Terra Nova owner, Ken Foster teaching Permaculture class at Cabrillo College.

GTprint75_Permaculture

Permaculture Class – Fall semester 2017

Hort 162PC
Instructor: Ken Foster
2017
Fall semester

Class Description:

Introduces principles and practices of
permaculture design though collaboration on real-world projects with a focus towards repairing, restoring and regenerating human and the planets ecosystems.
Room: HORT room 5010
Class Organization:
Meets 16 weeks on Saturdays 9/2/17 through 12/16/17 from 9:00am to 3:00pm.

Cabrillo’s Permaculture class, taught by Ken Foster, was both life affirming and trajectory changing. It brought together so many areas of interest that I feel passionate about (ecology, economics, horticulture, culture, energy independence, sustainability), and provided me with the opportunity to build a road map towards the life of my dreams.
It also helped me to clarify what is essential in my life
I wish that every citizen of this planet had such an opportunity.
Thank you Ken, for your generous sharing of both your knowledge and enthusiasm.
I am forever better for it.

-Kelly Pettit
Read more…
Permaculture Design is the Art and Science of Ecological Design, which uses the application of Natural Patterns and Ethical Intentions to create long-lasting, beautiful, and regenerative systems that provide humanity’s essential needs, starting with water, food and shelter
Originally a derivation of Permanent agriculture, Permaculture has evolved to deal with all aspects related to human culture and land stewardship.  The goal is to design systems so that they are the most productive with the least amount of inputs and maintenance.  Through thoughtful observation, a design is arrived at that most fits the needs of all involved.  Mother Nature is the Model: Design for Regeneration.
Permaculture differs from other design methodologies in that Ethics are at the core of the design process.  Through the Ethical Intentions of Caring for the Earth, Caring for People, and sharing surplus resources necessary for survival, we can develop resilient communities well equipped to deal with climactic and economic fluctuations.
These Ethics translate into the Triple Bottom Line for Sustainability.  In order for any system to truly sustainable, it must be:
– Environmentally Responsible
– Socially Just

– Economically Viable

Make America rake again!

I am a landscape contractor and have been in the industry for over 30 years. I am a business owner and have owned two-stroke back-pack and hand held leaf blowers for years. I have used them myself and have had my employees use them in the past. This was part of the experience that drove me to become a dedicated ecological landscaper. I personally know more than a few landscapers that quit the industry specifically to escape the pollution and noise. I have been working out in the field all of my career.

Quintessential ‘tools’

The only reason I still love what I do is because I have chosen to leave many of the ”tools-of-the-trade’ behind. One of these quintessential ‘tools’ is the gas leaf blower. I now believe that the use of gas leaf blowers and high speed/high volume leaf blowers are an affront to the communities in which we work. Of the landscapers arsenal they are one of the easiest to misuse. They cause dust and particulate matter pollution including heavy metals, fecal matter, fungus spores and toxic chemicals, they cause gas and oil exhaust pollution and noise pollution. They threaten human health including auditory, respiratory and nervous system health. They threaten animal health for these same reasons in both domestic and wild animals, they threaten beneficial insects (like bees), they threaten plant health with the dust and they threaten soil health in the form of denuding. Some might claim to be improving the environment with their ‘Mow, Blow and Go’ landscaping and I beg to differ. Enough is enough! It is not okay to destroy the sound-scape, the air and the soil in our communities in the vain pursuit of the perfect landscape especially when rakes and brooms can do the job just fine. This in No way is a word against the workers using leaf blowers. They are just trying to earn a living and are the ones most at risk. Every single one of us including the workers will benefit from moving away from the gas leaf blower.
Hit and run landscaping makes a mockery of the art of landscape gardening.  Simply put If you put up with leaf blower pollution you end up with pollution.
This is a call to raise the bar to the industry.

raise-the-bar
We can do better than this!

Ken Foster

Owner

Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping

Santa Cruz, Ca.

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Winner of the ‘broom vs.the leaf blower’ challenge.

Mi Jardin es tu Jardin – My garden is your garden

To all our garden allies we say Mi casa es tu casa – My home is your home or to be more precise, Mi Jardin es Tu Jardin – My garden is your garden. Terra Nova has been building and maintaining homes for ‘beneficials’ for many years. Here is our garden casa story.

 Honey bees

As beekeepers we have installed and maintained bee hives for Terra Nova clients. The honey bee is one of the most fascinating creatures on earth and an essential member of the garden community. They provide an impressive array of services from pollination to honey making and wax production. Observing a bee hive is simply some of the best entertainment in the garden.

Bees
Bees at Ken’s Top Bar Bee Hive.

Native bees

The honey bee is one of the better known celebrities of the bee world but we must not forget native bees. Native bees are some of the forgotten pollinators. There are around 1,500 native bee species in California. You can invite them to your garden with a native bee hotel. I gave one to my Grandaughter. She is now inviting these beneficial friends to her backyard.

Native bee hotel
Native bee hotel

Red worms

As ‘Vermicomposters’ Terra Nova has built and maintained worm bins for our clients for many years. Red worms – (Eisenia fetida ) are one of the best composters. Turning kitchen waste into garden fertilizer par excellence. Every kitchen and garden should have one in our opinion.

This is a challenge to raise more worms than I have in my worm bin. There are millions in my bin and they all have names. The first 100,000 are named Sally Ann, Sally Ann the 2nd etc. the second 100,000 are named Billy Bob, Billy Bob the 2nd and so on. My secret? Giving them plenty of kitchen scraps and covering them inside their bin with moistened recycled burlap coffee bags.

Worms
Red worms in burlap coffee bags.

                            

Chickens

We have built a few chicken coops over the years. We built one for our own chicks recently. Like honey bees chickens perform numerous chores in the garden that help to close the loop. For this reason we call our chicken casa the ‘Closed-Loop Chicken-Coop’.

We dream of a world where a chickens motives are not questioned, it’s simple, they just want to scratch for weed seeds, peck for bugs and lay eggs. Watching chickens in the garden rivals the entertainment of the bee hive.

Chicks and Rita
Ken’s grandaughter Rita with a chicken and Ken with Rennie.

Owls

Owl boxes for both Barn and Screech owls are a recent addition to the list of homes we have built in client’s gardens. Now that is a fine way to control gophers! Building these owl boxes was the seed that germinate into this Mi casa es tu casa story in Jillian Steinberger’s brilliant mind. Thanks for the idea Jillian!

Bats

Then there’s mosquito control. How about inviting bats (Cleopatra) to your garden with a bat house? Bat’s are skilled pest control agents catching and eating up to a thousand mosquitos per hour. If that wasn’t enough this incredible flying mammal produces guano (yup, bat poop), one of the best high nitrogen fertilizers you can buy. Most bats species are endangered due to habitat loss and pesticides. Invite them in with a bat casa and a pesticide-free garden. A perfect win / win for the garden and the bat.

Bat house
Bat house

Blue birds

Blue bird boxes are next. Another opportunity to house an at-risk species that provides excellent pest control in the deal. Since Western bluebirds also have to compete with the more aggressive, introduced species like house sparrows and European starlings, for food and nesting sites. Blue bird nest boxes are a welcome haven for these blue feathered beauties.

The science of maximizing beneficial relationships

During the Permaculture class I teach at Cabrillo College we have a whole day dedicated to ‘Building Bonds with Allies’. Including these homes for beneficials is a key part of this lesson.

My iconic and beloved horticulture professor at Cabrillo, Richard Merrill always said that the study of horticulture is the study of everything. I now tell my students at Cabrillo that the study of Permaculture is the study of how everything is connected.

Bill Mollison, the co-founder of the design science known as ‘Permaculture’ once wrote,

“Design is a connection between things… Education takes everything and pulls it apart and makes no connections at all. Permaculture makes the connection, because as soon as you’ve got the connection, you can feed the chicken from the tree.” This is why Permaculture is called, The science of maximizing beneficial relationships.’ Making these connections and building these relationships is what the sentiment Mi Jardin es Tu Jardin is all about.

Everything Gardens

There is a Permaculture principle that ‘Everything Gardens’. What this means is that nothing in nature works in isolation, including us humans. Everyone of us affects our environment. The challenge is to design specifically for beneficial affects. Instead of controlling everything in our gardens we can get better results if we sit back and let our allies do some of that beneficial work for us.

Intrinsic characteristics

The trick here is to invite creatures (garden allies) whose intrinsic behavior benefits other creatures or elements in the garden ecosystem. Intrinsic = in·trin·sic is the basic characteristic of a person or thing. There is a synergy that happens when we design these intrinsic characteristics into the system.

Final notes about designing and building a garden that is inclusive.

Water and Soil

Water is important for all species of beneficial allies. They need water like that rest of us. Including a water feature (like a flow-form fountain) helps keep everyone hydrated. This is a good first welcome sign for our garden friends.

flow form 2

 

Building your garden soil is also part of building the garden casa. The life in the soil (the-soil-food-web) depends on available organic matter. Some of our most important allies are the smallest ones: the microbes! We need the cooperation of soil bacteria and fungi. Making compost to use in the garden and spraying your vegetable garden regularly with aerated compost tea and effective microorganisms, inoculating mycorrhizal fungus and adding plenty of mulch keeps your microbes fat and happy. The mulch provides homes for all the denizens of the soil (tierra).  Thus we can say to the Soil-Food-Web … Mi tierra es Tu casa – My Soil is your Home.

soil food web

Plant diversity

Designing in plants that will provide forage and habitat for beneficials is a key strategy. The importance of including trees and shrubs, perennial and annual plants that offer pollen and nectar (forage) for birds, butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects should not be underestimated. Include plants that provide nesting materials and cover (habitat) for birds. You might say the garden as a whole is essentially a casa, that is, Mi Jardin es Tu casa- My Garden is your Home.

What other homes can you think of to welcome in garden allies?

To recap, our garden casa and the garden ally list looks like this…

  • Bee hive for honey bees
  • Native bee hotel to welcome in native bees
  • Worm bin to house Red worms
  • Chicken Coop for our favorite egg layers
  • Owl box for both Barn and Screech owls
  • Bat house for nature’s pest control agents
  • Blue bird box for Blue birds
  • Healthy soil for the Soil-Food-Web
  • Diverse plant species for diverse life in the garden

Let us call our allies to join us as we create and tend the Garden so all may benefit from its abundance, nourishment, beauty and joy.

 – Ken Foster

 

Cabrillo’s Permaculture class, life affirming!

Permaculture Class – Fall semester 2017

Hort 162PC
Instructor: Ken Foster
2017
Fall semester

Class Description:

Introduces principles and practices of
permaculture design though collaboration on real-world projects with a focus towards repairing, restoring and regenerating human and the planets ecosystems.

Room: HORT room 5010
Class Organization:
Meets 16 weeks on Saturdays 9/2/17 through 12/16/17 from 9:00am to 3:00pm.

Cabrillo’s Permaculture class, taught by Ken Foster, was both life affirming and trajectory changing. It brought together so many areas of interest that I feel passionate about (ecology, economics, horticulture, culture, energy independence, sustainability), and provided me with the opportunity to build a road map towards the life of my dreams.
It also helped me to clarify what is essential in my life
I wish that every citizen of this planet had such an opportunity.
Thank you Ken, for your generous sharing of both your knowledge and enthusiasm.
I am forever better for it.

-Kelly Pettit
Read more…
Permaculture Design is the Art and Science of Ecological Design, which uses the application of Natural Patterns and Ethical Intentions to create long-lasting, beautiful, and regenerative systems that provide humanity’s essential needs, starting with water, food and shelter
Originally a derivation of Permanent agriculture, Permaculture has evolved to deal with all aspects related to human culture and land stewardship.  The goal is to design systems so that they are the most productive with the least amount of inputs and maintenance.  Through thoughtful observation, a design is arrived at that most fits the needs of all involved.  Mother Nature is the Model: Design for Regeneration.

Permaculture differs from other design methodologies in that Ethics are at the core of the design process.  Through the Ethical Intentions of Caring for the Earth, Caring for People, and sharing surplus resources necessary for survival, we can develop resilient communities well equipped to deal with climactic and economic fluctuations.

These Ethics translate into the Triple Bottom Line for Sustainability.  In order for any system to truly sustainable, it must be:

– Environmentally Responsible

– Socially Just

– Economically Viable

Terra Nova wins Beautification Award!

Terra Nova wins first place in the Sustainable Landscapes

category of the CLCA’s (California Landscape Contractors Association’s)

Central Coast Chapter’s Beautification Awards.

CLCA beautification awards

Urbanite at Munning  Urbanite Munning

This design and installation had it all….Reused concrete, (urbanite) Keyhole garden bed, Graywater system, Rainwater Catchment, Sheet mulching, Drip system, Rain garden, Native grass lawn and a Food Forest.

IMG_1020 Rainwater catchment Munning

  Judged by a jury of our peers and we are honored to be recognized.

 

 

How 100 local landscapes made the grade – Monterey Bay Friendly landscaping

As of December 31st, 2015 over 100 landscapes in the Monterey Bay area have been certified as Monterey Bay Friendly. This is exciting news for a number of reasons. With the Santa Cruz based non-profit Ecology Action at the helm an advisory committee to bring this program to the Monterey Bay area has been meeting regularly since May, 2013 . The director of the program Sherry Bryan of Ecology Action has stated that Terra Nova provided inspiration to bring this program to the Monterey Bay area.  The program is modeled after the Bay Friendly Landscaping program in the Bay Area which is already the parent of River Friendly Landscaping in the Sacramento area.

BFC_logo_rgb_weblink

While the Bay and the River Friendly logos have a pelican and a heron we have branded this program for the the Monterey Bay area with an egret on the logo.

MBFyardsign

Having been involved with promotion of and education about ecological landscaping since the late 1980’s it is very gratifying to see this program take off in the Monterey Bay area. As an instructor of Permaculture in the horticulture program at Cabrillo College this is very exciting for another reason. Permaculture is a very fun design science to teach. But Permaculture is notoriously hard to define especially in small sound bites. While I love teaching it and using the word Permaculture, it is great to see a program like the Monterey Bay Friendly Landscaping arrive on the scene because it has much of the elements and employs many of the Permaculture principles without using the word.

7prinThings like reducing waste, creating habitat for wildlife, conserving energy, conserving water and building soil are all exactly in line with Permaculture.

When you get your landscape certified as Monterey Bay Friendly there are a number of rebates and incentives available.  like 10% discount on any item in store, excluding Livestock Feed at Mountain Feed and Farm Supply.

Here is a gallery of landscapes that have been certified to date. Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping has a couple of landscapes that have been certified as Monterey Bay Friendly.

 

Cistern-wPump_1-1024x768
The Monterey Bay Marine Exploration Center

I recently completed the certification for the Cabrillo College Horticulture building

HortEntrancetoGarden

Implement these ecological landscaping standards to achieve Monterey Bay Friendly Landscape certification and public recognition for your existing garden or new landscape project!

Learn more here

Terra Nova is among the local companies, landscapers and designers that can come rate your landscape. Get your landscape certified today by calling 831-359-5717.

 

 

 

Who Blew it? Read it and sweep!

The long awaited ‘Broom vs. Leaf Blower’ challenge took place on December 11th 2015 along the sidewalk next to the west side New Leaf Community Market in Santa Cruz. Like any good wild-west showdown it happened at high noon. Indeed it resembles the wild-west when it comes to leaf blower use in places with no bans or restrictions on the books like Santa Cruz. That is precisely the problem and I offered the challenge as a step towards finding a solution.

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Challenge conditions

As the one offering the challenge I set the conditions. They were to clean the exact same amount of leaves and debris, (one green waste can full) spread over the exact same hardscape area of approximately 100 x 4 feet. My weapon of choice was a bamboo broom vs. my challenger with a two-stroke leaf blower. I asked four local dignitaries Gary Patton, Lisa McAndrews, Brett Graf and Tim Brattan to be judges and Grant Wilson was the MC for the challenge. The judges were on hand to monitor the action and render a verdict at the completion of the competition. Each judge had one of four categories to monitor – speed, thoroughness, noise and air pollution levels.  The media and the public showed up for the excitement.

It took three months after I announced the challenge to get someone to actually take me up on it. The competition either did not take me seriously or they were running scared. As I put out the challenge I had no idea if I would prevail or not, at least in the speed category. I had a good guess that I would in the noise and air pollution categories.

Whole systems approach

The approach if it is not obvious is one of whole systems.

In other words: It is not just the speed of cleaning off the hardscape that matters. Of course that matters to landscaper business owners and since I happen to be a landscape business owner myself I can legitimately weigh in on that.

Yes, speed matters to me but so does the soundscape and air quality of the neighborhoods we work in. I do not think it is responsible to destroy the soundscape and pollute the air for the sake of speed.

And the winner is…

With my trusty broom I won in the noise pollution category, the decibel meter reading of the leaf blower was off the charts, there was no comparison in the air quality category (with the two-stroke blower spewing out gas and oil exhaust), we tied in the thoroughness category (with both of us coming in at 6 on a scale of 1 to 10) and I was only 24 seconds slower in the speed category.

So, of the four categories I won two, tied one and lost one. As the article in the local newspaper declared, “ Broom sweeps the competition.” This is all to prove the point in a serious yet playful way that we can do better. There are ‘best practices’ to employ if you insist on using a leaf blower. There are quieter electric models to purchase and having restrictions or even a ban regarding loud leaf blowers might be a good idea. Over twenty cities in California have gas leaf blower bans. We believe it is prudent to protect the soundscape and air quality in our communities.

Read more

To read more here is the article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel with a video of the event and here is an article I wrote about leaf blower abuse.

Brent Adams and Ken Foster in the Broom vs. Leaf Blower showdown.

I am a founding member of the Leaf Blower Task Force, we have been meeting for over a year, in that time we have conducted the Leaf Blower survey and in the next few months we will be working on recommendations for the city of Santa Cruz.

Leaf Blower Task Force Facebook page.

The broom vs. leaf blower challenge was a step in that direction. Stay tuned.

Ken Foster

Broom vs leaf blower challenge is on!

Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping offers the broom vs leaf blower challenge.


The broom vs. leaf blower challenge between Ken Foster (on the broom) and Brent Adams (on the Leaf Blower) is scheduled to take place December 11th at high noon next to the west side New Leaf Community Market located at 1101 Fair Ave. The Challenge will begin at the corner of Fair Avenue and Ingalls Street in Santa Cruz.
The Challenge.
To clean the exact same amount of leaves and debris, (two trash cans full) spread over the exact same hardscape area of approximately       75 x 4 feet. Terra Nova owner Ken Foster will use a broom and the challenger will use a leaf blower.
The Challenge Conditions:
Participants shall not run.
The participant with the broom may use any broom of their choosing as long as it is manually operated.
The participant with the two stroke leaf blower must start with an empty fuel tank. They must mix and add two stroke fuel as part of their total time. Judges will use a stop watch, a decibel meter and a air quality montier starting from and finishing at the participant’s service vehicle.

Participants will be judged on the following performance:

Time

Thoroughness

Noise level

Air pollution level

Gary Patton, Lisa McAndrews and Tim Brattan will be judges for the challenge.

The media and the public are invited.

Here’s the Facebook invitation…

https://www.facebook.com/events/555670177922465/

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Spin City: Passion for pedal-powered permaculture


Ken Foster rides one of Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping’s rigs to a job site in Santa Cruz. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

If you’re headed south along the coast next Tuesday, there’s a chance you’ll spot Ken Foster bicycling from

Santa Cruz to Monterey County on Highway 1.

He’ll be traveling at a leisurely pace, soaking in the scenery and pedaling his recumbent bike. Foster, 57, estimates the ride will take between five and seven hours depending on if he “dawdles.” During the approximately 65-mile trip, he may stop at an organic farm or chat with people along the way.

For Foster, the owner of Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping, and a permaculture teacher at Cabrillo College, the excursion is a “sojourn.”

“It’s a fun challenge and a chance for contemplation,” said Foster. “I love that the ride is a celebration of the Monterey Bay. Much of it is on a separate bike path (the 29-mile Monterey Bay Coastal Trail) that goes from Castroville to Pacific Grove. I go by large strawberry farms, artichoke fields and I’ve seen whales spouting. As a landscaper, I have an affinity with farmers.”

This year will mark Foster’s 15th annual round-trip ride from his home in Westside Santa Cruz to the Asimolar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, where he will attend the EcoFarm Conference from Jan. 21-24.

 At the largest and oldest ecological agricultural gathering in the West, now celebrating its 35th anniversary, Foster will present a workshop, “Drought Proofing Your Landscape and Garden.”

Bicycling to a conference about sustainable farming is the perfect marriage of Foster’s passion for all things green. For years, Foster has used bicycles as much as he can for commuting, recreation and work.

In 1991, he launched, “Tread Lightly,” a program of Terra Nova in which he and his workers use mountain or hybrid bikes to transport landscaping tools.

“I started Tread Lightly because we wanted to be ecological and this was a real authentic expression of being ecological.”

Foster packs shovels, brooms, rakes, an electric lawn mower and more into customized bike trailers designed and built by Santa Cruzan John Welch. There will definitely not be a leaf blower in that tool collection.

The founder of the Leaf Blower Task Force, Foster said, “My goal is to reduce noise and air pollution from blowers, weed whackers and hedge trimmers. The goal is to reduce the carbon footprint by not using gas. I prefer to use a rake and a broom.”

However, Foster does own and use a truck to haul big loads. He uses the bicycles as much as possible for jobs in Santa Cruz County.

Rupert Poole, with Terra Nova for three years, works with Tread Lightly.

“It’s a great service,” Poole said. “We put all our tools in the back. We use hand tools and electrical tools. We don’t use any toxic chemicals or fossil fuels. It’s all organic.”

Ken Foster and Rupert Poole are thrilled to have bikes back in the Terra Nova fleet. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

The Tread Lightly program had been on hiatus, due to extensive repairs needed for the five trailers. Last fall, Foster raised $3,000 (out of a $5,000 goal) with an Indiegogo campaign to help restart the program.

Foster has a long history of commitment to a green lifestyle, something he says was directly influenced by his parents, who were Quakers and political activists who moved to Santa Cruz when he was one year old.

After he completed the acclaimed UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden Apprenticeship, Foster launched Terra Nova with a partner in 1988. The full service landscaping business (solely owned by Foster since 1991) has focused on how landscaping effects the environment.

Foster remains passionate about his work and has completed a manuscript called, “Confessions of a Bicycle-Powered Landscaper.”

His upcoming ride is also a solo adventure.

“It’s like a personal retreat,” he said. “In the past, I’ve ridden with nine others and in the rain.”

Foster will load up bike bags with 40 pounds of gear, and settle into his beloved Easy Racers recumbent bike, made in Watsonville.

As he bikes, he’ll be thinking about his upcoming talk, finding a book publisher and admiring the beauty of his surroundings.

“Human power (transportation) is really a celebration of life — being outdoors, enjoying the weather and being able to stop and have a conversation with someone,” Foster said. “I think that connection with the natural world is a really remarkable part of being on the bike.”

Karen Kefauver (www.karenkefauver.com) is a freelance writer based in Santa Cruz who covers sports and travel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen KefauverKaren Kefauver is a freelance writer who covers sports and travel. She’s based in Santa Cruz.