Sustainable living in Southern California.
Sustainable living in Southern California.
Our mission is to bring humans into balance with nature by following and teaching an ethical design system that mimics nature’s positive forces in a way that is aesthetically pleasing while also functional, productive, and restorative to our planet.
Named for their shape and initial popularity in Africa, African Keyhole Gardens hold moisture and nutrients with the help of an active compost pile in the center of the bed. This creates ideal growing conditions for plants that otherwise do not do well in a dry, hot climate.
Swales are one of the ways we combat erosion here in Southern California. They are water-harvesting ditches designed to slow water so it infiltrates the surrounding area. Our swales are instrumental in restoring our hillsides, growing our trees and plants, and we have them to thank for our incredible produce.
Banana circles have many functions in permaculture, including: the production of biomass and delicious bananas, a place for a large compost pile, greywater (an outlet for sink water to go to), habitat for wildlife, and it even creates its own tropical microclimate.
Food forests are low-maintenance, regenerative food systems–in other words, once we have developed our food forest, the land will feed us without much input on our end. What's not to love?
The concept of a food forest is based upon the idea that in order to make the most of resources (ie. soil, water, sunlight), our designs should imitate those of nature. As shown in the diagram below, food forests are made up of eight main layers: the canopy, the small tree layer, the shrub layer, the herb layer, the rood layer, the ground cover layer, the vine layer, and the fungi layer.
We have now been working on our land for about one year, and while it will be years before we have a fully developed food forest, we are already enjoying hundreds of different varieties of produce (fruits, vegetables, spices, edible flowers) from our plants alone. Establishing a food forest may take a long time, but it pays off almost immediately after you begin the process.
Goats often get a bad rap. You are not alone if the adjectives "noisy," "smelly," and "hungry" come to mind when you think about goats. What people don't often realize is that goats are loyal, loving, intelligent, and practical if you practice permaculture or love to go backpacking. Goats are able to travel over all sorts of terrain and can easily carry up to 20-30% of their weight in gear. Herds of goats have been used by cities to clear unwanted plants, and goat milk is incredibly nutritious and versatile. Our goats are all males, so milking isn't a part of our daily routine, but we use goat droppings to make the earth we plant in richer, and have many backpacking trips planned for when our boys are mature enough for some grand adventures!
Gordon is a 250 lbs. Oberhasli from San Diego, CA. Often nuzzling your ears or nibbling on any strings that dangle from your clothes, Gordon is by far our most affectionate goat. He wants your hands to pet his soft fur, and he craves the brush bristles stoking his muzzle. He is also the leader of the herd. The need to dominate and stand ahead of the other goats means Gordon doesn’t always take treats, he head butts the other goats if they get too much attention, and he sometimes acts like an idiot just to be number one. Despite his ego, Gordon is a favorite among everyone who has the chance to meet this gentle giant.
Doug is an Alpine Dairy goat who was born in Moab, Utah. He came from a prized goat cheese farm and was bottle fed with his brother Burt. Unfortunately Burt passed away after a freak overeating accident (he binged on some chicken feed that he broke into), but Doug instead accepted Gordon and Riker as his new brothers. Doug is our youngest, and he loves to be walked and brushed. He is especially proud to display his long beard and his little curl that frames his sweet face. We may just have to have a day of silence when he matures and loses his glorious beard and Alfalfa-like curl.
Sweet and shy, Riker (also an Oberhasli) is Gordon’s brother, and he’s the underdog. Some call him Riker and some call him River. He is very affectionate, but often afraid to show it for fear that Gordon will become jealous. But when he gets to stare you in the eyes, his head often melts into your hands. He deeply enjoys to have a full body brushing, and when we walk him he sometimes hops around like a pony. He also has the most pitiful sounding bellow if something isn’t right. His often unfounded distress cry can be almost always be soothed with a nice piece of rainbow chard.
Five egg-laying hens are residents on the farm. Our gals are Ameraucanas and Copper Marans. We use our chickens primarily for their eggs, but chickens serve many other purposes in permaculture. Some of our favorite educational materials about chickens in permaculture are from Bill Mollison's book "The Permaculture Designer's Manual". Below is a diagram from the book that we love.
We just recently added four ducklings to our family here in Fallbrook. It was a unanimous decision that we had to have black and white ducks to match our black and white dogs and cat. That being said, three of the four ducklings are Swedish Ducks who will grow up to be black and white in color. The fourth duckling is the odd man out–he is a Pekin Duck who will grow up to be all white. In permaculture, the saying is if you have too many slugs or snails on your property, you have too few ducks. After collecting hundreds of snails that were munching away at our citrus trees, we decided it was time to bring these little guys home.
There are many different benefits to owning ducks as a permaculturist. Not only are ducks incredible for pest control, but they also provide onsite manure, can be kept in the same coop as chickens, tend to have fewer health problems than chickens, and due to their flocking instincts, they are easily herded from pen to pen. While they are fantastic foragers, they do not have a habit of tearing apart your land as chickens sometimes do. Best of all, they lay eggs that are known to surpass those of chickens in both quantity and size.
Hungry ducklings and a seemingly endless supply of snails, of course, means lots of duck droppings. In order to avoid very frequent, messy clean ups, we will have to invest in developing a good sized pond. We are in the process of gaining as much knowledge as possible about "quaquaponics" so we can create a hygienic and sustainable pond that allows the duck droppings to act as fertilizer for the aquatic plants, which then turn into duck food. All in all, we're very excited about our new additions!