Base Map

The first step we took in the permaculture design course was to identify our project sites.  My project site is my home, a .22 acre corner lot near a bike route in Lebanon, Oregon.  I then drew a base map of my home and property boundaries.  The base map is the foundation of your entire design and is simply the current state of your site.  This includes homes, driveways, sidewalks, bushes, trees, fences, ect.  The base map also allows you to envision the entire site as you consider the bigger picture influences.

Base Map (3)

To get the measurements of the house and yard, I used a combination of the GoogleEarth ruler tool and an ordinary tape measure.  The scale of my map is 1in = 10ft.  On my map, the 25ft front yard is 2.5 inches long.  By drawing everything to scale, I can better plan for quantities of materials and the space needed for all the different plants.scalebar (2)

Some other things to include or consider are orientation and things influencing your site outside of your boundaries.  Which direction is north?  This is a must have so you can estimate the movement of the sun and seasonal wind patterns.  Are there roads, huge trees, or power lines just outside of your site?  These things may influence how you have to plan your plantings.  Also, don’t forget to include all the windows and doors or gates in a fence.DSC_1632

I used a thick vellum for the base map because it is sturdy, handles erasing well, and displays well through drafting paper.  My strategy was to make two base maps, one for my current yard, and one for the final design.  By using drafting or tracing paper, I can make overlays that allow me to display different layers of information over the existing base map.  The benefit of this is the ability to view multiple maps at once or to freely sketch without erasing.  It also means that I only have to do the tedious measuring for the house and yard once on the base map.AcessViews

Some good overlays to make right off the bat are the views and routes and labels for existing features.  These overlays make good references throughout the design process
as they can help you utilize the natural flow, views, and functions of your structures and vegetation.


Front Yard Permaculture

Cycling for Conservation

My house is quiet this morning as I reflect on a week and a half of planning and work with my good friend Marc.  It is hard to believe that two and a half years have gone by since Marc and I last saw each other in Oxford, Ohio.  We met through our mutual involvement in the Kent State Biology-Conservation Club, shared many of the same classes, and later conducted research in the diverse landscapes of Costa Rica.  After graduation, we both prepared and headed out on different journeys across the country only to confirm the notion that it is indeed a small world.

Since then I have moved to Lebanon, Oregon and begun transforming the neglected .22acre landscape of my 1930s Arts and Crafts style home.  The goal is to lessen my dependence on foods from thousands of miles away, beautify the community, and demonstrate a different way of…

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Miniature Horses and Wooden Wagons


In the entrance of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry was an exhibit of miniature towns, figurines, and other toy-like things.  Children loved this section of the museum.  It was hard to move through this area without walking into small children with tunnel vision.  They see these collections of beautifully made toys set up in creative little worlds and they have one goal in life: get as close as possible.

It was interesting to see the “grown-ups” here.  Some of them seemed to have lost their child natures somewhere in life.  They seemed bored, understanding ever so slightly the allure of silly toys.  They are children, children like toys, simple as that right?  Others, however, still had that connection with their children and even other children.  They had the understanding that, to the children, these were not merely still-life exhibits of toys, but the representation of motion, the illusion of a fabalistic life of which they are a part.  The imagination.  It is one of the most powerful forces on this Earth, and many times it seems most powerful in children.

When I was a kid, my toys were not just toys.  They were people in many ways.  They had personalities, they had roles within the world that they lived.  I did not always control them, sometimes they did what they wanted to do or did things they way they wanted to do it.  The only role I played sometimes was to facilitate their movement since that was their biggest weakness.  I loved my dog, but when he chewed the hands off of one of my friends, I was devastated.  How could I be friends with someone sick and deranged enough to chew the hands off of an innocent G.I. Joe?

I am not going to lie, if there was no glass separating the miniatures from my hands, I would have touched them.  I am not ashamed to say it either.  And I know that there was more than a few other “grown-ups” in there that felt the same.  To those who were bored, who felt that going to the astronomy section would be more suiting to an adult’s needs, grow up.  It is ok to use your imagination.  If you do not feel comfortable imagining where those caravan carts are going or what they are carrying, try imaging what the children are imagining them to be carrying.  At the very least, ask them what they think and then try to imagine that.  It is good exercise because, like your physical body, your imagination is a muscle and it will grow weak and one day, it will fail you.  When that day comes, you will be reduced to only factual things that you cannot change, like word problems and the news.

You have to get old, but staying young is a choice.  The old saying “You’re only as old as you feel,” is not necessarily talking about your muscles and organs.  Laugh at toys, they are funny.  That is the point, to make people happy.  Take a step out of the strictly “real” world and dabble in the possibility of a horse driving a caravan and a group of men in tighty-whities pulling it.

Camo is Cool

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I have always been fascinated with camouflage.  When I was kid, I used to  dress in all camouflage and creep around the woods trying to sneak up on animals and people alike.  Slowly, I would make my way through the trees and into the brush near the edge of neighbors’ property and spy on them.  Not because I was particularly interested in what people were doing, I just wanted to see how close I could get without being noticed.

There was a thrill about sneaking.  Everything seemed to become still and quiet around me as I snaked through bushes and tall grass.  I would become very aware of my breathing and subsequently my heart beat.  The bump-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump of my circulatory system would begin to fill my senses as I approached the zone of no return.  This is where, if spotted, I would have no alibi as to why I was there.  It was no longer credible to say, “Oh you know, I was just walking in the woods, that’s all.”

In some ways, that desire has never left me.  Now that I am older, I do not sneak into people’s backyards, both because that would be very awkward if I was caught and also I would have a hard time explaining to my friends and family why I need bail money.  I do like to remain very quiet while in the woods and to watch animals.  Similarly, I find myself watching camouflaged creatures intently.  I wonder how close will they let me get before they decide their cover is blown.  How intricate their patterns can be.  It is truly a wonder to stand as still as the creature before you and marvel at the delicacy of it’s camo.




At the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, a young girl has a connection with a newly hatched chick.  In this exhibit, chicken eggs are incubated on one side of a divider while on the other side, newly hatched chicks are free to roam.  This was by far one of the most popular exhibits I saw, children and adults alike loved to watch as tiny lives entered this world and took their first steps.  For many children who grow up in the city, this may be the first time they have had such a close look at the beginnings of another creature’s life.

Children seem to have a great affinity with life.  They form connections easily with animals and other children, even before they have fully learned the art of speech.  This little girl was in her own world with that chick.  She poked the glass and slide her finger across the glass and the chick would follow, stopping occasionally to look up at her.  The chick was only a few hours old, but the smile it fostered on the girl’s face was timeless.



The Examiner

Along a lonely dirt road near an abandoned gold mine stood the remains of an old shack.  One end had completely collapsed and the other leaned heavily on the remnant roof.  Scattered about the weathered wood and protruding grasses were tattered papers, some caught in the surrounding sage brush as the wind from the previous night had died down.  Upon closer inspection, the papers turned out to be artifacts from a world long passed.  A brief glimpse into the heritage of the manifest destiny calling the young nation to the West.
13760125255_ede2a58eb1_o  An article detailing a train robbery on a South Pacific line lay in the dirt nearby.  A reality we in the twenty first century think of as the stuff of Clint Eastwood or John Wayne movies.  It is easy to forget how rapidly the world has changed in the last hundred years in many ways.  With out modern media, information across the planet is at our finger tips.  Many of us today have never known any other way, and nearly every person alive today grew up with access to a radio at the very least.  Reports from China, Russia, Japan, come into out homes and our lives, spoken directly to us within days, hours, even minutes.  How long must the inhabitants of this tiny shack waited until they received word of the train robbery?

April 22 1897

The Examiner.  A front page from over one hundred years old.  The date, April 22 1897.  Created as a pro-Confederacy, pro-slavery, and anti-Lincoln newspaper, it’s original shops were burned at the end of the Civil war.    The US Civil War had ended little over thirty years ago and tensions and aggression had all but disappeared.  The Franco-Prussian War between the French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia had ended in a German victory, setting the stage for later conflicts between the two nations that would envelop the entire world.  Another year would pass before the Boxer Rebellion began in China in an attempt to expel foreign powers and Christianity.  The world at this time bursting with events that would shape our lives today, before fading into the shadows of memory and dusty old books in the back of the library.
13762298734_e6617a6d02_oWere any of these events to have different outcomes, what would the world be like today?  Our lives are so short relative to the course of human history, it is hard not to be completely engrossed with what is happening right now in this present moment in time.  History becomes sort of a story.  An amusing yet unrelatable substance whose lingering we can still see, yet the implications of which become lost in our current state.  These papers, these snapshots of the world-passed, survived to this day because they were used as the backing for wallpaper in a tiny shack that has since collapsed.  All that remains now is the floor boards and a scattering of warped boards, protruding nails, and jars with rusty lids.