The 5th Annual Lyons Permaculture Design Course! Spring 2014!

The dates have been set!  The 5th Annual Lyons Permaculture Design Course will be held at The Lyons Farmette from March 7 – March 23, 2014.  The course will be sponsored by Yummy Yards, The Lyons Farmette and Thrivescape Design.

Please check our new website for details and information:

yylogo farmetteLogo_blubrw

Why should you take the Lyons Permaculture Design Course?  Find out here by watching our new course videos.


The 4th Annual Lyons Permaculture Design Course! Spring 2013!

The dates have been set!  The 4th annual Lyons Permaculture Design Course will be held at The Lyons Farmette from March 15 – March 31, 2013.  The course will be sponsored by Yummy Yards, The Lyons Farmette and Woodbine Ecology Center.

Please check our new website for details and information:

yylogo farmetteLogo_blubrw WoodbineRanch op4

Why should you take the Lyons Permaculture Design Course?  Find out here by watching our new course video.

The 3rd Annual Lyons Permaculture Design Course

The Lyons Farmette and YummyYards  offered a two-week Permaculture Design Certification course at The Lyons Farmette from March 9 – March 25, 2012.  The course was co-facilitated by Laura Ruby and Spencer Branson, with guest instructors Marco Lam, Jerome Osentowski, Todd Jones, Wesley Schwartz and others.

The 2nd Annual Lyons Permaculture Design Course

The 2nd annual Lyons Permaculture Design Course took place March 18 – April 3, 2011.  This course offered an intensive 82-hour immersion into permaculture principles and ecological design, featuring 14 diverse, dynamic and experienced Colorado permaculture teachers, including Jerome Osentowski, Marco Chung-Shu Lam, Adam Brock and Pavlos Stavropoulos (co-facilitated by Laura Ruby and Erin Schey).

PDC Spring 2010

Observing the Land

“Nature is the teacher. The landscape is the textbook.”  – Masanobu Fukuoka, The One Straw Revolution

Spending time outside everyday is vital to our livelihoods.  Breathing in fresh air, feeling the sun on our skin and smelling the natural world around us softens the deepest parts of ourselves.  Connecting loosens our rigid bodies from stress and rids our scattered minds of “what if’s” and “to do lists”.  One deep breath draws us into the present.  We no longer seek anything.  We do however find what we had been looking for all along.  Magic.

There are a few ways to observe our natural surroundings.  Sorry, what I meant to say is that there are an unlimited amount of ways to experience our natural surroundings.  By observing with our six senses (YES six and if you really want to get spiritual there are considered TEN)  we can connect to our surroundings with greater awareness. Let me quickly state what these senses are: Smell, Touch, Taste, Sight, Sound and Intuition.

When we un-focus our eyes it helps us to observe shadows and light.  To sit with the land at dawn, allows us to connect with a piece of this world that usually swims in a sea of mechanical noise pollution.   At the earliest part of the morning, when the modern world is quiet, the natural world is buzzing with activity.  I once sat by myself in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains between the hours of 3am-6am.  A group of us had gone out on a field trip to observe the natural landscape.  At first I was scared.  I curled up like a little girl and sat in a pocket, naturally carved into the trunk of a large maple tree.  My eyes were wide, ears alert and body frozen.  I am sure everything in that forest heard my heartbeat.   I’m going to have to say that those young hearted addictions to horror movies with older cousins proved to be the worst thing to do for my head.  My mind raced with childish fears of the boogie man and ravaged wolves.  I LOVE wolves.

The dark scared me.  It was unknown, mysterious, and…. well,  BLACK.  I couldn’t find color, no matter how hard I searched and after I accepted the fact that I needed to conduct my assignment, connecting and observing the land, my mind shut off and my senses came awake.  Because my eyes proved useless in that black, colorless world,  my sense of sound and touch thrived.   The air was moist and cold, I became knitted into the fabric of the untouched, the perfect world, where humans did not exist. Except for myself of course.   Dew drops formed on my rain jacket and soaked into my wool hat.  My boots dug further into the rich ground and leaves covered my journal and my legs.  I became part of the landscape and with my immersion,  all the little critters and animals considered me part of their home.

My interaction with the mountains became more than what I thought it would become, an outside foreign experience. I had become the landscape.  Squirrels and birds landed beside me, spiders, worms, and centipedes crawled over my hands and arms.   I wasn’t afraid of what was out there anymore because I became the “out there” and “out there” became “in here”.

When we get down into the Earth, when we shut off our minds and open up our hearts “we” become “them” and “they” become “us”.  There is no separation between human beings and the natural world.  You will find me stating this again and again.  Let me repeat.  Separation is an illusion that our minds do an incredible job at conveying.  I invite you to sit in the mud, bathe in the river, and share yourself with nature.

Taking Care of Zone Zero

Andrew taking care of himself (zone zero) at the Barnette (our zone zero for the course).

Permaculture design is a holistic approach.  We design for optimal efficiency, resilience and, in the long-term, as little human intervention as possible . Permaculture design utilizes specific zones of efficiency to optimize production and energy cycling and give us more time in the hammock!

Zone Zero is the most important of them all.  It’s defined as “you and your house”.  If Zone Zero does not function harmoniously then all other zones are highly affected and may cease to function or exist at all. Take care of Zone Zero first.

Zone One needs daily attention. It contains the elements you use most often, things that require continual observation, including your daily food and medicinal gardens, social spaces, rain barrels, small ponds, a greenhouse, trellis, arbor, bird feeders, household storage and anything else you interact with multiple times a day.

Zone Two is an area of semi-intensive cultivation.  Small orchards can be planted in this zone as well as staple and canning crops and less frequently picked perennial and annual veggies.  Zone Two might also contain hoop houses for season extension, wood storage, a shop, bards and tool sheds.  Often chickens and rabbits are placed on the border between Zones One and Two with beehives, fish, bats and other small animals well within Zone Two.

Zone Three requires even less attention and energy from humans and may be referred to as the “Farm Zone”.  Grow field crops, cover crops, commercial gardens, large fruit and nut trees, animal forage, seedlings for grafting and windbreaks here in Zone Three.  This area is also home to cows, horses, pigs, sheet, goats and other large animals as well as feed and water storage for these animals and plants.

Zone Four boarders on wilderness, usually applying to larger properties and requiring very little management if any. Zone Four activities may include: foraging, selective forestry, wood lot harvesting, hunting, some pasture, gathering and grazing.

Zone Five is the zone that is rarely visited, a place where we go for inspiration and observation.  It’s a section of the property that is given back to the Earth.  Here native plants grow unmanaged, lakes and creeks flow freely, and wild animals roam, forage, hunt and live without human disturbance. There is some debate as to whether humans should enter Zone Five for meditation or whether we should just let Zone Five areas alone altogether, to exist and evolve unwatched by human eyes. (The Zonation information above is adapted from “Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway”, a must-read for the budding permaculturist. Thank you, Toby.  And now back to Lil’Chick…)

But within all of these important zones it is that of Zone ZERO I am smitten with.

I am Zone Zero.   I have skills that I provide, just like all other zones, and in order to provide my skills, I have needs that need to be fulfilled first.  My skills are that of an artist, creating music, photography, and the written word.  I am also an armature herbalist, teacher, creative chef, listener, and mentor.  BUT I cannot provide these skills unless I take care of my needs first.  Some of my needs are: having time for reflection and meditation, yoga, companionship, laughter with my girlfriends, exploration, and education, on top of the obvious, like water, food and shelter among a few other things.  If I don’t make the time to satisfy these needs I fall out of whack.  If I don’t take the time to reflect and listen to my body and heart I am not in the space to mentor or provide guidance to friends and family.  If I don’t nurture myself with yoga, good food, and laughter then I am not in the space to nurture others.  If I don’t provide myself with loving companionship then I am not a loving companion.

A couple of months ago a friend came to me in times of relationship distress.  We drank tea and talked for hours.  She was unhappy and didn’t feel that she was getting what she needed out of her relationship.  I asked her if she had recently spent time with herself, really connected to her inner being.  The gist of her response was “no”.  I have learned that when we don’t truly connect to ourselves on our clock, meaning not at the convenience of others but at the convenience of ourselves, then we feel that those around us are not providing what we need.  We need to find time to be attentive to ourselves.  If we lack that self-attentiveness we will most likely NOT see it gifted by others.  Like anything else, if we are not compassionate to ourselves we will notice that others are not being compassionate.  Those around us are an exact reflection of what we are to ourselves.  Just like mother nature; hurting, in turmoil and  illness,  is a reflection of a great deal of the human population. What we don’t recognize is that WE are what we need.

When we don’t feel good, or are ungrounded, we often project this unsettled physicality’s and emotions onto those we love, blaming them for how we are feeling or blaming them for not providing what we need, which is something only we can provide for ourselves.   A relationship that relies on an outside source in order to provide and sustain a fluid and functional relationship is a failed system.   Cycling back to this ancient old way of life, recently and modernly named, “permaculture”.

I have just completed a two-week intensive program at Permaculture Camp, as I like to call it.  I have walked away with a great amount of knowledge, but most importantly a wisdom which I have forgotten.  Understanding how nature works and functions in the way nature intended allows me to understand how people function in the way nature intended.  I am forever connecting “permaculture terms” to that of self growth.

When you take care of Zone Zero FIRST, you’ll have enough energy to take care of the others and a full, beautiful and sustaining design is complete.

No Named Sheep

I have been privileged to experience not one set of  bright-eyed baby lambs, but TWO sets of baby lambs!  The other night I walked out to the barn with a cup of freshly brewed peppermint tea and stepped up on the jagged pieces of worn wood identifying it’s self as a fence.  A barrier of sorts between us and them.

I can’t tell if the fence is for the human folk, making sure they stay out, or if it’s for the animals, making sure they stay in.  Either way,  It’s the perfect kind of weather these days, bare skin and feet touching both dirt and sky.  We welcomed a little black sheep into the clan.  She is the first little girl out of the group, besides the mama, of course, and she is as black as the deepest parts of the unexplored ocean.  She hangs close to her mama as the three boys go off and play. They are silly little fluffs throwing themselves up into the air as they land on soft hay.  The littlest guy, a week behind the others, is herded and nudged back into the pen by his auntie.  His mamma and sister await him.  It’s amazing, the little tribe these sheep live in, no different from the human structure of a tight-knit clan.   Siblings and cousins play, while the aunts help the mamas; it’s quite magical behind the soft lit approaching night.

A sleeping baby.  I watched his head flop back and forth in a constant battle with sleep.  He didn’t want to doze off, his eyes would shut, head would bounce and then he would startle himself awake again. Ha! It was absolutely adorable!

Cuzco meets lambs.

That’s all I have for you at this moment.  Stay tuned for a topic on our most beloved subject: Permaculture Zones.

Permaculture: A Holistic System


“To let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them.”  – Bill Mollison

Quite a few people have asked me what Permaculture is and they ask me like they are supposed to know the response.  I didn’t know what Permaculture was when I walked into my first day of class 12 days ago,  I just knew that I wanted to be there, on that farm in Lyons, CO, digging my hands into some serious dirt and finding myself lost in endless conversations on a different way of life. Further knowledge on medicinal plants is what sold me on attending the course, but really, I had dabbled in all of this “permaculture stuff”  in previous education back in my college days.  “Why are you attending this course?” friends and family have asked me and I answer with this:   I want to live WITH the Earth, not against it.

Erin, one of my many teachers, told us that there are endless ways to explain Permaculture. If you google the term “Permaculture” you find definitions like these:  Wikapedia states:  “Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecologies.”   Permaculture, defined on, says,  “Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities and much more.”

Yeah, exactly, SO much more.  Technically, from what I gather, permaculture is based around three fundamental concepts.  Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share.  It’s an ethical framework of sorts, exploring how the earth and human nature function and concluding with a design approach to allow humans to live in a system that supports their natural environment.  By providing a homestead that nurtures the land and it’s animals in it, humans benefit as well.

The outcome? An ecological system that is NOT competing but cooperating with itself.  Permaculture asks us to create systems that thrive and give back in abundance, including all the things we throw the green dollar towards: food, medicine, and community.  In a sense, permaculture teaches us to mimic what nature already is; a fluid self-sustaining system of companionship and support. The truth is, it’s not important if we know or don’t know the perfect definition of permaculture.   I’m not concerned with the term.  I’m concerned with the lessons that Permaculture drives us to learn; the lessons maybe we already do know deep down in our genetic code.

Native Americans and countless other indigenous communities knew, and STILL know.  Why are the rest of our “advanced”, “first world” cultures so out of the know?  How did we get here,  so incredibly removed from the very things that are vital to our existence?   Why can our children list off hundreds of logos from corporate branding campaigns, but not more than 5 named plant species from their own backyards?  Our thumbs move at an incredible speed, texting friends from across the room, while our verbal communication skills dwindle.  Our finger nails remain clean, feet polished, but where are  our favorite grass stained jeans?

There is this misconception that connecting with our backyards and growing nutrient rich foods is an expensive endeavour.  Just this morning my sister told me she wanted to re-design her back yard but that it was just too expensive.  She would be “splurging” on two rose bushes later this spring.  No offense, rose bushes are beautiful and I love the smell. Actually, I lie. I don’t really like the smell of roses.  I have snagged many clothing items on those rather razor like thorns and don’t really understand what all the hype is.  You can harvest the rose hips, they are a great source for vitamin C, but I doubt that was her reasoning for including these florid flora into her landscape.

Instead of planting roses in her east coast backyard, why not plant something NATIVE?  Ah ha. Wouldn’t that be something?  Or maybe something edible, medicinal, or SOFT?  The cost of two rose bushes, the non-organic kind (and I say that light-heartedly) is about $18.95 including tax.  She could buy a total of 6 packets of seeds that would give her an incredible abundance of edible, beautiful plants in her yard.  For instance, tomatoes grow like little red jewels of Gods on the East coast due to the high humidity and rainfall.  Chives, dill, cucumber, echinacea!  Oh, the possibilities for not only esthetically BEAUTIFUL plants, but nutritious plants as well!  AND if she re-positioned her gutters, the rain water she could collect….. well, that’s another topic.

The point is, is that we need to reconnect with our land,  we need to reconnect with ourselves and we need to turn our cell phones OFF.  All of the community that we are eager to connect with, the nutrition and health that we would like to nurture our bodies with, and the peace we are seeking to lessen the chaos of our lives, is all found in nature. If this is the case, why are we paving it and sweeping it clean of its medicinal properties?  Why are we quick to divert rainwater into a massive, turbulent stream of run-off, stripping our soil’s magic and rushing it off (along with all our chemicals and toxins) into the oceans when we could be diverting it, in its pure state, into our gardens? Why are we not going with the flow but against the tide natures natural way of being?  So many “whys” that will hopefully  be addressed here in this blog.

Anyway……. back to permaculture.  It’s incredible.  It’s a modern name for ancient concepts.  It’s connecting US to the land and the LAND to us.  So let’s all say goodbye to our past ideals and welcome in the new ones.


Until SOON.


lil chick





Meet The Characters at The Lyons Farmette!

Meet the Team over at the Lyons Permaculture Course (in no particular order)!


Meet Mike: He and Betsy own The Lyons Farmette.  What does he like?  He likes to ride this tractor AND he loves to stir up the conversations in class, bringing a wealth of insight to our sometimes crazy ideas and concepts.  He keeps our feet on the ground so to speak.


Betsy: She is the only mama at this course as far as I’m concerned.  Always slipping away in between class to feed chickens and check on the sheep.  Just last night she sat with a very pregnant mama sheep and comforted her while she popped out two healthy lambs.  A little girl and a little boy, making the sheep family on the farm reach a lucky number 7!


Lucy: Betsy and Mike’s hound.  Always guarding the house and her territory, she’ll warm up to you once she realizes you are a good cuddle.

Erin: She is the raddest teacher of them all.  Often found ringing this bell and trying to gather us all diligently when the hands on the clock remind us that we are supposed to be in class!  She is super passionate about the earth and teaching what she knows. Erin is silly and present, always open-minded about our endless questions and thoughts.

Laura( Ruby Tuesday): She is the other half of this incredible course, well she and about  15 other permaculture gurus.  What’s her least favorite word?  DIRT.  What’s her favorite word?  SOIL.  Always up for long extended conversations about why it’s incredibly important to take three-minute showers and leave the leaves where they are.  Laura is a wealth of information and her happiness and energy is contagious!

The Chickens: Now let’s not forget these fun ladies.  They LOVE food just as much as we do and often hop on our plates to steal some snacks.  They also create the BEST eggs.  I’ll never go back to grocery store-bought eggs…EVER.

The Permie People Students: Erin leading us blind through a snow patched field, our views masked by an array of fabrics.  This crew rocks!  We have philosophers, artists, activists, lovers of nature and of the planet as a whole.  We are the recent additions to the permie people clan!

Part of the Family: The llama, mama, and twins.  I am missing the other two adult sheep and the two newbies, but don’t worry, I’ll have tons of photo’s to share soon!  This llama is a rescue, and he is super sweet.  I believe he thinks he is a sheep!

Lil’ Chick: Me, myself and my dirty mushroom compost hands.  I’m not afraid to say how it is, get dirty, get sassy and keep it oh so real! SO, I hope you all enjoy this blog, the updates, knowledge and insights from one of the many students here at The Lyons Permaculture Course!

Chasing Chickens

You’ll have to excuse me, I’ve been chasing chickens all day and I am a little bit… tired?  My name is… well, you all can call me “lil’ chick” for now. I think the name is befitting as I am usually found photographing chickens, chasing chickens, and looking for chicken eggs!

I’ll post more substantial material sometime tomorrow, but for now:

Betsy and her two  2 day old little lambs!

A Blue Bird Day

Heart of Chickens

Ancient Times… or maybe just a few decades, or days ago?

The BEST eggs are ones fresh out of the oven…so to speak

The Twins and their Mama


That’s it for now! Early to rise… and it’s way past my bed time!  Until next time, I hope you found these photographs fun!


lil’ chick