Bringing Nature Back

Last fall, the shop and I were fortunate to receive a grant from the Orange County Small Business Investment Program to upgrade and enhance our garden space. As a strong believer in the power of food and of plants, I devised a plan for the garden aligned with the principles of Permaculture. Permaculture (a combination of “permanent” and “culture”/”agriculture”) is most simply a design philosophy that looks to nature for inspiration for creating systems that can exist with as little maintenance as possible. A simple example of this kind of thinking is when planning for an irrigation system, locate the source of water (rain barrel, pond, etc.) at a higher elevation than the garden being watered. That way you neither have to carry water by hand nor do you have to pay the electric bill on a pump since gravity is doing the work for you. Applications of permaculture range from miniscule to magnificent across disciplines as varied as social organizing and architecture. However, those are ideas for a much longer blog post!

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At TB&C I have been lucky to find a community of people excited about whatever you’re excited about and eager to support one’s fledgling ideas. This garden project is just that. The shop has become an incubator for me - a place to test out ideas, to experiment, to fail, and to try again. I am supported by an encouraging and caring team who give me the chance to figure out what managing a project takes and to practice identifying a site’s functions and needs. Perhaps some benches? As much shade as possible! Certainly, any extra love that can be given to our old Post Oak. Aside from these opportunities for professional growth, I am thrilled to have this experimental opportunity in such a central, visible place.

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My hope for this garden, and my permaculture practice in general, is three-fold. Firstly, it is to wake up an awareness of plant life as something more than a green backdrop that often feels vague and similar regardless of where we are. In becoming aware of the flora around us, we are starting down the path of stabilizing ecosystems large and small. Distinct and hyper-local ecosystems do exist - each with unique plant and animal life. This diversity provides the stability and resilience to stress (be it drought, disease, or pest) that allows ecological communities to thrive. In the garden, I am cultivating species native to this region which I hope catch your attention while you pass by!

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Secondly, my goal is to engender a recognition of the pervasive and all-encompassing character of the natural world. At TB&C we are all about the outdoors. We sometimes focus on the in-your-face facets of nature - Mountains! Waterfalls! The Perfect Wave! But we also strive to celebrate the gentler ways we all can engage with the outdoors and to find places where the barrier to entry is low. Enjoying the shade from Weaver Street Market’s beautiful trees, the fresh air through open windows on the first days of spring, the cardinal that lives in the bush next door - these are reminders of our connection to nature and happen right here at home. If a small area outside of Carr Mill can make someone feel all the feels of nature, I will be satisfied.

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Lastly, just as nature can be and is accessible right here, I want the garden to be an inquiry into what other desirable resources we could find or create here, in sub-urban (and urban) spaces. If we can recognize the capital ‘N’ Nature here just as well as we can in Yosemite, can we also save on airfare for our salad greens? By pursuing opportunities to cultivate resources in already developed regions, we can give our wild lands a little more breathing room. If more of our needs can be met by local sources, perhaps we lessen the temptation to clear cut the next acre of rainforest. The more wild spaces we have, the more stable our global ecosystem remains.

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So keep an eye on our garden this spring! If all goes well, we’ll have some beautiful new plant life to show off and some events and infrastructure in the garden to help us live our best outdoor lives. If you’re interested in learning more about permaculture or just want to talk plants, feel free to contact me at .

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Thank you to the Orange County Small Business Grant Investment Program, the crew at TB&C, my farm families at Perry-winkle Farm and Peaceful River Farm, Golden Egg Permaculture, and Hannah Popish of Poppysol! Without their support, advice and wisdom I’d just be making mud pies.