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Permaculture Design Certificates

This Thought-Seeding statement is prompting people of every nation to lobby all levels of their local, state and national governments, to enable the 72 hour curriculum of Permaculture learning to be integrated into all youth, refugee and asylum seeking detention centres. Also in correctional services facilities, refugee camps and Tent Cities for the Homeless. Further, the 72 hours of Permaculture learning, now more than ever, needs to be included in all schools, colleges and universities and all other institutes of education. This vital information can be learned over weeks, months and/or years. Anyone can begin learning from now, by browsing through the thousands of pages of picture stories and videos, by searching for Permaculture stories on Google! Efficient food and medicine gardens can be established as productive learning and growing centres in home and school yards, community gardens, detention centres and jails. Within a decade, increasing numbers of abundant food-forests and eco-villages will be growing in every country.


This will enable everyone to participate in earth repair actions for a sustainable and abundant future for everybody. Permaculture shows how to co-operate with all of Earth’s elements, species, climates and peoples, enabling everyone to live lives filled with absolute sustainable abundance in harmony with the Sun, the earth/soil, the wind and the rain. Please share this post with friends and family, community organisations, government ministers and social and mainstream media. Thank you.

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HOW TO STOP SMOKING

  • Many consider tobacco to be the world’s most damaging product; a weapon of mass destruction to human health.
  • Tobacco kills over 7 million people every year leaving over one billion sick and dying. This is a crime against humanity;
  • Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of mental and physical illness, and death;
  • It needs to be identified as one of the world’s most immoral
    and unethical businesses along with the production of
    landmines, cluster bombs and nuclear weapons;
  • Contribute in every way possible to help make smoking a
    thing of the past by stopping the practice and encouraging
    friends and family to do the same;
  • Join our multi-media support group to assist your decision
    to leave tobacco behind, so that we can breathe more easily.
  • Our lungs are one of the major ways we inter-act with the
    world, we must take care of them.
  • The most powerful force for improved health is what we say to ourselves and believe to be true. Your own voice reading this personalised script is a very powerful way to enable anyone to de-program and re-program their relationship with smoking tobacco for nicotine.
  • Record the following Script in your clearest voice, with sincerity and conviction for repeated listening whilst awake or asleep, to achieve amazing results.
  • I congratulate myself for consciously making the life-saving decision to stop being a slave to the destructive addiction of smoking tobacco.
  • I praise my strength, courage and higher intelligence on choosing health rather than smoking. I feel assured that quitting is the best thing that I can do for myself. I am not depriving myself of anything; on the contrary there are wonderful rewards to instantly enjoy and many more to look forward to. When all is said and done it is much easier not to smoke.
  • My self-esteem and confidence improve immediately. The addiction to nicotine rapidly diminishes and I experience a joyful and exhilarating freedom. I now know for sure what I have suspected all along – that life IS better, more joyous and richer for non smokers. I no longer feel the need to leave nonsmokers’ homes and go outside for a nicotine fix. I am at ease amongst non-smokers and no longer have to apologise for my addiction.
  • I wake up each morning feeling blessed with restored health, energy, self-confidence and greater prosperity. No longer a slave to my addiction, I have lifted a huge psychological impediment from my life.
  • Quitting instantly improves my health and increases my quality and length of life. About a day after stopping my lung efficiency starts to improve. I am less short of breath when I exert myself. The small pockets of tissue deep within my lungs – my alveoli, are no longer absorbing many cubic feet of air dripping with cancerous tar.
  • My lungs now breathe more easily and are relieved from life-threatening abuse. That painful feeling in my chest, from the persistent hammering I was giving my lungs, is subsiding. I now have more protection from the world-wide plight of acute respiratory illness, chest infection and general sickness.
  • Stopping smoking greatly improves the efficiency of my immune system. By stopping smoking I am no longer so susceptible to diseases like lung and throat cancer, heart disease, gum disease and tooth loss, pneumonia, influenza and the common cold, depression, impotence and the list goes alarmingly on. Smokers are most susceptible to these conditions which are preventable and often reversible by stopping what’s causing the sickness.
  • I now resolve to make the most of my life changing decision by living wisely and well – eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and maintaining a positive and optimistic attitude.
  • Quitting greatly improves my appearance. I have no more tobacco stains on my teeth and fingers. My hands, hair, clothes car and house don’t smell of stale tobacco smoke. I already begin to feel and look better. That pale and unhealthy look that so many smokers have, rapidly disappears. My taste buds come back to life and my sense of smell improves.
  • Now I can look forward to increased energy. My renewed self-confidence makes me more attractive both inwardly and outwardly. I experience improved blood flow and circulation which is essential for me to maintain good health.
  • I will have more money in my pocket. If I was a pack a day smoker, I can look forward to having a cash bonus of more than $5000 a year (over $100 a week). I am no longer contributing to the unethical and enormous profits of the tobacco companies. I can now afford to make regular investments in increasing my health and well-being, primarily through improved nutrition.
  • After one month of quitting my risk of coronary heart disease is almost half that of a continuing smoker. Within two months, blood flow to all my limbs substantially improves. My risk of lung cancer is cut in half in a few years and progressively it drops almost to the rate of nonsmokers.
  • The eventual reality for most smokers is premature, prolonged and painful death – a reality far removed from the false image of health, sex appeal and success that multinational tobacco companies strive desperately and deplorably to promote whilst contributing to the slow death of billions.
  • I now enjoy being a non-smoker. I minimise any feelings caused by nicotine withdrawal. I have left behind my addiction to nicotine and never use nicotine substitutes, such as patches or other products.
  • I regularly eat a variety of fresh fruit, herbs and lightly cooked vegetables to accelerate my recovery. I also invest some of the money had previously wasted on tobacco into nutrient concentrates, minerals and antioxidants, which are beneficial to my recovery and the optimum maintenance of good health. Improved nutrition further accelerates my return to better health. As Hippocrates taught, “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food”.
  • I am at peace and I am happy to be on a healthy path. I attract like-minded people into my life. I now enjoy the best natural health care and fitness practices, which include drinking extra water and consuming concentrated nutrient supplements like Spirulina and extra vitamin C.
  • I regularly exercise through increased walking, as well as deep breathing and stretching. I feel a positive improved difference in my wellbeing when I take the time to listen to this recording and when I practice health enriching activities. I celebrate each present moment as a precious gift and I enjoy increasing good health in body and mind.
  • The life saving and life extending decision I have made not to smoke, greatly increases my quality of life and is beneficial for those around me. I resolve never to smoke tobacco again and to avoid being in contact with tobacco smoke as much as possible.
  • I now breathe more easily in the knowledge that my addiction is over and increasingly my health and wellbeing improve. I fully realise that the benefits of quitting are fabulous and immediate.
  • NOTE: This script can be adapted to overcome any affliction of addiction to such things as gambling, alcohol and substance abuse, overeating disorders, or anything else you’d like to modify or change.

Further to using this Stop Script we recommend you read and implement the principles outlined in Allen Carr’s outstanding book The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. You can listen to testimonials of this by looking it up on YouTube. If you have found this script useful and/or would like it to be more widely available, please tithe a small portion of the money you save by not smoking, so that all smokers can be sent a free copy. Additional help is available for recording this script on a computer or digital recorder for repeated listening. Ask us to help you personalise the script for your specific needs and/or record it for you using our voice.

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Decade in Reflection Part Two: The Way of Water

In honor of our ten year anniversary, we’re taking a trip down memory lane in a new multi part series. Through archival photos and retrospective writings, we’ll revisit forest gardening, water management, plant medicine, and other pursuits we’ve explored over the last ten years at Fields Without Fences with the kind of nuance and cosmic humor that only hindsight provides. 

Memory forms in a relational context, and looking back on the past ten years, it becomes difficult to parse apart one moment in time from all that came before it, and all that happened after. In this regard, these reflections do not follow a strictly linear presentation, or timeline of the farm. They are not a list of perceived achievements or failures, but travel instead the way memory does in the mind’s eye, layering and folding in on itself, constantly reconfiguring itself into a cohesive narrative.

I once heard someone say, the past does not generate the present, it streams out behind it. What is, at any given moment, is determined by the position of the observer at present. Spooky action at a distance…

Past and present, as it turns out, is a bit of a to and fro.

Read Decade in Reflection: Part One: Forest Garden Farm

Circa 2013, Johann & Lindsay, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Photo by Sean Walsh.

Everything Began with Water

The water was everywhere. The rains would come and puddles would fill in old tractor tire divots, flood out a small, tilled plot, and brim over every incidental depression in the landscape. And there it would sit, sit for so long, so long it would turn anaerobic, stagnant and stinking of sulfur. If there is one thing I can remember about the early days, it would be the omnipresent quality of water – dotting the fields, drowning the plantings, creating ice sheets on the driveway, and pooling in the basement. 

If flood is the fierce presence of water, drought is the fierce absence of it. The land we were on seemed oriented toward extremity. In long intervals between rain events, the soil would lock up like an adobe brick, dry and compacted, impenetrable to any relief summer storms might bring. The conditions we encountered – impervious hardpan, soil acidification, chronic hydrological dysregulation – are typical of old farmland, and reveal a history of farming practices incongruous with the underlying ecological patterns implicit in the landscape; patterns of life set in motion when the earth was all water.

You can follow water anywhere and wind up right back where you started. It forever moves throughout the circulatory system of the earth, winding its way through the land’s various arteries, dispersing and collecting, shapeshifting into air, and animals, and plants, transpiring through capillary action. Look at any living being and you will see one of the many disguises of water. Look at any patch of land, and you will see a vessel for water. And so it becomes impossible to examine the transmutable nature of a droplet of water, without subsequently exploring the anatomical entirety of the earth. 

The vicissitudes of water are particularly acute in the agricultural landscape where too much, and not enough, can both be painfully existential. The remarkable spectrum between extremities, is a place of growth where water nourishes, sustains, and gives rise to all things. There is a catalyzing quality to water. Its ubiquity is precisely the reason for its exceptionalism; it is everywhere so that anything might be anywhere. For those of us working with the land, growing food, and medicine, stewarding plants and animals, our relationship with water is foundational and essential to all else.

In this way, standing with our feet sunk into saturated muck, everything began with water.

September 30th, 2012, Johann Rinkens, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ.

The spring of 2012 was mild, and curiously dry, as we watched distant rain clouds sweep past the farm along the curve of the river. We had been experimenting unsuccessfully with growing in small plots that would quickly turn into swimming pools, and the mini drought provided the opportunity to pursue some foundational shifts in the landscape through strategic earthworks. 

That season was filled with the special intensity that comes with any major undertaking in which one intends to learn as they go along. What began as an effort to move the stagnant water in the fields, grew into a deep exploration of the behavior of water. And out of which a transformation emerged; our omnipresent obstacle became an inspired opportunity. Encouraged by permaculture’s prodding trope, “the problem is the solution”, and a useful set of practical approaches for working with water in the landscape, we reimagined a farm scape no longer bogged by water, but rather, buoyed by it.

That spring and summer, with my dad’s laser level and the bucket loader of our New Holland, we graded the fields for more complimentary interaction with the contours of the earth, installed a series of swales and interconnected ponds to catch and store water in the landscape, and created permanent raised beds for our plantings oriented off contour, to account for the compaction and nuance of our site. 

That this design became cohesive at all, had all to do with tapping into the underlying patterns present within the landscape. Our path to which was not unlike the way of water – circuitous, meandering, and at times a volatile deluge. We worked at a breakneck pace to complete the earthworks before the growing season, but wound up spending the better part of the summer scraping and shaping along the contours of the earth, digging a pond – then two more ponds. We did nearly all of this work with the front end loader of a farm tractor and a scrappy can-do-ism that’s easy to wince at in retrospect. My little brother spent weeks hauling around large shale stones we unearthed, like it was the neolithic building of stonehenge. The farm tractor was frequently precariously a’teeter on one wheel during pond construction. The mood was, “white knuckled.” Every time it rained we would study the course of water through the landscape with urgent scrutiny. As the season wore on, those water lines began to ink deeper into our consciousness. One cosmic afternoon, as thick cumulus clouds hovered in the sky, Johann and I mutually disappeared unbeknownst to the other, only to emerge some time later with near identical drawings of a layout for the farm.

Curiously, my most salient memories of that first season were not of water at all, but instead, the absence of it. During some of the more heavy-handed earthworks, parts of the farm looked like a moonscape. Exposed ground cracked in the heat of the summer sun. The color of the earth turned pallid. I remember feeling chronically unsettled, and tremendously relieved when the ponds began to fill with rain.

February 18th, 2012, Center Field, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Surface water stagnation in the landscape.

Circa 2013, Permaculture Farm Design, fields without fences. Those initial sketches in 2012 would eventually become the “design” vision of the farm.

April 25th, 2013, Southeast Field, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Our ponds were sized to irrigate the corresponding field in proximity. We used a shallow pump, some piping, and orchard drip tape to run irrigation to our young plantings. As our planting matured, there was a moderating effect on water transference, and we no longer needed to irrigate. We fully stopped irrigating and abandoned the set up by early 2015.

June 3rd, 2015, Travis Gerkens & Johann Rinkens, Southeast Field, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Over the course of three years, the field grew from bare soil to a multi-storied ecosystem with complex hydrological cycles.

Slow It, Spread It, Sink It

Conventional approaches to water inundation in the agricultural landscape orient toward safely shunting the water out of production areas and draining fields, while limiting its erosive potential. This way of interacting with water is useful for gaining field access during a wet spring, but often forfeits opportunities to store and cycle water for increased resilience during the height of a dry summer.  During this time, farmers rely on deep agricultural wells, the operability of which are chronically threatened by sinking aquifers across the globe. From where we stood in 2012, in the presence of a drought, and the absence of a well sufficient for irrigation, our view of water in the landscape grew more nuanced and concerned not only with movement, but retention as well.

The living world’s material manifestations have a moderating effect on water, as water is absorbed, transpired, captured, and released in an unfolding process that stretches over time. In the presence of hardscapes, hardpans, impervious surfaces, and absence of living material (i.e. plants), the movements of water are accelerated, and gain volatile momentum. In many landscape scenarios that type of sustained interaction can lead to deleterious soil erosion. There are less digressions of disguise for water, less opportunities to meander and settle into deep crevices. Follow the implications of a clear-cut rainforest out to the ocean, and up the coast on the fast winds of a hurricane.

Slow it, spread it, sink it is the popular axiom in permaculture for working with water in the landscape. Just like water carves a naturally sinuous path around the earth, it’s possible to slow the course of water by working with the underlying contours of the geology, and strategically oriented perennial plantings with deep roots systems to keep the soil structure intact. And as water slows, and spreads, it can also be captured and stored in ponds and similar water features, slowly hydrating soil, and recharging underground aquifers as it settles. I watch this process unfold naturally on the wild, sloped hillsides around here as trees grow tall, fall over, and settle along the contours of the land. In their wake they leave a pit for puddles to collect where the root mass once held, and a mound of decaying earth to slow surface runoff where the trunk now rests. 

Useful tropes are succinct in their verbiage and robust in their nuance. There are many ways to slow, spread, and sink water across the landscape, and each unique landscape necessitates a complimentary and site specific approach to form and function. While the underlying contours of a landscape provide a scaffolding for working with water, the relative structure of the soil, intended use of the site, and existing features and infrastructure of a location will determine the appropriate pitch and orientation of swales and terraces, field planting schematics, and pond size. The path of water is written into the bones of land, but also into the tissue as well. In this regard, understanding and working with water involves a holistic awareness, and a considered amount of ground truthing.

June 4th, 2017, Johann Rinkens, Lockatong Preserve, Stockton, NJ.

So much of working with water is rising up to meet it.

Our farm is located at the edge of the Delaware River watershed. Here on the margins of an ancient plateau, water snakes, and flows, and falls through innumerable seasonal creeks, streams, and tributaries as it makes its way through our cliffside to the river in the valley below. The terrain around here is a mix of open farmland, regrowth woodland, and exposed shale that lines the creek beds and canyon walls, over which water rolls, creeps, and rushes respectively. Because water moves with little regard for property borders or state lines, managing water on our farm meant cultivating a larger context for the functionality of our watershed. 

We’ve spent a lot of time wandering the ridges and valleys of this cliffside. Reading the comings and goings of water inscribed on the surface of the stone, upon the headcut of a field, and in the plump and hue of leaves. Learning the ways of water and riding the tide.

And so, all the while we were coaxing the flow of water in our landscape, we were likewise orienting around the presence of it; selecting species (crops) able to tolerate seasonal inundation, planting a medicinal orchard in the form of a shrub swamp ecology, and capturing the spring deluges in a series of ponds, to percolate out into the surrounding landscape during the summer droughts.

On an off afternoon like this one, after a good rain, we’d hike to one of the many falls around here to watch the water rush. There are places on the earth where the quickening of water is essential to the health and vitality of the surrounding ecosystem. Moments for rushing and moments for resting. The mutability of water, the diversity of its expression, are all different sides to one process, the full spectrum of which is essential to understanding.

July 27th, 2018, Center Field, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Plants have a story to tell about water. The presence of wet “indicator species” like Joe Pye and Goldenrod are common in wet meadows. These plants, and many others like them thrive in our landscape.

April 2nd, 2021, Upper Pasture, fields without fences (second farm site), Frenchtown, NJ. Plant patterning in the landscape can reveal helpful information about water. Here sedges and rushes grow in a distinctly concentrated area of a sloped field. Flagging out the topography with a laser level confirms what we suspect, this is a great location for water catchment in the landscape.

April 5th, 2012, South Field, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Part of our process in the early days of working with water was identifying “settling” locations, which eventually became pond sites.

June 4th, 2017, Lockatong Preserve, Stockton, NJ. A “pit and mound” process naturally unfolding in a nearby regrowth woodland.

The Problem is the Solution

The water quickly opened up portals to new worlds. By the early spring of 2013, the young ponds were filled with spring peepers, so numerous and cacophonous they would wake us up at night. In my sleepless delirium, I asked Johann at one point in earnest if he thought the neighbors might call the cops on us about the noise?

There was an evolution of life unfolding in real time. As soon as water brimmed in our small depression ponds, zoological life emerged in the form of tiny squirming creatures. Cattails arrived on the wind to grow along the edges, and great blue herons began to visit with some frequency. Dragonflies darted over the water, and tiny flies rested on the surface tension. When we pulled out the irrigation piping for winter, it was covered with freshwater molluscs. Our ducks hatched a clutch on the banks of one of the ponds, and we looked on in horror and surprise as a snapping turtle arose from under the water to devour several of them. We laughed at the bizarre small toy lobster we stumbled upon in the field, until we realized it was not a gag, but a real live crayfish, and the ponds were full of them.

Each morning a fine mist lifted off the ponds and spread out into the surrounding gardens on even the driest summer days. The water in the fields trickled and tumbled and rose up to take the shape of elderberries, currants, and young trees whose long roots stretched a course for water to move deeper into the ground. This interplay and interaction created self renewing micro-hydrological cycles that sustained our plantings without the need for auxiliary irrigation. We irrigated for the last time in early 2015, and have been “dry farming” ever since.

July 9th, 2012, Johann Rinkens, South Field pond, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. The first pond had only filled halfway with water, and already creatures were beginning to emerge.

August 11th, 2013, South Field pond, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Blue heron at pond’s edge.

June 3rd, 2015, Johann Rinkens & Yoni Wolf, Southeast Field, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Harvesting strawberries in the understory, kept moist by the moderating effect the herb and shrub layer have on sun exposure and evaporatory potential.

May 4th, 2016, Center Field pond, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. A habitat structure we created from natural materials on the edge of the pond to shelter ducks.

April 14th, 2015, Center Field pond, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. From 2012-2017 we kept domesticated ducks whose presence on the farm during early establishment were essential in keeping the ponds healthy and free of algae.

February 19th, 2014, Center Field, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. There are interactions with water in the atmosphere, underground, and on the surface of the earth. Here snow counterintuitively insulates the ground from cold, and helps to protect the plants in winter.

June 2nd, 2021, Center Field / North Field transitional overflow pond, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Cattails made their way to the farm on the wind and you can find them around most of the ponds in specialized habitats. Planted is the aronia in the foreground on the banks.

September 8th & 25th, 2019, Johann Rinkens, Upper Pasture, fields without fences (second farm site), Frenchtown, NJ.

We were not the first farmers to work with water in our fields. At some earlier point, tile drainage was installed on our flagship farm site, and on the second farm, back in the 1960s, a large pond with a dramatically ascendant dam wall was sited close to the house. As we navigate present and future water features on our old farms, we must also contend with existing infrastructure, some of which is failing.

On a sunny fall afternoon I walked out to middle pasture to survey the scene as Johann finished work on repairing an old inflow swale to the existing pond at the second farm. It had been constructed over fifty years ago, and was increasingly dysfunctional. This rebuild, and the mitigation work we were doing on the deep erosive gullies that had formed above the pond, was made possible by a cost share program from NRCS. We were on a deadline to finish the project, and had shifted all manner of priorities to complete it.

I remember being genuinely impressed with how refined the work was, executed with proper equipment, and demonstrative of the skill Johann had acquired during the intervening years of honing our craft. I also remember a creeping irritation with the energy being expended on repair work just to get back to a functional state. I don’t think I mentioned any of this at the moment, I just shouted from afar, “looks good!” before snapping a photo. 

When we first began experimenting with water in the landscape, we followed our intended work out past our lifetimes. What happens to this when we’re gone, when there is no one to do repairs, when the course of time winds its way through entropy and change? These thought experiments are the reason we constructed what are known as depression ponds, rather than dam wall ponds. Over time those small depression ponds in the landscape may fill with reeds, and they may fill in entirely to become the remnants of a wetland, but they won’t blow out or flood a house down slope. For as malleable and ubiquitous as water is, it holds a tremendous power to create and destroy.

Humility and technical expertise go hand in hand.

May 12, 2022, Seasonal stream corridor, fields without fences (second farm site), Frenchtown, NJ. There are many ways to interact with water in the landscape without the use of specialized machinery, including building small check dams with fallen trees and rocks. This series of “check dams” were created naturally as debris was carried and caught during seasonal storm events. We gain inspiration and ideas for ecosystem mimicry by observing woodland dynamics as they unfold.

July 5th, 2014, South Field Pond, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Water can be a diverse asset on a farm. We sited our unheated high tunnel with the pond to the south. In the early season there is a heat gain from the reflective surface, and in the dry months, the soil within the tunnel is kept moist in part because the area surrounding the pond is so well hydrated.

July 30th, 2012, Center Field / North Field transitional overflow pond, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. A palpable wince looking back at this photo of an early establishment pond. This “ramp” into the pond was created as a compromise to safely maneuver the farm tractor into the pond after too many near accidents. Digging our first ponds with the front end loader of the tractor was both scrappy and not at all recommended. Though the edges have since smoothed, to this day, we still refer to this pond as “skull pond”.

August 8th, 2019, South Field pond, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Water features in the landscape must always be buffered by appropriate plants. Along the edges of our ponds are a mix of native meadow and emergent grass and flowering species. Here in naturalized plantings we also grow crops like aronia and coppice willow.

By River, By Ocean, By Sky

Water takes the shape of its vessel, orients toward the lowly, bobs along the path of least resistance. And at the same time, water wields the world into being, shapes its shores in an eternal lapping of give and take, and wears away at its rough edges ad infinitum. Even as the world erupts from its wellspring, water wears away at the world, dissolves it into the substrate of futures yet unknown.

For all the potential embedded within the ways of water, there is also an empty quality. The Sky God of early agriculture withheld and punished in times of drought, then smiled and rewarded with the release of rain. But, in practice and process, water flows everywhere, and nourishes all things without lording it over them. It’s a curious conspiracy of cohorts that enables the movements of water to animate all existence, while at the same time, all of existence providing a course for water to move along.

As our planet becomes less diverse in the wake of human development, the course of water is becoming more and more untethered and volatile. In the northeast, our relatively temperate climate is increasingly characterized by water cycles of alternating drought and deluge. Storms are gaining intensity as more water becomes volatilized into the atmosphere, generating severe wind and precipitation events.

And still, the shape of water can take enumerable forms and hold infinite potentials of becoming. I remember walking into a rainforest on a perfectly sunny day, and name-be-damned still experiencing surprise at the fat drops of precipitation raining from the tall trees, steadily pattering atop my head, and dripping down the contours of my brow. Encourage a vegetated world with a diverse and robust ecology, and allow things to take their course.

September 4th, 2014, Johann Rinkens, James Schleppenbach, & Katie Collins, North Field, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ.

The prolonged summer drought this season (2022) was the worst we’ve seen on the farm. Over the course of three months we received almost no rainfall, and likewise most of New Jersey experienced significant drought conditions. I watched with dismay as portions of the understory browned out and withered to a crisp. The fruit harvest was small and seedy. We lost an entire field of young plantings at the second farm.

When we built our ponds ten years ago, we sized them to support regular irrigation in the event of a prolonged months-long drought that seemed far-fetched at the time. It was only a small handful of years before we experienced those worst case scenario calculations. Somehow after all this time we return to, still and again, water.

In 2014, when I took this photo, we had just set the beds and started the first pond in the distant North Field. Johann was explaining to James and Katie that we intended for that pond to double in size, for another to be installed, and for drainage patterns to be finalized along the northernmost edge before the start of the next season. But, after this photo, the seasons began to change, life happened, and we never finished. We started planting, and overwhelmed with mounting projects and responsibilities, adopted a “good enough?” attitude toward the plot.

As the years stretched on, North Field stagnated. It started to become waterlogged and difficult to traverse even by foot. Trees and shrubs would grow, only to be drowned and frost heaved out of the ground before gaining a true foothold. We kept saying we’d get to it, but never did. This season, after going back and forth about it for some time, we decided to completely overhaul and finally finish (may it be so!) the water system in North Field to ensure the survival and health of future plantings.

As with most responsible management of our shared landscape, the onus falls upon the farmer or steward to invest in the time, energy, and capital costs associated with ecosystem renewal. So while the prescriptions for hydrological enhancement are available in theory, they can be difficult to access in practice in between planting, harvesting, marketing, selling, fixing machinery, and balancing books (among the many other myriad of jobs a farmer is tasked with). Farming in the age of climate change may rely on our ability to pool our collective resources behind our most precious one.

November 13th, 2017, Center Field, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Mist before sunrise, another view of water in the landscape.

October 24th, 2017, Grand Canyon, Arizona. On a trip to the Grand Canyon, a quote in the visitor center read, “Running water is a puny thing compared to solid rock. Without geologic time, neither sedimentary rocks nor canyons could exist. Deep time gives water dominion over rock…” – J.L. Powell

June 17th, 2016, Lindsay Napolitano (author), local trail along the river, Frenchtown, NJ. Where we live and work, at the edge of the watershed.

October 10th, 2014, Southwest Field, fields without fences, Frenchtown, NJ. Amphibians at home in the various moist environments on the farm. Frogs play a vital role in ecosystem dynamics.

The Consistency of Change

As we move into the next decade, water is top of mind. We have insular plans to install new ponds, water features, and plantings to retain more water in the landscape, and we have expansive concern for increasingly challenging climatic patterns. The experience of water is a collective one. These notes on the ways of water are cumulatively the story of our climate, the history of the earth, and an essential guide to our future food sovereignty. 

I have never lived more than a long walk from a major body of water. And though no singular droplet has ever stayed with me, there is a grounding quality to the consistent ebb and flow of drifting tides and rushing rivers. Whenever I’m asked how to connect more deeply with nature, I advise finding an expanse of water and sky, and watching as the waves and clouds shift into a myriad of forms out of the same source.

Authored by Lindsay Napolitano, 2022

Photos by Lindsay Napolitano & Johann Rinkens

Please feel free to share thoughts and questions in the comments below!

If you enjoy this content, let us know.

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Eat Those Weeds

I’m a big fan of eating weeds. But first, what even is a weed? A common description is that it’s simply a plant in the wrong place – meaning us humans don’t want it there as it may be compromising the ecological integrity of that place or crowding other plants we want to thrive. But I do believe that all plants are special in their own way. And while I do weed out certain plants in my garden (usually to stop them taking over), others I cherish and smile with joy when I see them volunteering throughout our garden.

Obviously, if you’re not sure about a plant, don’t eat it. Check out a couple of the best resources going around at the end of this blog for some thorough guidance. 

Exhibit A is our current salad patch below. Technically I only planted lettuces here, but then all these “weeds” started emerging and I said ‘yesssss’. What was once a garden with one type of salad green has becomes a bed with around five. Let me show you around.

Our current salad bed, full of edible weeds and a few lettuces

Wild mustard (Sinapis arvensis)

First up we’ve got a type of wild mustard (Sinapis arvensis). I say ‘a type’ as there are so many variations that pop up in our garden, they seem to evolve over the seasons, twisting and turning and manifesting in slightly different configurations. But they always deliver a strong mustard/wasabi taste – so really “lift” your salads. They’re left over from some mixed green manure crops I’ve grown over the years, I always let a few stay as they’re simply so tasty!

Wild mustard (Sinapis arvensis)

Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a rambling plant that’s also very sticky as it’ll stick to your clothes and hair so is commonly known simply as ‘sticky weed’. This one’s a bit “scratchy” to eat, but I chop it up finely and mix it through my salads with other greens which helps it blend in nicely. I’ve heard it gives some people a rash – if this is you, I wouldn’t be eating it. Apparently the seeds are wonderful to eat as well – I’ll be trying that shortly.

Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a rambling plant that will creep in and around your main crops – acting as a brilliant living mulch, protecting your soils from the strong sun and preventing evaporation in the process. The whole plant is very juicy and mild in flavour so I find it really easy to eat.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a bit of a rockstar weed. You can recognise it by it’s fluffy seed head, bright yellow flowers and hollow stems. It’s actual leaf has very pronounced teeth, so once you get your eye in you can spot them pretty easily and quickly. You can eat its leaves and yellow flower petals in your salads and dig up its deep tap root to roast and grind up as dandelion “coffee” (there’s no caffeine in it, but has a similar taste). You can read about this process in an older blog I wrote here. 

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) seed head and flower above and leaf below.

The benefits

The benefits of getting to know your weeds and eating some of them are vast. There’s the obvious things like it’ll save you time in having to actually weed the garden. But there’s there’s also soil health – soil doesn’t like being naked and as you can see from my photos above, the weeds are filling in all the space provided. This actually does a range of things including reduce evaporation, provide more root mass for the biology to benefit from and (if there’s left over plant materials) add more organic matter to the soil.

And then there’s your health, interestingly some of these weeds are way more nutritious then any of the vegetables you carefully pamper in your garden. Dandelion is a source of source of vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium and iron and “according to data from the US Department of Agriculture, it was one of the most nutritious leafy greens around.”

In summary, weeds are often an untapped resource and they’re probably thriving in your garden as you read this. Why not make the most of them and starting eating some! Above is a little snap of my evening salad – it’s 80% weeds with a few lettuce leaves thrown in on top. As well as salads, all these weeds can also be used in smoothies, pesto, spanakopita, pies and stews – pretty much anything!

Weedy Resources

If you’d like to learn more and find some amazing resources – here are two of the best.

Eat Weeds – website and book
Eat That Weed – website and book. 

 

The post Eat Those Weeds appeared first on Good Life Permaculture.

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Global Earth Repair Summit

The Global Earth Repair Foundation is committed to spreading the knowledge of ecosystem restoration to manage the climate and heal the planet. Across the Earth, at the hands of thousands of nonprofit organisations and millions of people, habitats and biomass are being created and restored to health and resilience. We are aiding this movement through hosting conferences, workshops and classes, as well as producing educational content to spread the word to as many people as possible. By collaborating with some of the strongest voices in international ecosystem restoration and permaculture, we can deliver you and others the knowledge and practical skills needed to retain water, increase plant cover, green barren lands and restore the ecological functions of our landscapes.

For more information, please visit https://globalearthrepairfoundation.org/

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Mind-Vitamin Thought-Seeds as Street Art

Mind-Vitamin Thought-Seeds brighten dull spots with continuously radiating inspiration.

These could be adopted by towns and cities everywhere in any language and with potential to become a unique Blue Mountains export industry.

Download 56 Mind-Vitamins

The action was implemented as part of ‘Art Street’ just prior to the 2013 Blue Mountains Winter Magic Festival in Katoomba. The goal was to brighten dull-spots and appropriate empty spaces around the town, with colourful laminated placards of meaningful wise quotes.

The quotes were selected from community submissions and from sages through the ages. They are brief reminders of self-evident truths, practical knowledge and useful wisdom; clear, simple and easy for most people to understand. The quest is to share a wealth of universal wisdom to inspire beneficial outcomes for the many local people and tourists who visit this spectacular Blue Mountains City of Katoomba.

The purpose of Mind-Vitamin quotes is to help uplift moods, enhance optimism, increase positive mental health, eliminate anxiety, depression and pessimistic thinking, and help enable feelings of greater peace and happiness.

Places where Mind-Vitamin Thought-Seeds would be usefully displayed are on: public walls; railway stations; homes; schools; hospitals, factories, and community, youth, aged care and neighbourhood centres. If used in juvenile and refugee detention centres and adult correctional facilities, they would probably have a lasting beneficial impact on everyone who absorbs them.

The Mind Vitamin placards are artistically presented and laser printed on size A3 card, laminated and cleverly affixed up high and out of reach but still easily visible to passers by. They are simple and inexpensive to produce and put up. They are also easy to remove and/or replace by affixing the new art over the old. They radiate thought-provoking inspiration 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

A goal is for the Blue Mountains to set a precedent and motivate other towns and cities to emulate the example of this action. Translated into each language, Mind Vitamins could be brightening dull spots in cities and towns throughout the world.

Mind-Vitamin Thought-Seeds have the potential to enhance the overall graffiti image. It is a unique community advancement initiative beginning in this great Blue Mountains ‘City of the Arts’ amidst a glorious World Heritage National Park.

For the 2014 Blue Mountains Winter Magic Festival, 42 new Mind-Vitamin Thought-Seed placards were put up and many positive responses have already been reported. There are a number of people who are prepared to give testimonials in support of this innovative project at the time when we seek endorsement and sponsorship from the Blue Mountains City Council, local business owners, organisations and the community.

Suggestions for quotes or offers of support for this proposal, please contact Franklin Scarf on 0408 267 195 or franklin@earthrepair.net

CLICK HERE to see 108 quotes being considered as Mind-Vitamin Thought-Seeds

Read about it via this FaceBook post.