Sunday, October 25, 2015

Permaculture and Place

September 27, 2015 Full Moon (Super, Blood moon) eclipse resolving

When we bought and moved to MuRefuge in December, 1993, neither Dwight nor I had lived in one place for enough time to identify with "place," much less grown roots. "BE-ing" at MuRefuge was essential for me not only to live but to thrive: I was in the throes of recovering from a disabling autoimmune disease and healing from an infancy trauma. Out of this process came the title for this blog and each ensuing post: "BE-ing Rooted: a Practice in Essential Living."

Aristotle’s Physics"the potency of place must be a marvellous thing, 
and take precedence of all other things.”  
. . . . place is "that without which nothing else can exist”

BEFORE: Summer, 1994
Digging swales, a Permaculture idea for water catchment,
along our South property line designated by the fence.
Keith Johnson, who unfortunately no longer resides in Sonoma County, was the Permaculture resource we used here at MuRefuge. His way of proceeding was to gather individuals interested in the the topic he wanted to demonstrate and have a hands on workshop. Our water catchment system of swales was dug in a weekend workshop with very little money changing hands and loads of dirt moved.

The purpose of swales is to slow the flow of water so it can soak into the ground. By doing so the groundwater table can be elevated. The rapid flowing water would leave our property otherwise. These particular swales were dug more like a flowing river with bends and turns, replacing a concrete straight "ditch" along the fence line which diverted all the water to the property to our East. We call these bends and turns our wiggle waggles with peninsulas on which to plant. The first and second round of plantings did not take, however, the third depicted below did.

AFTER: Fall, 2015 depicting Oregon ash in the background
and Golden Currant (Ribes aurum) in front of the trees
and  California Fescue (Festuca californica) just
behind the reused concrete blocks used as stepping stones.
In the before picture I was standing in the far left corner of this after picture.

Golden flowering currant in all its very early Spring splendor.
Permaculture, as originally developed by Bill Mollison, is a way of viewing one's land
or property as becoming self sustaining for all the inhabitants of this particular spot on the planet  The elements (water, soil, air/wind) as well as the topography (the Feng Shui of MuRefuge is very good) are considered when planting, building or using the land in any way. I have found the concepts immensely helpful in many ways: a wind break to protect from the fierce wind whipping through the Wind Gap from the ocean to the inland way East of us, swales to slow the water flow across our property, planting nitrogen fixing plants to feed the soil as well as sheet mulching to also feed the soil by returning the mulched organic matter to the soil as well. Many of you know and have chuckled at my practice of mulching our tattered natural fabric clothes in this sheet mulching. This list is of course not exhaustive but gives you the reader an idea of how Permaculture was applied to MuRefuge.  

The big divergence from Permaculture at Mu Refuge was the plants themselves. Initially, many nonnatives were planted and most of them except the Italian alders have been removed. My committment to native vegetation has burgeoned over the years. Many native plants meet many of the same Permaculture requirements. For example there are native clovers that nitrogen fix just as well as nonnative ones, and native alders nitrogen fix just like their Italian sisters. If I had only know that in 1994 I would have planted native alders along our West fence/property line! Fortunately the Italian Stone Pine trees we also planted there did not like the wetness so they all blew over. These were replaced with Coast Live Oaks (Quercus agrifolia) which are thriving, providing food and shelter for native BEings to this area.

Two Coast Live Oaks growing in the Southwest corner of MuRefuge
We had the most beautiful little BEing visit our Great Room a few days past, when the sliding door's screen was left open for Shasta to come and go, while eating lunch. When I climbed up holding a towel to catch the wee one, I could clearly see the "distinctive white supercilium" of the Red breasted Nuthatch who left behind, when caught and released out of doors, 3 stunning little feathers.

BEing rooted in the place one lives allows one to connect with the cycles of seasons and thus the changes in everything that inhabits the place in which one is rooting. It seems to me the frequent disconnect from the natural cycle we have all felt at some time or other in our lives gives rise to the "human stupidity" that the bumper sticker on one of our neighbor's car states:

"Only two things are infinite:
the universe and human stupidity.
And I am not sure about the former."
Albert Einstein

At our own human stupidity may we each


  1. A lovely email with a poem from a friend in Santa Rosa: "Hi Cathie: Immediately after I read your latest blog this morning, I read the daily poem I get from the "A Year of Being Here", a mindfulness poetry blog. Your sentiments seem to fit perfectly with the poem. Hope you like it.

    Have a wonderful day!

    by Linda Buckmaster

    Pick a crevice,
    a homey gap
    between stones
    and make it
    your own.

    Grow a life here
    from wind
    and the memories of ancients
    embedded in limestone.

    The bees will use you
    for their sweet honey.
    The rock will soften under
    your touch.
    You will draw moisture from fog
    and hold it.
    Your presence
    will build soil.

    This is all we have
    in this life
    all we own:
    a flowering
    an opening
    a gap between stones
    for tiny tender roots."

  2. Another email from my friend living in Palm Springs: "Good morning Cathie!
    Another thoughtful blog. Thank you. Is that you on the right in the before picture? Have a good '

  3. An email from a local: "Thank you -- good to hear from you and looking forward to your blog. Love Lynette"