Posted by & filed under Community, Design, Food & Food Support Systems, Markets & Outlets, Plants, Seeds.


In Memory of Anna, Forever My Sweet Potato

Last year, about this time, my wife and Emma and I agreed to take up a project in Panama. We were given six months, a small budget to feed volunteers, and a good plot of land—roughly an acre—to grow on.

There were lots of things either already in place: mangoes, limes, plantains, water apples, and a papaya tree shooting through the greenhouse roof. Other things– cashew, rosa de Jamaica, coconuts, lemon cucumbers—were growing wildly or nearby. And, we hit up neighbors for what they had: sweet potatoes, okra, Malabar spinach, star fruit, different varieties of banana, and so on.

We instantly and excitedly started devising plans for these existing components, but we also hope for much more. We wanted vegetables, annual fruits, herbs, seeds, and other things we associated with the supermarket. True, we had the budget to buy it, but like good little permaculturalists, we wanted to grow it.

Unfortunately, we had no access to a nursery or even a spot to pick up basic seeds, but we didn’t want to let that deter us. After all, our goal was grow most—if not all—of what we ate. And, so, it was from our groceries that we began building our garden.

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Posted by & filed under Design, Plants.

Farming is never without its challenges, especially in San Diego County. Compared to other farming areas nationwide, San Diego farmers face costly imported water ($600/acre ft.), biologically and nutrient depleted soils, expensive land, and difficult terrain. These pressures force San Diego farmers to be selective in the crops they plant or animals they raise.


Low rain fall coupled with record temperatures can spell disaster for California agriculture unless systemic changes take place.

On the upside, our Mediterranean climate affords farmers the ability to grow exotic and sub-tropical species that can command a high price (until the market is saturated). However, that same Mediterranean climate also means a prolonged dry season with 80% of the year’s water usually arriving between December and March. Our coasts receive the least amount of rainfall, on average, with 9.9″ compared to the inland mountains’ 40″; both paltry numbers for one of the United State’s largest agricultural production zones. Wells are used, but they are steadily lowering requiring deeper wells. Salt levels are rising due to the concentration factor from less water, making them either unusable or extremely expensive to desalinate.

Aggravating the tight space farmers find themselves in, our region has seen below average rainfall and above average temperatures, dry spells lasting 200 years or more, and we import 80% of our water from the Colorado River and Northern California.

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Posted by & filed under General.


Large expanses and widening fields for crop production have substantially limited the access of beneficial insects to field crop prey. The ecological services provided by naturally occurring pest predators is increasingly impeded spatially as the fields grow. The field edges, being the over-wintering and refuge for beneficial insects, are the primary source of conservation pest management in many crops. As much as 35% of pest management and crop protection comes from naturally occurring biological controls. Increasing the natural capital needed to enhance the supportive habitat is a low investment and a high return strategy for growers.

This technique is also important in the ecological design of food production areas on homestead or in a production orchard. Many times we think of beneficial habitat for the use of pollinators and flying insects. We need to remember that there is a great diversity of beneficial insects that need habitat. Beetles play an important role in controlling past populations in our growing spaces.

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Posted by & filed under General, Peak Oil.

There will be oil, but at what price? – Chris Nelder and Gregor Macdonald




Samuel Alexander – is a lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs and research fellow at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI), University of Melbourne. He also co-directs the Simplicity Institute. The author would like to thank MSSI for supporting the writing of this article, and Josh Floyd, Matt Mushalik, and Jonathan Rutherford for very helpful comments on an earlier draft. Any errors are the responsibility of the author.


 It would be fair to say that the timing of the sudden drop in the price of oil since June 2014 took energy and financial analysts by surprise. After averaging around US$110 per barrel since 2011 (IEA, 2013: 6), suggesting a ‘new normal’, the last six months have seen the price of oil fall to around US$50 per barrel (as of February 2015). But although the timing of this price drop was not forecast by analysts with any precision, there are economic, geological, and geopolitical dynamics at play in light of which the price volatility we are seeing is not actually that surprising.

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Posted by & filed under Animals.


Fungus-growing termites from the genus Odontotermes. Photo by Robert Pringle, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

What outwardly looks like thousands of termites forming a complex system of tunnels, are, in fact, also creating an oasis for life to survive, sustain and thrive. Unknown to them their mounds prevent the advancement of deserts into drylands and semi-arid regions and make the land more resilient to climate change.

Termite mounds act as a store-house of nutrients and moisture and through tunnel complexes they help for better seepage of water into the soil. As a result, vegetation thrives on and around mounds in an environment which otherwise would have degenerated to a desert.

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Posted by & filed under Animals, General.


A tractor trailer dropped off a pallet of organic feed onto my tiny dock. This cost me $800 and would only last 3 months. I had organized a feed co-op to save a $2 a Bag. That brought my 50 pound bag of organic feed to $34. That was the fall of 2013 and it ended up being the last time I ever bought commercial feed for my flock.

I’ll Show You How It’s Done.

I’ll show you how I weaned myself off of commercial chicken feed and replaced it with free compost and kitchen scraps.

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Posted by & filed under General.

By Cheri-Lynn McCabe and Sandra Bartram


The extreme air pollution in Beijing, China was among the leading environmental news stories for the week of January 20, 2015. The smog-causing small particulate matter, PM2.5, reached twenty times the allowable World Health Organization limit as reported in the online edition of the Guardian. Although the Chinese government had committed to reducing PM2.5 by 2015, the current data suggests that efforts to date have been, for the most part, largely ineffective. These particles are small enough to lodge in the respiratory tract causing an increase in health-related respiratory conditions. One of the major contributors of PM2.5 is coal-fired factories that are supported by the world’s over-consumption of material goods.

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Posted by & filed under Design, General.


This became a favorite spot for our daily hike, after a morning’s work, lunch settling in our bellies as we scuttled across the rocks of the Rio Chico under the afternoon sun.

I’ve always liked the idea that, once a permaculture system is in place, the largely perennial garden will not merely survive but actually thrive without you. My wife and I have started this year volunteering on farms in Spain, and at our second post, we got to witness this very aspect of permaculture—self-sustaining, expansive longevity—in all its fleshy greenness.

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Posted by & filed under General.


Photography by Keveen Gabet

My wife thinks I’m hilarious. That’s a good thing I suppose. She also secretly gets annoyed with my fascination with permaculture – I know deep inside it’s a rather healthy obsession. Before I knew of the term, I was using an exotic array of self-made vocabulary, but now, all my practices and ideas fit nicely under one generic term. She gets the best of it though – I spend hours reading, watching, experimenting and researching and in turn, she gets the crème de la crème. I translate my findings into cute stories and it seems she now knows as much as me without ever reading a thing.

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Posted by & filed under Food Plants - Perennial, General, Plants.

Canna edulis is a perennial root crop also known as Achira or here in Australia as Queensland Arrowroot. I’m not sure where the Queensland bit came from because they originated from South America. They are quite stunning plants popular with ornamental growers, although the ornamental varieties produce smaller crops with flashier flowers. They can grow up to 2 meters plus in full sun or part shade in damp soils and it spreads underground via rhizomes to form large clumps even in poor soils.

It is commonly used in Permaculture designs as a windbreak, as chop and drop biomass, as fodder for pigs and possibly chickens and it can also be planted to form a suntrap. The rhizomes form large starchy tubers that are a great substitute for potatoes and the immature seeds and young shoots can be eaten as well.

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Posted by & filed under Demonstration Sites, General, Permaculture Projects, Why Permaculture?.


When I was younger, maybe 10 or so, I had this thing for frogs. I wanted frogs, and ponds with frogs. Lots of frogs.

At an abandoned gravel quarry by my house, in the unlikely place of the city of Athens, I would find tadpoles, hundreds of them, in rain puddles every spring. I also learned, weeks later, from the dry deflated specimens etched in the dirt, that when the puddles dried, the tadpoles died. So I decided to save them. I dug a small pond in our backyard, lined it with plastic, and started re-homing tadpoles.

I don’t know how many of them reached adulthood. As soon (or even before) they grew out all their legs they usually disappeared, and I suspect I fed the local birds more than raised amphibians. But through it all I learned. I learned things about frogs (they may have been toads) and ponds and birds that I would not have learned in school books. And I learned things in a way I could not have been taught by a teacher, because I discovered it by exploring on my own.

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Posted by & filed under Earthworks & Earth Resources, Education, Food & Food Support Systems, General, Plants, Soil, Soil Biology, Soil Composition.


This is Part one of a series of Articles, that critically discuss’s the Nottinghill Forest Garden Project from Analysis – to Implementation – to Future Idea’s.

Fall 2010: Initial Site Analysis & Goal Setting

An initial site analysis for our property was much easier than at others due to a variety of factors:

a) we have lived and observed (albeit with less attention to detail than now) the property throughout the past decade,

b) the yard is mowed and trimmed regularly, making line of sight observation straightforward, and

c) due to its location, high quality satellite imagery could be coupled with accurate climate data for meta data gathering.

From my perspective, it is beneficial to begin observation from afar- gathering information about the region in general before assessing details. This method allows the forces which interact with the property on a larger scale to be internalized into your thinking about the place before becoming wedded to any one potential future, only to realize later that due to outside factors, that vision is inviable.

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