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.

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.

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 . . .

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First Cob of the Season


There’s nothing quite like sinking your toes into cob for the first time in the summer (or the first time in your life!).

our feet

There’s something about cob that draws people to it like insects to glowing lamp lights.  We hover around it, watch it with amazement, and can’t help ourselves but to dive right in. Continue reading

Ban Busy / Savor Slow


Recently, I signed up for The Abundant Mama’s #BanBusyChallenge.

ban busyIt has been a good reminder for me to reaffirm what I know to be true — deliberate, intentional, and slow living allow us to savor and enjoy life instead of rushing through it.  As the Abundant Mama reminds us, we are often obsessed with “busyness” because we are afraid of failing.  We want to prove ourselves over and over again by filling our time with more, more, more.

When we slow down someone might see us as lazy, we might have to face our own imperfections, and we feel that we might miss something.  Ironically, we miss out on life’s sweet moments by becoming overly busy.  And also, we are our own worst critics – no one else is judging us as harshly as we judge ourselves for what we are or are not doing. Continue reading

Homestead Update – The Beginning


We’re still in the process of getting our house move-in ready, but it’s always a treat to go visit the land we’ll soon be living with.

Without any input at all there are many strawberry blossoms!

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Our New Homestead!


After at least 10 years of dreaming, 2 years looking at properties, and 7 months working on closing on this particular piece of land, we finally have our permaculture homestead.  These 23 acres are the land that will sustain us into the future, where we hope our dreams will blossom into fruition, and where we will grow together as a family and into our community.

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Back to the Garden (+ the Littlest Permaculturist)


Today was the first day I really dug my hands into the soil for quite some time.  I’ve been putting it off for a few reasons — mostly because of the weather, but also because I’ve felt conflicted about whether or not I should invest the time when we will hopefully be moving in the next couple of months.

However, the soil still calls asking me to dip my hands in, refresh my immune system, and connect with the Earthly energies.  I couldn’t resist.

A lot of today was just clean-up.  I was very pregnant last fall and didn’t get the beds taken care of the way that I should have.

There were also little surprise tasks like baby garlic plants ready to be separated and begin life anew.  Hopefully somebody will be able to harvest these culinary delights in the fall!

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Permaculture for Urban Homes and Small Spaces

Image source:

One of the best things about blogging is discovering a new community of people with shared interests and goals.  One such kindred spirit is Mari of the blog Gather and Grow.  She is a fellow lover of permaculture and has graciously shared some great tips and inspiration for many of us who are interested in being more self-sufficient but feel limited by the space constraints of the urban environment.

Whether you live in an urban environment, or on many acres of land – I think you’ll find something useful here!

Permaculture Strategies for Urban Homes and Small Spaces

Permaculture designers love challenges. After all, permaculture is not just a set of organic gardening techniques, but a toolkit, a decision-making process, for designing sustainable human settlements. And one of its fundamental principles is: “The problem is the solution.”

What if we apply this principle to a challenge that many of us are all too familiar with: living in small urban spaces with little or no access to actual soil on which to grow food? Permaculture and gardening books present pictures of lovely, lush farm landscapes and large suburban lots overflowing with greenery, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens, perhaps even with small livestock. But what do you do if you live in an apartment, or have only a postage-stamp-sized bit of yard by your front door?

The permaculture answer: you can still do a lot. In this case, seeing the problem as the solution means turning the seeming constraints of an urban environment – the density of buildings, people, and resources – to your advantage, and doing things like intensive planting, vertical growing, and maximizing solar exposure in- and outdoors. Here I present ideas and strategies first for the apartment dweller, and then for those who do have yard space but it’s limited. Continue reading

Forest Farming, Inoculating Mushroom Logs, and a Surprise


Recently I attended a weekend workshop focused on forest farming.

I can hear you ask, “What’s forest farming?”

Well, it’s the process of growing non-timber forest crops beneath the canopy of an established forest. In this way, forest farming is a form of “productive conservation” – you’re reaping benefits of crops grown in the forest while protecting the land from destruction. Examples of non-timber forest farmed products include: maple syrup, medicinal plants, mushrooms, nuts, ornamental woodland species, and fruit. (Learn more here.)

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