Inspiration and a call for help from the “Urban Farming Guys”

A few short years ago, when I was first getting really interested in Permaculture and all the great changes our culture and society could experience just by people learning to provide for their own needs…especially food; I ran across a youtube video and website by The Urban Farming Guys.

At that time it was a small group of people with a couple of houses and lots they had bought in an severely blighted area of Kansas City growing some gardens and raising fish in aquaponics systems. But they were making a difference. When I saw the work they were doing, and what they had already accomplished; I knew my work was going to focus on what we can do in the urban environment. The level of cultural healing, the urban renewal, the building of local economy…all by educating and empowering an at risk community to provide for themselves… suffice it to say that these guys have provided a roadmap to rebuilding the most damaged parts of our cities.

Fast forward to now. They had made any major press releases in the last couple of years. I honestly assumed that they had burned out like so many other of these type projects…or lost through some of the other pitfalls that not for profits fall into.

And then I ran across this video.

It turns out, they have just been quietly doing their work, continuing to have a huge impacts in this neighborhood. Now they want to take it to the next level and put a “maker space” into that community and continue its growth spiral.

So check out the video. If you can donate. If you can’t, get inspired about what can be accomplished.

Posted in Aquaponics, Co op, community garden, community resilience, Composting, DIY, Food Security, Garden, Housing, Organic, Permaculture, Recycle/repurpose, Urban Gardens | Comments Off

Perennial Staple Crops with Eric Toensmeier

(Eric Toensmeier)

One of the common barbs tossed at Permaculture is a lack of staple crops. Well once again Eric Toensmeier has stepped up to provide a lot of good research and information of perennial plants that can fulfill this niche. Check it out and get educated.

Posted in food forest, Garden, Organic, Perennial Staple Crops, Permaculture | Comments Off

Decomposition and Nutrient Cycling

If you really want to understand the full nutrient cycles of nature….and if you want to design regenerative systems you need to understand it….check out this video.

Posted in Composting, design principles, Organic, Permaculture, Recycle/repurpose, Soil Improvement, Vermicompost, worms | Comments Off

John Kohler from “Growing Your Greens” talking about pest control in your garden.

(Growing Your Greens)

I can’t say enough about the great work John Kohler is doing to educate people about organic growing methods.  The methods of pest control he talks about in this video are pretty much what we would recommend. The only difference from his methods that I recommend are to use polycultures with pest fighting support species and to rotate crops regularly with animals in the system to break pest breeding cycles. Integrated pest management beats spraying chemicals every time.

Posted in design principles, DIY, Food Security, Garden, Organic, Permaculture, pest control | Comments Off

Joel Salatin talking about Holistic Management

Savory Institute

Posted in design principles, Food Security, Livestock, Organic, Soil Improvement | Comments Off

DIYFS Podcast #29 Interview with Eric Toensmeier

This weeks podcast is an interview with Eric Toensmeier. If you have found yourself asking the question what can I plant, and how do I build guilds of perennial plants, then you need to know more about this man and his work.

We begin the interview by briefly discussing each of his three books:
Edible Forest Gardens (with Dave Jacke), Perennial Vegetables, and Paradise Lot.

From there our talk steers into a conversation about several types of perennial vegetables that grow in temperate climates and the nutritional value of them. We specifically discuss several that have a high level of proteins and iron content, which would be of great value for VEGANS and vegetarians who would like to produce large portions of their own greens and reduce their dependence on land degrading soy production.

As part of that conversation we discuss some novel ways of preparing leafy vegetables, including a method of making a cheese/tofu textured product out of leafy greens that’s flavor can be as varied as the concentrated plant materials and seasonings that are available to you.

We then move into Eric’s work with Nuestras Raices, and some of the challenges and rewards of working to develop urban farming and specifically with different ethnic groups.

The next thing on the agenda was Eric’s current project…which is a book about many of the Permaculture practices that are being developed and put into service to the end of fighting climate change and creating carbon storage. During this discussion we talk briefly about some of the stacked benefits of these practices even if you still don’t believe that manmade climate change is real and can be corrected.

From there we moved into discussing some upcoming courses that Eric is teaching, including a Carbon Farming Course that he is one of several top level instructors who will be offering instruction.

Finally the interview is wrapped up with a short conversation about the Bio Shelter Greenhouse at Paradise Lot that was built by Eric’s Partner at “Paradise Lot”, Jonathon Bates. You can learn more about this well insulated greenhouse model at Permaculture Greenhouse.

Eric’s website is Perennial Solutions, and it is loaded with valuable information. including a list and links to nurseries around the country that carry many of the really hard to find plants that are sought after by Permaculturists.

He also has another site, which is a wiki that is dedicated to improving our knowledge base of perennial systems and guild building. It is the Apios Institute.

And just for the finish here are links to Eric’s books.


Posted in DIY | Comments Off

Savanna Institute is making the regenerative agriculture of the next century happen now.

Savanna Institute – Case Study Program from Tory Dahlhoff on Vimeo.

Here is another great organization that is moving agriculture back in the right direction. We can produce enough food without destroying the environment, we just have to make some changes to our production model.

Posted in Food Security, homesteading, News and politics, Organic, Pasture Rotation, Permaculture, Soil Improvement, Water management | Comments Off

The Power of Community, How Cuba survived their oil crisis.

(Charm City Farms)

When the Soviet Union collapsed, there was a great reorganization in the flow of resources amongst the Communist countries of the world. The odd man out in the flow of almost all of these resources was Cuba. This combined with the continued business embargo imposed by the USA to create an energy shortage on the island on a level that was absolutely devastating.

You see, Cuba much like the rest of the world based the vast majority of their agricultural production (and everything else) on petroleum products. When the oil dried up, the island nation was looking at the very real possibility of mass starvation, because they just didn’t have the infrastructure to produce food without oil.

Fortunately, between the fact that humans are very resilient to change and the fact that Cuba’s communist government was able to dictate a path to the people (which is one of the few advantages of less than “free” society); instead of perishing, they relied on the knowledge of the few traditional farmers left and worked cooperatively to rebuild small production farms and community and ended up with a much more resilient system than they previously had.

The benefit we get from this, is that whether it is sooner as some of us believe or later, the whole world will be dealing with this fuel shortage issue at some point in the future; and Cuba successfully navigating this situation has provided us with a successful template for not only surviving the pending crisis, but thriving in it.

In addition we have the option (that I doubt we will take) to avert the crisis entirely by adopting Permaculture practices now and never having the shortage to begin with.

So enjoy the video and decide if you think it is worth it.

Posted in community garden, community resilience, design principles, Energy, Food Security, homesteading, News and politics, Organic, Permaculture, Urban Gardens | Comments Off

The case of the illegal chickens- Tawas, Michigan; Sept 2014

So I am cruising around the internet, looking about to see what is going on in the world, and I come across this link to “CopBlock”, which is an article (link) about a couple that was arrested for keeping chickens in Tawas, Michigan.

Now my first instinct was to scream about the illegality of such a thing.

I mean Michigan has a “right to farm” act right? Nope. Well it does, but if you remember this article (link), the state of Michigan has decided that it wants to suppress peoples right to provide for themselves and has taken the position that this law is only intended to protect large scale farming operations in rural areas…and the courts have supported that position.

Then I noticed that the couple was charged with a “junk and blight” ordinance, and I thought maybe Tawas doesn’t actually have an anti chicken ordinance and they were being railroaded. So I looked up Tawas city code. Sure enough, under Article IV Nuisances, article 8.93 item 15 lists: “The keeping of farm animals such as cattle, horse, swine, rabbits, sheep, goats or poultry in or adjacent to residential zoned districts.” Item 3 lists “junk”, but I figure that was probably a misrepresentation by the press in order to create some hype around the situation. Either way, it is illegal to keep poultry in Tawas, Michigan.

My next thought was that this is a code violation. Isn’t that a citation and fine thing? Not in Tawas it isn’t. Under their code (link) the city issues a notice and if you don’t request a hearing within the allotted time (typically 14 days) or abate the situation yourself; the city can abate the infraction, charge you for the pleasure and then fine you up to $500 and jail you for up to 90 days to boot. So while the city wasn’t exactly playing nice on the arrest versus issuing a summons to court front, they also were not outside the law.

The one place (legally) that the city seems to be out of line in this matter, is that Theresa Hurst (the chicken keeping criminal) claims that she repeatedly requested a hearing with city council during the 14 day grace period and was ignored. So the city gets an “F” for due process.

Now that we have those base facts cleared up, lets look at the reality of this.

Tawas, Michigan is on the wrong side of history. Folks, living and being able to provide for yourself are fundamental rights. There is nothing more basic to existence than food and no person should be required by law to seek nourishment from others. There is no grey area here and Tawas along with every other community that restricts reasonable food production on your own property is wrong, plain and simple.

To further that wrong side of history, this is yet another town in Michigan that is going against the national trend in our fair country of allowing more and more urban farming. This trend is growing out of a very basic need. People are starving with full bellies in our cities because nutritious food is just not available enough (in poor neighborhoods especially) unless people produce it for themselves.

Because of these two things and because I believe it is a man’s (or woman’s as this case shows) responsibility to refuse to recognize an unjust law. So our hats are off to you and your husband, Theresa Hurst! Your civil disobedience is a just response to this ridiculous city code that does not serve the people of your city.

The negative side of this whole thing is they did get arrested, they do have a court date pending and if you watch the second video on the “copblock” link, the city council and mayors office are now engaged in what would be a hilarious tug of war if it were not for the fact that these buffoons are supposed to be running a city.

As per usual I think that some support is in order. So if you feel like letting the city of Tawas know how ridiculous they are, drop them a line.

City of Tawas corporation
(989) 362-8688

When you get done with that, go grow something.

Posted in Chickens, community resilience, DIY, DIYFS articles, Food Security, homesteading, Livestock, News and politics, Permaculture, Urban Gardens | Comments Off

DIYFS Podcast #28- Interview with Nicolette Hahn Niman, Author of Defending Beef.

This weeks podcast is an interview with author Nicolette Hahn Niman. During the course of our conversation we briefly discuss her background and first book, “Righteous Pork Chop”.

From there we quickly move into her latest writing, “Defending Beef”. This interview and the book cover many widely held misconceptions about beef production and its effects on the environment and human health.

In summary this book demonstrates that beef and other large herbivore production is not in and of itself to blame for damage to the ecosystem, but rather that the methodologies and land management practices are what is doing the harm. The book demonstrates this by citing multiple scientific studies and by pointing out the fallacies of other studies which have been adopted and are frequently cited by persons who believe beef production is harmful.

To get the full break down, check out the show…and follow that up with buying and reading her very well documented book. Links to order below.

Posted in community resilience, design principles, DIYFS Podcasts, Food Security, homesteading, Livestock, Organic, Pasture Rotation, Permaculture, Soil Improvement | Comments Off

The Permaculture Handbook: Garden Farming for Town and Country. A quick review.

I ran across “The Permaculture Handbook: Garden farming for Town and Country” by Peter Bane while ordering another Permaculture book on Amazon. While Mr. Bane is a fellow Hoosier and I was aware of his work (I had even considered his PDC but the timing was bad for me), I had somehow missed its 2012 publication.

Given the fact that I had enjoyed the few talks of his that have found their way to youtube and the very reasonable price of the text, I decided to give it a shot.

When I started out, I almost put it down. Its just wasn’t speaking to me. It is written in a very liberal minded voice (not a bad thing, just not particularly suited to my worldview) and very early one Mr. Bane uses an academic tool, known as a pattern language…which is another thing that just doesn’t speak to me. Realizing I was not into the meat of the book, I elected to push through it and see what came of it.

Before I go on, I should mention that while I am not a fan of the style, Mr. Bane’s uses the pattern language very well to explain many of the design principles, features, and functions of Permaculture in an interdependent format that is both easily understood and complete. Due to this alone, I would recommend this book to anyone who is just starting on their Permaculture journey as many of these design principles, features, and functions are not as thoroughly explained elsewhere and tend to end up being stumbling blocks.

But anyway, I pushed through…and then I got to the good stuff.

As we enter Part 2 of the book, titled “Elements”, Mr. Bane immediately starts giving what so many Permaculture books do not. Direct instructions concerning every aspect of designing and maintaining a productive Permaculture food system. Each of the chapters in this section:

Land- Scale and Strategies
Labor- Can you lend a helping hand?
Running on Sunshine
Water from another Time
Soil -the Real Dirt
Plants, Crops, and Seeds
Setting Plant Priorities
Animals for the Garden Farm
Living With Wildlife
Trees and Shrubs, Orchards, Woodlands, and Forest Gardens
Productive Trees and Where to Grow Them
Structures Energy and Technology

each and every one of them is just detailed enough to give the reader the confidence and information to move forward and written just loosely enough to be of value in a wide variety of locations.

I found this section of the book to be a most useful guide and would recommend it both to students for further study and to instructors trying to help students “get over the humps”, where students frequently get stuck when learning design.

The third part of the book, titled “Outcomes”, paints an image of possibility that should help budding Permaculturists envision the power that their new found education has provided them, and how they can use it to change the world.

So in summary, I think this book will serve the Permaculture community and the world as a whole very well, especially if it can find its way into the hands of as many students as possible.  This book would serve especially well on college campus’ and other places where liberal minded youth are likely to find it.

This book is of course available on Amazon, and here is a link to purchase it.

Posted in Beekeeping, community resilience, design principles, DIYFS articles, Food Security, Garden, homesteading, Livestock, Organic, Permaculture, Recycle/repurpose, Urban Gardens | Comments Off

The movie “Thrive”, a review and link to watch.

(THRIVE Movement)

For starters, I have to give a full disclaimer. About half of this movie is basically a summary of every major conspiracy theory on the internet today. Some of which I think are solidly based in fact and others…well they are conspiracy theories and I just don’t know. I am not going to outline which is which because that portion of the film is not why I am linking it or why I encourage people to support this organization and its ideals.

The reason I am providing the link and support, is because at the end of all that, this film very eloquently speaks to one of my core approaches to the worlds problems. DIY.

That’s right, they basically say “yes, all of these conspiracies are happening but you can do something about it.” . The something you can do about it includes but is not limited to changing our food system to make it more secure and health based. They take the same approach with security, energy, health and basically every other problem that we think we have.

So check it out, donate if you wish…and tell others about it. It is time for the world to be more about solutions. And as to the various conspiracy theories and whether you believe them or not… Mr. and Mrs. Gamble say it best in their disclaimer at the end of the film.

“Being included in THRIVE does not imply that those interviewed agree with all of the conclusions presented in this film, nor does it mean we agree with all of their perspectives.”

Focus on the solutions, not our interpretations of the problems.

Posted in community resilience, design principles, DIY, Energy, Food Security, homesteading, Housing, News and politics, Organic, Permaculture | Comments Off

DIYFS Podcast #27- Interview with Alan Enzo and Ben Bishop of Nashville Permaculture

So I recently got to spend a couple hours talking to the instructor of my Permaculture Design Course and one of his partners down at Nashville Permaculture. In this time we talk a lot about Permaculture design in general, what they are getting rolling in terms of new projects, and all the educational and guild building opportunities they are developing down in Nashville.

Anyone interested in educational opportunities in the Permaculture world should definitely check them out at Nashville Permaculture and the Permaculture Education Center.


Posted in community resilience, design principles, DIYFS Podcasts, News and politics, Permaculture | Comments Off

Agriculture for a Small Planet Symposium July 1, 1974 -Wendell Berry sharing his simple genius.

(The Berry Center)

This very old speech and question and answer session answers many of the questions we have today about food production and community. Even in 1974 Mr. Berry was concisely picking apart the concept of Big Ag and accurately predicting some of the issues that it would bring us today. The one area I disagree with him on is that he thought we only had a generation (from 1974) to fix the problem. I am forever the optimist and think that we still have opportunity, we just have to work a little harder at it.

At any rate, this talk is well worth the 40 minutes it will cost you. Enjoy.

Posted in Co op, community resilience, design principles, Food Security, Garden, homesteading, Organic, Pasture Rotation, Permaculture, Soil Improvement | Comments Off

Agroforestry – Conservation Farming with Natural Vegetative Strips

(Old icraf ph channel)

Vegetative strips- You know those rows of trees between crop fields? Remember when they were wide strips of trees, almost narrow forests? Have you noticed how thin they have gotten over the last couple of decades? People seem to be forgetting old knowledge in favor of an extra bushel or two an acre (in the short term). We have to take better care of our soil and allow nature to help our food production systems. Here is what they are relearning in the Phillipines.

Posted in Garden, Organic, Permaculture, pest control, Soil Improvement, Water management | Comments Off