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Upon the birth of my son, Thatcher Gray, I became acutely aware of the emerging evidence that our industrialized food machine is taking a tremendous toll on our health and wreaking havoc on the environment. It spurred me to create a series of paintings about industrial agriculture.

While it is important to explore the way things are, it is also important to present solutions to our problems. As a counterpoint to the work created in regards to the industrial food machine, I am working with a series of watercolors based on the development of a high desert permaculture garden built by my father and son in Taos, New Mexico. The paintings are paired with Haiku written by my father, Peter Leonard. Together, we are exploring the importance of sustainable agriculture in a way that encourages people to get their hands in the dirt of their own backyard.

Permaculture is interesting to me as it is very forward looking. The approach shifts depending on locale, responding to specific microclimates and cultural traditions. It brings traditional wisdom to the forefront and works in collaboration with Nature, which sustains us. Ultimately, we envision using this work as an educational tool for children.

You can find out more about this project at talesofthatchergray.com.


By Lee Lee

{{ image(3102, {“class”: “flor round”, “width”:”300″, “height”:”225″, “method”: “img”}) }}For over three hundred years, the community along our ditch has been coming together to share the water as it runs off Taos mountain. We live on one of the oldest acequia systems in the country. The irrigation system and the form of governance was established by the Spanish. Every year, before the snowpack on the mountain begins to melt, all of the parciantes who use the ditch water come together to clean out the acequia madre, or mother ditch. They have to cut out branches and rake out leaves so that the precious water will run swiftly and not be wasted in an overflow. As the season progresses, each parciante requests water from their Major Domo, who oversees the distribution.

Living traditions like this build strong communities of people working together to nourish the land. In the old days, communities were interdependent when it came to survival in the high mountain desert. As in rural places everywhere, neighbors helped each other, exchanging food and seeds and working together for the benefit of the whole. As development fills the valley, some are letting go of these traditions. But they remain. For more insight into the Taos acequia, read High Country News, Taos’ return to the acequias.

Grandpa loves being on the acequia system. He started coming out west when he was 16 to work on a cattle ranch in the Colorado Rockies. He fell in love with the flood style of irrigation practiced on the ranch and after 50 years is renowned through the Blue River valley as the master of irrigation. Now he is able to pass his wisdom on to his grandson.