25 June 2013

Oh Yeah?

A dear friend took this photo of her daughter and her dog, Dasher, who has no intention of just taking a licking!

I like to call this one:

Oh Yeah?
Click to enlarge, Edited by Adam Carrell

We declare Riley and Dasher our guest Food Forest Retreat Mascots of the week!  I adore that our friends always seem to be able to Keep Austin Weird.  We hope to continue to share more of insights into the lives of our artsy, wonderful, weird friends and their work.

21 June 2013

First Morning at the Future Food Forest

We went to help get the house prepared for a garage sale prior to our move in and I snapped a few shots.  One from one of the porches:

One of the pool and hot tub area we hope to give a permaculture makeover:

And a quick one of Sami and Barbara inspecting new apples forming on the tree outside my front window:

I am one happy hippy!

Moving to the Country to Experiment with Permaculture in Texas

We have decided we are going to take a leap of faith and move to a lovely piece of property with friends.  We are going to begin implementing and testing a number of permaculture techniques and food forest designs.  We begin by sitting down with the owners/landlords and getting all of the details hammered out.  That hasn't happened yet; but we have great faith. So much so, that I just put my favorite fall jacket in a pile for garage sale/trade/donation and Sami is packing things in boxes as we speak.    

(Click to Enlarge)
What you see in the photo above is the property we are moving to.  It covers 6.1 acres and has 2 seasonal streams on it!  We have been struggling with selecting property for permaculture in Austin and we now have a great playground/school. With no neighbors to speak of, I can pursue my lifelong goal of being naked in the garden. We're so excited we can barely sleep. Ok.  She can barely sleep and I'm creating graphics to illustrate how excited and unable to sleep I am.  

We are working through a short list of self-nominators to take over our cozy duplex by Barton Springs. We're going to miss it very much; it's a wonderful location to connect with amazing people and their diverse communities.  

As our focus turns to moving, we may not post much for a few a few days.

15 June 2013

Food is Free - One of the Many Reasons I Love Austin

The Food is Free Project in Austin, Texas is creating and refining a repeatable model of growing food and community.  They use salvaged materials to build front yard community gardens for all to share!  

I've had the great honor of working with these wonderful people a number of times; but not as often as I would have liked. Luckily, there is more time ahead. To get involved contact Food is Free.  They also have a Food Is Free Facebook Page.  

14 June 2013

Gardening Goddess - My Permaculture Dream

I have a new favorite book!  It's Bill Mollison's, "Permaculture, A Designer's Manual".  

Photo by Erik Kuykendall
It is a far-heartier read than I initially expected.  It's an approachable book that quickly draws a reader in as it gets down to business almost immediately.  There is an appropriate abundance of helpful illustrations that Bill uses to demystify very challenging concepts in an easily understood writing style.  

Whether you are getting your Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC), creating your own food forest, or just have an interest in permaculture & food forests; this is an absolute must-read.
We bought our copy through Bill Mollison's Tagari Publications site.  

05 June 2013

More Yummy Berries to Forage in Austin

Ehretia anacua 
Anacua, Sugarberry Anacua, Knockaway, Sandpaper Tree

It has mildly sweet fruit like hackberry, but with more flesh and less seed. It's a popular ornamental in Texas as it is hardy in dry areas.  It has white blooms, typically beginning in April. It has two-seeded berries that ripen in early summer and transition from yellow to bright orange or even red.  The tree may die back in cold winters.  It has mildly sweet fruit like hackberry, but with more flesh and less seed. It's a popular ornamental in Texas as it is hardy in dry areas.  It has white blooms, typically beginning in April. It has two-seeded berries that ripen in early summer and transition from yellow to bright orange or even red.  The tree may die back in cold winters.  
Growing Conditions
Native Habitat:  Thickets, Open Woodlands, Chaparral & Brush Country, Fence Rows.Water Use: Needs a good deal originally, then very drought tolerant.  
Soil Moisture: DryCold Tolerant: Yes, but may die back in cold winters. Does not bloom/fruit well in N. Texas.Soil Description: Well-drained, alkaline soils; Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay.Not a true evergreen as it replaces it's leaves in the early spring.  

Ornamental Use: Attractive, Aromatic, Showy, Blooms Ornamentally.  Deep shade; spring blooms appear that the tree is snow-covered.  Has unusual mature trunks that look like several corded trunks bound together.
This 20-45 ft. perennial evergreen is from the Borage Family, native to the area, and know as Sugarberry.  It is the Anacua (Ehretia anacua) and is at/near the northern limit of its natural range in Austin. 

BenefitWildlife: Anaqua blossoms attract honeybees as it is a nectar source.

Photo from http://www.esacademic.com/

The fruits attract numerous birds, mammals and hippies. 

Photo Courtesy of Dave's Garden

Larval: Exclusive host for larvae and adult Anacua Tortoise Beetle (Coptocycla texana).

If you have a favorite foraging food in Austin, share it and we will do a write up on it.

World Environment Day: Promoting Permaculture

WED 2013

Today is World Environment Day, a time set aside in 1972 by the UN General Assembly to bring worldwide awareness and political action to bear on environmental issues

WED 2013 Think.Eat.Save


This year's theme sounds a whole lot like permaculture: "Think.Eat.Save." It's thinking about how and where you source your food, eating responsibly, and saving our planet's ecological and human resources from the ravages of a wasteful food supply chain. It emphasizes the permaculture ideals of providing food security care for people coupled with care for the environment.

The Permaculture Approach

No More Food Waste

Much of the emphasis of this year's World Environment Day is focused on reducing food waste...one-third of the global food supply generated is wasted...no one eats it, it becomes trash. But in a permaculture system, the food grown is not wasted. What's harvested is eaten, and anything not eaten goes back into the system: something designed into the system consumes it, wildlife eats it or it becomes compost. The methane produced by rotting food in landfills is mitigated in the food forest by the natural decomposition cycles. 

World Environment Day 2013 Food Losses Worldwide by Type
WED 2013 Food Losses Worldwide

Keeping It Small and Local

There's also a lot of emphasis on supporting the small, family and community farms that actually provide most of the food for the world's population. No matter what the marketing of Big Agriculture preaches, they're not the ones truly addressing the world hunger problem. Most of their products go to the most profitable markets in countries that are already food secure, where much more of their food than the world average becomes waste in the production, refinement, shipping, marketing and waste cycle of the food supply chain. Small farms, however, are. Using permaculture techniques to farm sustainably and regeneratively provides food security coupled with environmental rejuvenation. 

04 June 2013

Truly Sustainable Systems

What is sustainability--really?

One of the hardest battles I kept fighting in landscape design (never mind landscape architecture) was explaining that sustainability was NOT merely having a system that was less destructive than the ones that came along before: the system had to be proactively REPARATIVE, and to such a degree that it could continue to repair and even grow in reparative effectiveness without further human intervention. Geoff Lawton quantifies it far more clearly: sustainable systems not only produce more energy than they consume, the surplus energy produced can maintain and replace the system's components over its lifetime. Ya know, when a landscape or architectural project can boast this, then I can agree that it deserves the label of "sustainable". So how on Earth do we get a system that produces so much more energy than it takes to make it? Think of all the energy it takes to design and install a system (from the human perspective): it needs to be worked up, analyzed, re-worked, materials brought in, the land worked and shifted, materials installed, then the materials modified and worked until the system runs itself. Well, that's how many permaculture systems are put in place, in any case. How do you get enough surplus energy OUT of that system you've just made to cover its component parts for that system's lifetime?
Illustrated by April Sampson Kelly of Permaculture Visions Online Institute
Happily, on Earth, we have energy from the Sun. Through energy from the sun, plants work in harmony with microbes to produce energy. They produce this energy not only for themselves, but for other plants in the system, and more. Plants also produce energy for creatures that eat them. Then they produce energy for the creatures that live off of their eventual decay (fungi, insects, some animals, other plants). Those creatures in turn feed more creatures. So long as the initial design was conceived and executed using the principles that nature itself has always used to ensure her own abundance, it's got a fair shot at producing more energy than it needs to maintain itself, until it reaches an energy equilibrium. However, that equilibrium is another matter entirely. 

Photo from the Sustainable Vision Gallery
For now, dig this: sustainability in a design that includes humans in any way also has to design around mankind's somewhat demanding needs and quirky habits. So that system has to include ways to provide food and raw material abundance in certain zones so that human needs are met without the need for exploitative and damaging practices. In fact, that system has to ensure greater abundance than what exploitation could achieve to ensure that the humans in the system don't fall back on such measures. Permaculture provides exactly this: more food and human-useful material goods than exploitative practices have ever been able to produce in the same area and especially over a given period of time. Permaculture also excludes the need for reliance on far-flung resources in order to survive; necessary resources are kept very close, and most commodities aren't far off, either. Truly sustainable systems: permaculture's got them covered.