Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Shading paths in Hawai'i

This post follows up on the concepts of my post Sun and Shade, Temperate vs Tropical, with some quick thoughts on paths. Ideally, Hawaiian paths would be shaded in the summer for protection of humans from the sun and maximum photosynthesis, but more open in the wet winters to prevent too much mud and muckiness.

Paths running east-west could have large trees planted on the north side to overhang the path enough to provide shade from the spring to fall equinox, while allowing winter sun to enter from the south.

Paths running north-south could be treated in one of a few ways:

  • Compromise plantings of hedges or trees at wide enough spacings or with relatively sparse canopies to provide incomplete summer shade and incomplete winter sun.
  • Coppiceable plantings of quick-growing trees or tall hedges, cut in the winter and allowed to grow through the summer. This would work well with N-fixers to provide mulch easily transported along the paths to desired destinations.
  • Deciduous plantings (such as kapok) providing the standard summer shade/winter sun service.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Resistance review: The Effectiveness of Sabotage

I just had a short essay published on a 1987 thesis by Captain Howard Douthit III of the US Air Force: “The Use and Effectiveness of Sabotage As a Means of Unconventional Warfare.” The thesis is a great review of the historical use of sabotage and its impressive success, especially in asymmetric conflicts. This helps validate the wisdom of the Deep Green Resistance Decisive Ecological Warfare strategy for achieving environmental and social justice. From the thesis:

The only countermeasure that stopped sabotage was the manpower-prohibitive act of exterminating the saboteurs. Committing the number of forces necessary for effective counter-sabotage also produced too much of a drain on the front line. Indeed, as this fact became known, sabotage efforts increased in a deliberate move to force the enemy to guard against sabotage in the rear area. Thus, this research indicated there were no effective countermeasures to sabotage.


[H]istory supported the thesis that sabotage is an effective means of warfare. Sabotage was used against both strategic and tactical targets. It was proven capable of being used near the front line, in the rear areas, and even in support areas out of the theater.


Sabotage can be used against both tactical and strategic targets.

Any nation, rich or poor, large or small can effect sabotage against an aggressor.

Sabotage is an economical form of warfare, requiring only a mode of transportation (possibly walking), a properly trained individual, and an applicable sabotage device.

Read my entire essay, with links to the DGR strategy and to Captain Douthit's paper, at Time Is Short: The Effectiveness of Sabotage.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Direct action land reclamation

A Deep Green Resistance supporter sent a link to a photo essay he compiled about Occupy the Farm in Albany, CA. A group of local residents, activists, and university students blockaded destruction of the last prime soil in the city, destined to be wiped out for, ironically, a Whole Foods Market.

This is a great example of direct action to preserve land from development and to spotlight the need for growing food locally in urban areas. Read the whole article: These People Faced Down Riot Cops to Grow Food: Here's How They Won.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Business As Usual: The False Solutions of Green Tech

My readers in the Portland area may be interested in attending one of the upcoming presentations by Deep Green Resistance Lower Columbia in Hood River, Albany, and Vancouver WA, on "Business As Usual: The False Solutions of Green Tech." Make it if you can; DGR has some unique and valuable insights to offer in the fight for a livable planet.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review of Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds

I wrote a review recently of the documentary Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds. I found a lot to like, but coming from permacultural and radical environmental perspectives, I ultimately felt disappointed that the film didn't take on more than it did.

The film shows beautiful time lapse sequences of seeds sprouting and shooting into new life. Even rarer, it shows people feeling very emotional about seeds, displaying extra-human connections we normally only see with domesticated pets, and hinting at the human responsibility of respectful relationship with all beings described by so many indigenous people. The movie highlights great projects from seed schools and the Seed Broadcast truck educating people on why and how to save seed, to William Woys Weaver and others within Seed Savers Exchange doing the on-the-ground work of saving varieties from extinction, to Hudson Valley Seed Library trying to create a viable business as a local organic seed company.

Unfortunately, Open Sesame has an extremely narrow focus. Though it rightly brings up the issue of staple crops, which many people ignore in their focus on vegetables, it trumpets our dependence on grains, even showing factory farmed cattle, pigs, and chickens in an uncritical light. This assumption that humans need annual crops reveals an ignorance of agriculture itself as a root cause of our converging environmental crises. Even before industrialism accelerated the destruction and oppression, civilization and its cities, fed by organic agriculture, was eroding soil, silting up waterways, turning forests into deserts, and instituting slavery and warfare. Though the diminished diversity within our food crops should indeed cause concern, the far greater biodiversity loss of mass species extinctions under organic agriculture should spark great alarm, if not outright panic.


Though the documentary chose not to tackle those big-picture issues, it still could have included perennial polycultures, groups of long-lived plants and animals living and interacting together in support of their community. For 99% of our existence, humans met our needs primarily from perennial polycultures, the only method proven to be sustainable.

Read the entire review of Open Sesame at the Deep Green Resistance News Service.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hoophouse on the Slug Moat

In fall of 2011 I built our slug moat to protect nursery pots from slugs while providing rainwater catchment and other typical aquatic benefits. A few months later, to prepare for spring and make the most of the contraption, I added a hoophouse over the nursery table to provide a warmer, protected microclimate for the plants, without interfering with the use of the pond as an irrigation source.

Duck Integration

I wanted ducks to use the pond, but knew that with unrestricted access they would trash such a tiny area, destroying all plants and fish and filling the pond with poop and stirred up muck. To exclude ducks from enough of the pond to allow sheltering of fish and growth of poop-filtering cattails, I put a fence across the middle of the pond and around the excluded perimeter. Ducks could still be allowed into the protected area periodically, under close supervision.

I constructed a little ramp to make it easier for the ducks to get in and of the water.


Using thin plastic which had wrapped our lumber deliveries, I constructed a skirting sandwiched onto the table sides and posts with lathe and hanging to the water below. I hoped this would create a lower seal preventing air from coming up into the nursery table.


Next, I built a ventable upper enclosure for the plants from clear vapor barrier plastic left over from the house project. I created the end "wall" closest to the house by rolling a piece of lathe into a short piece of plastic, clamping it closed with three strong binder clips. I secured the lower half of this plastic to the vertical posts with more lathe, and tacked a couple of nails into the posts to allow the wall to be "hung" up for closure, or unhooked from the nails to half-open that end of the hoop house.

Since I didn't have posts to work with at the far end of the table, I used a single large piece of plastic for the rest of the hoop house, supported by plastic hoops screwed to the sides of the table, and draping down as the far wall. I used more binder clips to seal the junction between the large piece of plastic and the end wall, unclipping as necessary to move the sheets for ventilation.

I secured the sides by creating a small gap between the existing pallets on top and new wood I attached to the table sides just below. Tucking the plastic into the gap and wedging in some lathe created a strong seal, while allowing easy access or ventilation of the sides by pulling out the lathe.


On the whole, it worked. It definitely created a warmer microclimate and allowed faster early spring growth of the plants. Using all scrap materials, it had a distinctly amateur look to it, but was fairly easy to use for ventilating and accessing plants. I'm especially pleased with the side attachments of wedged lathe, which worked surprisingly well.


Despite lathe sandwiching it to the posts as low as possible, the lowest part of the skirting, pushed outwards by the concrete pier blocks, tended to blow around, failing to make a reliable seal. Often the skirting got stuck on the perimeter fence, potentially negating the slug-proofing function of the slug moat. The plastic scrap I used was just barely long enough to reach the water surface; with more material to work with I could have wrapped the bottom with some weights to ensure a straight drop to the pond.

The cross fence within the pond was of very flimsy construction and even flimsier attachment. A fence could have been secured to two of the table legs and anchored against their concrete piers stacked in the water below, but the placement of the table within the pond didn't make sense for that. It would have created either too tiny a pond for the ducks to use, or too small an area for plants to grow without duck disturbance.

The perimeter fencing, secured very loosely with metal stakes salvaged from political yard signs, also failed to inspire confidence. Neither the perimeter nor the internal fence were tested long-term against inquisitive ducks, and I suspect both would have required some adjustment and fiddling.

The binder clips came loose easily from slippery plastic, both where I wrapped lathe into the plastic to create the end wall and especially where I tried to clip the two upper sheets together. Again, I was using pieces just barely long enough to meet, so any significant wind put a lot of force on the joints. Slightly longer pieces with more overlap and slack would have helped. Ultimately the system needed a better connector - perhaps snap-on grommets.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Perennial Greens Planting Plan

Zone 1, extending into zone 2. From bottom center, working counter-clockwise:
Giant sea kale, sweet cicely in seed, turkish rocket, zebra mallow in flower, perennial kale in seed, lemon balm, french sorrel in seed, borage in flower, elephant garlic in flower, sylvetta arugula in flower, and nipplewort.
Also skirret & chinese dogwood in background, with crocosmia in foreground.

Two mistakes I made in my perennial vegetable experimentations in Portland:

  1. I overplanted perennial greens, more than we could possibly eat.
  2. I planted the greens over a large area, forcing more traversal of the yard than necessary. Though walking the yard to pick greens helps keep an eye on everything, it's inefficient to go further than necessary on a nearly daily basis.

Before we sold the house, I was consolidating a core set of perennial greens into approximately 100 square feet of beds closest to the house. This brought the front yard garden into better alignment with design by zones, with a tight zone 1 producing the majority of the daily pickings for two adults (leaves & flowers, salads & cooked), and freeing up zone 2 for root crops and less frequently harvested vegetables. I still envisioned picking from zone 2, from deliberate plantings and from edible weeds, a few times a week for variety and to augment zone 1 production.

This design took advantage of the fact that, for much of the year, the house shades most of the front yard area closest to it (especially after we raised the house 3'.) Most of the perennial greens should do well in partial to full shade, whereas the root crops and annuals generally need more sun. Most herbs also want full sun, and we found we didn't need to pick them with each batch of greens, so the larger ones made more sense for us in zone 2.

Writing this up two years later, I don't remember the exact number of which plants I moved into zone 1, but I believe I've come close below. It's a good starting point; you'll need to experiment anyway with what works well in your site and what you like to eat. Regardless of the exact species composition, the end result of densely planted perennials should be a yield of greens requiring little to no work besides harvest - more or less no need to dig soil, replant, or weed. (And year-round, at least in Portland and similarly mild winter climates.)

Large Plants

Usually planted 2-3' apart. You can perhaps get away with closer spacing in a heavily harvested zone 1, but I'd be inclined to still give them full spacing.

QtyLatin nameCommon name
1Agastache foeniculumAnise hyssop
1Brassica oleracea acephalaTree collards
3Brassica oleracea acephala'Western Front' perennial kale
1Crambe cordifoliaGiant sea kale
2Crambe maritimaSea kale
1Foeniculum vulgareFennel
2Malva sylvestris mauritianaZebra mallow
1Malva moschataMusk mallow
2Melissa officinalisLemon balm
1Myrrhis odorataSweet cicely
2Rumex scutatus or R. acetosaFrench Sorrel
6 sfScorzonera hispanicaScorzonera


These can be planted under and around the large plants, to exclude weeds and provide bonus greens & flowers.

Latin nameCommon name
Barbarea vernaWintercress
Campanula portenschlagianaBellflower
Campanula poscharskyanaTrailing bellflower
Claytonia montiaMiner's lettuce
Claytonia sibericaSiberian miner's lettuce
Diplotaxis tenuifoliaSylvetta arugala
Origanum sppOregano species
Oxalis oregonaRedwood sorrel
Rumex acetosellaSheeps sorrel
Sanguisorba minorSalad burnet
Stellaria mediaChickweed
Taraxacum officianaleDandelion
Thymus sppThyme species
Viola sppViolets

Bed Edges

We used a lot of Allium greens, finding them much easier to grow than bulbing onions. These work well along the edges of beds, helping delineate the pathways.

Latin nameCommon name
Allium ampeloprasumElephant garlic / Leek
A. cepa 'proliferum'Egyptian walking onion
Allium cernuumNodding onion
Allium fistulosumBunching onion
Allium sativumGarlic
Allium schoenoprasumChives
Allium tuberosumGarlic chives

Zone 2 Greens

If you have more room available, I would experiment with these. For species already listed above, numbers given are in addition to the quantity in zone 1. These are just for greens and flowers; not considering root and seed harvests of things like yellow asphodel and good king henry.

QtyLatin nameCommon name
1Agastache foeniculumAnise hyssop
5Anthriscus sylvestrisWoodland chervile
2Aquilegia vulgarisColumbine
4Asphodeline luteaYellow asphodel
2-3Bunias orientalisTurkish rocket
4Campanula rapunculoides, C. persicifolia, and other tall speciesBellflowers
10Chenopodium bonus-henricusGood King Henry
2Crambe maritimaSea kale
1-2Foeniculum vulgareFennel
1Levisticum officinaleLovage
1Lycium barbarumWolfberry
6sfMentha spicataSpearmint
1-2Myrrhis odorataSweet cicely
3-4Oenothera biennisEvening primrose
3Rumex scutatus or R. acetosiaFrench sorrel
2Smyrnium olusatrumAlexanders
1Symphytum officinalisComfrey
10sfUrtica dioicaStinging nettles

Zone 2 Stems & Shoots

Other vegetables nice to grow for something other than greens and flowers.

Latin nameCommon name
Arctium lappa or A. minorBurdock
Asparagus officinalisAsparagus
Maianthemum racemosumFalse solomon's seal
Petasites frigidusSweet Coltsfoot
Petasites japonicusFuki
Polygonatum biflorum and P. commutatumSolomon's seal
Rheum x cultorumRhubarb

Zone 2 Weeds

Volunteers that often need to be kept in check. We generally ate these rather than weeding per se.

Latin nameCommon name
Borago officinalisBorage
Calendula officinalisCalendula
Cardamine unknownPopweed
Geum urbanumClove root
Lamium purpuruemPurple dead nettle
Lapsana communisNipplewort
Phytolacca americanaPokeweed
Solanum nigrumBlack nightshade
Taraxacum officinaleDandelion

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bluehost subdomain for WordPress Multisite domain mapping

This is a geek-post, unrelated to permaculture or resistance. I couldn't find this information when trying to set it up, so wanted to document it here.

There are some guides (try here and here and here and here) to configuring the WordPress MU Domain Mapping plugin, but they don't address Bluehost specifically, and several of them refer to using cPanel to Park Domains, creating wildcard subdomains, registering a domain specifically to handle multisites, moving your domain website into a subfolder to use the root folder for the multisites, and so on. I think I found a simpler way.

Bottom line: it is possible, on Bluehost, to use a subdomain of your domain to host a WordPress Multisite Network, and you can set it all up in any subdirectory so it doesn't interfere with your regular domain. The multisites can be mapped to any domains or subdomains you own. You don't need to register a separate domain or change your existing file structure.

I won't try to recreate a guide for the steps to install WordPress multisites, the Domain Mapper plugin, or how to configure them for general use. I'll just lay out the important points related to configuring as described above. I'll use "mydomain.com" as the domain you already have.

Basically we're going to point all domains and subdomains to a single multisites subdirectory containing the WordPress multisite install, and then tell the Domain Mapping plugin how to sort everything out:

  1. In cPanel->Domain manager->Subdomains, create a subdomain such as multisites.mydomain.com and set the Document Root to something like /public_html/multisites
  2. Install WordPress Multisites on the new subdomain, using the subdirectory method for separating sites, not the subdomain method. So it'll create http://multisites.mydomain.com/site1 http://multisites.mydomain.com/site2 http://multisites.mydomain.com/site3 etc
  3. Install the domain mapper plugin
  4. For any domain you want to use with the Multisites Network, in cPanel->Domain List, set the domain as an Addon using the /public_html/multisites directory. For example, you may have myseconddomain.com as an Addon, using /public_html/multisites as its directory. cPanel seems to require that you also create an alias subdomain from your primary domain pointing to this addon. It shouldn't matter what you call it. You could use seconddomain.mydomain.com
  5. For any subdomain you want to use with the Multisites Network, in cPanel->Domain Manager->Subdomains, create the Subdomain using the /public_html/multisites directory as the Home folder (aka Document Root.) If a subdomain already exists and you want to change the Document Root, Remove and recreate it.
  6. In your Multisite install, from My Sites->Network Admin->Sites, "Add New" site for each domain or subdomain. It doesn't really matter what directory name you specify for the Site Address.
  7. In the Domain Mapping plugin, accessed either from Network Admin->Settings->Domains or from a Subsite->Dashboard->Tools->Domain mapping, add each domain and/or subdomain you want to use with the site. Set the desired one as "Primary". You should wind up with something like: http://myseconddomain.com (Primary), http://seconddomain.mydomain.com, and http://multisites.mydomain.com/site1

Now when you access the site from http://seconddomain.mydomain.com or http://multisites.mydomain.com/site1, it should redirect the browser URL to http://myseconddomain.com (whatever you set as Primary).

I did run into a problem with a domain I was transferring from another registrar, that I already had set up in the Domain Mapping plugin, but wasn't being picked up properly. I think I had to remove and re-add the domain name within the Domain Mapping area to get it to work.

This will leave you with a WordPress site at http://multisites.mydomain.com which I don't think you can map anywhere else. You can either use the site for something serious, use it as a placeholder to link to your various sites, or update the sample post to say "Ignore this site." and set it so that search engines don't index it.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments, but I can't guarantee that I'll respond. Tech support on this is not a priority for me. Sorry!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Book Review: Assata Shakur: an Autobiography

I greatly enjoyed this book and Assata Shakur's writing, and have great respect for what Shakur has gone through and the lessons she's learned and shared. I posted a review at the DGR Hawaii site, comparing her life as a poor black woman to my own as a middle class white male, and drawing parallels between her political analysis and that of Deep Green Resistance. Read my review of Assata: An Autobiography.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Video review: Sophie Scholl - The Final Days

I've started a blog for Deep Green Resistance Hawaii, and will probably post most resistance-oriented stuff there, and continue to use this blog for permaculture related and personal posts. But I'll also post here when I think I've made posts of interest over at DGR Hawaii.

I just posted a short review of Sophie Scholl - The Final Days. I watched it last night, and found it educational for those interested in building a culture of resistance, and think it will appeal to a more general audience as well. The acting is excellent, and it's well done overall. Check out my review and the movie if you have any interest in historical documentaries and/or Nazi Germany.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Self Sufficiency, Five Years In on youtube

After many failed attempts with other software, I used Windows Movie Maker to create a video version, now on youtube, of my Self Sufficiency, Five Years In slideshow. I've updated my main post with various links to the presentation.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sun and shade, temperate vs tropical

May has arrived in Hawai'i, and for the next two months, the sun will shine on us from the north. Huh? From the north? Doesn't that only happen in locales south of the equator, like in Australia?

(The rest of this post assumes a northern hemisphere location, expecting the sun to shine from the south.)

I knew the sun travels at a higher angle in the tropics, and I knew that in temperate climate summers the sun rises and sets in the north. But until shortly before moving here, I had no idea that for part of the summer, our sun never even crosses over to the south. This is the case everywhere within the tropics; on the margins, the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun is directly overhead at noon on June 21st. Closer and closer to the equator, the sun spends more and more time in the north, with part or much of the summer never even seeing the sun shine from the south. This makes for a bizarre solar chart!

Combined with greater tropical sun intensity and temperatures, this necessitates different strategies for shading structures. Standard temperate tricks for winter sun/summer shade don't directly apply; properly sized and angled eaves, deciduous vines on a south arbor, and a deciduous tree to the southwest don't help when the midday sun is directly overhead or shining from the north. I'm no expert at this for Hawai'i, let alone qualified to generalize to the rest of the tropics, but here are my observations and thoughts so far. Some of this also applies to plant interactions and light into understories.

  • It's not nearly as important to maximize sunlight in the winter. Though it helps combat the mildew and mustiness we encounter in this super-rainy part of Hawaii, we don't need the sun for warmth. It's OK to compromise a bit on winter sun access.
  • We don't need to design for morning sun. Unlike temperate climates, where it can still be chilly on spring, fall, and even summer mornings, we don't need a quick boost of morning sun to warm us up.
  • We don't have a large choice of trees that drop their leaves in the winter, and I have even less knowledge of exactly when they drop and regrow leaves, or whether they stick to a consistent schedule driven by the sun (rather than, for example, rainfall.)
  • We don't have many deciduous vines. The best I've found so far are the yams (Dioscorea spp.), of which the winged yam (D. alata) and air potato (D. bulbifera) seem most useful. They die down to the ground in November or December, and resprout in March or April, growing quickly to potentially cover a large area by early to mid summer. These may work well growing directly on top of the roof, or on a framework trellised over the roof.
  • Rather than a tree to the southwest, we want trees to both the east and west, or the northeast, north, and northwest. Ideally we'd have full tree canopy directly over the structure and maybe a bit to the south. This would provide full winter sun with maximum summer shade. An ideal tree, in order of priority:
    • Has a broad, spreading canopy of known width so we can plant it reasonably far from the structure and not have to prune too much
    • Produces some useful yield of fruit or leaves suitable for zone 1, perhaps harvestable from the roof
    • Doesn't drop limbs or large fruit on the roof (or loud hard nuts on a metal roof)
    • Grows to a useful size quickly, then slows down
    • Doesn't drop much leaf litter, especially if the roof is used for rainwater catchment
    • Lives a long time
    • Does not fix nitrogen, since we'll already provide ample urine to the area

I need to do more research on possible tree candidates, and probably some experimentation to figure out which will grow well on our particular site once we settle somewhere. I'll share those thoughts once I've developed them further!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Integral Permaculture presentation on "Food Freedom"

Integral Permaculture, a radical permaculture group, put together "Food Freedom: an Integral Perspective", a talk for International PermaCulture Day. They cover:

  • The food freedom of other species
  • The food that most liberates our environment
  • Food that liberates the human mind and body
  • How not to be enslaved to addictions
  • How to free our meals & economies from the Multinationals

Watch the recording of Part 1, and the upcoming Part 2 on Sunday May 11th, at Integral Permaculture Food Freedom.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hymenoptera - from oasis to desert

A lot of the permaculture literature praises parasitic and predatory wasps in the garden, where they keep insect populations balanced. If a certain "pest" insect becomes too abundant in your wasp-friendly garden, the chances are good that predators will find that abundance, feast away, and bring the prey numbers back down to an unproblematic level. Bees, Wasps, and Ants by Eric Grissell goes further into the amazing lives of all the Hymenoptera, paying special attention to parasitic and predatory wasps. The book gives lots of gory details, and even the non-gory bits are generally more than one strictly needs to know, but it's fasinating if you're into that sort of thing. It's re-inspired me to take a closer look at flowers and who's around.

In my Portland garden, I saw increasing numbers of individuals, and entire new species of bees and wasps every year. Permaculture sources recommend scattering beneficial insectary plants throughout your garden, especially plants in the carrot (Apiaciae), sunflower (Asteraceae), and mint (Lamiaceae) families. Our success in attracting so many insects to our old garden probably lies in our planting 50+ species of perennial flowering plants, ensuring a yard full of blooms from early spring to late fall. (Also, we didn't "clean up" the garden over the winter, instead allowing dead stalks and ground litter to provide overwintering shelter.) Our reliance on perennial vegetables effortly provided food to our insect friends, an important benefit alongside the near elimination of our need to tend the garden and of soil disturbance. I'm concerned that as people maximize food production within cities, they'll convert ornamental plantings to annual vegetables and starve out the insects. Besides the loss of "pest" control provided by wasps, cities could lose honey production as bees lose their foraging grounds. And of course, these insects have every right to live and exist for their own sakes, regardless of any benefit to us. For this and many other reasons, I strongly advocate perennial vegetables, shrubs, and trees as the backbone of any food system.

Sadly, Hawaii has been something of a shock. Apart from a diversity of ants (no species of which occurred in Hawai'i before European arrival), the Hymenoptera we've seen to date are Sonoran Carpenter Bees (lots), honey bees (rare), a stinging paper wasp (a few times - generally accompanied by shrieks), yellow jackets (once, at the Volcanoes National Park), and maybe I saw a small green bee on a flower once. This paucity in biodiversity, unfortunately typical of my experience here thus far, could result from the GMO Papaya Fields of Death in the neighborhood, the general oddness and artificial simplicity of this island ecosystem heavily reshaped by humans, and/or the lack of flowers around here. I'm hoping the latter, as we could rectify this with plantings.

We don't have many flowers here period, and of those present, most are deep, suited to birds, large bees, and large wasps, but not so much to smaller bees and wasps, especially the parasitoids. Grisell reiterates the importance of the sunflower, carrot, and mint family flowers, then writes:

"Bees and wasps come in a huge array of different shapes and sizes. Some have long tongues, others have short ones. Thus, the more shapes of flowers found in a garden, the more and different kinds of hymenopterans will be attracted. Even within a single group such as bumble bees, there are long-tongued species that can reach directly into the nectar spur of a tubular flower such as a columbine, whereas short-tongued species will simply bite a hole at the base of the tube to reach the nectar. Most bees apparently prefer bilaterally symmetrical flowers, by which they orient themselves and then enter the flower's throat. Shallow, dish-shaped flowers, such as apple or blackberry, which are radially symmetrical, are called open-access flowers because many different sorts of insects, including Hymenoptera, have access to the nectar."

Grissell explains the role of color and scent in attracting pollinators, then concludes:

"Creating a garden that enhances the likelihood of attracting adult bees, predatory wasps, and parasitic wasps merely requires that it be a garden of diversity. To achieve diversity, a garden must have many different kinds of plants including native and cultivated species; flowers of different sizes, petal count, shapes, colors, and seasonality; and integration of plants into a network that attracts so much biological diversity that attacks on its structure are absorbed with scarcely a notice by the gardener."

We've noticed, on this land and on other farms and homesteads, a near complete disregard for tree and orchard understories, where most of this diversity can take place. We hope to find many suitable understory plants and arrange them into functional polycultures, but for now we mostly have just theoretical ideas.

We did notice a pretty little insect on the pretty little flowers of Ageratum conyzoides, in abundance around here as a weed. I thought at first that it may be a small bee, but after a good look we suspect a fly of some sort. (UPDATE: thanks to BugGuide.net, I've identified this a male syrphid fly, Toxomerus genus, probably T. marginatus) Still, I appreciate the prompting of Bees, Wasps, and Ants to look at our smaller neighbors, of whatever orders!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Self Sufficiency, Five Years In - audio slideshow

In spring 2011, I gave a presentation three times on the progress, successes, failures, and lessons from five years of working towards self sufficiency with my ex-partner at our house in Portland. I advertised the event with this blurb:

In March of 2006, Tulsi and Norris purchased a small house on a .2 acre lot, and used permaculture principles to design their food forest, sun garden, and house renovation. They aimed to create a low-maintenance, truly sustainable habitat for 2-4 people plus wildlife, providing from the property all necessary food, heating & cooking fuel, water, and waste treatment. Join us for a reality check on what's worked and what hasn't, what seems theoretically possible for the future, and what all this means to the oxymoronic goal of a sustainable city.

I've finally synced up an audio recording I made of my presentation with the slide images, to make a sort-of movie. You can view the Self Sufficiency, Five Years In slideshow online (may require reasonably fast internet connection) or download a 36MB zip file for offline viewing. (Extract to anywhere on your hard drive, then open the included index.html file in your web browser.)

I've also created a video, which requires more bandwidth: Self Sufficiency, Five Years In on youtube. (You can download the 166MB WMV movie file or watch it below)

Or you can download a 6 MB PDF of the slideshow without audio.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

West Coast Food Forestry - full resolution pictures

I posted a review a few years ago of the ebook West Coast Food Forestry by Rain Tenaqiya. I asked Rain about getting higher quality copies of the photos used in the book, since the book pictures were too small to make out great detail. I've finally posted a photo album of those West Coast Food Forestry pictures, with the pictures captioned as in the book, and in the same order. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Carol Deppe / Fertile Valley Seeds 2014 Seed List

Carol Deppe, author of The Resilient Gardener (my book review here) has a short window each spring when she sells seeds of vegetables and staple crops adapted to the Willamette Valley. See this year's offerings here, and keep in mind that she often sells out quickly!

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Climate Chaos & Resistance to Ecocide: Talks By Guy McPherson & Deep Green Resistance

For my readers in the Portland area: Deep Green Resistance Lower Columbia is hosting a joint presentation with Guy McPherson. Lots of important information being presented; I hope you can make it!

"Deep Green Resistance Lower Columbia is proud to host Dr. Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of the University of Arizona. On the 21st of February he will be giving a joint presentation with members of Deep Green Resistance on climate chaos and resistance to ecocide. If you're interested in understanding the sobering facts of climate change and the political resistance necessary to avert catastrophe, please join us!"

Friday February 21
7 PM
Vancouver Public Library, Vancouver, WA
Facebook event page

(Similar events also happening in Eugene courtesy of DGR Eugene, and in Bellingham courtesy of DGR Salish Sea)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Demand Crash! — A response to Holmgren's "Crash on Demand"

The situation in many third world countries could actually improve because of the global economic collapse. First world countries would no longer enforce crushing debt repayment and structural adjustment programs, nor would CIA goons be able to prop up “friendly” dictatorships. The decline of export-based economies would have serious consequences, yes, but it would also allow land now used for cash crops to return to subsistence farms.
–from the Deep Green Resistance Decisive Ecological Warfare strategy


David Holmgren, co-originator of permaculture, has a long history of thoughtful and thought-provoking publications, including design books from the original Permaculture One to his 2002 Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability. He's written numerous essays over 35 years, ranging from the specifics of agricultural vs forestry biomass for fuel, to the future of energy decline.

I've long admired and respected Holmgren's thinking, so I looked forward to reading his new "Crash on Demand" (PDF), an update of his 2007 "Future Scenarios" projections for global developments. I felt especially intrigued that he's arrived at conclusions similar to my own, regarding not just the inevitability, but the desirability of a crash of the financial system as soon as possible. But the article disappointed me; I think Holmgren is soft-selling his realizations to make them palatable to a hoped-for mass movement. Interestingly, even this soft-sell is being rejected by the permaculture blogging community.

Holmgren argues:

"For many decades I have felt that a collapse of the global economic system might save humanity and many of our fellow species great suffering by happening sooner rather than later because the stakes keep rising and scale of the impacts are always worse by being postponed." (p 9)
"It seems obvious to me that it is easier to convince a minority that they will be better off disengaging from the system than any efforts to build mass movements demanding impossible outcomes or convincing elites to turn off the system that is currently keeping them in power." (p 14)
"Mass movements to get governments to institute change have been losing efficacy for decades, while a mass movement calling for less seems like a hopeless case. Similarly boycotts of particular goverments, companies and products simply change the consumption problems into new forms." (p 22)
Holmgren proposes a possible solution:
"Given the current fragilities of global finance, I believe a radical change in the behaviour of a relatively small proportion of the global middle class could precipitate such a crash. For example a 50% reduction of consumption and 50% conversion of assets into building household and local community resilience by say 10% of the population in affluent countries would show up as 5% reduction in demand in a system built on perpetual growth and a 5% reduction in savings capital available for banks to lend." (p 13)

Where I agree

Holmgren couches his proposal almost rhetorically, apologetically, as if proactively halting the ecocidal system is crazy talk. He need not be so shy about advocating for collapsing the system! It follows very logically if you agree that:
  1. Industrial civilization is degrading our landbases every day it continues, far faster than we're healing them
  2. Industrial civilization will collapse sooner or later regardless of what we do
  3. Industrial civilization will not divert its resources into healing our landbases before it collapses
The facts back up Holmgren's assessment of our dire situation, including imminent climate catastrophe if we continue with anything like business as usual. Industrial civilization is driving 200 species extinct each day and threatening humans with extinction or at best a very miserable future on a burning planet. It is deforesting, desertifying, polluting, and acidifying forests, croplands, landbases, and oceans orders of magnitude faster than nature and all the hard-working permacultarists can heal the damage. The industrial economy consists of turning living ecosystems into dead commodities, and it won't stop voluntarily. It's headed for an endgame of total planetary destruction before itself collapsing.

So I fully agree with crashing the system as soon as possible, and I fully agree with getting as many people as possible to withdraw their dependence on and allegience to the systems and structures of industrial civilization. We desperately need people preparing for crash and building resiliency, in human and in broader ecological communities.

Where I disagree

We also need a viable strategy to stop the dominant culture in its tracks. We are, and will remain, a tiny minority fighting a system of massive power. Individual lifestyle changes do not affect the larger political systems. People "dropping out" is not enough, is not a solution, is not an effective, leveraged way to crash the system.

I worry about Holmgren's speculative numbers. I assume the elite, who control a hugely disproportionate percentage of income and wealth, will be even harder to convince of voluntary simplicity than the average citizen. The poor generally don't have the option to cut spending by 50%, and have few or no assets to divest from global corporate investments. My rough calculations (based on data here) suggest that in the US, 15% of earners between the 40th and 80th percentile (more or less the middle class) must adopt this economic boycott to slow consumption by 5%, and nearly 50% of the middle class must divest their savings to reduce nationwide investment in the global financial system by 5%.

Even hoping for just 15% of the US middle class, 18 million people would have to embrace substantial short-term sacrifice. (While decreasing consumption 50% and building gardens and other resiliency infrastructure, people must still work the same hours at their jobs. Otherwise they'll simply be replaced by those who want to live the consumptive dream.) This lofty goal seems inconsistent with Holmgren's recognition of the infeasibility of a mass movement.

History throws up more red flags. Again and again, when growth economies have encountered sustainable cultures, people from the growth economies have forced the others off their land, requiring them to integrate into the cash economy. The dominant culture will not gently relinquish access to resources or to consumer markets. It will retaliate with weapons honed over centuries, from taxes and outlawing sustainability to displacement and blatant conquest. On a less dramatic scale, banks can, if divestments sufficiently diminish the cash they've been hoarding for years, adjust fractional reserve rates to compensate. (Though precipitating a fast "run" on the banks could work very nicely to crash the financial system and wipe out faith in fiat money.)

Permaculture activists and thousands of other individuals and groups have for years urged people to consume less. Many good people have adopted voluntary simplicity, dropped out of the global economy, and built regenerative local systems. While this has immense value for the adopting individuals, and often ripples out to benefit the wider community, it hasn't put a dent in the destruction by the larger financial system. New people are born or assimilated into the culture of consumption faster than people are dropping out.

Holmgren advocates more of the same permaculture activism, with little explanation of why it would now convince people in numbers thousands of times greater than in the past. He hopes the ever-more-obvious signs of imminent collapse will prompt a more rapid shift, but given our fleeting window of opportunity to act, we can't bank on that hope.

Another Approach

Deep Green Resistance is a design book of what makes a good resistance movement, a permaculture analysis of influencing power and political systems.1 It arrives at the same conclusion as does Holmgren: we need to prepare for crash by building local resiliency, but the sooner industrial civilization comes down, the better. Its crash will leave the majority of humans better off short-term, as their landbases will no longer be plundered by the rich for resources. Crashing the sytem now will benefit all humans long-term, giving future generations better odds of enjoying liveable landbases on a liveable planet. And crashing the system now will obviously benefit the vast majority of non-humans, currently being poisoned, displaced, and exterminated.

If we truly hold as our goals halting ecocide and slashing greenhouse gas emissions as dramatically as Holmgren suggests, we must devise a realistic plan, based on a realistic assessment of our numbers and strengths, the vulnerabilities of industrial civilization, and how much longer the planet can absorb its blows. Recognizing our tiny numbers and relative weakness compared to the global system, and limited time before our planet is beaten into full ecosystem collapse, we must apply the permaculture principle of making the least change to achieve maximum effect.

The Deep Green Resistance book, as part of its strategy of Decisive Ecological Warfare, examines more than a dozen historic and contemporary militant resistance movements. It concludes that "a small group of intelligent, dedicated, and daring people can be extremely effective, even if they only number one in 1,000, or one in 10,000, or even one in 100,000. But they are effective in large part through an ability to mobilize larger forces, whether those forces are social movements [...] or industrial bottlenecks."

Holmgren notes that it's easier to convince a minority to disengage from the system than to spark a majority mass movement for true sustainability, but his plan relies on 10% of the population making dramatic change. DGR's analysis suggests it's easier yet to convince a tiny minority to take strategic direct action. The rest of the sympathetic population, whether 10% or just 1% of the general public, can provide material support and loyalty with much less immediate sacrifice than in Holmgren's proposal.

The Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta (MEND), with small numbers of people and meager resources, has used militant tactics against oil companies to routinely reduce oil output in Nigeria by 10-30%.

In April 2013, saboteurs in San Jose CA shot out transformers in an electrical substation, causing damage that took weeks to repair. The New York Times explains some of the difficulties involved in replacing transformers, especially if many were to fail in a short period of time.

We have more promising strategies available than hoping we can persuade 10% of the population to adopt voluntary simplicity, and hoping that will crash the financial system.


While I wholeheartedly agree with Holmgren's analysis of our global predictament, and the desirability of crashing the system, his proposal for doing so seems ineffective. Certainly, we should work to disengage ourselves and neighbors from the global system, but we must combine building alternative structures with actively resisting and strategically sabotaging the dominant system.

Many people will disagree with the necessity of crashing the system, because they don't think conditions are that bad, because they hold vague hopes that God or technology or permaculture will save us, because they fear that fighting back will increase the anger of our abusers, or because they value their own comfort more than the life of the planet. That's fine; we can agree to disagree, though I encourage those people to further explore these ideas with their minds and with their hearts.

Many people do see the destructiveness of this culture, the inevitability of its crash, and the desirability of it crashing sooner than later; but won't want to participate directly in bringing it down for any of many perfectly legimitate reasons. That's fine, too. There's lots of work to do, and a role for everyone. You can work on restoration of your landbase or crash preparation for your community while providing material and ideological support to those on the front lines. We can join together as "terra-ists", with our hands not just in the soil as Holmgren defines the term, but also working with wrenches upon the wheels, the levers, and all the apparatus of industrial civilization.

Suggested Resources

  • Endgame by Derrick Jensen, two volume analysis of the problems of civilization and the solution. Several excerpts available at the website.
  • Deep Green Resistance - a book, an organization, and a strategy to save the planet
  • Liberal vs Radical video presentation by Lierre Keith, explaining the different approaches of these two different frameworks for perceiving the world.
  • For my readers in Portland, check out the DGR Lower Columbia chapter, and consider helping with their riparian habitat restoration on the Washougal River this Sunday, January 26th.

[1] Thanks to Stella Strega of Integral Permaculture for this observation

*** This article was reposted at Deep Green Resistance Great Basin and the Deep Green Resistance News Service