Our Mission:

Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Short Days, Cold Nights & Good Reads

With howling northwest winds and below freezing temperatures even for the daytime highs, the weather is becoming more and more like winter.

With conditions like this the evenings are great times for snuggling up by the fire with a good book.  Maybe with a mug of hot chocolate, coffee or a cup of egg nog, 'tis the season!

Right now I am reading a paperback copy of Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway, the popular introduction into permaculture and ecological design for home gardeners.

I'm also reading the e-version of A New Vison for Iowa Food and Agriculture by Francis Thicke, a past candidate for Secretary of Agriculture, who raises pastured dairy using natural systems as a model.  I'm enjoying his commentary on the status quo and Iowa's potential.  If you're lucky you might be able to get some of their milk through the Iowa Food Cooperative.

I just loaned out my copy of Mini Farming:Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett L. Markham.  This was one of the first books I read after we moved into this home and started our gardens.
Also on my reading list is Shrink-Smart Small Towns: Communities can still thrive as they lose population by David Peters available to download for free from Iowa State Extension.  I'm really interested in preserving our rural communities, the schools and economies, and am hopeful that regenerative agriculture will play a part as time goes on.

         What's On Your Reading List?
Leave a comment below or on the Facebook link

Here are some other books I would recommend for readers interested in a good book to help inspire a landscape change or just kindle the dream of next season while the fireplace crackles.
Paradise Lot by Eric Toensmier and Jonathan Bates is the story of two plant geeks and their experience transforming a tenth acre lot surrounding a Holyoake, Massachusetts duplex into an edible oasis. 

If you like this book and are really interested in a deep dive into forest gardening Eric's 2-volume book Edible Forest Gardens with Dave Jacke is a veritable encyclopedia of theory and examples.

Taking the forest gardening concept to large scale agricultural systems is Mark Shepard.  His book Restoration Agriculture explains how by mimicking natural ecosystems we can create diverse, and profitable, agricultural systems that provide all our needs of food, fuel, building materials and more with more resiliency with less reliance on input heavy annual crops.

Along the same lines and previous to Mark's work is one of the inspirational works that led to the origin of Permaculture is Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture by J Russell Smith.

Another book I have to read this winter was a gift from a customer this year.  Thank you!  The Urban Farmer by Curtis Stone is a practical hands on guide to growing food for profit in your own and others backyards.  Curtis is a regular on the Permaculture Voices podcast with Diego Footer and our own local urban garden market, Dogpatch Urban Gardens, took the lessons in this book and ran with them.

There's also The One Straw Revolution, Mycelium Running, Sepp Holzer's Permaculture, The Resilient Farm and Homestead, and on and on and on...

The possibilities are sure to fill your downtime this winter and bookshelves for winters to come!

Happy Reading!

Schedule your design now, and be ready for installation this Spring!

Don't forget your indoor plants, a little boost from Browne Atlas's worm castings will do them good!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

What does Regenerative mean?

What is Regenerative?  What about Sustainability?

I've used this word to describe what Abundant Design does and some people may not understand why I feel it better describes what we do better than sustainable.  Sustainability is a big buzz word these days with even industrial agriculture giants Monsanto, Syngenta and more using it to describe their actions.  They may not use it how I would use it, but maybe something is better than nothing. Or is it just corporate "green-washing"?

That is why the distinction is even more important!

Sheet mulching at the healing garden this week
and the first of many loads of organic matter,
to build soil structure and feed the soil life.

If we consider the default mode for extracting resources, such as mining, you could say we are being 'degenerative' where there will be less and less of the resource over time.  The word sustainable means the ability to continue without change or degradation.  Is that really what we want?  To continue with the status quo, as is?

The term regenerative means renewal, regrowth and restoration.  I much prefer to regenerate topsoil, restore water quality and rebuild our lost natural diversity!

Here is a video about the 777 Bison Ranch that uses Holistic Management, a regenerative approach made famous by the TED talk by Allan Savory.  I used to drive by there on my way to Rapid City from Hot Springs when I did my internship at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota.

The graphic above are from "Kiss the Ground" I encourage you to read that article.  Here's another article for more about regenerative revolution at the Organic Consumers Association, and another video from the Rodale Institute and Organic India.

So maybe we should think about the term sustainability and consider striving for a more regenerative lifestyle.  Instead of leaving a legacy of doing "less bad" we can really improve things for future generations. 
Have a great week!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Small Business Saturday

Today is Small Business Saturday and as a special deal, Abundant Design is giving
$25 off
initial consultations scheduled through the end of November!

If you plan to do a full design and installation package, we'll still deduct the full consultation price from the design.

Your yard can become a sustainable oasis and a foraging paradise!

Shop Small, Shop Local!
Shop Abundant Design!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

Looking back from the track loader
A little late on the post this week.  As the weather changes, and there is less and less daylight each day, I've been trying to spend more time with and reconnect with my family.  I'm very excited for this Thanksgiving holiday!

Work still continues, and yesterday dug in the water catchment swales/rain gardens at the healing garden project.  I'm thankful for the beautiful weather before this chilly wind rolled in.

What is a swale?  A swale is a ditch for collecting water, generally to move it elsewhere without undue erosion.  In my projects we usually use a swale on contour, meaning it is nearly level and water collects and soaks into the soil hydrating it.  If there is too much rain, it will move off site in a controlled manner, but we try to infiltrate as much as we can into organic matter rich soil for our plants use.

This video shows one of this summer's rain garden projects where we elongated them to act as hydrating features of the landscape, which will drought-proof the hazelnut, aronia and raspberry plantings.

Video Tour of a large Rain Garden

Back to the healing garden, I am also thankful for Beemer Landscaping who did the initial site grading for the walking paths. I've also used them for some retaining walls and other projects.  Their water features are top notch and Korey and his team have won awards at home shows where I have had feature gardens.

I'm also thankful for Bob and Tessa at Blooming Prairie Nursery.  I have had Bob help me on a couple projects and purchased many plants from them, check them out for your prairie and native plant needs.

Brandon at Browne Atlas has also been a friend and cooperator of Abundant Design.  They have worm castings available and can be used with our landscape installations for an early boost to your plantings.

Will and Jonathan are great guys over at Trinity Tree Care has also been a great resource, tree trimming help and helpful tree care advice.

Although I didn't get to work with Ralph as much this year, I am thankful for his friendship as well.  You can help out the Forest Avenue Community Orchard on Giving Tuesday and/or head down there on December 2nd to help with fall cleanup, meet new friends and enjoy refreshments.

I'm also thankful for my summer intern Michael, Ray at Cherry Glen Learning Farm, Drew at Land Matters and all of my wonderful customers.

I'm also so very thankful for my wife and family and their support this past year as the business has grown and I haven't always been home as much as I should have been.  After getting home past dark last night, with two of my kids helping me out, my wife had supper waiting, so I could eat quickly and get to the board meeting at Cherry Glen on time.

God has truly blessed me, and I am Thankful!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Save the Leaves, Part II

Last year about this time I wrote about saving leaves for an easy way to add organic matter to your soil.  Read that article here-

Organic matter feeds healthy soil life, improves the water holding capacity of sandy soils and the workability of clay soils.

Recently I shared an article on Facebook about how Backyard Abundance, very similar to Abundant Design, is encouraging people to keep their leaves, and even ask for more.  Here's the local news video talking to their director Fred Meyer.

Well, one of my customers from this summer took that advice, and we arranged a load of leaves to be delivered. 

The load arrives, right next to the Norway Spruce we planted

He has been grooming his lawn for some time and it really looks great. Unfortunately homes in newer suburban developments are notorious for having poor soils, low in organic matter.

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More recently they've been looking for natural approaches, from using Milorganite and spent coffee grounds in the lawn, adding a butterfly and vegetable garden, composting and our recent project.

We planted several trees and shrubs to enhance the windbreak and shade their home in summer, along with a strip of native prairie plants for pollinator habitat.  Next stages will include a larger vegetable space, natural playscape and possibly a rain garden.

These leaves are a great natural addition to the soil building efforts going on, that won't contaminate the soil or groundwater, but could actually improve it.

Spread and ready to be mulched

After the first pass with the mower

Ready for the snow, a few freeze/thaws and these leave pieces will be rich soil