Monthly Archives: November 2014

2015 Colorado Permaculture Convergence Call for Speakers & Volunteers

From Monea Monroe of Southwest Seed Library:

Hello Colorado Permaculturists!

We are excited to announce the location of the 2015 Colorado Permaculture  Convergence at Hannaniah’s Rest Ranch outside of Cortez, CO on May 2425, 2015.  Here is a link:

We are currently looking for people who want to be involved as speakers, volunteers, and attendees.
You can contact Grant Curry through the above link or email him at
Please share this with anyone who may be interested.
Thank you!
Monea Monroe

Pikes Peak Permaculture Through the Seasons Design Course Open for Registration

From Pikes Peak Permaculture:

Join us in the Pikes Peak Region for a Through-the-Seasons Permaculture Design

Certification Course…  Learn the principles and ethics of Permaculture Design, earth

centered education, natural building, building food systems, relocalize your life and power

down your energy needs.  Much, much more! This beautiful course offers real solution for

ourselves and the future as we seek to heal ourselves and heal the land.  Students will

actively participate in planning and designing a project site. Come learn with us!

INSTRUCTORS:   Becky Elder, Marco Lam, Sandy Cruz & other guests

COST:  $1050 by December 31st,  $1150 by February 15th, $1250 after…

Couples receive a $100 discount for the 2nd tuition.

There are a limited number of work study positions available!

CONTACT:   Becky Elder, becky[at]

Sponsored by:  Pikes Peak Permaculture, Transition Manitou &

Blue Planet Earthscapes

PPP PDC 2015 Registration Form

In The Spirit of Thanksgiving: Gratitude

Really happy to see articles like the following making their way into The Wall Street Journal: Thanksgiving and Gratitude: The Science of Happier Holidays

Read on!

Front Range Bioneers Sessions: Local Plenary, Isabel Sanchez–Urban Permaculture, 11/9/14

Notes from a brief presentation on the great work Isabel is doing at The GrowHaus in Denver:


Front Range Bioneers, November 7-9, 2014

Local Plenary, Isabel Sanchez–Urban Permaculture, Sunday, 11/9, 5-5:15pm


Works in Denver at The GrowHaus and lives in Boulder.

In the past 15 months at The GrowHaus, I’ve become the student.

80216: Most polluted area in Colorado. Food desert: closest store 4 miles away, Wal-Mart.

98% of students are on free school lunch. School is right under I-70 which will be undergoing construction for 5-10 years.

The GrowHaus market: set local food at Wal-Mart prices and sell to outside zones. Farther out: sell at regular CSA prices. Also have donation box.

Instructor for The Micro Farm at the The GrowHaus. Had a year to prepare. All hands-on. Teach for 6th grade level education and language barrier. Had to re-work original curriculum considering this. Hands-on, talks, handouts. 20 graduates first round. Added herbs to curriculum because so many don’t have health insurance. Now promoting business incubator using CDOT funds. Grow food and sell out of yard. Sell back to The GrowHaus and we’ll put it in food boxes and sell it. Have opened class to people outside of Elyria-Swansea to allow for networking.

Seed swap: 700 people. Invite locals to cook; some have walked away with $400-600 profit.

Hydroponic farm: sell produce to Whole Foods, local vendors, restaurants to fund projects.

Program to bring in high school kids and teach them to be teachers and work one-on one with kids.

You don’t have to go far. Check in two doors down and see if they have enough food. What are they eating? If everyone helped two people, that’s huge. Having good food is not a privilege, it’s our right as human beings.

Front Range Bioneers Sessions: Modern Family Farming in Colorado, 11/9/14

Read on for notes from our local food growers:


Front Range Bioneers, November 7-9, 2014

Modern Family Farming in Colorado, Sunday, 11/9, 1:30-2:45pm

Facilitator: Boulder County Farmers’ Markets Representative

Panelists: Heather Morton (Morton’s Organic Orchards), Amanda Scott (63rd St Farm), Mark Guttridge (Ollin Farms), Tim Quinn (Bonavida Growers)


Question to Panel: What would you like agriculture in Colorado to look like in the future?

Tim Quinn: Would like to see modern farming scaled down to reduce need for chemicals, and allow farmers to interact with the land with their hands. Some are on tractors all day and never touch the land. 3-5 acres model is wonderful model. Commute 14 miles to farm each way—would like to move away from fossil fuel dependent system. Would like to live on site. Cannot add livestock beyond chickens.

Mark: Look like it did before modern extractive agriculture, more family farms. Community centers. Hard for farms under 30, 40 acres in size to make money with modern system. Small-scale, community-based farms. Would like to see a future with no competition between farms, because the community close by relies on the farm for their produce. Why need farmers’ markets?

Amanda: Educate people that they can do this themselves. People in Boulder want farms, but farmers can’t afford to be in Boulder. We need younger people to inherit large swaths of abused land and grow food. Encourage younger generation to get back into it and create a more sustainable agriculture.

Heather: Echoing some of the same opinions, I have said a lot of the same myself. We need education in schools so kids understand where there food is coming from. Education is a huge piece. General public’s value for food and food system will improve if people have a better understanding of what it entails.

A lot of what we do involves petrol and transporting fruit from the Western Slope to Front Range. But we know this is a lot better than a lot of people loading into cars and heading into the opposite direction. Organic orchard.


Question to Panel: Theme of smaller scale runs through each of you. Why is smaller scale better?

Mark: don’t have same efficiencies, but you have ability for direct marketing. You can meet the people who are buying your food. Provide healthy food to local community. Focus on QUALITY rather than production quantities. Nourish the soil in order to nourish ourselves. Rise in production agriculture has led to a decrease in overall health. More responsibility. Struggle with being competitive price-wise with larger, fossil fuel subsidized/driven farms.

Heather: we’re not there to make money, if we wanted to make money, we’d probably get other jobs. We have to ask prices that cover our work. Accountability, having customers know who we are, interacting with them, having them ask questions. The larger the grower, the more the disconnect with the people who are actually buying their food.

Tim: I don’t think we’re charging enough for our food. Would like to see grocery store as supplemental rather than farmers’ market being supplemental.

Heather: in most parts of the world, food is primarily what people spend money on. Shelter is second. Here, we put shelter/toys ahead of food. Have a hard time asking for money, but I have to in order to pay my employees and pay my bills. Low prices in grocery stores create a disconnect in consumer’s minds.

Amanda: this is why I like the CSA model instead of a farmers’ market, because don’t want to compete with my fellow farmers. At the end of the day, we want people to be able to eat.


Question to Panel: BCFM started offering SNAP to consumers (and doubling it). Ironically, most of our farmers qualify for SNAP. What are the challenges you have to see and overcome in order to see the small-scale farming?

Heather: Lack of communication and disconnect with community at large. A lot of misinformation circulating. Our biggest barrier has been communication and outreach to the public. We’re not here to get rich. We’re here to feed the community. My parents were educators and they always brought the farms into the classrooms. We like speaking engagements to provide people the opportunity to learn and ask questions. We need a mouthpiece in the community to educate people on pricing, etc.

Tim: Example: provide excess to CSA members, 50lbs of cucumbers, they bring back 25lbs of preserved cucumbers in jars. Farmers’ Market as educator for my customers.

Mark: Challenge/opportunity: the role of government in food. We have some cool progressive stuff going on in Boulder. Unique program with Open Space in Boulder County, hardly anywhere else in the country that does that. Own six acres, lease 14 acres from Boulder County. At federal level, we see the exact opposite, that subsidizes GMO monocrops. Crap food infiltrating our food system because we are subsidizing at the federal level. No regard for nutritional quality. Trying to grow healthy food on smaller plots.

Insurance provided for commodity crops. No insurance for small diversified farms. We lost half of our tomato and peppers crop with September frost, $10-15k loss, but we just have to write it off. No insurance available. We should support nutrition rather than calories.

Diversification on the farm. Farm dinners, classes, turning food into jams. Need $10k certified kitchen in order to process our own food.

Amanda: Boulder County shut down weddings at farm. Cannot have double use of the land.


Audience Question: Fracking. Quality of air? Organic farms affected by methane?

Tim: I feel we will experience poorer air quality. FoodShed Productions in Longmont put together a documentary.

Mark: Environmental engineer day job. Boulder is on the brink of making it work for family farms with agrotourism, etc., and fracking poses a threat to agrotourism.

Amanda: Need to find a polite way to communicate to large farmers that fracking is going to destroy their water source.


Audience Question: What can we do besides support financially?

Mark: Education of the public. Outreach to community.

Tim: Barter. Trades.

Amanda: That’s how I provided health care to my farm manager. Trading shares to massage therapist, accupuncturist.

Heather: Asking: what can I do to help promote events? “putting your money where your mouth is.” Keeping dollars in local economy by buying local produce.


Audience Question: How can we get the word out?

Heather: Farmers’ markets. Social media or other networking on behalf of customers.

Amanda: Volunteer.


Audience Question: Is your produce more nutritious than other produce?

Mark: Got started hoping to use very little water. Now passionate about building nutrition in soil. You can be organic without stewarding the land; small scale allows for day-to-day micromanagement of the land. Soil science.


Audience Question: How can we be empowered to reward those that are committed to building their soils?

Mark: Taste and flavor will tell you who is taking care of the soils. Your mouth is a Brix meter (often used as measure of nutrients in produce).

Heather: Ask questions of the farmers.


Audience Question: Winter volunteer opportunities?

Amanda: Yes, dress for cold.

Mark: FoodShed Productions of Longmont. Organized crop mobs. Bike tour. Farms open house.

Front Range Bioneers Sessions: Patterns for Peoplecare, Adam Brock, 11/8/14

Notes from this engaging session:

Front Range Bioneers, November 7-9, 2014

Patterns and Peoplecare, Adam Brock, Saturday, 11/8, 3:10-4:30pm


A topic Adam has been passionate about since he learned permaculture, but it just starting to put into words. As he applies names to patterns he’s interested in—the more helpful he finds it—and it has now become a focus. Similar themes to resiliency talk; in order to effectively be our best selves in the world that we’re in, we need to be in a state of personal resilience.

There are many more aspects to permaculture/permanent culture than just permanent agriculture. What does permaculture look like when applied to education/economy/justice? It cannot be applied only to food system without looking at these other elements—otherwise you run the risk of a solution that is not robust.

Pattern languages are a way of cataloging solutions, and linking them to one another. Building blocks that can be applied modularly. Example: yoga, pattern language of movement. Every asana a different pattern that affects our bodies differently, fine tuned over generations.

Pattern language of invisible structures: cannot see consensus the way you can see a straw bale house.

This site lists 150 patterns from the largest and most comprehensive to more specific:

Patterns discussed:

  1. Healing by Design
    1. we can use design to heal our communities—economy, justice, decision making
  2. Interdependent Communities
    1. What does community mean? A real community is a group of people that need each other. Not just like to hangout with each other, but actually need each other to meet basic needs.
    2. Intentionally engage with each other in a way that we need each other. Takes trust, time, re-skilling.
  3. Knowledge of Self
    1. If we don’t have a deep understanding of who we are, and what we’re skilled at, level of energy, we will not be effective as healers in broader community.
      1. Almost impossible to do if we’re spending 40 hours a week doing one specific thing.
      2. Make it past personal/intergenerational traumas
    2. Understanding systems of oppression in community
  4. Going Home
    1. Wendell Barry, “wisdom accumulates in a community the way fertility accumulates in soil” over time, with care, love
      1. takes a long time to understand a community, ecosystems, watersheds, its people
  5. Restoring Capital
    1. Traditionally, capital=wealth. This is a narrow view. Stored wealth of any kind, that can be used over time.
      1. Natural capital: tinder, water, air
      2. Social capital: interdependent communities-wealth through network
      3. Cultural capital: stored accumulation of generations of rituals, recipes
      4. Many of these getting subsumed by one form of capital—financial
        1. Rebuilding in ways that are circumventing the dollar—dollars flow toward scarcity that way water flows downhill. Need other media of exchange for a regenerative economy.
  6. Scale
    1. Today, “bigger is better”
      1. Ask, what is the right size for this—how can I design in self-regulation?
  7. Networks/Hierarchies
    1. Two fundamental ways of working together as people
      1. Hierarchies often destructive. Networks consensus based groups. One is not better than the other. Find both in nature. Examples: dendritic patterns in trees, circulatory systems.
      2. Networks more equitable, innovative, but take a lot more energy (example: dendrites in brain-less than 4% of mass, but—take 10% of bloodstream to keep going).
      3. Hybrid models—best use of each of their properties


Group Exercise: What are some areas in your life where you feel like you are at a place of struggle or challenge?

“The map is not the territory.”

Use pattern language as tool, to shortcut this problem and get to the solution. Start to think in terms of pattern, come up with your own patterns—what is my language that is going to help me solve my problems?

Front Range Bioneers Sessions: Local Plenary: Jason Gerhardt, Permaculture Design for Drought and Flood, 11/8/14

Notes from a brief presentation with excellent examples of design for drought and flood:


Front Range Bioneers, November 7-9, 2014

Local Plenary: Jason Gerhardt, Permaculture Design for Drought and Flood, Saturday, 11/8, 11-11:15am


Look at problems in terms of how I can integrate ecologies and communities.

Can we design water systems that improve ecology? Focus on infiltration. State of Colorado water laws based on certain amount of water flowing downstream. 2007 study in Boulder County: 3% of water makes it to the stream, other 97% evaporates. Perennial state of drought. Growing population. Overtaxed system, over appropriated rivers. 50% of water coming from other side of Continental Divide. Drought/flood dichotomy.

Runoff from cities: overland flow, soil erosion, losing organic matter and ability of landscape to store water. Pollution. Downstream flooding. Runoff leaves dehydrated landscape. All the water of the flood did not do any ecological good. Pre-development, it was able to infiltrate the landscape.

Design for drought: we manage water sources, conservatively. We also look at the sink, how we get the water off the surfaces as soon as possible. We don’t have a runoff problem. We have an infiltration deficiency.

Design examples:

Residential landscapes. Street runoff. Every street is water conveyance surface. Capture in street-side gardens. Capture as close to where it falls as possible.

Parking Lot Green Infrastructure.

Contour Log Felling. Apply to wild spaces, especially in burn scars. Lay logs perpendicular to slope, and water, soil, seeds will collect behind that log. Forest will regenerate.

Check dams. Rock dams that slow water and allow it to back up and soak in.

Water Runoff & Water needs. Seven houses on Boulder cul-de-sac, Quarry Court. Client on the block asked, can you calculate surface area of all these roofs streets and homes? Can all homes be taken off irrigation?  Result: More water falling on that landscape than all those houses use in a year. Drought proof landscape and flood preventing by changing the way we design landscapes. Trees planted in basins.

Front Range Bioneers Sessions: Urban Evolution–How Does Natural Building Fit Into City Living?, 11/7/14

Read on for notes from this informative presentation!


Front Range Bioneers, November 7-9, 2014

Urban Evolution—How does Natural Building fit into City Living?  Friday, 11/7, 4-5:15pm

Introduction by: Robin Eden

Facilitated by: Ben Waldman

Panelists: Mike Wird, Alisha Black-Mallon, Brian Fuentes, Ian Smith, Avery Ellis


Question to panel: What does natural building mean to you and how does it fit into your daily life?

Mike Wird: Practical and Social Implications: Utilizing materials available to you in the place where you reside, including solar, wind, soil, water, reducing toxic load. Social: organizing people around natural building projects, handling non-toxic building materials, and working together is transformational for people.

Alicia: PDC in Denver. Started Natural Genius, natural building with children. Teach kids how to use pattern language: focus on pattern #73 “adventure playground”. Kids designed their own playscape at Stapleton Urban Farm. Design build camps. Also a teacher.

Brian Fuentes: Grew up in Lakewood. Went to school for architecture. Participated in first straw bale house build at University of Oregon. Austria: 4 story apartments out of straw bale. Straw bale house in South Boulder. Works to build by energy and passive house standard, implement net zero buildings (40% of greenhouse gases caused by buildings).

Ian Smith: Structural engineer, graduated CU 12 years ago. Engineers Without Borders, worked in Haiti. Studied design of masonry arches, vaults, and domes in Auroville, India. Practical: using traditional, local materials in contemporary buildings. Social: Community building using local resources.

Avery Ellis: Ecological designer. Auroville, India semester. Working with CO government on greywater law. Efficiency, practicality, building structures appropriate to site (after observation). Energy of projects: example, geodesic dome build in Denver.


Question to panel: What do natural building projects in the URBAN setting look like?

Avery: re-using waste products to build homes. Materials that would otherwise go to landfill. Tires, bottles.

Brian: reclaimed is trend in architecture right now. Example, Etsy: reclaimed bar stools built by grad student. Use urban resources like Craigslist (especially for finish work). No more “plastic fantastic”. Reclaimed.

Alisha: DIY. Good starting point for people who feel powerless. “Palletfest” in Denver. “We’re the community we’ve all been looking for.” In next 15 years: rather than dumpster diving: design smart systems for reuse. Also change in laws that allow us to build out of re-purposed materials.

Mike: Systems. Natural building is already upon us as a necessity in urban environments. Resources (water, plumbing, electrical grid) are strained. Build closed loop systems. Like nature: no waste.

Brian: Systems already exist with LED lighting, solar panels, etc., for neighborhood blocks to support themselves. Codes need to change so we can do these things. Everyday question for natural builders, “Can we get it past the inspector?”

Avery: Greywater re-use so we don’t need to pass fresh water. Demand of local counties and cities that they maintain minimum standards when greywater law passes in 2015. Boulder owns watershed. Denver pumps all from Dillon Reservoir. Water re-use, “you’ve already paid for it, re-use 4-5 times.” Use homes as if living systems.


Question to Audience: Has anyone stomped cob before? (Quite a few raised their hands!)

Question to panel: How can money play a big factor in work?

Ben: Natural building is labor intensive.

Brian: labor is a good thing. We need jobs. Natural building parallel with food movement is really powerful. Stop importing materials and driving them across the country.

Alisha: mindshift is important. “free work” WE make no money, but it’s the best thing that’s happening in our lives. Real relationships develop from building. Not so much from having a beer together. Want to go build and use our bodies instead! Produced something together. Less recreation that we pay for, instead recreating together by creating together. Has enriched life in a real way. Community building. A lot of what we’re living with now can be easily dismantled. Value our life in other ways, move away from money.

Ian: you’ll probably hire local people, so it’s money that stays in your local economy. The more natural materials we use in the building, the more local they will be. “We’re not going to truck dirt from China”

Avery: if you took all the armies of the world and traded guns for shovels and tools, everyone in the world would have shelter–Michael Reynolds. Seven forms of capital. Community is one of them. We must explore other forms of capital.


Audience Question to Panel: Any sort of cost savings with using local natural materials?

Brian: beetle kill $0.63/sq ft. Supports local guys milling it in Granby. Tactile qualities of natural materials are huge selling point. It is more expensive than the cheapest thing you can build to code. However, natural materials are competitive when it comes to well-crafted homes.


Audience Question to Panel: What can an already built condo complex do to make use of our natural resources and retrofit?

Avery: Retrofits are mandatory. Solar greenhouse off the south side of a house. Food.

Brian: Retrofits in Germany. With minimal upgrades and insulation, you can meet passive standard. Much more efficient in a condo complex. Austrian house: wrap timber in bales.


Audience Question to Panel: Gridlock with all of the new department buildings in Boulder?

Brian: We’re in limbo land here where we don’t have the population density to support mass transport. We’re still car dependent.


Audience Question to Panel: How retrofit existing housing inventory?

Brian: 6th & Evergreen retrofit project straw bale. Upland retrofit. Not yet cost competitive. Fighting fossil fuels subsidies.

Ben: can choose earthen floors instead of hardwood. Themal mass. Clay plaster instead of latex paint.


Audience Question to Panel: How can we adapt natural building to accommodate that our society is changing much faster than the structures we live in?

Alisha: We’re not using new technologies, we’re using ancient technologies. If, we, for example, use the sun to heat our homes, we’d save so much in efficiency. There are not many people in our generation that have technological ancient wisdom.

Brian: being a designer is about asking, “what is quality”. Cities in Europe have functioned for thousands of years that are basic, but human-centric and walkable. Build with quality, integrity, using pattern language, in human scale environments.


Audience Question to Panel: Industrial hemp?

Mike: hempcrete.

Avery: complicated because we don’t have the robust hemp genetics here in Colorado, but it’s illegal to import the genetics.

Audience member who builds with hemp: Hemp has to come from Canada or Netherlands. Until we have a Colorado supply. Farmers have to grow it, but then someone has to process it. We have to drive the market so industrial hemp does not fail in Colorado. Working on binders. Expensive to get NHL from Netherlands. We’re 80 years behind, but it’s an exciting business to be in, and ripe for exploration.


Audience member comments:

We need to instill in our minds that we are the government.

Natural Disaster Resilience Competition: 1 billion dollar competition. One of the goals is institutionalizing the idea of resilience in our community. Grassroots community effort seated around this; community engagement. Bucky Fuller living building challenge has been expanded to living city challenge.

Reverting to ancient methods and materials. Synergistic intersection of natural building materials with modern technologies.

Ben: there is definitely a lot of crossover and yes, we do need help.

3-D printers for hempcrete. Look into the Maker Movement. Maker and Tech innovating intersecting.

Open Tech Collaborative in Denver.

Ben: Be more involved: code and education are huge issues. Natural City Builders Guild in Denver.

Permaculture Teacher Training with Sandy Cruz and Peter Bane, Nov. 9-13, 2014

From Sandy Cruz of High Altitude Permaculture:

Please join Peter Bane and me in Ann Arbor, Michigan this November for a 5-day intensive Permaculture Teacher Training Course designed to uplevel your skills, bolster your confidence, and prepare you for new endeavors.
November 9-13, 2014
Check out the flyer and registration form below:

Front Range Bioneers 2014, this weekend, Nov. 7-9, 2014

Join in for a weekend of enlightenment at the Front Range Bioneers Conference at the University of Colorado Boulder, November 7-9, 2014.

Speakers to include local permaculturists Mike Wird, Jason Gerhardt, Avery Ellis, Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish, Robin Eden, Marie Zanowick Bourgeois, Isabel Sanchez, Amanda Scott, Adam Brock, Tara Rae Kent, and Pavlos Stavropoulos, among others!

Registration information

2014 Detailed Program

2014 Summary Program