Also got the chance to talk with Erik Knutsen, co-author of The Urban Homestead and steward of the dynamic blog site Root Simple, about the work we’re up to with the 13Moon CoLab, Permaculture from the Inside Out. Erik and I have a lot of overlaps in our lives–from our commitment to urban homesteading, to our desire to spread the good word, and our constant inquiry into living the “good life” here at the end of the American empire. He’s funny and feeling-ful. We were joined by his partner Kelly Coyne, his partner in urban homesteading goodness, for a really nice talk about what we’re up to, what the movement’s up to, and how to get involved, wherever you are. Check it out.
Last week, my 13Moon CoLab collaborator Delia Carroll and I had the chance to talk with Jill Cloutier, sourthern California permaculturist and community organizer on the Sustainable World Radio show she has been hosting for some years.
Our conversation ranged from “permaculture from the inside out” to personal repair, to city repair, to urban and suburban permaculture strategies. Check it out!
If you have not had the opportunity learn and play with Mark Lakeman of Portland’s City Repair, here’s an opportunity throughout California to learn from the City Repair instigator of wild goodness. Check it out and share it with your friends and neighbors. This is how streets and communities and cities get to change…
California Tour: March 15 – April 3, 2016!
This March and April, City Repair will hit the road for a three-week tour of California, spreading real world tools for building participatory culture and manifesting lasting change through physical interventions. Join us at one of our many events throughout the Golden State! Contact Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Tue 3/15 – Davis, CA @ N Street Co-housing Common House - Fabulous Dinner and Mark Lakeman talk on Neighborhood Placemaking, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Wed 3/16 – San Francisco, CA @ Hayes Valley Art Works - Placemaking Storytelling: The Village Heart is Everywhere with Mark Lakeman, 1pm-5pm || Oakland, CA @ PLACE for Sustainabie Living - PLACE Power, The Village Heart is Everywhere, evening storytelling and public presentation, 7pm-9:30pm
Thu 3/17 – Oakland, CA @ PLACE for Sustainable Living - Urban Placemaking for Cultural Transformation, 2-day placemaking ambassador training, 10am-5pm
Fri 3/18 – Oakland, CA @ PLACE for Sustainable Living - Urban Placemaking for Cultural Transformation, 2-day placemaking ambassador training, 10am-4pm || San Jose, CA @ Joyce Ellington Library - Creative Interventions in the Public Right-of-Way: A Workshop About Linking Art, Neighborhood Engagement & Traffic Calming Techniques, 7pm-9pm
Sat 3/19 – Bolinas, CA @ Regenerative Design Institute, Four Seasons Permaculture with Penny Livingston-Stark || Bolinas, CA @ Bolinas Commons - Placemaking Storytelling, 5pm-7pm
Sun 3/20 – Ojai, CA @ The Chaparral - Placemaking Storytelling, 6pm-9pm
Mon 3/21 – Ojai, CA – Pilot Program Intersection Repair, 10am-4pm
Tue 3/22 – Los Angeles, CA @ Holy Nativity Church, Placemaking with Mark Lakeman, 7pm-10pm
Wed 3/23 – Los Angeles, CA @ Watts Labor Community Action Committee, Intersection Repair and Dedication Ceremony, 10am-5pm
Thu 3/24 – San Diego, CA @ Emerald Village - An Evening with City Repair and Mark Lakeman: The Village Heart is Everywhere, 7pm-9:30pm
Fri 3/25 – Los Angeles, CA @ LA Ecovillage - Placemaking Storytelling, 7pm-9:30pm
Sat 3/26 – Los Angeles, CA @ LA Ecovillage - Urban Placemaking for Cultural Transformation, 2-day placemaking training, 10am-5pm
Sun 3/27 – Los Angeles, CA @ LA Ecovillage - Urban Placemaking for Cultural Transformation, 2-day placemaking training, 10am-4pm
Mon 3/28 – Pasadena, CA @ The Shed - Placemaking Storytelling, 6:30pm-9:30pm
Tue 3/29 – Los Angeles, CA @ OTIS College of Design - Human Ecology class, 7pm-9:45pm
Wed 3/30 – Los Angeles, CA @ Full Circle Venice - The I.AM.LIFE Project hosts Mark Lakeman: An Evening of Connection and Community, 7pm-11pm
Thu 3/31 – San Luis Obispo, CA - Looking for collaborators!
Fri 4/1 – Santa Cruz, CA @ Downtown Santa Cruz - Village Building and Public Placemaking with Mark Lakeman, 1:00pm-6:00pm
Sat 4/2 – Oakland, CA @ PLACE for Sustainable Living - Oakland Intersection Repair ceremony, 12pm
Sun 4/3 - Sebastopol, CA
Had a nice visit from my fellow homesteader, Darshan Ahluwalla, yesterday morning. He was in search of comfrey to plant among his trees on his property in Butte County, CA. He wrote a nice blog post about our fruitful exchange.
Always feels good to have so much more than I need through no real work of my own, and to share it with others. That’s one of the best things about the homesteading way — you plant a couple of plants, and years later, they make so many more plants that you can share them with your friends. Becoming a plant propagator is one of the surprising upsides of the homesteading way. Nature does its dance of fertility and when we participate in tending that cycle, everyone benefits.
Finally! California Federal Judge decided what we all already knew: the Dervaes family supplemental trademark for “urban homesteading” has no merit. Now we’re all free to keep on doing what we’re already doing: growing food and community in the places where we live.
An act of war brought me to permaculture. On September 11, 2001, I had been a mother for little more than three weeks. I was immersed in the care and feeding of my tiny, vulnerable, perfect baby girl. There was milk dripping from my breasts and I was tender in all ways.
As I sat and watched the towers fall, holding my baby in my arms, I knew that the world was going to change, and probably get worse. Motherhood being what it was, my central concern was with the health and safety of my baby, her care and feeding and continuity. What was it going to be?
The answer didn’t come immediately, but the war following the fall of the towers, and a move out of our city, led me circuitously back to the garden, back to re-skilling in the kitchen, back to worms and compost and the joy of co-creation with the earth.
A few years later, I trained in permaculture at the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas. Penny Livingston-Stark, Lydia Neilsen and James Stark were my teachers. During the year I studied, the problems I saw all around me start shifting and morphing into solutions. Not enough water? Tap your greywater and divert it to the landscape. No food security? Grow it yourself. Fossil fuel energy ruining the globe? Tap into the power of the sun. And so many other practical, logical and accessible skills were revealed.
I found myself easily able to learn, master and apply these skills in the place where I live. Now these many years later, the permaculture way is just how I live. I feel that permaculture is a beautiful, evolving design science that teaches us peace with creation. Rather than thinking of the world as a resource base for my use and deployment, I am a steward of the land where I live (rented), the waters that I use (diminishing), the food that I grow (abundant), and the connection to earth energy (all around me.)
My daughter is 13 now, and I work as a permaculture educator and advocate, as well as a somatic psychotherapist. I see these paths as being the same—healing the multiple traumas of our violent and disconnected culture, on both the inner and outer levels. Permaculture has brought us a way of living in place, sharing our values and dreams with the people we care about, and a way of educating our daughter into a life in the earth. This has brought us a delightful posse of earth-loving creators, artists, farmers, and free folk we now call friends. We consider ourselves blessed by the bees and beets and buckets of water that surround us.
Permaculture creates peace because it is a hands-on, appropriate technology; an adaptable and flexible way to live within the limits and opportunities of our place. It teaches us, through ecological principles, to observe and interact with our world, and to take actions rooted in reality, not in some fantasy of domination or control.
Permaculture creates peace because it teaches us that we are both small and powerful, that our daily actions make a difference in changing the world where we live. Permaculture creates peace because it gives us a template for living in respectful relationship, not only with the animals and plants the surround us, but with the people with whom we share our home place.
I have found, paradoxically, that it is simpler to grow carrots than it is to get along with my neighbors. I don’t think I am alone in practices of polarization and projection that make it hard for us to view one another as allies. Permaculture has taught me how to do the right thing—use less, share more, slow down and listen, design from patterns to details. If peace is the pattern, the details must rest in how we act every day—with an open heart, or a closed mind. When operating from within the permaculture ethos, where we hold earth care, people care, and fair share as our guiding ethics, the open heart leads the way.
Permaculture helps us cultivate abundance where we live. This makes it possible to extend into the world in a spirit of enough-ness, offering generously and with gratitude. This cultivates inner peace, and the ripple effects of peace with all creation.
While it is true that world continues to turn to war, no matter how many times I turn my compost bin, I’ve also learned from permaculture to get right-sized—some of what is happening in our world is in my hands, but mostly, it’s in bigger hands than mine. Knowing that, I embody the permaculture maxim: “If the world is going to end tomorrow, I am going to plant a tree today.” This helps me live through some of the hardest passages of human aggression and cruelty, while cultivating a soil where something else can grow.
This fall I am honored to be offering a year-long permaculture design course with three other women than we call Permaculture from the Inside Out. My co-teaching team is called the 13Moon Collaborative, and we are Kyra Auerbach, Rachel Kaplan, Delia Carroll, and Cassandra Ferrera. Our course is an offering of the classical permaculture curriculum with the addition of a deep focus on the inner environments we inhabit. It is time that we compost consciousness toward peace, as readily as we compost our kitchen scraps. It is the mission of the 13Moon Collaborative to bring the body back into the center of the conversation about sustainability and community resilience. It is our contention that tending to the inner garden, while we tend to the outer landscapes we inhabit, will help us make wiser, more grounded and more appropriate choices with positive and peaceful effects in our world.
Permaculture from the Inside Out, 13 Saturdays, once a month, starting October 2014 and running through October 2015. $1200 early bird registration fee through September 27 (mention the Shift Network when you register). For more information and to register, go to www.13MoonCollaborative.com, or email@example.com. We welcome you in this co-creative journey of growing our sense of peace with creation.
A new law taking effect next week will mark another innovation for San Francisco: The city will be the first in the country to offer a financial incentive for urban farming.
Starting Sept. 8, owners of empty lots could save thousands of dollars a year in property taxes in exchange for allowing their land to be used for agriculture for five years or more.
It’s part of the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, a state law spearheaded by local sustainable land-use advocates and state Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco. The law encourages would-be urban farmers to turn trash-covered empty parcels into gardens with the assurance they won’t be forced out after putting in a lot of time and money.
San Francisco will be the first to enact it because the Board of Supervisors has already passed the necessary local ordinance.
“It takes so much time to get a property in shape for farming, including building fertility in the soil and getting the infrastructure in place,” said Caitlyn Galloway, who has run Little City Gardens on a three-quarter-acre rented lot in Mission Terrace for four years. “That’s why this legislation is a step in the right direction.”
Little City Gardens supplies produce to local restaurants and Bi-Rite Market and is one of the only commercial farms in San Francisco, but educational farms can also take advantage of the law. Cities with much more open space, such as Los Angeles and Sacramento, are closely watching what happens in San Francisco.
The bill was conceived as a way to help cities reduce blight and give residents more opportunities to grow food, even to raise livestock where health codes allow it.
Long waiting lists
“I have heard from literally hundreds of residents who would like to have the opportunity to farm, but the waiting lists for a lot of our community gardens are over two years long,” said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who wrote the local legislation. “There is simply not enough space.”
This law could change that.
To qualify, a lot must be at least one-tenth of an acre with no permanent dwellings. The property would be reassessed at the average price for irrigated farmland, currently $12,500 per acre.
For a comparison, the double lot that houses the 18th and Rhode Island Garden has been valued at around $2 million – although its current assessed value is lower since Aaron Roland has owned it for 17 years. Still, after he applies for the tax reduction, his annual $6,000 tax bill will drop significantly.
Roland offered use of the property to permaculture gardeners Kevin Bayuk and David Cody in 2008, who turned it into a demonstration garden that offers permaculture certification courses and hosts school groups. The garden’s pathways and benches are open to the public, and volunteers harvest whatever food it produces for low-income residents.
Roland gets constant requests to sell the property, which has a view of downtown, but he wants to hold on to it partly in case his children want to build a house there one day.
“I also like what’s going on now with it. It’s this marvelous garden in the middle of the city that’s growing food,” he said. “Hopefully there are other people like me that eventually might want to do some development on their land but aren’t in a big rush, and meanwhile want to let it be used for this kind of public purpose.”
Karen Peteros hopes that Clear Channel, which owns the site of her educational bee farm, under a billboard in Visitacion Valley, decides to take advantage of the new tax break, which she estimates could reduce its current bill of around $21,000 a year to about $50.
A spot for bees created
San Francisco Bee Cause’s lease on the property is $1 per year for four small lots. In 2012, Peteros and her co-founders and volunteers removed two pickup trucks full of trash from the site, put down soil, planted fruit trees and other bee-friendly crops, and established a bee colony.
They teach beekeeping at the volunteer-run farm, and get funding from the sales of the honey. But about a year after they started, Clear Channel decided to take back half of the parcels to use as a parking lot.
“They swept the lot clean of all the great soil we had been building,” Peteros said. In the end, the company couldn’t get permits to finish the project.
Under the new law, the five-year contract stays with the property even if it’s sold, but if an owner wants to get out of it they can pay back taxes and interest. San Francisco’s ordinance limits the tax savings of individual property owners to $25,000 per year; if the savings are higher, an official review is necessary. City officials in Sacramento, Fresno, San Jose and San Diego have expressed interest, but haven’t yet passed the necessary local legislation.
Los Angeles is close to doing that, and Clare Fox of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council estimates there are 8,600 parcels within Los Angeles city limits that qualify.
“It’s about food security and food access, but it’s also about transforming blighted vacant places that are prone to illegal dumping into community places,” she said.
“It’s a way to beautify the neighborhood and stabilize real estate values. Plus, there are the environmental benefits. There’s a whole slew of reasons why urban agriculture makes sense.”
Tara Duggan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
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
Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre and The Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City
I’ve been aware of Eric Toenmeier’s work for some time – he authored a compendium on perennial vegetables (http://perennialvegetables.org/about/) as well as co-authored, with Dave Jacke, a simply gigantic book called Edible Forest Gardens (http://www.edibleforestgardens.com/) which is the bible on the ecology and design of home scale food forests.
Paradise Lot is the story of how Eric, along with his friend and ally Jonathon Bates, decide to test the theory of the home scale edible forest model put forth in Edible Forests Gardens by putting it into practice on a small, highly compromised inner city lot in post-industrial Holyoke, Massachusetts.
This easy to read book is the story of how these two men—proud and obsessed plant geeks—spend a few years observing, designing, mending, planting, digging, sheet mulching, experimenting with different cultivars, planting trees, cutting down trees, building greenhouses, and in every other way, testing the limits of the home scale edible food forest. They buy a duplex with the intention of not only growing a great garden, but of attracting their life partners. Happily, they succeed in both endeavors.
While choosing a site with deeply compromised conditions (“there was hardly any way we could have made conditions in our garden worse…”) they also note that this project was “an example of…. Regenerative design, which asks us how our designs can bring a site to life and bring us into a deeper relationship with it and each other through doing so. While sustainability is focused on maintaining things as they are, regenerative land use actively improves and heals a site and its ecosystems… It’s kind of an important topic for humanity this century.”
I liked how part of the story was about the creation of an alternative family and ownership structure, and I appreciated the successes and limitations of the small scale model which they were fairly honest about. I appreciate when people note the mistakes they make, and the good learning that comes out of them. I have run into some similar problems on my small urban lot—also about one-tenth of an acre—but as I am a renter, and a mother, and live in an entirely different ecosystem, my commitments, choices and outcomes have been different. Also, to be honest, I am not quite as geeked out about plants as these guys are!
This book is best for people who are already versed in the permaculture practice of regenerative agriculture, and it will most specifically serve those who live in the cold northeast of our country. I found myself reading about the plants they were growing and how they were interacting and knew that they were not plants that I would have easy access to in my drought-prone place.
But as a model of what is possible, Eric and Jonathon proved that the home scale edible forest garden can grow beyond theory and into practical application, no matter what ecosystem you inhabit. It’s just a matter of finding the right plants for your place, and working with them with conscious intent. This book is an inspiration to be part of the culture of repair, right in your own backyard.