How One Small Garden Can Change Your Life

You don’t have to own acres of farmland to enjoy the benefits of gardening. Growing your own food and enjoying some fresh flowers can be done even with just a few patio pots if need be, but even a small patch of dirt can change your life for the better. Gardening is the number one hobby in the country, and its popularity is growing as more people discover the joys of growing their own organic food.

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Check out some of the biggest benefits of starting your own backyard garden patch: Continue reading

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New to permaculture? Start here.

What’s it like to fairly take care of people and the earth? It’s a concept called permaculture, and it can provide a guiding spirit to the creation and tending of your landscape.

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Continue reading

Reflections from a WWOOFer

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Madeleine Zimmermann / Allegheny  College Env. Science + Studio Art / Class of 2018

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,or the birds in the sky,
and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.” [Job 12:7-8]

“Madeleine, have you ever heard of WWOOFing? Makenzie and I want to go to the Southwest over winter break and WWOOF.”

It was early September and I was sitting around a table with some friends at our student-run coffee shop. I was plunging my tea leaves in and out of my hot water. I had never heard of WWOOFing and I didn’t have nearly enough money to travel to the southwest over break but later that night I went back to my house and pulled up the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms site for the United States.

Three months later and I was packing up a suitcase with a ten days’ worth of clothes. Within those three months I had overcome a stripping case of pneumonia, the death of two of my friends, and the long list of struggles that came with my dad losing his job after 20 years. I was in much need of spiritual rejuvenation.

Driving to Chardon, Ohio was more than a cosmic coincidence. My grandmother lived in a town over and for the first time since her passing in 2011, I drove by the exit to Chesterland. Continuing on to Light Footsteps Farm, I passed the same Marc’s in Chardon she loved to go to every weekend that we visited. It was at that moment that I realized that this was a homecoming for my soul.

After over a week of Michael and Christine sharing their home with me I’ve been given some time to reflect on my experience. In that time I have cleared paths and planted trees. I have butted heads with societal ideologies (metaphorically) and hungry goats (literally). I have witnessed the healing power of the earth in the jars on Christine’s shelves and sun that warms new life. In that time Michael and Christine have shared their honest opinions and advice on everything broad to specific: from general medicine to geriatric health care, childbirth, and vaccinations. They have shown me what it means to be a pioneering family wrestling to spread knowledge and heal the earth while still being genuine. Christine has taught me how to find empowerment in my womanhood, how to establish internal affirmation even when societal norms plant doubts and fears, and how to fearlessly be a caretaker. Michael has taught me how to question reality while still being confident in who I am and my place within the environmental community, and how to be an expert learner above all else.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once defined a weed as “a plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” Spending time with a family who is building their lifestyle around permaculture, I’ve been able to find virtue in every living thing, and even do the same for the “weeds” in my life.

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Mui Mui and Lucky brush noses


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Scooby watches the snow fall from inside the warmth of the barn

 

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the morning sun glowing from behind the treeline


Christine explains how herbal tastes can convey their actions.

Christine explains how herbal tastes can convey their actions.


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the snow didn’t last long / Margaret (another WWOOFer) and Cora’s salutation to the sun


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Vincent poses for the camera


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Vincent and Lena wait to go on a walk


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Margaret and Lena


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the chickens scratch through the new straw


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Scooby proves she is civilized enough to get food for herself


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new product photos


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radish sprouts in a tabletop aquaponics system


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goodbye new friends, until next time

 

 Learn more about WWOOF.

 

 

 

Revolution Review

It’s rare to find a documentary that appeals to both my interest in learning about the human condition as we live on an Earth with limited resources, and my interest in animal biology and ecosystem health.

Coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef has declined by 36% over the last 25 years. That’s an enormous loss. Photo © Rob Stewart. From the documentary film Revolution.

Revolution did just that with an appealing storyline, gorgeous cinematography, and an important message to share with viewers.

Through a mix of personal history, interviews, and travels to various sites around the world, Rob Stewart, who previously released the award-winning film Sharkwater, shares a compelling call to action.  Our Earth is full of wondrous, magnificent places and beings and we are rapidly destroying much of it.  Not only is this a tragedy because of what we are losing in biodiversity, but we do this much to our own detriment.  To use resources the way that we do in the Western world, we would need SIX Earths to sustain us.

Obviously, we do not have six Earths, but we do have a lot of people who are waking up to our circumstances and are demanding people and politicians to also open their eyes and act accordingly.

Rainforest, Brazil. Photo © Brennan Grange. From the documentary film Revolution.

Expanding from filmmaker Rob Stewart’s background investigating the large scale slaughter of sharks, the film explores the interplay between ocean and terrestrial ecosystem health, why many ecosystems are in trouble, how this impacts us as humans, and what we must do to change the current course of events.

This complex subject is shared in an easily accessible and engrossing format that will leave you ready to make change in the world as well.

The movie is available to watch by following this link.  I hope that you find it valuable and visually exciting as well.

Rob accepting the “Fossil of the Day” award on behalf of Canada – for doing the most to disrupt the climate negotiations at the UN Climate Conference UN CLIMATE CONFERENCE, 16TH SESSION OF THE CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES (COP 16), in Cancun Mexico. Photo © Tristan Bayer http://www.earthnative.com From the documentary film Revolution.

FTC DISCLOSURE: As a way to support my blogging and related activities, I may receive monetary or other compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services within this article. However, it is my promise to you that I am sharing my honest opinion and that I only recommend products or services that I have personally used or recommend and are in alignment with Light Footsteps ideals.

Next Hands-On Learning Day & Updates

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.

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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

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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

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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!

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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.

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!

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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

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!).

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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

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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Permaculture for Urban Homes and Small Spaces

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