Ben Falk, World Renowned Vermont Permaculture Designer is Visiting Northeast Ohio!


Credit: Whole Systems Design

Internationally renowned ecological designer and award-winning author Ben Falk will visit Cleveland October 21-24. Falk’s Vermont-based landscape design firm Whole Systems Design utilizes permaculture techniques and systems thinking to design for ecological regeneration, resilience and abundance. Falk will hold consultations with six small farms across northeast Ohio during his tour, which will also include a public lecture and a meet-the-author dinner.

Ben Falk’s award-winning 2013 book The Resilient Farm and Homestead (Chelsea Green), an indispensible manual for small-scale farmers, is based on Falk’s experience developing his own largely self-sufficient homestead on a degraded site in Vermont. Falk’s book provides guidance on a wide range of topics, including water management and earthworks, fertility harvesting and cycling, tools, social systems, species composition, health and preparedness considerations, and leaving a positive legacy.

Falk has studied architecture and landscape architecture at the graduate level and holds a Master’s degree in land-use planning and design. His book was honored with an award from the American Horticultural Society and is described by Chelsea Green as “an inspiration in what can be done by imitating natural systems, and making the most of what we have by re-imagining what’s possible. A gorgeous case study for the homestead of the future.”

The Whole Systems Design client list includes The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University; Cape Eleuthera Island School, Bahamas; Vermont State Prison Farm; and a significant installation at Teal Farm/LivingFuture in Vermont. Falk has been a featured speaker at ecological food and farm association conferences and given a TED lecture; appeared in Mother Earth News, FastCompany and the Utne Reader and in the recent film Inhabit.

Falk will give a public lecture on Friday, October 23 at the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland in Shaker Heights; an author dinner at Spice Kitchen + Bar featuring the restaurant’s signature local cuisine on Wednesday, October 21; and a Forum for Farmers at The University of Akron Field Station in Bath, Ohio on Thursday, October 22. For more information, and to purchase tickets for any of these events, visit:

Ben Falk Tour Event Schedule

Author Dinner at Spice Kitchen + Bar

Wednesday, October 21, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

5800 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102

Plated dinner of venison or vegetarian option; includes wine and dessert.

Limit 20 guests.  Tickets $120.  Includes a signed copy of Ben’s book.

Forum for Farmers and Designers

Thursday, October 22, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

University of Akron Field Station at Bath Nature Preserve

3864 W Bath Rd., Akron, OH

Limit 40 guests.  Tickets $40.  Includes heavy hors d’oeuvres.

Public Lecture & Book Signing

Friday, October 23, 7:00-8:30

First Unitarian Church of Cleveland

21600 Shaker Heights Blvd, Shaker Hts., Oh 44122

Tickets $10 suggested donation.  Ben’s book will be available for purchase.

While in Northeast Ohio, Falk will consult with Thorn Valley Farm in Newbury Township, Kelly’s Working Well Farm in Chagrin Falls, Spice Acres Farm in the Countryside Conservancy in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Light Footsteps Herb Farm and Learning Center in Chardon, Hershey Montessori School’s Adolescent Program on the Farm in Huntsburg and Terra Firma Farm in Walton Hills.

Next Hands-On Learning Day & Updates

hands on learning

Next Hands-On Learning Day: Saturday, May 23.

Come anytime after 11 AM.  Potluck at 5:30.  Bonfire to follow!! Free camping if desired! Bring drums, musical instruments, questions, enthusiasm, and your free-spirit!!

Now for what we’ve been up to and what you may find to help with….

With this being our first official spring on the homestead, we’ve been working long hours trying to get Phase 1 of our plans in place.

This year, we hope to have our educational medicine wheel garden up and fully functional, add 2500 sq. ft. of keyhole market garden space, and start our first area of food forest.

Progress with the medicine wheel garden...

Progress with the medicine wheel garden…

Making progress on the keyhole gardens...

Making progress on the keyhole gardens…

We’ve also added chickens and bees to the farm.  A few new barnyard creatures should be arriving this week.


IMG_1643Ideally, we’ll also be putting in a greenhouse or hoophouse this season.

Why, you ask?

Because we are absolutely committed to being the change we wish to see in this world, and we are more eager and ready than ever to share why we love permaculture, homegrown food, herbs, and simple living with our community. We’ve been studying these ideas for well over 10 years and it’s time for us to share!!

Here’s the thing. This is a LOT for us to handle on our own.  We really need your help and we’d love to share some of our knowledge with you! And of course, we’d love for you to share some of your knowledge with us!!

Are you interested in permaculture? Sustainable living? Homegrown foods?

Bees? Chickens?

Do you wonder why a keyhole garden is preferable to long square gardens with rows?

Have you ever heard of a food forest?  Do you wonder why perennial crops are gaining more attention?

How have we done all this without tilling? Why have we tried to avoid that?

Do you know why this plant is one of the most valuable medicines in Ohio?

IMG_1765Have you ever wanted to grow your own medicine and are you curious about why I would have designed a medicine wheel garden?

Do you want to meet some awesome, like-minded people?

Please come visit us!! We’d love to have you this weekend for this next hands-on help day, but we are TOTALLY OPEN TO YOU COMING WHENEVER YOU’D LIKE!!

You can even stay for a week at a time if you need a country getaway!  We are open to anything!

Also, let us know if there are specific things you’d like to learn about that would help us entice you to our home!  We are open to any and all suggestions.

See you this Saturday, May 23!!

Perma-Blitz in Chardon, OH! We need your help!


Light Footsteps and Resilient Health cordially invite you to a PERMA-BLITZ!

We’re having people over this weekend Saturday, May 9 and the following weekend Sunday, May 17.  Come any time after 11 AM and stay as long as you’d like!  If you’d like to plan around mealtimes, we’ll be having pizza at 6:00 on Saturday and a potluck at 6:00 on Sunday. We even have plenty of space for camping in our field or the woods.  Bring your friends and come have some fun!

What the heck is a perma-blitz?! It’s a convergence of people who get together for a short time to make a BIG project come together.  It’s also about meeting and networking with like-minded individuals, learning about permaculture, sharing what you know, and having fun outdoors.

Here at our homestead we have some BIG ideas for the future, and we’re trying to make a lot of headway this spring.

Some of the projects we’d like help on are our:

  • 2500 sq ft Keyhole garden
  • Kitchen garden
  • Herb spiral
  • Orchard swales
  • Medicine wheel garden
  • Sun garden


We’ve done a lot of the design and prep work:

  • We sheet mulched a space for the medicine wheel garden in the fall, added more mulch this spring, and it is ready to be planted.
  • In order to turn our lawn into garden beds and orchards, we cut paths by hand with shovels, and rented a sod-cutter to establish the keyhole beds and to prep the swales and sun garden
  • We’ve stockpiled cardboard to be applied to some of the keyhole garden beds that will be covered with soil and planted with nitrogen fixing plants until next season
  • We’ve imported a couple tons of soil and mulch, which need to be applied to the beds


We need your help, and there are a number of things you might do:

  • Move soil and mulch
  • Plant fruit/nut trees, herbs, vegetables
  • Help to design a forthcoming sun trap, pond, and food forest
  • Occupy our 18 month old

If nothing else, stop by to meet our chickens and new bees!


Please CLICK HERE to find our address and telephone number to call for more info/help finding us (I prefer not to place them here so I can avoid spam calls and the like!).  Email us at christine (at) lightfootsteps (dot) com.  Please bring shovels and rakes if you can!

Can’t attend, but still interested in helping?  You can donate to our fiscally-sponsored non-profit HERE (it is tax-deductible). Please, also feel free to contact us about volunteering at another time.

The Bee Bus Arrived!


Mr. LF and I have planned to add bees to our homestead for quite some time.  In our permaculture design, bees are an important part of how our plants will be pollinated, and we use a lot of raw honey in our herbal medicines.  Bees have always been a must-have!

We are happy to announce that they recently arrived and we are now beekeepers!

Mr. LF went to a local garden store where he previously took a beekeeping class and picked up the Bee Bus.


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Scenes from (Early) Spring


It’s starting to feel more and more like Spring on the farm!

…And it’s starting to feel more and more like we actually live on a farm!

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Maple production has continued.  We finished our 3rd batch this past weekend and it was the best one yet.  This week we’re in the midst of the fastest rushing sap we’ve seen so there will be at least a 4th (and probably a 5th) installment of our syrup!

We’ve tried boiling the sap down a number of ways – a grill, a rocket stove, and this last time we used a portable electric cooktop that we placed outside.

I think the rocket stove was the most fun, but we had a hard time keeping the sap boiling and it took a lot longer than it should have (like, 10 hours!).  We finished the last bit of sap on the kitchen stove and ended up with a decent amount of syrup.

The electric cooktop definitely won the contest for the most efficient way to boil down the amount of sap we collected. Continue reading

Spring is on the Way {So is the New Herbal Wellness Basket!}

spring ad

You know we’re getting closer to Spring in Ohio when it’s 45 degrees outside and I’m pulling out the lawn chair to soak up the sun.

Yes, there may still be snow on the ground, but these spring rays are just begging for someone to soak them up.  I will. IMG_0811

In the past week, the bird song has increased steadily each morning.  In addition to the usual chorus of black capped chickadees and cardinals, I’ve even begun hearing the red-winged blackbirds outside.  This is surely a sign that Winter’s fingers are unfurling their grasp around Northeast Ohio.

With the warming days we’ve been out playing in the yard, and joyfully been exploring the process of tapping our maple trees.  We do, after all, live in the heart of Ohio’s maple syrup kingdom.

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Prevent Colds & Flu with DIY Elderberry Syrup

elderberry syrup

There are so many great ways to support your winter health with herbs.  Starting with simple dietary additions (like garlic!) and ending with soothing choices to make your cold or flu more tolerable and shorter, herbs are my go-to for prevention and treatment.

One of the tastiest herbal allies, however, is the elderberry.

This shrubby perennial plant has been used as medicine for centuries to support health and well-being.  I often see it growing naturally in moist soils, but it has also historically been planted at the edge of gardens as the protector of the garden.  Even its name, Elder, speaks to its wise and respected role in our collective medicine chest.

Elder’s lacy, delicate flowers, and bright purplish-black berries can both be used for their medicinal properties.  The flowers are diaphoretic meaning that they help to lower fevers by inducing sweating.  It is a common ingredient in many cold-care tea formulas.

The berries are rich in vitamins C & A, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, and phytosterols.  They are often used in prevention and treatment of colds because of their ability to boost the immune system.  As an antiviral, they are helpful in treating upper respiratory viruses including colds and flu, but have also been used in treatments for other viruses such as herpes and shingles.  Elderberry’s effectiveness is not just an “herban” legend, but its ability to reduce the duration of the flu and to fight viruses has been published in a number of scientific articles (links to abstracts in the resources below).

As a food, elderberry can be consumed as a jam, wine, or in pies, but it’s easiest to use as preventative medicine or for treating cold and flu when made into a tasty syrup.  Luckily, it’s really pretty easy to do, too!  I even made a handy graphic . . .

Elderberry syrup Continue reading

Sheet Mulching – Create New Gardens Without Digging!


Fall is a great time to begin new garden beds so that things are primed and ready to be planted come Spring.

Starting a new bed can be intimidating if it involves digging up all the grass, tilling, and going through other heavy-duty preparations.

What’s the easier solution?  Sheet mulching!


The best selfies are with new garden beds.

Also referred to as lasagna gardening, sheet mulching is basically composting in place.  Instead of digging up the ground and adding soil amendments, you create a new garden bed by layering soil-building materials right on top of the ground.

But what about the grass or weeds that are already there?  They get covered with a layer of newspaper or cardboard that acts as a weed protecting barrier that will kill the grass or weeds.  They will just turn into compost along with all of your other additions.

Sheet mulching is really very forgiving.  I think the two most important steps are to: 1) Make sure the ground is covered with newspaper or cardboard to kill the grass and prevent weeds, and 2) Pile on a lot of organic matter.  This will get you started with the essentials for a new bed.  The more amendments you add right away, the healthier the soil will be that you start out with, but don’t be afraid to start with whatever you’ve got. Continue reading

A Visit to Quiet Creek Herb Farm


A couple weekends ago we made a trek across Pennsylvania to attend the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Herbal Conference. It was inspiring to be in the company of so many like-minded women and I was especially grateful to finally meet one of my favorite herbal mentors, Rosemary Gladstar.  I’ve been an online student of hers for some time, but hearing her speak in person really reaffirmed how wonderful it is to call her one of my teachers.

She has an amazing way of synthesizing the big picture on the interrelatedness of herbs, health, happiness, and our connection with nature into an easily accessible and moving message.  I hope I can be like her when I grow up!

On our way home, we planned to spend several days in the Western part of Pennsylvania visiting old growth trees in Cook Forest.  Serendipitously, as we traveled along the road to our lodge we passed a sign for “Quiet Creek Herb Farm”. Continue reading

Homegrown Mushroom Tacos


When I saw a Mushroom Mini Farm for sale nearby, I knew that it was something I needed to try. It’s made by Back to the Roots, a company that seems to be trying out forward-thinking indoor food production systems.  They also have a pretty neat mini fish farm that might end up as a holiday present for a few family members.

Growing these mushrooms was incredibly easy – I cut a hole and soaked the bag holding the spores for 8 hours, and then I gave them just a little water each day.  Within a day or so, I noticed the little bulbous beginnings of the mushrooms and then they grew immensely each day thereafter. Finally, they looked like the right size to eat and so I decided that it was oyster mushroom taco day! Continue reading