Take on one project this year that will help improve the earth. Just one. If you can manage more, fantastic. However make sure that you are fully mindful of all aspects of your project so that is it done as well as it can be.
For instance, decide to use greywater. If you can physically and legally connect your household non-toilet water pipes to a water composting system and use it to irrigate plants, then do so. If piping is impossible, then hand-carry the dishwater, shower water, bath water and cooking water out and dump it on your plants as often as you can. Make a smoothie for yourself, then clean the blender by filling it with water, blending it, and pouring that nutrient-rich residual around your plants. Yet that is not enough. Use environmentally friendly soaps. Be aware of the plastic content and chemical treatments for fireproofing or insecticide of the clothes you are washing. Plastic is in synthetic fleece, in microdermal skin treatments, in polyester bedding. You don’t have to not use greywater if you are washing synthetic fabric, but you should be mindful of what you buying. Avoid microbeads. Avoid glitter and mosquito-proofed outerwear. Choose your purchases with open eyes, thereby reducing your usage of these toxins. Build good soil to help clean the toxins from the water.
Compost. At the very least, use blender compost. That means, take a handful of soft kitchen scraps, put them into a blender, fill with water, process, and pour the very liquidy mixture around your plants. Don’t throw away any food scraps, egg shells, leftovers, sour milk, moldy refrigerator mysteries, paper towels, tissues, paper napkins, cotton Q-tips, cotton balls, cotton dental floss, hair, or anything biodegradable. If you can’t blend it up and pour it onto the earth as fertilizer, then dig a small hole and bury it, or make a pile and compost it, or layer it in a raised bed or in a lasagna garden. What leaves your house in the form of trash should only be recyclables and undecompostable items. Your garbage disposal should be rarely used if ever. Put this raw fertilizer into the ground, not into the dump. Be mindful of what you are buying and whether it can be composted or not.
Plant trees. If you are in an area with too much rainfall, you need the trees to take up the water, hold the soil and buffer the onslaught of the weather. If you are in a dry area you need trees to shade the ground, to capture ambient moisture and rain it down, to cover the hard earth with leaves. All areas need perches for animals. All areas need the oxygen supplied by the trees converting carbon dioxide gasses. All areas need reforestation with natives that thrive in indiginous locations. Be mindful of what kind of landscape you are planting. If you choose non-native trees that offer no food for animals and harm the native flora, then you are not helping. In San Diego, if you plant eucalyptus, ficus, Washingtonia palm trees, Brazilian or California peppers (not from California, but Peru), or many of the sterile fruitless versions of ornamental trees, you are taking away from the landscape rather than adding to it. I can’t begin to count how many neighborhoods I’ve been in with old plantings of ornamental plants and trees, and the area is so sterile of animals that they are like wastelands. Only survivor crows and sparrows (and loose cats) can be seen. Instead, areas with native trees are rich in many species of birds, and the insect population is under control as well. Water use is low, pollinator habitat is high, and the neighborhood feels alive and well, especially if the cats are safely tucking inside where they belong, as mine are.
Recycle. I am constantly stunned to see recyclable bottles and cans thrown into regular waste. The percentage of what is recycled that actually processed is low, too. So choose glass over plastic. We bought camping utensil sets to carry with us, refuse straws, and this year I’ll work on bringing containers for leftovers when we eat out rather than take a clamshell plastic container or Styrofoam one. I already wrap banana peels, leftover pastries, apple cores, and whatever is biodegradable in a paper napkin, bring it home and compost it. If you have a plastic water bottle, soda can, glass bottle, or anything recyclable, please put it in the appropriate container. Recycling has been around since I was a schoolgirl, and I can’t believe everyone still doesn’t do it.
Switch makeup. My daughter is particularly good at finding vegan, Fair Trade and non-GMO skin care products for reasonable prices. Neither of us use many cosmetics, but the lip and cheek color, eye color and moisturizers we use, as well as our daily soaps, are ethically and environmentally sourced. Why rub harsh chemicals into your eyes and mouth? The choices grow every day, and the prices lower all the time. Do your homework. Be mindful of what you pick up in the store. Remember that what you put on your skin is also washed down the sink and into the water table, or into your greywater. Support the businesses who have ethical business practices. This goes for men, too. Shaving cream, after shaves, toner, scent, hair products, etc. Your skin will be healthier for the change.
Shop local. Pick one or two local businesses that you know practice sustainable, ethical and conscientious business practices, who give back to their community, and give them all of your support. Buy from them, advertise for them, befriend them, give them moral support. Rate them highly on Yelp, Google, or other rating systems. Watch out for them to be sure that they can succeed. Work for them if possible. Adopt them so that they have success.
Go animal and dairy free at least one day a week. I cannot go into the scope of the damage to the environment and the horror of the treatment of food animals here. Dare yourself to find out for yourself. Read Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Find out what happens to cows and their calves in dairies, and the heartbreaking lowing of the cows -always kept pregnant to produce milk- as their young are hauled shrieking away to be slaughtered for veal. If you think that fish and shellfish somehow have no nerves or instincts, then think again. Lobsters who are by nature competitive being held in freshwater tanks, their claws bound, among their competition, starved, and then boiled alive. If you shrug and turn away from the suffering from others, then perhaps you should analyze your food sources more. You condone practices if you support them with your wallet. So set aside a meatless and dairy-free day once a week. If the entire U.S. did not eat meat or cheese for just one day a week, it would be the equivalent of not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road. The UN has said that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from the worst effects of climate change because of the heavy environmental impact of raising livestock. Not to mention the health benefits that come from a plant-based diet; diabetes, cancer, hypertension, high blood pressure and so much more is rooted in diet. Make a Meatless Monday, or a Vegan Wednesday, or whatever, and avoid pouring cheese sauce all over some steamed veggies and calling it a good meal. Have a curry, a Turkish Eggplant Stew, a dairy free mushroom stroganoff, spring rolls, veggie lasagna, heavenly steamed eggplant, a portobello sandwich, stir-fry, bean and avocado burritos, try some non-GMO meat substitutes like those from Gardein (particularly their fish!) (no product placement, just a recommendation), or make your own seitan. Make your own vegan butter. Let your body and the environment have a break for a day.
Help Out. Choose a local charity, or a needy neighbor, and provide what they need. Don’t just give them what you want to get rid of , or what you think they should have. Often people just need reassurance or a friend to talk to, or possible solutions, or a hand for a day. Donate what your charity needs, and if that is money then do it. Help with a fundraiser. Volunteer your time. Do something to truly help someone else out, without asking for praise or cosmic bonus points in return. Don’t be a pain; be a blessing. Volunteering and helping out make you feel worthwhile and surrounds you with like-minded people who can become your friends.
I have found many of my closest friends through volunteering. Be aware of large, nation- or world-wide charities who use most of your donations for salaries and infrastructure, and very little on what they are supposed to be supporting. Don’t let the big names fool you. Use your money to help honest charities in your area, or by just sending money to people who need it, anonymously.
Whatever you choose to do, do it mindfully. Pay attention to the details, to where products come from, to the business practices of the charities and stores you support, to how animals and people are treated in the making of the products, of what is in what you handle every day. You don’t have to, nor can you, take on the world’s problems, but you can focus on one thing and stick with it; make it part of your day-to-day until it is habit. Then move to a second choice. What you do, what you buy, what you say and how you spend your time cause ripples across the earth, and being mindful of your influence will send out help rather than harm.
Happy New Year. Be healthy. Be kind. Be happy. You matter.
October is one of my favorite months, even when we’re on fire here in Southern California. This year we’ve been saved, and October is moderate in temperature and lovely.
Summer has lost her vicious grip and we have time until the holiday rush and winter cold. Finch Frolic Garden has withstood the heat, the dry, the inundations, the snow and the changes, all without chemicals or much human intervention.
We’ve lost some trees and shrubs this year, but that is mostly due to the faulty irrigation system which delivers too much or too little, and is out of sight underground.
Permaculture methods in sheet mulching, plant guilds, swales, rain catchment basins, and the use of canopy have pulled this garden through.
The birds, butterflies and other insects and reptiles are out in full force enjoying a safety zone. A few days ago on an overcast morning, Miranda identified birds that were around us: nuthatches, crows, song sparrows, a Lincoln sparrow, spotted towhees, California towhees, a kingfisher, a pair of mallards, a raven, white crowned sparrows, a thrush, lesser goldfinches, house finches, waxwings, robin, scrub jays, mockingbird, house wren, yellow rumped warbler, ruby crowned kinglet, and more that I can’t remember or didn’t see.
Birds have identified our property as a migratory safe zone. No poisons, no traps. Clean chemical-free pond water to drink. Safety.
You can provide this, too, even in just a portion of your property. The permaculture Zone 5.
I’m indulging in showing you photos from that overcast October morning, and I hope that you enjoy them.
Finch Frolic Garden’s Program in the Garden Series for July:
Analyzing Property for Maximum Use:
Site Evaluation Step-by-Step
Sunday, July 26, 2 – 4 pm
Looking for property? Creating a landscape? Planting a garden? Building a house? Diane Kennedy of Finch Frolic Garden will take you through the steps of evaluating your site for maximum effectiveness with the least labor and cost.
This class is for the average homeowner, with little or no permaculture background. All terms will be defined and explored. Guaranteed, you will leave the class excited about your property, and able to find new potential in it.
In permaculture, 99% of the work should be in design, and only 1% in labor, so find out how to look at property with new eyes and start designing! Participants are encouraged to bring a Google Maps image of their property to work on.
We will, of course, offer homemade vegetarian refreshments. Cost is $25 per person, mailed ahead of time. Finch Frolic Garden is located at 390 Vista del Indio, Fallbrook. Please RSVP to email@example.com . More information can be found at www.vegetariat.com. You’ll love what you learn!
Normally tours of Finch Frolic Garden are held by appointment for groups of 5 – 15 people, Thursdays – Mondays. Cost is $10 per person and the tour lasts about two hours. By popular demand, for those who don’t have a group of five or more, we will be hosting Open Tour days for the first 15 people to sign up in August and September. They will be Sunday, August 10 and 24, Sept. 7 and 21, and Thursdays August 7 and 28, and Sept. 11 and 25. Tours begin promptly at 10 am. The tours last about two hours and are classes on basic permaculture while we tour the food forest. I ask $10 per person. Please reserve and receive directions through firstname.lastname@example.org. Children under 10 are free; please, no pets. Photos but no video are allowed. Thank you for coming to visit! Diane and Miranda
Permaculture Lectures in the Garden!
Learn how to work with nature and save money too
Finch Frolic Garden and Hatch Aquatics will present four fantastic, information-filled lectures in June. Join us at beautiful Finch Frolic Garden in Fallbrook, 4 pm to 6 pm, for refreshments and talks on…
Saturday, June 7: Introduction to Permaculture and Finch Frolic Tour: We’ll take you through the main precepts of permaculture and how it can be applied not only to your garden, but to yourself and your community. Then we’ll tour Finch Frolic Garden and show rain catchments, swales, plant guilds, polyculture, living buildings and so much more.
Saturday, June 14: Your Workers in the Soil and Earthworks: Learn the best methods for storing water in the soil and how to replace all your chemicals with actively aerated compost tea and compost.
Saturday, June 21: Aquaculture: You can have a natural pond – even in a tub! How natural ponds work, which plants clean water and which are good to eat. Even if you don’t want a pond, you’ll learn exciting information about bioremediation and riparian habitat.
Saturday, June 28: Wildlife in your Garden: What are all those bugs and critters and what they are doing in your yard? We’ll discuss how to live with wildlife and the best ways to attract beneficial species.
Your hosts and lecturers will be
Jacob Hatch Owner of Hatch Aquatics. With years of installing and maintaining natural ponds and waterways, and a Permaculture Design Course graduate, Jacob has installed earthworks with some of the biggest names in permaculture.
Miranda Kennedy OSU graduate of Wildlife Conservation and wildlife consultant, Miranda photographs and identifies flora and fauna and maps their roles in backyard ecosystems.
Diane Kennedy Owner of Finch Frolic Garden, lecturer, consultant, Permaculture Design Course graduate, former SDC Senior Park Ranger, Diane educates homeowners on how to save money and the environment while building their dream gardens.
Each class limit is 50 attendees, so please make pre-paid reservations soon before they fill up. Fee for set of four lectures and tour is $45 per person. Single session fee is $20 per person. Contact Diane Kennedy at email@example.com for reservations and directions.
You will not want to miss this fascinating and useful information!
Thanks to generous friends, free seed opportunities and wonderful seed catalogs, we have many, many squash varieties to choose from this year. We also want to grow vertically where we can to save space so my daughter and I are creating trellises. No builder, I, but we’re hoping these will last for years to come.
This area of the upper trail isn’t lovely when not covered by vines. It is also quite warm when people are touring and it could use some shade and interesting focal point. Miranda had cut down a large curly willow tree a few months back (it was taking too much water from an avocado). We used a couple pieces of the trunk to inoculate with mushroom spores, and the rest was fair game for a trellis.
Curly willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’) has wonderfully shaped branches that twist and curl naturally. You’ll see it often in bouquets, where it usually roots while in water. This willow enjoys more sun and a little less water than native willows do. Willows all produce salicin, the pain-killing ingredient that has now been synthetized as aspirin. Willows also produce a rooting hormone which can be used to encourage sprouting and rooting of other plants. Cut up a willow branch, soak it in water for a couple of days (if water is chlorinated, leave it sit for a day before adding willow) and use to water seedlings.
Wanting to avoid cutting wood and nailing things together, we sunk four T-posts into the corners. The trellis is six feet across and eight feet wide; any wider and we would have put a center post on each side as well.
We wired on the side posts and cross posts, cutting long branches from the willow. This willow was long dead; fresh willow could be sunk into the ground and it would root to make a living trellis, like the Withy Hide. We didn’t want that here, though.
We stood smaller branches upright along the sides and wired them on, keeping in mind spaces where the squash vines will want to find something on which to grab. Over the top we laid long slim branches from a Brazilian pepper that is growing wild in the streambed and really needs to come out. By pruning it and using the branches, we’re making use of the problem. In permaculture, the problem is the solution! I wanted to make an arched top and tried to nail the slim branches in a bended form, but this was difficult and didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to spend days finishing this… too much else to do! So we laid the branches over the top, wiring some on, and then wove curly willow branches long-wise through them. This weaving helps hold the branches in place, will give the vines support, and brings together the look.
And it was done. It should stand up to wind. We may need to add some vertical support depending upon the weight of the squash vines. We planted four varieties of squash that have small (2-3 lb.) veg. We planted four seeds of each, two on either side. We also planted some herbs, flowers and alliums, and some perennial beans, the Golden Runner Bean.
If nothing else, it is lovely and interesting to look at; better in person than in the photos. We can’t wait for the squash to start vining! Now, onto the next trellis.
Thanks to my daughter Miranda, our permaculture food forest habitat Finch Frolic Garden has a Facebook page. Miranda steadily feeds information onto the site, mostly about the creatures she’s discovering that have recently been attracted to our property. Lizards, chickens, web spinners and much more. If you are a Facebook aficionado, consider giving us a visit and ‘liking’ our page. Thanks!
My daughter and I pleached today, although I’ve had the pleasure of pleaching before this , and even later. Pleaching, or its synonym plashing, refers to the interweaving of branches, both live or dead. Basketry is one form, but more notably is the pleaching of living branches to form secure living fences, buildings or artwork. The withy (willow) bird hide (a covered place from which to watch birds) is a living building I planted two years ago. We pleached our withy hide today. Not many people can say that! (or admit to it).
Pleaching can be done on many vigorous trees such as willow, or even fruit trees such as plum. The branches grow together making separate plants become part of a whole. The trees then share nutrients and water and can pull what it needs from roots a long distance away.
Pleaching essentially makes many plants into one living organism. Pleached hedgerows make a living barrier to keep in livestock; pleached trees can be woven into furniture, living artwork, decorative fences, and living trellises. Pleaching livestock fences was practiced a lot in Europe prior to the invention of barbed wire, and then was forgotten for awhile only to be revived as a form of artistic gardening.
Today I of course, as is my habit, waited until the sun was directly above the area where I was working so that I had to look into it as I worked. I don’t recommend this, however. My daughter used a fruit-picking pole to snag some of the taller, whippier branches of the curly willow that make up the withy hide. I stood on a ladder, squinting, and pulled two branches together.
To insure that you have a good pleach going, it is best to lightly scrape the bark from both pieces just where they are going to meet; something like you see blood brothers do with their hands in the movies, but with no blood involved.
Then you make sure the pieces fit snugly, then tie them on. I’ve use various materials to do this. Twist-ties hold securely but the wire can eventually girdle the growing branches. Twine is more difficult to use in that it doesn’t grip the branches well enough for a firm hold, but it will eventually break down, hopefully after the pleach is successful. This time I used green tree tape. It grips well, is easy to tie, and will stretch with the growing branches and eventually break. The green color won’t be noticeable when the willow leafs out, either.
As I pleached from the top of the ladder, working overhead while the sun and curly twigs attacked my eyes, my daughter pleached pleasing arches over the ‘windows’ of the hide.
The hide looks lopsided because the willows on one side have found sent out roots to drink from the small pond. With more pleaching, the thirsty trees on the other side will probably take advantage of that water source, too, and have a drink via their overhead connection. I think it is part of its charm. A half-wild building.
Try pleaching a small fence or a living bench or chair. It is tremendous fun and if you don’t like it, you can always cut it down. Oh, and work on a cloudy day.
There is a fantastic, information-packed permaculture convergence coming up at the beautiful Sky Mountain Institute in Escondido. It will be two days packed with great information for a very reasonable price; in fact, scholarships are available. Check out the website at firstname.lastname@example.org. On that Sunday I’ll be teaching a workshop about why its so important to plant native plants, how to plant them in guilds using fishscale swales and mini-hugelkulturs. Come to the convergence and be inspired!
It was clear that if I wanted to have any group of people over in the summer and have them survive, that I’d have to have a shade structure. I have an EZ-Up, which is anything but easy especially when going down, but the shade it provides is minimal and only appropriate at high noon. I had a look at the line of Eugenia trees right behind Harry Mudd, the cob oven. The trees had been planted by the previous owner to block the view of the horrendous piecemeal sheds he’d nailed together (most of which have now become walkways and structures). They had been trimmed up during the removal of the sheds to giant lollypops with floppy arms. Floppy arms that often broke under the weight of the fruit the trees bore. I thought that some of these trees could make a good gazebo.
I talked to Steve about it. Steve works on my ponds and irrigation, and now just about anything else I need to have done since he is skilled in carpentry and other talents which I am not. Steve cut down some of the trees and for some he used professional services – check this link right here now, brushed them and we discovered that they weren’t very tall at all.
At the time I was touring a new friend through the garden who offered some very long cedar logs. Here began a fiasco having to do with hauling a trailer, misunderstandings, and a lot of very heavy long logs which weren’t used and now need to be returned, but I will not explore that here.
I had a garden party planned; the first large party I’ve ever had. I thought that the end of June would be a perfect time before the hot weather hit. Life laughed at me and began a series of intensely hot days more associated with the end of July. So I told Steve to just buy the wood and build the thing. He did, and I covered it with some very expensive shade cloth. By two of the pillars have been planted red passionfruit vines. When they grow to the top, I’ll replace the shadecloth with wire so that the passionvines can become a living shady roof with fruit dangling down.
This structure, along with some borrowed EZ-Ups, saved the day for the party, which had temperatures in the low 90’s (lower than anticipated, thank goodness!). The structure is similiar in look to the Fowl Fortress, so it doesn’t seem so out of place, and it is very comfortable to be under during this intense summer.
Why the Mock Pavilion? Perhaps because it isn’t really a pavilion, just a large shade structure with a piece of plywood over a couple of wooden pallets as a stage. Really it is because Steve’s last name is Mock, and I couldn’t resist.