Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)


Hello there fellow indie permaculture students! Please tell us a bit about yourself, your experience, and your potential design project. I'll start. I'm 35 and have been on a path of homesteading/sustainable living since I was in high school. I spent two months working on WWOOF farms with my dad in the UK and Ireland when I was 15, which certainly set me on my way ;) Since then I have gardened as much as I could, as well as learned how to live Alaska style-- hunting, fishing, wild foods. I'm a mama of two littles right now, so I don't get as much done as I used to, but I'm trying to look forward anyway. My design project is a double city lot, in a very tiny little coastal Alaskan town. We have lived in this spot for five years and I have already put a ton of work into the yard, which was mostly just a gravel pad to start. I think I'm at a good point to stop and assess, to make a more coherent design. But I'm also interested in a broader sort of 'sustainable lifestyle' design for this incredibly harsh climate. Your turn! Please introduce yourself in a comment below.
Comment by Daniela Kittinger on October 26, 2012 at 12:41am

Hi! I'm new to the permaculture thing. In fact, up until recently, I've had myself pegged as the unfortunate owner of the opposite of a green thumb... whatever that is. Due to a growing confidence in my ability to learn, I picked up Gaia's Garden for the first time last week, and then this group came up- lucky me! Unfortunately, I don't have a good project space right now, but I'm hoping that I can take advantage of this opportunity to learn and just hoard the knowledge away until I'm ready to put it to work. Looking forward to it!

Comment by Sarah Beach on October 26, 2012 at 3:36am

Hello! I've been interested in living more sustainably/self sufficiency/whatever you want to call it for the last few years and always pictured myself somewhere with my veggies, chickens etc. But it always seemed like me in an alternative reality, you know, like other kids (I'm 40) want to be an astronaut. But I bought a lot of books, read a lot of blogs, watched a lot of TV programmes and set up a couple of raised beds and pots in our little suburban garden with varying success (couldn't kill the courgette/zucchini plants if I tried but grossly underestimated the amount of water potatoes in bags needed). A complete life change about 18 months ago led me to quit my corporate job, sell my house and set out to travel around Europe in a motorhome. That trip is now coming to an end and my alternative reality is starting to seem like a real possibility. Time to think and plan and dream and prepare - and then along comes this study group! Perfect for where I am at the moment - no decent project space of my own but time & enthusiasm to commit to learning. And Calamity Jane is behind it, which has to make it worth doing!

Comment by Sarah K. on October 26, 2012 at 12:34pm
Hey y'all! I'm Sarah K. and I'm a married mama with a 3 year old boy, 4 cats and 2 dogs. I am really trying to learn all I can about being self sufficient and consider myself a newbie still. I have a long list of things I want to learn and do but first things first is growing our own food.

Currently we are living in a rental house with a huge front and back yard. The owner said I could put a garden in. I haven't gotten brave enough to ask about chickens yet. I really think this group could help with my garden plans since I am starting from scratch.
Comment by Terri Estey on October 27, 2012 at 6:25am

Hey everyone:  I'm a married mother of two young men (21 & 18), living in the 'burbs of S. California.  We have a small backyard which is presently unusable but is on my project list for the near future.  It needs cleaning up (tons of stuff that doesn't belong there anymore), trash hauled off, gathering up of pine needles about one feet in depth (I kid you not!) a slope that has eroded over the years needs to be rebuilt and needs new soil, a HUGE pine tree has to be cut down and the roots ground up as they have cracked our concrete patio.  Once all that is done, we'll install a new patio plus a pergola and built-in BBQ and then I plan to plant my new slop area with edibles.  I probably will not accomplish all of this during this class--but I'm hoping to get a lot done and complete my plans for my new garden site, as well as learn everything possible on how to grow a garden natures way.  I already have a copy of Gais Garden and have started reading it.  Now to order the Bill Mollison book and begin my design project.  I'm really looking forward to learning and conversing with other eco-conscious, green minded people.  :)

Comment by Terri Estey on October 27, 2012 at 6:27am

That would be slope, not slop.  LOL!

Comment by Rachel Hoff on October 28, 2012 at 10:48pm

I'm 34 and live in the SF Bay Area with my husband and stepson. We live in the city of Vallejo on a .28 acre lot in a small house (750 sf). I learned how to garden when I was just a wee one from my grandfather who grew up as an Iowa farm boy which was instrumental in what I would become later in life.  Today I'm a landscape design consultant and a project manager for a landscape architecture firm. When in college I learned a little bit about permaculture but I definitely wanted to know more. We're also urban farmers with a very large garden and we raise livestock - chickens, turkeys, rabbits, goats, bees. We produce most of what we eat but I'd like to step it up a notch along with creating a more natural environment that creates healthy plants and animals. When we moved into our home it was an almost blank slate, but that was 4 years ago and things have changed a lot (but isn't that always happening?). In the next few years we're looking at becoming full-time, full-scale farmers and I want to implement permaculture and even biodynamics into our farming business.

Comment by heather marie on October 28, 2012 at 11:16pm

Hi!  I'm a stay home mother of one and hopelessly impulsive gardener.  I never plan anything, except maybe in brief flashes while salivating over seed catalogs, imagining that I have 30 times the square footage that I do.  I know CJ from her years in NOLA and I must admit joining this group is partially just an excuse to hang out with her in cyberspace.  But really, I should learn to plan stuff better.  My back yard, in its current incarnation, is a case in point.  I have most recently converted it to a dusty, desolate chicken run with some perennials and trees still hanging on around the edge.  I actually did this on purpose, laying down hay to during the hot, rainy summer months to help kill the grass, thinking it would be nice to start really from scratch.  Whether or not this was a good idea is still entirely up in the air, but there is no turning back now, so I hope I can come up with a really good plan!  I am also going to be working on the design of a friend's newly purchased home lot, mostly the back and side yard.  

Comment by Jannine Cabossel on October 28, 2012 at 11:41pm

I am a Master Gardener in Santa Fe, NM. I have about 1/4 acre in vegetable gardening space plus 10 fruit trees on my property that I've named Rancho de Cabo which has 6.5 acres total. I have taken measurements before but will verify this for the course. I grow giant pumpkins on 3000 sq ft patch, and my vegetable garden is approximately 3400 sq feet where I grow 50 tomato plants for the farmers market where I sell them and grow various other veggies for home use. I grow organically. I also have a cold frame, some raised boxes and hopefully will finish a greenhouse this coming year in time for spring.  I have bees, chickens (for eggs), and goats (as pets). I try to use sustainable methods and share my extra abundance but have never studied Permaculture theory and techniques and am excited to study this and apply it to my land and life. I have a blog about growing vegetables organically at http://giantveggiegardener.com

Comment by Candy Christiansen on October 29, 2012 at 2:00am

Hello :) I am a 35 year old, married mother of 4 (12, 14, 16, & 19) who lives in Eastern Washington. A boots in my roots, Native farm mama I've spent most of my life living sustainably as a matter of practicality. About two years ago a health crisis forced a move into town and while attempting to deal with my culture shock I began looking for ways to integrate the basic principals of our past lifestyle into the daily living practices of our 3rd floor walk up. Our embedded grow or gather perspective highlighted the painfully dependant situation of our new community. All food comes from local chain stores. The nearest community garden is more than 3 miles away, our weekly farmers market 5 miles and open mid week with hours that minimize it's effectiveness in the area. Foraging (a cultural standby for our family) is limited. There are a few edible standards growing naturally but most are located with direct exposure to commuter traffic, making me cautious about them to my family. "Guerilla Gardening" hit my radar last Winter but, while the concept is pleasing with it's defiance, it doesn't really address my neighborhood's need for permanent, independent food sources. The gardening as resistance theology DID spark the idea of filling neglected spaces with the hardy, wild foods natural to our region and here I am! On a practical level permaculture is well suited to the long term goals we are trying to establish in our community and I look forward to further developing my understanding of this method for large scale use.

Comment by Jennifer Thompson on October 29, 2012 at 9:44am

Hi.  I'm a 40 yo sahm.  We've lived on our property (just over 2 acres) in SE Wisconsin for 9 years.  I was a Master Gardener for a couple years when we still lived in the city.  My oldest is 3 and I quit my job (health educator for the military) when he was just a month old.  I thought I would have all the freedom to create my fantasy homestead!!  Duh.  Now with a 3 yo and a 1 yo, I can barely keep this place from falling down around our ears.  So I'm taking on this class to give myself something to focus on a couple hours a week just for myself.  I've got a large raised-bed veggie garden, various berries, a few fruit trees, laying hens, barn cats, and a wonderful husband who loves is dang lawn.  I've got perennial beds which have taken a back-seat to food plots, so they could use some work.  I'm surrounded on 2 sides by conventional farm fields with almost no barrier, which is a bitch.   If you've had to deal with herbicide overspray, you know what I mean.  I'm ordering the book today and looking forward to starting that survey.  I've not done any real reading on permaculture.

Comment by Cornelia on October 29, 2012 at 12:21pm

Hi everyone! First of all, thank you Calamity Jane for starting this group and for your ability to round up a fantastic crowd! Welcome everyone! I already feel so at home with this group, as  I have identified with much of what y'all have shared. I'm 42 and live in a tree-lined borough of Boston with my husband, 13-month-old son and 18-year-old cat. We recently lost our dog, Iris, and I still cry about her absence every day.

Like Heather Marie, I'm an impulsive gardener, but am getting better about planning. I hope that he discipline of this group will help me stay focused. We've been growing on a plot of public land out in front of our building. The soil in this neighborhood is rich with lead and other toxins, so raised beds and containers it is. I built an herb spiral earlier this summer with fantastic results. Would

Another somewhat impulsive planting: An heirloom apple tree that I've espaliered along wires that fence off the street. It hasn't thrived the way I had hoped so that's something I'll be looking to integrate into my plan as well.

love to build a larger spiral for veggie production. A few years ago we visited a biodynamic winery and walked away with a new attitude about growing systems and the magic symphony that is nature. Don't F with nature, and nature will provide the balance needed.

I ordered the book a couple of days ago and have been reading Sepp Holzer's book in the mean time. He's bananas. Looking forward to learning with all you!

I'm also the HOMEGROWN Shepherdess here, which means that I manage this site and can help with any issues - technical to philosophical - you may have with the site. Just drop me a line.


Comment by Larry Snyder on October 29, 2012 at 3:22pm

Hi all

I'm Larry Snyder

I've been in the Nursery/Greenhouse business since I was 9 years old. That makes my experience 50++ years.  I spent my nursery years along the California coast where anything will grow. I now live in Willcox Az. where mesquite is the only thing that grows well. I have been gardening here for about 5 years with some success. But I cheated I hauled truck loads of compost from my last nursery to my backyard & built a raised garden. This worked well for the first 2-3 years but it is not producing like it once did. Compost is very difficult to come by in a area where there is few trees & less saw dust or shavings. I do have access to all the Steer manure I can haul. I have a small city lot of my own. But I have access to all the land I want There are 2 subdivisions in this area that went defunct years ago. I work as a real estate salesman & I'm often time contacted by lawyers of these abandon acres wanting to get rid them to clear an estate.

Comment by Blair Eckman on October 29, 2012 at 5:47pm


I'm Blair, 25, hobby dirt digger.  My real-life job is as a research technician for a private non-profit lab.  I enjoy what I do, but I'd love to get a job somewhere doing agriculture-based science.  Eventually, my plan is to go back to school and get an Ag degree.  

I grew up in my mother's garden and I love planting edibles.  I don't have any acreage of my own to plan, but I'm really looking forward to learning and being able to apply the knowledge I gain elsewhere.  I do, however, have a decent sized space behind my Central Florida condo, so I have some plants, a bunch of herbs, a worm composting system, and a vague plan for a permaculture vegetable bed.  

I have no idea where I'm going to end up, but I do know that where ever it is, I'll have plants.  Some day, my goals are to be relatively self-sufficient, to have a huge edible garden, chickens, ducks/geese, maybe even some aquaculture.  

Comment by Melanie Maroney on October 30, 2012 at 10:05pm

Hey everyone! What a wonderful group of folks! I look forward to learning with you all and joining you in reaching your permaculture dream, whatever it may be.

I'm Melanie, 50 year old single woman in rural upstate New York. My kids are grown and after walking away from a twenty year marriage six years ago, I bought the most beautiful 7-acre piece of property with a dump of a house on it. It's mostly wooded, with a small, overgrown, poison-ivy infested pasture, an old neglected orchard, lots of berries, and a lovely yard with gorgeous antique shrubbery and perennial flower beds. I got a flock of hens and planted a row of peas the first month I moved in.  I am absolutely in love with this place.

I live to garden, even if it's just a bucket of tomatoes some years. I love the planning and the planting, but tend to be neglectful after that. One of my oldest gardening books, "Tips for the Lazy Gardener," taught me the art of mulching and close planting lend themselves nicely to my bad habit. This year the garden measures a sprawling 25'x50'... full of heirloom tomatoes, beans, pumpkins and some small successes with peppers.

Paul Wheaton is the person who introduced me to the concept of  permaculture. Since visiting his website permies.com and listening to his podcasts, I depend less on my rototiller every Spring. I'm interested in diving into Mollison's book (which arrived in the mail today - yay!) and learning how to live WITH my land instead of constantly battling it.

My hope is to retire from my teaching career in five years and live as sustainably and self-sufficiently as possible on this land. The woodlot needs a management plan, some livestock will be introduced, and the orchard and veg gardens will continue to be developed.   A tall order for an aging single woman, I'm determined to make it happen. 

Finally, I live with an energetic Peke/Maltese named Twig, a beautiful chestnut colored Golden Retriever, Savannah, and a big white sponge of a  Great Pyrenees, Timber. Also a calico kitty, Phoenix, who finally learned to hunt! My down time is spent doing many kinds of needle and fiber-arts, most often knitting, drawing, painting, mosaic work, stringing sterling and stone beads to make jewelry,  as well as anti-fracking activist efforts. Unfortunately, if the natural gas industry has its way with our state, I may sell it all and find my dream elsewhere.

Comment by Calamity Jane on October 30, 2012 at 10:54pm
welcome everyone! melanie, i just had to laugh at your comment, "I love the planning and planting, but tend to be neglectful after that" oh my, that's me to a T. I especially like to neglect my careful planning, an irony that is not lost on me. but, yes, i think permaculture is for us. it's all in the inception, with little maintanence, then it's supposed to take care of itself.
Comment by Susan Ortmeyer on October 31, 2012 at 12:52am

Hi, everyone!  I apologize for my late introduction.  I am a 49-year-old stay-at-home mom to a very active 3 1/2 year old girl (yikes!).  My husband and I moved to the mountains just north of Santa Cruz, CA last January.  Prior to that we lived for 20 years in Pasadena in a little condo with no outdoor space except a square foot garden by the dumpster.  Now, we have a house with about 1/3 of an acre of mostly useable land.  The backyard already has two big raised beds, so we dug in and grew a lot of veggies this summer -- a first for me, and very exciting.  I must admit I'm a rather tentative gardener, but it's early days yet.  My husband is a shaman and very into earth spirituality and living in harmony with nature.  We both want to introduce permaculture principles to this space, and I'm eager to learn more and start actually designing.  Our space is interesting, with several different zones and microclimates, from redwoods to open sunny space, to a sloped terrace.  Can't wait to see what comes out of this!

Comment by Kathryn Robles on November 1, 2012 at 4:33am

Hi, sorry I'm late in joining, but I just found this.  I live in Portland, OR with my husband, 3 daughters, 2 cats, 1 dog, 2 goats, and 8 chickens.  We have a 5000 sq ft lot that houses us the animals and garden space wherever I can tuck it in.  For the last four years I've just been adding things little by little but I probably should have a larger design scheme, because I'm hoping to add in more fruit trees, more garden space, fish, ducks, rabbits, silkworms, red wriggler, grey water reuse, solar energy, humanure, and LOTS more plants.  I am also guilty of planting seeds and forgetting about them. I tend to have a black thumb, thus all the animals. : )

Comment by Maggie Pountain on November 1, 2012 at 10:21am


I'm a craftsperson, producing hand knitted and crocheted items to sell in my own small shop. I've lived in a Craft Village, on the North coast of Scotland, for the last 6 years, in what used to be old military buildings. We've got about a quarter of an acre, most of it South-West facing. I've been gardening for years, mainly vegetables and fruit, although I love flowers I tend to only grow useful ones - including lots of dandelions. lol

I've been interested in and flirted with Permaculture for years and bought the Manual a long time ago. But it seems particularly important since moving up here because we have fairly extreme growing conditions - a very short growing season, high winds and lots of rain. We need to work with nature otherwise it is just one constant battle. To that end we have started a forest garden (a la Jacks and Toensmeier), but it is very early stages yet. We've got a small polytunnel (my avatar) which we had to seriously reinforce this year - the skins get shredded by regular 60-80mph winds in the winter, and some raised beds round the back of the house, which is more sheltered.

No livestock (unless you count 2 cats) but I'm trying to persuade my hubby that chickens would be an excellent addition to the family - he's not convinced yet.

Other than that I make just about everything I can manage from scratch - cooking, preserving etc. I'm very much into Nourishing Traditions food.

Comment by Katrina Bruce on November 1, 2012 at 4:10pm

Hello. I live in Kansas City with my husband, two kids, 2 dogs, 5 chickens, and a cat. I had ducks and rabbits at one time as well, but was feeling a little overwhelmed...I took on too much new at once without a plan :) I also work as an architect.


In my spare time I read all things homestead-farmstead-livestock-garden-sufficiency I can get my hands on. I spend much of my day creating plans for other people...and I'm exicted to begin to bring focus to some plans of my own! We have a tiny house with a small yard, and we guerrilla garden on a vacant lot half a block away. We have dreams of one day having an urban farm with a few acres where I can have alpacas, goats, ducks again, rabbits again, bees...etc :) But for now I'm looking forward to exploring how to make the best of where we are in the present. This class sounds like just the ticket.

Comment by Natalie Eslick on November 2, 2012 at 10:42pm

Hi all!

I am a 38 year old work-a-holic who desperately wants to get back to getting my hands in the dirt! I live an hour north of Sydney, Australia, and spent a   lot of years growing a good deal of my own produce in my 20's, but that fell by the wayside 5 years ago when I committed to (too much!) mundane work. The earth is calling me though, and with a landlord that is happy for me to garden my heart out, I intend on utilising as much of Mr Mollison's knowledge as is practical for my site. And oh, one day, when I have my own many acres, what a joy it will be!

I have two chickens, four cats and a cockatiel  and an ever growing diversity of native birds (and even a fruit bat this year!) I have encouraged through native planting in the yard. I am so looking forward to taking this journey with you all!


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