Climbing the curve of Permaculture

I have several interesting and sometimes tiresome dialogues going on in my head about growing food. As I’m weeding bed after bed of vegetables sometimes in the hot sun questions roll through my mind like: “Is this really having any significant impact on the state of the world?”,  “Should I just leave organic vegetable growing to those that are actually really good at it?”, or “Is any form of annual based agriculture a net contribution to the eco-system with all its tilling, inputs, and deer fencing?”  Those questions can certainly take the wind out of my sail particularly on a hot day and when my back starts to ache bedding over the onion bed.  Yet I do want to attempt to answer those questions, I want to feel even more connected to the why of vegetable growing.  So I thought I would share my musings and my struggles with you so as to not feel as alone in the matter because I know I’m not alone.


My dear friend and land mate Rosie helping me hoe the potato bed.

The questions I have pinballing around in my mind around seem to have their root in a deep intention of mine to do no harm and to be have a positive impact on my environment. That’s my intention and then there’s reality.  As mentioned above there’s several practices that are less than ideal in terms of truly doing no harm whether that harm is in the form of disturbing elk migration patterns or disturbing soil ecology through big tractors till blending up the earth.  People seem to have a lot of hope around organic agriculture and I do as well and yet I feel move to point out that there’s quite a ways to go on the learning curve (especially for me personally) to get the point that human food growing actually has a net positive impact on the ecology.  The hope for me lies in all the various incredible people I know or read about that are plugging away and steadily moving along that curve on differing fronts.  And with the world as it is the opportunities for cross fertilization and collaboration are immense.

I’ve been really feeling these days how much we need each other if to do the learning and work it takes to move beyond a high impact agriculture into a permaculture.  Growing our own vegetables is a start, planting a food forest hedgrerow is one too but its just a start.  I am grateful to be supported in the ways that I am on this challenging journey towards living in harmony with the land.

So maybe I should relish the fact that there’s still so much journeying to experience, eat some strawberries and just keep learning.

Thanks for reading,



My wife Eden (7 months pregnant) helping weed the community garden

Pruning the Orchard

Last week an amazing veteran Orchardist came to Full Bloom to share his pithy wisdom and love for the art of Fruit Tree care.  His name is Terry Helfrich and he’s been taking care of fruit orchards in the Rogue Valley for several decades now.   It was a blast to see him trim up some of our trees without any hesitation, leaving them in a shape that will be super easy to maintain in the years to come  His approach really simplified things for me around pruning as I’ve been exposed to several different styles and they have left me a bit confused and tentative as I attempt to prune our now 60 tree orchard.   Thank God for good teachers!


That’s Terry in the Red, droppin’ the pruning science


What I really appreciated about Terry was his ability to empower each of us to take to our own trees and just go for it, giving us encouragement to not get caught by thinking there is an absolute right way to prune.  There are basic principles, then its just a matter of seeing being in relationship with the trees over years and noticing the impact of what you’ve cut and haven’t cut.

Its really difficult to convey his style in a blog post, especially since I’m relatively new to the vocabulary and would have to sketch out some nifty diagrams, so I’ll just have to let you know ahead of time the next time he comes out in case you want the direct transmission.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”  Martin Luther

The Greenhouse Advantage

At Full Bloom we a have a pretty extreme climate leading to a relatively short growing season.  We’ve been know to have a frost as late as Early June and as early as early October leading barely a 4 month frost free growing window.  But that’s outside.  The Greenhouse changes everything; it gives us another two months on either side.   For several years now we’ve been able to get a major head start on our  tomatoes in the raised bed in the greenhouse planting them in April and still harvesting tomatoes in December.

IMG_8492 IMG_8497

Every year I do dance with the greenhouse to get in our winter salad greens sown just after the hot weather crops like peppers, and eggplants begin to slow down in early October.  Its taken years to get that timing down ( and develop the nerve to pull that pepper plant that may have one or two peppers still to ripen) and this year I was very proud of myself for clearing the bed space and sewing tons of arugula and salad mix for our enjoyment during the winter (note: outdoor greens can end up getting pretty much killed during the winters here. Especially when it gets down to 6 degrees like it did this past December.)

Given the extreme productivity and season extension power of a greenhouse I’ve been pondering lately how we can add another to the land here and/or build a “field house” for the agricultural fields outside of the central area.  These can be put up for minimal cost and can really increase production and protect crops of frost damage.


An example of a “field house”. A no frills green house that one can even drive a tractor through for cultivation.

Well that’s it for now.  Off to the greenhouse, cause its basically already spring down there and its time to prep the soil and start sowing some spinach and lettuce.

Till next time……Ryan

Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse too.”  William Cowper

Winter Camp has Begun….

The beginning of 2014 brought with it the arrival of an amazing crew of devout forest tenders, naturalists, and bold experimenters in “social forestry”:  Winter Camp.   What exactly is Winter Camp?  Its collective of 10 mixed gender individuals committed to learning together what it means to truly care for the forests of this Bioregion.  Using whatever skills and practices they have at their disposal (Permaculture, Regenerative forestry practices, primitive skills, non-violent communication/process work) the winter campers are discovering and rediscovering practices that bring human beings into a more intimate, regenerative and sustainable relationship with the forest ecosystem.  And by all accounts they are having a fun time doing it!

Yesterday most of the Full Bloom residents participated in a work day at their site, where we helped gather and burn the lopped branches from several days of  thinning the forest (Historically the native people performed periodic understory controlled burns to keep the larger trees healthy, reducing competition and cycling in nutrients) and peeled usable poles that came from the forest thinning.

Burning Cedar branches and returning nutrients to the forest soil, while providing the most pleasant of aromas…..
Burn Pile
Pole Pealing Party. These poles can be used as posts and rafters for small cabins on the land.

After a morning of working together on the poles and the burn piles we gathered at their camp headquarters for a delicious meal then the group as a whole began a ceremony initiating the restoration of an Oak woodland that had been taken over by conifer species (cedars and firs).   Rather than going right at it with a chainsaw we started with song and hand tools, which felt good and not so much like work.

The beginning of our ceremony: we are all gathered around an old oak tree that is barely perceptible amid the crowd of conifer trees.

I feel deeply appreciative for the vision of these young folks to have put together such an undertaking that provides untold benefits to the land and to the residents here at Full Bloom.  Yay Winter Camp!!

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
John Muir

If you tell a joke in the forest, but nobody laughs, was it a joke?
Steven Wright

The Great Potato Harvest……

There’s something undeniably satisfying about getting on your hands and knees and digging in the earth in search of large tubers that will later become rosemary home fries, creamy mashed potatoes, and other comforting fall and winter foods.  Over the weekend we harvested the Full Bloom potato crop which amounted to over 800lbs of potatoes and it didn’t really feel like work, it felt like a treasure hunt in the dirt.



Several Full Bloomers on the hunt for taters.



Mica (a current resident) and myself showing off some of the harvest

As Fall transitions to winter it becomes essential to store properly all the abundance from the growing season so that it can be consumed through the winter and on into the spring.  With proper storage there can be a continued sense of connection to the land as the prime source of one’s life rather than the supermarket.   That’s not to say there isn’t still a lot of food being brought to Full Bloom from off-site, it’s to emphasize the importance of cultivating a deep sense of place.  As we open this place to more and more visitors in the years to come, I hope that sense of place can be enjoyed by all who come.

“It is easy to think of potatoes, and fortunately for men who have not much money it is easy to think of them with a certain safety. Potatoes are one of the last things to disappear, in times of war, which is probably why they should not be forgotten in times of peace.” 
― M.F.K. FisherHow to Cook a Wolf

Successful Fundraiser at Full Bloom

This past Saturday Full Bloom hosted a fundraiser for the non-profit Speak for the Trees ( that was formed to protect 120 acres of our watershed from being clear-cut by a timber company.  The organization hopes to raise enough money to buy the land from the timber company and put it into a land trust to protect for generations to come.

It was an incredibly fun event with a silent auction full of donated items like massages, hand made black walnut cutting boards, and hand-knitted caps.  Rise Up! Artisan Breads (Owned and operated by Full Bloom members Jo Ferneau and Rosie Demmin) brought out there wood fired pizza oven and were serving the over 200 guests with delicious pizza all night.


Rise Up! pizza oven

Several musicians played on our stage over the course of the evening.


Trever Jones Rockin’ his “punk americana” on the Full Bloom stage

It always fills my heart to witness all the community connections that are nourished and created at an event like this.  Amidst the stresses and complexity of our lives it becomes essential to gather together in celebration and in care for our watershed.




I’m looking forward to more and more gatherings that reminded us about what’s important and that feed our community literally and figuratively.


Communal Dinner at Full Bloom

Its a sad statistic but….. In the U.S. 46 percent of all adult eating occasions are now solitary eating occasions and Americans consume 31 percent more packaged food than fresh food.  We are privileged here at Full Bloom to be eating most every dinner together. Currently there are 11 adult residents and we each partner up with another resident to cook a communal dinner.


Here’s Rosie putting together a Ratatouille from our abundant gardens and you’ll see there a big bag of yellow wax beans as well. Vegetables are in no shortage this time of ear at Full Bloom.

There’s something really amazing in being able to experience the diverse cooking styles of each resident.  Everyone has an commitment to eating local, non package foods but beyond that it’s anybody’s guess what will show up at dinner.  Recent highlights include: terriaki venison, Cheddar zucchini bread, local grass-fed beef chili, and garlic roasted beets and fennel.


Full Bloomers serving themselves up on burrito night.


Summer outdoor eating together

We’re doing our best here to re-instate a culture of valuing eating together and eating what comes from the landbase together.  It helps that its mostly a thoroughly enjoyable experience!

“There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.”
― Thomas Wolfe

Raw zucchini flax “bread” – what to do when you’re awash with zucchini…

If you’ve ever grown a couple of zucchini plants you know that there comes a point in the season where a your swimming in them, and where a couple of them get away from you and they end up the size of a small child.  Well I’ve discovered my answer to this common culinary quandary:  Raw zucchini flax “bread”.  It may not be your cup of tea but I find it an an awesome alternative to tortillas, bread, and other high carb, gluten rich fare.  And plus I can be a hero to all my community mates that are walking around saying “What are we going to do with all these zucchinis!?”


Here I am in the Full Bloom commercial kitchen with all my ingredients ready to toss em’ together and make some olive zucchini bread!

I never use a recipe, but to get you started I would suggest the following proportions:

6 cups ground Flax

12 cups grated zucchini

2 cups olives

fresh rosemary, basil, and oregano salt to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

mix it all together and taste it.  Do you like it?  Does it have enough salt? rosemary? add more.  Or maybe you want to toss in some jalepenos or some grated carrots?  Spread out onto your dehydrator sheets and dehydrate to desired pliability (tortilla like or cracker like)


Here’s all the ingredients in a bowl prior to mixing

Have Fun and let me know if you have any questions or feedback!