Blog

Simple Homes Built with Earth

I just had to share a video with you that recently came across my desk. It is a quick look at one of the simplest and inexpensive ways to produce a solid shelter out of ‘good-ole-dirt’. We are not likely to see the likes of these homes in our American suburbs anytime soon, but just to know it is possible to build something this simple bolstered my confidence in being able to care for ourselves, our families and our communities should push ever come to shove.

Architect Nader Khalili (also writer and humanitarian) founded the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth) in 1991 where he taught his Super Adobe building techniques. He became a prominent American leader on the value of ethically based architecture, where the needs of the homeless all over the world are considered paramount. This gentile genius of a man passed away this year in March.

View the video and enjoy… I loved it

Meet Wes Jackson and the Folks from YERT

Watch This 5-min. VideoWes Jackson has been a key figure in the sustainable agriculture movement through his work at the Land Institute in Kansas. Their work is all about creating a more ‘permanent-agriculture’ – incredibly important work.

A small team of internet videographers that traveled our nation last year (Your Environmental Road Trip.com – YERT) stopped in to meet Wes and to learn more about what he and his team were doing. This is the best short video I’ve seen that clearing and quickly explains the significance of Wes’s work.

YERTpod30: Perennial Good Food in Kansas

I enjoyed this 5-minute video and wanted to share it with all of you. There are other short videos from YERT that I liked as well.

Pictured: Wes Jackson of the Land Institute

2009 Highlights – Our Students Work and Lives

Becky, Wayne and I find it gratifying to stay in touch with our students from almost every course we have hosted over these past three years. To hear about the projects they have tackled and of the life changes they are going through as a result of their training is humbling. 

Permaculture is not just about designing the landscape. It is primarily about relationship – relationship to everything – to our land, our homes, our energy needs, our work, our families, our communities and our very own lives.

We are very inspired by our graduates and are delighted that they are interested in continuing to sharing their lives with us and their fellow students.

We intend to start a new area on our website this year featuring the work of some of our students, but in the meantime, readers might enjoy sharing in some of the advice that they are giving to the general public through the
‘Ask A Graduate’ section of our networking site.

Pictured: Three of our Recent PDC Graduates

Click Here to View the
‘Ask A Graduate’
section of our networking site.

PDC Grass Valley CA – Nov. 2009

Permaculture Design Certification Course
Sierra Nevada Foothills
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm — Grass Valley, CA

Permaculture Course at Grass Valley, California, 2009

“I appreciated working on projects, all the information, the videos, the site visits with such variation, all of it. I was never bored.”
Lorna P. – Joliet, IL – Retired (63) 

“Showed how permaculture is more than just gardening but a moral, ethical, spiritual lifestyle.”
Steve K. – Los Angeles, CA – Contractor & Tai Chi Master (40)

“I learned more than I thought possible. The site visits were amazing. I loved our overall group. Great vibe and life changing teachers. Thank you.”
Nate A. – Ann Arbor, MI – Non-Profit Administrator & Musician (33)

Continue reading “PDC Grass Valley CA – Nov. 2009”

Homes For 1/4 The Price

Had to Share This With You
Building Homes for 1/4th the Price
of Traditional Housing
Old bottle caps, used wine corks, spiky glass shards, odd planks of wood and chunks of bone — things other people might consider worthless — become valuable building materials in the hands of Dan Phillips. During the last 12 years, the maverick homebuilder in Huntsville, TX has either built or supervised the building of a dozen houses made of materials that would otherwise have been thrown away. 

To lower living costs, he believes in building sustainable houses with up to 90% recycled materials, tankless water heaters, rain water cisterns and plenty of insulation.

I don’t think Dan even mentions the word permaculture in this video or article, but in my book, it is urban permaculture all the way.

Video: Recycled Houses – 7min.
Dan’s Website – Phoenix Commotion


Home of Recycled Materials

Fall Freeze

Our first freeze is soon to be here so it’s decision making time for Becky and me… what to protect, what to consolidate and possibly replant, and what to let go of.

These tomato plants (left) grew to over 6 foot high and have produced very well. They are located on a berm that is fed water from the rooftop, 2 rain gardens and a swale. We hardly watered except to get them established early in the year. Rather than protecting the plant from frost we will go ahead and harvest all of these green tomatoes and enjoy them over the next month as they slowly ripen, turning red, in a box in our home.


Here is some more of our harvest in a holding area near our back door. Our permaculture students coming to Stelle in a week for a their training will enjoy a majority of their meals from local gardens and farms.

Picture Summary of 2008 California PDC Training

Last November, Wayne and I headed to Grass Valley, California to deliver a permaculture certification course at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm. It was a great training and we have been invited back to repeat the training and continue the design project of the Farm.

Check out the pictures from our 2009 course.

National Guardsmen Take our Michigan Design Certification Course

What a great surprise to have 4-National Guardsmen join us for our Michigan PDC Course. One of the officers had been exposed to permaculture years earlier while in the Peace Corp and instinctually knew it was the training needed before their deployment to Afghanistan. Part of the mission for these guardsmen will be to help the Afghans rebuild their farming infrastructures which have been largely destroyed by the war. These Guardsmen will bring the expertise and knowledge of their civilian jobs while remaining sensitive to traditional farming methods.In a country with little rainfall and few available resources, permaculture provides a design approach with small-scale intensive systems that will help conserve moisture while providing ample food, shelter and drinking water.

Our 4-National Guardsmen
with Becky and Wayne

Fall Update

The dust has settled following our full schedule of trainings in August. It feels good to be home and to be getting into the garden harvest while starting to think about the upcoming winter season.


Becky made some fresh salads from our gardens including pickled beans, tomatoes, nasturtium flowers and fresh sauerkraut.
Yesterday we had two cords of oak delivered for our winter heating needs. I have cut and split our wood many times and believe me, it is a real blessing (and a bargain) to purchase the finished product.  

Michigan Speaking Tour

Picture Summary of Michigan Speaking Tour
As most of you are aware, I recently spent the better part of a week in S.E. Michigan on a speaking and consulting tour. Our events were well received and I learned much about grassroots initiatives that are pioneering the way into a more sustainable and compassionate world in Detroit, Flint, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. This picture summary will share some of the highlights and offer some good permaculture examples and ideas to most everyone.

Pictured: Raised Bed Made from Old Tires and Cob