Category Archives: Permaculture

A Food Forest Emerging in Augusta #Maine

Site of the future food forest at Viles Arboretum

On a hot summer day in 2016, Shana Hostetter (the Hub’s lead designer), Dan Schenk (one of our Advanced PDC grads) and I strolled a grassy savannah-like area of Viles Arboretum in Augusta, Maine.  Dotted with sculpture and surrounded by some lovely specimen trees, the south-facing “bowl” we toured seemed ideal for one of Viles’ new projects:  a food forest!

Tracy Weber, a Viles Volunteer trained in permaculture design, and Mark Desmeules, Viles Executive Director, shared some of their thinking with us:

“The Viles Arboretum wants to inspire people with the possibilities of local sustainable food production, educate our community about how it can be done and then encourage people to replicate this system in their yards and in public spaces. We aim to show that providing food for ourselves does not have to and should not deprive other living things of food and shelter. The Viles Arboretum has a reputation as a destination for learning, respite and connection with the outdoors. This, along with its history as a farm, makes it an ideal location for this project.

The Food & Forest Project will begin as a 1 acre demonstration plot designed with permaculture principles to integrate trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals into a food ‘forest’. Permaculture is a system of design that takes into account the whole ecosystem when designing for food production by harnessing the assets of a landscape such as aspect, topography and water. This permaculture plot will serve as the site of and jumping off point for numerous community collaborations and educational opportunities. We envision a fenced in plot for annual vegetables and additional community garden plots. There will be berry production and an expanded orchard managed organically. A food “forest” of edible shrubs and trees such as walnuts, persimmons, hazelnuts, blueberries and elderberries will provide food for people, pollinators and other wildlife.”

In addition to this great vision from Tracy and Mark, other members of the region’s agriculture, permaculture and “sustainability” community have been involved, including Mid-Maine Permaculture group members and many of our own PDC grads.

The Resilience Hub, having been engaged to help with the design of the site, suggested doing as much awareness-raising and “participatory design” as possible, because our experience suggests that these activities not only strengthen the quality of the resulting design as well as help interested community-members get involved early on.

First draft concept sketch for the food forest at Viles Arboretum

Last week nearly fifty people turned up at Viles for a viewing of INHABIT: A Permaculture Perspective and to hear a little bit about the project.  The first draft of the food forest design was on display as well!  The Resilience Hub is currently incorporating feedback and working on the final drawings to be delivered in a couple of weeks.

If you would like to get involved in this project at Viles Arboretum in Augusta, Maine, contact us and we would be happy to connect you with Tracy or Mark.  First stages of the install are on deck for this year!

Lisa Fernandes, Resilience Hub Founder

Call for Permaculture Site Visit Hosts & Events for #Maine #Permaculture Day! (August 20th)

Different states and areas around the Northeast region have been developing more local or “sub-regional” permaculture gatherings and events over the past few years.  A pattern is emerging that would have these sub-regional efforts alternate with the return of our larger Northeast Regional Permaculture Convergences (which are likely to come back in some new incarnation in 2017).

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New Hampshire has been successful at running the annual NH Permaculture Day for several years now.  The Finger Lakes area of NY has seen the emergence of various tours and events.  In Vermont, a more music-and-permaculture oriented festival took place last year.  That brings us to….

2016 Maine Permaculture Day

This year here in Maine we are encouraging permaculture designers, practitioners, farmers and activists to open their doors (literal or proverbial) on Saturday, August 20th to help make permaculture work more visible and accessible in its many varied forms.

How can you participate?

  1. Host an “Open House” at your site (suggested open times for that day are 9:00 am to 2:00 pm).  Your site doesn’t need to be picture-perfect, just demonstrate how you are working with permaculture design, principles and techniques…even if you consider your place a work in progress.  You don’t need to give guided tours during the open house unless you want to.  Just being present to chat and answer questions could be completely adequate.  Feel free to have business cards and literature handy to tell about the work you do, if applicable.
  2. bef & aft- front 2Host a work party or permablitz.
  3. Organize a workshop or skillshare.
  4. Hold a screening of Inhabit or another permaculture or regenerative ag/design film.
  5. Have a party or a tasting of the items coming out of your permaculture system in August.
  6. Attend any and all of the above events!  We will publish the list of open houses and events the week before 2016 Maine Permaculture Day!  Don’t forget to RSVP on our meetup site!

Use this form to register your open house, event or other offering!

This year is an experiment in offering things in a decentralized, volunteer-based way that doesn’t require much in the way of organizing capacity.  But as a permaculture community here in Maine, we may want to build on this in future years!  Thinking back to the amazing energy of the regional convergences we’ve hosted in Maine (2010 and 2014), I could see something even more exciting emerge!

 

#Permaculture Lending Library Coming to The #Resilience Hub in March!

Many of you have gotten a taste of our permaculture library over the years while attending permaculture workshops and events.  Some of you have even helped schlep our “traveling library” in and out of our teaching spaces in our now-infamous blue cargo boxes!

Well, we have finally taken the leap of cataloguing our growing collection (major shouts to LibraryThing.com of Portland, Maine by the way!), getting glass-fronted library cupboards for our office and will soon be setting up our “open library hours” down at The Resilience Hub on Anderson Street.

ResilienceHub s books LibraryThing

The library (not fully loaded into the system yet) contains more than two hundred titles – books, periodicals and DVDs – on everything permaculture, regenerative agriculture, food forestry, green and natural building and renewable energy.  Want to research plants for your own property or farm?  Thinking about building a cob oven?  You’ll be able to come on down to the Hub and use our resources to help your planning.  We will probably pair those library hours with some “Ask a Permaculture Expert” clinics and pop-up cafe events as well!  Our library cupboards will be on wheels, so we won’t rule out rolling these things into the parking lot when the weather is good.

Check back for more details soon but, in the meantime, you can track our growing catalog online anytime!

Unitarian Universalist Church Exceeds Fund Raising Goal to Implement #Permaculture Plan

File_000 (1)My son and and I enjoyed a great service at the Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church (“A2U2”) in Portland, Maine last Sunday (our first service there even though we’ve visited the church for other reasons many times). But despite how fabulous the sermon by Rev. Myke Johnson on laughter yoga, that was not our reason for attending!

File_000A couple of years ago The Resilience Hub was engaged by A2U2 to help convene a participatory permaculture design process with their congregation. The 70s-era church sits on a seven-acre site a few miles from downtown Portland and really wanted to make the best use of their property while also really living into their mission to “walk lightly on the earth.”

Over several months, (along with their Environment Committee) we convened awareness-raising events like permaculture movie nights, field trips to permaculture sites and a custom “Intro to Permaculture Design Short Course.” Further to that we did site assessment and analysis. Meanwhile surveys, interviews and interactive display boards engaged even more members of the church. It turned out to be one of the more “participatory” initiatives ever carried out by the church and resulted in a Draft Concept sketch and a motivated set of teams researching feasibility and budgets for different design elements to take to an all-church vote.

photoBack to this past Sunday’s celebration…  A2U2 recently completed their Capital Campaign, which had set a goal of raising $215,000 toward the implementation of the top-priority components of their permaculture plan (more on this later).  They were overjoyed to report that pledges not only met, but fully exceeded, this goal.  Now the real work begins!

I look forward to following their progress and collaborating whenever possible.  Multi-stakeholder design (churches, schools, business campuses, etc.) is a very special category of the professional permaculture world – one that takes more time and energy than most residential or farm designs.  But the results are critical:  without good process (i.e. “social permaculture”),  we jeopardize our ability to implement even the best permaculture design of physical spaces.

We will post more as this project unfolds!

LisaF, The Resilience Hub

Fox Field Food Forest November Update

FFFFlogo4.8We are pleased to report that we are making steady progress on the Fox Field Food Forest Project and the primary ADA compliant pathway will be installed starting during Thanksgiving week.  We will also get an “information kiosk” up to explain what is happening, since these initial steps might be confusing to someone who doesn’t know about the whole project!

Background: For those new to the project, the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization (EBNO) received funding in early 2014 to design and install a neighborhood food forest in keeping with increased urban agriculture happening around the city and to kick off the theme of “Edible East Bayside” (embedding food in the landscape in a variety of ways).  The City, The Resilience Hub and staff from Wright-Pierce have been working with EBNO all along the way.  It took some time to find the right spot (the eastern corner of Fox Field) and then more time to involve as many of the neighbors and neighborhood groups as possible.  And there’s always more of that to do!  But we have been committed to as robust of a participatory design of the Fox Field Food Forest as possible.

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Design session with the kids at Mayo Street this summer

Highlights of our current status:

  • Thorough soil testing was done and the site was found to be quite clean, with no remediation needed.
  •  First DRAFT drawing (FFFF ConceptualPlan 8.21), based on neighborhood design sessions, has been created
  • Primary path and explanatory kiosk going in now
  • This winter we will circle back with neighborhood groups for feedback on the DRAFT design
  • Working with the City to develop the stewardship and maintenance plan
  • Will create the final drawings at the end of winter
  • Doing some additional fund-raising to install Phase 2 of the Food Forest in the 2nd half of 2016
  • Start the installation of the rest of the Food Forest in the spring with neighborhood work parties, permablitzes and more!
  • So far involved parties have included EBNO (residents & businesses), Resilience Hub, Wright-Pierce, City of Portland, Root Cellar, Mayo Street, Portland Police Dept, Parks Commission, Study Center in Kennedy Park, Portland Housing Authority and some early conversations with the Muslim Community Center.  More of all of this to come….

Watch for more updates and the formation of a neighborhood stewardship team to help ensure maximum use and care of one of our new neighborhood assets!

Great old photo for perspective on the area.  Our site never had buildings on it, just playing fields.
Great old photo for perspective on the area. Our site never had buildings on it, just playing fields.

Fox Field Food Forest:  It’s more than just a garden!  It will be a convening place with edible landscaping, learning and playing opportunities, a social space, an oasis of ecological health and beauty in East Bayside for all to enjoy!

Permaculture Site Consultations Anyone?

vert_angle_deg=-3.4 / horiz_angle_deg=-3.1There are five of us working at The Resilience Hub now, designing, teaching, organizing, etc. And with so many awesome designers around, I personally don’t get out to as many client consults as I used to.  But I do love doing it and keeping my hand in.  So today I had a fabulous treat of being able to get out on a gorgeous fall sunny day in Maine to walk around a client/friend/student’s property and brainstorm design ideas for her place. Without saying as much, we talked zones, sector influences, stacking functions, perennial edible ecosystems, rainwater collection, relative location and more.

It sure is a joy to have design conversations with “clients” who have already gone through a robust permaculture awareness-raising process! It makes the design work so much more cooperative and enjoyable for all.  The client receives a substantial list of written recommendations and ideas at the end of the consult and the designer gains more experience applying the permaculture ethics and principles to another unique landscape.

Who do you know that needs a two-hour design consult before the snow flies?

Designfully,

Lisa

A New Crop of PDC Grads

Bounce_Blog_LogoI experience such elation seeing a new group of folks accomplish all that is set before them in a permaculture design course.  Over a six-month period, two dozen incredible people ranging from their 20s to their 70s bonded, learned, camped, ate, laughed, experienced so much.  I hope that what transpired for them will linger and last in many ways.  I know it does for me.

Eat the Suburbs! A 1/3 Acre Permaculture Case Study

I recently attended the 8th Annual Northeast Permaculture Convergence at the Soule Homestead in Middleboro Massachusetts.  Beyond being a great gathering of permaculturists old and new from around our bioregion, the event afforded our community an opportunity to share approaches and ideas for how permaculture can be employed across our region.  A huge thanks to the organizing team who made this great event happen.

For my part, I contributed a session on how the implementation of permaculture has been playing out on our 1/3 acre home site about three miles from downtown Portland, Maine.  About fifty people jammed into the barn at Soule and heard the story of what we’re doing here (punctuated with a bit of commentary from the sheep stalls!).

I look forward to writing this up as a full slide deck, perhaps with narration (since much of the presentation was my talk accompanying the images), but for the time being, here are the two slide sets per request of the audience at the Convergence:  one with the background talking points and the other is just the straight-up images.  (These are kinda large .pdf files so be patient.)

My husband and I recently figured out that we’re doing somewhere between 150 – 200 hours per year of unplanned tours for folks who drop by.  We love doing it and sharing what’s happening here, but we’re also thinking about scheduling some standing “open days” to try to funnel some visitors into a bit fewer slots if possible.  Then we might be able to finish implementing our design a little faster:)

The Ultimate Bomb-Proof Urban Composter

Many of you are wondering how to compost food waste in the city (or any urban, suburban or similar area where space comes at a premium and neighbors are almost in your back pocket).  You may be concerned that, even if you do find space to compost, odors, bugs and other bigger, badder pests will crash your composting party – and perhaps your neighbor or landlord relations!  Nothing dampens compost enthusiasm like a pile or heap “gone bad.”   Alas, it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ve been teaching composting since the early 90s when my partner and I became a Master Composters in Washington State and our city made composting education mandatory in order to take advantage of the “free” and very subsidized compost bin deals.  I’ve worked with dozens of bin designs over the years and what I’m proposing here is my Ultimate Bomb-Proof Urban Composter.  It is pest-resistant (I’ve never known a rat to chew into this, but I haven’t met ratzilla yet), discrete and affordable (maybe free).  I’ve actually never tried to destroy it with a bomb; maybe I need a new name.  Nevertheless, here it is:

  1. Get a galvanized metal trashcan with a lid.
  2. Drill 1/2″ holes all over the lower half of the can, including the bottom.  The holes can be 4-5″ apart or even a bit tighter if desired and you have well-drained soil.    Optional:   Drill two 1″ holes just below the rim of the lid and cover with no-see-um mesh from the inside to allow additional ventilation w/out bugs being able to get in.  If you’re super bug-phobic, you may also want to gasket the lid for a tighter fit.
  3. Bury the can in the ground just deep enough that the holes are underground and not visible.  Pick a location that a) you are likely to actually use and can easily get to with a bucket of kitchen scraps, b) is well-drained and not in a wet spot and c) matches your aesthetic needs to either hide your composting activities behind a shrub or fly your compost flag by prominent placement (your choice).
  4. Make sure soil is filled in all around the buried portion of the can.  You can even plant something interesting around it.
  5. Deposit food scraps into the can whenever your kitchen container is full, covering each “dump” with some dry, carbonaceous material like sawdust, wood chips, dry leaves, etc.  (keep some stockpiled nearby).  Do NOT “dump and run” without covering the fresh material.  The water content in the food waste should be enough moisture to keep the process going.
  6. Secure the lid with bungee cords to keep raccoons and curious kids out.
  7. Compost happens.
  8. Every 2-3 years “rest the bin” for a few weeks, remove the contents (or dump back in the hole when you pull out the bin), and move the bin to a new spot and start again.  The spot you’ve just vacated is perfect for planting a tree or shrub – super fertile!  The 2-3 years figure is based on a household of 2-3 vegetarians or 3-4 omnivores (the latter not putting meat/animal products into the bin).

What this is not:

This is not a system for creating large amounts of finished compost product; it’s just a way to manage your food waste sanely rather than sending it to the landfill or incinerator.

This is not a system for composting “yard waste” like grass clippings, branches, etc.  That would require a different setup which you can certainly do side-by-side with this if you want to make your whole composting operation less attractive to animal pests.

Enjoy!