May showers bring…hey, wait a minute…

Hugelkultur keyhole bedMy wife and I got to escape the relentless rain and take a special trip to Hawaii this past month, where we met some super high quality folks. We were gone for 10 days, but given the amount of Morning Glory that invaded our garden beds while we were gone, you’d have though it was three months.

Highlights from this past month:

  • We enjoyed several deep conversations in Hawaii, including new learnings from the eco-resort’s horticulture team about permaculture and much more. We returned to the overcast Pacific Northwest feeling relaxed, inspired for our future, and full of sunshine!
  • We recovered more space from the useless lawn to create our second small hugelkultur bed (read: core of decomposing wood) in a keyhole design.
  • I’ve been experimenting with aerated compost tea using $10 worth of aquarium parts, finished compost from our worm bins, and these simple instructions. Will report back at the end of the growing season how the beds treated with this tea faired against the control group. There is something about making compost tea that makes me feel like a mad scientist and fascinates my children.
  • I found a sane voice of reason in one of the crowds I interact with…survivalists. I’ve had numerous conversations with these interesting folks over the past 5+ years as I dove deeper into the sustainability movement and then began connecting it to the survivalist movement via the topic of resilience. I recently used permaculturalists + preppers as one of the themes to my Prepared Neighborhoods book (currently undergoing punishment by my editor this summer). This post by Kirsten at Milkwood struck a chord with me as I’ve found my own responses the past year or two reflecting her grounded and positive sentiments:

    So now, when occasionally someone comes up at a course and wants to talk survivalism, I almost want to get specific: “so, like, are we talking about just social upheaval, or economic collapse, or armageddon, or the full thing where people start to eat each other? Because you’ll need a different approach depending on what you’re thinking to protect yourself from…”

    In reality, I don’t go there. If I and my family are going to manifest a thriving future for ourselves and our community, I need to compost those kinds of thoughts and regenerate them into something useful. I focus on what I can do. And make sure I keep up with my planting plan.

    I think for a moment about how, compared to so many millions of people on this planet, we live in paradise. Maybe I should stick to being thankful for that. And building a kick-ass permaculture farm that can feed useful knowledge and nourishing food back into my community, no matter what the future holds.

Chickens weeding our food forest beds

Lowlights (that we’re transforming into highlights):

  • A neighbor’s tree split in half, destroying the deer fence along that section of our land. And giving me another chance to use one of my favorite tools (outside of my hori hori and scythe), my Wilk Putsch one-person crosscut saw. Oh my goodness, I love this saw. It is less expensive, safer, and more enjoyable than my chainsaw. Faster, too, when you account for the time spent donning safety gear and maintaining the chainsaw itself (going to store for gas, oil, parts). And the sound it makes is beautiful.
  • That tree is now cut into slices ready for transforming our classic raised beds into proper hugelkultuer beds late this summer, as we transition between growing cycles.
  • For five nights in a row we had new deer damage, some significant like destroying years of growth on grapes and fruit trees. While I (hope) I finally found their access point, it forced me to complete several other projects related to deer protection.
  • While we’re still spending a fair amount of time weeding, we finally wised up to using our chickens to help us by enclosing them in certain sections of the food forest. Next experiment will be using Ruth Stout levels of straw (read: lots) layered down in thick sections to smother weeds and build soil fertility.
  • We’ve had plenty of dreary weather days in the rainy Pacific Northwest that I’ve spent inside with the kids, sketching our first-ever permanent chicken coop and a gravity-powered run I saw other permaculturalists trying. It takes inputs of straw, feed, and water at the top of our steeply sloped backyard and create outputs of daily eggs in the middle of the slope and piles of compost to remove weekly/monthly at the bottom of the slope, right next to our future vegetable patch area.