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The Carbon Farming Solution by Eric Toensmeier

 
Burra Maluca
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image courtesy amazon.com

Summary

The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security

Agriculture is rightly blamed as a major culprit of our climate crisis. But in this groundbreaking new book, Eric Toensmeier argues that agriculture―specifically, the subset of practices known as “carbon farming”―can, and should be, a linchpin of a global climate solutions platform.

Carbon farming is a suite of agricultural practices and crops that sequester carbon in the soil and in aboveground biomass. Combined with a massive reduction in fossil fuel emissions―and in concert with adaptation strategies to our changing environment― carbon farming has the potential to bring us back from the brink of disaster and return our atmosphere to the “magic number” of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Toensmeier’s book is the first to bring together these powerful strategies in one place, including in-depth analysis of the available research and, where research is lacking, a discussion of what it will take to get us there.

Carbon farming can take many forms. The simplest practices involve modifications to annual crop production. Although many of these modifications have relatively low sequestration potential, they are widely applicable and easily adopted, and thus have excellent potential to mitigate climate change if practiced on a global scale. Likewise, grazing systems such as silvopasture are easily replicable, don’t require significant changes to human diet, and―given the amount of agricultural land worldwide that is devoted to pasture―can be important strategies in the carbon farming arsenal. But by far, agroforestry practices and perennial crops present the best opportunities for sequestration. While many of these systems are challenging to establish and manage, and would require us to change our diets to new and largely unfamiliar perennial crops, they also offer huge potential that has been almost entirely ignored by climate crusaders.

Many of these carbon farming practices are already implemented globally on a scale of millions of hectares. These are not minor or marginal efforts, but win-win solutions that provide food, fodder, and feedstocks while fostering community self-reliance, creating jobs, protecting biodiversity, and repairing degraded land―all while sequestering carbon, reducing emissions, and ultimately contributing to a climate that will remain amenable to human civilization. Just as importantly to a livable future, these crops and practices can contribute to broader social goals such as women’s empowerment, food sovereignty, and climate justice.

The Carbon Farming Solution does not present a prescription for how cropland should be used and is not, first and foremost, a how-to manual, although following up on references in a given section will frequently provide such information. Instead, The Carbon Farming Solution is―at its root―a toolkit. It is the most complete collection of climate-friendly crops and practices currently available. With this toolkit, farmers, communities, and governments large and small, can successfully launch carbon farming projects with the most appropriate crops and practices to their climate, locale, and socioeconomic needs.

Toensmeier’s ultimate goal is to place carbon farming firmly in the center of the climate solutions platform, alongside clean solar and wind energy. With The Carbon Farming Solution, Toensmeier wants to change the discussion, impact policy decisions, and steer mitigation funds to the research, projects, and people around the world who envision a future where agriculture becomes the protagonist in this fraught, urgent, and unprecedented drama of our time. Citizens, farmers, and funders will be inspired to use the tools presented in this important new book to transform degraded lands around the world into productive carbon-storing landscapes.

Where to get it

Available for pre-order from

amazon.com
amazon.co.uk

or direct from the publisher chelsea green

Expected release date - February 15, 2016

Eric talks about the writing of the book on his kickstarter page here.

Related Videos





 
Dale Hodgins
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Burra, am I correct in assuming that you didn't write all of that? It seems like something that could be printed on the inside cover. ☺

It looks like a really good book. I'm going to ask the library to buy it for me, oops I mean for everybody.
 
Burra Maluca
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Burra, am I correct in assuming that you didn't write all of that? It seems like something that could be printed on the inside cover. ☺

It looks like a really good book. I'm going to ask the library to buy it for me, oops I mean for everybody.


Nope, that's the summary, as per what is written on the amazon page and the publisher's page. I'm waiting for my review copy, which might be a pre-release one so I might get it a bit earlier than the official February release date. It's a mighty sort of tome, so I might be a while reading it, but when I have I'll put up a review. I'm looking forward to it, I must admit.
 
Michael Newby
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Found this great interview with Eric about Carbon Farming:

 
Burra Maluca
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This page has a whole load of videos chosen by Eric Toensmeier to complement each chapter in his new book.
 
Neil Layton
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I'm really looking forward to this book, as a big fan of one of the author's previous works.

I'm particularly interested in what he has to say about perennial agriculture, given what still isn't known about it. I know, for example, that there is evidence that forest garden woodlands tend to have higher levels of soil carbon, possibly as a result of the fungal mycelia, but I'm interested to know to what extent that may be a result of heavy mulching.

I also admit that the word "silvopasture" is a bit of a red flag, given some of the dismal science and overblown claims in related areas (see http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2013/04/allan_savory_s_ted_talk_is_wrong_and_the_benefits_of_holistic_grazing_have.html and http://www.monbiot.com/2015/12/22/sacrifice/ for example).

This could be a really good read, and maybe one to put in a library request slip for, at the very least.
 
Burra Maluca
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They've been printed!!!

Eric just posted this on his facebook page!



500 copies of The Carbon Farming Solution arrived in my driveway today, fresh off the presses! You can order one at carbonfarmingsolution.com if you like.


 
Burra Maluca
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Here is a recently released 45 minute Permaculture Realized Podcast with Eric discussing some of the topics covered in the book - Carbon Farming – Crops to Stop Climate Change
 
Burra Maluca
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Mine has arrived!

Here's a sample page to keep you guys busy until I get the review done...
sample page.JPG
[Thumbnail for sample page.JPG]
 
Burra Maluca
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In all the time I've been reviewing books for permies.com, I've always said that I would never give a score of 10 out of 10 acorns. But now a book has turned up which is so important and has such a capacity to change the world for the better, that I have to eat my words.

Eric Toensmeier's new book, The Carbon Farming Solution, is subtitled A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security. That's quite an ambitious aim, but this book really does measure up. There are nearly 500 pages of comprehensive, meticulously researched information with full color photos, charts, tables and references, all perfectly organized, well laid out, clearly written, and presented in a way that is both completely accessible to the layman and also appropriate to use as a text book for courses or college studies.

In the introduction, Eric tells us that "Carbon farming alone is not enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, even if it were practiced on every square meter of farmland. But it does belong at the center of our transformation as a civilization. Along with new economic priorities, a massive switch to clean energy, and big changes to much of the rest of the way our societies work, carbon farming offers a pathway out of destruction and a route to hope. Along the way it can help address food insecurity, injustice, environmental degradation, and some of the core problems with the global food system. In the pages to come we'll explore the promise and pitfalls of this timely climate change solution."

The book itself is divided into five main parts, each containing several chapters.

Part 1: The Big Idea introduces the concepts and science behind how increased carbon in the atmosphere is effecting climate, and the need to put it back in the soil where it belongs. The chapter on carbon sequestration gives us some idea of how different agricultural practices differ widely in their potential to do this, and that while our understanding of the fine details is still lacking, there is sufficient data already available to guide us to choose the best core practices. Then the idea of agroforestry is introduced, where trees may be integrated with annual crops, livestock systems or complete forest gardens. The benefits of perennial crops, which live for several years and are non destructively harvested, are explained. The final chapter in this section discusses the concept that we permaculturists know as function stacking, where each element in a system performs many functions. Eric acknowledges the value of permaculture, but is also not afraid to point out where he feels we might be starting to go astray. The main concept he's trying to impress on us is that when we design systems to sequester carbon, then we should design them to also perform other functions such as producing food or stabilizing slopes. He discusses compatible functions such as ecosystem services, soil improvement, and socioeconomic benefits.

Much of the rest of the book is concerned with choosing the most appropriate growing systems for your situation, and the best perennial plants to use in those systems.

Part 2: A Global Toolkit of Practices and Species is to me the most interesting section, discussing different types of system and the pros and cons of each one.

The three main types of systems discussed are annual cropping systems, livestock systems and perennial cropping systems.

Although annual cropping offers the least potential to sequester carbon, it currently accounts for 89 percent of all cropland, so finding ways to transition this from being a net emitter to a net sequesterer of carbon while allowing us to grow the annual crops with which we are all so familiar would make a tremendous difference overall. Various annual systems are discussed, including conservation agriculture, strip intercropping, alley cropping, swidden and successional intercropping, among others. Each is presented separately, described accurately, placed into context, and the pros, cons and relative potential for carbon sequestration discussed, allowing the reader to make comparisons and select the ones most appropriate to their own situation.

The chapters on livestock systems and perennial cropping systems are laid out in much the same way.

Livestock systems are controversial and Eric takes care to present as much information as possible to help us understand the controversy. 70 percent of farmland is devoted to pasture, and a third of cropland is used to grow food for livestock, so, again, any improvements in the way we raise and feed livestock can have a huge overall impact on carbon sequestration. Whatever our personal views on the matter, it is important that better systems are implemented globally. Some of the livestock systems discussed include livestock integration, silvopasture, fodder banks, outdoor living barns and green corrals, and restoration agriculture.

Perennial cropping systems offer no controversy, but they do require more change to both our diets and food systems. Systems discussed include multistrata agroforests, which Eric believes should be a priority, perennial monocultures, managed bamboo, coppice, herbaceous biomass crops, woody agriculture and perennial grains.

A short chapter on additional tools, not directly related to growing crops, looks at rainwater harvesting, terraces, keyline, biochar, productive restoration and, my own favorite, indigenous land magagement. And finally this section is rounded off by a look at plant species, breeding, perennializing, GMOs, and invasives. He also reminds us that there whilst thre are no intrinsically "bad plants", neither are there any "superplants" waiting to save us, nor any excuse to clear healthy forest to plant any of them.

Part 3: Perennial Staple Crops and Part 4: Perennial Industrial Crops

These two sections speak for themselves really. Each has an introductory chapter outlining the potential and any problems of such crops, followed by chapters on more specific crop types.

According to Eric, "Perennial staple crops are trees and other long-lived perennial plants that provide these basic proteins carbohydrates, and fats. They include cereal grains, pulses (dry beans), nuts, dry pods, starchy fruits, oil-seeds, leaf protein concentrate starch-filled trunks, sugary saps, and aerial tubers." Examples of each are discussed in the following chapters, some species being described in detail while comprehensive tables provide basic details on virtually all known examples of appropriate plants to use. I'll leave you all to discover your own favorites, but if anyone knows where I can get hold of some bunya nut, I'd like to hear hear from them!

The section on perennial industrial crops was the most eye-opening for me. Here are a few quotes which hit home pretty hard.

"an eighth of petroleum is used to synthesize materials and chemicals. A full 10 percent of petroleum is used as feedstock to synthesize chemicals, with another 10 percent used to power the process."

"there simply isn't enough land to grow both food and fuel"

"One barrel of oil yields as much energy as twenty-five thousand hours of human manual labor - more than a decade of human labor per barrel."

"My proposal is that we reduce our consumption, acquire most of our energy from wind, water, and solar (WWS), and produce materials and chemicals from non-destructively harvested perennials."

"A large-scale wind water and solar energy system can reliably supply the world's needs, significantly benefiting climate, air quality, ecology and energy security ... the obstacles are primarily politcal, not technical."

"I don't have the road map laid out from here to a full proposal to replace petroleum and all its uses, but I think these species and pactices are the building blocks of a post-petroleum civilization."

The chapters that follow cover biomass, industrial starch, industrial oil, hydrocarbon and fiber crops, followed by a chapter on other industrial uses such as dyes, cork, tannis, waxes, gums, pesticides, medicinal plants and soaps, again with detailed descriptions of some plants and comprehensive tables outlining any others of interest.

Finally, Eric rounds off the book with Part 5: Road Map to Implementation in which he presents chapters about a three-point plan to scale up carbon farming, how to support farmers and farming organizations to mate the transition, how to effectively finance carbon farming, the importance of removing national and international policy barriers, and strategic next steps, including the need to provide examples of carbon farming in action in our own neighborhoods so that people can learn what carbon farming is and understand its potential.

Which is, of course, where every single one of us reading these words has a role to play.

Three substantial appendices provide a global species matrix, clean dry weight yield calculations and carbon sequestration rates.

To say I am impressed by this book would be an understatement. In my opinion, this is a book that belongs in every library, every school, every college, and in the hands of everyone with access to land or the desire to heal the Earth.

Let's try to make that happen.

In short, for the first time ever -

I give this book 10 out of 10 acorns

Eric Toensmeier, I salute you!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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How exciting this is. I'm going to request MY library purchase it. I've invited the shareholders (of my raw goat dairy) to a cheese tasting buffet on Sunday afternoon. For the first time I included the words "Utilizing Regenerative Practices" at the end of the email. I expect I'll be talking about what that means A LOT on Sunday. Too bad I haven't already read the book!

I wonder what new things I'll learn about getting carbon back into the soil. I registered with the Soil Carbon Challenge and got my baseline testing in 2013. Less than 1 % organic carbon, some CaCO3 (? calcium carbonate) bringing the total to something like 1.2 % total carbon. In the ensuing time, I've been watching the soil turn form red to brown. I've added waste straw and hay in many areas, and corn stalks and other dead annual matter, but in the test area it's just plants, goats eating the plants and moving along, and providing moisture.

So, I can't wait to find out what Eric has put together to move my process forward.

Thanks Eric!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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OK, I've requested it from my library. The summary above made it really easy to provide the library with all the information they requested. While requesting the book, I thought how wonderful it would be if all the libraries Permies people use, all across the US received requests.

I'm going to start a new thread!
 
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Requested it from Sno-Isle library. I'm 4th on the list at this time. It seems popular!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Oh good for you! your library already has it. I've had to request my library purchase it!
 
R Ranson
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I was going to go the library route, but after reading Burra's review, I think I need my own copy. Sounds exactly what we need on the farm right now.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I'm planning to buy my own copy too, but even if I have my own copy I still want the library to purchase it. That way it is a treasure there to be found by a totally uninitiated browser who might turn out to create-discover-promote something as needed as the carbon farming solution. Also, I could recommend it to people who ask me about what I am doing, and don't have to risk lending my book, never to see it again!
 
Neil Layton
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It's arrived, on Earth Day.

Frakk me, but there is a lot here.

As every day, not asking what the planet can do for me but what I can do for the planet.

The review for this is going to take time!
 
R Ranson
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I just got my copy too. It's fantastic!

 
Neil Layton
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R Ranson wrote:I just got my copy too. It's fantastic!



Is this one worth discussing as a read-through rather than reviews?

R? Burra? Anyone?

I mean, there is so much here, and so many issues raised, that I think it's worth talking about rather than just raving about.

(Edited for crap sentence structure. More coffee or more sleep...)
 
Burra Maluca
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Neil Layton wrote:Rather than reviews is this one worth discussing as a read-through rather than reviews?
R? Burra? Anyone?
I mean, there is so much here, and so many issues raised, that I think it's worth talking about rather than just raving about.


Why not both?

Start off reading it through and give a review, then we can start thinking about a read-through. Maybe the main thing to consider is when to start. I think people should be given enough time to think about it and then get their own copies of the book. What time of year is best? How much space between chapters? One a week, or fortnight, or what?
 
R Ranson
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Neil Layton wrote:
R Ranson wrote:I just got my copy too. It's fantastic!



Is this one worth discussing as a read-through rather than reviews?

R? Burra? Anyone?

I mean, there is so much here, and so many issues raised, that I think it's worth talking about rather than just raving about.

(Edited for crap sentence structure. More coffee or more sleep...)


Just waking up and waiting for coffee to be ready. Oh coffee... the one luxury of modern life I just cannot give up yet... okay, that and the internet. Two luxuries... and the library... okay, three...

Would it be like a read-a-long? We read a little bit, chat about our thoughts (benefits, challenges, how it can be applicable in our local settings, &c)
Would we start a new thread, or stick it on this one?
 
Burra Maluca
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R Ranson wrote:
Would it be like a read-a-long? We read a little bit, chat about our thoughts (benefits, challenges, how it can be applicable in our local settings, &c)
Would we start a new thread, or stick it on this one?


Yeah, a read-along. What we usually do is create a new forum for the book and have a thread for each chapter so we can discuss it at length, and also so that anyone who joins in later on can find relevant chapter discussions easily.
 
Neil Layton
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Shade-grown coffee. I mean, it's not a perfect solution, by any stretch of the imagination, but perfection is not achievable.

Maybe I'm just not making enough of an effort.

Anyway, I'm on page 17, and I already have discussion material for a review that would get me into a 4-figure word count.

I can bring a review under some sort of control if, and probably only if, I take some of the discussion material elsewhere.

I think both would work, but I think the read-through and discussion would be more constructive than just reviews. I mean, some of the impact projections have gone out of date just in the last few months since it hit the publisher, and that has implications for habitat design. I mean, the last Hansen paper (http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/16/3761/2016/) is nightmare inducing, and this kind of thing matters if we are going to create resilient agroecological systems.

I would give everyone a chance to read it, start another thread, and crunch the implications. Just a suggestion.

I think everyone should have their own library. We're probably going to have to learn to live without coffee. By some analyses the internet and the publishing industry will go too.
 
R Ranson
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Burra Maluca wrote:
Neil Layton wrote:Rather than reviews is this one worth discussing as a read-through rather than reviews?
R? Burra? Anyone?
I mean, there is so much here, and so many issues raised, that I think it's worth talking about rather than just raving about.


Why not both?

Start off reading it through and give a review, then we can start thinking about a read-through. Maybe the main thing to consider is when to start. I think people should be given enough time to think about it and then get their own copies of the book. What time of year is best? How much space between chapters? One a week, or fortnight, or what?


I need about two weeks before I'll have time to sit down with this book properly. I have an interlibrary loan out on restoration agriculture (neat book about perennials) that has a time limit on it before it goes back. That, and after two weeks of unscheduled summer, spring has returned this morning... but I don't think it will last more than the weekend. So I need to get off my computer and outside working while the weather stays cool.

About the second week of May would work great for me.

Should we have the read-a-long in a different thread (and put the reviews here at the end)? If we do, I think it would be useful to make the opening post as media rich as possible for future readers coming to the discussion. We could also stick in some of the links to feed the Empire as a way of saying thank you to permies for hosting the discussion.

 
Burra Maluca
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Neil Layton wrote:

Anyway, I'm on page 17, and I already have discussion material for a review that would get me into a 4-figure word count.

I can bring a review under some sort of control if, and probably only if, I take some of the discussion material elsewhere.


So, taking suggestions for a start date for the read along. And how long between chapters?
 
R Ranson
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If I can rush through this book and my farm chores, I might be ready for may 1st.
 
Neil Layton
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I also have one to finish. Give me at least a couple of days for that, given my shoddy concentration at the moment. Even flat out this will take me several days to read, and I want to do some fact checking (although much of that may come when he elaborates later). I mean, the book is referenced, but there are bits even now that I want to follow up.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I don't have a copy yet, but it's good to have the May first target date. I get the feeling I'll feel left out if I can't join in the read along, a great idea I did not already know about!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Just ordered a copy, should be here in about 10 days. I'll clear my reading schedule.
 
Neil Layton
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I don't see much point rushing it. Major comments can be kept in a text file: I'd rather leave it a couple of weeks and have more people able to join in than rush it and limit it.
 
R Ranson
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Would a May 9th start give us all enough time to get our books?

Maybe two weeks per chapter?

That way, we start with the introduction on May 9th, as a gentle way to get things going and give people time to catch up before we start on chapter 1 on the 23rd.

 
Burra Maluca
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Sounds good to me!
 
Neil Layton
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Is it worth looking at it in 5 parts rather than 29 chapters?
 
William James
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Just got this as an unexpected birthday gift. How awesome!!!
William
 
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books chicken tiny house toxin-ectomy
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For the Carbon Farming Solution read-a-long, the proposal is:

Start on May 16th (but maybe we could have a discussion about the introduction before that to whet people's appetites)
One section every two weeks.

I'm thinking this date because it's a day without an author event. Author events happen roughly every two weeks... so... if we do the read-a-long on the 'off weeks' we can focus more attention on the book.

If any of that made sense. I'm a bit frazzled today and possibly have heat stroke. Just came in for a drink of water.
 
R Ranson
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R Ranson wrote:For the Carbon Farming Solution read-a-long, the proposal is:

Start on May 16th (but maybe we could have a discussion about the introduction before that to whet people's appetites)
One section every two weeks.

I'm thinking this date because it's a day without an author event. Author events happen roughly every two weeks... so... if we do the read-a-long on the 'off weeks' we can focus more attention on the book.

If any of that made sense. I'm a bit frazzled today and possibly have heat stroke. Just came in for a drink of water.


Just bouncing this up.

Do these dates and this format work for everyone? If so, I'll make a new thread about it and put an announcement in the daily-ish.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Worms for me, oops! worKs for me. I've got the library copy which I can get started on and my own copy on the way.

Just want to say RR, that your level of energy is astonishing, I can't believe how much you take on! Thanks for making so many things happen.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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so many GOOD things is what I meant ot say.
 
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