Tag Archives: permaculture

Back and kicking it!

Before venturing to Australia and The Permaculture Research institute this past January, I’d found myself answering the same query over and over again “……O.K, wait, tell me again, what is Permaculture anyway?” And now, since returning from the PRI to the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve encountered the same questions from friends and family though now with more of a peppered interest in where Permaculture might lead me. My answer is often less about where Permaculture is going to lead me, but instead us.

Being a trained observer of natural patterns, it’s pretty difficult not to notice an obvious dearth in awareness around the subject of Permaculture. Furthermore, I feel that it goes without saying that there’s an urgent need for permaculture education that is a direct conduit to action. Once one knows and deeply understands our global state of affairs and environmental situation through the educational lens of a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC), it is difficult to not have a sense of urgency about permanent cultural repair. To me, it appears that this type of urgency isn’t often shared by those who don’t see the issues and the solutions through the lens of Permaculture and whole systems thinking.

While many of us are well-intentioned and passionate about change, we’re often at a loss to know how to tackle such large problems. As though many of us seem to be caught in the rapid current of a positive feedback loop, a lot of us have learned helplessness thus driving the problems deeper into the proverbial carpet. And as these problems become deeper and embedded so does our sense of frustration, confusion and ultimately apathy. Now the need for an interruption in this feedback pattern is evermore timely as an eponymous oil disaster in the American Gulf of Mexico sounds the environmental alarm. As each moment passes, the adoption of scaled design solutions, not only for disaster relief and aid work but for community organization and skills trading, become needed with increasing urgency. Though, despite this, It would appear that a lot of us are eager yet unprepared to make even the small changes that might set forth a pattern of positive change fueled by real solutions. And still, for so many Americans, it is easier to spend $20-$30 on an afternoon at the movie theaters than it is to spend hard-earned dollars on personal development. For instance, rentrack.com reports “Twilight: The Eclipse” generated nearly 70 million USD over July 4th weekend alone.

Well..” I asked myself “…how does one prepare for battle?”. “How do you get from couch potato to a sprightly spud?”. “You go to Boot Camp…Permaculture Boot Camp!” Actually, to be completely transparent, the design process didn’t exactly fall into place with such cinematic drama. In fact, the Permaculture Boot Camp at Hayes Valley Farm (HVF) in San Francisco, CA is an ongoing design project between myself and Chris Burley that aims to teach Permaculture to the masses in three short hours. The design for this class developed out of a design project for our Permaculture Design Certificate in 2009. Leaving the PDC we felt strongly that the needs of our community were expressed in its interest in positive change, but apparent lack of direction and cohesiveness to see results. Our desires to teach the lessons that were so powerful to us in our PDC experienced several evolutions before an opportunity aligned with our intent. Now with the Hayes Valley site, an experimental urban farm, getting deep community and media attention, we’ve found the it is the perfect platform for mass education. As the design continues to evolve, we’re getting indicators of success, full classes.

The real success has been in the timing. When Chris originally proposed the course as a one hour lecture, I almost thought he was mad. “Teach Permaculture in one hour? We’ll be lucky if we finish introductions in an hour!” Though after a few emails back and forth, we settled on the current format of two energetic 90 minute sessions. Feeling that it would be disingenuous to call in an “Introduction to Permaculture” we settled on Boot Camp. “Put em through the ringer!” we thought.

With the three-hour BootCamp, Chris and I offer a rapid-fire introduction to the basics of Permaculture. We begin with an active lecture on evidence followed by a Permaculture ethics and principles site tour where we demonstrate how HVF fulfills and acts on each of Holmgren’s principles and Mollison’s ethical framework . Teaching the course on site invites the students to activate their new-found perspective immediately. Our aim goes beyond the theory of Permaculture to introduce and actively forge a community through sharing and understanding the skills and resources of the people sitting next to one another. With interactive classroom exercises the students are encouraged to form quick bonds to leave empowered and active.

One of the biggest issues students mentioned as being problematic in their worlds is a feeling that their community has been lost. Our answer is part of the course design. The class is typically offered on Sundays twice per month just before the weekly public volunteer workday at HVF. By the time the class ends at 1:30pm the urban farm is buzzing with bodies from all over San Francisco digging, raking, sheet-mulching and planting.  The Boot Camp appears to be a perfect entrée to direct action; incentivizing community collaboration over more commercial forms of entertainment. As the students get to know their class and their classroom we remind them “Your lack of community ends here!” Moreover, because the Hayes Valley site has been almost entirely built with volunteer labor and community support, it quickly is becoming the community. It’s drawn hundreds of volunteers and visitors on weekends since January 2010 when its gates opened, and continues to need helping hands to make it truly demonstrate the capacity of Permaculture design solutions. The design of the BootCamp allows for people energy to be delivered to the site and ensures continued support for the site, not to mention a little revenue. What’s more, is that now with three BootCamps offered since May, we’ve taught nearly 60 students, 7 of which have gone on to take the Urban PDC with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody, and many more of which are now regular volunteers at Hayes Valley Farm.

The course costs anywhere between $60-$75 dollars with scholarships available for eligible applicants. What’s really encouraging is that there are a great number of people willing to spend that money on a weekend learning to help save their community. In a city known for its love of hedonistic options for ways one can spend a dime, it is nice to know that there is a growing number of hedonists turned activists. The next BootCamp is being offered at Hayes Valley Farm in San Francisco on Sunday, July 11th. For more information or to spread the word about what’s happening in urban permaculture visit hayesvalleyfarm.com.

David Stockhausen

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Bon Voyage!….For now.

” The use of our bodies for work or love or pleasure, or even for combat, sets us free again in the wilderness, and we exult” -Wendell Berry

The time has arrived, dear readers, to venture again into our own version of the wilderness to explore things more intimately, more vividly, more extremely.  As we might have mentioned before, 2/3 rds of the Amyitis crew have decided to temporarily leave our beloved city of San Francisco to re-vision our path in agriculture.  While the adventure of Amyitis has been an education in itself, we see the value in revisiting some more classical types of experiential education.  For better or for worse, we hope to bring back  a new insight to our practices here in the city by taking an intensive peek at green thumbs the world over.

After my recent journey into permaculture with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody (who begin their winter PDC next week) my inspiration drove me to dive more deeply into the world of holistic thinking and design.  Permaculture had its origins in Australia out of necessity in the 1970’s.  Brackish soils and paralyzing drought were some of the issues dooming Australian farmers and landowners everywhere. A, then, slow-moving idea (or more accurately a group of ideas) called permaculture housed a group of time-tested, environmentally conscious, and highly productive strategies and techniques under one set of clear principles.  Nearly 40 years later, permaculture has now become a fast growing and ever-more widely accepted design strategy having communities, courses and certifications available globally.  One of these communities is the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia run by Geoff and Nadia Lawton.  Designers using permaculture’s design lense strive to create and encourage systems that are beyond sustainable; regenerative.  People like Geoff have spent a lifetime training them.  I have decided to spend 10 weeks on Geoff’s farm to learn to see through this lense a bit more and gain a mastery of some of the more popular techniques made famous by permies. I hope to return empowered and inspired to see Amyitis through to its next phase.

Katie Conry has taken advantage of her work situation to explore S. E. Asia and beyond willingly working on organic farms in places like India, Malaysia, and Nepal.  I feel encouraged and inspired that Katie’s interest in food has driven her forward both in the world of the blogosphere and into the garden.  I trust Katie will also come back inspired and ready to apply her energy with a new lense.  We wish her well and await her safe return.

Eben Bell will be here to take care of your Amyitis queries, comments, and collaborations.  Look for him at the Free Farm Stand on Sundays in the Mission, or perhaps you local Mission street corner.  Keep posted as Katie and I will be sending posts from the Southern Hemisphere.

Until then, Happy Gardening!

-David

What IS going on in Copenhagen?

An interesting video explaining Cap & Trade and what’s going on in Copenhagen. (Via The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia.)

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WWOOF on

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” (or  “WWOOF”) is an international organization that connects volunteers with sustainable organic farmers all over the world. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation, and organic farming knowledge. My own interest in WWOOFing led to a “WWOOF” search on Flickr, which led to some pretty amazing results. Below are my favorites (out of about a thousand photos). All these photos have been tagged with “WWOOF.” Click on a photo to view the original Flickr photo.

WWOOF on Flickr:

Colorado

New Jersey

Spain

India

Minneapolis

Japan

Sicily

France

Japan

Nepal

Japan

France

Chicago

New Jersey

Upstate New York

Japan

France

New Jersey

Oregon

France

Japan

Norway

India

Costa Rica

Norway

Japan

Upstate New York

Upstate New York (Same lily pond, 1921)

New Jersey

Japan

Scotland

California

Japan

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San Francisco + food movement + tomorrow

Hoping to spend tomorrow discussing sustainable & safe food systems? Well, you have *two* intriguing events to choose from December 1st 2009.

The first promises some controversy. Our friends at Slow Food SF are organizing a panel discussion featuring panelists from both sides of the food movement aisle.

The Slow Food SF Eat In, September 2009

Starting at 6:45pm at the S.F. Public Library’s Koret Auditorium (100 Larkin & Grove) the panel will feature Douglas Gayeton (author of the book Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town),  Sarah Rich, Sam Mogannam from Bi-Rite, farmer Casey Havre, chef Michelle Fuerst, and Slow Food SF’s very own  Dava Guthmiller. After this spirited debate Slow Food will be hosting a book signing/exception/reception at 18 Reasons in the Mission. (Via Mary Ladd & SFoodie)

Looking to learn more about Permaculture in the Mission tomorrow? Look no further! December 1st 7-9pm Movie Night @ The Red Poppy Art House (2698 Folsom Street @ 23rd Street) will be showing the Geoff Lawton  film, Introduction to Permaculture Design (What I’m sure will be)  a spirited Q & A will follow the screening with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody answering your questions.  Given David Stockhausen’s recent and very positive experience with Permaculture this event is too tempting for us to pass up. Hope to see you there!

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Class act.

Now I plant more Fava beans and use more mulch. Find out why

For those of you that enjoy my blogging voice, I apologize for its absence.  It has been a small while since I have posted.  And as you may already know, my good friend Katie has graciously taken the helm in my stead.  But, it is my “stead” that compels me to write to you now. The subject at hand is one of drastic importance for me and for all of us.  If you are not interested yet, keep reading anyway.

The reason for my sparse blog presence has mostly because I have been immersed in my recent permaculture class with Permaculture SF. It is not for the fact that the class kept me too busy to blog, but more that I was (and still am) completely inspired and changed by this class, its teachers, and my fellow students; so much so that I have since dedicated my time, thought and effort to the principles and practices I gathered there.  In fact, with no offense intended toward my favorite UVM professors, I feel downright comfortable saying that it may be the single most rewarding class I have ever taken to date.

A good class doesn’t just transmit information, it changes the way you think.  While I am tempted here (with all of this empty white blog space beneath me) to convey some of the specific lessons from my experience, I would rather say that this class and my cohort transformed the way I see my environment, my world, and my community.  And now I see that this new lense as the most valuable tool I walked away with.  I now look at Amyitis differently.  I see our mission, my mission, as transmogrified.  You see, permaculture is not simply about learning techniques and strategies but about, what my teachers David Cody and Kevin Bayuk like to say, “overstanding” the issue.  To translate, to overstand is to interpret the whole system, understand more deeply.

I learned that, Amyitis has been utilizing some permaculture strategy since its inception, but its scope has maybe been too narrow, its berth too wide.  What I write now is to urge anyone and everyone to take a permaculture design certification class in your neighborhood or city.  If you are an engineer, a foodie, a home gardener, or even business strategist, this class will change your life.  If you are luck enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area you can be lucky enough to take a course with Kevin and David, HERE. They also have a blog you can follow if you like.  Don’t waste any time.  The Spring PDC starts January 13th 2009 in Potrero Hill.

Hey you may find yourself in a picture like this one, smiling your little face off.

 

2009 Fall Urban PDC Graduates.

-David

 

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Re-Development

IMG_1610

Herb spiral flowing off a circular garden theme

Amyitis recently installed a private educational garden for a client in the NOPA area this past week.  The homeowner was keen to have us try to create as much space as we could for vegetable cultivation.  Her adolescent daughter is inspired and anxious to start producing food there. The inspiration comes from her school program which offers a bit of garden education as part of their regular curriculum.

Their backyard space is relaxing and elegant. The space was ornamentally landscaped at one time for sitting around a gas fire pit and enjoying the sound of the swaying bushes all around.  Amyitis saw the potential to keep that type of tranquility and yet produce a good amount of food at the same time.  The backyard is a circular “room” sandwiched between the main house and a renter’s in-law apartment.  We decided to work with the circle theme by adding a raised swale made from sheet mulch.  This sheet mulch technique allowed us to increase the amount of planting surface by mounding.  It also allowed us to re-use materials and garden “refuse” harvested from the site during prep.    I was inspired to start using some permaculture techniques that I have been learning through the San Francisco Permaculture Guild’s fall design training.  Sheet mulching was one of the first lessons we learned.  The photos below demonstrate the process a bit.

First Layer of finely chopped organic matter

First Layer of finely chopped organic matter

A layer of cardboard provides a weed barrier

A layer of cardboard provides a weed barrier

a layer of mulch is added to the cardboard layer

a layer of mulch is added to the cardboard layer

The top layer is covered with soil and watered in

The top layer is covered with soil and watered in

To add more gardening space to the small backyard, we built a raised bed in contour with the set of stairs running from the back yard to the exit.  Since the whole yard is sloped toward these stairs, some rainwater should run from the main garden to this small bed in heavy rainfall events.  We designed the bed for ergonomic ease as well.  Because gardening often can have you hunched over or kneeling, placing the bed on the stairs allowed for multiple points of entry to the bed for planting and maintenance.

We were excited with the results of this project and for the opportunity to add some permaculture ideas into our list of skills.  In the future this garden should be ready to produce a great deal of food for its residents.  We’ll keep you posted.

HIMG_1614appy gardening,

David