Nature by Numbers


Patterns in nature never cease to amaze us. The short clip below gives some visuals on what we teach in our Permaculture Design Courses about how to use natural patterns to increase sustainability in human systems. For instance, on many plants, the leaves are spaced in a “Golden Mean” ratio around the stem – giving each leave maximum exposure to sunlight.  That same ratio in a thin spiral seashell gives it more structural support while keeping it light and mobile. How could you use these ratios to improve your design?  🙂

Cob building – “living in a hug”

Cob building is a form of building that combines clay, straw and sand into a very malleable structure that can be sculpted at will. One can build houses, walls, outdoor or indoor ovens, benches, and pretty much anything you want to build with it. It has structural integrity because of the straw. One can see cob structures built in the 1500’s still in use in England, and much older examples elsewhere around the world. The house below has tapering walls that are sometimes more than two feet thick at the bottom. This is what offers structural support.

$5000 home

We love the creative potential of cob building. It truly is a medium for artists.


cob oven

Can you build with cob in Florida? Absolutely! Building in the dry season is preferable when working with natural building materials. And keeping the structure off the ground and potential flooding with stones or earthbags is also important.


Is it legal? Yes, as long as your structural support can be permitted – timber frame or other accepted structural support can be used, with cob being used for the walls.


There is nothing like the warmth of living in a shelter made from the earth. Radiant heat and cooling from the walls feels really good on the skin. The earth provides healing instead of the toxic off-gassing one gets from modern construction. Our favorite herb lady, Willow, said this about natural building, “It’s like living in a hug.” We can relate 🙂

cob interior

We include hands on basic cob building in our Urban Permaculture Design Course and built environment workshops (see our courses page for more info), and plan to build what we believe will be the first cob oven in the Tampa Bay area, soon! We love cob!

cob water

Alternative economy in Greece




Greece develops cashless, Euro-free currency in tight economy

http://www.rawstory .com/rs/2012/ 03/16/greece- develops- euro-free- currency- in-tight- economy/# .T2RcMFoiN3h. twitter

A determination to `move beyond anger to creativity’ is driving a strong barter economy in some places
In recent weeks, Theodoros Mavridis has bought fresh eggs, tsipourou (the local brandy: beware), fruit, olives, olive oil, jam, and soap. He has also had some legal advice, and enjoyed the services of an accountant to help fill in his tax return.
None of it has cost him a euro, because he had previously done a spot of electrical work – repairing a TV, sorting out a dodgy light – for some of the 800-odd members of a fast-growing exchange network in the port town of Volos, midway between Athens and Thessaloniki.
In return for his expert labour, Mavridis received a number of Local Alternative Units (known as tems in Greek) in his online network account. In return for the eggs, olive oil, tax advice and the rest, he transferred tems into other people’s accounts….

Follow the Food

A timely article about some of the strategies being used to reclaim farmland from the jaws of development, and to get and keep regenerative farms in production.   Some good ideas that financial and community governance and land tenure permaculture could add to and enhance…

Pine Ridge reservation 2012 – Food forests!

pine ridge erosionLast year’s tree planting and gardening at Pine Ridge has led to expanded plans for this year!  Our plans include three food forests at Pine Ridge this year, with three different organizations on the rez. We will also help install gardens and give classes on the techniques we’ll be using. We’ll be there from late April to mid-May, .  Planting will occur Apr 29, May 1-4 and May 5-9.

We still need volunteers! We have a Kickstarter campaign at

Pine Ridge reservation is a “food desert” in the extreme sense of the word. There are almost no organic foods being sold on the reservation. People often have to drive two hours or 100 miles to get organic or fresh vegetables or fruits.  Diabetes, heart disease and other diet-related diseases are at epidemic proportions on the rez.  The infant mortality and early death rates are some of the worst in the world.  Food security is a major issue.  The land is harsh – with severe, drying winds, hail in July, and freezes in June and August sometimes.  Insect pests are ubiquitous.   It can be challenging to grow things on this land.

Food forests are a way of working with nature to create stable ecosystems that grow lots of food.   We mimic how a natural ecosystem of trees would behave in this zone.  Because this is open prairie land and the main trees are pine forests, we will be experimenting to some degree to create a good microclimate for fruit trees. There are a number of successful orchards around that we are learning from.

Forests create milder temperatures (cooler in summer, warmer in winter), windbreaks, water capture, erosion control, and many other benefits.  One can have a small food forest in the backyard, or a larger one on a few acres.  Agroforestry is another version of using trees to produce food.  There are many advantages to all of these approaches and they can be integrated in the existing ecosystem in ways that enhance the ecosystem.

The Lakota are known for buffalo hunting, but they also traditionally appreciated the wild plant food that grows in the region.  We’ll be including native edibles traditionally used by Lakota in our food forest, as well as other fruits and nuts that are of interest.

Food forests provide a food system that mimics the ‘hunter-gatherer’ tradition of the Lakota.  We are creating demonstration/experimental forest gardens this year and will continue to document progress, make it publicly available, enhance the forests, and help plant new ones in years to come.  This is not a one shot deal!

We need donations of trees, seeds and plants,  irrigation piping and equipment, rain catchment containers, and funding for travel and food expenses for experts who will install and educate while there.  We also need volunteers to help with planting, and are looking for skilled volunteers to help install irrigation, water catchment, and other systems.

Two members of Grow Permaculture (formerly Permaculture Guild) Koreen Brennan and Bob Lawrason, will be headed to Pine Ridge in late April for approximately three weeks, from the Tampa Bay area.  We are looking for other volunteers to come up from the Tampa area to carpool and share travel costs.  There will also be volunteers coming from Oregon, Wisconsin, California and elsewhere.

Please consider a tax deductible donation via our donation Pay Pal button.

If you have donations of materials or would like to volunteer, please contact us via the web site!

Eradicating Ecocide

FT-300x194We need to create laws that will prevent criminals from passing the true costs of doing business on to others. Future generations are being robbed of their natural capital by greedy, short-sighted and irresponsible people. They need to be held accountable.  What would happen if ecocide was a crime? This is true cost accounting. Check out the video!