Sunday, August 22, 2010

Colorado Permaculture Convergence Report

I went to the 4th Annual Colorado Permaculture Convergence today. The theme was 'Creating Perennial Culture', and over 100 people attended. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet and greet a lot of folks in the Colorado Permaculture scene. It cost $10, with all net proceeds going to the founding of a Colorado Permaculture Guild, which is just getting off the ground.

The entire event was held at the 63rd Street Farm, a working farm that highlights several principles of permaculture--obtain a yield, start small and slow, and accept feedback. (Incidentally, they have a CSA). After an opening ceremony led by Sandy Cruz with song and dance, some people headed off to yoga, and others, including myself, followed Brian on a tour around the grounds.

After that, we had a panel on the theme of the Convergence with Sandy Cruz, Marco Lam and Adam Brock, moderated by Becky Elder. It was impressive to see so many years of permaculture experience in one place, and I was also heartened by Adam's presence (he's in his 20s). Marco talked about his local currency project, Adam talked about Edo Japan and I can't for the life of me remember what Sandy talked about.

After each speaker talked for a while about what they saw as a way to get to a perennial culture, the floor opened for questions and comments, which varied widely. I enjoyed the range, from 'we're working on a permaculture eco-village' to 'while August has abundance, what about February'.

The panel was followed by songs and a potluck luncheon. As always at permaculture events, I ate well--lots of summer squash at this one.

After lunch, there was more networking and discussion. I talked to a fellow who was putting a number of fruit trees in in his property, and had a nice discussion around that. I also ran into a former classmate of mine who had some sage advice about keeping chickens--don't put them where they can see you. Otherwise, they'll clamor whenever they do, and that can cause noise for the neighbors. I also talked to a local winery who was there, and learned a bit about making wine (they make a vintage called 80304, which is from grapes grown in Boulder!).

We then went into a number of breakout sessions. I want to encourage anyone reading this to come to the next one, so I'm going to quote from the program to give you an idea of the vast range of talks today:
Forest Gardens: Take a virtual tour of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute (CRMPI), one of the most mature permaculture sites in the Americas. CRMPI demonstrates year-round solar greenhouses and the abundance of perennial gardens in arid, high altitude terrain. Jerome Osentowski founded CRMPI in the 1980’s, and is sponsoring CRMPI’s 24th Annual Permaculture Design Course next month.

Permaculture Fuel — Overcoming Oil Addiction, Creating Clean Renewable Fuels, and Reversing Global Warming: Learn how to use permaculture principles to produce inexpensive, clean, renewable alcohol fuel that you can run in your car right now. Learn how to synergize growing organic food and producing plant-based fuel to reduce dependence on poisonous petroleum products and raise awareness of the ecological, ethical, and sustainable alcohol fuel alternative. Todd W. Jones teaches mycology, mushroom cultivation, and myco-restoration as part of Permaculture Design Courses along the Colorado Front Range, as well as working to raise awareness of the emerging Alcohol Fuel Revolution.

Joyful Resiliency: Building Your Inner Sustainability: Do you feel like you’re killing yourself trying to save the world? In this session, we will learn how to use the principles and tools of permaculture to build resiliency and inner sustainability into our daily lives. A certified permaculture teacher, Kay Campbell brings her years of experience as an instructional designer and college faculty member to her current teaching practice.

Permaculture in Other Cultures: A brief overview of some of the issues involved in teaching and working on permaculture projects in other cultures. Kelly Simmons is a permaculture teacher who recently returned from a year of teaching in Bali, Indonesia, and is headed to Nicaragua in a few weeks to help bring a permaculture focus to sustainable development projects in the highlands of Jalapa.

Learn to Build & Use Solar Ovens & Cook with Sunlight!: A condensed workshop on the different types of solar ovens, how to build them and how to cook with them. Bring a 3 ft x 4 ft piece of corrugated cardboard to trace an easy-to-build pattern to take home. Permaculture enthusiast Jeff Graef is a certified Presentations: instructor and has over 20 years of experience in renewable energy, energy efficient building, and gardening in both rural and urban environments.

Harvesting the Abundant Edge between Permaculture & Healing Arts: There are many junctures where the healing arts and permaculture inherently “stack functions” and overlap in common purpose. We will explore these connections and work with some tools for connecting with the intelligence, compassion & wisdom in Nature. Leading a homesteading lifestyle in the 70s, working with permaculture in indigenous cultures, as well as 30 years as a bodywork and wellness practitioner in Boulder, have helped prepare Zia Parker for her current passion — developing Willow Way Wellness, a permaculture herb farm/teaching center/healing center.

Permaculture in Palestine: Come hear about the current status of perennial agriculture and perennial culture in the cradle of Western “civilization.” Tiffany Grell just returned from a middle eastern permaculture tour last week.

Boulder Currency: What if we could radically change how we interacted with our community to create a better quality of life, more local jobs, and to steward our local economy and environment in a sustainable way? Thousands of communities around the world are starting their own currencies, creating a flow that connects unused resources with unmet needs. Marco Chung-Shu Lam has been teaching permaculture for 18 years after training with Bill Mollison, and is passionate about creating a sustainable and regenerative economy with a local currency.

Worms: An in-depth could-be permaculturist’s discussion on how we can help worms help us in our actions of purposeful intent, while hopefully stimulating lots of Q&A. John Anderson is a radical 15-year CSU Master Gardener from Larimer County pushing the establishment for more reasoned answers about sustainable horticulture, as well as a practitioner of vermiculture/vermicomposting who answers to Worm Man/Guy/Dude.

Creating Wildlife Habitats: Learn to landscape for local wildlife while creating lovely interactive spaces for people to step into nature - low maintenance, natural areas that pulse with life. Becky Elder of Manitou Springs is co-founder of Pikes Peak Permaculture and enjoys working for the future in her community with High Altitude Permaculture, Sustainable Ways and Transition Town Manitou.

Urban Permaculture: Is urban permaculture a contradiction? Or is it the key to transitioning to a regenerative society? Explore what it means to practice permaculture in the city in this interactive workshop. Adam Brock is a Denver native, urban agtivist, and founder of The Wild Green Yonder, a permaculture education and design group. Kenzie Davison, a Denver-based urban permaculture teacher with the Wild Green Yonder, sits on the initiating committee of Transition Denver.

Reading the Landscape: In this session we’ll practice listening to the land, the foundation of a successful permaculture. Alison Peck is a self-described ‘land nerd,’ and has been reading/listening to the land and practicing permaculture for 30 years. She founded Matrix Gardens, a local landscape design/build company, in 1984 and is a landscape designer.

I attended the "Joyful Resiliency" and "Urban Permaculture" breakout sessions. I quite enjoyed the first talk, where Kay Campbell talked from personal experience about applying some of the permaculture design principles to build your zone 0 resiliency. In particular, if you have weaknesses or strengths, you can design systems to mitigate or accentuate them.

I also enjoyed the second talk, where Adam Brock and Kenzie Davison talked about some of the urban patterns (hierarchy, grids instead of capillaries, monoculture) that are common in our urban landscapes. They both work in Denver and then discussed a large number of efforts that they are pursuing to increase awareness and knowledge of permaculture, as well as to make people's lives better. One that spoke to me was the Denver Fruit Tree map--I just opened up the Boulder Fruit Tree map in response and would appreciate any additions (the Denver icons are way cooler). Another cool idea was the "Utra Ninja Leaf Squad" which approaches households in the fall and rakes leaves for a nominal sum. Then they take the leaves back and have them for compost material. They also talked about the Denver Handmade Homemade Market also. I just covered a third of their efforts; it was quite humbling to learn all they are involved in.

After the two break outs I was pretty cooked, so I headed home and missed the closing ceremony.

My overall thoughts: it was a good time, and I learned a lot. I still feel a disconnect between my life and how I saw people living there, but I also learned some useful tools to shorten that disconnect. Well worth the $10 donation!