EARTH REPAIR CORPS

Earth Repair Corps is publishing a series of interviews with Permaculture Design Course graduates who have used the education & resources they gained from the course to further their careers in the world of sustainability.

Our hope is to convey what a life-changing opportunity the Permaculture Design Course can be, while learning more about what first attracted these former students to sustainable design and how they have applied those principles since taking a PDC. Learn More about the Permaculture Design Course and check out our upcoming Fall 2019 PDC.

We’re continuing this series with Jim O’Donnell of The City of Austin’s Wildland Conservation Division – read more below.


About Jim

My degree is in education from The University of Texas. I was a teacher in Dripping Springs for 28 years. During the summer, I worked monitoring endangered species for different contractors. The Vireo Preserve in the 1980’s was home to the largest breeding population of Black-capped Vireos in Travis County. I was able to get the 214 acres of the Preserve set aside in 1989. So, we manage Vireo as endangered species habitat that also includes the addition of rare and unusual plant species.

For the past 10 years, I have been working for the city’s Wildland Conservation Division which manages 13,000+ acres to protect habitat for endangered species. I continue to monitor endangered species, but now with the addition of lots of restoration work. Volunteers are the key to our work and success. I love working with people who come out to Vireo to learn how to manage their land in a more regenerative way!

1. How did you become interested in sustainable design?

I grew up in the Bull Creek watershed in northwest Austin.  As a teenager, I was able to hunt, fish, and camp in our Ashe juniper-oak woodlands.  Even though the landscape had been dramatically altered by a history of clearcutting and overgrazing, there was still incredible beauty in this recovering system. 

Observing our Hill Country landscape for over 50 years now, it is clear that some areas are so degraded that only a thoughtful and knowledgeable design can bring them back.  Most land managers use fire and herbicide with the mistaken belief that the land requires such techniques. 

Our approach on the City of Austin’s Vireo Preserve is to demonstrate that real regeneration begins with soil health, rehydrating hillsides, and adding diversity at all levels of the system. 

We have been successful enough that we are beginning to apply our designs and techniques on to other properties within the City of Austin’s Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.

2. What were you looking to learn when you signed up for a permaculture design class?

Over the years, I have witnessed numerous re-vegetation projects that usually end in failure.  I was intrigued with the permaculture design system that incorporated a holistic approach to interacting with the landscape to promote sustainability.

3. Who taught you your permaculture design course and when?

I finished my permaculture design course in 2014 at the Whole Life Learning Center.  The instructors were Kirby Fry, Caroline Riley, and Taelor Monroe.  I was very impressed with the instructors’ knowledge and commitment to earth repair and sustainability. 

4. What other courses, if any, have you participated in to help you learn more about and implement sustainable design systems?

I have taken Elaine Ingham’s classes on soil biology.

5. Have you been able to apply what you have learned to your life and business?

I have been heavily influenced by the work of Dr. Elaine Ingham on how to build healthy soils.  I am also collaborating with colleagues Dr. Brian Pickles and Monika Gorzelak, former graduate students of Dr. Suzanne Simard (University of British Columbia), to investigate the role of fungal networks in distributing resources among plants within forest ecosystems (“world wood web”).  I am also supporting research by Dr. Moriah Sandy (University of Texas at Austin) on potential medicinal and ecological properties of endophytes on Ashe junipers.  All of this research supports further knowledge on how to build regenerative ecosystems. 

All Images © Woody Welch 2019

6. Have you had the opportunity to teach, mentor, or pass on information about sustainable design?

I have had the opportunity to work closely with several area Master Naturalist chapters to teach about design.  The Capital Area Master Naturalists have been extremely helpful in recruiting volunteers for our project and giving us a platform to speak at presentations.  I’ve also been a guest speaker at St. Edwards University and recently at the University of Texas.  I am very excited to be a speaker at the Global Earth Repair Symposium in Port Townsend, Washington, in May.  And finally, I want to express my deep appreciation to the local permaculture groups for all the knowledge that they impart, their good work, and dedication to community.

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March 2019 – Native Plant of the Month
Written by Guest Contributor: Elenore Goode

 

Tinantia anomala – False Dayflower
Family: Commelinaceae

False Dayflower is a delicate perennial herb native to central Texas that loves to grow in the forest understory, in woodland meadows, slopes and edges, and in riparian areas and their margins. It grows very well in the rich soils made by the leaf litter of trees but is hardy and adapted to the various kinds of rocky limestone soils common in central Texas. They like to have some extra shade and moisture, but are also highly drought tolerant once established in a suitable spot.

Tinantia anomala will grow out its fine, grass-like leaves from fall through winter, eventually sending out stalks that can reach a height of up 1-2 feet, and then the small purple blooms begin to brighten the forest floor, usually starting around mid-March. This herb prefers growing during the cool season and will often go dormant once summer heat sets in. Tinantia’s cool season growth habit complements that of the warm season plants that emerge later, helping to maintain photosynthesizing plants and their roots in contact with the soil for longer.

While the most common flower colors seen are the varying shades of purple, they also occur in white and blue. Their soft flowers sprinkle the awakening forest floor with a soothing display, along with the blooms of many other small herbs of similar habit that Tinantia is fond of growing with, such as: Baby Blue Eyes/Nemophila phacelioides, Golden Groundsel/Packera obovata, Heartleaf Nettle/Urtica chamaedryoides, and the related Spiderworts/Tradescantia and Dayflowers/Commelina species.

All Images © Elenore Goode 2019

Tinantia makes a wonderful groundcover, quickly spreading through its rhizomes to send out new shoots. One small transplant can easily spread over a foot or more in one year without any nurturing beyond choosing a good spot. At the same time, it is a gentle plant that does not tend to overtake gardens, and is easily pruned if overgrown. It grows easily from seeds as well. False Dayflower is an excellent choice for habitat restoration projects where hardy plants that can reliably succeed from transplant without extra care are able to be utilized.

The finer, fibrous part of their root systems interweaves gracefully with the varied root structures of other plants to create greater structural complexity in the soil. Tinantia‘s roots, though delicate, are still wonderful at holding soil together and spreading to stabilize loose soils. Tinantia anomala is another wonderful native plant we can easily incorporate into landscapes to increase biodiversity and provide early season pollinator and wildlife forage.

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If you missed our February newsletter, you can view it here.

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This month, we take a break from our regular programming to focus on the incredible & innovative community of environmental stewards that we have here in Central Texas.

 

Read more about their stories, learn about their work, and even get involved in some of the upcoming events.

 

The more we collaborate, the more opportunities we have to create abundance.

 

– Earth Repair Corps
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January 2019 – Native Plant of the Month
Written by Guest Contributor: Elenore Goode

 

Elymus/Wildrye genus  – Prairie/Canada Wildrye and Virginia Wildrye – Elymus canadensis and Elymus virginicus, etc.
Family: Poaceae

Elymus is an agriculturally and ecologically important genus of mid-size cool season perennial bunchgrasses, and many different species are found in a variety of habitats throughout Texas. Cool season grasses grow starting in fall and winter, when the warm season grasses are beginning to go dormant. Elymus canadensis (featured in the pictures) and Elymus virginicus are two of the most common species that are fairly widespread across the state. While these two species are generally distinguished by their drooping (canadensis) vs upright (virginicus) seed culms, Elymus species may also have multiple varieties that occur within them (as with canadensis), have been found to hybridize, or have been said to be simply different forms within the same species (Guide to Texas Grasses – Robert B. Shaw).

In Central Texas, the versatile Wildryes are frequently found growing in shade or sun along lowland and upland riparian areas, woodland edges, meadows, prairies, forests, etc., with quite a bit of variability between all the species as to preferred moisture and sun conditions. Though they love to grow in the moist and deep soils and creek banks, they aren’t actually too picky when planted elsewhere. Even within one species, such as Prairie Wildrye/Elymus canadensis, some stands are happy in full sun when they have enough soil and moisture, and many others love to grow in the shaded understory of large trees, especially if they are in shallower soils or further from water.

Elymus species are very hardy grasses that are still common and somewhat abundant in the wild compared to many other native cool season forage plants. Their habit is to go dormant in dry summers unless they are in a moist area, but these grasses will otherwise have green growth for much of the year. Cool and moist conditions at the end of spring will prolong their growth into summer before going dormant.

They are important forage grasses that reliably provide food for wildlife, livestock, and soil microorganisms during winter when green forage is otherwise scarce. These grasses are generally grazed in rotational systems from fall through spring, but then avoided after their long seed culms go to seed at the start of summer, as these seed culms are said to be potentially problematic to livestock due to possible fungal growth. But while the livestock avoid it, the thatch and seeds they produce will be used by wildlife for nesting material and food.

This clump of Elymus canadensis is being grazed by wildlife in December.

Wildryes are also an excellent grass to use for pasture re-vegetation and habitat restoration projects, since their seeds are easy to find, collect, and germinate, even in poor soils. Their seeds establish exceptionally well and quickly compared to many other native grasses, and love shade or sun. Elymus stands can be very prolific in combination with deciduous forests that protect them in summer and then let the sunlight through in winter. Wildrye species are all-around great for improving degraded habitat conditions by revitalizing disturbed soils and bridging the temporal fragmentation of food sources that is exacerbated by low species diversity.

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December 2018 – Native Plant of the Month
Written by Guest Contributor: Elenore Goode

 

Juniper species, Juniperus ashei etc
Family: Cupressaceae
The many different sturdy and robust trees of the Juniper genus lend a resilient character to the landscapes they inhabit, gifting them with an abundance of berries, protective evergreen cover, and rich organic matter. The presence of this herbivore and drought resistant tree provides an important source of food for many organisms – from birds, mammals, and insects, to the soil microorganisms and plants – that live in symbiotic relationships with the juniper trees through mycchorrizal connections. The stringy bark of mature trees is a staple nesting material used by the endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler and other birds. Most wildlife consume Juniper in some way, and though it is overall resistant to deer browse, they will eat more and more of it when there is less other food. Goats will readily eat Juniper, and where they are penned with them, they may even kill trees from overbrowse.
Some plants that love to grow in the rich duff made by the fallen needles of Juniperus ashei and the sub/separate species ovata include:
– White Honeysuckle
– Madrone trees
– Texas Persimmons
– Texas Red Oaks
– Yaupon and Possumhaw Hollies
– Asters
– Spiderwort
– Beautyberry
– Frostweed
– Cedar Sedge
– Other hardy Salvia species, Pellitory, etc.
To understand the current distribution and overabundance of Juniper trees relative to other species, we look back to the ecological and land use history of the area, and at current land management methods. Junipers in many habitats are frequently the innocent targets of misguided scapegoating campaigns to blame them for the ecological disasters that they are simply cleaning up after.They are the bandages on the open wounds caused from centuries of overgrazing, burning, and denuding hills of all their vegetation.
In Texas, the past few centuries have seen great habitat losses in terms of species diversity and abundance, soil depth, soil moisture and aquifer levels, and various other further compounding interconnected factors that lend to the overall destabilization of habitat regeneration processes in the ecosystem. The loss of other fruiting species of herb, shrub, and tree from a habitat further propels the expansion of the Juniper, since its berries are one of the most available and reliable food sources that provide food for wildlife throughout winter. Subsequently, these animals distribute the berries across the landscape, especially under the live oaks they like to sit in – if you want fewer new Junipers, start by giving wildlife something else to spread! 
In the same way that many of our garden weeds are trying to restore minerals and organic matter to the soil and tell us that something is needed there, many of the places where multitudes of Junipers sprout up are simply in need of some kind of vegetative cover and soil organic matter, due to livestock or deer pressure preventing anything else but Juniper from growing. Restoring the abundance and diversity of the thick and diverse vegetation native to Texas will help prevent so many young Juniper seedlings from appearing.
Juniperus species are highly drought-adapted trees that need and use very little water, which is how they are able to survive in such rugged climate conditions. Juniperus ashei is able to grow in poor, dry and alkaline conditions of the Hill Country where few other plants can, and has proven itself as an incredible early-successional species to set ecological and hydrological functioning back into motion where it has been brought to a near halt in the “moonscapes” created by anthropogenic habitat degradation. Forests are rainmakers, holding onto rainfall in their locality through their body mass, so that the water remains available in that area rather than flowing off to sea, and allows the landscape to maintain local/small hydrological cycles and healthy springs through the respiration of plants.  The dominant Juniper forests of many brittle and dryland habitats are essential for holding moisture in the local landscape in the form of biomass and soil moisture levels, and if they were to suddenly be removed, remember that what is also being removed from that place are the effects and potential of a large volume of water that is part of the local water cycle; all the water that is contained within the trees, and the soils they make and keep moist with their shade. Another way forests increase soil moisture is by drawing dewdrops out of the air in certain conditions, and they can then fall to the ground.
Juniperus species act as nurse trees across many different habitats by protecting more palatable plants under their branches and creating rich organic matter from poor substrates for other plants to grow in. They are an integral species in ecosystems that have lost their historic plant diversity, and that are still under unnaturally high deer and livestock browsing conditions due to the feed supplementation of these populations beyond what the local carrying capacity of the land can handle.
The abundance of Juniper trees in the degraded hills and rangelands of Texas speaks to its hardiness amidst the severe erosion, deforestation, and overbrowsing/grazing that have eradicated the more palatable vegetation. On steep slopes, Junipers provide essential coverage for the soil, and their dense layers of branches help break the impact of the heavy and intense downpours common in Texas, helping the rain to percolate into the soil instead of washing it off the hill and contributing to flooding. Rather than focus efforts on opening up more of the historically-abundant forest canopy in a state where we can’t stop complaining about the heat, we should remember that the original forests of Texas were rich with understory grasses and shrubs that thrive in dappled and even deep shade. The lack of species richness in many dense, young, re-growth stands of Juniper is due more than anything to the fact that the seed bank for other species has already been lost from the spot in question by previous poor land management. Most Hill Country plants will happily grow in a Juniper-derived soil when re-introduced properly.
The Juniper species across their habitats must be re-envisioned as what they are: truly vital backbones holding the ecological functioning and integrity of their habitat together, and repairing it from centuries of land mismanagement.
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Earth Repair Corps will be publishing a series of interviews with Permaculture Design Course graduates who have used the education & resources they gained from the course to further their careers in the world of sustainability.

Our hope is to convey what a life-changing opportunity the Permaculture Design Course can be, while learning more about what first attracted these former students to sustainable design and how they have applied those principles since taking a PDC.

Learn More about the Permaculture Design Course and Register Today for our next class in 2019.

We’re continuing this series with Thora Oneil Gray of the Austin Discovery School – read more below.

1) When did you initially become interested in sustainable design and why?  Please describe to us any moments in your life that piqued your interest in sustainable, regenerative, and holistic systems.

I started off as a young environmentalist/activist condemning corporations and big government. I was attending protests, speaking up against oppression, etc. This led me to the question: “how can we do this better?”. Standing up and being pissed at the powers that be is not enough, you have to mulch the path, sow the seeds to get the results you want. I was interested in community, alternative building styles, growing food, eating healthy etc. I didn’t hear the word ‘permaculture’ until I moved to Austin. It was like an exciting map of putting together all the basic fundamentals to live more harmoniously with the natural world. 

2) What were you looking to learn when you signed up for a Permaculture Design Course?

My first official course was 3 years ago now. My goal was three fold: 1) Take the official course/receive certificate to teach in the future; 2) Plan for the future development of the Austin Discovery School’s new campus; and 3) Invite the community to take stake by adding to the design fundamentals of the school. 

3) Who taught your Permaculture Design Course and when?  What did you appreciate about that course, and what would you have like to have learned more about?

I asked Kirby Fry (Earth Repair Corps), Caroline Riley (Whole Life Learning Center), and Taelor Monroe (Austin Permaculture Guild) to come to the Austin Discovery School to teach a PDC. Each teacher brought their own unique style of teaching and deep, specialized knowledge. I really appreciated the guest speakers they brought in like Gary Freeborg and Pliny Fisk, as well as any hands on activities i.e. cob construction, Permablitz, and working with the laser level. I wish we had more time to dive deep into soil (I really just need to take a full on college course on soil – I’m totally enthralled by it).

All Images © Woody Welch 2018

4) You’re in a unique position to have hosted a Permaculture Design Course at the Austin Discovery School, and then have had a Permablitz take place at the school.  What was that experience like for you, and how may it have helped your school to advance your gardening education program?  Please describe to us a little bit about the scope of that Permablitz.

If you want something done… do it! Our little school of now 13 years has grown considerably from 100 students to over 500. When the lease finally was up at our prior residence, our administration looked at buying the buildings in the back half of the property as our permanent address. These were the buildings of the old state school that sat for 30 years unattended and returning to nature. A major renovation took place with many unintended consequences. School was delayed due to the renovation and parents were starting to lose patience. Hosting our first Permablitz was a great way to boost the morale and sense of community allowing all to take stake in our public alternative school. We had over 200 people come out to help install the the food forest. Digging over 300 linear feet of berms and swales on a dramatic slope, as well as planting 30 fruit trees and herbs. Another major hurdle that effected my program at the Austin Discovery School, Ecowellness, was installing a septic system near the gardens.  Huge amounts of caliche soil were unearthed during this installation and then spread all over the soon to be annual food gardens!! Almost 2 feet thick in some areas. Ack! We resolved this by importing well over 10,000 bags of leaf debris (thank you Craigslist) and tilling it in before digging our southeast sloping garden beds on contour. Now we practice dry land cover cropping during the summer, and chop and drop a month before school starts to encourage the soil community to thrive without major disruption.  Community and gumption – that’s what it takes. We have accomplished so much in such a short period of time with biomass and sweat equity.

5) What other courses, if any, have you participated in that have helped you to learn more about and implement sustainable design systems?

I have attended a Intro to Holistic Management at Green Gate Farms, I’ve studied herbalism with Ginger Webb (Texas Medicinals), taken the Citizen Gardner’s Course at the Sustainable Food Center, bee-keeping classes, and attended teachings with Mycoalliance.

6) Have you been able to apply what you learned from a permaculture design course to your life, and business endeavors?  If so, please elaborate.

Without a doubt I use what I have learned with permaculture every day at my job as an educator at the Austin Discovery School. I’m doing my best to leave behind a thriving ecosystem which can also be viewed as a learning lab for students k-8. 

7) Have you had the opportunity to teach, mentor, and or pass on information about sustainable design to friends, family, or employees?

I teach young folks currently. I feel confident teaching the basics to them. We do a lot of learning through doing/direct applications which is perfect for their busy bodies. Feeling the weight of a shovel, or the moving of mulch, the tasting of carrots. Kids thrive on this real-world activity with instant results they can see, touch, taste, smell, and feel. We are creating full bodied scientists. Kids who question and get over irrational fears. Because they can make observations and learn to be calm in nature. One day I would like to teach adults, right now I’m still learning by doing, experimenting, and discovering.

Thank you so much for your involvement and initiative, Thora!

 

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Earth Repair Corps will be publishing a series of interviews with Permaculture Design Course graduates who have used the education & resources they gained from the course to further their careers in the world of sustainability.

Our hope is to convey what a life-changing opportunity the Permaculture Design Course can be, while learning more about what first attracted these former students to sustainable design and how they have applied those principles since taking a PDC.

Learn More about the Permaculture Design Course and Register Today for our next class in 2019.

Paul Oveisi, owner of Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden in South Austin, helps us kick off this series. Read more below.

1)    How did you become interested in sustainable design?  Please describe to us any moments in your life that piqued your interest in sustainable, regenerative, and holistic systems.

My interest was an evolution that likely happened over the course of my entire life but I can think of a few ”tipping point’ moments that led me to take sustainable design more seriously as a way of life. The first was an impromptu, almost accidental, visit to the Earthship Community near Taos, NM. I was awestruck that these experimental, sustainable, whole-system homes could be both so strikingly beautiful and functional. There was connection between design, science, and artful creativity that struck a chord with me that stuck with me for years. Years later, having left my lifelong home of Austin, TX to live in New York City, I couldn’t let go of what became an obsession. I read every book by Michael Reynolds which led me to other forms of sustainable architecture which led me to sustainable agriculture. I stumbled on some old videos of Geoff Lawton and Bill Mollison and spent several years reading everything I could on permaculture, regenerative agriculture, and related fields. Working in hospitality I found a little community of like-minded chefs and farmers who were implementing some of these strategies. Moving back to Austin, I decided to drop everything, get my PDC and work on a plan to incorporate sustainable design into a new way of life. 

2)    What were you looking to learn when you signed up for a Permaculture Design Course?

Honestly, everything and anything. Having read dozens of books on the subject I wanted to get some hands on experience and meet like-minded folks. I was also hoping to find some work outside the PDC to further hone my skills and expand my knowledge.  

All Images © Woody Welch 2018

3)    Who taught your Permaculture Design Course and when?  What did you appreciate about that course, and what would you have like to have learned more about? 

My course was taught by Kirby Fry and Caroline Riley in the Fall of 2015. I thought it was a well-designed course, by dynamic and well-rounded instructors who were extremely knowledgeable and engaging.  I would have liked a bit more information on the architectural components but that’s splitting hairs – it was a fantastic course. 

4)    What other courses, if any, have you participated in that have helped you to learn more about and implement sustainable design systems?

I’ve taken a Grow Green course by the City of Austin which was informative. Notably, I enjoyed input from a meteorologist from LCRA and fire-wise design from a Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center representative. Informally, I’ve found particular interest in soil microbiology and have watched countless hours of advanced composting techniques and soil microbiology analysis – most notably by Karl Hammer and Dr. Elaine Ingham, respectively. 

5)    Have you been able to apply what you learned from the Permaculture Design Course to your life and business endeavors?  If so, please elaborate.

A resounding yes. After my PDC I spent a couple of years working in the field doing various landscaping and design related projects for both landscaping companies and non-profits. The knowledge I obtained from my PDC and beyond very much informed my decision to combine my experience in hospitality to create a permaculture inspired business model – but I wanted to spend some time getting my hands dirty first. 

6)    Have you had the opportunity to teach, mentor, and/or pass on information about sustainable design to friends, family, or employees?

Yes, too many to count. We do a formal training/walk-through of all employees of my organization on basic permaculture principles and I’ve had countless conversations turning many people onto the discipline – whether sharing books by Holmgren, Shephard or Fukuoka, or sharing Geoff Lawton videos. Again, too many to count.  

Thank you so much for your involvement and initiative.

It is my pleasure.  

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Earth Repair Corps Permaculture Design Course (PDC) at Texastopia in Blanco, Texas – 2018 06 19
Written By: Kirby Fry
Read about the first half of the class here

 

Hello Everyone,

Earth Repair Corps just completed its first PDC near the headwaters of the Blanco River at Texastopia.

Pete VanDyck and I signed the PDC certificates together.  It was a real honor to teach with Pete, and everyone else that made this course possible.

During the second half of this course we discussed specific design systems, beginning with the home, and then moving outward towards further away and larger systems; from the built environment (the home), to intensive annual vegetable, culinary, and medicinal gardens (right around the home), to small animal systems, broader annual crops,  and orchards (several yards away from the home), to intensive cell grazing systems and wood lots (well away from the home), and then on to ecological restoration.

 

So much thanks to our guest speakers.

Heather King shared with us just what it takes to grow an annual vegetable victory garden and market garden here in Central Texas.  She covered how to cope with profitability, heat, drought, hard freezes, heavy rains, and unpredictability.

Tina and Orion Weldon spoke to us about their amazing work at TerraPurezza raising pasture fed pigs, harvesting the food waste stream to supplement their feed costs, and marketing organic produce and meats to restaurants.  TerraPurezza has received a Texas Department of Agriculture Young Famer Grant, and an Environmental Protection Agency award for Green Infrastructure, and Low Impact Development.

Adam Russell shared with us that healing the human body and healing the soil have a lot in common.  Both have to breath in air, both need water moving through them, both need neural connections, and both need protective covering.  He also gave us a tour of his family farm in Blanco, Texas showing us where he installed conservation terraces, and where he applied the Yeoman’s Keyline chisel plow.

Jim O’Donnell spoke to the class about the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP), where he is working to create ecological resilience around the City of Austin’s western greenbelt.  One of our next permablitzes will be at BCP.

Woody Welch spoke with us about a sustainable energy economy, and specifically spoke with us about photovoltaic energy systems.  During the second to the last day, Woody also spoke to the class about financial strategies for staying out of debt.

 

So much thanks to our graduates.

They participated in 72 hours of classroom instruction in order to get their design course certificate.

The last Saturday night, the class had a fantastic talent show.

The last Sunday morning, and our last day of class, we held a Blanco River blessing ceremony, AND a father’s day blessing ceremony.  I’ve never experienced anything like that since I was alongside a river in Peru near Machu Picchu.

The students’ design course presentations were terrific.

 

Explosive abundance,

Kirby Fry

 

 

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Earth Repair Corps, Interview with Pete VanDyck – 2018 06 20
By Kirby Fry

K: Pete, it has been my honor and privilege to work with you.

I believe that we first met during a permablitz maintenance event at Kealing Middle School around July 9, 2014.  Since then, you have stepped up and filled some very essential roles for the sustainable design movement in Central Texas.

My gratitude goes out to you, and to EVERYONE else implementing best design practices.

Please allow me to ask you six or seven questions.

  1. How, and or why, were you drawn to regenerative design systems?

Thanks, Kirby. Yes, we did meet at Kealing Middle School and this is actually a photo from that day,  good documentation there! Wow, I can’t believe how time flies! At first I was just interested in working outside with the land and plants, but I also had concerns about my own health, the health of society, and the health of our environment which made me want to look deeper into natural systems.  It was the same as many other folks who find this path – it usually happens from either a health issue due to poor nutrition, environmental conditions, or being hurt in mainstream society. I was sort of all three. Permaculture Design has opened my eyes to the answers for all of these problems and since then I have been more focused than I had ever been in my life.

2. How did you first learn about permaculture and sustainable design in Central Texas?

After being stationed in San Diego, California for six years I finished my contract with the military and began searching for a new career. During my time there I had developed a skill in finding the right people to help me accomplish my goals. Really all you have to do is find the highest source of knowledge that you can and learn from that person. So I went seeking out Mr. Kirby Fry, who seemed to be that person when I moved to Elgin, Texas.  I think I found out about the maintenance blitz at Kealing Middle School through Facebook. I first learned about Permaculture from Ben Falk’s great book “The Resilient Farm and Homestead”.

3. What are some important site selection criteria for a homestead or a farm that we should know about?

It’s very important to find a place with the capacity for redundant sources of water. That includes good wells and room for ponds and rain tanks. Access is also important – why buy land if half of it is inaccessible? Access can often be an afterthought when buying land, many folks figure that they’ll just be able to figure it out and everything will be fine. This can really throw a wrench in the gears when you are building a house and construction trucks cannot get to the building site, or the poor access keeps washing out, or roads are too muddy to cross, etc. I like a short road that’s high and dry, easy to maintain, and reliable.

The best place to put a road is on a ridge, so when you are looking to buy that property with the long easement that crosses multiple gullies my advice is to find a better one. I also like properties that are 20-50 percent forested. Trees make everything so much more comfortable in Texas, but I never advise buying fully forested properties. We ought to stay out of the brush and help reforest the land that needs the help. It’s also important to have a good solar aspect. Western facing hills can be brutally hot in the summer; I often find the biggest trees on the north side of the hill. Hills facing northeast seem to be the most comfortable in Texas for plants, people, and animals. I provide very reasonable pre-purchase assessments for anyone buying property. I can save people years of heartache with this service and I don’t think anyone should close on a property without getting professional eyes on it.

4. What are some important skill sets that we should know about in order to design a sustainable homestead?

It’s so important to find the right community. Getting a Permaculture Design Certificate is a really fantastic place to start. That way you learn how to think, instead of what to think. Then each person finds his or her own niche from there. Not everyone has to be a farmer or designer, we still need builders, teachers, medical professionals, and all the other important services. Equally important as the skill sets themselves is the person’s ability to apply their skills within the new paradigm we are creating through regenerative design. Designing a sustainable homestead really takes a vast amount of knowledge, having that community of like-minded individuals makes everything much smoother.

5. Please share with us some of your “hard knocks,” or what to avoid scenarios, that you may have encountered along your path.

Moving towards a regenerative lifestyle is not easier, it’s just different and can often be more difficult, but the rewards are great. Avoid long narrow properties; these usually cannot be sustainable or regenerative. Although long and narrow properties usually provide great return on investment for real estate investors, the shape of the property makes it awkward to properly place elements of a design in a way that is beneficial to the new landowner or the environment. Avoid long narrow access easements. Flash flooding is probably the most destructive force in Texas, stay out of the lowlands and keep dry. Seek professional advice as often as possible to find the cheapest and most effective solutions that will save money in the long term.

6. What are some of your aspirations for regenerative design in Central Texas?

I would like to see the re-hydration of the entire state of Texas so that our springs and rivers always flow year round. I’d like to achieve 100% ground cover 100% of the time on every project I am involved with. I think this great state we live in could become a beautiful work of natural art that is rich, abundant, and secure for generations to come. This is why I created my website, www.droughtprooftx.com.  Other than that I just want to live peacefully and be a good example to others.

 

K: Thank you, Pete for your love of the land, your love of all life, and your love for wanting to do to help create agriculturally productive ecosystems.

Explosive abundance my brother,

Kirby Fry, Earth Repair Corps

 

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Permaculture Design Course at Texastopia Farm near Blanco, Texas – 2018 05 12
Written By: Kirby Fry
Read about the second half of the class here

 

Greetings Everyone,

Earth Repair Corp’s first Permaculture Design Course recently began along the headwaters of the Blanco River at Texastopia Farm, on April 14, 2018.  During this course Pete VanDyck and I have been teaching about design systems for sustainable living, as well as how to create agriculturally productive ecosystems.

The 72 hour class has more or less followed Bill Mollison’s “Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual”, chapter by chapter.

Here’s the progression of the course’s curricula so far – that is six days (or 48 hours) into the class.

What is permaculture design?  The history of permaculture design, the state of the world, permaculture ethics, permaculture principles, the methods of design, the function of design, patterns in nature, patterns in design, the natural regions of Texas, ecological restoration, climate, trees and their energy transactions, soil and water conservation, earthworks, soil science, design projects, mapping, and regenerative grazing.

So far, we have had 3 terrific guest speakers.

Jaime Braun spoke to us on April 28th about regenerative grazing.

Gary Freeborg spoke to us on May 5th about soil science, and elemental balances and ratios in soils.

Adam Russel spoke to us on May 5th about conservation terraces, the key line chisel plow, and compost teas.

Our next guest teachers on May 19th, Tina and Orion Weldon, will be discussing small animal systems, and farm to market business management strategies.

Though all of this information might seem overwhelming, the desired outcome is not that students remember every bit of information taught, but that we experience a paradigm shift edging us closer to designing sustainable human settlements, and assembling beneficial relationships.

Stay tuned for a schedule and location for our Fall 2018 PDC.

Earth Repair Corps seeks to create abundance through good design.

Kirby Fry

 

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