Land Steward Position at Whole Life Learning Center

Whole Life Learning Center Land Steward

IMG_1558

This position is a unique opportunity to live and work on site at a working permaculture center in Austin, Texas. The Whole Life Learning Center is settled on a little less than 2 acres and serves about 70 youth ages 3-14 Monday – Friday. We also host permaculture design courses and volunteer days for adults through out the year. This position offers a monthly stipend of $500 and board in exchange for the role and responsibilities.

Teaching opportunities may also be available if interested.

The Whole Life Learning Center is a drug free campus. www.Wholelifelearningcenter.com

One World Permaculture is the online hub for permaculture offerings at WLLC and Austin Community College www.oneworldpermaculture.com

This position is perfect for someone who:

  1. has completed a Permaculture Design Course or has experience in horticulture, agriculture, holistic land management, biodynamics
  2. is ready to live a place based lifestyle, including rooting and investing creative energy and love into the land. this includes slowing down to watch sunsets, observe plants and waking for the occasional sunrise
  3. is comfortable with direct non-violent communication and is willing to be a part of a team to build and maintain this thriving and continually growing community.
  4. is committed and passionate about working at a permaculture education site – many hands go into the gardens here making for a unique farming experience. We have an evolving system for record keeping
  5. is comfortable living at a school that serves children ages 3-14yrs and enjoys being around children and people
  6. Is comfortable with manual labor in Central Texas Climate
  7. has experience growing annual food crops, has interest in planning, implementing and maintaining food crops, including mixing compost tea and other soil preparations
  8. is inspired to help maintain and evolve a four year old perennial food garden and small pond system
  9. can lift 50 lbs
  10. is comfortable working with chickens,ducks and three nigerian dwarf goats,  including daily care of feeding, water and cleaning as needed as well as putting one (chicken or duck) down if something happens (I can teach you how)
  11. has experience starting plants from seed and interest in other propagation techniques and basic greenhouse care
  12. feels comfortable working with volunteers on a weekly basis
  13. feels comfortable communicating with parents, children and staff of WLLC
  14. is inspired to engage in the Austin permaculture community
  15. can be around during holiday breaks including thanksgiving, winter break, spring break and summer or help find appropriate replacement
  16. can help with maintaining grounds including taking trash and recycling to curb, tending compost, mowing as needed (or use animals to mow), keeping farm space tidy
  17. will feel comfortable living in a 16’ yurt or a 32’ 1972 Airstream Trailer both with heat, AC, kitchen and bath on grey water. e are transitioning out of the airstream and into the yurt in this very moment.
  18. feels inspired to continually evolve the space independently and in collaboration with others
  19. can commit one year to this position

Please inquire to this position to Caroline Riley at criley@austincc.edu or 512-217-0661

a bit about the director:

Caroline Riley is a Texas native who grew up in the garden & free ranging on the Texas coast with her family. She discovered permaculture design while living in Colorado in 2004 & soon incorporated the ethics & principles into her Montessori classroom as a foundation to learn from nature with youth.

Today she owns the Whole Life Learning Center with her husband which is where she focuses her creative efforts, working to create & maintain a permaculture education center for people of all ages in Austin, Texas.

With a passion for experiential learning & creative design, Caroline instructs Permaculture Design Courses through Austin Community College & the Austin Permaculture Guild every Fall & Spring semester.

Caroline founded One World Permaculture in 2010 with the mission to connect & serve people worldwide through the study & practice of permaculture design ethics & principles. OWP collaborates & inspires to create integrated regenerative community, ecology & economy.

Caroline has studied permaculture with many great instructors, including Geoff Lawton, Warren Brush, Judd Hobbs, Kirby Fry, Dick Pierce & more. Her goal is to create a unique learning opportunity for her students from her vast experience.

When not at the learning center Caroline can be found on her 5 acre retreat of a homestead East of Austin with her family.

Being Self Reliant: Preparing for a Low Energy Future

In Permaculture, the main goal of the movement is to prepare for a global low energy future. The focus is on our present communities (locally and globally) for long term survival and thrival.  In order to achieve the goal, homesteads are the first priority. “Homestead” implies self sustaining livelihoods; growing own food, capture and using own energy supply, creating own goods and services. DSC_0059_1024

The main way to achieve self reliance and community empowerment is to capture and store energy.  To apply energy usage in a balanced lifestyle (in order to prevent too much work or waste) a system of positive feedback and negative feedback reactions need to be set.  In current economics, the system can be correlated with checks and balances.  Unlike, economics there is not enough direct feedback of the impact our actions or habits have an affect on the environment.

The next step to a global shift starts with the utilization of developed goods and services for the betterment of the wider community.  Bartering, or solely giving away, makes life easier for each member of the community.  The dispersion of roles can be seen in past villages where there were fishers, butchers, carpenters, blacksmiths, etc.  To create a naturally functioning and maintained larger system we must apply tactics of homesteading to the greater whole; feedback, self maintenance, maximum energy usage, allocation and usage of resources.

Self reliance comes in many forms for me.  I am placing responsibility on myself to create my own home, my own food, and my own supplies.  Self reliance is a form of activism, switching from the waste and mindless consumer to the educated, thoughtful producer.  Most of all self reliance is freedom for me to have minimal ties to corporations or the government, providing my own security and happiness.

Storage of Energy

Homesteading is the symbolic, grounded declaration of my self reliance.  My passion holds strong, but there are a few techniques to be learned first.   The main sustenance for a homesteading person is the storage of energy.  The ability to capture and store ensues security and abundance for multiple seasons, years, and ultimately, generations.  So what is energy? Energy on a land that can be captured starts with the sun.  Every part of life on Earth is created and propelled by solar capture and use.  Solar gain is transmitted into four key energy storages; water, living soil, trees, and seeds.

Each is fundamental and strategically chosen  to be self maintaining, low depreciating in value, and resistant to theft or monopolization.

One of the key principles of permaculture is “Observe and Interact”.  Observing each renewable source on a plot of land (or community), we can utilize the best practices of catching a storage of energy.  Water interacts with the land ideally through rainfall, aquifers, rivers, and basins. Water can then be captured as reservoirs, dams, swales, tanks, cisterns, ponds, and swamps. The energy can be stored and transmuted into natural capital as vegetation, forests, and soils or can be used as immediate energy for irrigation and mechanical energy (watermills).

 

Living soil, another energy storage, is a critical element of healthy ecosystem.  The essential chemical break down is carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen. When there is a large presence of humus on the ground, the soil metabolizes and stores these necessary nutrients.  Humus comes from the rotting of plant life and then acts as a sponge absorbing water, carbon, and minerals. The minerals determine the alkalinity of the soil.  They include calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.  Ideal PH level of the soil is 6.5.  With the use of  nitrogen fixing plants, herding of animals, and mycology we are able to remediate abused lands. Living soil that is abundant in humus, minerals, water, carbon, and nitrogen needs to be highly valued as a resource of homesteading. DSC_0066_1024

Here is a piece of land we are healing the soil with mycology, specifically  king stropharia and oyster mushrooms

As the third energy resource, trees contribute to the ecosystem immensely.  Contributing to foliage on the ground to break down into humus, acting as a cover for other plants and animals, and large carbon stores; trees are a wealth to be had!  Because most trees are resilient after a few years, they become self maintaining, a keystone to the local ecology. Trees are able to reproduce without the need for felling and can easily be translated into material wealth of wood and fruits. Conjointly, the forest provides a habitat for animals, bees, herbs, fungi, and seeds which all have the capability to be valuable stores of energy.

The reproduction of plants, seeds, have unlimited capabilities making them one of the biggest investments of energy storage.  Usually small in size, most seeds are easily stored for years on end.  They are resistant to most environments and each seed has the capacity to produce futures seeds by the ten fold.

When we value the abundant resources from nature for its true worth, we can gain much more from it.  The key to harnessing this energy is to observe these stores of energy in nature, understand the true value, and recreate this occurrence on a homesteading plot. The measurement of wealth can be attributed to how the energy is stored, how it can be transmuted into different forms, and how long the energy is thriving in storage.  Wealth that is valued in this way can further our livelihoods in terms of bartering or monetary gain and secure our future.  Talk about preparing for retirement!

This article is written by Chloe Buzzotta

The pros of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food, do they outweigh the cons?

Introduction:

A quick google search on “gmos” or “monsanto” will give you an array of contradictory information.  It can be hard to thin out what effects gmos actually produce on our food, health, and environment.

In this article, I will interpret resources from advocates of GMOs to present all of the scientific  benefits of this innovative technology and then I will analyze the critics’ replies to these claims.

 

The PROS; sourced from geneticist Pamela Ronald and the Genetic Literacy Project

Listening to a passionate and persuading Ted Talk by Pamela Ronald, I was able to get a good idea of what a genetically modified organism actually is.

According to Pamela:

  • gmos have been used since ancient times!
  • The technology has now been perfected for the past two decades and proven to be the most viable source for safety and frugality
  • “nourish children around the planet”

The Genetic Literacy Project supports these confident statements made by Pamela.

They add GMOs:

  • have economic and health benefit at the farm level, particularly to smallholder farmers in developing countries
  • reduce the environmental impact of herbicides and pesticides
  • create a reduced impact tilling system for farmers

In conclusion to the above, the technology has societal, health, and environmental benefits.

Unfortunately as I dug deeper into the subject, I found an outweighing amount of information against Genetically Modified crops.

 

CONS:

 

“Food has been genetically modified since ancient times”

Here is an educational graph to differentiate between selective breeding and GM breeding.

In order to understand fully, the genes of GMOs are spliced from one organism and placed into another.   The genes are chosen for potential thrival of crops in all ecosystems, even degraded lands.  The genes can consist of bacteria, viruses, fish  or spiders and are spliced into tomatoes, papaya, and rice.  Pamela correlates grafting and selective breeding to current GMOs in her ted talk, but  these ancient practices are nothing like the complete transgenic alteration she is referring to.

 

“Cheapest, Safest, and higher yielding technology”

In 2013, a second generation GMO farmer (Chris Huegerich) switched back to conventional seeds.  He reported a 15 to 30 yield improvement per acre versus his genetically modified crops.  Chris also noted that bags of these intellectually patented seeds could be up to $150 more than standard cropping seeds.  Imagine what that cost compares to in other countries like India, where farmers are already struggling to make a living.

 

Speaking of “safest”, the technology is also embedded with BT.  BT,quoted by Ronald, is “safer than table salt” but Seralini would beg to differ.  A study of monsanto’s (a lead producer of GMOs) data found detrimental effects to rats fed mutated maize.

“Five years ago the [GMO seeds] worked,” said farmer Christ Huegerich, who along with his father planted GMO seeds. “I didn’t have corn rootworm because of the Bt gene, and I used less pesticide. Now, the worms are adjusting, and the weeds are resistant. Mother Nature adapts.”

Feeding the growing population

One of the biggest claims of this new technology is the ability to feed the global population.  One of the biggest myths is that there is not enough food being produced currently to feed the global population. A study by the renowned Mcgill college reported there is enough food being produced today to feed ten billion people. Access to this food is not currently possible to many third world countries because of monetary causes (discussed above).
Using solutions like this one people everywhere can have access to food for cheap, if not for free!

 

Use of sprayed insecticides/pesticides lessened with GMOs

Stated by the Genetic Literacy Project (see above), reduced use of these chemicals will lead to a healthier, less intensive product. Again we see a contradiction; BT and Roundup are both used frequently with GM products.  Not only are both toxic, but they are fossil fuel consuming to create! Did Monsanto overlook this? It is hard to believe when they started their company as a chemical industry….

Less Tilling?

Another claim, is the reduction practices of tilling the soil. TIlling is an energy intensive method to create a better bedding for crops that have leached out nutrients from previous crops.  Funny thing is there are already ancient methods for no till farming.  One of these methods is the seed ball; made with soil, clay, and seeds.  Little money or effort is involved.

Supporting monocropping

Lastly, Genetically Modified Organisms are bandaid for the already failing method of agriculture.  It is supporting a monoculture farming method which eliminates biodiversity of species.  Diversity of fauna and flora is essential for a long lasting,  resilient ecosystem.  The diverse amount of species guards against disease, encourages longevity, and provides more nutrients to local ecology.

Genetically Modified foods are hardly a fix when it is built on an inefficient model of agriculture to begin with.  We are in a crisis of climate change. The questions that GMOs pose are pertinent to our future, such as feeding a global human population and reversing environmental  degradation, but the methods involved are not feasible.  We need to look at the causes of climate change.  We need to debunk myths of food production and allocation.  How do we create a future of food for all?  

Resources:

Permaculture Design Course at Austin Community College

I am very excited to announce that Austin Community College will be offering a 72 hour Permaculture Design Certificate course for the 2015 Fall semester. After three years of growing and evolving this special course, we are taking it to the next level with a revamped and reorganized schedule, updated content, and as always- hands on learning.  One of my favorite things about this class is the small size, only accepting 15 students maximum, making it small enough for group discussion, many small group learning activities, and more one on one feedback with the instructor and classmates.

Classes will be held both on campus at the Riverside ACC campus, as well as off site for hands on learning and community building.

We have the unique privilege of having a community college that supports permaculture design, including it as a landscape design certification course.

Please contact Caroline Riley with any questions: criley@austicc.edu

Registration is now open!

ACC Permaculture Design Course Syllabus

12 Week Format

Monday and Wednesday Evenings 6-9pm

September 14 – December 2

cost: $551

Week 1. Concepts

Monday- Introduction to Permaculture, History of Permaculture Design, Course Expectations and Agreements, Design Project Introduction, Group Introductions

Wednesday- Ethics and Principles, Principle Activity and Discussion

Week 2. Patterns

Monday- Principle Review, Design Methods, Online Design and Map Resources

Wednesday- Patterns in Nature and Design, Pattern Activity and Discussion

Week 3. Climate

Monday- Climate Lecture

Wednesday- Trees and their Energy Transactions, Trees of Central Texas Tree Walk

Week 4. Water

Monday- Water, Ponds, Dams, hands on look at leveling tools.

Wednesday- Rainwater Catchment, Rain Gardens, Grey Water, Black Water,

Week 5. Soil and Home Design

Monday- Soil 101, Earthworks, How to Make Compost Tea

Wednesday- Plant Families, Companion Planting, Felt Design Game

Week 6. Home Design

Monday- House and Garden Design for Different Climate Zones, Growing Food in Central Texas- Techniques and Strategies

Wednesday- Permaculture Education Center Field trip- The Whole Life Learning Center, Design Project Workshop, Tools for Design

Week 7. Perennial Food Gardens 

Monday- Perennial Food Gardens for Different Climate Zones, Medicinal Plants of Central Texas, Global Gardener Video

Wednesday- Field trip– Tour of Local Food Forest, The Central Texas Food Forest, Guild Design Activity

Week 8. Broad Scale Animal Systems and Urban Permaculture

Monday- Animals in Design, Holistic Ranch Management, Design Project Check-in and Group Brainstorm

Wednesday- Urban Permaculture Strategies, Global Gardener Video, Discussion

Week 9. People Care- Invisible Structures

Monday- Course Review, Invisible Structures, Permaculture Flower Discussion,

Wednesday- The Permaculture Kitchen, Global Gardener Video, Community Creation Design Game

Week 10. Diving into Design

Monday- Permaculture in Education, Design Project Check-in to prepare for Wednesday,

Wednesday- Field trip to Whole Life Learning Center to work on Designs, Each Student has a chance to ask group for feedback

Week 11. Design Workshop

Monday- Check in review, Design Workshop

Wednesday- Design Workshop with group feedback

Week 12- Presentations and Celebration

Monday- Presentations

Wednesday- Presentations, Certification, Celebration

This Course is lead by Caroline Riley:

Caroline Riley is a Texas native who grew up in the garden and free ranging on the Texas coast with her family. She discovered permaculture design while living in Colorado in 2004 and soon incorporated the ethics and principles into her Montessori classroom as a foundation to learn from nature with youth.

Today she owns the Whole Life Learning Center with her husband, which is where she focuses her creative efforts, working to create and maintain a permaculture education center for people of all ages in Austin, Texas.

With a passion for experiential learning and creative design, Caroline instructs Permaculture Design Courses through Austin Community College and the Austin Permaculture Guild every Fall and Spring semester.

Caroline founded One World Permaculture in 2010 with the mission to connect and serve people worldwide through the study and practice of permaculture design ethics and principles. OWP collaborates and inspires to create integrated regenerative community, ecology and economy.

Caroline has studied permaculture with many great instructors, including Geoff Lawton, Warren Brush, Judd Hobbs, Kirby Fry, Dick Pierce and more. Her goal is to create a unique learning opportunity for her students from her vast experience.

When not at the learning center Caroline can be found searching out cool waters for swimming and enjoying the retreat of her South Austin home with her family.  IMG_0307

Unique Permaculture Internship/Position Available

This internship/position is a unique opportunity to learn on site at a working permaculture center in Austin, Texas for the 2015-2016 school year. The Whole Life Learning Center serves about 70 youth ages 5-14 Monday – Friday. Permaculture Design Courses are offered to adults for 10 Saturdays every Fall and Spring semester onsite as well and there are weekly volunteer days through out the school year. The school is situated on almost two acres and is entering it’s third year of being a working permaculture education site. Some permaculture elements include a perennial food garden, small pond, annual gardens, grey water system, about 20 chickens, a mini goat and guard mini donkey, 10,000 gal rainwater water catchment, a greenhouse, and an aquaculture propagation station, which all need care and attention. Also, the space is constantly evolving and could use some new inspiration.

caroline riley

our food forest

For more information check out www.wholelifelearningcenter.com

IMG_0280

our current intern, Taelor!

IMG_1561

We are so grateful for our volunteers

The position is overseen by an experienced permaculture designer and instructor and offers a monthly stipend of $500 and board in exchange for the role and responsibilities.

This position is perfect for someone or possibly a couple who:

  1. has completed a Permaculture Design Course
  2. is committed and passionate about working at a permaculture education site
  3. wants to deepen their experience with permaculture design through daily practice
  4. is comfortable living at a school that serves children ages 5-14yrs and enjoys being around children
  5. is comfortable with manual labor in Central Texas Climate
  6. has experience growing annual food crops, has interest in planning, implementing and maintaining food crops, including mixing compost tea ad other soil preparations
  7. is inspired to help maintain and evolve a three year old perennial food garden and small pond system
  8. can lift 50 lbs of feed or hay
  9. is comfortable working with chickens, including daily care of feeding, water and cleaning as needed as well as putting one down if something happens (I can teach you how)
  10. is comfortable working with a Mediterranean Mini Donkey and a mini goat including daily feeding, water, harvesting fodder as food, leading them to different paddocks, cleaning barn as needed
  11. has experience starting plants from seed and interest in other propagation techniques and basic greenhouse care
  12. feels comfortable working with volunteers on a weekly basis
  13. feels comfortable communicating with parents, children and staff of WLLC
  14. is inspired to engage in the Austin permaculture community
  15. can be around during holiday breaks including thanksgiving, winter break, spring break and summer or help find appropriate replacement
  16. can help with maintaining grounds including taking trash and recycling to curb, tending compost, mowing as needed (or use animals to mow), keeping farm space tidy
  17. will feel comfortable living in a 31’ 1972 Airstream Trailer with heat, AC, kitchen and bath on grey water. The school is fenced and gated and trailer is off the street
  18. feels inspired to continually evolve the space independently and in collaboration with others
  19. can commit one year to this position

Please send a letter of interest and all inquires to Caroline Riley at criley@austincc.edu

A bit about the director:

Caroline Riley is a Texas native who grew up in the garden & free ranging on the Texas coast with her family. She discovered permaculture design while living in Colorado in 2004 & soon incorporated the ethics & principles into her Montessori classroom as a foundation to learn from nature with youth.

Today she owns the Whole Life Learning Center with her husband which is where she focuses her creative efforts, working to create & maintain a permaculture education center for people of all ages in Austin, Texas.

With a passion for experiential learning & creative design, Caroline instructs Permaculture Design Courses through Austin Community College & the Austin Permaculture Guild every Fall & Spring semester.

Caroline founded One World Permaculture in 2010 with the mission to connect & serve people worldwide through the study & practice of permaculture design ethics & principles. OWP collaborates & inspires to create integrated regenerative community, ecology & economy.

Caroline has studied permaculture with many great instructors, including Geoff Lawton, Warren Brush, Judd Hobbs, Kirby Fry, Dick Pierce & more. Her goal is to create a unique learning opportunity for her students from her vast experience.

Caroline Riley

Caroline Riley

When not at the learning center Caroline can be found searching out cool waters for swimming a enjoying the retreat of her South Austin home with her family.

A Permaculture Dream and The Whole Life Learning Center

Long before I discovered my current work in the world as a Permaculture instructor and designer, I planted the seed to create a place for community to grow. I remember sitting in the living room of my apartment in Durango, CO in 2005 at the age of 25 with my roommate writing out our 2, 5, and 10 year life plans. Mine began with my Montessori teacher training and studying Permaculture design and culminated with a community center/school/farm where we could all live and raise our families. This sounded like a great idea, and one that I had no idea how to go about in creating, but dream big right? Here we are 2015, 10 years later, and I could have never dreamed up nor desired to live out how the last decade unfolded, but the end product is pretty spot on compared to that dream session.

I don’t consider myself a visionary but I am one of those people who is able to see the bigger picture of not just what is needed, but what will be needed for our children to thrive in the world that will be. This is always where my dreams come from. . . that question of how can I create a space where people can grow into a world that is becoming, that we can’t quite see because it isn’t here yet? And, what do I want that world to look like for my family and community? That dream inspires me to no end!

So I remember 10 years ago feeling like I needed leaders, teachers, mentors and friends to help me become a person who could lead, teach and support others. I single parented through almost seven years of this journey, until December 2009 when my son West and my father passed away in an accident, changing EVERYTHING.

I went from struggling being a working single mother while working to define myself in the world, to having more free time than I had ever known in my adulthood. The struggle shifted to grief mixed with a fierce drive to go beyond survival, I had awakened to a need to thrive or die. It is truly amazing how such a large loss inspired me to actualize something much larger than myself in the world, and that was only one of the blessings that came my way.

The first thing I began to work on after West’s passing was more Permaculture design in my life and less time in the classroom with kids. I needed to work in the soil and grow food for my sanity. Digging was my outlet, one friend recalls the year I dug holes. My backyard transformed into gardens, I helped others create new gardens for their spaces, I found peace and connection to my lost family in nature. One World Permaculture was born to fill a need of connecting communities through Permaculture, but selfishly it was created as a venue of personal healing. It was also a great excuse to teach Permaculture as a Language Arts teacher to 6-13 year olds, travel to Africa and India, and fall back in love with living. I had discovered thriving as a livelihood. At the time, I had forgotten about the life planning dream session in Durango, but I happened to be in line with my five year plan of being a lead teacher, teaching sustainability and gardening with kids in schools, and growing into more leadership roles. I was actually doing it! kids eating peas

I’d say that 2010-2011 was both the hardest time and most abundant time of my life. Grief is such a tricky emotion, as it ebbs and flows like the tides of the sea and I had no idea how to deal with it, but I wasn’t going to let it drown me nor define me. At the same time, I was the woman who lost her father and son, and to a lot of people I felt like a reminder of their worst nightmare. Naturally, everything began to shift and many things and people fell away leaving a lot of space for new people and endeavors. This was the perfect time to get to know myself, discover the feeling of being alone and move through some deep waters. Looking at it now it all feels like a past life.

In that year, I met Michael Carberry, the man who dreamed of starting a school and wanted to do it with me at his side. It was an easy yes to the partnership, starting the school and the marriage. Then someone was crazy enough to hire me to teach Permaculture Design at Austin Community College. There are not many Permaculture courses offered in a college setting, and the PDC is meant to be offered in a two week intensive format, so translating that meant creating the course from the ground up. Oh man, did I have my hands full and I was honestly terrified, but still determined to grow into ALL of IT, one foot in front of the other. All of this commenced in the Fall of 2011. We were off to a running start!

And so we have been walking on our path, stretching, growing, thriving and at times running to catch up. The Whole Life Learning Center is a growing organism, thriving thanks to all of the loving people tending to its needs. We started the first year with about 18 students, the second with about 24, the third with close to 45 and here we are in the fourth year with about 60 students immersed in holistic, inspired, integrated education. Most importantly, the students love their school and never want holidays or summer break. This is possible. wllc classroom

We purchased the property using money that came as a result of the accident that took Pops and West. It feels so great to know that their legacy lives on through the existence of this learning center and is comforting to reinvest that flow in regenerative design and community building.  On this campus along side the youth programs, we host many Permaculture Courses through the Austin Permaculture Guild and various workshops through One World Permaculture, including a food forest workshop where students have actually designed and implemented a perennial food garden at the school, three years running now. We believe in sweat equity here, so as people use this space to learn through experience, they have the right to reap its yields. In the two full years of working with the land yields continue to increase, and I believe this trend will continue, including the number of people who come together here to learn and grow. IMG_0402

We have planted over 100 trees on our almost 2 acres, have 10,000 gallons of rainwater catchment form the building, intensive earthworks/garden systems, and a small pond for extra catchment and biodiversity support. We have about 20 chickens who are under the care of Gertrude the guard donkey and her partner Ellie the mini goat, and herds of children moving through the system deep in imaginative play and chase games. WLLC panoramic

Although we can’t all live here, we do have a permaculture intern who keeps a loving eye and hands on the space while living in her airstream and one more airstream that serves as a home base/office for me and Michael. Here we are, 10 years after that dream session in Durango, pretty in line and totally beyond anything I could have dreamed.

This brings me to our next chapter, the whole reason I began this blog entry. 12 years after becoming a mother, I am about to reenter the world of parenting with the near arrival of my second son. Michael’s and my sweet son, the next big adventure along with all that is. This is what has prompted this deep reflection and a conclusion that I can be a powerful leader in the permaculture community, just how I am, as an empowered woman, embracing my feminine right to be a mother, wife, teacher, and daughter. Releasing what that needs to look like while owning that we are ready to ask for more help. I believe in right livelihood, creating abundance to share, and I’m looking for people who want to create that for themselves. If anything, come and see what we have created at Whole Life Learning Center and find your own inspiration.there is a bun in that oven

As this new chapter unfolds, I have moved away form teaching youth at WLLC and will continue, in perfect timing, to teach adult permaculture classes. I dream of creating opportunities for teen PDC courses and more training in Permaculture and Education because it is thriving at WLLC. I also want to continue evolving the permaculture systems at the school and have it be a place for people to continue to come to learn through experience how to manage small scale farm systems, animal systems, greenhouse care, and community center organization. It is all a practice, from dream, to design, to implementation, to feedback, and back around. Do you share in this dream?

The Whole Life Learning Center

Oneworldpermaculture.com

Austin Permaculture Guild

The Garden Classroom

Our Permaculture Design Course at Austin Community College spans over 18 weeks. This duration gives the class an ample amount of time to sink into the rhythms and cycles of the seasons together. What better place to practice permaculture design principles than the backyard garden? My garden in my living classroom, and I love bringing my students here to learn from my experiments and mistakes.IMG_0070

One of my favorite details to observe in the garden is the growth of plants in relation changing factors and flows.  The idea of companion planting or the many benefits of diversity within an ecosystem are abstract concepts to some. People want concrete proof of what practices work, so this post is a little peak into what is working in our system. The affects of using cover crops and not tilling the garden are two magical practices that I feel are worth sharing.

When I first read One Straw Revolution by Fukuoka I immediately started looking for ways to include cover and grain crops in my small urban space.  I was also intrigued by no till gardening and the idea of not needing prepared compost. What a great way to design ME out of the system! The more I learned about soil science, life cycles and plant health, the more I questioned how my seasonal practice of turning compost into my beds affected the over all health of the soil and it’s ability to hold water in our dry, hot climate. Two years ago, I bit the no till bullet and stopped turning my beds, except for the occasional careful weeding of Bermuda and nut grass.

This Winter my ACC Permaculture class planted inoculated fava beans and snap peas in one of our keyhole beds. After the legumes sprouted, I planted sunflower seeds in many of the garden beds around the property. 10 weeks later, the legumes are fruiting and the sunflowers are about to shoot up to 10 feet tall. Today I will chop many of the legumes in the keyhole bed and drop them as mulch. They will release a large amount of nitrogen and other minerals into the soil and as the plants decay I will add dead leaves as mulch to give a little carbon boost as well.

Below is a picture of Michael standing next to a sunflower in the keyhole bed:

IMG_0055

The next two photos are of Michael standing next to sunflowers in two other beds near by. All three beds get the same amount of sun and water. Only the keyhole bed was planted with a leguminous cover crop. See the difference in size? Pretty cool right? IMG_0067IMG_0061

The impact of learning through experience of these cycles of growth sure beats a lecture or reading about the intricacies of soil science and plant health.

Today as I cut the legumes back I found many basil volunteers below the pea canopy waiting for their season to grow! photo-6The yellow flowers next to the basil is horseherb, a great living mulch for our Austin area.

We allow most plants to grow to seed here. I actually grow many plants for their seed for culinary and medicinal herbs. I work to build seed banks in the soil and trust the intelligence of the plant to decide where it wants to grow. One mistake I have learned from is letting the chickens into the garden to till for me. They leave nitrogen rich deposits, eat grubs and weeds, but they also eat the seeds that I want in the soil! I’ve found them best suited to tractor new garden spaces or places that are overrun with grass. Also, I have found it worth it to learn how to identify young plants, pulling unwanted ones where you don’t want them. Why not let the garden plant itself?

Have fun in your own Garden Classroom!

Blessings abound,

~Caroline Riley Carberry