Monthly Archives: July 2010

Catherine Sutton Has Died

Catherine Sutton, founder of Transition Albany and a beloved member of many communities in the Berkeley/Albany area, died unexpectedly on Monday, December 5. All of us who knew her are in shock and mourning.

Following is a brief description of Catherine’s life. It’s followed by a second post with information about her upcoming funeral and memorial celebration.

Please feel free to use the website contact form to pass along any memories or thoughts–I’ll make sure they get to Catherine’s husband Leonard.

Bob Spies
Transition Albany Webmaster

Catherine Ann Hildegard Sutton was born in Oxford England in 1949 to German refugee Margo Müller and British aeronautical engineer Peter Sutton. Her parents met during WWII, as Peter was sent in to discover the Nazi’s secrets. They say Catherine was born during a thunderstorm.

She is survived by husband Leonard Edmondson, sister Sally Sutton, brother John Sutton, two half-sisters, Peggy Sutton and Annora Sutton, son Robin Breathe, daughter-in-law Alice Breathe, and the joy of her life, granddaughter Hazel Breathe.

Living in England until she was almost 40, Catherine never drove a car there. She lived in some 50 places in her lifetime, and particularly loved living in Wales on some land with a group of 7 or so friends. She came to the United States in 1988.

Catherine was a Russian major at Leeds University. Studying Bulgarian as her second language, she was forever infected with the magic of Bulgarian music and dance when she came upon a wedding while living in Sofia, Bulgaria. (She was cluck-clucked by the old Bulgarian women when she wore her mini skirt on the bus.)

Using her gifts of language and cooking, for livelihood she has cooked, waited table, worked as a janitor, sold knives, written resounding resumes, played in a Balkan band, taught dance and guarded crossings. Her job was always what was right in front of her calling to be done and working for the ideal of right living and social justice. In the early 80’s, her business was called
Sunshine Biscuits. She would bake flapjacks and deliver them to local businesses by bicycle with her son Robin also riding in the trailer, and people called her “Cathy Sunshine”.

Catherine’s first stop in the U.S. was Campbell Hot Springs in Sierraville, California, living with Leonard Orr’s radical rebirthing community. She lived in Reno for a time and then in Penngrove, where Leonard found her. In the late 90’s, they were both involved in a company called Cell Tech which network-marketed super blue-green algae health food, yet another controversial and radical venture. They connected on a sunny Sunday on the green grass at the Cell Tech August Celebration in Klamath Falls, Oregon where she was playing with a baby. She came to live with Leonard in about 2001 and they were married in 2005. He added stability to her life, rooting her in Albany and giving her support, and she flowered in place like nobody’s business. They were continuously setting new records for her longest relationship and longest residence of her life.

She believed fiercely in non-institutional, community-based birth, life, and death. She had her own son Robin at home and would have preferred to die that way. She was stubborn, determined, fiery, and idealistic. She is the founder Transition Albany with its delightfully generic mission, which both spawned and assisted many other local projects. There is a pattern here of living on the edge, sometimes associating with controversial, shady but dynamic characters with idealism and determination to fundamentally change the world for the better.

With fabulous energy, she juggled many balls at once, daily, in a way that few can emulate. Around the bulging micro urban homestead she and Leonard shared, she cared for fruit trees, bees, chickens, worms, compost, and flowers, and did solar cooking, preserving, fermenting, drying, washing, conserving, with water tanks, a grey-water system, whole house water filter, solar water heating, solar electric generator, line drying, and the list goes on.

Leonard says,

I lost my life companion, wilderness backpack travel buddy, and my cryptic crossword co-puzzler. Catherine had an astounding command of language, often teaching me new words. When she built things it was always by the seat of her pants.

She is her mother’s daughter in that she survived and thrived, living by her will and her wits, holding strongly to her principles even when there was nothing else to hold onto. She was a challenging person to love, with the operative principles being continuous forgiveness and renewal. Now I’m working on forgiving her for dying.

Posted in Community Building, Economy, Edible Landscape Project, Energy, Food and Agriculture, Health and Healing, Housing, Local Activities, Resources, Social Justice on December 10, 2016

Bicycle Tour

Come and be inspired by local gardens and a mini farm in Berkeley, Albany and El Cerrito. All cyclists welcome. We will keep to bicycle-friendly routes (thanks to EBBC). There is no charge for this event, and no need to RSVP unless you want to come on the Early Bird Special. Please bring lunch, water, sunscreen, helmet, and, if you like, something to share from your garden. The Main Tour round trip is approximately six miles, with lengthy breaks!
(Note: next time we would like to include many more Albany gardens! Please contact transitionalbanyca at to be included.)

EARLY BIRD SPECIAL (for those who RSVP only)
9:00 am

Simone’s mature quarter-acre plot in the El Cerrito hills, with bee hives, dozens of chickens, fruit trees and raised beds is well worth the climb if you’re up for it. This portion is for cyclists who don’t mind hills, though the route is a lot less steep than Moeser.
Please email Claire Norris at songsparrow22 at if you’re interested, and she’ll send you details of where to meet.

OUR MAIN TOUR STARTS AT 10 AM (no need to RSVP) All times are approximate.
10:00 am
Meet up at Albany Community Center parking lot, 1249 Marin Avenue, Albany.
Travel via Ohlone Greenway to

10:15 am
Gilman Street, Berkeley: first stop, Jim & Eva Wert’s certified Bay-Friendly garden and tiny back yard with cooped chickens, fruit trees and intensive year-round vegetables.

10:45 am
Travel via Acton and Virginia to

11:10 am
Bancroft Way, Berkeley, near San Pablo Ave: Jim Montgomery’s Green Faerie Farm, a sustainable urban mini farm with fruit trees, veggies, goats, chickens, bees, and rabbits. See a short video about Jim at

12:00 pm
Option A: travel via Ninth and University Village to Madison Street, Albany, then to B, or
Option B: travel via Ninth and Virginia directly to Cornell Street, Berkeley

12:20 pm
A: Madison Street, Albany: see Catherine and Leonard’s tiny but productive Albany yard with rainwater dispersal and greywater features, fruit trees, flowers and vegetables and a cob chicken house in the making, then continue to
B: Cornell, Berkeley: Susan Silber’s new permaculture-style Berkeley garden with raised beds, where there is room for us to have lunch and pick plums from her tree.

1:30 pm
Travel via Dartmouth and Ohlone Greenway to

1:45 pm

Peralta and Hopkins, Berkeley: tour the Eco House (a permaculture garden with rainwater catchment features, a banana tree growing in greywater, ducks, and a whole lot more.

2:30 pm
Make your own way home.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 17, 2010

Garden Sharing in Albany

Green ShootsIs your yard kind of overgrown, neglected or unsatisfying? Not really what you’d like to look at out the window? Perhaps it’s your physical condition that prevents you from getting out there or perhaps you believe you have a brown thumb. You might have a vague feeling for you what you want, a detailed plan, or no idea at all.

On the other hand, you might be an avid gardener struggling to satisfy your passion with a container garden or in a tiny space with inadequate sunlight. Or perhaps you’ve done as much as you can in your own yard and you’re itching to transform another patch of ground.

Whichever person you are, think about this: as cheap oil gets scarcer, so will cheap food, given that the average item on the US plate has traveled 1,500 miles to get there. Consensus among geologists has it that we’ll reach a Global Peak in oil production somewhere between 2008 and 2012, and, because it’s hard to tell until after you’ve got there, we may be at that point already. (Why are the oil giants now drilling for oil several miles under the seabed, for instance? The days of striking oil just beneath the surface and abundant “gushers” are long gone, and we’re reduced to risky operations like the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. As this environmental disaster develops, my own oil “habit” is coming under severe scrutiny.)

So, if food starts getting too expensive at the store, let’s learn to grow our own! Small mixed vegetable plots – with flowers for the pollinators – are more productive than commercial agriculture by a large margin, and we can grow exactly what we like and only have to walk out into the yard to get it. How about that for reducing your carbon footprint!

Matching Gardens with Gardeners

Let us know that you’re interested in participating in this project and we’ll match you up with someone who will become a friend and partner as they help you turn the potential of your yard into beauty and food.

Or perhaps you’d like to host a “gardening party?” Neighbors donate their good hard work in the morning (tear up that front lawn and put in beds?), then share a potluck meal and camaraderie afterwards.

Albany Food Map

Put yourself on the map! This google map was started to visually track all of the abundant food growing or growing potential. Use the color key to navigate the dots, and place your own gardens or available garden space. To add a dot, you have to log into a google account.

City Garden Swap

If we have too many carrots, peas, potatoes, onions, beans, beets, turnips, leafy greens, lettuce, radishes, plums, apples, pears, lemons, kiwis, oranges  …  we can give them to our neighbors or trade them at the Albany Garden Swap Garden Swap (Tuesday nights 6:30 pm at the Albany Community Center, May through October). What a lovely community event that is! Here’s a description from Eva Wise:

“On Tuesday we arrived at Marin Ave. and Masonic a little before 6:30 pm bearing a basket full of our latest extra garden yield–potatoes, some herbs and parsley tied in small bunches, sorrel. But the sign I’d seen earlier was gone and there was no-one else in sight. Too good to be true, I thought. But as we returned to our car I saw someone setting up an awning and table next to the Ohlone Path across from the library – promising! We grabbed our basket and walked over. In a few minutes others arrived bearing baskets and bags of food–Meyer lemons, giant cauliflowers, salad greens, pea pods, bunches of herbs. I immediately eyed the cauliflowers. Our yellow Yukon potatoes, the only ones there, were instant eyecatchers. Now the table, surrounded by a dozen eager gardeners, was full of fresh vegies. The bartering was hot and heavy. How about two big potatoes for a bunch of snow peas? I scored one-quarter of the giant cauliflower; it made two meals for us.

“The swap lasted only 30 minutes or so. At some point I looked around at the bright, animated faces of the gardeners; a 10-year old girl giving away lemons from her tree without even wanting an exchange. It turned out that the library sign had been stolen, but this hadn’t stopped the gardeners. We are already planning our next barter basket for this coming Tuesday. IMPORTANT: get there a few minutes early; the bartering begins promptly at 6:30. As the summer wears on there may be more gardeners and more food, with bartering harkening back to earlier times when money was not part of the experience of acquiring food. It’s a great way to meet your neighbor gardeners. Or to get encouragement to start your own garden!”

Posted in Uncategorized on July 8, 2010