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Until the Farm Is Secure

by Leslie Radford Sunday, May. 28, 2006 at 6:07 PM

On living with Julia, John, Joan, and now Daryl

Julia Butterfly Hill begins twelfth day of pray-fast

SOUTH CENTRAL FARM, 27 May 2006--What does it mean to be camping under three people living in a tree?  It's not exactly inspiration--the Farm takes care of that.  It's more than symbolic--Julia, John, Joan, and now Daryl are really risking life and limb, especially if the sheriffs try to shake them loose.  It's kind of like having odd but utterly charming neighbors, people who live their unusual lives with such self-assurance that what should be idiosyncratic makes utter sense.  It's an admiration and proud friendship that you know you couldn't possibly explain to your uptight parents.  But even if you can't explain them, you would defend them against all comers.

The sturdy arms of the walnut tree appear to embrace the new denizens, tethered to safety lines, as they climb from branch to branch, sharing the 3' x 5' wooden slats that serve as bed and perch.  John Quigley, Daryl Hannah, and Julia Butterfly Hill fill their day chatting with the groundlings when they're not making phone calls to rouse support for the Farm.   Buckets carry food, waste, and charged cell phones up and down.  The tree, now known as the Heart of the Farm, barely stirs.

A bunch of flies came to visit John when he first settled in.  He didn't disturb them, commenting only that they were "checking out this big, new bird."  In the winter of 2002, Quigley sat in Old Glory, chaining himself to the Santa Clarity Valley oak, for two and a half months until developers agreed to move it to a preserve. John's the quiet one, hidden behind branches when the media arrives, but working the phone non-stop.

Joan Baez was the first celebrity tree-sitter, spending two days and nights in the tree, and bringing international focus to the Farm and lending her celebrity status to protecting the Farm.  Occasionally crooning from on high, Baez caught the media's--and finally the Los Angeles Times'--attention for the Farm.  When she moved on, environmentalist and Hollywood darling Daryl Hannah took her place.  Hannah, disturbingly better known for her films, is an organic vegetarian and animal rescuer who drives a bio-El Camino and lives off-grid on a solar and bio-diesel farm, when she's not on tour promoting biodiesel conversion.

It's the fourth day of tree-sitting at the Farm, but the twelfth day of Julia Butterfly Hill's "water-only prayer fast for the survival of the Farm."  On Wednesday, when she first climbed into the tree, she was asked how long she intended to stay.  Without a beat of hesitation, she pronounced, "Until the Farm is secure."  Hill is world-renowned for spending two years sitting in a tree she named Luna in Humbolt County until three acres of ancient redwoods were preserved from logging interests.

If the tree is the Heart of the Farm, Julia has become its soul. She's disturbingly thin now, but still energetically traveling around in the tree and engaging visitors and residents below. Her northern California manager described her as Ghandi-esque, but that's too grandiose for the playful, centered, peaceful, earth-loving sprite who, this morning, as the groundlings waited for the sheriff's, said simply, "Just be calm.  Be happy to be in this place."  A few minutes later, she added, "I'm glad it didn't rain last night."

For whatever reason, the sheriffs didn't appear this morning.

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 5 posted about this article.
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if you can't come down save the Farm Sunday, May. 28, 2006 at 7:37 PM
For those who can't - Remember janitorman Tuesday, May. 30, 2006 at 2:59 PM
spread the credit Sea Friday, Jun. 09, 2006 at 6:06 AM
On the groundlings Leslie Friday, Jun. 09, 2006 at 2:24 PM

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