Permaculture Primer


Originally published on Hybrid.Life here:

Generally speaking, the principles of permaculture can be applied to a variety of disciplines, ranging from land stewardship and ecology to smaller scale applications such as homesteading and backyard gardening. On the largest scale, permaculture can help improve processes in commercial farming and the cultivation of food forests by employing several fundamental practices. The methods involved seek to imitate nature by utilizing specific designs and incorporating a variety of elements that aim to maximize landscape potential by encouraging biodiversity, working with the landscape, and utilizing resources efficiently.

The average American yard is probably going to consist of mostly grass, maybe some weeds, flowers, a few trees, shrubs, and possibly a small vegetable garden. In more affluent regions of the country, there are most likely going to be larger impervious areas (such as driveways, paved walkways, underground pools, etc), which are not so conducive to permaculture, but there are still possibilities. That is the beauty of permaculture gardening and landscaping! The methods involved can be pieced together even in the least habitable environments, even as they can be utilized to manage large biodynamic systems, organic farms, or urban edible forest gardens.

At the heart of the permaculture ethos is the art of practical sustainability. We can use our creativity and ingenuity to establish systems that will self-correct and work in harmony with nature, to supply us with the nutrients we need to sustain our bodies and regenerate our minds and spirits amidst beautiful, living green spaces. Have you ever experienced a beautiful garden that just seems to sing with life and energy? That is harmonious balance that nature so effortlessly succeeds in accomplishing, and it can also be achieved by mimicking the processes, arrangements, and efficiencies that define permaculture design.

First of all, we must consider “relative location,” in respect to overall design and the placement of elements included in the permaculture garden. We have to be aware of our surroundings, and set things up in a way that makes sense. A lot of this is common sense, but when it comes down to fine tuning, this may take a little more forethought. But, in starting out, we must observe what is already in place, take note of the sun’s trajectory at various time of year, consider high and low points in the landscape, and locate elements accordingly.

We also have to think about all the various functions the elements involved in our permaculture designs are capable of performing. We can better maximize the usefulness and efficiency of the entire system, if each piece is analyzed to determine the various purposes it can serve. For example, a fruit tree could be grown to produce food, but it could also serve as a windbreak or to help provide shade for plants that prefer partial sunlight. Likewise, we must also assess how the each function of the garden can be supported by various elements. This is especially important for essentials like water. We can usually rely on rainwater and municipal water supplies, but it is helpful to have other sources made available by harvesting rainwater, reusing straight grey water, or through purifying waste water, to be recycled and utilized later for watering the garden.

Another key feature of the permaculture approach is the utilization of often readily available “biological resources” that can help sustain, nourish, and protect our gardens. There are plenty of natural alternatives to things such as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and even methods like soil tillage, which can be utilized to keep with the natural methodology of permaculture. Also, in relation to using biological resources, energy is also better utilized in the permaculture garden, through processes such as composting, mulching with fallen leaves, capturing solar and wind energy, and as I mentioned before, greywater and rainwater harvesting.

There are many other methods and principles that can be discussed in relation to permaculture, which can be applied to either a small scale backyard garden or a full-fledged organic farm. Either way, the design of the systems to be put in place are typically made to be easily manageable and very productive. We can either work with nature and help along the sustainable, balanced, and efficient processes that she has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, or we can struggle against her by forcing crops to grow neatly in rows and applying chemical fertilizers and pesticides to try and correct the problems that we create by imposing unnatural methods upon her. The former will leave everyone involved more satisfied, fulfilled, and healthy, and the latter will only lead to more problems and complications such as soil erosion, toxicity, and nutrient depletion.

There are many good resources available to get started with permaculture, whether you want to apply the principles to gardening, landscaping, native habitat restoration, homesteading, or all of the above. For more information, please follow the links included in this article, or check out this great website, called Deep Green Permaculture, which I’ve used to outline the discussion above. I would also highly recommend the book, The Permaculture Garden, by Graham Bell, which can be purchased on Amazon.


Writing, timing, riding, fighting


Though this blog has been seriously lacking in content over the past six months or so, I’m going to be posting many more writings here, published both personally and professionally. Recently I started writing for a publication called Hybrid.Life, which I would highly recommend for anyone interested in herbal and holisitic living. I’ll be writing about everything from sustainability, environmentalism, and activism, to spirituality, gardening, healthy living, and cannabis, of course.  So I’ll be reposting articles that have been published on Hybrid.Life, and will also be posting more personal writings, poetry, and photography in between.

This year, I’ve been getting more and more passionate about marijuana policy reform, as my life was greatly impacted by a possession of marijuana charge I received while travelling into Bellaire, Michigan back in April. Though I was fortunate not to serve any jail time, and haven’t denied my responsibility for making a bad decision (considering present drug laws), I am still going to be paying for this so called crime for about a year or so. However, this experience has focused my attention on the injustice of marijuana prohibition and has clearly exemplified the ineffectiveness of our Draconian legal system.

As I said, I feel somewhat lucky for the way that my legal situation played out. Even though I was ordered to do forty hours of community service, and have to spend the next year on probation (while randomly drug testing four times a month), and I’ve been ordered to pay more than a thousand dollars in court costs and fees, many who are charged with possession in our state lose out considerably. If my skin were a different color, or if I had a larger amount of marijuana, a large sum of cash, or some valuable items with me when I was arrested, I probably would have been jailed, may have been severely mistreated, or had my possessions seized by the police, which is a popular method of fundraising for law enforcement these days.

Now if I were black man, I think it’s pretty safe to say that my chances of being jailed for possession would have been much higher. Most of us are well aware of the countless recent incidences of police brutality perpetrated on blacks, most of which have involved minor threats or violations that have escalated into severe beatings or murders perpetrated by various officers in several places all over the country. Needless to say, with these things on my mind, I was relieved to be white and thankful that I was able to escape a confrontation with the police alive.

It may seem like I’m exaggerating a bit here, but it’s hard not to think this way when there are many more arrests for marijuana possession than for violent crimes in our country these days. And in the state of Michigan, blacks are about four times more likely to be arrested for possession than whites, despite very similar overall usage percentages. This is a disturbing trend, especially at a time in our country where black folks seem to be getting targeted by police more and more, and are even losing their lives in their encounters with the cops. Moreover, I now know how it feels to be profiled, as I believe my encounter with the State Police in Antrim County, Michigan was initiated due to the fact that I was bearded and long-haired, while heading to an Anniversary party at a popular brewery where many “hippie” types were congregated, obviously drinking, probably smoking pot, and listening to live music.

Unfortunately, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time when I took a very small amount of medical marijuana (which I was using as medicine after hernia surgery), on a trip up north. And even though I wish it had never happened, I have learned a lot and have been inspired by the experience. I am now working as hard as I can to help raise awareness of the benefits of cannabis and the injustice of prohibition. I’m helping to collect signatures with MILegalize for a petition to put a ballot initiative for legalization of marijuana in Michigan next year, and am writing to state and federal lawmakers to encourage their support of decriminalization…and I’m telling you all of this because I hope you will too.

When I was charged with possession, I had a legitimate medical purpose for using cannabis, which neither the police nor the judge had any concern about. I didn’t (and still don’t, in fact I never will) have a medical marijuana card to allow me to use it medicinally. I don’t feel it should be necessary, don’t really want to be “officially labeled” a marijuana user, and at the moment, I don’t really have a condition that necessitates it. Although I could technically get a card for back pain that suffer sometimes, due to scoliosis, I’ve also been ordered by the court not to use medical marijuana anyways.

Personally, I don’t feel that I need a reason, an excuse, or even a medical condition to justify the use of cannabis. The fact of the matter is that it’s a useful and enjoyable healing herb. It should be more readily available to everyone for medicinal use, and for recreational use for adults if they should so choose. It’s safer than alcohol, more effective for pain relief than most prescription drugs, and more and more, science is finding that there are few, if any, drawbacks or possible long term detrimental effects, even with regular usage!

I believe the time has come. Prohibition is a massive failure; our jails and prisons are over populated with non-violent offenders, families are being financially drained, emotionally strained, and sometimes even completely destroyed by misguided laws and overly aggressive courts, demanding large fees and often harsh sentencings…all for what? Because of a misunderstood, unduly maligned and demonized plant? Enough is enough…it’s time to legalaize it!!

Environmental Requirements


Originally published on Hybrid.Life here: by Evan Farmer

As I bend and scoop, pick and stoop low to the ground, amidst all the trash and debris, my heart hurts for the frogs, for the birds, and worms, even the slugs who call this urban habitat their home. They have no choice but to live with our mess; but we do. And although we could easily take responsibility for it, too often we don’t.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be spending as much time as I have been lately cleaning up garbage along the bed of a little stream that runs through the park at the end of my street had I not been ordered by the 86th District Court to do forty hours of community service, part of my sentence for a “use of marijuana” charge this spring. However, I took the opportunity to make the consequences of a bad experience better, by serving my community in a meaningful way. And I feel better for it, as it is something I care about and is something I have done before, and will continue to do even after my time is served.

When I started this clean up project, there were pop cans and plastic bags floating in the water. There was a plethora of rubbish that had been collecting amongst the log jams and weedy patches. The banks of this barely-trickling, polluted stream were lined with crushed water bottles, old lighters, straws with empty cups, chip bags and candy wrappers, hypodermic needles, and of course, plenty of cigarette butts. After years of neglect, this little piece of city forest had literally become saturated with trash.


Almost every time I dislodge a plastic bag from the soil, worms and bugs squirm in the bright morning sunlight. I’m amazed at how the woodland creatures just adapt to life with our junk, but I wonder how it affects their well being, their health, and even their reproductive capabilities. The frogs seem quite plentiful, regardless of the iridescent sludge that coats the surface of the water they live in. But still, I’m concerned about their quality of life, and I can’t help being troubled about the toxicity of their environment.


These days, I feel much like the animals I see living in murky, polluted waters, when I consider the state of our legal system, and specifically the so-called ‘War on Drugs’. Throughout the process of being charged, arraigned, and sentenced by the court, I often felt attacked and assaulted by the barrage of orders, demands, and paperwork; and then all the stipulations placed on me for allegedly committing a crime…an act that does much less harm than good. The stress of being made to feel like a criminal often left me feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, like I was swimming in poisonous water, fouled by a debase system that was designed to disgrace, shame, and destroy me.

Still, I feel persecuted for living my life how I see fit; for using one of nature’s greatest medicines to help heal myself after undergoing a hernia operation. I admit that I’ve used the herb for other purposes as well, but on this occasion, I was legitimately using medical marijuana for the pain and nausea I was experiencing after surgery. Unfortunately, I didn’t have card to allow me to use it, and the reason I got in trouble is simply because I had some cannabis with me and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Often it seems that is also the case with the rest of the animal kingdom…too often they are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, for many animals, the wrong place is just about anywhere they might live, and the wrong time is increasingly becoming anytime they’re present. The creatures that live in the patch of woods at the end of my street don’t deserve to have their habitat trashed and contaminated. But that is the reality they live with, and they can’t even do anything about it; unless humans are willing to make a change. Now that I’ve put nearly forty hours of work into helping clean things up, their home is starting to look more like a forest again, rather than a dump.


Much like the other animals, we live amongst the detritus of a society that has been polluted by corrupted ideas of right and wrong, good and bad. Our garbage is an act of violence against our friends, our animal sisters and brothers, ourselves, and our one and only earth mother. Marijuana prohibition is as much an abomination in our legal system as the trash that clutters our greenscapes, rural or urban. We must fight against all this desecration and injustice, and begin the process of cleaning up our legal and physical habitats for the future of our planet, and for the sake of our collective health and posterity. If we don’t do it, then who will?