• Tag Archives ecological gardens
  • Natural Capital

    Summer                                    Waning Strawberry Moon

    I’ve not written much about permaculture for a while.  Here’s a one-pager* from our landscapers, Ecological Gardens.   It defines a new term for me:  natural capital.  I’ve since discovered that this is a term with a larger history which I haven’t explored fully, but I like the Ecological Gardens version.

    Just imagine the kind of revolution we’d have if each person with land–in the whole world or in a whole city or in a whole county like Anoka County–committed themselves to increasing the natural capital of their land.  It’s a little bit like that old boy scout motto:  Leave your campsite better than you found it.

    We could, each one of us, take multiple unique tacks on the notion of natural capital.  Some of us might focus on small commercial crops, others might raise chickens for meat and eggs, still others might band together as neighborhoods and grow crops in tandem, some folks doing one thing, others another and producing a local horticultural economy.

    A federal or state program that made low cost loans or outright grants for the establishment of permaculture at the local level makes a lot of sense to me.  Like the 160 acres and a mule of yesteryear.  We need a horticulture and an agriculture that increases the carrying capacity of the earth, helps clean up the rivers, streams and lakes.


    *Would you like to:
    •   Maintain beautiful self-sustaining gardens organically?
    •   Pick fresh, nutrient-dense foods from your own backyard?
    •   Create habitat for the nature you love?
    •   Build resiliency into your landscape to help fight climate change?

    These are all products of natural capital. Our first priority at Ecological Gardens is to help you increase the natural capital of your land. This means assessing the unique combination of resources – sunlight, wind, water, and microclimates – and turning them into productive investments that will yield benefits today and for many years to come.
    Soil is the foundation for natural capital in our northern temperate climate. Healthy soil creates a condition for healthy plants, produces nutrient-dense foods for humans and wildlife, reduces water use, and minimizes leaching and runoff. Building healthy soil usually requires an investment since most soils are compacted and chemically treated.
    Plants are the primary producers of value on the land. They take up sunlight, water, and nutrients turning them into nutritious foods, medicines, fibers, fuels, oils, and wood. Increasing productivity on your land requires an initial investment since plants of low productivity tend to dominate the landscape.
    Your return on investment will vary depending on the size of your land and the configuration of resources but will increase exponentially as plant diversity and abundance grows.

    Short-term returns (1-5 years)
    •   Lower water bills (up to 30%) for yard and garden care
    •   Lower maintenance costs for fertilizers and lawn care products
    •   Lower food bills as you begin to harvest food, flowers and medicines
    •   Greater wildlife value (bees, birds, and beneficial insects)
    •   Greater beauty

    Intermediate returns (5-15 years)
    •   Lower energy costs for air conditioning and heating by strategically locating trees and vines
    •   Lower labor requirements as natural processes begin to work for you
    •   Increased property values due to abundance and beauty
    •   Increased food security as you provide more of your own food

    Long-term returns (15 + years)
    •   Lower fuel costs as you begin to harvest your own wood [for larger properties]
    •   Increased productivity as your land matures

  • Gaining from and giving back

    Beltane               Full Dyan Moon

    newwork09Paula Westmoreland from Ecological Gardens came out today and gave us a walk through, explaining the plants and their relationships.  The real distinctiveness of permaculture lies in developing and nurturing those relationships, using plants together in ways that are mutually beneficial.   An easy to understand example is the familiar legume family, a group of plants that fix nitrogen in the soil.  Since most plants deplete nitrogen in the soil, following a planting of a non-legume, especially if it’s a heavy feeder like, say, tomato or corn, with a legume helps restore the soil chemistry.

    There are also plants that tend to confuse insects with their scents;  since many of those fit in the herb garden, the herb spiral sits in a key corner of the new design, fooling predatory insects as they head toward our beans and strawberries.  Over time these relationships interleave and become stronger, the soil chemistry becomes healthier and the result is a stronger, less insect and disease prone garden.  This long term strength of permaculture makes it a wise investment for any yard or garden.

    In the orchard and our new vegetable garden design we now have clover in place of grass.  It crowds out weeds, can take being stepped on and should  provide good tasting honey in years to come.

    The gestalt here has begun to feel real.  We are less like human intruders on this oak savannah and more like c0-inhabitants, gaining from and giving back in the timeless cycle of life.

  • Before and After: The Orchard in Autumn, year 1

    65  bar steep drop  29.80  2mph W  dew-point 45  sunrise 7:12  set 6:51  Autumn

    Waxing Crescent of the Blood Moon    rise  11:04 AM CDT    set  8:00 PM CDT



    Ecological Gardens
    “What is permaculture?
    Permaculture (Permanent Culture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other needs in a sustainable way (Mollison, Bill. Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual. Tyalgum: Tagari Publications, 1988.). Ecological gardening is an attempt to apply these design principles to backyard ecosystems.”

    We had the post-installation walk through in which Paula began to explain the plants, their particular needs and uses.  Lindsay came, too.  The plant guilds (see a post a bit ago) around the fruit trees fix nitrogen, fight off predators, attract beneficial insects and help build soil nutrients.  The clover sown among the fruit tree mounds and their guilds will further fix nitrogen and add a flash of white to the orchard. orchard-week-1frtrees400006.jpg

    Right now the primary thing is to provide the whole with adequate water.  The blueberries need some straw to hold in moisture.  In preparation for next spring I will clear and smother a belt 15 feet back from the truck access way, creating a place to plant a forest edge.  The edge plants will be shrubs which birds and other animals prefer to the fruits in the orchard.  That’s a permaculture strategy for reducing animal feeding on human edibles.  It also attracts wildlife, which we do to some extent now anyway.

    Over the winter Paula and Lindsay will complete a site design that will begin to integrate the features of permaculture even more tightly into our overall landscape.  As years go by, a great virture of permaculture is that it requires less and less maintenance because it mimics or recreates natural ecological balance through plant diversity.


  • Orchard Installation Day 3


    Plants in position.  This is a fruit tree with a guild of plants that will support it.  Guilds are a permaculture concept that I will explain later.


    Paula Westmoreland, a principal in Ecological Gardens, at Day 3 start.


    More trees and guilds with Christa in the background.


    Lindsay Rebhan (kneeling) is another principal in Ecological Gardens.  Sean (back to photo), Reid (red hat) and Sara complete the crew that worked today and most of yesterday.


    Kona and Emma inspect what the strangers have done to their yard.

    At this point almost all the plants are in.  Remaining work involves putting down mulch, seeding clover and deciding on work we need to do yet this fall to get ready for the next push in the spring.  I’m watering the whole thing now and wrestling with uncooperative sprinkler heads.  Another learning opportunity.

  • Chop Wood, Carry Fencing

    After years in urban ministry, economic development, affordable housing and responsbility for urban congregations spread throughout the metro area I thought I knew Minneapolis.

    Not so.  When I drove over to ecological gardens, Paula’s home at 4105 Washburn Avenue I discovered north Minneapolis, the one that includes Shingle Creek, the Humboldt Greenway, Victory Memorial Drive.  This is a quiet leafy chunk of the city that seems somehow separate, another urban entity, neither suburb nor city. 

    Delightful.  I love to drive around in the city, on city streets, to places I’ve never been.  That chance came to me today and I had a great time.

    Back home in time for the nap, but no sleep.  A family I know has a terrible weight on them right now and I couldn’t get it off my mind.  What can I do.  What will they do. 

    So I got up and moved old wire fencing Continue reading  Post ID 6999

  • Sombre et Sol

    59  bar steady 29.98 2mh NE dew-point 53  sunrise 6:48  set 7:29  Lughnasa

    Waxing Gibbous Harvest Moon  rise 6:15  set 3:35


    9AM Sun/Shade

    OK.  All the sun/shade photographs have been printed and I will take them over to Ecological Gardens today.  Just looking at them myself, it is obvious that we have vegetable growing possibilities in the front yard, to the east.  That will affect the plan.

    I will do candidate research on the targeted campaigns for the Sierra Club Northstar post-endorsement political activity today.  This consists of compiling information about the candidates and their stands on enviornmental issues.  Should be fun.

    This weekend I have to design my Made in America tour.  I have a list of objects, but I have to do some research.

    Also, the hemerocallis have begun to call to me.  Move us! Move us!  That has to happen soon.  An order for fall bulbs goes in today, too.  This will replace the daffodils I dug up to plant under the lily and iris plus add some new tulips,

    Fall planting has a ritual feeling to me by now since this will be my 17th straight year.


    9 AM Sun/Shade

  • Change and Changes

    68  bar falls 30.06  0mph NNE  dew-point 38  sunrise 6:45  set 7:34  Lughnasa

    First Quarter of the Harvest Moon   rise 4:49  set 12:17


    Corn, Bleeding Heart, Impatiens, Beets and Beans at 3pm

    This morning I got up, ate breakfast and went straight outside.  Posting in the morning has begun to interfere with other projects.  Even so, I like to do it.  The posting gives a start to the day.  Just too long a start sometimes.

    Till noon I cleaned up old wire fencing so we can recycle it on Saturday.  At noon I began the sun/shade survey for our ecological gardens project.  Instead of shading in a map I decided to use the digital camera and print contact sheets of prints shot at 9AM, noon, 3pm, 6pm.  I stand in the same location for each shot.  It takes about 20 images to cover the whole yard.

    After the nap I went out into the wide world to collect meds and some ink for my Canon color printer.  This is the first time I have purchased ink for this printer, in fact it’s the first time I’ve purchased ink for any printer other than my HP L4 since 1991.  The cost of color ink impressed me.  High.  Ouch.

    About a year ago right now Kate and I attended a conference in Iowa City, Iowa.  Focused on climate change and the issues involved, I came away convinced I needed to get involved in some direct way.  I made a list of things to do at the conference, but as the year has gone by I realize I have gotten a much better handle on personal action. Continue reading  Post ID 6999

  • Ecological Gardens

    64  bar falls 30.11  4mph  N  dew-point 45  sunrise  6:38  set 7:46

    Waxing Crescent of the Harvest Moon  rise 11:00  set 9:02

    The morning.  More gazpacho.  Another triple batch.  This time Kate will can it.  We had a blind taste test and found we liked the canned gazpacho even more than the fresh.  Go figure.  Making a large batch is not difficult, but it does consume time.  A lot of steps. Cut. Mash. Pulse. (cuisinart)  Dice.  Blend.

    This afternoon.  Kate wanted to see what we won on a scratch game card that came in the newspaper.  So I called.  The result was a canned patter by a nice young woman who wanted to sell us a $4,600 vacuum cleaner and air freshener!  Geez.  We stopped the pitch in mid-stride, she gathered up the Defender and the Majestic and walked out of house.  Whooo.

    At 3 Paula Westmoreland and Lindsay Reban of Ecological Gardens came.  They will develop a phased plan for us that will stretch out over 4-5 years.  Their work has Permaculture as its basis, so they will help move our property further in the direction of sustainability.  I plan to document the process on a companion website to AncienTrails.  I have no name for it, but when I’m ready to get going, I’ll let you know.

    I liked Paula and Lindsay.  They seemed like the kind of folks I understand.  The first product from them will be an orchard plan, then a more comprehensive plan for projects spaced over time.  It will be fun and will take our property into another zone.