Permaculture film event draws crowd

Inhabit panelThe June 19th screening of the film “Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective” and discussion by a panel of leading permaculture experts drew a standing-room-only crowd at the Sebastopol Grange.
(Back) Event organizers: Gary Abreim, Dean LaCoe, Hrieth Anet Pezzi.
(Front) Panel: Emmett Brennan, Penny Livingston-Stark, Brock Dolman, Starhawk. (Not pictured: Erik Ohlsen) Photo by Kerry Brady.

Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the health and well-being of our planet?

The documentary film “Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective,” presented Friday, June 19, by the Sebastopol Grange, explores the many environmental issues facing us today and examines solutions that use “permaculture” to help shift our impact from destructive to regenerative. Permaculture is an ecological design process based on the replication of patterns found in nature. “Inhabit” provides an intimate look at permaculture peoples and practices ranging from rural, suburban, and urban landscapes. Permaculture Magazine calls the new documentary “the best film ever made about permaculture!”

A panel discussion by leading permaculture experts followed the screening, which included: Starhawk, Earth Activist and renowned author; Brock Dolman, Co-Founder, Occidental Arts and Ecology; Penny Livingston-Stark, Visionary Teacher and Designer, Commonweal; Erik Ohlsen, Executive Director, The Permaculture Skills Center and Emmett Brennan, Inhabit Assistant Director & Producer.

“A movement is brewing here in West County and we at the Sebastopol Grange are proud to play host to it! Like a permaculture design, that hall is made of thoughtful channeling of resources—not just of water and nutrients, but of our neighbors. We hope you’ll join us every last Tuesday of the month for our free community potluck and contribute to the regenerative process that is the Grange.”
Evan Wiig, Grange Lecturer.

Inhabit at Sebastopol Grange

Feb Presentation ~ SR Plain Historical Ecology

Laguna WetlandSpeaker Bio – Dr. Chuck Striplen has worked as an Environmental Scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) for 13 years, specializing in the fields of historical ecology and cultural landscapes.
SFEI is a non-profit research and monitoring organization working at a state-wide level, and staffs a Joint Powers Authority called the Aquatic Science Center (ASC). Dr. Striplen received his MS and PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from UC Berkeley. 

The topic of discussion will be the “Santa Rosa Plain Historical Ecology Initiative” – through which, in partnership with the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, we’re working to develop historical information on the form and function of the SR Plain’s creeks, wetlands, and terrestrial environments to inform management and restoration of these important systems.laguna estuary

Historical ecology has come to represent an important contribution to watershed planning and restoration across the state – providing critical information about our watersheds’ underlying physical processes and patterns, often masked by the passage of time and dramatic historic changes.

The SFEI/Laguna Foundation team is working closely with local agencies and archives to compile this information, and local residents are welcome to contribute their own history, photos, maps, and narratives to the process.

The Laguna de Santa Rosa (Laguna) watershed spans 256 square miles and supports a unique complex of biologically diverse ecosystems.

Containing the urban centers of Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Cotati, Rohnert Park, and Windsor, the Laguna watershed encompasses one of the largest floodplains in California.Laguna map

Historically the Laguna watershed supported a diverse ecosystem consisting of oak savanna/vernal pool complexes, riparian forest, emergent and off channel wetlands, and open water.

The Laguna has been intensively modified, yet it still supports 19 species federally listed as threatened or endangered including the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii), and Chinook and Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and Oncorhynchus mykiss).

Laguna main channel and surrounding floodplain were recently designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Convention), joining less than 30 other sites in the nation to receive this significant global recognition. The Laguna watershed is a critical ecological, economic, and recreational resource in the region. Typical of many communities in the San Francisco Bay area and throughout California, the watershed faces the challenges of sustaining agricultural production, accommodating expanding populations, promoting watershed and wetland conservation, and mitigating historic and continued anthropogenic impacts. A range of efforts are currently underway to preserve and enhance the natural heritage of the area.

Additional Background info: 
He is also currently a Visiting Scholar in Anthropology at Cal.An avid student of landscape history and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), Dr. Striplen adds another layer of complexity to the Historical Ecology Program’s analysis of the physical and ecological characteristics of the region’s wetlands, creeks, and terrestrial habitats prior to major Euro-American colonization. Through the use of early historical documents, oral histories, and other ethno-ecological sources, Dr. Striplen is currently developing a Cultural Landscapes focus area at SFEI, and contributes analyses of Native Californian resource management that shaped the landscape first encountered by European explorers. Dr. Striplen joined SFEI’s Historical Ecology Team in 2002.

From 2011, comes an interesting article written about collaborating with a local tribe, in the Pinnacles area.

SFEI collaborates with local Tribe and National Park Service to Reintroduce Native Fire to the Pinnacles

Hundreds of years before Pinnacles National Monument became preserved open space, it was heavily used as a resource for basket-making. The native deergrass and white root sedge were valuable materials to the Amah Mutsun tribe, who charred the landscape with controlled fires to promote the re-growth of longer and straighter flower stalks used in coiled baskets.

Read the entire article here.

Jan Talk: Hospital Re-Opening

Raymond Hino
Raymond Hino

Our General Meeting & Potluck, on Jan 27th, hosted a presentation Raymond Hino, the newly hired CEO for Sonoma West Medical Center and the hospital foundation. He called the proposed facility a “modern, 21st century hospital” that “emphasizes top-of-the-line high quality outpatient surgical and medical services.” It was an interesting and well received overview of what is in the works.

Here is the article that covered much of what was said at the meeting, except we had the pleasure of actually meeting, visiting, and talking with some of the principles.

Before the presentation, the new CEO Mr. Hino & Dr. Powers applied and joined the Grange, along with 6 other new members. Reaching out to each part of our community to connect and build bridges is a core theme we embrace, and are happy to welcome them all.

Palm Drive Hospital officials targeting April 6 reopening

January 21, 2015, 8:49PM

An effort to reopen Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol in April is ramping up.

Details of the proposed new hospital are emerging as the hospital board has given approval for a local hospital foundation to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance costs to ready the facility.

“It’s clear that we are progressing and moving the ball down the field, and we’re working together,” said Dennis Colthurst, one of two new board members elected in November.

Read the entire article here.

Localizing Requires Connections

It’s one thing to say, “Buy Local”, but it actually means more than just going down to the local store and buying it there.

Of course, the preference is to support local businesses because that keeps local people small business heart of economyemployed, ya da, ya da. BUT… think about the next step.  Buying locally produced items.

Buying something Made in China, but purchased locally, is sometimes unavoidable. The USA has stopped making most things. It can be a real challenge to find stuff not made overseas. Sometimes we can find those items and then comes the next crisis. Actually, we have a hard time paying USA prices.

We want to have our cake, and eat it too.  Inexpensive (or a very modest increase in price) and locally produced; at least produced in the USA.  If you factor in a decent wage and a small profit for the business owner (so he can stay in business)… you have to think at least $20/hr wage + benefits = not a trivial cost. It IS the REAL cost, though.  Not one produced by slave labor at $1-5/hr.

I went down to Target to buy some pillowcases.  Looking for organic cotton. Hmmm, would you believe it? THEY HAD THEM.  $38 for a pair of king pillowcases?  OMG, the budget could not handle that one. Guess I’ll have to do without organic.  The next feasible option, reuse… Goodwill, here I come. If I have to save my dollars for organic, it will be organic food.

As Americans, at the top of the pyramid, we have been terribly spoiled.  Only 10% of our income channeled to food purchases, unlike most of the rest of the world.

How can we rewrite the story?  The Grange will begin to offer a “service directory” for it’s members (and maybe for others?) that list services & items that can be purchased, bartered, or traded.  To buy local, we need to find out just what IS local, and where to get it.  The Locastore run by Susan Butler (Grange Member) is an awesome step along the path of relocalizing. She provides a venue for local producers to vend their products at a convenient crossroads, Hwy 116 & Bloomfield Rd., Sebastopol, CA

Locastore’s Open!  Giant beets, leeks & cabbage. Still have peppers, tomatillos & zhuchinni in December!  Tuscan winter squash.  Local dried seaweeds.  Bargain kiwis & persimmons .25 each.  Sonoma Sprouts.  Sweet Dumpling squash.  Greens, flowers, wreaths, gifts & toys. Locally wild-crafted evergreen trees.  Container edibles.  House plants. Come see! 

1830 South Gravenstein Hwy 116 at Bloomfield Road Sebastopol 95472

SpotLight ~ Gary Abreim

Behind the Curtain….

Is a certain person, that in his quiet unassuming way, has a major part in keeping this show up and running. By that I mean no disrespect to the others in our leadership group, but this guy shoulders a pretty large load.  Areas that most of us would absolutely cringe if we had to do it on an ongoing basis… the management of the finances of our grange, as well as handling the rentals that provide us with an income to support the Grange operations. Meeting with prospective renters frequently, IRS taxes, Legal Filings, Dues, Grange Paperwork, balancing the Books (and checkbooks, (tracking receipts, expenditures, etc)… well, it makes my head hurt to just think about it.

Gary Abreim comes to us with a wealth of accounting experience that he puts to use here.  Officially retired, I think he works full-time, talking with prospective renters, groups, & co-ordiating activities that happen here at our Hall. He does manage an annual vacation, I understand, to Burning Man (where he let’s down his hair… oh… wait… hair, did I say hair?)

It’s a rare meeting that does not have Gary quietly sitting with his laptop, keeping track of what is going on.  It’s that consistency that allows others of us, to move in and out of the work of the Grange… because we know someone is holding down the fort!Me

Farmers’ Bill of Rights

Petaluma Grange Host Farmers’ Bill of Rights Meeting,

w/State Grange President Bob McFarland                  

June 23, Monday 7pm  ~   Lydia’s Sunflower Center, Petaluma

All who Eat

Grange members, Farmers’ Guild members, Farmers, food producers, advocates, activists, consumers and everyone who eats is encouraged to attend a Farmers’ Bill of Rights meeting. There is strength from numbers. Let’s send a message.

Featuring California State Grange President Bob McFarland, at Lydia’s Sunflower Center, 1435 N. McDowell Blvd, Ste. 100 in Petaluma, on Monday, June 23 at 7pm.

Since 2012, the California Grange has held a series of meetings across the state to discuss a declaration of a Farmers’ Bill of Rights that would recognize the essential role which farmers will play in creating a resilient & sustainable local food and agricultural system.


According to McFarland, “It is important that consumers, retailers, and regulators understand and respect the needs and expectations of the people who grow our food. The Farmers’ Bill of Rights will promote awareness and appreciation for the tillers of the soil.”

This ongoing public discussion has yielded a growing list of common concerns among farmers, including:

  • A farmer’s right to provide access to fresh fruit, vegetables and food products which encourage healthier food choices at home and in schools

  • A farmer’s right to grow crops without the danger of off-farm pollution, be it chemical or genetic, borne by water, soil, or air

  • A farmer’s right to germinate, save and use their own seed

  • A farmer’s right to protect agricultural land for the benefit of future generations

  • A farmer’s right to use and store any water that comes from or falls on their land

  • A farmer’s right to produce food free of unwarranted government interference



Join in, as we cultivate a sustainable community with universal access to:

  • healthy food,
  • promote reinvestment in our local economies,
  • embrace our diverse cultural heritage,
  • honor the wisdom of our elders,
  • and support each other in our efforts to be responsible stewards of the land for the benefit of future generations.

Directions: Take Hwy 101 to Petaluma. Exit N Petaluma Blvd, Turn East (toward hills). Take a Left @ N McDowell Blvd, located at 1435,  #100 on your right.

The Sunflower Center
1435 N McDowell Blvd #100
Petaluma, CA 94954 


Self-Watering Containers SWC

May Monthly Grange Meeting Topic:

It’s called Self Watering, NOT because you don’t ever have to water, but because the plant pulls the water on the schedule IT determines.

It self-waters from the pool you provide (and refill). We saw a Slide show on how to create your own productive container garden, using Self-Watering Containers!

Dramatically increased production!
Dramatically increased production!
SWC - Self-Watering Containers
SWC – Self-Watering Containers

         By creating a water reservoir, an air space, and utilizing slow release organic fertilizers, production increases dramatically as the stress on the plant is decreased.

Water reserve,  air space, organic fertilizer
Water reserve, air space, organic fertilizer

Critical to the technique is to provide an overflow opening in the outer/bottom tub so that water cannot fill up the air space. To allow the roots to exchange air easily, many 1/4″ holes perforate the base of the inner tub. The tub is lined with landscape

top Container prepped
top Container prepped

fabric, except where the wicking pot is, and filled with potting soil.  Roots need air for high performance (exchanging CO2 & O2) and this method allows for easy air access.

The wicking pot, sits in the  3-4″ water reservoir , and is filled with the potting soil mixture which touches the inner tub soil; it enables the plant to pull up water as it needs it.  Landscape fabric is utilized to prevent the soil from falling through the air holes in the upper tub or leaking out of the wicking pot, and filling the water reservoir.

wicking pot~fill with potting soil & will sit into water reservoir
wicking pot~fill with potting soil & will sit into water reservoir

The water reserve tub is filled every 2-4 days, depending on outdoor temperatures & plant size.


It’s called Self Watering, NOT because you don’t ever have to water, but because the plant pulls the water on the schedule IT determines.  It self-waters from the pool you provide (and refill).

A YouTube link that shows how to build: Variation of SWC – home video

An overview page Pot within a Pot (water reservoir) method can be found at this link: SWC – Self-Watering Containers

Veggies & Flowers

Dirty Dozen, Clean Thirteen

Dirty Dozen, Clean Thirteen

Confronted with a budget, when going to the market and facing the produce available, a question often comes to mind. WHICH fruits/veggies should I be most careful of purchasing as organic.  Hopefully all, but if I have to make a choice… what do I base it on?


An excellent resource is the “Environmental Working Group” (EWG), which is tasked to do studies on products, evaluating contamination levels.

All 48 of the most popular fruits and vegetables had pesticide residue data and were placed on a list from the most to the least contaminated. Residue that could not be washed off. Three items, nectarines, blueberries and snap pea had very different ratings depending on whether they were imported or not.