the Buyerarchy of Needs









Practice Makes Perfect.

Garden Planning and Book Review – Spring Has Sprung

Garden Planning: Crop rotation is the practice of moving crops around yearly or seasonally, rather than planting the same thing in the same place year in and year out. Rotating crops gives the soil a chance to cycle nutrients and minimizes build of of the pathogens to a particular plant in that area. For example, if you always plant tomatoes in the same spot, even with added compost, the tomatoes will tend to tap out the particular nutrients that tomatoes like. At the same time particular tomato pests and diseases will tend to gather in that spot The combination of diminishing nutrient and increasing potential for attack is a recipe for crop failure. Smart crop rotation alternates plants that build soil nutrients with those that are heavy feeders. A typical rotation would be to plant a soil builder every third rotation, with a heavy feeder and a light feeder in between. Soil building plants are all in the legume family, as they “fix nitrogen” from the air with the help of bacteria. Examples are fava beans, soy beans, pole beans and peas. A heavy feeder need extra nitrogen to perform. Examples of heavy feeders are basil, beets, corn, lettuce, squash and tomato. Examples of light feeders are carrots, leeks, onions, peppers and potatoes.

In a small garden it may not be possible to rotate everything in as grand a fashion as on a larger farm with copious sun. Perhaps you have only one sunny bed that tomatoes will work in for example. Still you can rotate your tomato planting with a winter crop of fava beans or other legume. To keep track of your rotations, create a small drawing of your garden each year and notate what went where.

Book Review The Vegetable Gardeners Guide to Permaculture by Christopher Shein with Julie Thompsen. The much anticipated new book by local permaculture hero Christopher Shein has hit the shelves. This is a gorgeous book filled with large full color pictures, diagrams and maps. The book is comprehensive, yet also spacious and easily digested. After a clear and simple introduction to the ethics and principles of permaculture, the book dives into how to design your garden using design elements from the permaculture vocabulary. Food forests, fruit tree guilds, zones, sectors, inputs and outputs are elegantly described along with easily understood diagrams and sample designs to put them into action–from a balcony garden to a large urban lot. The book goes on to offer techniques for soil building, a plant-by-plant compendium of perennial edibles, annual vegetables, edible flowers, herbs, seed starting and seed saving. The sections on animals for your backyard systems are slim and not well developed. But overall this is a lovely addition to your gardening library.

post by K. Ruby Blume, Institute for Urban Homesteading


Permaculture Principle #12: Creatively Use and Respond To Change

“Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”

The image for this principle is the butterfly, which starts as the humble catepillar.  Change is inevitable.  Through careful observation and knowledge, we can intervene creatvely and have a positive impact on the outcome.  Some change is predictable, such as the changing of the seasons or the stages of growth in a small organization or the way we age.  By studying ourselves and the world around us we can peer into the future and make choices in the present that will influence a good outcome.

This principle can be applied in the planning of your annual garden for crop rotations to work well with the changing seasons.  It requires you to understand the changing seasons of your bioregion–perhaps through prior experience and good note-taking, or by speaking with others who have been gardening in the area longer. It can be applied in the way you site permanent features in your landscape.  You know a tree will grow and with a little research you can predict what it might look like in 10 years.  Use this information to place it  in a way that it will have enough space when mature and not interfere with other features in your design. You know as well that eventually you will age and want to retire–how can you creatively ensure that you will have your needs taken care of at that time? Something like this may seem daunting in today’s economy, but new and creative solutions are being developed all the time.

This principle does not ask you to predict the future, but to study the past and the world around you.

post by K. Ruby Blume

Principle # 6 – Produce No Waste

Permaculture principle #6 Produce No Waste   by Ruby


The Oil Eaters

The Oil Eaters (Photo credit: giveawayboy)


Waste is a concept foreign to nature; everything produced gets eaten, decomposed and reused. The earthworm consumes plant “wastes” turning them into enriched soil. Bacteria hang out on tree leaves protecting them until they fall, at which moment those same leaves become their food.


In the garden we compost everything that is left over, use wood from pruning to stake plants or edge our garden beds or use egg shells as a natural snail control that then becomes available calcium for the plants. The next wave of limiting waste is to prioritize the use of natural compostable materials in other areas of our lives. Building materials such as earth, cob and wood, that can eventually return to the earth,. Clothing fibers like wool and cotton are similarly compostable. Who will be the first to produce a fully bio-degradable computer or mp3 player? That also produces no waste in it’s production? Don’t know where to get biodegradable products?

Here is one cool website for home products:


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Permaculture Principle #4: Self-Regulate; Accept Feedback

Principle #4 Self-Regulate, Accept Feedback

The next installation in Ruby’s meditations on the permaculture principles:
When we notice something isn’t working, we need to adjust to bring systems back into balance. In the garden it might be something as simple as noticing that your plants are getting under-watered and adjusting your watering schedule. If flies and smell are building up in your chicken coop, you may need to tweak the system to make it easier to maintain.

On a personal level, this principle invites us to apply self-criticism as well as to accept critical feedback from others with grace. To sit in the “hot seat” and consider the feedback others give us rather than defend ourselves, is a practice that requires fortitude and strength of character. The experience of making a mistake, being called on it, accepting responsibility and adjusting ones behavior builds a strong personal ecology and sense of self-worth. Conversely learning to give feedback in a manner that supports forward movement is a fine skill to develop.

A young couple and their baby sitting beside t...

Imagine a world in which political leaders and large corporations were able and willing to self-regulate and accept feedback!

For now, we’ll have to work on enhancing this essential and difficult human skill at personal scale,

Principle #1: Observe and Interact

K. Ruby Blume reflecting on the permaculture principles, one by one.

Permaculture principles

Principle #1 Observe and Interact

This is just about my favorite and most easy to remember permaculture principle. And although it seems obvious, it is so often the step that is left out of the equation when we start a project. We can see this especially when we look at larger developments, which haven’t taken into consideration important features in a landscape like passive solar gain, or rainwater flows, or wind, or the neighborhood in general.

When you take the time to slow down and simply observe something—a plot of land, a group dynamic in your office or in your chicken flock, it gives you time to reflect on what is actually happening right in front of you. This gives you information that can be useful as you move forward in creating better, more efficient, and abundant designs for living.

The classic exhortation in permaculture is to observe your land for ONE YEAR before placing any permanent features (such as fruit trees or hardscaping). This gives you time to observe microclimates, the path of the sun, different types of soil in your plot, rainfall, neighbor impacts, and so on. When every action is a response to what you are actively observing, your efforts become more effective and there is less need to undo mistakes.

Here’s an example from my own farm: The first year I was here I placed a beehive in the back end of the garden. It was a great spot for humans because the bees were out of the way. But these bees only got direct sun for a couple of hours in the late afternoon. They were always more aggressive when I managed them and they never thrived. It took me a while, but finally I saw it—this was simply a bad spot for the bees. I moved them to a sunny west fence line and they thrived. That shady spot in the back is where my rabbitry now sits—a much better use for that back corner.

And finally here’s a tip from John Muir Laws, an amazing California naturalist who published a wonderful field guide to the Sierra: When you observe, allow yourself to notice out loud. Start with “I notice…” Then as you get more curious, try starting with “I wonder….” Verbalizing what you are seeing can deepen your capacity to see and move you more easily from observation into problem solving.

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Huffington Post

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Santa Barbara where I got to teach at UC Santa Barbara, deliver a keynote speech at a fundraiser for the great, local Santa Barbara Food Bank and their Grown Your Own Way program, as well as teaching at Fairview Gardens, Michael Abelman’s former farm in Goleta, now continuing its suburban farming mission.

I met an interesting woman named Linda Buzzell who is a permaculturist and psychotherapist – one of the only people I’ve met who really shares a lot of my own skill set. She edited a book called “Ecotherapy: Healing with the Earth in Mind” with Craig Chalquist, which I have been reading slowly and savoring. It’s been like finding a whole bunch of brothers and sisters I didn’t know I had — healers who are acutely aware of our environmental condition and the precariousness of this time for humanity. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the connections between healing, deep ecology, grief work, and bringing the work of psychotherapy out of the small quiet clinical room, and into the world.

Linda kindly penned a short review of our book for the Huffington Post. Linked here: