For Earth Day we decided we wanted to take our volunteer services outside to our first farm. Earth Day is about preserving and appreciating our beautiful earth and we want to help sustain that. Our honorary Gypsy Giver for the week is Melissa. She has been our friend for 25 years and recently joined us in San Francisco for her 30th birthday. We heard about the Permaculture Skills Center from our friend Sarah whom has volunteered with us several times this year. She is involved in permaculture farming and we wanted to learn more.
The Permaculture Skills Center is located in the town of Sebastopol, CA on five acres of land. They have landscape and farming programs to share their knowledge of land development and management practices. Their goal is to empower the next generation with skills and knowledge needed to regenerate and grow vibrant thriving ecosystem communities and economies. We heard back from Sean, the Site Manager/Educator, who graciously invited us to come to the Center and spend the night at an intentional community down the street. We were greeted by his smiling face upon our arrival. He gave us a tour of the property, which is vibrant with flowers, an outdoor classroom, trees, chickens and alpaca. He explained to us the concept of permaculture and how water is the most important element. They try to collect and use every drop to put it back into the earth. This also allows for a self-maintaining habitat and agriculture systems. They have swales, or water harvesting ditches, along the sides of the landscape. Permaculture farming also involves planting a variety of items near one another in order to produce permanent agriculture.
Our main task of the day was to transplant a variety of no-till onions. No-till involves no land preparation for the planting of crops by using compost and mulch. We did some light weeding while waiting for farmer Caiti to prepare everything for us. Once we got started we had to separate each bulb and transplant each one by hand into the soil. This happened not before dipping them in fish emulsion (not the most pleasant smelling stuff). We each had a favorite part. My favorite part was separating each bulb. Mel enjoyed trimming the roots and the tops of the bulbs or as she liked to put “giving them a haircut.” Melissa enjoyed sticking her finger in the dirt and packing them in. We talked with Caiti all day and were treated to a delicious lunch at a local Mexican spot. The day went by so fast! It was 4:00 pm before we knew it! We had planted 450 feet of three different types of onions. We left spaces at the end of some rows in order to plant flowers at a later date. We truly loved our day at the Center.
We were in for another treat when we followed Sean to the community. There are 300 acres of land with 30-40 people living on it. It was breathtaking. We felt as if we were transported to Italy with goats, cows, ponds, woods and even a little party area outfitted with a disco ball and a hot tub.
Sean, Mary and the kids were the most welcoming hosts and we can’t thank them enough for letting us into their lives, feeding us dinner and sharing stories. We ended our day at a local spot, Aubergine. Michael, one of the people from the farm, sang in a reggae band where we enjoyed the good energy and time with new friends.
Our nostrils are still embedded with the smell of fish emulsion but the amount of knowledge and giving back to the earth is incomparable. We can’t wait to hear about our harvest and see pictures in August.