Spring Beekeeping Workshop

Spring Beekeeping Workshop
Demonstration Hive

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Introduction to Permaculture

Workshop scheduled for Wednesday, October 17, 2012, from 7pm-9pm:  Introduction to Permaculture.

Lecture and discussion at the Center for Sustainability.

Follow this link for more information and registration form:


Deep Observation of the World Around You: Part 1

When working with your backyard garden, a whole farm or forest, or whatever size parcel you may be dealing with, the first step to creating something wonderful is to first understand what is there to begin with.

Step one begins with knowing where you are starting from, in as complete a way as possible.  With an open mind, I begin with observing what is.  I don't impose my wants and desires onto the landscape at this stage, I simply let the land and its ecology "speak" to me.  This is not a "woo woo" activity any more than Thoreau's deep immersion in his Walden landscape was, or Aldo Leopold's lengthy observation of Sand County, either.

As humans, it is natural, common even, for us to become excited about projects we want to start and we plunge in without planning.  Often, these ideas come from books or magazine articles of beautiful landscapes or gardens that others have created and that may represent the latest in fashion about what is cool to have to enhance the value of your home or property.  We may rush to duplicate these ideas before examining what our property has to say to us, what special niches, attributes, or detractions, our immediate environment has.

I've heard that visual artists, like sculptors or woodworkers, allow the nature of their medium to reveal itself as they create their art.  I suppose, since everything in our universe is energy, everything has a true nature.  Eckart Tolle and Deepak Chopra, among others, tell us we have a true nature that we could experience, if only we could sit still long enough in silence and wordlessness.  I believe the environment around us, including the land, also has a true nature which will be revealed to us over time with careful and deep observation.

My property

This might involve looking closely at trees to observe details easily missed when rushing by on energetic walks.  Subtle changes in the bark of trees, or the growth of lichens, mosses, or mushrooms, can inform us about the health of the trees and the whole forest growing near us.

Client's land in Southington, CT.

Digging down into the soil with a shovel or, better yet, a soil auger, can reveal many things about the type of soils we are dealing with. 

Checking the color of the soil against a Munsell Soil Color chart is a highly informative piece of information.


Also, standing and looking at where things are: where is water, drainage ways, hills, swales, forest, open land, special features, microclimates, sun or shade?

When we slow down and open our senses to see what is in front of us, and all around us, over many days, months, or in some cases, even years, we will start to really understand the true nature of the land and the ecosystem we are working with.  Of course, I am not suggesting we wait years before creating gardens or farms.  However, deep observation should certainly be done patiently and thoroughly before we plunge into any new endeavor. 

When designing with Permaculture principles, we may design separate zones of activity.  The first zone would be physically closest to our living spaces and these areas are easiest and quickest to observe and assess.  As we move out from these zones to those areas further away from our homes and into wilder less manipulated areas of land, we can take more time to get to know the ecology of those zones and understand the forces of nature at work there.

I'd like to hear from any reader who has gone through this process of trying to deeply observe their own environment, or a place you have worked with as a conservationist or designer, or just a place in nature that you like to go to.  What have you learned by observing and how has the knowledge changed your ideas, or not, as the case may be?  Please post a comment to share your experiences.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Generation

I was thrilled to be featured on a PBS special called "My Generation".  Here is the link.  There are 3 segments - all good - and I'm the second one


Monday, October 1, 2012

Today, I have decided to share some of my poetry with you.  Yes, I do try to write poems.  Some are not so good and I won't be sharing those!  Some are ok-ish, at least I like them, so I'll share them with you just for fun.  Here's one I wrote after reading Hayden Carruth's beautiful poem, "Naming For Love",


            (After Hayden Carruth “Naming For Love”)


There are bedrock dips and strikes.

There are upthrusts and troughs

where deep loam forms,

given time, wuthering, heat, water.


There are weathered rocks

that crumble and flake, or,

changed by heat and pressure,

rock that is brittle and dense.


There are grey somber rocks.

pink rocks, white or greenish rocks.

translucent rocks.

There are opaque rocks.


There are cinder cones, lava cones,

and composite cones.


There are folded rocks

and fissured rocks.

Those are only two of the flexures in rocks.


Wherever you are, you can bet

there are rocks, some like Gibralter,

and those too deep to see, smoothed,

cushioned over with hills of sand and gravel and soil.


There are hoodoos and xenoliths,

turbidite and welded tuff,

all kinds of stuff to stand on.

But there are faults and sinks you have to watch out for.


 Here is another fun one that I like.  It's about a heron that comes and fishes at our tiny little pond near our house.  It's a real pond, not a lined garden pond, and it has all kinds of fascinating creatures in it,
A ballerina-legged bird
often stands near our pond,
sheltered by black pussy willows.
Her body puffs out
like a fringed tutu
and plumes of stringy
hair-like feathers
fan from head and neck
with a rakish air.
A fleshless, skeletal leg
raises elegantly,
bending at the knee
as the heron steals along
stalking frogs
or fish.
Statuesque among
the pickerelweed,
she sees us
and glares with disdain
down the slender supercilious beak.
With a deep squat she unfolds
uncanny long wings and
emits a throaty, guttural
Thwack! thwack! during lift-off.
Circling over our house,
she glides through
the trees towards
the shallow water beaver pond
and a new fishing place.
I would love to hear what you think about my poems and if you'd like to read more of them in this space.