We Grow From Here's Blog

A Community Garden Project


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Update on the Court Case for Casa Seranita and Growing Food in Pinellas County

Already things have changed since the arraignment on August 8th (who knew? I had to actually enter a plea–this is, like…Real Court). The actual court date is September 5th, same place, 9:30AM. I am asking for your continued support, and whether you choose to attend court or not, please do sign the petition.
IMG_20140813_105539

In the past few days, since the arraignment, several things have come to fruition–first, that my family has now moved in to Casa Seranita, and that the new location for our community garden project has begun ‘breaking ground’: T’s Market on the border of Palm Harbor and Dunedin. With these two simple steps, I and my properties are 100% compliant, regardless of any ambiguities in any code.

IMG_20140813_114041

 

I have also learned some things about these codes–such as I may have been completely within my rights to begin with (see:  ambiguity), since the residents of the house at the time the initial violations were reported were involved in the project.  Not only that, but the whole project completely falls within the reasonable boundaries of what is defined as ‘special exceptions’.

I also learned that I may lose my tooth, due to the knashing caused by undue stress, and that I am too exhausted to do much of anything outside of plan my curriculum and dig in the dirt…which…is fine.  Sometimes we need to take the time to focus on our own healing–maybe so we don’t end up like Robin Williams, whose death this week added one more sadness to an already overburdened soul-plate.  Monday was also my late mother’s birthday–she w225437_10150233817406554_4152649_nould have been 78, had she not succumbed to what I still believe was a slow form of suicide–death by pesticides.   This is one of those things I do not share often, but perhaps it is appropriate
 at this time–this woman inspired so much of what I do, including the name of “Casa SerAnita“, because of who she was–her strong moral values and convictions (not the same kind I may have!), and her appreciation of people–she was a people watcher, observer extraordinaire.  Unlike Gladys Kravitz, however, she would never have ‘tattled’ on her neighbors, she knew only compassion.  May I learn to have her compassion without being crushed by the world for it!

 

am·bi·gu·i·ty
ˌambiˈgyo͞o-itē/
noun
noun: ambiguity; plural noun: ambiguities
  1. uncertainty or inexactness of meaning in language.
    “we can detect no ambiguity in this section of the Act”
    synonyms: vagueness, obscurity, abstruseness, doubtfulness, uncertainty; More

     
    1. a lack of decisiveness or commitment resulting from a failure to make a choice between alternatives.
      “the film is fraught with moral ambiguity”
       
       


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On the Radio: WMNF Sustainable Living and Alternative Health Show

Listen to my ‘plug’ for justice here:   Making Our Living Spaces Greener

Please come to the courthouse on August 8th at 8:30 AM to show your support for “Food Not Lawns”, and whether you can make it in person or not, please sign the petition:  Support Statewide Recognition of Permaculture Design Certificates 

Bee HappytatRead the history here:  Casa Seranita

 


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The Home of Serenity

It’s 4:24 AM, and I’ve been awake since before 3AM, pondering life, the nearly full moon, and the phenomenon of the mouthguard which refuses to stay in my mouth while I sleep.  Mostly, only on nights such as this one, when, try as I might, I cannot meditate away the monkeys chattering in my brain, sleep eludes me and knashing of teeth disturbs what little rest I find.  My teachers tell me that this is all an illusion, the ‘problems’, the conflicts which seem to manifest as physical realities are, in fact, a reflection of my own mind, and I believe them—I do.  I pray for peace, knowing that when my mind is still, the world is not such a bad place.  And yet, I fret.

Yesterday, (which is now last week, since I failed to finish this post until now), I found myself thrown into chaos by the receipt of three pieces of paper.  These innocuous forms, printed in triplicate, state that I am, according to the County in which I reside, the county that I am the fourth generation of my family to own property, work and pay taxes in, a criminal.  My great-grandparents would be proud, would they not?

Alfred and Maggie moved to the County of Pinellas in 1962, a year after I was born, right around the same time that we were returning from Germany, where my father was stationed and where I was born on an Army base.  Alfred and Maggie were modest people, shopkeepers from upstate New York who moved South, as many did and still do, to enjoy their golden years in sunshine.  They had grapefruit trees, which Maggie would climb a ladder to tend into her nineties.

Maggie had one son, and he and his wife, retired schoolteachers, built their home in the then-new neighborhood in which I have lived longer than any other place in over fifty years—in 1972, theirs was one of 29 homes built, to add to the 135 built since 1958.  In 1977, they helped my mother purchase a house one block over, when her marriage and the transient life of the military, ended.  This house is the one which is now known as ‘Casa Seranita’:  the home of elusive serenity–for my mother Anita, until her early demise in 2001.  This is the property which the County has deemed inappropriate for use as a teaching facility or a demonstration garden.  This is the home of two citations for misconduct earning me an appearance in court next month.  The criminal courthouse, where I have been only once in over thirty years to serve for jury duty, is seven miles from where the prior three generations of my family are all buried.  I am as close to a Florida ‘Native’ as most white folks can be—my daughter was even born in Tampa.

Why so much detail on local family history?  Because, for nearly as long as I have lived, at least one family member has been paying property and sales taxes in Pinellas County.  That’s over fifty years and thousands of dollars per year.  I personally have owned and paid taxes on not just one, but five properties in the past ten years alone.  That is quite a sum, all told.  Certainly more than I have paid for anything else, other than mortgages–and it has bought me, not appreciation, but criminal justice.

I could spend a lot of time pondering the ‘why’s of this situation, and I have—questions like “Why is it necessary to make citizens feel like criminals, or to treat them as if they are, when the infraction is pretty much a difference in opinion about what a yard should look like?” Here, we live in a state where the water tables are in such peril that a dry spell causes sinkholes to swallow homes, and where the contingency plan for salt water intrusion is, well, that it will—intrude, that is.  And yet, those of us who choose to educate not only ourselves, but others as well, on such “Florida Friendly” practices as rain water catchment, conservative water usage, and Xeriscaping are often labeled as some kind of pariah?

Justice, indeed.  We shall see whether there is any such thing, on August 8th, 2014.  Please, do come along, and let your voice be heard—I certainly intend to share my feelings, along with graphs, charts, petitions, photos…perhaps an example or an attorney or two!

jailbird

 


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Inner Peace and Passion of the Vine

Hope is passion for what is possible.
Søren Kierkegaard

sur·ren·der

[suhren-der]  Show IPA

verb (used with object)

  1. to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; deliver up possession of on demand or under duress: to surrender the fort to the enemy; to surrender the stolen goods to the police.
  2. to give (oneself) up, as to the police.
  3. to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc.: He surrendered himself to a life ofhardship.
  4. to give up, abandon, or relinquish (comfort, hope, etc.).
  5. to yield or resign (an office, privilege, etc.) in favor of another.

verb (used without object)

  1. to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield.

noun

  1. the act or an instance of surrendering.
  2. Insurance. the voluntary abandonment of a life-insurance policy by the owner for any of its nonforfeiture values.
  3. the deed by which a legal surrendering is made.

Origin: 
1425–75;  (v.) late Middle English surrendren  < Anglo-French surrender, Old French surrendre  to give up,equivalent to sur- sur-1  + rendre  to render; (noun) < Anglo-French; Old French surrendre,  noun use of theinfinitive

 

What maypopdo hope, passion and surrender have in common?  Why, the lowly yet lovely Passion Flower and fruit, of course!  This blog began with a “Maypop” flower, and over the course of the past two years I’ve watched my own vine grow, flower, and finally fruit this year.  My ‘homestead’ yard has begun to function and have the look of a true food forest, and the only items I now purchase from the store on a regular basis are coffee, milk (non-dairy), gluten-free flour, and cat food.  Oh, and wine—thus, my trips to the store are often punctuated by wry commentary on my ‘food’ choices…which, of course, I have to engage the cashier in conversation about my garden, because who wants to make the ‘crazy cat lady’ thing that obvious, really?

What about ‘surrender’, you ask?  That’s a wee bit more complex, and may I draw your attention to the first words of the definition above:  “to yield” and “to give”.  In permaculture we often speak in terms of yield—only it’s usually the outcome kind—here is an opportunity to explore the other kind of yield—the kind which could feel like ‘submit’ if not taken in proper context.  A couple of scenarios to illustrate:

  • Bully at school accosts you to forfeit your lunch money—
    your choices:

o   You surrender the money, and either go hungry or rely upon the kind
ness of strangers to feed you; or

o   You refuse, he beats you up, and takes the money anyway; or

o   You run, fast, to the principle’s office, in hopes of discouraging further graft.

Potential yields:

o   Hunger, perhaps a new friend or two, certainly a little wisdom.

o   A black eye.

o   School reputation as a ‘tattle-tale’, perhaps a spot on the track team.

 

So, what’s the point I’m trying to make here?  Maybe there is none, maybe this is just a rambling rant designed to clear my own head and it has absolutely no bearing on anyone else.  Or, perhaps I am still poking a stick at the concept of ‘surrender’, because, see—here’s the rub:  all of my spiritual friends will tell you that surrender is the way to peace, and they could be right—I mean, it’s certainly not very peaceful to allow a 2 ton machine to run over your body as it lies prone in the way of something deemed ‘progress’ by the dominant culture.  And yet, it’s no more peaceful to comply with rules which simply no longer make sense—ones that do more harm than good.

Here’s where I’m going to break in and interrupt my own musings, in order to shed some light on what brought me to here:  my dentist.  More specifically—the situation which took me to my dentist, which by the time I got there had me convinced I had a brain tumor, or something else equally as unpleasant.  I love my dentist, even if I can’t pronounce her first name—she said: “Good news!” and gave me high dose Ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, and a mouth guard.  Apparently, the stress of avoiding a ‘battle’ and attempting to comply had led me to grinding my teeth with a vengeance while I slept.

See, sometimes when we ‘try’ not to fight, we’re still fighting—we just hide it under the veil of our dream life.

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So, I let go—it took about a week, but I slowly relinquished the grip I had on what ‘must be’, and took down the bloody Warka that had the county code enforcement officer, zoning director, engineering department, and god-only-knows who else in apparent chaos.  It just.wasn’t.worth.the.stress.  It needs a new home, my lily warka—I’m not giving up on the concept, because it is a good one—but, perhaps this slightly above-per-capita-average-income county is not quite ready for such innovations.  Yet.

For now, I am taking the advice of some very evolved people:

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Peaceful Egg-in-a-Basket Breakfast

“Don’t give your energy, time, & attention to anyone with a clear investment in drama, victimhood & negativity. Be an atmosphere that evokes transformation & healing. Stop trying to “change” people who have taken out a mortgage in misery. The best way to impact change is by the example of our living. Meet people where they are, not where you are…and know that where they are is perfect on their unique path, and know that this does not make you better, special or greater than them or where they are with themselves…different not better. No one escapes the work that their soul came to do, so no need to police & judge. See them as Whole, separate the behavior from the Being and be clear we live in a Universe of Love, Perfect Order, & Harmony…surrender will restore harmony to chaos. Trust the Process and do not be fooled by appearances. See beyond circumstance and condition…let people BE. Stop trying to “rescue” people. Saving people is a conversation of your E.G.O…Save your self. Empower those that are open to your support and keep strong boundaries from toxic energy.
Be compassionate and exercise discernment with people…trust and yet still be wise. Serve people, don’t fix them, they are not broken…simply they have fallen asleep…you can’t want for another more than they want for themselves. Be the best you, that is the greatest gift you can offer the world.”  ~Judah Isvaran

Namaste

 

Read the Permaculture Principles Series:

Introduction:  ”Unplugging”

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

 

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


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Use and Value Diversity

Category            Permaculture Principles

‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’

There is no such thing as a monoculture in nature.  Nowhere on earth, except in places where man has intervened, will you find a single species which is independent of others.  Therefore, my choice for the quote on this one would be, instead:  “No man is an island.”

2014 Class in TN

Photo credit:  Conrad Goulet “Designing Educational Ecosystems”, 2014

My most recent immersion experience in permaculture is the best example I can possibly think of to illustrate this concept, in terms of human interactions, a class with Dave Jacke, Cliff Davis, and thirty or so permaculturists from, literally, around the world.  These are the kinds of experiences leading to the levels of bonding required to create real change, both inner and outer landscape.  Human connection is essential—this is where many efforts get it wrong.  Not only is connection essential, so is diversity—and the more, the better.  The entire philosophy of permaculture is based around the idea that natural systems do not produce mono-crops, and that lack of diversity can and does lead to weakness and ultimately disease of the system and its components.

So, I ask you—if you were a plant, what kind would you be?  There are dynamic accumulators, nitrogen fixers, mycelium, and nectaries.  There are overstory and understory, climbers and ground cover.  Consider carefully, think of what others may or may not have to say about you, in all of your dealings with others…would you be considered a ‘weed’, or ‘invasive’?  Alleleopathic even, carbon sequestering, or are you a pioneer species?  Do you encourage connections, help create diversity in your surroundings, or discourage them?  Are you highly critical of others, or helpful and supportive?   Do you take responsibility for your own welfare and that of others, or do you expect someone else to do ‘the dirty work’?

Read the following, consider the design of a food forest type of garden–take a few moments to really think about it—identify with not just what you want to be, but what history would show, from an impersonal, ego-free perspective.  Please comment, and let me know what part of your social ‘guild’ you feel best suited for.

How to maximize omega diversity in your forest garden.

You may find yourself torn in several directions while selecting species. On the one hand, it is desirable to maximize compositional diversity at the omega level. On the other hand, certain important uses and functions are limited to certain families. Nitrogen fixation is mostly limited to the legumes (Fabales) and certain orders within the rose (Rosales) and beech (Fagales) orders . Specialist nectary plants are generally limited to the Apiaceae, Araliaceae, Saxifragaceae, and portions of the Asteraceae. The great majority of fruit and nut species that can grow in cold climates are in the rose order (Rosales) – in fact, almost a quarter of all species in the Plant Species Matrix are in that order! Thus there is little avoiding the fact that your garden is likely to have heavy representation from these groups of plants.

Beyond this limitation, however, you can make an effort to include as wide a sampling of diversity as possible. Groundcovers, dynamic accumulators, and shelter and nectary plants come from a great diversity of families, and you will find a remarkable range of edibles to choose from as well. When selecting species from the Plant Species Matrix, look up their families in the table below. Keep track of the families, orders, and superorders you are including. Wherever possible, make decisions that maximize diversity. Try to avoid over-dependence on the Rose family in particular, perhaps by substituting persimmons for apples, or one of the edible honeysuckle species for juneberries. We have made an effort to provide you with a diverse assemblage of species to choose from.  (Eric Toensmeier, Maximizing Omega-Level Diversity, 2012)  [“Omegalevel diversity looks at an ecosystem’s diversity at higher levels, measuring a deeper diversity. This ‘deep’ diversity is likely to be the most important contributor of the benefits of compositional diversity. Gardening for omega level diversity (‘kinship gardening’) was developed by Alan Kapular and Olafur Brentmar, and carried forward by David Theodoropoulos.”]

http://permaculturenews.org/2012/08/25/maximizing-omega-level-diversity/

 

We had lots of Mycelium in my class—I consider myself one of those—“humacelium” I like to say.  But am I, really?  Sometimes the mere effort to create connections with people seems to lead to the dissolution of an entire system, after all.

I thought I was encouraging diversity in the random assemblage of persons in my ‘eCo-house’, Casa Seranita.  The important lesson taken from the current outcome, which leads to a dramatic re-design, is that agreement must be established first, along with an understanding of what role each person chooses or brings in by nature.  The inputs do not need to be the same, indeed they can be dramatically different—one person, for instance, may wish to provide only financial support, while others would prefer labor or caretaking.

The important component is that the understanding is there first.  The community cannot thrive or even survive if the components do not have both a full understanding and acceptance of each ones’ expected inputs and impacts on the system as a whole.  There are no islands in people systems—at least, not in sustainable, functional societies.

Rather than continuing to dance around the subject, speaking in vague generalities and using botanical metaphors—here’s what happened:

  • One man, one cat.
    • Two men, one cat.
      • Unknown quantities of undefined genders and one cat.
        • Cat herding.
          • Feral cat herding.
            • Code Violations (one woman).
  • One Cat.

“Casa Seranita is an eCo-housing permaculture demonstration site, now seeking residents (permaculture experience preferred).”

Read the Series:

Introduction:  ”Unplugging”

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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Design from Patterns to Details

Category            Permaculture Principles

“Can’t see the forest for the trees” (Essence of Permaculture, David Holmgren)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

(‘Jabberwocky’, Lewis Carroll)

Poetry utilizes some of the intrinsic patterns of humanity—we have used meter and rhyme long before written communication, because of the repetition of pattern as a mnemonic device.  Nursery rhymes were created, not only as amusements for children, but they also contain historical data as well as common-sense remedies of the day, such as the “vinegar and brown paper” headache remedy in “Jack and Jill”.  Oral traditions were used, most famously, by the early Polynesian sailors, who passed down navigation devices in songs, which were likely sung enroute from one island to another in the middle of vast oceans of water devoid of land reference.  Even the nonsensical Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is understandable, because of its regular meter and rhyme, thus transcending language—a feat any parent is likely to relate to, as we sing silliness to our infants, dogs and cats.

moonphases Patterns are everywhere in our world, readily apparent in natural systems, such as the phases of the moon, tides, seasons, and weather patterns.   The Fibonacci sequence, known in nature as “the Golden Spiral” or ratio, is present in all patterns of growth, from florets to pinecones to conch shells, as well as proportions of the human body.  Anyone who wishes to design in alignment with natural systems must, then, not only recognize and understand patterns, but also learn to apply them in both concept and practice.  Once the outline is in place, only then do we move into connecting the dots and filling in the details—to plan a garden by first choosing the elements contained within it would only be undertaken by an amateur—a true designer would begin only after a thorough site analysis.

shamrockspiral

Exponential growth is also something innate in natural systems—Gaia’s credo is “go big or go home”, which is illustrated by the unfolding of a rose, the widening arc of the spiral, the waxing of the moon.  This is not the kind of growth exemplified by our capitalistic society—an overpowering and ultimately unwieldy growth better termed as ‘cancer’.   No, the ideal natural system design would include instead not only increasing yields, but also an automatic replacement of the designer for true regenerative quality.  In nature, the pattern swells and then dies, to repeat again—over and over, each component eventually becoming a part of a future incarnation.

Nature also designs for optimization—phyllotaxis is a study of the order of leaves on a stem, the pattern being one which allows the greatest exposure to the sun and nutrients.  Similarly, the branching patterns of many plants also exhibit this type of order.

wb051369

Rather than launching into yet another ode to ‘sacred geometry’, let’s take the opportunity to apply principle #1:  Observe and Interact.  In nature, as in mathematics, growth follows certain patterns as often because of another simple factor:  growth with constraints—as Donald E. Simonek points out:  “This reveals the simple secret of spirals in nature. They often result from growth with constraints. As the nautilus grows, the open end of its shell increases in diameter, at a nearly constant rate. It is constrained to curve around the existing shell. The result is a spiral curve, something close to a logarithmic spiral, which is a Fibonacci spiral.”  In nature, there are no straight lines, no measurable, accurate, finite absolutes (well, perhaps temperature, but we’ll see about that)—everything in natural design is curved, like the planet we live on.  Grids were invented by the Romans to assist in controlling those they conquered—it being much easier to sight down a row of evenly-spaced straight streets–curved landscapes hide many activities from line of sight.  However, as we have already noted, regularity and patterns are intrinsic to our nature as humans, we are comforted by the existence of structure, whether it be visible or not.

Here’s where things get juicy in the permaculture world, because when we start talking about “growth with constraints”, well, try Googling that.  What comes up?  Article after article about economy and finance.  There’s another pattern for you—unrestrained growth leads to collapse, which is what we are witnessing right now.  The natural outcome of collapse is chaos—a scary, unrelenting absence of all which seemed to make sense in our formerly well-ordered world.  Even so, we know that order does come from chaos, it just may not do so in the time frame we prefer.

Another random-sort of thought which came to me, being a wordsmith, is the very subtle difference between “constraint” and “restraint”—to wit:

ConvsReIt would appear that the essential difference between the two words has to do with the existence of a ‘thing’ or a ‘force’, as in a device in the case of restraint, as opposed to a rule or law or force, as in constraint.   To me, being visual, I see a constraint as in natural forces—the growth of a shell in a spiral shape, for instance, or the way a river flows—never straight, but always on an “S” shaped curving pattern.  ‘Restraint’, on the other hand, I think of as a safety belt, or being held back by other people from falling or fighting.

These might be seemingly unimportant details, but when we talk about systems design, it is vital to get both the ‘big picture’—the pattern—as well as the details, right.  This is where communication, and thus the correct word or description or definition, comes in like a Tsunami—get it wrong: devastation and chaos.  Get it right, however, and you’ve not only designed a system pleasing to the client, yourself and the community, but you’ve also prepared for those pesky 100-500 year events—like the ones we are now witnessing with alarming frequency.  This does not mean we have to get it ‘right’ the first time—as we move from pattern to details, this is where the magic happens–this is where creativity and willingness to fail is an asset.  This is also where it is most beneficial to work in collaboration, in community—one the pattern is established, the more diversity invited into the mix, the better.

In people systems, as well as in nature—this is where things tend to get messy.  This is where the ‘weeds’ crop up everywhere, and we must take a step back and re-define what we think of as ‘weeds’.  This is where I find myself with my eCo-housing project “Casa Seranita”, in fact—seemingly overnight, it appears to have become a frat house, but that is only when perceiving from the ‘old paradigm’ perspective.  Yes, it is a mess, and things must be tidied, both for the benefit of the residents as well as staying below the code enforcement radar—but in that chaos lies some really interesting pioneer growth.  Or, so I hope, anyway!  This could very well become the perfect Segway to Principle #8:  “Integrate rather than Segregate”.

Read the Series:

Introduction:  ”Unplugging”

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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A Year in Review: Casa Seranita Project 2013

Its hard to believe it’s been a whole year since we began the ‘Casa’ project!  One year from ground zero to abundance and a Full House with poetry nights, permaculture classes, and much more to come.   Inspiring!

Please stop by on Thursdays from 11-2pm for our ‘Lunch & Learn’ permaculture shares, and sign up for the meetup so you’ll be invited to all of our workshops!

The Tampa Bay Permaculture Guild