Friday, February 5, 2016

Chowchilla No-Till Vegetable Garden February 2016

Chowchilla Backyard Garden Project

Feb 2016 

In the heart of the Central Valley, with the Sierra Nevada's off in the distance and Fresno just to the south, the town of Chowchilla rests quietly in orchards and fields.  The discerning eye can find poetry in the long rows of almond trees, the dirt alleyways, the slough, and the for rent signs in the shop windows along the main street.  Like an old and dusty hardbound, there is a story here as rich as the soil.  You have to look...hiding in the fog are Giant Sloths and Saber Tooth Cats.  Cowboys and Indians.  Dustbowl migrations.  Schoolchildren held for ransom and high speed rail systems. They all have chapters here in a land that once supported large ecosystems of native species.  Now its' mostly destroyed and caged by human design.  It smells like cow.



Why Chowchilla?  Because we have family here.  Sisters, Grandmas, cousins, nieces, nephews in a tree that is too broad to mention.  And yet another soul has joined us.  A baby boy, a new brother and son, was born this week.  A new chapter begins.

While here I took time to turn prepare a plot in the backyard for the family garden. Measured 23 feet by 11 feet, the space was overgrown with grasses, mallow and other greens that flourished with the recent rains. After knocking "the weeds" down I seeded the area with Rincon Vitova Habitat Seed Mix.  Then I carted sand up from the slough bed for a snake-like pathway that winds it's way through the garden plot.  To do that I used an old trash bin that some hooligans has pushed into the riverbed. 

After the pathway was installed, I had a six-pack of purple kale left over from last winters gardening, and planted those along the walk.  The nights leave light frost on the lawn in the morning, but I think the kale will fair well in the cold.  I put cut grass around them as insulation.

This is the first effort in what I hope will be a yielding veggie garden for the family table.  I will not be here day to day to work it, so the challenge will be to make it grow.  Using permaculture principles will help.  Ventura Coop is gardening in Chowchilla now.  We'll keep you posted.



  


  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Porter Ranch Gas Leak Fact Counter

Could this happen in Ventura?  

"California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Wednesday for a methane leak that has emerged from a mountain for months, making nearby residents sick.
The natural gas leak started with an eruption at a storage well underneath a mountain in Southern California's Aliso Canyon on Oct. 23, 2015, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. Since then, about 80,000 metric tons of methane have leaked into the air, which, in addition to polluting the air with a greenhouse gas, has caused health problems for people in Porter Ranch.
"Methane – the main component of natural gas – is a powerful short-term climate forcer, with over 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it is released," said the EDF. "Methane is estimated to be leaking out of the Aliso Canyon site at a rate of about 62 million standard cubic feet, per day. The daily leakage has the same 20-year climate impact as driving 7 million cars a day."

Monday, January 4, 2016

Weather Stormwatch Ventura 2016


Here in Ventura we're getting ready for the first El Nino storm this season! Hope you are too. The forecast is calling for heavy rains and wind, high surf on the beach, and snow in the mountains.  If you need any help preparing, or with sandbags, flooding, fallen tree limbs, etc. let us know. Call Ventura Cooperative at 805-765-1892.  

For day by day details on the expected weather local to Ventura follow this link:
http://www.weather.com/weather/5day/l/USCA1193:1:US

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ventura Cooperative Delivers Mulch and Soil

There is no reason not to do it if you care for your soil, your plants, your environment and the earth.  We'll make it even easier by doing it for you.  Get a truckload of public mulch delivered and spread out in your yard.  You watch.  We work.  Let's make Ventura a beautiful and soil rich community one landscape at a time.


When we're finished your garden looks great because it's healthy and protected, and ready for the El Nino rains everyone is waiting for.  Protecting the soil is the most overlooked way of restoring balance to the ecosystem.  Learn more here: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/12/04/world-soil-day-champions-untapped-resource-solve-climate-crisis


Mulch, mulch, and more mulch!  Everything in the food soil web benefits.  From humans to micro-arthropods!  Here at Ventura Cooperative, we made a lot of rich soil in 2015, and we want to continue making more in 2016.  


Get your mulch delivery today! Call 805-765-1892 or e-mail venturacoop@gmail.com

Monday, November 23, 2015

Food Security and Water Wise Gardening



The healthiest most sustainable way to gain food security is to augment your food supply with a garden in your yard.  Not only do you and your family gain access to fresh veggies, which are at their best in flavor and nutrition picked immediately before eating, but home gardens help ease our impact on the environment.  Healthy soil retains more water, home grown veggies require less water to process, and a yard garden lowers your carbon footprint.

In our garden we have a steady supply of lima beans, kale, carrots, onions, beets, chard, salad greens and herbs.  There is always some seasonal harvest to add depending on the time of the year. Nothing leaves our yard.  We have three living compost piles, and two worm bins crawling with red wrigglers.  We brew compost tea to sell and use in our gardens.    

We also mulch like crazy and we munch like crazy.  We walk barefoot on the spongy soil and graze like rabbits.  And what we don't eat right away we can or share with our friends and neighbors. 

Mason jars are reusable and fermented veggies are really good for you. "Fermented foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics."  -Wellness Mama

Become food secure.  It is a shift in consciousness that empowers you and your family with experience and knowledge.  Being able to feed yourself with food you grew yourself is liberating!

Roughly 49 million people live in food insecure situations in the United States.  Roughly 40% of the food produced and brought to market is wasted. A typical meal of industrial produced food requires 200-700 gallons of water to produce.  By turning that wasteful chemically fed lawn into a organic food forest you help yourself, your neighborhood and the environment all at the same time.

A great book to read regarding  food security and growing your own is Food Not Lawns.  Another go to book is A Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Permaculture.  Start there and at the same time visit your local farmer's market, volunteer for Food Forward Gleaning projects, and connect with local community garden projects.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Mulch Party at Kellogg Park!

Last month in September on Saturday the 26th from 9AM to 11AM, over 30 residents of Ventura came together to spread mulch at the city's latest park at Kellogg Street and Ventura Avenue.

Mulch is especially important before the rainy season to keep rainfall from evaporating too fast. With thick enough mulch (at least 3 inches) water has time to percolate down through the soil into our water table. Mulch is also important because it protects the soil food web from sun exposure. Exposed soil becomes baked and compacted into lifeless DIRT that only the hardiest weeds can grow in.

15 tons of mulch!

Thanks to our friends at RESTORE VENTURA, local landscapers and AERA Energy have been depositing mulch on site during the weeks prior, and during the event knocked piles over with tractors. The kids were STOKED on those tractors!


Thanks to the Ventura Chapter Surfrider Foundation for providing volunteers, tools, waivers, and for being passionate about Ocean-Friendly Gardens :)

Thanks to the Trust for Public Land, City of Ventura staff and local volunteers who make this possible.
Resident volunteers (not all pictured here), County Supervisor Steve Bennett, Mayor Cheryl Heitman, and me on the right. Photo from the official Kellogg Park Facebook page.

DON'T MISS NEXT WEDNESDAY Oct 14 at Bell Arts Factory!


Come show your support Wednesday night by choosing the kids' play equipment, adult exercise equipment, and request an edible forest at Kellogg Park!

Connect here with Kellogg Park on Facebook. Stay tuned for the next mulching event at the end of November!

Cheers, your dancing gardener,
Robert

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cooperative Development: housing, property, farms, festivals!

Happy October! Here in Southern California the weather has finally gone cool. We've had some random heat waves every week or two that have split my nascent pumpkins and baked to death some of the bushes I planted for a client. We had highs in the low 100s a few times but usually in the 90s. We likely won't spend much time above 80 until next year. Now I can safely plant my winter greens!

Yesterday I went with a founder of the Ventura Food Cooperative to visit the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative. The tour was insightful with lots of great conversation on the walks between their 5 houses. Some buildings were multi-apartment style and others were large houses with private and shared rooms. All had shared common areas, like kitchens, gardens, and study halls for students to enjoy in community. The SBSHC has been around for decades and owns all their buildings. Members' rent and dues cover the costs of property taxes, repairs, two staff positions, and with the largest portion being the repayment of loans used to purchase properties.

Almost everyone I speak with is interested in cooperative housing and property ownership. Some folks dream of forming a rural intentional farming community, others a shared house for social activist-entrepreneurs, urban farmworker housing, and some an interfaith community like a kibbutz. Depending on the needs of the group, either a partnership of residents would own the property, a nonprofit (as in SBSHC) might own it, or the property is simply owned by locals.

My own dream is to found a farm and retreat center for service-members transitioning out of the military and chronically homeless veterans who want to learn to make and market value-added products and to be regenerative land stewards. I'm calling this project the Warrior Scholar Agroforestry Academy.

I've learned a lot in the last few months about community-financed bonds & investment, such as those by the Centre for Social Innovation, who arranged 100s of supporters to raise $1.4 million in 4 months to finance the purchase of a multi-use building in Toronto. That means locals own the building and reap the benefits of property ownership and giving a home to social-good organizations.

There's talk in our permaculture circles to similarly finance the development of agrihoods - sustainable human settlements. More on this as it becomes available!

Coming up: Lompoc Cooperative Development Project's Santa Barbara County Cooperative Development Festival (October 10th) and Ventura's Really Really Free Market (third annual! November 8th at Kellogg Park). Come celebrate the gift economy with us (we need more coordinators! that's you!)!

For more information on these topics, check out the following links, thanks to the staff at the SBSHC:

Lots of resources at the North American Students of Cooperation and registration for their Cooperative Education & Training Institute just opened. The event is from October 30th to November 1st in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

October is Co-op Month! Watch the video about what a Cooperative is at the Cooperative Network.

Thanks for reading and for growing with us!
Robert Barnett
Permaculture Designer at Ventura Coop since Dec 2014