Three years ago, here in California, we bought an asphalt/gravel lot with a satisfactory house and decided to call it home. We had hoped to purchase a property in the country, but that was too expensive and felt too isolated for our young family. The first place we looked at in town was a 1/3 acre lot right next door my best friend’s house. The property was covered with 50% asphalt and cement and 50% gravel. Aah, a permaculturists dream come true!
I come from the lineage and the notion that we as permaculture designers and land healers would better serve our global vision by settling on degraded, abused, destroyed landscapes. This notion for me goes back to an early mentor of mine, Alan Kapular (aka ‘Mushroom’, a co-founder of Seeds of Change). When I was 20 years old, and just getting into permaculture, I took a trip with friends to Mushroom’s place to learn about seed saving and organic gardening techniques. He was gracious enough to let us into his home, feed us dinner, give us access to his seed room and a place to sleep in his greenhouse. So much of this experience and mentorship from Mushroom was exceptional, but one conversation has always stuck with me more than anything. He explained his belief that permaculturists and people who seek to steward the land should look for the most degraded places to settle rather than look for pristine pieces of land which already have many ecological functions intact. Ever since then I have always reveled in the fact that through the design and application of permaculture we can regenerate the most degraded places on Earth. Hence my new asphalt parking lot had become my permaculture dream homestead… for the time being!
After removing 45 yards of asphalt (all material was recycled at the local quarry to be turned to road base) we set out to regenerate the soil and terrace our gently sloping yard. Now this suburban scale co-housing community is the site of the Permaculture Artisans showcase gardens. The property is 1/3 acre right in the heart of the town of Sebastopol, CA. In just over three years we have transformed this land into a budding small scale permaculture and ecological design training center.
Our showcase gardens include 400,000 gal of storm water harvesting, 4,500 gallons of roof water catchment and storage, two habitat ponds, 90+ fruit/nut trees, Espaliers, Belgian fences, dry stacked rock walls, sediment ponds, French drains, raised beds, flagstone patio, small scale off-the-grid solar, children-centered garden structures, microclimate moderation, edible mushroom cultivation, Earthen oven-bench-outdoor kitchen, grey water integration, perennial vegetables, rare and heirloom fruits, custom redwood arbors and gates and on and on.
Check out the video at top to learn more!