I started this blog on the day I was supposed to go back to Europe. What I now view as my old life. My new life is sticking it out here in the tri-state area of Cincinnati, Ohio which is where Treasure Lake is, across the bridge into Kentucky, from Indiana. And this winter weekend PDC anchored me to do so this winter when the temptation to go back was high, offers of gigs flying in here and there, consults, food forest courses, PDC’s, joining communities, etc. But I did it, I managed to stay put over winter and am so glad I accepted to do this weekend format of a PDC. Myself and Chris Smyth headed it up and the students came from a bioregional draw. Thus in the early months of 2018, a small group came together to transform, to take the journey of seeing with new eyes, to step up to the challenge of learning and being in community together in an intensive weekend format.
It lasted four weekends, hitting the 72 hour PDC requirement just barely with very long days and very short breaks. I taught the vast majority of it, like I normally do, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience as my mission of teaching this revolutionary work was achieved. It was a stressful time in life, when isn’t though, and infused energy into places that are dear to my heart. With that, having four weekends, we were able to host this PDC at two main places, Chris’s communal Sankofa House in Pricehill and Treasure Lake, my families land in Petersburg, KY. We also managed a Trip out to Ande and Laurens place in rural Indiana to give a glimpse of what a more developed permaculture site looks like.
The students themselves displayed a wonderful balance of diversity and gave for a great set of interaction even though our time of sharing is limited. I guess that’s one drawback of a non-residential course although in the second half of the course the sleepovers at the bar at Treasure Lake for some of us gave us a different means of interaction. The breaks were so short that it was tough to get to know each other honestly. But as the course went along things were revealed and deeper meaning of why this particular constellation of people came together was seen more clearly.
I normally write a lot about the hands on part of the course but with our limited time and it being the winter season, our main hands on was the design project. It’s been a dream for a long time to host a PDC at Treasure Lake and this was its first iteration. There are its limits but the place itself has huge potential to be a bioregional and international educational center. It’s just a ton of inertia held within the story of family legacy and the history of the place. But the students doing the design process and projects part at the lake allowed for some energy to shift. I have been looking at the place for so long and been doing more intensive design work lately yet seeing this place designed with fresh eyes gave inspiring ideas. We used a slightly mock context to start with but the reality of the design came into play as it progressed. I am enthused to see which elements from these designs comes into fruition one day.
And thanks for all who supported, myself and Chris teamed up on the food, while others contributed to the overall hosting like Emily Hunt and Brent Adams. CPI, Cincinnati Permaculture Institute was the overarching organization this course was run through in combination with TreeYo. Essentially, it takes a village to raise a child they say and it takes a village to pull off a great PDC. I am still building that village so to speak at the lake and within my network back here stateside in the Kentucky context. I seek to go deeper with students by staying more in one place and build a proper Permaculture site. The Market Garden at the lake, run by Annie Woods under her brand Dark Wood Farm, continues to be a source of inspiration and good food. People like Brent are really stepping up to become members of the TreeYo network. The land is responding to my forestry treatments and asks for more agricultural endeavors and habitat diversification. It welcomes new people we just need to create niches, places for people to stay and economic opportunities to be leveraged on the abundant natural resources that are present in this amazing biotope. All is coming. Rome wasn’t built-in a day and neither will Treasure Lake be. But this four weeks of time helped to land me, solidify my stance here, and I am so grateful for the students who came and all the others who stepped up to support their community of learners and teachers. Learning really is a spiritual experience, one that is sacred and I hope to keep teaching for many years ahead. Not just in the classroom but out in the field.
An examination into the sculpting of the earth for water infiltration. A diverse approach to the palette of earthworks available for this critical point of regeneration. Join us at Treasure Lake for some permaculture in action!
New TreeYo EDU article release: Drylands Tree Crop Selection. This is one of the sections I cover in the PDC and having worked many years in the Mediterranean and other drylands/ brittle regions it was a fun article to recall all I have learned over the years. Being back in the humid temperate part of the world, we can grow some, but not all of these. https://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-11-dryland-strategies/tree-crop-selection/
Well for market gardeners, its the time to rest, winter (at least physically). For me, being a manager of a 40 acre (16 Ha) native food forest and steward of the total 60 acres (24 HA), its the time to work here at Treasure Lake in Petersburg, Kentucky, USA. I think back to my forest management doings in the summer and recount the sweat everywhere; head to toe and puddles in my boots. You still sweat at this time of the year but the work must continue on and its much easier to do with the lack of humidity and leaves. It’s the main work of the winter for me, steward the abundant resources of the forest so in the warmer months I can work on other things. There are many yields to be harvested, but indeed, you must help the forest along through energy cycling and accelerating succession. The aim is the many facets of non timber forest products, which some we are yielding now and others doing the work and planning for the future.
One of the classic yields of a food forest is fuel. The bar at Treasure Lake has become one of my homes as I still don’t have any housing there yet. It is in the works for the spring but for now I transient myself around the tristate area. But when I am there I prefer to heat with firewood than the diesel heating oil. It is very expensive and with the large size of the space and inefficiency of our wood stove and the building itself, I have been blowing through stacks of firewood. If it wasn’t for the ash trees dying out I wouldn’t have any firewood cured and even they aren’t perfect. So this year I need to be on harvesting firewood for next winter. It is really sad to see a tree so common in our forest, the ash (Fraxinus spp.), succumb to an insect attack after something weakened its immune system so much that it fell susceptible. At least thats my theory since I see in holistic models rather in linear lines. But the pock marks of the larvae moving up and down the tree reveal the cause for its death. I am trying to not take all the ash out of the forest as they will become great habitat as standing dead timber and a huge carbon resource for building soil. This winter does remind me to plan ahead and we really need to insulate this 3000 sq feet building much better. I can burn wood for 14 hours and in the middle of the night wake up freezing after falling asleep very comfortable. It has been a lot of work but with Holmgren’s principle of Observe and Interact, the interaction has given me key insights into the limitation of access and the equipment we have. Basically I need an ATV with a trailer or a donkey with a cart to really be able to move materials around this 60 acre (24 ha) property.
Annie Woods, the resident farmer with Dark Wood Farm here at the lake, also has a deep love for the forest. Since she has some time off from the field working in the market gardening (not from the computer of financial stuff and preparing for the coming growing season), we have been able
to hike much more together. She does enjoy her non timber forest products as well and one she has been committed to over the last years since being back in Kentucky is tapping maple trees for the eventual syrup. So with some of my mates in town we went to the forest on a cold wintery morning in January to implement the process of yielding this amazing resource of maple water. Evaluating the sugar bush (a cluster of sugar maples), measuring the tree, drilling a small hole in the tree, inserting the spile, hanging the bucket, putting on the roof cover of the bucket, and well waiting. Then later that day we made our first harvest! It does take harvesting everyday when the sap runs making it another work task over these weeks. However over the last weeks, we have harvested gallons and gallons of this water and Chris and Annie have been making some maple syrup. It is incredible how much sap water it takes to make a little bottle of maple syrup. The raw water is also very pleasant to drink alone, a count water alternative, and makes a great cup of coffee or tea.
The centerpiece of the property visually and business wise is the pay fishing lake. We are plagued each year by muddy waters in the spring (and sometimes other seasons when heavy rains come)
and too many nutrients in the lake. Thus I took an approach with some hired help, my American friends Michael Beck and Loren Heacock, that I actually know from implementing in Portugal. They bought land a couple hours south near Berea and they came up to work hard and help me out with this massive project. Upon observation, I decided to implement a multifunction approach to this problem I like to call Restoring Natural Stream Hydrology. When observing the creeks feeding the lake, they are quite incised but there is a bit of meandering and pool habitat especially where large woody debris has made it into the creek. Plunge pools can be seen and you can see how the natural layout of rocks does help to trap material and form pools. I had already started this process in other minor drainages throughout the winter but this indeed was a big push.
Thus we went for it, three days of work although I missed a half a day to plug into a meeting on Boone County Planning proposals. We spent one day on the northside and two on the southside to cover as many major and minor stream ways as possible. Thus we implemented a network of rock dams, similar to gabbions but without the fencing to tie them together, and woody debris. Basically the lake receives to much sediment, too much organic material, and too many nutrients. So by creating these edge elements the water will be slowed, material trapped, and hopefully nutrients tied up as well. The carbon resources of leaves not flowing into the lake will help with the nutrient problem and along with them and the large logs we threw into the stream, it should help to balance the carbon to nitrogen ration of the lake. All of the logs were quite rotten, completely inoculated with lots of different types of mycelium. This should act as a mycofiltration system and eventually run into the leaves as well. This helps to clean up inevitable toxins floating around in the air and sources within the watershed and soak up nutrients. It is a very forested watershed but we are stewarding the streams themselves to help with these stated problems.
Along the way of this work, we of course hammered away at the invasive bush honeysuckle and multiflora rose to promote the further growth and expansion of paw paw and spicebush patches, native understory shrubs. It is incredible to see their proliferation and I am enthused by the feedback loops. It is such a big property that I am still stumbling into new patches or ones even forgotten about. Just the other day I went into one where I had seen signs of a pollarding I did with hand tools some years ago, probably three, and did a coppicing this time. There was so many paw paw and spicebush but I really hammered it hard this time to let that canopy break happen and even more fruiting occur. It is very fun work to cycle through all the patches and energy cycle these non natives down to the earth to build soil and see the native fruit and spice plants come into the sub canopy and be productive. I am constantly thinning the paw paw patches as they even number too many trees in a small space. Taking out small box elders, hackberry, and other natives like sugar maple has also been happening with my mates and on my own. This gives even more light and sub canopy space. When working we even were looking at the still lingering effects of the 2012 logging we did when my grandfather was still alive and calling the shots. We did take some very large trees down, sadly, but it did open the canopy up for these trees to take off and other bigger trees have more canopy space. I did walk to one of the very large stumps of a Shumard Oak, a type of red oak here, and looked up at the canopy gap that was present from it. But then looked closely as the stump and realized, probably a raccoon, had come to the stump to eat a paw paw and left all the seeds there. In this decomposing wood along the banks of the streams, the seeds had then germinated and about 9 little paw paw seedlings were springing out of the stump itself. This shows just how resilient nature is and an important piece of ecology one must always understand when stewarding natural resources; the vector in which a plant spreads. The raccoons I am sure love my mission of paw paw paradise.
Meanwhile as winter seemingly drags on, I am busy doing the vast amount of work that it takes to move from conceptual ideas of a place to a real design. I have been observing this piece of land my whole life and 17 years with the lens of ecology. And I am making bigger steps to realizing this places evolution into an agrarian community. Thus I am mapping, designing, researching and working on the project management plan to create this momentum forward. It is a lot of inertia of stagnation around the place with the history of it, the culture around, and it being owned by my family not myself. But ideas one day come into fruition. Just like the idea of having a market garden at the lake took off into a real manifestation. It took Annie Woods and Chris Pyper and their community of the Dark Wood Farm brand to push it forward and make it happen. Now the next agricultural expansions are in that next steps phase as the design process unfolds. From the overall design map to the patch designs for different spaces and elements, its a massive undertaking ripe for winters theoretical slowing down. I am glad I have this balance, few hours in the freezing winter conditions and hours upon hours on the computer, in meetings, and dialoguing on the buildup. Annie Woods has been a big help, it feels like a true partnership of collaboration. And although Chris is leaving back to his native Utah, I do look forward to the next wave of people joining in on this magical piece of land.
We do have one major event to announce that is coming up which is exciting and ties into our educational and non timber forest products missions. Its called Plantwalkers, hosted by Treasure Lake and produced by Ande Schewe of Wake the Farm Up. We will be dropping in some forest medicinals during a workshop I will be leading, which is just one of many walks or talks happening that day. This will be a great event held on March 31st!
Next steps include keeping going with all of this and planting more trees in the hedgerow started last year. And decision are to be made on mushroom cultivation, bees, tree crop zones, a well, outdoor kitchen, housing, business structure and my goodness, so much more! Stay tuned please!
The more we know about climate the better off we will be towards implementing the ethical basis of permaculture in our projects. Thats how i finish this latest TreeYo EDU article back in Chapter 5, Climate. Savory’s Brittleness scale is a great context builder for your sites and is an important design assessment tool. Is your site Brittle or Non Brittle, does your ecosystem easily break when presented stress or rebound quickly when the same stresses of modernity are presented? Read more at the link below!
Our economy is riddled with flaws. In this new article of mine, I present the basis of the argument against it, an ethical approach to economy. Its part of my chapter 14 solutions from my online book, which indeed embodies the article itself, Fair Share Economics. Do you still share like your parents taught you to when you were a kid? enjoy!
Transition, the word that defines 2017 for me probably most accurately. After having a great start to the year in Spain and Portugal doing positive work at reforestation, teaching and consulting/design, it ends in the states focused on a familiar project: Treasure Lake. Each year over the last 12 years of the travel Permaculture lifestyle I spend a certain amount of months there at the lake, my families property for the last 34 years. Having passed from my grandparents to the next generation I still infuse lots of energy into the place, help run the business, design its future, and implement its necessary changes. I plug into the Cincinnati Permaculture scene while I am there as well as the yoga scene. Now I am focused on dealing with the constant desire to travel and instead stay put there at the lake as that was my intention when I made the decision in June to start to disconnect my life from Europe, my main stay over the last eight years. So I work on those things that pull me away in this time of reflection and remember also my core. I love to teach, I love to live in community, I love to work hard and creatively in the field. With that, I recall all I and others have done since July, the last time I wrote about my journey at this place.
(photos below from the PDC in Slovakia in Aug 2017)
At the end of July just before my epic trip to Europe and Slovakia to teach a PDC once more there, myself and long time friend Alex Ryberg were able to successfully pull of a Yoga Retreat Weekend, camping and roots style, but a great event nonetheless. We had about 20 people all in all with the
crew and participants and despite my stress from not being totally prepared for the endeavour, it went really well. I even got to give an ecology/ permaculture tour, which I really love to do at the lake. I know so many of the trees and spots there really personally so its great to have that space to communicate my passion for biodiversity. Additionally, Annie and Chris of Dark Wood Farm, the resident farmers at the lake, were also quite successful in pulling off several events. First was their fair share potluck for their CSA members. That got people’s appetite wet to the place, Annie and Chris’s great hosting, and their mate Dave’s culinary prowess of transforming their farm produce along with other local ingredients into fine cuisine. It was all farm to table style, each unique, the CSA picnic first, then a numerous course sit down dinner, and then a pre thanksgiving brunch/ market stand. I helped in the ways I could here and there but mainly enjoyed the crowds that congregated out there.
Promptly after my return from Europe, I did get another chance to teach fairly straight away. This time it was again just a tour, only with a small amount of people but the connections from it are what counts. It was at Treasure Fest, our annual Fest at the lake since 2015. Back again was Leon
Elam, a Northern Kentucky native who plays in the band Canyon Collected. This time he was there with just one more band member and guests, making their performance under the name The Pickin’ Pear. He used to play with my mate Brian here in town, Petersburg, before he left for the mountains out west and with Brian being my closest neighbour who is one the same vibe, it was great to work with him once again on this festival production. At the festival was also Positive Reaction as my community at the lake of people who stop through quite often on the weekends also includes that reggae bands front man, Emmanuel. He is actually in the back playing drums and singing, a very difficult thing to do musically. They played another night later in the season and we hope to continue to host the band since I love reggae music and Emmanuel has been a customer since the beginning of my grandparents owning the place. We also had a DJ set with another group of friends making the places offerings of music and camping even more diverse.
Just this past week I was also able to give a free talk at Fab Ferments tap-room on the TreeYo Permaculture Holistic Development Model. I have had a chance to present it in a few different forms but it grew from its infancy into a new presentation since I announced it a couple of weeks ago. Putting the presentation together also gave me a bit more of a framework for my chapter 14 writings of my TreeYo EDU site. The talk went well I felt, I mean it’s a free talk so I guess people got their value and I did receive nice feedback. But they did support Fab Ferments with their komboucha purchases and other ferments purchases for some holiday gifts. The crowd of around 20 seemed engaged and sparked some good conversation afterward. It was nice to get the permaculture crowd together and with it being the holiday time, people from out-of-town were there as well making it even more of a dynamic and diverse crowd. I love to teach so anything helps and thankful everyone came.
This fall I got the great pleasure of enacting my hashtag, #letsplantsometreesyo! It truly is great to get some friends together and just crack on with planting. I had already done the clearing and terracing that I teach and a couple of past students came out to help do the planting, guilding, and mulching with compost. It’s the start to a diverse hedgerow along the northern edge of Dark Wood Farm. I had to clear some edge brush but was able to put in a block of blueberries, each in its own nuclei, as you have to do Blueberries in a block format so you can cover for birds. That was in the middle but on the eastern edge was a food forest style planting with smaller shrubs and bushes in the front, the south side, and bigger trees on the northern side. We got some pears, plums, and korean dogwood in the back and chokeberry, serviceberry, honey berry, and Siberian pea shrub in the front. I protected them best I could for now but something I will make more robust over the winter as the deer have done damage to other plantings. I bought the trees and shrubs from the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute nursery, which I was happy to give back to as it helps fund our non profit (CPI). I am working more and more with them anyway so why not.
Meanwhile around the property I keep going with general clean up and the never-ending process of increasing biodiversity through forestry chop and drop. This builds on the work i have been doing for 16 years of this exact technique and the feedback loops are great. In one such area I managed to get some help again, this time with chopping non native bush honeysuckle in a valley where I had seen a few small paw paw sprouts just a few weeks before. I have been noticing on the south face that the paw paw’s like these lakeside valleys and produce well there. So I wandered into this valley with this pattern recognition in mind and voila, they were small yet waiting to emerge from a canopy break. The honeysuckle had been cut a tiny bit in this valley before, just a very beginning of a thinning and maybe that little bit of light is even what helped spur the germination of these few paw paw. And after the honeysuckle was cut and stacked appropriately in brush piles, some in random spots, some in valley floors to slow water, there was planting of even more Paw Paws. I got these trees from my mate Ande Schewe of Wake the Farm Up and big contributor to CPI. They were a mix of seeds from wild and selected varieties so I am curious what comes to be. It was really easy to dig in this valley because all the good soil was there, helped out by a few big downed trees of the past being silt traps and the sandy and silty nature of the soil there. Plus with the rampant bush honeysuckle growth nothing was growing below. It’s nice to continue on this mission of paw paw paradise through chop and drop and this time planting, which I have never done before. I have always just let the paw paw and spicebush come in naturally but I am pushing the principle of accelerating succession and evolution through this pattern recognition.
The market garden at the lake, Dark Wood Farm, had a stellar year and it was fun to plug-in from time to time. I even got some frozen hands and toes moments of harvesting just before the first frost and the first big freeze especially. A big hats off to Annie and Chris as a team and their larger and inner network to really make it a community effort. It’s the start of community, which I really hope to expand upon next year. Calling my network from all around the world, please come join us for a while next year. A few have already been asking. And along the way I have been teaming back up with Braden, Chris and Ande to jumpstart more and more in the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute, with Ryan, Lucas, Jacob, Tobias and others in the general Cincy tristate Permaculture scene, cooking things up with Courtney and Zev for things down at Earthhaven, networking for involvement with Permaculture Action Network with my friends in Berea, Kentucky that I actually know from Portugal (Michael and Joanna Beck) and in general with the SE PINA hub, with yoga teachers, builders for redoing the bar, and on and on. It doesn’t stop. And sometimes I just want to travel but for now I stay put. I look forward to teaching again, Weekend PDC and Plant Walkers are the next big ones with some more talks and maybe even braving the winter cold for some outdoor winter forestry permablitz.
Weekend Winter PDC: Feb/Mar 2018: Cincinnati Tri-state Area
Plant walkers Spring Gathering 2018: March 31st: Treasure Lake
My media outlet, TreeYo EDU, is releasing an apropos article for this time of the year. What will your consumption patterns do to the planet and people at this time of the year? How can you also become a producer. In essence what is the story behind the purchases, supporting local living economies and eco-entrepreneurs or billionaires? https://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-14-the-strategies-of-an-alternative-global-nation/conscious-consumption-with-eco-entrepreneurship/
This presentation will focus on looking at the world holistically and a path forward to ensure thrivable future conditions. It draws on the presenters extensive experience in ecological systems management and permaculture design. For 16 years Doug has been active in these movements across five continents. Although a local from Cincinnati, his journey has allowed him to come into contact with many a cultures and projects leading him to this development model proposal. It goes just beyond the environmental part; taking into account the built environment, social systems and financial systems.
Thus the talk will be both practical and a bit of a display of a portfolio but also include theoretical ideas yet to be manifested.
The talk will be held at the Fab Ferments Tap Room, an eclectic space held by the fermenting and local foods legends Jordan and Jenn. Their business is a display of parts of the holistic model giving even more context for the setting. The tap room is open from 4-7 and feel free to come early and get some komboucha before this free talk.