Paradise Lot

Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the CityParadise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City by Eric Toensmeier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent followup to Toensmeier’s other books on permaculture. In this one, he and his friend Jonathan Bates actually put 8 years of experience growing the plants recommended in his first two incredible tomes, Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, a Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles and Edible Forest Gardens: 2 Volume Set. I was thrilled to learn which combinations, guilds, and polycultures worked well and which didn’t.

I loved the personal narrative also, about their goal of a creating a duplex “nest” to which they might hope to attract the women of their dreams. It all worked out! I loved the urban thrust of this book — most permaculture tomes assume endless access to land, which is contrary to the trend of more and more urban dwellers in our world. So much remains possible on the very small scale!

With the words “Plant Geeks” actually in the subtitle, I’m surprised at some other reviewers’ surprise that this is a detailed examination of urban growing by two extraordinarily learned individuals. It’s not an introductory text. If the word “ecosystem” is not used in your daily life, this book probably isn’t for you.

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Sustainable happenings in Ypsi

This summer, the theme of the Ypsi District Library is “DIY @ YDL” and includes many opportunities to pick up some (re-)skills.  I’ll be doing a session on darning — a simple way to maintain & repair socks.  Carefully selecting, limiting, and maintaining our clothing is a simple way of choosing justice & sustainability over consumerism.  This eye-opening segment from NPR on what really happens to our donated clothing made me think.  (85 percent of all the clothing sold each year ends up in landfills.)  Learn to darn on Thurs, 8/15 7pm at the downtown library.

Water Street Commons is the name being used for the one-acre parcel on Michigan Avenue that was “seed-bombed” in the spring.  This little “park” was the site of the  Image

second Annual May Day gathering.  Volunteer care has been lavished on the site in the form of path-building, public art, bench building, and weeding.  With all the spring rains, we hope to see many of those wildflower seed-bombs springing into bloom soon.

Ypsi Growers Coop is a group whose mission is to grow and sell healthy food using organic methods in and around the urban heart of Ypsilanti.  In the process, we hope to achieve the goals of shared labor and support, self-empowerment, and sustainable business by building a resilient community food system and a deeper connection with the land.

Here’s a link to the YGC application with a bit more info.

AMPY (Abundant Michigan Permaculture Ypsi) continues STRONG.  Meetings take place at the Gilbert Residence on South Huron each first Monday of the month (tonight).  Guilds are being formed for people interested in the following areas of local resilience: Water Systems Abundance; Growers and Gardeners; Preservation, Cooking, and Food/Drink Storage; Animal Husbandry, Ethical Butchering, and Meat/Egg Products; Builders, Tools, and Riggers; Materials, Medicines, and Crafting; Energy, Fuel, and Timber; Economic Abundance, Grants, and Creative Funding; Marketing, Social Activities (city repair, gatherings, arts, music), and Public Relations; and Permaculture/Whole Systems Designers.

In addition to Guild Formation, AMPY members are participating in Community Restoration days on the first 3 Saturdays of each month (including shared work at member sites); building a shared Free Apothecary; planting food-bearing trees and a food forest on land at Dawn Farm; and much much more.


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Don’t despair; just bomb Water Street

A true grassroots community effort to beautify our main drag. And restore some balance into our public spaces with native wildflowers.

Read Mark’s post on Seed Bombing Water Street

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Abundant Michigan / Permaculture Ypsi

We are beginning to formulate our work/share/gift/labor/timebanking/groups. I speak of the ‘functional guilds’ we are forming. They can be found on the Abundant Michigan/Permaculture Ypsi Facebook group as well as on Google Drive.  
The purpose of the guilds is very important.  We can really begin to over-produce in the short term (abundance), and establish perennial regenerative systems in the long term (abundance).
We’re building guilds in the following areas:  
  • Growers and Gardeners Guild
  • Water Systems Abundance Guild 
  • Food/Drink Storage, Preservation, and Cooking Guild
  • Animal Husbandry, Ethical Butchering, and Meat/Egg Products Guild
  • Builders, Tools, and Riggers Guild
  • Materials, Medicines, and Crafting Guild
  • Energy, Fuel, and Timber Guild; 
  • Economic Abundance, Grants, and Creative Funding Guild;
  • Fungi Guild; and the 
  • Marketing, Social Activities (city repair, gatherings, arts, music), and Public Relations Guild.   
Your commitment is determined by you and your guild members. No need to slave away for hours and hours if you do not have the time. Give what you can. Work is shared, and that helps a lot.  We have between 6-20 members in each guild so far.  All practicing for the permaculture-based forest economy of the future in our Great Lakes area.


Should we wait for calamity before we establish functional relationships of local supply lines?  Shouldn’t ‘wise’ humans (homo sapiens) begin to localize our access to fresh water, nutrient dense food, and meaningful work in a permanently established way?  How long will functional ‘abundance’ take to achieve? 

These functional guilds are beginning to work cooperatively NOW towards abundance in food, water, materials, and lowered bills. 

Questions regarding time commitments, resource gathering, numbers for production, creative funding, and communication will be discussed by participating members at our monthly meetings and at guild meetings.  Join us on the first Monday of each month at the Growing Hope Center, 922 W Michigan in Ypsilanti, from 6-8pm.  Suggested donation of $10 or equivalency (work, goods, services, time) towards our efforts at the meetings.  There will be a short-ish video clip that will hopefully provide us an inspirational model of actual abundance. 

In other Ypsi Sustainability News:  

  • The Sustainability Film Series is ongoing at the downtown Ypsi Library on the second Friday of each month.  Upcoming will be Power of Community; Homeland; Urban Roots; and Patagonia Rising, films chosen in collaboration with the Theme Semester at UM, “Understanding Race,” and co-sponsored by The Ypsilanti Food Co-op, Growing Hope, Transition Ypsi, and the YDL-Michigan Avenue.  
  • The Ypsilanti Tree Nursery will be planting 500 young trees on the Water Street property in the downtown.  
  • Sepp Holzer will return to Michigan on April 2-4 2013 and help us build a Kratergarten in Ypsilanti.  This is a followup to his trip to Detroit in 2012.  For more info, contact Nate at Chiwara Permaculture
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Winter Plans from Abundant Michigan/Permaculture Ypsi

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to invite you all to the upcoming (Nov. 5th, 5:30-7:30pm) monthly permaculture group meet up. We are shifting our focus a little bit in that we will focus, for the next several monthly gatherings, on more on-the-ground actions and observations. This months action will be at my home and the home of a nearby group member. We will work with an A-frame, bunyip, and calculate rainwater amounts, as well as walk the site, determine sectors, zones, etc.

It should be fun and we hope to visit 2 sites a month through winter to get ready for more earthworks, sheet mulching, and design come spring and summer.

If you would like your site to be added to the winter list please just respond here or on the FB group. We would love to see more sites and discuss how permaculture design could work in a variety of settings around town.

Here is the facebook link:

–Jesse Tack

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Re-Skilling Fest on Green Room

City of Ann Arbor CitiTV streaming video has a great program called Green Room TV moderated by filmmaker Barbara Lucas.  This link takes you to a 27 minute interview with Laura Smith, an Expert in Architecture and Environmental Psychology.  Laura  discusses dwindling natural resources & climate change with a focus on the Transition Towns movement and local responses towards resilience.  At the end she mentions many local efforts but the main focus is on the Ann Arbor Re-Skilling Fest that happens twice per year.  Lucas includes a short 4-minute film: The Who What Why Where and How of Re-Skilling with lots of fun footage from past Re-Skilling Fests.

Barb Lucas first came to my attention through her excellent film about honeybees called The Pollinator Pyramid.  The three-part 20 minute video talks about creating habitat to help honeybees survive the new pressures in the environment; alternatives to pesticides, especially for lawns; and combatting “insectophobia” by fostering wonder and awe.


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Ecocentric : A blog about food, water and energy

Ecocentric : A blog about food, water and energy.

Especially loved the section about creating a Party Box:

On its first run, Party Box needed supplementing from my own cupboards. But, as soon as it started making the rounds to other people’s parties, other folks started adding to the box, from appetizer plates shaped like Hawaiian shirts (a gift from someone’s mother-in-law, naturally) to long-unused silverware sets that had sat in closets for years. Someone had the smart idea to pick up a dishwasher silverware organizer to hold the forks, knives, and spoons. A dish towel appeared. And duct tape, because, well, you never know…

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Sustainable Happenings in Permaculture Ypsi

The Transition Ypsilanti “Permaculture Folk School” met for about 18 months or so and then went on a hiatus for about 8 months.  Now the group has morphed into “Abundant Michigan – Permaculture Ypsilanti,” a new group mostly organizing through Facebook.  So far the group has been meeting monthly since June 2012, engaging in work days (also known as “Permablitzes”), sprouting a Growers Guild of folks each committed to growing 200 perennial food plants in ten different useful species, and much more.  The main organizer is Jesse Tack.  (Thanks, Jesse!)  Although many participants have carried over from the previous Permaculture Folk School group, many more are now participating.  About 65 are part of the group, with attendance being between 15-20 at the monthly meeting, which takes place the first Monday of each month at Growing Hope.

You’ll be hearing much more about AMBY!  Join us at our first Monday meetings — we’ll be addressing growing but also the many other aspects of permaculture as depicted on the Permaculture Flower above.

Link to Abundant Michigan – Permaculture Ypsi…

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Potlucking w Transition Ypsilanti

Transition Ypsilanti continues with regular inflows of energy from a variety of people. The idea of the Facebook page as the center of action continues to work pretty well, but some folks were feeling the lack of face-to-face interaction. (The Facebook page is here.)

Thus the weekly potluck! Check the page for the rotating location.  Lots of leadership is being provided by youth who are doing urban agriculture in Ypsilanti and nearby, especially the growers at Walnut Grove Urban Farm.    

Also in Transition Town Ypsi news: Mary G. is working on updating the Sustainable Ypsilanti website. The hope is that the website can be a hub of transition-like initiatives in our area.

The Abundant Michigan-Permaculture Ypsilanti group was founded several months ago, growing out of the TTY Permaculture Folk School. The group is meeting the first Monday of each month at the Growing Hope Center. We are seeking to apply permaculture solutions to all the challenges to Ypsi resilience and forming a working group to share labor and resources. First workdays have already taken place in August & more are planned for September.

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Urban Farming a la Novella

Farm City: The Education of an Urban FarmerFarm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I liked Novella Carpenter’s style of writing. She has a sardonic working class voice that shines through every page of this book.

I liked that she is willing to experiment in the search for a self-sufficient life in terms of growing her own food, especially that she isn’t some kind of hippie vegan or vegetarian. When she talks locally grown food, she’s including rabbits, turkeys, and pigs.

One complaint I had is the extent of Carpenter’s buy-in that self-sufficiency is the goal. I would like to think that there could have been more interaction with her community. I’d like to have seen Carpenter discover that community interdependence is much more sustainable than trying to raise every mouthful on your own.

There are many moments when Carpenter almost grudgingly waxes poetic about the beauty she is creating and how much she loves interacting with Nature even in a crazed place like Oakland. (Although other reviewers have pointed out that she depicts Oakland as a little bit more of a war zone than it actually is.) I also live in a post-industrial working class town that is trying to re-invent itself. I think Carpenter is a little embarrassed about how deeply she is affected by gardening, interacting with animals, the sacred act of taking a life and consuming it.

Carpenter does learn from her mistakes and I give her points for trying to raise a pig on an urban lot. I think she’s young & headstrong — I get the feeling from her tone that she thinks (like many young people) that she’s the FIRST PERSON EVER to have tried urban agriculture and that she’s not someone who learns through research about what has worked for others. She’s a learn-by-doing kind of person. I respect that. And to be fair, this is mostly a memoir and not really a gardening manual.

Be warned, though. There are a lot of graphic descriptions of animal death in the book. Carpenter is unflinching and not one for assigning cuddly human traits to her food animals. I’m looking forward to her book on urban agriculture, The Essential Urban Farmer.

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