Adventures in abundance, Science hacks, Uncategorized

A Permaculture Student

Hello, the rest of us! I hope you all are well.

What an upending year this has been so far, at least on my end! Since I have not added to this blog for so long, I will just describe some of the things I have been up to and thinking about that relate to our carbon sequestration topic.

I’ve been teaching about climate in new ways in my Earth Science class. Students are no longer having a problem understanding the enormity of the problem – they are seeing climate-fueled disasters in the news and literally smelling the smoke in the air. As their teacher I increasingly focus on illuminating solutions to climate change, and helping students really understand them, because otherwise they just turn away from the gloom – none of us, it turns out, can handle full time gloom! 

Soon I will feed this winter rye to the chickens and my tomatoes and peppers will get more sun. The spring winds are almost over and the rye will have finished its wind protection job.

I find that my students, over the last five to ten years, have become more and more likely to believe we have already ruined the Earth and it’s too late to reverse climate change. A true understanding of the carbon cycle reveals that plants and soils are the quickest lever we have for sequestering large amounts of carbon back out of the atmosphere. They can give us the time we need to move away from fossil fuels. We need to use what we now know about healthy ecosystems to restore them and allow them to accomplish this. Students need to know that there is hope in order to engage with climate change.

My students and I followed and studied the record-breaking wildfires in our state this spring, including the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon Fire, which burned over the beloved land on Mineral Hill owned by our friends Chris and Lauren, after which Mineral Hill the band is named. Their keys structures survived, and after many weeks of holding our breath, we are lucky the fire thinned but did not completely burn their forest. We have plans to help seed native grasses and create some water harvesting structures up there, to prevent severe erosion.


I got covid in late April/early May – and it was terrible, but also gave me time to ponder what I should do with my limited time. I reflected on the clarity of my purpose in life – to help help avert a climate disaster through regenerative practices. Purpose is clear, and so my thoughts went to how to best accomplish it! I want any projects I take on to be the most powerful and effective use of my time and energy as possible, and to align not only with my purpose but also with my talents and inclinations. I even want projects I take on to be fun for me. 

Out of these somewhat profound but exhausted reveries, I decided to further educate myself and I signed up for Matt Powers’ Advanced Permaculture Student, where I will complete a peer-reviewed project, and earn my Permaculture Design Certificate. Matt’s course is amazing so far – 400 hours of video, many guest teachers, and an active online community of teachers, students and former students. It feels good to geek out with my people. I am sure I will be working on it for the next year at least.

Even more exciting, my wonderful friends Gloria and Sandy agreed to let me use the development and implementation of a master plan for their property’s ecological restoration as my course project. Their property, about 30 acres of grassland and pinon-juniper shrubland near Magdelena, NM, is a dynamic place, with steep 300-foot hills that shoot storm water into their flood plains at very high velocity during the summer monsoon. Deep erosion channels have been carved out and the system is in decline because water no longer infiltrates the soil as it did before the erosion channels formed. We aim to slow and spread the movement of water in such a way that the system begins healing itself. A pond below the house will become a place for Sandy and Gloria to enjoy seeing all the wildlife the property will support. We will aim to diversify the plants on the property to better support wildlife and people. It is such an exciting project. I am already learning so much, and I look forward to sharing more of the project as it progresses.

Site of my future design project!

What about my yard, which I am usually writing about in this blog? I have been very active in the yard, starting many plants from seed, giving away plants, and getting all my starts planted. I am experimenting with cover crops in various places and spaces. I believe I have another big next level of soil health to reach, even though my soil now holds moisture and has worms, where before it was like a sandy brick. Mulch brought me this far, and now I know that lots of plant roots and plant biomass will get me to that next level. Finally, I am beginning a course correct and working to increase the percentage of native plants in my garden. I am addicted to increasing the biodiversity and I need to see more native insects, and more of the native birds that love them. I will publish more on the garden later this summer.

And time has just flown . . . we are already a few weeks from the first monsoon rains. Best wishes to all of you, friends. Stay positive and sequester carbon (and don’t forget to go swimming, it’s summer)!

2 thoughts on “A Permaculture Student

  1. Thanks for your entire hard work on this blog. Betty takes pleasure in getting into research and it is obvious why. I learn all of the lively manner you render good tips and hints via the blog and even encourage response from other ones on the situation plus our own daughter is really starting to learn a whole lot. Take advantage of the rest of the year. You are always doing a really great job.

  2. nice to see you writing updates again Sandra. Sorry to hear you got Covid but hope you had a full recovery. I took your advice and had a few nice swims in the cold clear norwegian lakes at and one the way to my mountain cabin last weekend.

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