Rainwater Harvesting – Part 1

Saturated driveway and rainwater runoff

Rainwater is such a precious resource! How much do we get, where does it go, and how can we harvest it for later? In Part 1, I review the water cycle, calculate how many gallons we can get off our roofs, and look at different barrel, tank, and cistern options. 

Primer for Planning a Garden for Pollinators

Pink Viola

Although still officially winter, pollinators are already emerging from their winter havens. What will they eat? Here’s what’s blooming in my garden & pointers on planning a garden for pollinators.

Wild Harvest with Mac Smith: Seaweeds and More from the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Bull Kelp at Freshwater BayOutside my back door are vast Permaculture Zones 4 and 5, i.e., managed forests and those areas left (more or less) to be wild. It is a rare and wondrous place, and I am always cognizant of how privileged we are to live where we do.

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Victory Gardens for Change

The fact is, the greatest changes come from people, not from government. Now is the time to bring back the Victory Gardens of yesteryear. We can change the world, one garden at a time — together.

Permaculture Resolutions (and Where Do We Go from Here?)

Happy New Year from Barbolian Fields! We live in “interesting times.” This year, we are incorporating Holmgren’s Permaculture Princples into our New Year’s Resolutions. Our goals, in general, focus on reaching out, buying local, being prepared for uncertainty, optimizing our backyard ecosystems, and keeping things in balance by also taking time to enjoy life. We hope you will join us in making a difference!

Politics and PermacuIture: Is Permaculture a Political Act?

We live in troubling times.

I admit. I try to stay out of politics. I avoid confrontation. I would rather be in my garden. But the recent U.S. election has made me re-think that position. Political turmoil has split our country in two. Rising powers threaten to put us on the brink of extinction. All around the world we see unrest, hunger, poverty, and extremists that thwart peaceful efforts. The Worldwatch Institute website presents a lot of data on where we are at in terms of food, energy production and consumption, climate and the environment, resources, and populations and societies. The picture is not pretty.

The question is, what are we – each and every one of us on a personal level – doing about it?

We are presented with a unique opportunity for change; and a permaculture approach can be a powerful lever for effecting that change.

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Earth Day: Plant Something for the Bees!

Earth Day Beach Cleanup
Beach cleanup on an earlier Earth Day.

Earth Day! Such an opportunity to do something positive for our planet! Whether you recycle, upcycle, bicycle, reduce your footprint, make a footprint, go for a simple walk, plant a tree – so much we can do to celebrate another day of living on this incredible planet that supports life as we know it.

Sometimes I just have to step back in amazement that any of this exists at all!

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Identity Crisis 101: The Niche-Diversity-Resiliency Equation

I’d like to share a little identity crisis I went through recently that ended up being quite useful.

It started in mid-January when I signed up for a booth of my very own at the Soroptimist Gala Garden Event.  It was the first time I had ever done such a thing, and it was one of those after-the-fact flashes:  “OMG – what have I done?” Nothing like laying out cold hard cash to make you feel committed!

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To Convert an Orchard to a Food Forest, Start with the Soil

Orchard path at Barbolian FieldsWe have this old orchard on our homestead – how old is anybody’s guess. The house is over 100 years, so perhaps the trees are as well? How long do they live? It comprises 9 trees (apples, pie cherries, and an Italian prune), and despite its age, produces more than we can use, but not really enough for any kind of commercial enterprise.

The trees, like a lot of neglected orchards, are fraught with a tangle of suckers and twisted branches growing contrary to common sense. Gradually we have been pruning them back into shape, opening the centers to more light, and mowing the grass around and around. We are not ones to spray copper, sulfur, and assorted pesticides; nor have we added any fertilizers. In fact, we have rarely even watered them (they have obviously survived quite well on their own thus far, being situated alongside an irrigation ditch). It has been a learning process for us, too, and sometimes there is only so much you can do. The apples have a lot of scab. Pill bugs and earwigs enjoy them a lot. I think 4 of them are heirloom Gravensteins. They taste great.

And then one day, in reading Michael Phillips’ “The Holistic Orchard – Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way,” I began to realize that the typical orchard, planted in rows and surrounded by grass, produces in spite of the conditions we put them in. The descriptions were painfully familiar. It struck me that with a little help, this orchard could be so much more. Toby Hemenway’s book, “Gaia’s Garden,” was another eye-opener. Obviously, there are simple things we can all do to work with Nature, rather than against her.

Thus began the mission to let Nature “reclaim” the orchard.

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Garlic for Barter and Trade

What do 3 dozen eggs, 3 bottles of honey, and a beautiful handcrafted dish have to do with garlic?

In trade for garlic: pottery, honey, eggs
In trade for garlic: pottery, honey, eggs. Yes! We love all these things!

Barter Fare!

This picture is of my three most recent trades: a pottery dish made by Linda R. Hughes, three bottles of raw, unheated honey, and 3 dozen fresh eggs. Quite an assortment! And each one special in its own way.

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Building an Insect Hotel

Insect Hotel

When we ended that last blogpost, we were returning from the Bee Walk, excited about seeing honeybees up close (they’re very gentle, especially when they are foraging, you know), along with an assortment of other pollinators and numerous little green frogs. The sunshine helped!

“But where do all these critters usually live? And where will they spend the winter? Or will they just all d-i-e???” I saw a few sad faces in the crowd when I asked this question.

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