TogetherFarm – Everything is Awesome!

The boys love to "help" in the garden

My kids are obsessed with LEGO (the plural of LEGO doesn’t have an ‘s’) and we have them all over our living room. All. Over. And LEGO games. LEGO Marvel is played for a couple of hours a week, as is LEGO DC. We already played LEGO Harry Potter, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. I love them all. As they say in the LEGO Movie, everything (LEGO) is awesome!

So, when I saw TogetherFarm on Kickstarter last year I jumped on board. TogetherFarm has made LEGO-like bricks, made from food-grade recycled plastic,  for enclosing raised bed gardens  – you can buy them now on Amazon. The sets are pretty small but our plan is to combine our set of blocks with our Nourishmat system, also something we funded on Kickstarter, or the “Salad-a-Day” seed pack that came with our 4’X4′ set of blocks.

The boys are already interested in gardening but I feel like they need their own garden space, not just mine. They can use these tools to help them learn and get started, with guidance from me. Not exactly permaculture for kids but I like how many fun tools there are to involve children in the garden.

First light

First light: Remember yesterday, when you wrote down the first thought you had this morning? Great. Now write a post about it. (prompt from DailyPost)

Maybe not first light so much (it’s coming soon and I promise to take a picture) as much as first notions.

It must be spring because my head is filled with more ideas and new life for old ideas than I can handle. It’s almost completely overwhelming. I have been keeping notes on my phone, on scraps of paper, in a little spiral journal I uncovered while cleaning off my desk. 

I think I’m going to take over this blog and get into the habit of writing every day. I love to write. I’ve written a novel. I teach writing. I love to read and read and read. So I’m going to write using these handy prompts a few times a week and then write more about permaculture principles and how they apply to how we parent our children or, in some cases, how we could parent our children a little bit better and more intentionally than how we do right now. When I began studying permaculture I realized that much of what I’ve done as a parent, and as a person too, has always gone along with the principles of permaculture.

I’m also going to apply to begin earning my EdD in transformational leadership. My intent is to focus on applying the permaculture principles (yes, again) to educational institutional change. 

So, this blog has a newer look to it and I may change and tweak it some more before the sun’s first light has even come up over the mountains. 

Happily Ever After

Earthship garden

“And they lived happily ever after.” Think about this line for a few minutes. Are you living happily ever after? If not, what will it take for you to get there? (prompt from DailyPost)

We started this blog with high expectations but, as always, life gets in the way. Winter is hurrying into spring in a series of five minute jumps of light; the sunlight was just coming up over the mountains as I made my journey into school this morning. The air was warm this morning when I left the house (34F?!?), albeit a little later than usual because I slept until 6 A.M. instead of visiting the gym.

I’ve been daydreaming lately about our permaculture plans for our yard – at some point during spring break I’ll need to finish getting them on paper. What I’ve learned from studying permaculture though is that there is no happily ever after. You start from where you are and then make slow, gradual progress toward your goal, adjusting and readjusting as you go. You may be progressing happily, but without reflection and assessment it won’t be an “ever after” situation. That goes for this blog as well – we can’t keep it up without a plan, without reassessing our goals and figuring out what we want to do with our writing and our lives. We can live happily ever after, but need to remember that a lot of effort and commitment goes into creating that fairy tale.

Permaculture public garden tour

On Sunday the Anchorage Permaculture Guild held a tour of public gardens on the east side of town. Two of the gardens, the first and last, followed permaculture principles while the others, while not exactly permaculture gardens, definitely were interesting. Full disclosure: I didn’t take good notes, I missed one whole stop, and my pictures don’t really do anything justice.

 

First stop! College Alps Condo Association’s garden at Bryn Mawr Court as hosted (check out the spread!) by Seija and Sarah.20130806-191315.jpg

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Second stop! St Anthony’s Church Garden (825 Klevin St). Located adjacent to Catholic Social Services, this garden also serves refugees.20130806-191628.jpg

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Stop four! (see what happened there? we missed the Bragaw Community Garden in Mountain View) McPhee Community Garden in Mountain View. The rule is “no permanent structures” but it seems vandalism and theft are an issue so the makeshift fences and gates are fascinating. This is the oldest garden, at 30-40 years.

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And the newest garden, Methodist Church Garden at 1660 Patterson, was the next-to-last stop.

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Cormac’s favorite was the third grade garden at Anchorage Waldorf School. I love the fence and greenhouse and the way it is perched on top of the hill.20130806-191931.jpg

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Hugelkultur experiment

Hugelkultur is a method of building a garden bed that is consistent with permaculture principles in that it uses natural materials that you may have around your yard and will hold in moisture so less watering is needed.

At my gardening class the teacher has a large hugelkultur bed that was built last year. When Saskia first mentioned it I looked it up and wanted to make one, at least a small one, just to test it out. This one is about sixteen by twelve or so, just enough room for two plants if I squish them in a little.

Since I haven’t officially “learned” this method in a class yet I tried searching around online for some good step-by-step instructions online but didn’t find much. Basically, it’s like sheet mulching except uses wood waste as the primary component of the bed. From walks through the woods most of us have noticed that rotting wood creates rich soil. I found a fun post from Northwest Edible Life that pretty much assured me I didn’t need to stress out about the components.

I added a little cardboard to help suppress the grass. This area is just to the right of a couple of new blueberry plants, hence the straw mulch to the left.

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Then, I piled up some rotting logs that have been sitting around the yard for, oh 10+ years.

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Then I decided to clean up the lilac branches I had just left on the grass last week by folding them and stuffing them in the cracks between the logs.

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This next lovely scene shows the addition of the food and straw waste from the chickens. There’s not much manure in this so the nitrogen content won’t be too high.

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I turned a little bit of loose sod upside down on the top. I may regret this later.

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I added clean straw to the top. The straw will definitely help retain moisture.

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To the very top I added finished compost mixed with a little bit of extra potting soil.

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I planted two broccoli plants (and some more in the ground in front of the blueberries) and then covered the whole mess with some row cover. The row cover edges are buried using bark mulch to prevent bugs from getting in. The row cover will help with pests and keep the little seedlings warm since it is still pretty cool up here.

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More resources? Sure!
raised garden beds: hugelkultur instead of irrigation

Hugelkultur: Using Woody Waste in Composting

Permaculture

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