• Certification Dept. ... You Mean, I Passed??? The other day I got one of those uncomfortable-looking certificates via snail mail. You know, the kind that seems fake and worthless but is authentic and meaningful. It came from the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) and it “awarded” me the title of “Professional.”

    No kidding, this is an empowering and joy-filled moment in my life. For if I had not passed the 100-question test, I might have had to close shop and pursue an entirely different line of work. Fortunately for me (one of the worst test-takers on the planet), the process included a two-day prep class and an open-book test. Oh, and we got three months to take the thing.

    Kidding aside, ARCSA is an excellent organization filled with virtuous people doing plenty of great work. I encourage anyone interested in water harvesting as a profession to check them out: http://www.arcsa.org/ .

  • Welcome Terrapins! Please welcome Backyard Digest's two new mascots! Inspired both by the concept of "gradual greening" and by one of my favotite album covers (Grateful Dead's "Terrapin Station"), they are the creations of George Lawrence, Harvest the Rain's awesome illustrator.

    Please suggest names for these happy creatures! I'm imagining the terrapin using the rake being female and thinking the terrapin carrying the shovel could be male. What do you think?

  • Victory for Water Harvesters! I just sat down with Matt O'Reilly (Director of the Land Use Department), Wendy Blackwell (Division Director of Technical Review), and Michael Purdy (Division Director of Inspections and Enforcement) of the City of Santa Fe’s Land Use Department, and they all agreed to amend the water harvesting permit checklist to allow people with other licenses (not just plumbing licenses) to install cisterns! Email me (nate@sfpermaculture.com) for more information.

  • Trees of Green? Every December I struggle with the age-old Christmas tree question, but this year I think I finally answered it!. Artificial? Live? Cut? Fake trees emit toxic phthalates into your Yule-tide-cheer-filled home but can be reused forever. Live trees can be transplanted, but they often dry out in a warm living room and if they don't die, you'll still need a place to plant it. Cut trees around Santa Fe often benefit a local charity, but they are trucked in from an unorganic farm in Oregon. Even when we walk the thing home, the carbon footprint associated with this tannenbaum is gargantuan. Fortunately, cut trees let you compost their acid-laden needles, and that’s good news for our alkaline soils.

    When we didn’t have kids, a sprig of rosemary worked great for a tree, but two little boys later the question becomes, “What’s a non-Grinchy daddy to do?”

    This year we carpooled with some friends, paid $10 for a permit, and drove up the eastern slope of the Pecos River. Their front-wheel-drive minivan needed chains for the last half-hour of the climb, but pretty soon three grown-ups and four kids all piled out, suited up, and headed upslope armed with a short bow saw and some hand pruners. Not only did we have an awesome time communing with nature, we found two fabulous trees --not “perfect” but packed with the kind of character that towers over perfection every time.

    Sometimes we have “Eureka” moments. I suppose this one was more of a “Hallelujah!”

  • Water Harvesters of the World Unite! I’m flabergasted by the City of Santa Fe’s decision to ONLY allow plumbers to “conduct” water harvesting projects. When I asked a plumber friend if he would pull a permit or three, “Sure," he paused, deep in thought, “but…how do you get water from the canale to the cistern? Is it gravity?”
    Water harvesters of the world unite! We MUST get the city to QUICKLY change its tune!!! Plumbers know water harvesting as well as marines know bicyles!

  • Thanksgiving and the Earth at Our Feet Dinner at American Flatbread in Burlington, VT, Monday was the most delicious and local pizzeria experience of my life. Walk in, catch a waft of heaven, and get greeted by a big, happy crowd, a bar full of yummy beers brewed out back, and a big poster advertizing the 25 bioregional farms that make the meal possible. No turkey. No pumpkin. Not a potato on the menu. But we enthusiastically chowed the melted neighborhood cheese topped with sizzling Vermont yak, ham, mushrooms, garlic, peppers, etc. As "authentic" as Thursday’s traditional victuals might have seemed, the pizza and amazing salads resembled the first Thanksgiving far better than the too-distant baloney that most Americans eat on T-day.

  • Water, not space, is our next frontier Like a mythical centaur (half human head, half horse ass), last October NASA’s Centaur rammed the backside of the Moon on a mission to extract water from the heavens. Houston, we have a problem. When nearly one billion earthlings lack clean water supplies, what God-fearing nation would spend a dime on crushed ice for a few astronauts?

    What if more tax dollars were spent on down-to-earth programs like Dan Ransom’s? As water conservation director for Sangre de Cristo Water Company, Ransom recently developed a simple rebate program designed to encourage the installation of cisterns throughout Santa Fe. Picture the city’s bygone rain-barrel program on growth hormones.

  • I'd Love to Hear from You! Sustainable in many respects, our garden mostly overflows with irony. Sure, we’ve got an underground cistern, a greywater harvesting system, six egg-laying chickens, several fruit tree guilds, a bean teepee, a sunflower house, a cold frame, a bee hive, a plastic lawn, a set of solar hot-water panels, a couple of king-size compost heaps, an armada of bikes, and many dreams of more.
    But several times a week my knees buckle at the thought of a fresh, vacuum-packed tub of Mediterranean Humus from Trader Joe’s. Although I’d love to save civilization from itself overnight, like you, I’m human, and I crave all kinds of creature comforts. Plato described this aspect of human nature well at the outset of his Republic when he implied that a community cannot be perfect without the relishes of life.
    Of course, we all would prefer to live in a sustainable society, but most of us think we don’t have enough time to make a difference, so why bother? Any voluntary transition from the lavishness of the past to the true pleasures of a sustainable future will be slow.
    Shouldn’t we accept this fact and simply decide to move on at a steady pace? In my upcoming book, Harvest the Rain, I describe a steady-paced system called “gradual greening.” It asks for just 10 minutes of your time per day, and in return we all get to live in a sustainable world in 30 years or less. This blog will be an account of our progress.
    Please chime in with your stories of gradual greening whenever you would like. I’d love to hear from you!


The final frontier.

These are the musings of an engaging enterprise.
Its thirty-year mission:

To create a greener planet.

To seek a better life in our lumbering civilization, and

to slowly go where we are all are headed anyway.


Is an unproven system for generating wide-spread sustainability.

it asks for 10 minutes a day for a year. At the end of the year, it asks for 10 more.

So in the second year, you spend just 20 minutes a day, in the third year, 30 minutes.

If you keep up this pattern, 27 years later you spend over 4 hours per day being extremely green.

Share Here!
Describe your attempts At a sustainable life.