, December 28, 2007

"Common Vision" .... The Single

Love Eternal is a Santa Cruz based band that has offered their support for Common Vision since its beginning. Recently they released this song "Common Vision" and have been distributing the single free-of-charge to help inspire their community to rise up to the challenge of caring for the earth and each other.

Love Eternal is a collective of musicians dedicated to music as ministry. We see the power of sound vibration and lyrical content, and choose to use it to uplift and heal. We Believe that What you focus on grows, therefor our music and message is positive and affirmative of what we want to see. We Honor all paths, teachings, and traditions that encourage Oneness with the Divine, Each other, and the Planet.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Floors (and such)

The bus has a brand new bamboo floor. The transformation from cold-hard-steel-tube to warm, soft, earth-educator, home-and-transport has begun. The trick with bamboo floor (unlike interpersonal communication and foreign policy) is to not be afraid to pound it into submission with a large rubber mallet. I should also mention that despite what it says on our homepage, I am not building this bus alone. AnnaPurna and the great Stephen England are in the shop everyday building, bracketing, bracing, and babbling. They deserve your and my appreciation. I will of course be happy to forward all letters of appreciation (or antagonism) to them.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Harvest Rhythm Benefit Concerts 2007

This November, there were 4 Common Vision benefit events in 7 days, culminating in the beautiful event shown in pictures here. Many Thanks to all of the musicians, volunteers and supporters who helped make these benefits the most successful yet!
Thank You.
Arjun and Guardians....Love Eternal
Shimshai...Jah Levi...Rocker T
Human and the Human Revolution
Youssoupha Sidibe...Hollow Reed
MC Smiles-A-Lot

Orchard Updates

When Fruit Tree Tour plants up a school, let's be honest, it looks like we stuck a bunch of leafless sticks in the ground. This October, I had an opportunity to see what happens just 2-1/2 years later, as I journeyed to eight Los Angeles school orchards. The growth and production was more than I thought possible in such a short time! Meeting with the principals and teachers, I offered pruning support and lessons and got to hear the stories of what the trees have been doing since we left. This video highlights "Orchard Updates" from two LA schools.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Calling Aritsts for Bus Murals!

Common Vision is preparing to give the world’s largest recycled-vegetable-oil-powered fleet a fresh paint job for what promises to be the most powerful Fruit Tree Tour yet. The Vision needs your help for concept sketches, murals, portraits, general touch-up. If you are an artist or know of any artists who may be interested in giving creative energies to help forward the murals that thousands of California’s students will see, contact Blair Phillips: ( Painting will happen in Santa Rosa.

Common Vision is looking to add different elements to all three of the buses’ murals.Concept for largest mural on “Bu” and "Yet-to-be-Named Kitchen Bus" include:

• A fully realized Green City covered in fruit trees, urban gardens, solar panels, alternative transportation, passive solar design, alternative construction, and energy alternatives.

• On the buildings and billboards within the Green City mural, Common Vision will be renting out advertisement space to green businesses looking to support Fruit Tree Tour.

Painting on the new kitchen bus include:
• Mural depicting indigenous people holding their staple crops in front of their village farms. The mural will cover at least four different cultures and an urban farm setting.
• The tone will be against the setting sun giving the over all tone of the bus a red color.

Painting projects on murals of “Lioness” and “Bassi” include:
• portraits of farmers and farmer's rights revolutionaries
• a rainbow that turns into a DNA strand
• tribal designs and villages
• a caravan of elephants
• leaves turning into butterflies
• constellations and shooting stars
• Shading and color grading.
• Terraced hillsides.

Please send in sketches to Blair Phillips, You will be contacted with in a week of your submission. Thank you for your time and creative energy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New bus arrives in new shop!

After 913 miles of open road, the yet to be named bus and I arrived today at our shop in Santa Rosa and I began removing the original Greyhound bathroom... Yuck! The bus ran great the entire way from Tucscon at 70 miles per hour. It's December 12, and we've got fifty-two days until Fruit Tree Tour begins. So, as we say in the business, "Let's do 'dis"

Bon Soir,

Trees For Fruit Tree Tour 08

With Common Vision’s new bus on the way, Pre-tour Prep has officially begun! This time of year is special for the CV crew because we start witnessing miracle after miracle roll in! The time, energy and resources needed for Fruit Tree Tour to be the educational extravoganza that it turns into each year come in many different forms. One of the most exciting is …..Fruit Trees! This week CV received the first two tree donations for FTT 08.

Rolling River Nursery is as family farm as they come in Northern California. You can even read about their farm adventures on their website ( as well as check out their amazing varieties of fruit trees, fruiting vines and bushes, natives, groundcovers…. the list goes on. Rolling River has generously offered at least 50 fig trees for this years tour! I look forward to visiting the homestead for the fruit tree pick up!

Our second tree donation comes from Solman Fruit Trees ( Marcus Bakula will hook Fruit Tree Tour up again in 08 with the ever popular cherimoya tree! He lovingly propagates delicious fruit trees in Encinitas, CA and in 05 CV planted his cherimoyas in the center of our first Fruit Orchard Mandala at Normandie Elementary. This year our friends from CSU reported 4 cherimoyas from that tree! Cherimoyas also happens to be a long-standing FTT crew favorite- we play drums and dance for baskets full of them at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market each year! Marcus and friends are at it again this year bringing more ‘moyas to the youth and throwing in some Brazillian dwarf bananas and Venus grapes.

Big thanks to the first tree donors of 08. The CV crew is honored to bring the generousity of our supporters into the hands of California’s youth. We are on our way to 1,000 more fruit trees for 2008!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

California Rare Fruit Growers

The California Rare Fruit Growers is an inspiring organization that over the past three years has played a pivotal role in the Fruit Tree Tour. The organization is an eclectic group of hobbyists, backyard growers, government and university researchers, nurserymen and commercial growers that focus on growing fruit varieties that are not commonly grown commercially. They have been instrumental in diversifying the fruit varieties that Common Vision plants at the schools and extending the number of months that students can pick fruit from trees in their schoolyard.

This year Common Vision will be working hand-in-hand with several members of the Rare Fruit Growers to make possible the Fruit Tree Tour Nursery Rroject. The goal of the project is to grow 1000 trees a year that will provide schools from San Diego to Sacramento with fruiting trees that have delicious fruit of numerous varieties to harvest in ALL months of the school season. Stay tuned for more as this project develops!

Here are some of the key Rare Fruit Growers who have made a substantial contribution to the project to date:

Steven Spangler of the San Diego CRFG chapter and owner of Exotica Nursery has provided Fruit Tree Tour with an incredible mix of banana, tropical cherry, guava, fig, and cherimoya varieties that have been planted at schools throughout LA.

Each year Jerry Price also of the San Diego chapter has provided a workshop each year for the crew on tree care and planting and has been Common Vision’s go-to guy on all of our tree care questions.

Joe Sabol of the Central Coast CRFG chapter has run a High School Grafting Program where every spring he teaches students at 30 schools across the central coast to graft there own apple trees. This program has helped over 10,000 students to graft trees since 1998. This year he will be running a workshop for the Fruit Tree Tour crew to increase the crew’s grafting and teaching capacity for the Roots-to-Fruits Program.

Mark Alpert
of the Mendocino CRFG chapter donated over fifty pineapple guava seedlings and hundreds of Jujube (Chinese dates) seeds last year which are growing in Santa Barbara area currently waiting patiently until they are old enough to go to school with the Fruit Tree Tour.

John Valenzuela currently of the Bay Area CRFG Chapter has been a key guide in the development of the Fruit Tree Tour Nursery Project plan. As an elder in the permaculture (sustainable design) movement, John is always suggesting innovative ways to do the least work for the most gain and to make the best use of local resources.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sample Sponsor Button

Choose your Mile-a-thon pledge
Which volunteer are you sponsoring?

Monday, December 3, 2007

There's a new bus coming...

On a rainy Monday in Ukiah your beloved alternative energy specialist is about to do something some of you may deem insane. Today, I committed to picking up a bus that I have never seen or driven. You may try to stop me with your phone calls and emails but the fat is in the fire. Stay tuned for updates from the conversion shop.

Vaya con Dios,

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Biodiesel Outreach Tour (2002)

In the first years of this great decade, “biodiesel” was by no means a well known fuel option. Common Vision’s beloved founder Blair Philips searched far and wide to find someone to teach the organization how to make this mythical vegetable oil fuel. In the far reaches of the Big Island of Hawaii he found he found just this mad scientist and brought this information back to the mainland. Common Vision built a reactor out of a 55 gallon drum, three cinder blocks, a propane cook stove, and an old trolling boat motor and got to work engaging the alchemy of biofuel.

In 2002, Common traveled across America, teaching community workshops on how to brew Bio-diesel from recycled vegetable oil and create local biodiesel Co-ops in 20 cities including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Detroit, and New York City. With a volunteer crew of 10 and a mobile Biodiesel refinery, Common Vision brewed over 1500 gallons of Biodiesel fueling the entire 7,000+ mile journey.

The 2002 Biodiesel Outreach tour taught thousands of people about making biodiesel, the necessity of reducing fossil fuel consumption, and successfully left several local biodiesel Co-ops in its wake. Among the successful inspiration-seeds planted on this tour include Blue Ridge Biofuels ( in Asheville, NC, one of the nation’s larger biofuel cooperatives today.

Pranav on Drum Group 2008

My name is Pranav, and I am one of the Common Vision Fruit Tree Tour Drum Circle facilitators. As a lover of drums and drumming, it is a honor for me to serve the youth as a teacher of drumming concepts and techniques this year on Fruit Tree Tour. I thank all of the West African drum masters who have touched my life as a drummer, and also Common Vision's legendary drumming crew of this year and of yesteryear.

The Drum Group involves up to 50 students learning to play music together with Common Vision's 50 donated djembe drums. The drum group focuses on community building, respect, interconnectedness, positivity, and, of course, rhythm. Common Vision's West African style djembe drums have been on-board for almost five years and live within an amazing “drum tetris” in the under-storage compartments of BamBoomBox bus. Every day that we have the Drum Circle rotations, these drums are brought out from under the bus and into the schoolyard or community center where we are working and used as teaching tools.

With games and rhythm lessons, students learn to play together while creating a unified song on the drums. In addition to the drumming patterns involved in West African traditional music there are also dances and singing parts. Dancing to the rhythms is also taught at many of the groups. When it's at its best, the drumming and dancing comes together at the end of the session to create a group celebration that is unifying, fun and exciting.

Our facilitators teach, but are also students of west African drum and dance. The drumming techniques that are taught and the process of playing the drums with one another help to demonstrate many of Common Vision's key concepts. Respect is the first key concept that students are introduced to, this is done before they can touch the drums. We emphasize the importance of caring for the drums and of actively listening and paying attention to the facilitators while we are speaking or drumming. Listening is a crucial aspect of playing music and is also a crucial form of respect that we ask of the students so that they will be able to get the most out of the drum circle.

Community, interconnectedness, and cooperation are all involved when djembe drums and rhythms are played in unison by a large group of people, often accompanied by dancing and singing. Positivity is emphasized by the joy of the students as they get to play these instruments, and the encouragement that we offer as facilitators to come together as one “band”. This form of unification creates sweet sounding music and an atmosphere of group celebration.

We usually start off with a drum & dance demonstration and introductions. We introduce ourselves and the drums that we are bringing to the group. These are djembe drums, which are a west African style of hand drums, made with goat skin and wood. There are also a set of 3 dunun drums, which are traditionally played to accompany the djembes. The dununs are played with sticks by our facilitators and are made from thicker cow skins.

Many games and exercises can be used during the session depending on time, space and the age of the students. Typically, we start by teaching the proper postures and positions of the body and hands. Then the “break” is explained and used as a way to communicate to the group with a particular drum phrase when to all stop drumming at the same moment. This break can then be used as a signal to stop together after students “let loose” on the drums.

The heartbeat rhythm is utilized as another drum exercise. It is a rhythm that all people share within our bodies showing that we all have something in common. We use the heartbeat in order to practice the techniques of bass, tone and slaps, which are how we describe the three basic djembe drum sounds.

After the more simple introductory sections, we move towards more advanced drumming and oftentimes dancing too. Call & response on the drum is the most fun drum game for me. I am always amazed at how good children can be at repeating the complex rhythms that I play for them. In the game, students copy drum patterns and gestures from the lead djembe drummer while the dundun drums are used to play an accompanying rhythm and keep the beat.

After this we will generally start teaching traditional west African style djembe rhythms and dances. The rhythms of the songs “Fanga”, “Yankadi”, and/or “Kuku” are usually taught, which have fun and simple traditional djembe parts originating in West Africa. The students sometimes have the option to learn the dance moves for the songs being played, and then can come back to the drum circle for an amazing dance party.

Overall, the Fruit Tree Tour drum circle offers a great opportunity for youth to get an introduction to West African style drumming and dancing, while also teaching the key concepts of health, respect, interconnectedness, community, cooperation, and positivity. Its a lot of fun to be a part of the drum circle at schools, partially because I love drumming, but mainly because of the joy and knowledge that it brings to the children who get to participate.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

T-shirt Design Contest

Fruit Tree Tour 2008 is coming soon! Common Vision would love your help in designing a new 2008 crew T-shirt for our volunteers and supporting friends. Details are below this brief look at the history of the Common Vision logo.

When Zak Human of Woven Media completed the direction and production of the Common Vision documentary “Planting the Vision,” he surprised the whole staff with his amazing graphic design talent. He designed the art work on the DVD sleeve including the “Every Leaf is Our Flag” emblem and the cartoon image of the beloved Lioness, Common Vision’s eldest bus.

Thanks Pranav and Zak and all those who support the Vision and the artwork that represents it.

So who’s next? 2008 will be the fifth annual Fruit Tree Tour bringing at least another 1000 fruit trees, rhythm after rhythm, and high vibes eco-hip-hop to California’s youth. Your ideas and (especially) your artwork would be greatly appreciated! CV will feature the selected design and artist on Benefit tour as well as in the first on tour issue of Harvest Rhythm. Fruit Tree Tour crew will plant a tree in honor of you or the friend of your choice. And of course, a 100% organic cotton/hemp shirt for the artist!

Illustrate the Vision! Submit all entries to by October 28th. For those artist friends that do not have computer access, please send drawings to P.O. Box 2012 Willits, CA 95490. For the computer artists in the house, please use high resolution! If you are interested and can feel the creativity flowing already, email for the tech specs. Any design submitted will be accepted by Common Vision for free use and alterations to suit printing and world wide distribution!