Sustainable Living 2007?

seraphima(z4 AK)January 30, 2007

Eco-villages, sustainable neighborhoods and towns, energy descent plans; all have come a long way since the first post below in 2002.

Have you changed your lifestyle, your food growing habits, transportation, expanded your permaculture training out to others?

I'm still here in Alaska doing what I was doing before, and a lot more. How about you? Anyone make concrete moves to places or activities?

Are you growing more of your own food and useful plants? Anyone teaching from their gardens?

Anyone doing community outreach with videos like The Power of Community, an Inconvient Truth, or the

End of Suburbia?

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seraphima, just discovered this site-means that I had a few hours! From my cruising, I noted lots of folks were coming or going to permaculture/sustainable living. Am again "setting up shop" in a new location. Got the veg and fruit basics in place-freezers storing leftovers from former site and last years produce. This summer, hoping to get the chickens and goats. Goal is to again produce most of what we consume. All takes time, and as we age, need to consider those energy and safety rules. I don't mind using a hand saw, but when I recycled 2x6 white oak planks(from former tobacco racks) for veggie beds between the fruit trees, I used an electric circular saw.
Because the grass grew so poorly in the backyard, I'll be planting sweet clover and then tractor the chickens over the area. Landscaping-wise, am influenced by Diana Beresford-Kroeger's books and plant for the environment. Nearly all flowering trees and bushes are edible by man or birds.When the winter squash overproduced, was surprised that most neighbors never ate them. Am a frugal farmer and enjoy learning new ways to cook those extras. Also gave away squash on freecycle. Hoping to join a local garden club and maybe find a kindrid spirit or two. Also looking to work again with 4-H groups. As an aside, has anyone permacultured a property and then had to move and found the new residents had torn out many of the goodies to plant grass? Happened to us three times in 35 years. Lots of PC to go. cella jane KY 6

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 11:55PM
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joel_bc(z6 BC)

Hi, seraphima, good to see you posting here again.

You posted valuably to my thread about permaculture and finances. I remember you that way.

Well, I've continued on with gardens, fruit trees, berry beds, nut bushes. This year I'll be doing some re-build on the house and finishing a spring-fed pond. I hope to have some edible pond-yields before too awfully long. I share what I've learned about gardening on various Web forums.

In the past year or two, I shared the films "Ecological Design" and "End of Suburbia" with quite a few folks between the ages, roughly, of 12 and 60. I have a friend who teaches PC. I showed the film "Ecological Design" there as well.

I've written quite a few sustainability-related articles for various on-line encyclopedias, including the Wikipedia.

I also work with a marketing co-op that I cofounded. I recommend that people look into the various forms of cooperative as a good thing, both for producers and consumers.

Well, that about says it for me.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 5:45PM
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seraphima(z4 AK)

Hi Blueberrier, I replied already but the program did not seem to take the message, so ??? Your story about having subsequent homeowners dig up your PC garden- 3 times!!!- is horrific but unfortunately all too believeable. Yes, age is causing us to work smarter and slower too. Interesting how safety becomes more of an issue. For instance, we installed a long stairway with expanded metal in the center of the treads (like those used on ocean docks) and sturdy handrails on both sides. There is no driving down to our house once the ice starts in winter, so we had to find a solution for successful access- after I broke my humerus falling on the ice one winter.
We are limited in what we can grow due to climate, but everything that can be grown as a perennial food plant here I've tried. No success with artichokes. BTW, I tried to look up Diana Beresford-Krueger on without success.

Joel, yes, I do remember you too. Have been showing An Inconvenient Truth and The Power of Community through the local college's sustainability series. We have been getting good crowds, have a listserve started, and are in the very beginning stages of building up a transition town movement. The local garden columnist for the newspaper is on board and has been incorporating a lot of sustainable food ideas in her column.
Tell me about the film 'Ecological Design'? I've never heard of it...thanks!
Are you familiar with the Global Gardener series of four half-hour programs by Bill Mollison (on one tape)? Excellent for showing pc projects and techniques all over the world, and in many climates.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 7:25PM
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joel_bc(z6 BC)

Film (available on DVD & VHS): "Ecological Design: Inventing the Future"

Very good. Can be very inspiring to lots of people... maybe especially to concerned & thoughtful highschool & college/university students, wondering what worthwhile thing to do with their lives.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ecological Design film

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 8:08PM
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Argh! Touch my sorest points with this question, why don't cha!

Hi. I'm new here and very pleased to meet you all who remember each other in this forum.

This year one of my most fun toys was drying fruit in the greenhouse. It was too hot for any plants to be in there (my current greenhouse consists of a bunch of sliding glass doors slung together and has one swinging door but no opening window options) so it was plenty warm for drying fruit. I was lucky enough to freebox some stainless steel racks and used those with window mesh both supporting the fruit across the grid of the rack and surrounding it. On top of that I wrapped it with thin cotton. With clothes pins and folded seams I made sure to get a good seal, because the wasps thought it should be theirs. One friend tells me that even so, I should have put all the fruit into the freezer for a while anyway to kill any gnat eggs that might have been laid.

It felt good to preserve fruit without using electricity, and even that precaution didn't require any extra use of electricity because I could rotate the fruit through the ice box in the house fridge for the required period of time. If I went vegan, it would be so much easier to wean myself of the refridgerator as well.

This year I have allowed myself indulgences. At Shanti Knoll I came to live where there was already a mature diverse orchard, of trees that were producing and trees that were dying as well as trees that were young. Trees in fragile little fencing rings with deer who knew how to lean into those and break them down. Trees that hadn't been watered or tended in a couple of years. A tree in six inches of soil on top of sandstone in one place.

The first year, I didn't do anything in the garden. There was too much to comprehend. I learned to watch the seasons. I have grown to love apples. But that was my indulgence. I did not plant an easy and productive apple or plum. Oh no. I used the last of the open spaces within the deer fence for cherry trees. Call me a sweet tooth.

Last year I also put on a metal roof on in order to not have to fuss with it again and also in order to collect a good quality water off the roof. Does anyone know about solar water pumps? Long term, I am wanting to fill the tank at the top of the hill from a pond a little ways up from the house using a solar or wind pump. The pond would help with that because then the water wouldn't necessarily have to be pumped at the same time as the rain was falling. It could go into the pond, and over flow from there if necessary, but go up to the tank when the weather or wind provided propulsion.

In the meantime, my latest fantasy has a sump pump in a fifty five gallon drum under the down spout, with a float switch so it turns itself on when there is water to pump, and, importantly, off when there isn't! The flaw in this picture is that the pump is submerged in the water and thereby may degrade the quality of the water with petrochemicals.

I am watching the last of this year's rain - during which we have obtained only sixty some percent of our usual snowpac. I haven't got this system in place and I am already worried about how the well will hold out. And I've got an electric well-pump. And the house is a three bedroom ranch. And I haven't built any cob structures yet.

But last year I did have a three sisters patch going (corn with a few weeks' start, beans climbing them and squash providing shade at their feet), a tomato row that included all heirloom varieties, most from seeds of plants I'd grown here the year before, good beet and chard production, and a nice row of sunflowers. It was actually my best year in that garden and the orchard since I've been here.
In the DDT-enriched area, I grew ornamental gourds, to collect the toxin and not be eaten, along with lots of flowers just for pretty and to encourage biotic activity in the soil. Toxins have variable half lives, and the more that's going on in the soil, the faster it will happen. That's my theory anyway.

So, yes and no. I have all kinds of potential for living a sustainable lifestyle, but I am using a car to make it possible and only providing a small percentage of my own food.
There is work to be done and the tools are at hand.

I also made the concession someone else mentioned above - here I think? I read a lot this morning, about having a hand saw but using a circular saw for building raised beds. In the roofing project, power tools have been employed, but more shockingly, chemicals I was ashamed to buy. Sealant city.
Okay, that's more than enough info on the state of permaculturalism here on Shanti Knoll. Sorry this got so long-winded.

I look foreward to reading stories of current permaculture status form other folks.

Happy Late Winter!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2007 at 5:39PM
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These are all good and inspiring stories.

As you can see in my related post on this forum, I'm in the process of building a permaculture garden on about 3/4 of an acre that I cleared of volunteer pines.

Here's my motivation: the interconnected processes of growing things have always fascinated me, as has self-sufficiency generally. It's satisfying to eat what I produce. There's also a lot of sensory beauty to absorb around the farm. That may be the most under-expressed benefit of having a garden or farm, and I think the riot of color, texture and shape in a permaculture garden is particularly appealing.

On an intellectual level, it is very easy to justify this choice. We have an agricultural system built on the premise of cheap oil. One day --and perhaps in the not too distant future-- that premise will no longer be valid. When it does, we will need to shift to a different, more efficient system. I think at that time, it won't involve merely replicating the solar-based agricultural practices of a century ago. It will mean using practices that are solar-based, but different and better. Many of those practices will first be developed not in research labs, but in the gardens of people like those who read this forum.

So, not only do I get a good-tasting tomato out of this, I also get my shot at making a small difference for the future. We'll see if it pans out.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 8:50PM
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Hi, new to this forum, but thought I'd jump in. We have chickens and mini dariy goats, as well as a verggie garden,. But I am about to begin an orchard based on Toby Heminway's "superguilds" in the book _Gaia's Garden_. I actually saw this book recommended here a year or so ago, bought the book, and have read it a few times since. We battle coyotes, rabbits, and (believe it or not) two albino bulls that wreaked havoc on all things green, including my fruit trees. So this year has been spent building fences around most of an acre to keep out the bulls, esp. (AZ has fence out laws--if you don't want catlle on your property, it is your responsibility to keep them out). So that is where we are...a ways to go, but it's a start! Dannic

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 8:35PM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

Last year we put in a wood burning stove. So now most of the heat for our house comes from a renewable local source. We get nearby trees that were cut down for some other reason, usually by someone else, lucky us, or our own dead trees that we are slowly attacking. I split the wood by hand, although so many people tell me to get a splitter.

We get lots of old produce that would otherwise get thrown out from a weekend stand nearby. We give a lot away and can heaps of salsa, jam, and fruit. Just learned to make pickled asparagus, yum! So although it isn't local produce per se, I am rescuing it and redistributing it locally instead of it being trashed, which seems quite worthwhile. We keep thinking we should have a pig or chickens or something to eat the stuff up, but we like to take long trips so that hasn't happened yet.

We do garden a lot, and have dozen of aging fruit trees, mostly pear and apple. The sad thing about people buying your previous residence and destroying your stuff is very true and traumatic for me. At our last house we had rhubarb, asparagus, black raspberries, strawberries, fabulous garden soil, and at least 10 fruit trees. They are ALL GONE NOW. Plus the 1000+ bulbs I planted, although the dear things keep trying to come up. But the trees were all cut down, it was so sad. Friends asked could I introduce them to the new owners so they could keep picking raspberries there, couldn't believe all the bushes are gone.

We do compost our own scraps plus manure from a nearby horse farm and other people's bagged leaves and the inedible produce, so we keep inproving our soil with free local materials. I don't know this is permaculture per se so much as trying to tread lightly on the earth.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 12:43AM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

I forgot to say, we installed a rain barrel last summer. Have elevated it higher this week and added another barrel into the system. Also store rainwater in other containers, just to decrease the need to hit up the well for water for the garden.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 1:05AM
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buffburd(z5 NY)


That's terrible that the new owners destroyed all your old plants. Did they just clearcut and put in a lawn?

When I move I'm taking all my plants with me, its settled.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 9:41PM
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beki(z7 CA)

This is my first posting to this PC forum: I confess I'm rather disappointed that it isn't more active!

I've been reading PC for about 5 years now, but not gotten Certified: it's a money thing, and for what I'm doing, I don't think I really need it. Gaia's Garden and Intro to PC has enough info to keep me busy for a while yet.

DH and I moved into our own little house here (near Mt. Shasta in far N. CA)one year ago. We've owned it for about 3 years, spending weekends up here when we could get away from the Bay Area.

We loved the idea of buying land and building a natural house on it, but we got real about what we could really pull off, and decided to follow Mollison's advice to find a blighted space and make it beautiful and productive.

Our place is a small, sturdy cottage in town, within walking distance of the hardware store, the yoga studio, plant nursery and a couple of good restaurants and coffee places. We both work from home: I telecommute, and we have a separate clinic space for my DH's acupuncture practice (had to face the City Planning Commission for a zone variance, to make that happen).

We had a small windfall inheritance that we decided to spend on the remodel, which we're doing mostly ourselves. We've insulated and reroofed (metal, to allow for water collection), used sustainable cork flooring in LR/DR/Kitchen, locally-quarried marble and recycled tropical hardwood to top our recycled kitchen cabinets, finished with food-safe tung oil.
We have .12 of an acre, but the layout allows good use of the yard space.
We've got mature Thompson Seedless grapes shading the west wall of the house, guilded with asparagus and white clover. I've got a polycultural planting of cool-season veggies that has worked out great: we're eating bok choi and mizuna, spinach, lettuce, and broccoli rabe, with beets, dill, calendula flowers, mache and two kinds of peas coming along nicely. The french breakfast radishes and land cress have already been harvested: want some? ("Get a yield!") I'm about to continue the planting with beans, tomatoes, cukes, etc. growing up a structure I made, a sort of tunnel created with 3 cheapo garden arches linked by walls of wire mesh. Bird netting over all, to keep out birds, our cats, and amazingly, cabbage moths!

I've got a mini-Food Forest planted, with currants, gooseberries, elderberries, loganberries, serviceberries and strawberries under and around the mature apple trees, as well as lots of bulbs. I have a mature pear and cherry tree, and put in peach, pluot, nectarine, fig, almond, hazel, pomegranate and a kousa dogwood with edible fruit. I'm still collecting perennial vegetables: rhubarb, horseradish, artichoke, multiplier onions, garlic.

I have infiltrated the local Garden Club, and am now the VP, slowly educating the ladies, and using the club's clout to further the concepts of Sustainable Community, very necessary in a town of 1800 people with a fragile, seasonal economy.

My DH and I are on the Board of Directors of the local watershed group, which is actually a well-established environmental nonprofit that's been doing great work for years. We were very lucky to be able to just step up and volunteer, and not have to try to organize it from scratch.

If we can learn to fish better, we're within two blocks of a river full of trout!

I've made a feeble attempt to get a Community Garden organized, but I just don't have the network yet to generate sufficient mass, can't do it all myself. Working on it: maybe next year!

Vaya con Gaia!


    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 3:43PM
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