GO BOX Permaculture Project’s 10th Anniversary!

This year is the 10th anniversary of the GO BOX Permaculture Project! We have learned a lot over the last decade. Some insights have been very surprising and go against permaculture’s current wisdom. I would like to share some of these insights for your consideration.

permaculture 1 GO BOX Permaculture Projects 10th Anniversary!

It’s harvest time for the stone fruits at the GO BOX Permaculture Project! These plums will soon be ready for eating. MMMmmm!

permaculture 2 GO BOX Permaculture Projects 10th Anniversary!

These dark plums are fantastic dried. They will be ready for harvest in a few weeks.

So how much does a permaculture garden or forest garden cost? Not as much as you might think. The GO BOX Permaculture Project had an initial cost of under $1000 for the base trees and shrubs. We also had to get a formal landscaping plan and have a consultation with a local arborist, which costed more than the plants. However, most people wouldn’t have to contend with this cost. In the spring of each year we spend about $100 on bedding plants and seeds for annuals. This cost does not include any livestock or feed which adds to the cost of a permaculture garden but greatly increases the nutrient density of the food output. So, over the ten years of operation, the plant portion of the permaculture garden has cost us a total of $2000 not including the tribute to the bureaucrats.

permaculture 3 GO BOX Permaculture Projects 10th Anniversary!

This pear tree is an example of a tree that is unhappy where we placed it. Even though it doesn’t provide good fruit, the tree provides shade and privacy for the house, two very welcome services.

During the first five years, the permaculture garden produced little. Since then, the permaculture garden has produced a bounty of fresh food far beyond the use of our household. Every year now we over produce raspberries, cherries, plums and apples. We even have a FREE u-pick for the community to help utilize this bounty. During migration, the birds stop and refuel at the garden too.

gobox free upick 2016 1 GO BOX Permaculture Projects 10th Anniversary!

The GO BOX Permaculture Project has been doing a FREE u-pick for a number of years now. It’s becoming a yearly tradition!

gobox free upick 2016 3 GO BOX Permaculture Projects 10th Anniversary!

Raspberries are a favorite for the FREE u-pickers. We have LOTS every year. It’s our best harvest.

gobox free upick 2016 2 GO BOX Permaculture Projects 10th Anniversary!

The red currents are a favorite for the jam makers at the FREE u-pick.

The annual garden and hoop houses produce an excessive amount of lettuce, kale, herbs, Chinese greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and numerous summer and winter squashes. We also use an indoor growing unit for winter microgreens, sprouts and for starting bedding plants. With a permaculture garden you can forget about the 100 mile diet and eat the 100 meter or 100 foot diet!

Even though we started with a formal plan with professional advice the permaculture garden just evolved over time through trial and error… mostly through error. Many of the original plants died that first year. We had to rethink the whole concept. The land could only grow what the land could grow. So we brought in organic material from wherever we could find it. We used chickens over this organic material for a number of years to increase the soil fertility. For three years we just built soil before anything would really grow. Building soil was a lot of work!

Then things really started to happen. The sickly trees and shrubs came alive and started to thrive. We learned to spend even less money on plants by doing our own propagation and allowing volunteer trees to grow wherever they happened to sprout. We realized we weren’t the planners of this garden. We’re just the human help! The garden grew itself once we realized that we were really soil life farmers, not permaculturalists! The garden taught us not the other way around!

permaculture 4 GO BOX Permaculture Projects 10th Anniversary!

A few years ago, we planted a number of standard fruit trees which have done extremely well compared to the original dwarf stock fruit trees.

permaculture 5 GO BOX Permaculture Projects 10th Anniversary!

Our dwarf apples trees haven’t done well due to pest problems. Yes, we could do something about that but we are experimenting Mark Shepard’s STUN method!

“STUN stands for: steer, total, utter neglect. Of all the different ways to care for a plant, STUN is the simplest. Since nothing is done to the plant, around the plant, or applied to the soil, it is also the least expensive method of plant care.”
Restoration Agriculture: Real World Permaculture for Farmers by Mark Shapard

So, a permaculture garden doesn’t need to cost much. You can start a permaculture garden for a few hundred dollars and some sweat equity. Our garden has been a really great experience and has saved our household an uncountable amount of money that we would have otherwise spent on seasonal, organic foods. My only regret is that I didn’t plant more nut trees and less fruit trees as suggested by permaculture radical, Mark Shepard. The biggest surprise was learning to let go of the planning process and let the garden take the lead. The garden became our teacher. All that was required from us was to be good students and humbly listen to it.

“Aside from the obvious cost and labor savings when you don’t hand weed, hoe, cultivate or mow around trees, one of the most significant benefits of using STUN is the discovery of superior genetics. Think about it. If you plant 100 trees and ignore them, the only ones that survive did so because they had some sort of competitive advantage.”

Attached is the original landscaping plan drawn up for the city in 2006. The actual garden evolved to look nothing like the plan. We gave up on the recommended xeriscaping when we discovered that when this policy is properly implemented the results are a heating up of the ground which kills soil microflora and increases the ambient air temperature in an already hot city. In our opinion, xeriscaping is not a good policy for a hot city that has basically unlimited access to river water and is not experiencing a drought or likely to experience a drought in the near future. Also, xeriscaping requires weeding to look good which means increased herbicide use (bad) or expensive human labor (bad).

I NEVER thought I would say this, but a mowed grass lawn is starting to look like a much better option to me… and I can eat the dandelions!

gobox landscaping 2006 GO BOX Permaculture Projects 10th Anniversary!

This is the original landscaping plan drawn up for the city in 2006. The actual garden evolved to look nothing like the plan. If you’re interested, come for a visit someday!

“It is interesting that all the literature you can read and all the workshops you can attend are all telling you what to do, rather than not do. In addition, they only address two fundamental questions: “How do I keep this thing alive that wants to die? and “How do I kill this thing that wants to live?” This is entirely backwards! If some trees of mine want to die, I say, “Good riddance!” I don’t have the time and I’m not interested in spending the money on inputs to keep it on life support. I’m interested in discovering the genetics that are precocious, pest and disease resistant, and thrive in a regime of STUN.”

Paleo-Plum Cake Cockaigne

paleo plum cockaigne Paleo Plum Cake Cockaigne

This recipe is a grain-free version of the traditional cake cockaigne. It’s a great way to use up the bounty of fruit in your garden.

This recipe is safe for someone on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, GAPS or the modified paleo diet.

Every year the permaculture garden produces something to excess. Storing this bounty by drying or canning is one solution. Giving some of the it away is another. I also like finding new recipes to utilize the excess food. Each year that goes by, I learn more and more new recipes and how to see these windfalls as a great blessing and not a result of bad planning!

This year the permaculture garden has a bounty of plums. Plums, plums and more plums. We enjoy eating pounds and pounds of the fresh fruit but sometimes a cooked dessert is welcome. This recipe is a grain-free version of cake cockaigne. Finely grinding the flaked coconut is the secret to a creamy cake-like topping.

4-6c pitted garden plums, sliced
1 garden apple, chopped
1T local honey (optional)
1T organic unsalted butter

Cake Topping
1c organic coconut flakes, very finely ground
3T organic unsalted butter
pinch of sea salt
1T honey
3 whole organic eggs
3T organic whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 400F. Butter the cake pan well. Cut up the apple and plums and mix together well. Add some honey if the plums are too sour though this dessert is naturally a bit sour. Press down the fruit into the cake pan.

In a Vitamix machine, finely grind the coconut in small amounts and put the finely ground coconut into a bowl. I usually do about 1/3c at a time for the best results. (You could substitute coconut flour for the coconut flakes but I prefer to use whole ingredients whenever possible.) Add the salt and crumble in the butter. Add the eggs, honey and cream in the Vitamix machine and blend well. Add the coconut mixture in three amounts and blend very well. The cake mixture should have the yellow colour and texture of a normal white cake. Spoon the cake mixture on top of the filling and spread evenly over the fruit. Cook for 20-25 minutes until brown on top.

This dessert is best served at room temperature with whipping cream which also cuts the tart taste.

Dutch Oven Pizza

dutch oven pizza Dutch Oven Pizza

In the house or at the campsite, making pizza in a Dutch oven is great for summer cooking.

This recipe is safe for someone on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, GAPS or modified paleo diet.

If I have a chance, I always try new camping equipment at home before taking the new item into the bush. Sometimes the new item never even makes it through the home trial. I have no tolerance for poorly made equipment that doesn’t deliver on its promises.

This week I’ve been testing a new camping Dutch oven called the Lodge 6 Quart Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven. Keep in mind the Dutch oven is very heavy and would only be suitable for car camping, base camps, boating or canoeing.

Dutch ovens are not new to me. I’ve been using a Dutch oven my mother got at her wedding. That should be a testament to how robust a Dutch oven can be. This new Dutch oven is made for camping with a three legs on the bottom and the top of the lid. The lid is also extra thick and could be used as a fry pan or grill. These legs might not work on some stove tops but it worked well on my gas stove.

I seasoned the new Dutch oven with coconut oil before I started. This requires melting and letting the coconut oil just come to the smoke point and then to completely cool the Dutch oven. After the Dutch oven has cooled completely it is ready for cooking. This seasoning can be redone anytime the Dutch oven starts to stick.

I made an easy, paleo-pizza recipe for the test. This pizza is based on the recipe called  Upsidedown Pizza:

  1. I chopped and prepared the cheese, feta, pineapple, meat and vegetables.
  2. I precooked the meat topping. I browned the salted and finely sliced pork steak first, then added and browned the sliced onions. I set this aside for later.
  3. I took about a pound of meat and mixed it very well with some spices and one egg. After mixing, I made it into a ball which I pressed out to cover the bottom of the newly seasoned Dutch oven. This will be the meat crust of the pizza.
  4. On a medium flame, I cooked the meat crust. I spread evenly about 1/2 can of organic tomato paste while the meat crust was cooking. I did have to be careful not to burn myself on the hot sides of the Dutch oven.
  5. When the meat crust was mostly cooked through I topped the pizza with the cooked meat and onions. Then I added a layer of feta and two other kinds of cheese. I put the lid on and reduced the heat to low and simmered for 10 minutes. I removed the lid a few times to remove any steam (water) that would make the pizza soggy. The water collects on the lid. I dumped this water into the sink.
  6. The pizza was done very quickly and the house was not heated up by using the oven. I added some garden parsley and chives.
  7. This 9″ pizza was very filling. It fed two people to the overfull point. With a side dish the pizza could feed four people.

Healthy Household: Simple Rosemary Peppermint Shampoo

“Rosemary improves memory and naturally thickens hair, which makes this essential oil a welcome addition to homemade shampoo.”
Eat Dirt by Dr Josh Axe

rosemary peppermint shampoo 1 Healthy Household: Simple Rosemary Peppermint Shampoo

Try this shampoo without adding liquid soap and see how well it works on your hair.

I have been researching and making shampoo recipes for many years. Sometimes it feels like I’ll never find a good, homemade shampoo. This shampoo recipe works well and can be made without soap. I found the original recipe in the book Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems by Dr Josh Axe. The original shampoo recipe doesn’t use soap.

If you have never used Dr Brunner’s Peppermint Castile Liquid Soap you’re in for a treat. I started using this liquid soap years ago during camping trips. This liquid soap can be used for washing anything including clothes, dishes, hair and body. Personally, I like the peppermint liquid soap the best. The soap is made with organic peppermint essential oil. If you add it to the base recipe, it will make your shampoo even more pepperminty.

“Peppermint supports digestion, improves focus, boosts energy, reduces fevers and headaches, and offers muscle pain relief.”

If you find washing your hair without lather too strange you can add the optional liquid soap to the recipe later.

1c organic aloe vera gel
4T organic olive oil
1/3c baking soda
25 drops organic rosemary essential oil
10 drops organic peppermint essential oil
1/2c-1c Dr Brunner’s Peppermint Castile Liquid Soap (optional)
Combine all the ingredients except the liquid soap in a plastic container. An old shampoo bottle will work well. Don’t worry if the contents doesn’t fill the bottle. The extra space will making shaking the shampoo before use easier. Try the shampoo without the liquid soap first and see if you like the results. If you find shampooing without a lather too weird, add 1/2c of liquid soap and try again. If that’s not enough lather add another 1/2c of liquid soap until the shampoo lathers to your personal needs. Remember to always shake the shampoo before using.

rosemary peppermint shampoo 2 Healthy Household: Simple Rosemary Peppermint Shampoo

This shampoo recipe is easy to make. You may have many of the ingredients already in your kitchen.

For more recipes please see Healthy Household: Staying Clean Safely.

Healthy Household: Self Heal Essence

“Seal-heal has gained recent respect for its antiviral qualities. Effective for feverish colds and flu, it has also been proposed for treating herpes and AIDS, and is an underrated liver, gallbladder, and thyroid remedy.”
Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies by Julie Bruton-Seal

self heal essence 1 Healthy Household: Self Heal Essence

Self Heal Essence is very easy to make. Self Heal reminds us that “all healing is self-healing”.

This weekend in the backcountry, I was lucky enough to find a meadow full of Self Heal (Prunella vulgaris). I decided to make an essence of Self Heal. If you have ever used Rescue Remedy or the Bach Flower Remedies you have used plant essences. I first learned about Rescue Remedy from my sister Christine who used it on her anxious dog. I have since used it for years on anxious or upset children… and adults.

Self Heal Essence
I’ve never made an essence before and the process is a bit woo woo. According to instructions you need a bright sunny day and a positive, peaceful state of mind to make a good essence.

1/2c wildcrafted Self Heal (Prunella vulgaris), flower heads
1c spring water
1/2c organic vodka
The Self Heal flowers are put into some spring water and let sit in the warmth of the sun to infuse for 3-4 hours. The plant material is strained out and one part organic vodka is added to two parts infused water. I reused a Rescue Remedy bottle which was perfect for my homemade Self Heal Essence!

While you are waiting for your essence to infuse, collect the tops of the Self Heal flowers. Dry the flower heads completely before storage. The flower tops can be used to make hot or cold infusions.

self heal essence 2 Healthy Household: Self Heal Essence

Self Heal is a very common plant with a very long history of use. The plant likes wet areas in the woods or meadows.

self heal essence 3 Healthy Household: Self Heal Essence

Put the Self Heal flowers into spring water and let sit in the warmth of the sun to infuse for 3-4 hours.

self heal essence 4 Healthy Household: Self Heal Essence

While you are waiting for your essence to infuse, collect the tops of the Self Heal flowers. Dry the flower heads completely before storage. Julie Bruton-Seal uses one or two flower head in iced infusion to help with hot flashes.

“Self-heal essence reminds us that all healing is self-healing, and is useful if you are ill and don’t know where to turn for help.”

For more recipes please see Healthy Household: Staying Clean Safely.