Posts Tagged With: Elkhorn CA

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Rural Coworking, Anyone?

The Monterey County Weekly has a cover article on local bloggers–Blog is my Co-Pilot–and Local Nomad is one of the featured blogs! They included an excerpt from my post, “Underground Market: DIY+Locavores.” I thought I would re-post another piece I especially like on coworking:

A couple years ago, when I was finishing my Ph.D. dissertation, I was a briefly a member of NextSpace, a coworking space in Santa Cruz, CA, one of many now being created in locations globally (there’s even a coworking space in Mongolia!).

NextSpace: 1 Year of Success in an Economic Downturn (abridged) from NextSpace Coworking on Vimeo.

Even though I didn’t have much chance to participate in the community, I enjoyed the relaxed, friendly, serendipitous atmosphere, and the busy feeling of people at work. Had I been an entrepreneur or job hunting, there were frequent chances to meet other workers and attend workshops, and I knew there was great potential there to find collaborators, mentors, and more importantly, jobs. I got a lot of work done at NextSpace (which, by the way, now has locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose). Coworking definitely is not the same as cubicle working, and it’s not “just” shared office space.

At home, it is easy to distract myself, even though there are no children in the house. In the isolation of home, it can be hard to keep up a momentum. The silence seems to announce that it’s time to do anything but work. The buzz of co-workers around me makes me feel and be more productive.


Coworking refers to a shared work environment and a set of community and cultural values that guide the development and operation of office space: facilities where freelancers, entrepreneurs, telecommuters, and drop-ins work side-by-side. The benefits of a coworking space come from allowing independent and startup ventures to bypass rote logistical obstacles, like obtaining office or workshop space, and from valuing a free-form collaborative environment for sharing resources, expertise, and ideas.
—Mark W. Kidd

Still, I eventually gave up my membership. I didn’t return, even after I finished my Ph.D. and became a part-time lecturer and free-lance editor and writer.

In “Why People Don’t CoWork Yet,” Carsten Foertsch looks at the possible reasons why people don’t cowork:

The two most important reasons first: either there is simply no coworking space in their vicinity, or they are tied to jobs in companies. About one in eight non-coworkers said price was a barrier to their participation – but sadly these people are the ones who could benefit the most from coworking…About a third of these respondents are not yet coworkers because no such facility exists anywhere near them.


Castroville’s main thoroughfare

Right. I live in rural Elkhorn, some 25 miles from NextSpace. Elkhorn isn’t even recognized as a “town” by locals; it’s the site of a large wetlands area and wildlife preserve that draws kayakers, wildlife enthuasiasts, and people who love the area. The drive to Santa Cruz cost me gas and time, as well as the monthly fee for membership, so in the end, it didn’t seem quite worth it. (Note: most coworking spaces charge minimal fee for membership and rent. At least one space, Gangplank, in Arizona, provides coworking space for free, based on a social capital model).

The “rural” label I apply to my local area is a little misleading; Elkhorn is situated within a few miles of various small towns like Prunedale, Castroville, Moss Landing, and Watsonville, all communities with small libraries and community centers, and main streets with empty or underutilized commercial spaces for rent (as well as stores, restaurants, and other businesses in operation).


A storefront for rent in Moss Landing.

Coworking has been mainly an urban and suburban phenomenon. Nevertheless, I have often thought that a rural coworking space would be useful in this area. Rural folks are feeling the impact of the economy too. Like everyone else, many here have lost their jobs, and have resorted to freelancing and juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet.

It would seem that rural areas can’t provide much infrastructure for a community of freelance workers or small entrepreneurs and crafters. Yet, increasingly, rural coworking spaces are popping up. Quoted in The Daily Yonder, Garrio Harrison, who is involved in a coworking site in rural Minnesota, says that the basics you need for coworking include “coffee, desk space, and reliable wifi Internet access,” although it wouldn’t hurt to have printers and scanners, a conference room, and a lounge.

How to cowork in Tok, Alaska (by Aliza Sherman):

1. My house
2. Her house
3. Fast Eddy’s
4. the Grumpy Griz
5. Another location (library?)
6. Skype or Google Video

The heavy IT focus of urban and suburban coworking models and technology driven business incubators such as the local Marina Technology Cluster may not work as well in a rural setting, where, I suspect, a community that equally welcomes small business entrepreneurs, crafters, IT folks, as well as writers and other creative types will be important. Coworking should also be open to diverse cultures and generations of creative workers.

In an interview in Deskmag with rural coworkers, Joel reported that coworkers in his area “place a high emphasis on meeting and interaction with other small business people and entrepreneurs. And our biggest events are the ones where networking and interaction are the focus.” Frederik commented that “coworking offers a new perspective and different opportunities since it is a little hard to build interest groups around specific vocations in small towns.”


Storefronts on Moss Landing Rd.

I also think that those who go into the coworking scheme thinking mostly about “what it will do for me” may be taking the wrong path. While coworking should definitely nurture individual needs, it’s also very much about community, and creating a vibrant space for local workers and entrepreneurs to thrive. So you have to ask, What can coworking do for small towns like Castroville, Prunedale, Moss Landing, or Watsonville?

Jessica Stillman points out that remote workers who utilize coworking space put money back into the community. “NextSpace [in Santa Cruz] used an economic development model to sell the idea of coworking to the local authorities, noting that while it might be hard to attract a big employer to airport-less Santa Cruz, there was little stopping individual remote workers from basing themselves there.

“We realized after chasing a lot of companies that instead of attracting one 200-person business, we should attract 200 one-person businesses. The economic impact is bigger, and some of those businesses will grow,” the mayor explained.”

But how to start a coworking space in this area?


2nd St. Cafe, Watsonville.

Well, you may have to start by making “Jelly.” That is, gather together a group of people who are interested in coworking. Gauge the local interest. Meet in a space that has Wifi and hopefully coffee and snacks (a cafe, house, library, community center, empty storefront). Add a dash of talk, ideas, creativity, work to do, and enthusiasm, and you may just have the beginnings of a coworking community. It’s not hard to find articles on how to start Jellies. Check out Judy Heminsley’s article, “How to Jelly: a Guide to Casual Coworking,” on Shareable. So…rural coworking, anyone?

Are you coworking in a rural area? Are you coworking in a city? How is it working out for you?


Castroville Library.

Some articles that may provide ideas for starting a local coworking group:
*Coworking in Big Cities vs. Small Towns (Deskmag)
*How to Start a CoWorking Space in Your Small Town
(Small Biz Survival)
*Jelly for Home Workers (How to Work from Home)
*Coworking to Quickstart Rural Innovation (Daily Yonder)
*Why People Don’t Cowork (Yet) (Deskmag)
*Five Big Myths About Coworking (Deskmag)
*The Rural Way of Coworking (Deskmag)

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Western Jacks

Although this winter has been unseasonably dry (for this generally humid area), we still come across some nice specimens on our walks around the Elkhorn Slough area (although we are on higher ground). Here are some Western Jack O’ Lantern mushrooms, growing on a stump.


Photo by M.A. Fink

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Things that Can Kill You: the Amanita Death Cap

Recently the Watsonville Patch reported that a man in La Selva who had been gathering mushrooms “inadvertently ate a poisonous fungus and is seriously ill.” Experts believe that he picked up an Amanita Death Cap–a mushroom whose ill effects can take many hours to appear; by then, it is often too late for the victim.

At the Santa Cruz Veterinary Hospital, I heard that there has recently been a rash of mushroom poisonings among pets. I worry about all the small children in this area, who might pick up a mushroom and take a bite.

I live near a damp, often misty, slough area, shaded by many old oak trees. It’s not unusual to encounter many different types of fungi, growing up out of the fallen oak leaves, or attached to tree trunks. We’ve spotted possibly “edible” Boletes, Western Jack ‘O Lanterns (their gills glow green in the dark!), and many others, such as the Mock Meadow Mushroom, that we could only identify tentatively, or not at all. It’s amazing how quickly they all pop up when the conditions are right. In any case, I’ve never wanted to take a chance on eating one. I’ll get my Boletes and Chanterelles at the market, thank you.


Photo of Amanita Phalloides (Death Cap) by M.A. Fink

One mushroom that seems to grow in abundance in the Elkhorn and Royal Oaks area–and that we have been able to identify definitively–is the Amanita Phalloides, or the Death Cap.

They are utterly innocuous looking. Graceful, white, and simple in design–but absolutely deadly. Sometimes the cap has a slightly shiny green tinge. Both the spores and gills are white (See the spore color by placing the cap gill-down on a piece of dark paper. Within an hour or two, you’ll have distinctive spore prints). And you’ll often find the remnant of a thin, white “universal veil” at the bottom of the stalk.


Photo: Amanita Phalloides in the Wild, by M.A. Fink.

In the wild, they are even more innocent looking, and can be confused with many other types of mushrooms, both poisonous and non-poisonous.

For more information, visit the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz, or the North American Mycological Association.

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something vaguely resembling snow in the Monterey Bay area

…in which M. from Colorado and J. from California discuss the status of something white and icy floating down from the clouds onto the hills of rural Elkhorn in central California.

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elkhorn slough website

The Elkhorn Slough website has gotten a facelift (and some reorganization); it’s looking beautiful, and is even more accessible!

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rural life, more or less

The reality of living in Elkhorn. Sitting behind my desk looking out over the field and down at the property below, where the 5 or 6 alpaca are not yet shorn of their winter coats. It’s been a cool spring. Watching a young deer tentatively cross the quiet drive, as though it were a 6-lane freeway — all twitching, hyper-attentive ears, eyes, and muscles, alert for any danger.

Mostly quiet, except for the crows, and the kids next door, when they get home from school. What happened to the hawks? I haven’t heard them for weeks, it seems. Orange flowers are beginning to bloom on the nasturtiums I planted from seeds this winter. I make a big deal out of it, checking every morning, for every unfolding petal.

Castroville’s artichoke festival is over. Seven miles from here, a burgler holds up the Moss Landing gas station for $100, and disappears down Struve Rd. About 15 miles away in Salinas, there is a big protest march against gang violence — the second such march this spring. In Monterey, the local AIDS/HIV project is being sued by the Attorney General for misappropriation of funds. At Dorothy’s Place in the Salinas Chinatown, people in need are given shelter, while plans and hopes for a renewal of the old Chinatown neighborhood bloom.

It looks like rain; from my window the sky is a constantly changing mass of gray clouds above the hills. I should be working on my endnotes. But instead I’m writing about the scene beyond my window.

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message from the elkhorn slough foundation

Vote for Elkhorn Slough EVERDAY this month

Help us win a $50,000 grant from Pepsi for our Education and Outreach Programs

As most of you know, Elkhorn Slough is competing for a $50,000 grant in Pepsi’s Refresh Everything grant competition. Thanks to everyone who has been voting!

We each have a special connection with the slough. Let’s share that experience with our entire community- particularly disadvantaged groups who otherwise may never visit. Funding would expand and enrich our education and community outreach programs.

You can vote once a day for Elkhorn Slough. We’re currently in the top 100. We must be one of the top 10 vote getters to win the $50,000. With your help, we can get there. Please forward this email and encourage all your friends and family to vote everyday too.

Remember, public vote- your vote- decides who receives grants from Pepsi. Simply log onto www.refresheverything.com/elkhornslough and vote for Elkhorn Slough each day in April. The Slough’s proposal will benefit everyone who visits the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve through its support of the Naturalist staff person in the Visitor Center and will also enable the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, the nonprofit land trust, to share the beauty of our lands with more of the public. Vote today (and everyday in April!)

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a green morning walk

On my early morning walk down the lane.

morning walk, Elkhorn
Oak forest by the road.

what are these plants?
These tallish plants are growing by the side of the road, but I don’t recognize them. Anyone know what they are?

mini rainforest, Elkhorn
We’ve got our own little rainforest here.

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The Story Collector

Walking Gracie near the “back door” of Elkhorn Slough (Kirby Park), I encountered two women working on a bicycle with a strange contraption hooked up to it.
Brittney - Gracie - Maria
Brittney, my dog Gracie, and Maria.

Stopping to talk to them, I learned that the contraption is a traveling recording booth. Well, that accounts for the prominent ears sticking out of it! Maria Michaelson, the owner of the booth/cart is on a bicycle journey “onward” to collect stories from people she meets. She was delayed by the big storm and stayed in Santa Cruz for awhile, and met up with her friend Brittney in Elkhorn. Brittney works at Dorothy’s Place in Salinas. Maria is now on her way to Salinas to collect stories from the women’s shelter (Dorothy’s Place).

Brittney and Maria

Maria is keeping a blog record of her journey called “We Share the Same Stomach.”
This reminds me of my recent post, “Farmworkers, Gleaners, and the Stories They Tell.” I think it can be said that food and stories can both be nutritive—or not. In either case, it’s good to pay attention.

Maria also collected a story from me. Sounds familiar, eh? I’ve been reading a lot about people on the road, or the rails, lately. It just seems to be the theme of the month. Perhaps because I’ve named this blog “Local Nomad,” I’m now just drawn to nomadic types. Or maybe there are just more people wandering about. Maria has a purpose, though, which she says is a project of “interaction and empathy.” She’s spinning our tales with her wheels on the road. I wish her well on her journey!

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