Susan Hessel

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since Nov 17, 2015
I've been building a permaculture oasis on my 3/4 acre urban lot since my PDC 6 years ago.

I have worked most of my adult life at a worker cooperative taxi company, the last 10 years in the IT office doing  everything from help desk support to custom development of computer assisted dispatch and online ordering software.

My neighbors, with adjoining 3/4 acre lots, have worked a bunch at the worker coop also. Their properties sport another 8000 sq ft of organic garden.

I'd like to get a multi-stakeholder coop started that gets people together to grow food instead of lawns all over neighborhood.
Madison, WI
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Recent posts by Susan Hessel

Sounds like a very interesting title! The link in the initial post doesn't lead to the book, however.
2 months ago

We are a Coop household in Madison, WI looking for a compatible permie housemate. The house is located in a near-medium sized, urban/suburban 3/4 acre food forest garden in development/process for 10 years.

Be Well,
A related question is who will get the pharmaceutical drugs they need to stay alive? this is not just a question of antibiotics or tetanus antigens. An ever growing portion of our population is dependent on the pharmacopeia to stay alive. Insulin, Heart medication, thyroid replacement hormones, asthma inhalers, and I can't imagine what else. If most grocery stores have 3-days of food on the shelves, what does the pharmacy keep in stock. Pharmacies are already the target of robberies. How long will they last in a crisis? Certainly, with our over all population aging, in the added duress of a crisis, we could lose many people pretty quickly. Maybe my keywords are off, but I am having trouble finding any consolidated information about this on the inter-webs. Anyone have any ideas what portion of our population would be at risk? In a crisis, do we know what herbals might help any of these folks off the drugs they take and may be addicted to?

Just some thoughts...

4 years ago

But there's the sticky part about having the food ready when you need it. 6 months for veggies and 6-10 years for nut trees doesn't cut it if I'm hungry today.

I really like in Starhawk's new novel ("City of Refuge"), as desertified farm land is recovered, they begin by building aquaponics systems. I have been interested in aquaponics since I did my PDC. I took various seminars, but have put off building a large system bc it requires so much in the way of resources and, on an ongoing basis, is at least a part time job. I just can't figure out how to add another part time job to my life. Aquaponics could help ramp up food production in a crisis. Aquaponics does increase growth rates for at least the first 4 weeks. Very nutritious sprouts could be ready in a week. Greens and maybe turnips could be ready in as little as 6 weeks, right? A crop of Tilapia could be mature at 6 months. Chicks could be raised to "broilers" in 9 weeks, laying hens in 5 or 6 months. So, not great meals, but maybe staving off starvation for some amount of time when combined with some hunting and foraging, if everything hasn't been decimated by said apocalyptic event.

Aquaponics also requires like 80% less water than traditional growing as the water is recycling.

A plan like this requires a lot of seeds, a source of fish and chicks. And some energy, like solar or wind with a battery, and maybe a bike driven charging system for emergencies. Growing more food forests for the long run requires more seeds and propagation of perennial nursery stock. Might as well get this started now and share the products with your neighbors before the trouble begins in earnest. It cost me a considerable investment to get my food forest started and costs more every year to diversify it. Even the price of a PDC kept me, for probably 2 decades, from the understanding that ignited my passion for building regenerative systems. In the current economy many are underemployed, unable to find work, but given the resources and the understanding how to use them, might be willing to grow food for their community and keep a share for themselves and their families -- if the meth heads didn't get to them already . So how do we leverage current conditions in our neighborhoods to get the most food growing while we still have time? (I read here folks thinking that the change will be gradual, but I am not so sure. I can't think of Katrina or Sandy as gradual; although volatility in food prices has been building for sometime, I am guessing it didn't seem "gradual" to folks who marched and rioted....). There is some subsidized housing about a block from me. I have diverted my walks away from the beautiful marshland 1/2 mile from my property, and over to the parking lot of the subsidized housing. When I see someone out of their apartment, I mosey up and mention I have some land near by where I grow food and ask if they know of any gardeners who might be interested in gardening with me this year, anyone who is on a waiting list for a community garden plot. So far no takers. It is only February though, so I have time to find someone.

P.S. If you haven't read Starhawk's "Fifth Sacred Thing", I'd recommend reading that one first.
4 years ago
Coincidentally (if you believe in such things as coincidence), when I received your message a was taking a break from reading "Breathwalk: Breathing Your Way to a Revitalized Body, Mind and Spirit" by Gurucharan Singh Khalasa, Ph.D. and Yogi Bhajan, Ph.D. A friend lent me the book when I mentioned interest in breathing techniques to reduce inflammation after reading this article: (I find many articles of interest on the life spa site). I thought the additional information on recent studies of the vagus nerve here was also interesting enough to bookmark:

Of course before I sat down to read I took some Knotweed tincture for a serious pain in my neck (which is already diminished enough for me to maybe do some yoga to work out the rest of the kinks). I actually made the tincture for a friend suffering inflammatory pain from a Lymes flare-up. Lots of folks struggling with Lymes swear by Knotweed tincture. I've read that unfiltered tincture of knotweed taken for long periods can mess with your liver, same as ibuprofen). I guess more research is being done, and for now you'll have to rely on your predilection toward whole food versus processed food remedies. Multiple permies I've talked with think Knotweed has become the invasive it has due to its necessity for healing the environment, one step in nature's succession plan for disturbed soil and humans.

I like the action of the turmeric with black pepper (16:1 ratio is sufficient) as an anti-inflammatory, especially because it tastes great and I can just cook with it. For the time being it is off limits for me due to its action as an emmenagogue. I guess Paul doesn't need to worry about that though.

I am most enthusiastic to learn more about stimulating the vagus nerve through breathing techniques; other anti-inflammatories are just for use until I get results from breathing techniques.

Hope find relief from your pain soon.
4 years ago
I have a couple smallish pigs (a pot belly and a kunekune) on my 3/4 acre (plus some of the neighbors' yards) urban permaculture adventure in Wisconsin. I have fed brewery grains to the pigs and chickens from friends home-brews, pretty small amounts in other words. They seem to love them. Otherwise my experience with brewery grains is minimal; the info in this thread does offer some inspiration as there are many small breweries in my area, and more every year.

I have been collecting the waste stream from a local, organic kombucha company for a couple years. It started with just a few 5 gallon buckets a week, but has grown to over 70 gallons a week of tea dregs mixed with SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast). The pigs love the SCOBY and I think it is a great probiotic for them. It is also a great starter for composting the tea dregs. I dump the mix on the the flat top of a slope and the animals pick through it as they wish (this is the only compost pile they get access to). As they pick through the mix it is spread out on the flat side-- which I occasionally shovel back on the pile-- or rolls down the slope (just a few feet). At the bottom of the slope is a fine compost that gets mixed with other composts and added to beds.

This is just a supplement to the diet of the pigs and chickens who free range and also get a ration of feed twice daily, occasional left overs of slightly dated fruit and veggies from a neighborhood food pantry, wind fall fruits and such, sun chokes and squash in the winter months, etc.
4 years ago

I did not recall Savory's TED talk addressing methane production in ecosystems with large herds of ruminants as harmful.

I read the transcript here:

and could not find a pertinent reference to methane.

Am I misunderstanding your point Susan? Can you take a look at the transcript, post the time you think is applicable?

Belated "welcome to permies", glad to see you participating.

many thanks,


Thanks Thekla. I was reading the quote wrong. Although, I read it many times, I was reading it as "with*out* large herds of ruminants as harmful". The current status. And I was taking it out of the context of methane production, too. So, really responding to "nature seems to have managed fine with*out* tremendous herds of ruminants across North America and Africa.". Which I have to admit now is not what Peter said at all. I guess all that recent exposure to Derrick Jensen has given me a hair-trigger response temperament to the idea, even if misperceived, nature is doing ok with out all the animals that used to exist. I promise to endeavor to chill out... and maybe reread a 5th time statements I can't believe I am hearing coming from permies : )
4 years ago

Peter Ellis wrote: As far as animals producing methane,nature seems to have managed fine with tremendous herds of ruminants across North America and Africa.

I am reluctant to drag this thread off topic, but I just can't leave the above statement unaddressed. Below is a link to a Ted Talk by Allen Savory which quite contradicts this sentiment and I think it is very important information for permies to consider when designing regenerative systems.

Apologies if someone else already responded to this, I am only part way through the thread. I hope to finish soon as I find the potential of meal worm farming exciting (does that make me seem a little crazy? maybe only outside this forum?).

If the meal worms processing the styrofoam, or any food, give off methane is there a way we can design our farm to capture it (a biodigestor that churns itself)? What about the CO2, is there some bio-scrubber, filter-thingy we could create to capture and sequester that? Of course some plant based thing we grow and feed and/or bury, but somehow more intensified? Just some preliminary thoughts and questions.
4 years ago
Thanks for the reference MJ!
I found a link to a paper of theirs here:
Looking forward to checking it out.
4 years ago
Similarly, I have a concern about doing humanure composting (I live in an urban area) when so many people in our culture are dependent on big pharma prescriptions and I don't know what their bodily systems might be putting out and what plants might take up. Does anyone have resources about this? Sometimes I think I will put a sign on the door of the outhouse (when I get around to building it) that explains who shouldn't use it, who should just use the city sewage system. Hopefully, the sign won't be TLTR
4 years ago