Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 Retrospective, 2022 Prospective

2021 Retrospective

I'm really grateful for Charlie's and Lucy's help this year, and for the opportunity to watch and participate in their projects on site.  We have more than ever to "show and tell" at the end of 2021.  And I think we've also made lots of "productive mistakes" (the kind we can learn from).

We had opportunities apply new (to us, anyway) gardening methods1,2 in Lucy's new garden bed, Charlie's grow boxes, and in managing the banana patch and the walking labyrinth.

We learned more3,4 about creating and managing food forests, and applied that knowledge to recondition our second food forest area, create a third food forest area, experiment with annuals under the canopy of our first food forest area, and plant culinary herbs at the south edges of food forest areas.

We experimented with low water use irrigation methods5, including ollas and wicks.

We practiced some new methods for cycling nutrients, including the Johnson-Su bioreactor, windrow composting, static composting, and home-grown plant-based liquid fertilizer6.

We added other physical elements to the site, including expanded irrigation, arbors, outdoor sitting areas, a temporary chicken pen I'm using as you would a chicken tractor, and as usual, more trees.

In addition to the physical elements we've added to the site, we've made progress this year on some non-physical assets, including a site design upgrade, seasonal surveys to record the seasonal state of the plants every 10 days, and I've been informally studying7,8 what I suppose you could call "complementary economics" (economic systems that can be embedded as a complement within the standard economy).

2022 Prospective

Some things I'm looking forward to in 2022 are expanding the food forest, fertilizing our plants with local and resident nutrients, growing trees and bushes from cuttings, foresting the labyrinth, gardening around one of the olives, hay mulching, creating a kitchen garden in the northwest, and possible experimenting with ponds.

- Jason

Throwback - Five Years Ago

Here are some before / after photos from the east side of the site.  The "before" photos on the left are from Oct 2016; the "after" photos are from Dec 2021 (also, there's an updated video tour).


1.  Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty, No Dig Organic Home & Garden (Hampshire: Permanent Publications, 2017)

2. Ruth Stout, Gardening Without Work (Battleboro: Echo Point Books & Media, LLC, 1961)

3. Martin Crawford, Creating a Forest Garden (Cambridge: Green Books, Ltd, 2010)

4. Patrick Whitefield, How To Make A Forest Garden (Hampshire: Permanent Publications, 2002)

5. David A. Bainbridge, Gardening With Less Water (North Adams: Storey Publishing, 2015)

6. Leopold Stocker Verlag, Sepp Holzer's Permaculture (White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004)

7. Bernard Lietar and Jacqui Dunne, Rethinking Money (San Francisco: Berret-Koeler Publishers, Inc, 2013)

8. Marjorie Kelly and Ted Howard, The Making of a Democratic Economy (Oakland: Berret-Koeler Publishers, Inc, 2019)

Thursday, March 11, 2021

2020 Retrospective, 2021 Prospective

 2020 Retrospective

2020 was full of milestones that signify growth in all of the literal and figurative gardens discussed in Tending Over Owning - Example of Four Gardens.

When a vacancy opened up in late 2019, I decided to look specifically for a resident whose demonstrated passion and purposes align with what I'm doing and learning at Sage Garden.  I found that in my friend Charlie, and I'm really grateful he's here.  His attitude and work have helped transform the tangible landscape, and the process of finding and co-creating with a more involved resident has taught me a lot about the how and the why of socially regenerative practices for multifamily sites.

Charlie dug infiltration trenches early in 2020, which put to use much of the gravel that once covered the yard (now replaced by wood chip mulch) and direct rainwater to our largest trees.  In the center of the picture to the right, you can see the end of an infiltration trench that winds past a mesquite, pines, a live oak, a host of new trees in the second food forest area, a guamuchil, an olive, an Arizona walnut, and a desert willow.

In spring, we finished a chicken house and moved in chickens, which provide a multitude of functions in a permaculture site like ours, like fertilizer, an option for site prep and pest control, eggs, and entertainment.

Charlie created a new garden bed outside his door, where he grows many varieties of hot peppers, onions, greens, roots, and other veggies.  He even cultivated purslane and created a website to chronicle the experience and share ideas with other gardeners around the world:

We erected a grape trellis over our clothesline, which gave the grapes more room to spread and fruit, and reclaimed space to hang clothes.

Through research1,2,3 and direct experience with the
second food forest
area, we continue to learn 1) how to apply food forest methods from other climates to our arid region, 2) which patterns to modify for our climate and how, and 3) how to maximize the benefits of the food forest approach.

In mid-2020 I started informally studying soil microbiology, found many helpful videos with Dr Elaine Ingham and instructors mentored by her, bought a microscope, and now I'm teaching myself how to assess and improve our soil microbiology for increased yield, decreased water use, and improved ecosystem resilience.

We held small-scale, socially-distanced olive harvest events and learned some things about sharing live video.

We learned some new organic gardening practices: creating, charging, and applying biochar; and brewing, assessing, and applying compost tea and compost extract.

We developed a resident interview process that incorporates ideas from collaborative design4, lessons from intentional communities5, consensus-oriented decision-making6, presencing7, generative power8, and some home-grown ideas from our philosophy garden (such as this-or-better agreements).  When another vacancy opened at the end of 2020, this process helped us connect with many really well-aligned candidates and mutually select the right one - Lucy - from about 100 respondents.

We also rehabilitated our walking labyrinth, transplanted several prickly pear cacti, and of course planted trees: desert willows, a lime, a second avocado, a second guamuchil, and a guava.

2021 Prospective

We've already started in on our list for 2021, which includes a new Sage Garden Ecovillas sign, improving our soil microbiology, Lucy's new garden bed, a small-scale Johnson-Su bioreactor, a third food forest area experimenting with some new practices, underplanting our forest with veggies, upgrading irrigation zones, Charlie's getting his Master Gardener certificate which might involve some on-site projects, and of course planting trees.

- Jason


1. Andrew Mefferd, The Organic No-till Farming Revolution: High-production Methods for Small-scale Farmers (Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2019)

2. David Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, Edible Forest Gardens, vols. 1, 2 (White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2005)

3. Masanobu Fukuoka, The Natural Way of Farming: The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy (Madras: Bookventure, 1985)

4. Ezio Manzini, Design, When Everybody Designs (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2015)

5. Diana Leafe Christian, Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities (Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2003)

6. Tim Hartnett, Consensus-Oriented Decision-Making (Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2010)

7. C. Otto Scharmer, Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges (Oakland: Berrett-Koeler Publishers, Inc, 2009)

8. Adam Kahane, Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change (San Francisco: Berrett-Koeler Publishers, Inc, 2010)