Permaculture

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There is an amazing permaculture class scheduled for August in Homer, AK, but I just can’t make it there for two weeks. I want to learn more about permaculture though, so I’m going to create my own self-study project that I can do with year-long/semester-long research project I have my students complete.

Anyone want to join me? 🙂 I’ll keep adding to this list as I find more resources

What is permaculture? “Permaculture is a branch of ecological design and ecological engineering which develops sustainable human settlements and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.” (thank you, Wikipedia)

Books

Gaia’s Garden

Urban Homesteading

100 Best Permaculture & Homesteading Books: The Ultimate Reading List for Sustainable Living

Facebook Pages

Permaculture Design Courses

Sites

Introduction to Permaculture – 40 hours of Free video lectures

Local Resources

Alaskan EcoEscape courses

Red Edge Design courses

Alaska Permaculture Ning Community

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Permaculture Workshops

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Coming up at Red Edge Design’s Williams St. Farmhouse:

Space is limited!  Call 563-1119 to register!

Instant Gardens  May 30th,  7-9pm

Tired of mowing?  Turn your lawn into a garden in just a few hours, using mostly recycled materials. We will use the sheet mulching technique to build a garden together while we discuss how it works.  See beds built with this method in past years and how they are functioning now.  You can build these gardens and plant them the very same day! $25

Soils and Composting  June 6th 7-9pm

Learn how to harness the benefits of millions of micro-organisms to ease your workload in the garden.  This workshop will help you understand the complexity of soil and teach you how to feed your soil so that it can feed you.  A key part of this is making good compost so we will build a compost pile together, unravelling the mystery behind it so you can make a hot pile every time.  And just for a bonus, we will also make some compost tea! $25

Backyard Chickens  June 13th 7-9pm

Chickens can be a lot of work, or they can do a lot of work for you. Learn how to use Permaculture principles to set up a dynamic, low-maintenance relationship with your garden and chickens. We will cover all the basics of keeping chickens, building a low-maintenance coop, and alternatives to pelleted food.  $25

New at Williams Street Farmhouse

Quick and Dirty: A set of sketching events for those drawn to gardens

Using ourselves, the garden, and our unique personal attachments to our gardens as muse and model we will investigate sketching techniques that allow for greater articulation of experience through a visual means.  In other words, shake preconceptions of drawing and come learn to approach and record your growing season in a creative way.  “Free your mind and the rest will follow…”

Contour – Learn to match the hands movements to the movement of the eye.  This allows you to record what you see versus drawing what you think you see.  The natural line, holds mystery, unpredictability, and texture that will push all of your drawings whether or not they are realistic.

Gesture – Its the gesture that counts.  Get into the essence of objects and capture the character and attitude of items in the garden in one movement.  You’ll summarize the “zucchininess” of that prize zucchini in five minutes, three, one, and finally 30 seconds.

Line Quality – Forget three point and two point perspective.  Learn to use line to add depth to your drawings.  That’s right, the line width and weight (darkness) can put people and carrots in place/space.

Putting it all Together: Complexity in Layers – Use the drawings done at Williams Street Farmhouse to add to your personal collection of interesting bits to create layered images that evoke your memories, hopes and experiences of your garden. (And highlight your new sketching skills of course)

Supply list:

Paper- the bigger the better. Newsprint best. Whatever you have great.

Your favorite writing utensils- suggestions: pencils,  pens, markers, charcoal (all sizes, shapes, and hardnesses of mark making utensils welcome)

Something portable to draw on- suggestion: piece of smooth board, a book, cookie sheet

Attitude- relaxed, excited, exploratory, curious, playful, thirsty

 30$ per class, come one come all

Garden and Wine Tours

Learning is more fun with a glass of wine in hand!  Learn about Permaculture techniques and garden tips at the Williams Street Farmhouse.

June 28, July 12, July 19, Aug 2 or Aug 16

7-9pm, $25

Permaculture Workshops.

via Permaculture Workshops.

First Day of Alaskan Planting

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This is the official start of ‘summer in Alaska.’ Today, you can be freely plant with no holds-barred, however, it still feels freezing out there, yet the urgency still exists for things to heat in a hurry.
I have been futzing around with my compost heaps, instead, intermittently throwing in a few plants here and there while I keep hoping for the earth to heat, and cold layers to dissipate. I was thrilled to buy a long stick thermometer for compost temp. gauging, that I think people use if they ever wanna roast an elephant in a pit. So over the last few days, the compost went up from 55 degrees F to 80. I yanked out the meter and turned the pile and sacrilegiously added more to it. I think Kaladi Brothers Coffee company is going to start wondering about my frequent fetches for their grounds. My car is starting to smell like stale brewed coffee grounds.
I always feel that push-pull when the kids are outside: should I push her on the swing, or can I get away with one more turn of the pitch fork, plant that last groundcover, empty out that seed packet, or should I keep pushing my gleeful child singing on the swings?
We put together the ‘water feature’ it is somewhat lacking as came as a moldy lily pad, and I am unimpressed. I may throw the whole thing in the water and see if it floats or sinks and leave it at that, I guess you are supposed to put it in a mesh box with rocks, but I am just not patient enough for that.

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Wild edibles part 2

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On Wednesday night Laura and I attended a wild edibles walk and dinner hosted by Alaska Community Action on Toxins (ACAT) at the Kincaid Park chalet. Attendees were commemorating the birthday and life of Rachel Carson, the scientist and author of Silent Spring. It was an excellent event, only $25 to attend, because it was informative, interesting, and fun. Two groups were led on short tours (with only a little frisbee dodging) for common delicious and medicinal plants. Many would take some processing or more extensive knowledge to be able to use in more than one way, but I’m excited to teach my kids more about the watermelon shoots, Devil’s Club buds, dandelion leaves, and nettles. Even with the Earthship experience being reasonable high-tech it had a way of reminding me of all the knowledge about nature that I’ve lost, that most people have lost or have never had. This walk helped me get a little of that lost knowledge back again.

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Alder – nitrogen fixer – increase salmon – leaves for making tattoo with dirt – anti cancer properties – flowers have some food value (though I thought they tasted like bitter dirt)

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Yarrow – smells lemony – flowers effective for numbing – leaves staunch blood – dandelion family –

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Cottonwood – balm of Gilead – salve

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Nettle – stings so wear gloves – steam for salad (steaming will soften the prickly stingers so you can eat it safely) – seeds have protein – stalks for cords

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Devil’s Club – young buds with no prickles – raw or sautĂ© – cut new growth of stems for teas

Being able to eat Devil’s Club (and it tastes GOOD) was the most surprising thing to me. I will definitely harvest it again. The young leaves had a really mild flavor and would be great in a green salad or with eggs.

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Wild roses – rose hips – need processing – “fruit” leather – vitamin C

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Horsetail has silica – above pictures are examples of what horsetail looks like in two different seasons – the first picture is this year’s new growth and the second is what remains from last fall.

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High bush cranberry – seeds high in vitamins

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Fiddlehead ferns – good dipped in batter and fried. Harvest when they’ve unfurled a little and most of the brownish scales have fallen off.

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Our food! Pasta with nettles (awesome – the nettles have a flavor sort of like spinach or chard) and salad (there are some dandelion leaves in there).

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Organic carrot cake for dessert.

I didn’t get pictures of everything mentioned – here are my notes on the other plants:
Dandelion – young leaves for eating – sautĂ© or salad – roots for tea – yellow petals add to pancakes or batter, fry, and eat

Elderberry flowers – flowers in pancakes – seeds in berries are toxic

Plantain – soy sauce and egg batter

Tiny fireweed – pull off leaves and eat raw – like asparagus.

TOXIC!!! Bane berry with glossy red or white berry – highly toxic

Wild edibles – part one

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Last night Laura and I went to an expedition and dinner on wild edibles, a celebration of Rachel Carson’s birthday, put on by ACAT. But more on that later…

I mentioned where I was going to my neighbor Lauren and she told me that her father-in-law collects and eats watermelon shoots ( a wild plant that is plentiful up here – it grows edible watermelon colored berries later in the summer). Lauren said it has a flavor similar to asparagus when cooked, but is more like cucumber when raw.

She brought me a big bag full so of course I immediately simmered a handful in hot water for five minutes and then ate it with butter and salt. Delicious!

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This site is an artsy version of city planning, architectural design and sustainable living

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http://inhabitat.com/

Inhabitat.com is a weblog devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future.

Inhabitat was started by NYC designer Jill Fehrenbacher as a forum for investigating emerging trends in product, interior, and architectural design. Managing Editor Mike Chino and Senior EditorYuka Yoneda lead the editorial team, while Rebecca Paul steers business operations. The rest of the team is made up of the best design editors and writers from all over the world: Diane Pham(Architecture and Design Editor), Jessica Dailey (New York Editor), Bridgette Meinhold(Architecture Editor), Jasmin Malik Chua (copy editor + fashion editor at Ecouterre) and Julie Seguss (kids & wellness editor).

Environmental Health Resources

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I have spent the past few months reading books, digging through websites, and watching documentaries. Below is a list of my favorite resources. My next step is to start sharing what I have learned as well as sharing the ups and downs of my journey towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Our Impact on the Health of the Environment

Stuff Happens with Bill Nye: http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tv/stuff-happens/

McKibben, Bill. (2010). Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Toxins in the Environment & Their Impact on Human Health

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/

The Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/

 Toxins in Your Home & Their Impact on Human Health

Baker, Nena. (2008). Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-Being. New York, NY: North Point Press.

The Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/

Lourie, B., and Smith, R. (2009). Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint

ZRecs Guide to safer children’s products: http://www.zrecsguide.com/

 The Health of Our Food

EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/

Food, Inc., the movie: http://www.takepart.com/foodinc

McKibben, Bill. (2010). Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

O’Brien, Robyn. (2009). The Unhealthy Truth: One Mother’s Shocking Investigation Into the Dangers of America’s Food Supply–And What Every Family Can Do To Protect Itself. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

Pollan, M. (2009). In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York, NY: Penguin Publishing.

What’s On My Food? A searchable database designed to make the public problem of pesticide exposure visible and more understandable: http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/index.jsp

Green Cleaning and Body Care

Briggs, R. (2009). Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable, Nesting Skills. Portland, OR: Microcosm Publishing.

Siegel-Maier, K. (2008). The Naturally Clean Home: 150 Super-Easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Gardening & Growing Your Own Food  (These are books I’ve found helpful as a novice gardener)

Madigan, C. (2009). The Backyard Homestead: Produce All the Food You Need on Just a Quarter Acre! North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing

Buckingham, A., Whittingham, Jo. (2008). Grow Vegetables: Gardens, Yards, Balconies, Roof Terraces. New York, NY: DK Publishing.

 The Story of Stuff Project

Leonard, Annie. (2010). The Story of Stuff: The Impact of Overconsumption on the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health–And How We Can Make It Better. New York, NY: Free Press.

Story of Stuff Videos: http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/

  • The Story of Stuff
  • The Story of Cosmetics
  • The Story of Bottled Water
  • The Story of Broke
  • The Story of Electronics
  • The Story of Citizens United vs. FEC
  • The Story of Cap and Trade

Please feel free to post your own favorite resources!