Monday, January 16, 2017

Permaculture Discussion Group / January

On 1/14/17 we gathered at Lenore and Dave's house for our second meeting. In attendance: Gabriele, Marcelo, Mark, Els, Blanca, Lenore, Susan, Laura, MJ and Iris.

Dirt Pile
We first discussed the infamous pile of dirt in the Kitchen Garden. A group of hearty souls recently (on a chilly day) dug a trench in it, filled it with organic matter and covered it over in hopes of beginning the process of making it usable in the garden. We discussed using the dirt for paths around the garden, for leveling the sloping area near where the tools are currently kept.

KG Design Ideas
We looked at Gabriela's permaculture design plan for the garden some more. Marcelo suggested removing the raised bed closest to the gate because it is so shaded that nothing seems to do well there. By removing it and getting rid of the dirt pile, we could create a larger and more welcoming community space for meetings, pot lucks, music and other gatherings. The raised bed frame could possibly be relocated somewhere else in the garden. 

Possibility of making a raised bed for herbs, labeling them, making them more attractive; discussion of herbs in the labyrinth garden vs. kitchen garden

Food Pantry
•We want to talk to Molly about the Food Pantry needs. (Marc and/or Iris will connect with her.) How much do they depend on the KG vs. other sources like the CSA, etc.? What can we grow that the FP clients will want to eat? There's a shared interest in our group to connect the FP and KG. Perhaps we can think of activities to bring FP people into the garden. Events work better than a blanket invitation to stop by. Another theme is balancing that connection with our developing ideas of what we can do in the KG. Mark P. spoke about an event several summers ago that was in the KG and centered on food and storytelling. People came from Cabrini and shared their stories of food growing, cooking, etc. We could do another event and ask people to bring a dish to share.

Permaculture Concepts Applied in Berlin 
Broadening the discussion to permaculture in life (not just in the garden), Lenore described an inspiring apartment where she and Dave stayed in Berlin. She noted permaculture precept of stacking functions put into action there.

Every space had stacked functions: there was a piano in the kitchen, a swing in the living room (the family has 5 kids), a screen that could be pulled down to watch movies. The parents' bedroom also was a workshop. Each kid's bedroom had a loft bed with workspaces underneath for the kids. There were no closets but organized shelves and clothing rods were suspended way above (very high ceilings) with ropes and pulleys.

Ideas to follow this up at next meeting
MJ suggested choosing one of permaculture's first three precepts and thinking about how we use it in our lives before the next meeting. Next time we might address how each element performs a different function and each important function is supported by many elements. Think about how this is found in nature. Look for practical examples of principles.

Gabriela will select an appropriate segment of INHABIT for us to watch.

How best to compost leaves in KG
Discussion of composting of leaves in KG: permaculture urges most low tech solution
Leave big pile of unchopped leaves would be that but practicality it depends on space, time, needs, etc. Is there room for big (unsightly?) pile of leaves over several years?

Ideas for workshops and visits to make as a group: 

• Foraging workshop and walk

• tool care and use workshop during winter (Transition Westchester did one at Sprainbrook or check with Cornell Extension, etc.)

Permaculture slogans: Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share

Next meeting: Feb. 1110 a.m. at Lenore's house

Permaculture Discussion Group / the first meeting

Friends, we have started a permaculture discussion group as this was the foundation of Roots & Wings back in 2011. Our meeting notes - thank you Iris! - will be included here. 

No photos, but after today's meeting, I decided to type my notes here as an incomplete summary of what we discussed. These are just disorganized notes I scribbled while we were together. Anyone who has more to add should feel free! Anyone who doesn't feel like reading this should delete it! I just thought it might possibly be useful.

Books recommended by various people:
The Hidden Life of Trees--Peter Wohleben
1491 and 1493 (two books)—Charles Mann
Monocultures of the Mind—Vandana Shiva

We are looking for info on permaculture--books, articles. Gabriela has not yet found the one "perfect" source/explanation.

People and websites to investigate (just a random list of those mentioned):
Andrew Faust--gives permaculture workshops in NYC
Dave Jacke--a big name in permaculture; www.edibleforestgardenscom; also talks about "internal permaculture"
Nikki Coddington in Irvington is working on an edible forest garden at the Irvington Nature Center and could probably use help

MJ has been to permaculture convergences around the area (long weekends with workshops and talks.)  Maybe we can find one to go to some time (field trip!)
Radical Urban Sustainability Training in Albany (
Mark spoke about a Roots & Wings idea to work in Yonkers with recently released inmates to teach them about gardening in conjunction with Groundworks and Greystone
Next Roots & Wings meeting (open to all) Tuesday, Dec. 6 at South Church; 7:30
We veered off into a bit of political discussion and MJ mentioned an NPR podcast on the difference between being a bullshitter and a liar; discusses ways of talking to people and understanding how others think. I couldn't find this program but did come up with an old article on this topic, specifically about Trump  . . .

Gabriela has a permaculture design for the garden that she drew up as part of a class. People were enthusiastic about applying the ideas to the garden, maybe restructuring the beds, social areas, and expanding functions but we will learn more about permaculture and then try to apply the lessons learned.
We discussed the infamous dirt pile and tried to apply a permaculture lens (the problem is the solution); then many of us went to visit it. We decided to meet next Saturday 10 a.m. (Dec. 10) to work on it (weather permitting) as there is a small window of opportunity before it gets to cold to do something that may have an impact by next spring. We plan to pull off the rough organic material that's thrown on top, dig a trough or trench in the middle, layer the trench with broken sticks and branches (for aeration) on the bottom, then cover that with somewhat chopped up organic matter (that had been pulled off the pile) and add chopped up leaves. Then we'll cover the trough with dirt so that microbes, etc. can do their work over the winter inside the pile. In the spring we can add more organic matter, stir up the pile and use it around the garden if it is ready.