Archive for November, 2009

The Salatin Family’s Ripple Effect


The Ripple Effect of One Couple’s Decision
By Randall Richards

Salatin Family Farm

Because William and Lucille Salatin decided to moved their young family to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and purchase a worn-out  farm, they had the choice of how they were going to manage the farm.

Because they decided to “use nature as a pattern” in their farming practices, they established a way of farming that worked for them, the land, and the animals they raised.

Because they began using innovative ideas on how to farm sustainably in the early sixties, they knew what worked for them. (more…)

MSI Covered in Magazine Article


“Vacations with a Purpose” Cover Story writes about Mountain Spirit Institute’s work in NZ/Peru
“To Travel is to Explore, Dream, Discover

"Vacations with a Purpose" Cover Story

An article recently appeared in New Hampshire’s Kearsarge Magazine about Mountain Spirit Institute by writer Deb McKew. It  can be read on our Press Clips Webpage, as an excerpt from the magazine. Click on the first listing at the top of the page.  We encourage you to purchase this good read of a magazine if you’re in the New Hampshire, USA area.  Publisher Laura Jean Whitcomb does a great job with the magazine.

The article has a shot of MSI founder R. Richards doing a bit of ice climbing on a glacier in Mt. Aspiring National Park, and covered Mountain Spirit’s core mission of getting people connected “with themselves, each other and the environment”,  where we “combine experiential wilderness programs with spiritual development”.

Richards near Mt. Aspiring, NZ

As the article states, “some programs are solely wilderness based while others are workshop based.”

The article informs readers of the educational programs and unique nature of  MSI mission of getting people out of their native countries and into the mountains and cultures abroad. Being a non-profit organization, MSI strives to bring people of different backgrounds and countries together, to learn about  new ways to work together, and to re-examine one’s role in the natural environment, and in the world community.


Learning Zampoña on Lake Titicaca


Guillermo Seminario, leader of Chimu Inka band in Cusco, and co- facilitator for Mountain Spirit Insitute’s cultural immersion program in Peru teaches a few participants on the Peru’09 program how to play zampoña. They three had been learning from Guillermo for a few days before this footage was taken. They did well. I hope they are still playing!

Local Screening of Movie “Fresh”, 106 Attend


The Movie Fresh attracts 106 people in small town
Good food, an idea whose time has come
By Randall Richards

Joel Salatin, Organic Farmer, Visionary

The small town of  New London, New Hampshire, saw one-hundred and six people turn out  for the screening of the new movie Fresh, an uplifting documentary about the local organic food movement in the U.S.  The event was co-sponsored by the New London chapter of the Weston A Price Foundation, and  Mountain Spirit Institute on Saturday November 21st.  In addition to the showing,  local vendors and food producers were invited to display, who had tables with samples and brochures, where the audience could browse and learn about the good and local food available in their community.  A brief “Q&A” discussion followed the film,  (more…)

Festival near Machu Picchu, Peru


In a small hamlet, near the town of Ollantaytambo, a few hundred devotees hold festivals in honor of the Virgen del Carmen, known locally as Mamacha Carmen, patron saint of the mestizo population. The gathering, that raises the curtain on these days of celebrations is held in the main square, where troupes of musicians play their instruments while richly dressed choirs sing in Quechua. The setting gives way to a series of ingenious choreographies that portray events in Peruvian history.  The main and much bigger celebration of Virgen Del Carmen is in the town of Paucartambo, about four hours from Cusco, Peru. Mountain Spirit Institute participants, guide Guillermo Seminario, and host Anna Sequeros are in this clip.

Sir Edmund Hillary Museum, New Zealand


Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre at Aoraki Mt. Cook Inspires, Gives Glimpse into Hillary’s Character

Hillary Museum in NZ

By Randall Richards
We passed through the Aoraki Mt. Cook area, on New Zealand’s South Island, and made our way through the fancy Hermitage Hotel to find the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. I knew of Hillary the climber, but the display, video presentations, memorabilia and photos portrayed a humble man with astounding climbing ability, a self depreciating style and sense of humor.

He was the first to reach Everest’s summit for a reason. His solid climbing skills, drive and competitiveness all put him in the position with Tenzing Norgay to be the first summiteers on Chomulungma.

Multimedia Displays, with Norgay/Hillary

The reason this story made its way onto this blog, is he seemed to have also been truly a nice guy.  He was loved by his fellow Kiwis. He took care to leave the world a better place than he found it by creating a foundation that built schools and educated those in the Everest region.  One leaves with a good feeling about Sir Ed, after strolling among old photos, his book collection and accounts of his relationships with family, friends and of course his sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
I have a greater respect for Mr. Hillary after having learned more about him at this Alpine Centre Museum dedicated to his life and acheivements.

From the Centre’s Website:

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”

Hillary, His Early Days

“A tribute to Sir Edmund Hillary, humanitarian, ambassador and one of the world’s greatest explorers, the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre showcases the Aoraki Mount Cook region, its people and its place in the universe.

Designed to educate and entertain, the centre features a spectacular state-of-the-art 3D movie, New Zealand’s first full dome digital Planetarium and Museum which documents the pioneering heart of the region and features the impressive Hillary Gallery.

The Hillary Gallery depicts Sir Edmund’s longstanding connection with the region and touches upon his achievements, expeditions and life’s work.  It was here he climbed his first major mountain, achieved a number of impressive first ascents including the difficult south face of Mount Cook, and trained for his Everest and Antarctic expeditions.

Located adjacent to The Hermitage Hotel in the majestic Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre is an opportunity to explore and connect to the national identity and celebrate the cultural characteristics New Zealanders hold dear.”


MSI attends NH Grants Institute


Mountain Spirit Institute Attends Grant Writing Seminar
Plymouth, NH
Hosted by the the New Hampshire Center for Non Profits and Council on Fundraising, a three-day seminar held in Plymouth New Hampshire has been covering  the essentials on grant writing. Randall and Amanda Richards are attending the seminar which wraps up tomorrow.

The following panelists presented during the first day, covering  “Understanding the Grantmaking Universe, What are Foundations looking For”:
Christine Grenier – Citizens Bank
Marianne Jones – The Women’s Fund
Mary Kaplan – Endowment for Health

On day two, the following panelists presented on “What Great Proposals Look Like”
Bryon Champlin – Lincoln Financial Foundation
Kathy Cook – Norwin S. and Elizabeth N. Bean Foundation
Ellen Koenig – The NH Charitable Foundation

Says MSI Development Director, Amanda Richards, “This seminar gives us vital tools and information to move forward with our development goals to further the mission of Mountain Spirit. ” She added, “We’re very excited to put these new skills into action.”

MSI plans to search for funding for the Peru/USA Music Exchange Program, Board of Directors development and training, and capacity building,  that will strengthen MSI’s ability to deliver important programs.

The seminar has been presented by Elizabeth Sunde. If you would like more information about  this new program, which will be repeated, please check out the links above.

Gold Mining in Peru


By Randall Richards

Peru-Barrick Mine

Barrick's Pierina Gold Mine, Peru

I know relatively little about the issues that surround open pit gold mining, but my instincts tell me, aside from what I’ve read over the years, that it’s not a good thing, something similar to  nuclear testing – not the best for the planet,  nor the surrounding communities. There are certainly the headlines about gold mining, about toxic tailings and the havoc wreaked on local rivers and communities.  I debated whether to do more research before writing this post, and decided to simply point you in the direction of two websites, and tell an anecdote of my observations in Peru over the past 12 twelve years.

Peru-Barrack Mine Far

Barrick Mine viewed from our land near Huaraz

We’ve just purchased some land in Huaraz Peru, and within 10 or 15 miles, line of sight, to the north is the Canadian company Barrick Gold open pit gold mining operation. It just looks wrong. A whole mountain on the Corillera Negra side of the Cayllon de Huaylas (Huaylas Valley),  has been transformed into a mammoth sand pit/mound.  Aside from  the blight it produces, all natural grasslands and campasino’s (country farmers), pastures/farms have been eradicated.   I hear consistently that the Japanese are, or are about to run mines in the Cordillera Huayhuash, (scene of Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void).

Peru-Barrick Mine Settlement

Barrick's Planned Community - employee housing, Peru

On the east side of the valley, sits Barrick’s planned employee community. It’s relatively well hidden from the center of Huaraz, over a hill with newly planted pines.  But the whole thing seems abusive, elitist,  and completely out of place, in a country where there are stark differences between classes of the “haves and have nots”. This “suburb looking for a city”, looks like something outside of Toronto, or a development near Montreal, rather than a village in the Andes.

Then, there’s the taking of Peru’s natural resources, for the price paid from the highest bidder. If that’s what the goverments mean by “free trade”, they can have it. (As you may know, Peru and the U.S. have a “free trade” agreement as of a few years ago.) For more information on third world exploitation, be sure to read John PerkinsConfessions of an Economic Hit Man, or see his website, which also has a good bit on Free Trade with Columbia, which might shed some light on free trade agreements.  More on John Perkins in another entry.

As promised, here is the link for Barrick Mines and, one for Mining Watch Canada, with an interesting page entitled, Transnational Mining Tribunal: The Case of Barrick Gold Corporation in Latin America (Chile, Argentina and Peru). Barrick has multiple pages on “Environmental Responsibility, Biodiversity, Rock and waste management”, etc etc..  However, are we being hoodwinked?

For those up to speed on these issues, forgive my lack of knowledge on the subject, but take my observations at face value, especially if you’ve not been to Peru. If you agree with my take, please forward this blog to friends,  and get the word out about the abuse in Peru and other Latin American countries, its people and resources.

Coal Country the Movie


COAL COUNTRY tells of the dramatic struggle around the use of coal, which provides over half the electricity in America. For more information about the movie and to watch a preview click here


Watch the Preview

In Appalachia, miners and residents are locked in conflict: is mining
and processing coal essential to providing good jobs, or is it destroying the land, water and air? What does this mean for the rest of America and the world?

Passions are running high in the mountains of Appalachia. Families and communities are deeply split over what is being done to their land. At issue is the latest form of strip mining called ‘mountaintop removal’, or MTR. Coal companies blast the tops off mountains, and run the debris into valleys and streams. Then they mine the exposed seams of coal and transport it to processing plants. Coal is mined more cheaply than ever, and America needs coal. But the air and water are filled with chemicals, and an ancient mountain range is disappearing forever.

For more information about the movie, events,  and to watch a preview click here

A Look into Inca Astronomy


The Qorikancha was at the physical center of the Inca empire, their most revered ceremonial temple which also housed the golden sun disc and was considered where the four quarters of the empire came together.  It is located on Avenida del Sol, in Cusco, Peru.
The image below is of  beautiful painting by the Cusco artist Miguel Cartagena, which hangs in the Qorikancha, showing the important points of the Milky Way in the southern hemisphere and how the Inka related to them. Below is a description which is also hangs in the Qorikancha next to this painting:


Milky Way & llama - Southern Hemisphere

“The deities venerated in the Qorikancha were personified celestial bodies and meteorological phenomenon. In order to understand these beliefs, it is necessary to make reference to Inca astronomy, which is known to us through some brief mentions in colonial chronicles and through the folk astronomy of the Quechua communities of today. (more…)