Sometimes, when faced with multiple life challenges, the grass does seem greener somewhere else. It’s easy to want to run away to some other imagined better place with friendlier people, more laughter, more built-in accessible abundance. We almost always have options. If we chose awareness we most definitely have mirrors. Understanding the concepts, themes, patterns, elements, functions and principles of permaculture has provided me with both options and mirrors. The former – hopeful, the latter – at times painful. Geoff Lawton says “the relationships become more intimate. You build intimacy, a relationship between your caring, assessing, evaluating design process and the landscape itself and the life response. That intimacy is what gives you the revelation of pattern that needs to be applied and they reveal themselves to you and more and more options become obvious.”

21 acres in arid shrub steppe surrounded by dry wheat monocrop biological destruction, extreme temps, little rainfall,  low humidity, and blowing dust is where I hang my design hat. What does a person from Ithaca NY, who has just gotten bitten by the 2008 real estate bust do?  Stay, Accept, Learn, Observe, Design, ACT. In Columbia Basin evaporation exceeds precipitation, which means on an average day the soil looses more water than it gains. Everything we do in the permaculture design seeks to mitigate this loss. It is a design I can reflect on for my life.

Base Camp

Base Camp

This week I started painting the white aluminum sided house. This picture is taken early in the morning while the dappled shade from the large black cottonwoods casts itself on the house. In full sun (which is nearly all the time) the white color amounts to an impression of disharmonious shouting. In this climate I need all the green I can get, so while we plant trees and pot up more trees, the house needs to do it’s share. Although not visible in this picture is the amount of cable TV bondage wrapping itself around the house.

285 Million TV sets and 2.5 TV's per home 1% of US pop does not own a TV

285 Million TV sets and 2.5 TV’s per home
1% of the US population does not own a TV

This came off first  along with ten pounds of siding penetrating screws. It made me think; if I hadn’t been the person I am and had just settled with being “normal” I could be inside right now watching TV instead of outside painting as the temperature climbed. That’s what everybody else, who has lived here for the past four decades, has done; while the trees withered outside, or the well pump went nuts trying to pump out enough water to feed the sprinkler system & hydrate the large grass lawn.

I’ve been able to get this far by waking at 4:30am and painting early in the morning until the heat becomes too much. The humidity levels have been dangerously low this week reaching 9%-16% and early this week the wild fires started to the west & south of us and now stand at over 50 fires in Washington and Oregon combined. The smoke plumes can been seen easily from satellite photos, fueled by 15 – 30 mph gusts and have reached Chicago.

Recently the “neighbors” have lost their farmer welfare (CRP) and on June 25th disked and sprayed herbicides on 400 acres of what was various bunch grasses into what is now acres of loess dust immediately adjoining the house to the east and south. A wonderful group of students from WSU Pullman arrived yesterday to visit and as we were standing  in front of the house, talking about the basalt rock talus garland structures & their functions, a thick wall of loess dust took to the air and all visibility stopped beyond 200 feet.  I shot these two pictures on the left this morning at 6am. The sun could not get through the smoke! The photo (far right) taken tonight shows the plowed fields with no protection from the wind or sun and the smoke from the fires (those aren’t clouds). Particulates in the air are making the air quality so dangerous I’ve knocked off with the painting for now .

Wildfire Sunrise July 18Wildfire looking westCRP Disked Fields and Wild Fire Smoke


So here I am, and here we are on this tiny globe trying to figure out how to save our corners of the world and maybe humanity itself. I don’t want to spend my time “being mad at the bad guys” (Paul Wheaton’s quote ) and certainly don’t want to fight with nature. I want to be happy even in the face of challenges – even when how I feel inside – gets mirrored by what I see going on outside. It’s not hopeless, now that I know about permaculture, there are options. Instead of peering over someone else’s fence where the grass looks greener I can peer over the fence of time and make the place I call home greener (minus the grass of course).