As Permaculture has been integrated fully into my career and life, the breadth of projects I have actively participated in has ranged across five
continents and a myriad of contexts and focuses. It all started with an eight week permaculture and ecovillage design course back in 2005 in Oregon, USA, which was preceded by years of study concluding in an Associates Degree in Fish and Wildlife Management (2004). It has been an epic odyssey and quite rewarding and demanding at the same time. Luckily, as well, I have been able to do on and off management at my families land/forest in Kentucky, USA since 2001 giving me a quite extended opportunity to receive feedback from my ecology work there. Thus my angle of permaculture could be seen as an agroecology approach. Below is a diverse list of some project examples under a relevant heading whilst knowing that everything is connected-i.e. water to soil projects.
Trained as both a Permaculture Designer and Fish and Wildlife Manager, Doug has extensive knowledge surrounding landscape planning and food production systems. This regenerative design and implementation work spans the globe ranging in contexts and climates including tropical agro-forestry, Mediterranean organic gardening, and temperate suburban edible landscaping. To facilitate this work he founded TreeYo Permaculture thus building off his other formal training in small business management. Incorporating this knowledge and experience into sustainability educational programming has now become Doug’s main focus as he continues his ecological design and holistic development in various ecosystems.
My career, like my life, in permaculture began in water, when I was hired to refine the aquaculture system at a permaculture and biodynamic farm in Costa Rica in 2005. For this experience, I drew from my technical college training in Fish and Wildlife Management, which was a great degree as a lead in to permaculture. There I designed a plan for a productive, low-input aquaculture system centered around a polyculture of ducks, tilapia, local crayfish and aquatic plants.
Furthermore, my work in tropical Malaysia (2009) allowed me to revisit tilapia aquaculture and increase my plant knowledge within these systems due to the high demand for water-based food production in Asia. Consultancy for aquaculture continues to be one of my specialties. Below is a system that I consulted on in Arkansas (2009) that resulted in improved water quality, food production, and a greater infusion of dissolved oxygen. Also I have always been involved in my families business in Kentucky, USA and have planted edible aquatics along the edge as well as increasing fish habitat with structure (edge).
Wetlands Restoration/ Chinampas
Creating Edge based water projects have always been one of my main expressions of the art that is Permaculture. In Panama in 2005, I observed the chinampa systems, which brilliantly showed their enhanced ecosystem yields and were especially inspirational. Since then I have been dedicated to ditch-and-mound, chinampa-style thinking when appropriate. I quickly put this practice into the field doing wetlands restoration in New Zealand (2006), which quickly transformed the problem of excess water into a valuable and functional resource by growing aquatic plants for fertilizer and mulch for crops.
Water Harvesting/ Earthworks:
In the gardens that we manifest together, I like to create opportunities for water to soak into the Earth through regenerative earthworks. Examples of this include swales, terraces, sunken and raised beds, pit gardens, and rain gardens. The list is long but we have facilitated the digging process with humans and/or earth moving machinery in Malaysia, Singapore, Dominican Republic, Argentina, India, USA, Bulgaria, Spain, and Portugal. The largest hand dug one is in Ohio, USA which totaled 100 ft long (30 m) and 9 ft (3 m) wide in my families suburban lot. This mound now doubles as the planting bed for a mixed species food forestry plot. To see a video about another one of Doug’s swale projects at Escola da Terra in Portugal (2009) during and after a PDC check out the following link: http://vimeo.com/11942953
This is a common theme in my work as completing the hydrological cycle is something I am very passionate about. I love teaching the subject but combining growing space with water harvesting is a fun pallet to paint.
Tree Crops/ Food Forests
The care, maintenance, and planting of tree crops is also one of my passions. Seeing the bounty from a more permanent agriculture, I have taken on planting food forests as a way to provide food security to a struggling global population. One of these initiatives was planting the seven-layer system of forest gardening in a subtropical and temperate mix. Through careful observation and detailed documentation, we were able to grow avocados next to currants and elderberries at the Northern edge of the South Island in New Zealand (2007). Using specific micro-climate techniques, this food forest really pushed the limits with planting quite far down the hillside where avocado’s would normally die. Fortunately I have been able to work in this exact same microclimate in California (2008), and continually from 2009 to present in coastal Portugal with the folks of Escola da Terra and Terra Alta. We have extensive food forests at the latter site, which is developing the Mediterranean site into a more subtropical one. Another system that I have been developing is the Parkwalk Permaculture Project’s in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, edible landscaping with over 40 perennial edible food crops (2005-present). It won’t be a full on food forest but it will mock this style while blending with the neighboring community landscaping. This allows for this planting strategy to reach the suburbs in a more traditional form yet edible.
Forest Management and Wildlife Enhancement
Building off my degree in Fish and Wildlife Management, much of my work in Permaculture also includes managing forests with most of it being in the eastern deciduous forest ecosystem at my families land in Kentucky, USA (2001-present). This mainly has been in the form of augmenting the forest structure and density for wildlife habitat enhancement. Often this involves altering the canopy and sub canopy layers so the shrub layer can come through and produce fruits. Also I work a lot with invasive species and see them as helpers rather than something indeed to rid the forest of. Often they are my mulch plants for the forest tree crops yet leave little patches of them to perform their ecosystem functions. Furthermore, I do much of this work with hands tools as managing succession without fossil fuels allows for an appropriate scale of management. Finally, I encourage wildlife because it is also a viable calorie source and more sustainable in the long term than domestic livestock.
I love making compost piles, it’s that simple! Whether they are hot or cold or in a worm bin, I love interacting with organic material knowing that alchemically one day it will be transformed into something else. From there, I love to take finished compost and dunk it into harvested rainwater through a fabric screen to make a compost extract. I then spin it into a vortex and fling it out with branches or grasses. I try and do this after any earthwork I do and like to repair soil in general in this way. I like to look at it under the microscope but think I have the pattern figured out enough to not rely on that. Furthermore, I enjoy implementing a range of techniques in the field like sheet mulching, chopping and dropping nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators, and being a recycler of carbon of all sorts. For broad-scale design and regenerative agriculture a great pattern of development and soil is the combination of Keyline Design, Compost Tea, and Holistic Management; all topics i love.
Natural building projects have also been a focus of my Permaculture journey from time to time. From cob to papercrete, I have dabbled in several techniques. Two of my long-term projects were a bamboo meditation hut with thatch roofing in New Zealand (2006), and a renovation of a rustic cabin in California (2008) using light earth or light clay straw. Both projects were great learning opportunities and yielded success in many ways. More recently I followed Kiko Denzer’s advice in building a cob oven within a greater outdoor cooking/ social space. The cob oven project was completed at Crouch’s Treasure Lake in Petersburg, KY, 2012. This continued with building a social space area with a bench and also extending the cooking space with a rocket stove, grill, counter and storage area (2013, 2014).
I currently teach design courses, advanced courses, and short courses focusing my energy always on refining the facilitation process. I believe we need to train millions of people in regenerative agriculture and alter our paradigm of competition. This is only possible with an increased environmental and community literacy. Thus I love to teach and even worked a bit with children in the Dominican Republic to help facilitate this process with the local youth (2013). Furthermore, the refinement of the PDC schedule is a never-ending process, which in reality is a design process of its own. Always finding ways to teach the material in a more interactive and creative way is the approach we take. Consequently, I create educational material including slides, write articles, and am developing the whole PDC in a multi-media format. It is a long project that was launched in 2010 and can be seen at our sister Web site: TreeYo EDU.
Starting in 2009 after the Carbon Farming Course and a link with an old friend and teacher of mine from my PDC at Lost Valley, Marisha Auerbach, I found myself in the fortunate position of being a University teacher under the age of 30 years. The University was Maharishi University of Management, which was one of the pioneers of Sustainable Living degree programs in the states. Fellow colleague, who I taught with in all of the four courses that I taught there, Lonnie Gamble, was the architect of the degree program and a permaculturist. Thus he said this four year degree program was a direct reflection of PDC but elongated and given focus on different tracks. Thus I was given the opportunity to facilitate the opening course of the degree program, which was the PDC. This unique opportunity allowed me to give reading and writing assignments, quizzes, and grading the design project. This was a three and half week time frame under the block schedule and had meditation integrated into the schedule as Transcendental meditation is the backbone of the University. Uniquely the opportunity gave me the chance to see the students develop as I would revisit every six months. I also got a chance to work with others like Dr. Elaine Ingham (teaching assistant, 2011) and Scott Pittman of permaculture.org who I eventually got my diploma from. It was a great experience and I cherish the opportunity to teach at this level again.
Design and Media
I love to design gardens to have both beauty and function, form and aesthetic, production and art. I like to create spaces for people to be, healing sanctuaries that create abundance and biodiversity. It requires a holistic design incorporating always the human element. Thus I design with Powerpoint as a way to incorporate these basic ideas into slideshows for clients and students. With that I am interested in creating media for our innate need for new information. Movies, blogs, and articles featuring my computer aided drawings are always fun. And that is mostly what my projects in life are about, having fun through basically doing what I have been doing my whole life- playing with nature, my best friend. I do what is called pattern based design and bring detail to certain elements there eon the computer as well. However i prefer to get out in the field, being hired by the client, to really implement the details there. I find it to be a good balance of time on the computer and time in the field.
Small Business Management
In 2012, I finished my Bachelors degree in Applied Management: Small Business Management Track. While not a green program per se, the online format gave me plenty of room for expression and nearly every assignment was geared to learning about sustainability issues on numerous levels. This awarded me time and space to give attention to the entrepreneurial side of TreeYo and my aspirations of running a farm, tourism facility, and educational center at the family land in Northern Kentucky, USA. I currently do the marketing for the small business that is already there and can be viewed at http://ctlake.wordpress.com/ . It really helped me to develop a pattern of thinking about multiple income streams to help permaculture sites thrive and leverage natural resources. I have many business ideas cooking always as I believe much of how we can alter the world is through providing products and services of high quality to consumers. In other words, the business world is what shapes the earth these days. Thus creating businesses for land and community regeneration is indeed paramount.
Fermentation and Health
Much of the reason I joined permaculture in the beginning was to increase health and vitality through eating quality food. I struggled with health as a youth and into my early twenties before I went through a radical diet change of cutting out much of what was making me sick. This included sugar and I find that one of the ways to keep on this diet is to incorporate fermented foods into my diet. I love to teach this at our PDC’s but often I make them on my own including my recipe of “Gringo Kimchi”. It’s a blend from the Orient and northern Europe and I love topping my meals with these tasty krauts. Furthermore, when in my hometown, I passionately buy my ferments from my good friends at Fab Ferments. It’s a local, small business giving our local community and now beyond these health giving and local economy stimulating foods. We even give back to them through Permablitz’s each year to help with their farm to crock operation!
Festival Set-up and Creation
In 2010, I worked at the Healing Area of BOOM Festival to create the gardens there. Much of the luxurious gardens that are present there now come from the hard work we put into creating the water system and terracing the land. In 2014, I went to my first music festival which was hosted on my families land- Pollination Fest. A small group of my friends back in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA blended a lineup of music, yoga, permaculture, art, ecology, and food for a day and a half festival. To do so we had to build a stage and develop certain parts of the land for additional camping and parking. It was a beautiful gathering and intended to be an ongoing festival.
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