This DVD is reviewed in podcast 070 and Geoff Lawton is interviewed in podcasts 089 and 090
food forests DVD


Permies likes intentional community / city repair / ecovillage and the farmer likes I finally realized that I can make a difference. permies
  Search | Permaculture Wiki | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies
Register / Login


(the sound is wonky for the first 20 seconds)

daily-ish email

micro heaters

rocket mass heater

wofati

permies » forums » community » intentional community / city repair / ecovillage
Bookmark "I finally realized that I can make a difference." Watch "I finally realized that I can make a difference." New topic
Author

I finally realized that I can make a difference.

Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
Last week I watched the documentary Gasland: A Film by Josh Fox, which I highly recommend although it will leave you feeling angry and helpless. Today I watched Dirt: The Movie on Hulu ( http://www.hulu.com/watch/191666/dirt-the-movie ). The first half of the movie was downright depressing as I watched the earth being destroyed by ignorance and greed. However, as the movie went on I saw people healing the earth, and by the end I felt empowered. I CAN make a difference, first in my yard and then in my community.

We recently moved to Maricopa, AZ, a community of 43,000 people built in the desert outside of Phoenix. Because we live in a desert in a drought, water is always an issue and desert landscaping is encouraged. The lots are small and houses are close together. What is sad is that although there are trees in the front yards (mandated by the HOA), there are very few trees in the back yards. Few people plant trees to shade their houses even though it routinely hits 115 degrees in the summer. Even fewer plant trees to grow citrus or fruit, although it grows well here. If I could see the city from the air, I doubt that I would see gardens in the backyards.

When I look around at the people I know, the people I have worked with, and the people I simply observe, I realize that many, if not most of them, have never eaten food that they have grown. They have never thought about having a garden or, if they had considered it, don't have any idea of how to go about doing it successfully. What makes that even sadder is the fact that we live in a climate where we can harvest food 12 months out of the year. Fall through spring are our most productive growing seasons although food will grow even during our brutal summers.

My commitment is this:
I will turn my yard into a vital, productive ecosystem that provides shade, feeds our family, draws wildlife, conserves rain water and builds healthy soil. We will grow our food as organically as possible. I will talk about what I am doing. I will share what I learn and the fruits of my labor with my neighbors. I will do what I can because I can. I will do it because now I KNOW that I can.

About me:
I didn't grow up with a garden. My mother didn't start to garden until I was a teenager. When I got married, I started to garden. I didn't garden organically and I didn't garden smart - but I did garden. I have had a garden most of the 35 years we have been married and my understanding of growing things has increased through the years. I am concerned about the chemicals in our food and environment and, when we moved, we decided that we wanted to grow clean food - as much as we can in the space that we have, which honestly isn't much. I didn't hear the term "permaculture" until last winter when I read Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway. I was feeling my way toward something that I didn't have a name for until I read the book, and now it makes so much sense! Because of one book, my future has changed, enlarged, become better.

Maybe my fairly long post isn't something that anyone else needed to read, but it is something that I needed to write. Saying this in a community of people that will understand it is important to me. Thank you for providing a place for learning and a place for sharing what we learn with those who need to hear it. I need to hear it.
Nathalie Poulin


Joined: Feb 07, 2011
Posts: 60
I would love to read about your journey! Do you have a blog? Or will you continue to post here?
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5320
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Thank you for your beautiful and inspiring post, Becky.  

I have felt the sadness and frustration over the state of the world and how little it seems we can do, but like you I realized I can do something, something that will help human and non-human beings.  I share your commitment to making my little patch into a refuge of life.

I'm looking forward eagerly to following the progress of your vision.


Idle dreamer

Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
jaggednib wrote:
I would love to read about your journey! Do you have a blog? Or will you continue to post here?


I don't have a blog because I've never felt that I have anything particularly unique to say - and there are so many blogs out there written by people who are far more interesting than me. 

Perhaps I'll just continue to make posts in this thread as we start working on our yard and changing our lifestyle, and document our progress in that way. Would that be okay? I'm new to the forum so I'm not really sure what is appropriate and what is not.

I was talking to my husband last night about the change in my feelings after watching Gasland and Dirt: The Movie. I started out feeling depressed and angry and ended up feeling a purpose and deep commitment to change our lives and our little plot of land. I can't stop fracking or corporations that deplete our soil and pollute our air and water, but I can do something. I can change my consumption habits and create a small space that enriches both our family and our environment.

We are fortunate that our city makes it so easy to recycle our trash, and composting will reduce our waste even further. We re-purpose where we can. I use less chemicals in my laundry and cleaning. We are trying to reduce the amount of "stuff" that we buy and thinking more carefully about our purchases - whether we need it or just want it. Sometimes we will buy something that we don't really need, but we prioritize our wants and as we do, we find that some of them are just not that important to us. Sometimes procrastination is a good thing!

Since I read Gaia's Garden in January, I have become a sponge - wanting to learn as much as I can about permaculture and the implications it has, on not only gardening, but on priorities and lifestyle. Gardening slows life down as you wait for the seasons to change and the plants to grow. Permaculture is an even slower process, making me look not just at what I can plant this fall, but what I can do before I plant to create the environment that will nurture something bigger and longer lasting than the next harvest. Perhaps we will not do all our landscaping this fall. Maybe we should just concentrate on getting rid of the rock mulch and bermuda grass and improving the soil. I'm thinking of things like cover crops and sheet mulching, digging a long pit to fill with wood chips and tree trimmings along the side of our yard to capture rain runoff, and building some hugelkultur beds.  I can still plant a garden in the fall, but maybe it will be a smaller part of a larger plan that takes more time to develop. I want to plant some fruit trees and I want to do it now, but maybe it would be better to wait a little longer. I'm just not sure about that.

That's what I've been thinking lately.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5843
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  87
Toby Hemenway has been an inspiration to many.  To me, his strong point is that he is not aiming his message to folks with acreage, but to people with an urban/suburban lot.  He shows what almost anybody can do with that little patch of sunshine in their yards.

Your first step is to "just do it".  The next step is when you share your fruits with family/friends/co-workers/neighbors.  Once they have tasted their first home grown tomato, they will begin looking with suspicion at those things the supermarkets are selling.  When they see that you can do it in the desert, they will want to try it.

Make certain to take photos and jot down notes along the way.  Once you are producing nutritious food at home, you may want to start a blog.  If you have properly documented along the way, your friends and neighbors can follow in your footsteps.  Then, you really will have made a difference.

There are many people here @ permies.com who will be willing to help you along the way.

Good luck!
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
Yesterday we found a landscaper who understands what we want to accomplish with our yard and is excited about helping us. She (yes, it's a woman!) is willing to do the work in stages, and in fact told us that was the only way we could do a project of this kind. Then she asked me where I was going to put the compost pile because I would absolutely need it! She had suggestions for the work that we could do ourselves to save money and that was a big relief.

She said that our yard was a project she was excited about doing because it's the kind of thing that she loves and would like to see more of.  She wants to take us to look at some different yards to see what we like and give us some ideas. She really gets what we want to do and I liked her a lot. 

I was so excited to have found her that when she left I wanted to do the happy dance!
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5843
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  87
It's great that you found a landscaper that understands you, AND is happy to do it.
Also wonderful that she will take you to see some comparable sites so you can gain some ideas of what can be done locally.

She is probably fed up with all of the people who want their desertscape look like the jungles of Borneo!  You know people have more money than common sense when, in that environment, they spend as much money watering a yard than they do cooling their house.
Lee Einer


Joined: May 08, 2011
Posts: 169
John Polk wrote:
It's great that you found a landscaper that understands you, AND is happy to do it.
Also wonderful that she will take you to see some comparable sites so you can gain some ideas of what can be done locally.

She is probably fed up with all of the people who want their desertscape look like the jungles of Borneo!  You know people have more money than common sense when, in that environment, they spend as much money watering a yard than they do cooling their house.



I lived in the Phoenix area for 14 years, and in my experience while a few are still insane enough to want green lawns in 120 degree heat,  a more common problem is people who think xeriscape is pronounced "zeroscape" and want their front and back yards to look like the surface of Mars, with maybe a saguaro or an opuntia or two interrupting the vast expanse of crushed granite over black plastic sheet.
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted on the forum, but I've been busy.

Last fall, just about the time I wanted to start yard renovation, I heard about a Master Gardeners course being offered about 5 minutes away from my house and I thought, it sounded interesting so I took it. The class really was amazing and now I'm a Master Gardener who is fully aware of how little I actually know! I'm very fortunate that the University of Arizona Agricultural Center is here in town and have given the Master Gardeners a greenhouse, a small orchard and space for a demonstration garden. The MG group out here is small but growing and I'm getting to know the other gardeners. It's true that gardeners really are the nicest people.

They've allowed me to be project leader for the Garden in the Round which is about 30' across and laid out like a mandala. There's an outer circle, an inner circle and the center bed, and when you enter you just walk all the way through until you come out where you went in. No pathways cross each other and it has a very Zen feel to it. I've recruited a group and we're going to turn it into an herb garden. Pretty much all the rest of the space is devoted to various vegetable growing projects and it seems to me that no garden should be without herbs and flowers. I can walk through the empty garden and smell and feel the herbs and flowers that we haven't even planted yet. It will be amazing! The only herbs I've ever grown are basil and parsley so I'm very excited. We have a greenhouse where we cans start our seeds and there are other gardeners to consult with and we will learn together. Everyone is pretty committed to companion planting and integrated pest management so I don't think we will have any chemicals in the garden other than fertilizer - and I'm hoping that we will be able to grow the herb garden using nothing but compost and natural amendments.

My backyard still looks pretty much the way it did last spring. At first I was really disappointed that we couldn't put the yard in last fall, but now I'm so glad that we didn't. My husband keeps saying that the money we spent for me to take the class has paid him back many times over in all the mistakes I didn't make. I would have planted trees which would have been a disappointment and I would have put them in the ground incorrectly. You don't have to take a class to be a good gardener but when you're planting trees in the desert, it really helps if you know for sure which ones will grow in our horribly alkaline soil and be able to take the heat, the freezes and the brutal dust/wind storms that we have. I seriously underestimated the difference in growing conditions when we moved from the middle of a large urban area to a small town in the desert but have learned a lot since then. I've also connected with the Valley Permaculture Alliance and have found their forum to be full of amazingly nice and helpful people. Between the permaculture forum and the Master Gardeners, I think I have a much better chance of growing a productive and sustainable yard. I'm pretty excited about the possibilities and about all that I've been learning.

The landscaper that I was so excited about wasn't nearly as good as I thought she would be. She thought she knew a lot more than she actually did and was not very reliable. I'm glad now that it didn't work out so that I can put what I've learned over the last 6 months into practice without having to undo unnecessary mistakes. When I saw the yards that she had done I knew that she was not going to be the right person for us. If we do our own demo and get the ground prepared then all we really will need is someone to put in a good drip system. Now that I've taken the MG course, I'll know what we really need in a watering system and how to use it properly - not an insignificant achievement when you live in a desert. We can plant our own trees and the satisfaction we will have will be well worth the work.

I could be that no one is interested in what I'm doing out here in the middle of the Arizona desert, but just in case...

Becky
Miriam Professor


Joined: Jan 06, 2012
Posts: 16
Becky,
I have seen the movie, Dirt, too, an I highly recommend it. In fact, I showed it to my class of 34 last fall. I have been teaching people for a long time about caring for mother earth, but like you, I read Gaia's Garden (this past fall), and now I want to walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. I like it that you became a master gardener. I have a fantastic botanical gardens nearby that offers master gardener courses and I had considered taking them. You are an inspiration. I am seriously considering a PDC.
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
Hi Miriam,

I wish I could take the PDC but it's just too expensive for me. I'm glad that you're educating people about the environment. Knowledge is powerful! We do what we can and take hope that we will make a difference. Have you seen the documentary, Gasland? It's about how destructive and dangerous fracking is. Sometimes I wonder about the people who run those corporations. Do you think they ever worry about whether their children or grandchildren will have water to drink?

I highly recommend the MG course. It was different than I thought it would be and I was a little disappointed at first. Then I realized that I could grow a plant better if I understood basic botany and my garden would be healthier if I knew something about soil chemistry. I have resources to help me diagnose problems in my garden and people to ask if I can't figure it out on my own. The quality of the teachers (most of them scientists of one kind or another) was amazing and I'm enjoying the community of gardeners in our city. After the first class on botany, I was sitting and looking out the window. I noticed the bushes and trees swaying in the breeze and was thought about how much unseen activity was taking place in every leaf and branch and blade of grass and I was struck by absolute amazement. The world is full of wonders and I miss so many of them! It was a significant moment for me. It hadn't occurred to me that the class might include some of those same subject that meant nothing to me back when I was in school and that now I would find them absolutely fascinating. Perspective is everything. : )

Becky
Miriam Professor


Joined: Jan 06, 2012
Posts: 16
The PDC goal has to do with the fact that i have taught high school and college science and want to switch gears. I get frustrated with the idea that my current teaching situation fits in to the old ways of thinking and doing and we as a society/planet need to think and do things differently for our own survival. My son was stunned to learn that in his father's and my lifetime the human population on this planet had gone from 4 billion to 7 billion. So I feel very passionate that my nest career move needs to be getting a PDC, implementing and teaching permaculture. I want to recommend to you a You Tube video I just saw: Permaculture, Peak Oil, Climate Change and the Soul of the World - ANIMA MUNDI official trailer 2011

Anyway, I need a livlihood that I will feel good about and I think the PDC may be the answer for me.

As to your revelation about the secret lives of plants, I've had that before. Probably all us plant people get this, although it would be interesting to find out whether or not that is true (student research project?!!)...

To me, permaculture is very efficient. Why do we have to drive far distances or get food that has travelled far distances when we can just grow our own food? My theme for this semester is "efficiency."

-Miriam
Miriam Professor


Joined: Jan 06, 2012
Posts: 16
To add to what I just posted, I found the inspiring You Tube video called Farm for the Future - BBC Dokumentary 2009! (under the search heading permaculture documentary). This is a wonderful story of a woman in Devon England and her path toward permaculture. She talks about fossil fuel and its link to food....

-Miriam
Denise Lehtinen


Joined: Sep 10, 2011
Posts: 99
Location: Tampa, Florida zone 9A
It is wonderful to hear about your journeys. Every little bit you do helps.

I guess most of us here are on our own journeys, and as corporate America pushes more and more people out, it will be people like us who are best prepared to weather the change.

In fact I saw a bit on the news today about how in Greece some engineers and lawyers and physics are learning to grow food for themselves -- because there is no work for them -- it is the best way for them to adapt to what is happening to them. I bet that is happening all over the country now as money becomes tighter and people discover for themselves all that they gain by it.
As much as I care about organic and permaculture, I still give a cheer of joy whenever a common person grows their own garden. They don't ever use pesticides by the bucketful like the corporate farms do as a preventative even if there is no sign of a problem; they use it as needed to try to keep their plants alive and healthy. That is vastly less bad stuff added to our world. It is still locally grown. It still does alot of good.

Not everyone makes the change. Not everyone adapts. But many do. We are forging the way forward together.
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
It's true that not everyone can or wants to grow all their own food. I spent the afternoon with several other master gardeners brainstorming ideas that are easy for your average, busy family to get them growing even a little of their own food. Most permies will turn their noses up at square foot gardens or container gardening, but if that's what helps someone get started gardening, I'm all for it. Once you taste the difference between home grown and grocery store produce, you'll never again be happy without a garden. We don't have to change the world, but we can help to turn the tide. Every small improvement is progress.

The more I read about GMOs and the heath consequences of eating pesticide drenched food, the more committed I become to growing my own to the extent that I am able.
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela


Joined: May 01, 2010
Posts: 141
    
    1
It used to be, I was the only person I knew interested in "gardening" and "putting-up" my own sauces, veggies and food for the winter. Now, I have a bevy of friends and associates doing the same thing. I am, particularly, encouraged when I think about how many of those people are 40 years old and younger! To me, that is a signal of an awakening interest in not only self-sufficiency but a quest for knowledge (not marketing).

Last year, I discovered I had less time than I needed to accomplish my gardening goals. I was so sad because I have plenty of room just not enough time. So, after much consideration, I am going to experiment with a "shared-garden" this year. I have invited several like-minded families to use my land and garden with me. Not in a monoculture not individual family plots but as a whole system, spread across my landscape. I think we will all get comradery and help when we need it. We all share the work and share the spoils. I hope it works out... making sauce would be so much more fun with a team!


Good Luck to everyone!
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
Susanna, that's a great idea! You will be able to share your gardening knowledge while giving other people the gift of a garden. Working together is a lot of fun and you can make good friends that way.

I took the Master Gardeners course last fall, mostly to improve my own gardening skills. What I found is that their mission is education - to teach people how to garden successfully. We have a demonstration garden, greenhouse and orchard just a few minutes from my house. Many of the people who take the course are not experienced gardeners or are people who have moved here from other parts of the country and need to learn to work with the climate instead of against it. I've taken leadership of a large project in the demonstration garden and am consulting on a couple of others. What people really seem to want is the camaraderie of sharing the work and learning together. My goal for this year is to get everyone working together - sharing labor, knowledge and enthusiasm. Then we can share the produce and herbs that we grow. When we have our spring tour, we can share all of that and maybe even a few recipes with the people who come through the garden.

I know it's not really permaculture, but there are elements. We chip and shred orchard trimmings and already have several working compost piles. Nothing goes to waste unless it's diseased and then it goes to the burn pile. Planting things that draw beneficial insects and hand picking are the recommended ways to manage pests. Mulching to conserve moisture and slow down the weeds is taught. We look at the sun and wind and discuss microclimates. We don't have guilds and some garden areas are not mixed plantings, but there are experiments going on to find the best varieties for our climate. Good things are happening and people are learning. Companion planting is discussed and that's the first step away from monocultures. I'm excited about what the volunteers are learning and what they will be teaching in the coming years. I pull out "Gaia's Garden" whenever I have the chance, and recommend it often.

I've also noticed that younger people are wanting to learn to garden. Some are wanting to eat uncontaminated food, but I think some are simply recognizing that a garden brings something of great worth into their lives. When you are in the garden, life is simpler and slower and much more peaceful. Your senses come alive in the garden and you learn to appreciate the turn of the seasons and the wonder of life. If we can share that with someone, we will have enriched their lives. And that's a good thing!
Patrick Mann


Joined: Dec 06, 2011
Posts: 155
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
Have you considered javelinas and other wildlife? They'll be attracted to your yard once it offers tasty plants and fruits.


http://thirteenvegetables.wordpress.com
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
Well... I like to attract birds but I think I'll leave the javelina on the other side of the fence. A nearby friend took a picture of a javelina family chowin' down on her next door neighbors' Halloween pumpkins. The coyotes have been known to snatch small dogs from back yards around here, but I'd just as soon avoid them too. I prefer that the wildlife in my yard be small and nonthreatening. LOL!
Miriam Professor


Joined: Jan 06, 2012
Posts: 16
Ladies, it is so cool to see you community-minded and sharing the comraderie and enthusiasm in your gardening. Part of permaculture is to share! Part of my zeal for permaculture is my health. I am trying to get all endocrine disruptors (esp. estrogen mimicking chemicals) out of my life so I can be healthier. I am aslo very frugal and love to play in soil. Low and behold I have discovered I'm not the only person (woman) who loves soil. There's a wonderful movie about soil called Dirt: The Movie (web link http://www.dirtthemovie.org/). I strongly recommend it. It is based on a book by the same name.
Morgan Morrigan


Joined: Oct 16, 2011
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
remember, don't plant mint in that mandala garden,or it will grow to be the only thing in there !

glad you are enjoying the journey !


Get involved -Take away the standing of corporations MovetoAmmend.org
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5843
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  87
Miriam Professor wrote: There's a wonderful movie about soil called Dirt: The Movie (web link http://www.dirtthemovie.org/). I strongly recommend it. It is based on a book by the same name.


That link is to the trailer for the movie. The entire documentary can be found here:
http://www.thebestdocumentary.com/environmental/dirt-the-movie
Becky Pinaz


Joined: May 14, 2011
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
Dirt: The Move is excellent! I too highly recommend it.

Thanks, Morgan. The mint in the mandala garden will all be planted in pots and the bee balm (and probably some other plants) will be dead-headed religiously. I'm going to try hard not to create problems! One of the gardening books I read had a story about trying to get rid of horseradish that had been rototilled. Not going to plant horseradish either. : )

Miriam - One of our main reasons for wanting to grow organic fruit and vegetables is the desire to be healthier. I have a multitude of health issues and often wonder how many of them can be blamed on chemical contaminants in our food and water. I totally understand where you're coming from.

Let's all enjoy the journey! If we're going to live at all, let us live joyfully.
 
 
subject: I finally realized that I can make a difference.
 
Similar Threads
how is organic related to permaculture?
Pos. open in permie farm in idyllic valley in NW WA, 20 min frm B-Ham
Planning to be in Florida this winter... where should I visit?
Gaia's Garden, SECOND EDITION: First Impressions
2010 NW Permaculture Convergence mealtime talks
cast iron skillet 49er

more from paul wheaton's glorious empire of web junk: cast iron skillet diatomaceous earth sepp holzer raised garden beds raising chickens lawn care flea control missoula electric heaters permaculture videos permaculture books