Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Some day a real rain's going to come ... "

... And we'll take all the rain off the street".
That's because we captured it in on contour swales!
 While we are in this record drought period with no sign of rain in sight here is some inspiration for action we can take now to prepare for when we do get a blessing from the skies. And to be fair we did get a thunderstorm early this morning so we are already using these simple and effective earthworks to capture valuable, free rainwater before it get to the drain or the street.
POV Excavator cab

On Contour Swales are a way to slow, spread and sink rainwater in order to store it in the ground.
Geoff Lawton eloquently describes the concept in this short video.

Here are some that I built in Oakland last week working along side my friend Christopher Schein. He is a master of Permaculture Design and long time teacher.
Please check out his book The Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Permaculture and his Permaculture Class at Merritt College.
The Eucalyptus logs to the right are forming a raised bed for vegetables.
 The berm on the Left will be planted with fruit trees
A swale in the making.
We used some water to find the level.
You can also see a transit in the upper left corner.
We also use an "A" frame.
There are various ways of getting the swales level or "On Contour". It is possible to use a water level, laser, transit or a home made A frame
The berm on this swale will be planted with native plants.
 Here are a couple more from a different site in Oakland. Taking care not to disturb the bee hives.
Adding mulch to the swale basin.

  Lafayette in May 2014

Las Trampas Ridge in Lafayette. Mid December 2013.

Often we need to work around existing trees.
Being mindful of their roots we attempt to sink water into their drip line.

Edge of swimming pool
Last year saw a very dry December. Typically it would not be possible to do this kind of excavation in the winter months without making a huge mess, especially around a pool.
I would love to get some "Now" photos to compare the before and after shots. 
Enjoy the fruits of the season,


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Full Tax Moon

The full moon in April is known as the Egg Moon in England. Native Americans also called it the Pink Moon. It has also been known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, Fish Moon, Seed Moon and Waking Moon.

Today is the last day to file 2013 taxes and it’s a full moon so I’m seeing it as the Tax Moon this year.

The concept of taxes includes sharing our individual bounty for the good of All.

The Center Avenue Community garden is all about sharing.


Would you be willing to share some of your tax refund to support the Center Avenue Community Garden project that offers so many benefits to our community? Or even pay a little extra to support a useful public creation where you can see the beauty of what your funding creates year round in partnership with Mother Nature?

                                   We want CACG to THRIVE

The Short Version


We need some funds to pay for our water at CACG.

We sub meter water from the Church.

From January to mid April we have paid out $77 for water.

For this same period we have received $40 in donations with a zero balance brought forward from last year.

We are reducing our 2014 planting area to save water usage until we receive enough donations to cover a full crop this season.

Please be assured that we are very careful with our water usage; even to the faucets.

Last year we spent $827 on water. This year we expect to pay less, perhaps $500 – 600.

If you can help to sponsor our water use at CACG, please contact me at 925-286-7225 (text OK) or email

Any amount is welcome.

Please help fund this project and make the statement “Yes I want this beautiful garden to thrive.”

The THRIVE hive at MPC

One of the magnificent CACG supporters in the photo above has advised me 'not to over think it' and yet I feel I need to explain a little more. So ....

The slightly longer version, but still readable I hope


What Should We Plant Now ?

At the Center Avenue Community Garden I am frequently asked “What should we plant now ?” It’s a reasonable question and technically now in mid-April there are a whole range of summer crops that are in season for planting. I find it more difficult to answer the “What to plant” question this year due to the lack of funds for the many, sometimes not so obvious, expenses.


Firstly, as of January 2014 Governor Jerry Brown declared a statewide emergency and made the drought in California official. This was confirmation of what we already knew but drew our attention to the need to conserve water. If rationing, or a penalty system, were to be applied then as a community we would want to bear our responsibility to reduce water consumption. The Contra Costa Water District has asked its customers to reduce consumption by 15% in 2014.


We sub meter water used by the garden from the First Baptist Church of Pacheco. The church owns the land that CACG occupies. We would wish to be respectful stewards, both in actuality and perception, regarding the public observation of water conservation on our host’s land.


The question of what to plant also meshes with the question “How much can we afford to water?” It would seem prudent not to plant more than we can irrigate when necessary. From May 2013 to January 2014 we reimbursed the Church $827 for water used.  At this point, we have no funds for water or any other project this year. To maintain a full and vibrant garden we will need more financial help than is expected, or possible from a handful of ardent families that have been paying bills for the garden as we have known it in previous years.


Finally the question of “How much planting can we tend to?” With just a handful of loyal garden supporters actively participating in the management of the garden on a regular basis, it is possible that we could waste resources by overplanting. The raised beds require the most attention. Last year their full potential was not realized through lack of hands weeding, thinning, transplanting and monitoring the water delivery.


I would also mention that it is disheartening to those who stretch themselves to contribute financially and gift their time to witness whole corn stalks and other valuable plants being removed to feed the goats. It can seem as though the community in general does not see the value of locally produced food. And yet many come through and harvest from the garden which demonstrates an awareness of its existence. I personally believe that locally produced food is very much the norm of the future and we are just on the tip of a large scale revolution in food production that reintroduces small scale farming practices.


At CACG every week someone makes a point of thanking us for creating the garden, tells us how beautiful it is and what a difference it has made in their lives.

 I hear “You are doing a great job” and I wish it could be “WE are doing a great job” Myself and others have heard statements such as “Why can’t the Church pay for this” and “Can’t you get anyone to help you?”  We so want this to be a community project.  We are 4 years into this evolution of the garden and would love to have our local community take ownership and responsibility for this amazing opportunity.


CACG will continue in some form regardless of the level of community support. Your financial assistance will allow it to evolve faster, providing a meeting place for sustainable lifestyle classes, children’s education of where their food comes from, local DVC permaculture lab classes, natural building projects, picnics, yoga classes, etc.


CACG has proven itself to be a great demonstration and inspiration with regard to practically applying Permaculture principles in Martinez. In the next post I would like to share in more detail some of the actual, and many potential, benefits of having such a wonderful piece of land being shared in the community.

OK that's enough!
Come and join us at CACG between 10am and 2pm on Saturdays.

We have our monthly Crop Swap at the garden on Wednesday April 23rd, 6:15 pm. Details in the right side column.

We also have our Movie Night on April 25th. Please see the "More Than Honey" segment in the right side column.

Enjoy the glorious full moon that defies labels.


925 286 7225

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cardboard and Chips Please

On April 5th a group of DVC students led by Permaculture teacher Bethallyn Black visited CACG to undertake a sheet mulching project. Here are some images from this glorious day in the spring sunshine.
Opening boxes, cleaning off tape.

You can find out more about Sheet Mulching at the Sustainable Contra Costa website. Go to Action Guides and click on Food and Garden

Some Sheet Mulching Images here will give an overview of the principal we are applying.

We also enjoyed the company of Little Bit and her week old chicks in the Chicken Tractor.
It's a dark image but the best I have to share with you. The shadow from the overhead netting makes it a challenge to get good photos even when inside the contraption. Hope you can see the chicks.
Little Bit and her 7 chicks

I find it difficult to get good chicken photos at any time because they move so quickly. Generally, as a species, they express little interest in modeling or photography and are not willing posers for the camera. My admiration and respect goes to those who have captured magnificent chicken images. For example in catalogues.
At 4 days old
Finally a suggestion endorsed by the Martinez Permaculture Center ...

Have a Magical April Day,


Thursday, January 16, 2014

One Dry January

The monthly Crop Swap returns to CACG on Wednesday January 22nd at 6:15pm.
January Crop Swap
Wednesday the 22nd
Arrive at 6:15 trading starts at 6:30 pm

We will be trading winter veggies, fruits, eggs, honey, nuts, home canned goods, recipes, ideas, gently used clothing, books, music, magazines, CD's and DVD's

We will enjoy a Bon Fire and hot coco providing it is not a "No burn day".
On January 18th from noon to 3pm the Golden Gate Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers will hold their annual Scion Exchange  Nothing to do with vehicles but passionate garden types swapping sticks! Please click on the link to see how it works.
This fun event will be held in Berkeley next to the Ashby BART station. It's a chance to learn a lot, meet some great people, share your favorite fruit tree prunings and be gifted with a rare opportunity to graft some obscure variety onto your tree at home.
Circling the tables laden with scions (tree prunings) are more tables with local groups showcasing their contributions to the fruit growing community.
This year, for the first time, Martinez Permaculture Center and the Center Avenue Community Garden will have a table to display and present our activities to the fruit friendly assembled masses. Jennifer and Tammy have volunteered to organize and be there to represent us.
Jennifer harvesting potatoes from the potato towers

Tammy moving trimmings after the frost
To Top it off our Garden Friend Ritch Davidson has created a beautiful flyer to accompany the event.
It really is a work of art and most worthy of posting here on the blog if I can find a way of doing that. Currently it is not in a format acceptable for uploading to this blog.
Thank you so much Ritch for applying your professional design skills to this informative document that will serve us for some time to come.
Attempt to protect our citrus trees from the very cold nights of low 20's F temperatures. It appears that they all made it!
The Kale came through unscathed and I feel tastes a little sweeter after being frosted.

The Huglekultur bed has been raised up with woody garden waste and small branches from the locally harvested mulberry limbs. It was topped with compost and wood chips then seeded in December with Red Clover and Kale as a cover crop. If we had received a normal amount of rain the pile (I believe 'Hugle' means pile in German) would have settled somewhat and now in mid January be green with seedlings.

Our Friend Kiel has on many occasion extoled the virtues of going bare foot or at least paying tribute to our connection to the Earth. He has demonstrated his footwear with magnets and educated us on the health benefits of grounding our bodies through our feet.
I have found several websites related to this issue. Here is one promoting a bare foot lifestyle. 
More soon .... David

Monday, November 11, 2013

November Nights

We look forward to a beautiful Full Moon on November 17th

The November moon is often referred to as the Hunter's Moon in England or a Beaver Moon in the Native American tradition. 

November Movie Night 
Friday November 22nd 6-9:30pm
2421 Center Avenue, Martinez, CA 94553
RSVP required as space is limited:
Bring your own dinner/snack and some to share if you are so inclined or dine earlier and just bring yourself :) We will socialize before the movie starts at 7pm. Perhaps a discussion afterwards.
Symphony of the Soil, 2012, 103 minutes
Drawing from ancient knowledge and cutting edge science, Symphony of the Soil is an artistic exploration of the miraculous substance soil. By understanding the elaborate relationships and mutuality between soil, water, the atmosphere, plants and animals, we come to appreciate the complex and dynamic nature of this precious resource. The film also examines our human relationship with soil, the use and misuse of soil in agriculture, deforestation and development, and the latest scientific research on soil’s key role in ameliorating the most challenging environmental issues of our time. Filmed on four continents, featuring esteemed scientists and working farmers and ranchers, Symphony of the Soil is an intriguing presentation that highlights possibilities of healthy soil creating healthy plants creating healthy humans living on a healthy planet.

Another November Night ...

Our November Crop Swap

November 27th, 2013
333 Center Ave, Pacheco
Arrive at 6:15 trading starts at 6:30
Since it will be dark we will have lighting. 
We know that it is the day before Thanksgiving. We also feel that we need to be consistent with holding this space so that everyone can be assured that we will be hosting the Crop Swap on the 4th Wednesday of each month.
However the 4th Wednesday of December coincides with Christmas Day so we will be skipping that date. No Crop Swap in December. We'll be back in January!

A note from Jennifer, our relentless recycler and community builder, who initiated and manages each Crop Swap ...

This month we will be trading fall vegetables, fruit, seeds, plants, honey, eggs, home made canned goods, recipes, as well as books, DVD's, CD's, music, magazines and gently used clothing. 

We will also have a BonFire and hot chocolate to celebrate the changing of the seasons. If you have any questions please call me at 925-360-4762

Thank you to everyone who participated in last months Crop Swap. Not only did we still have plenty of crops to share we collected over 40 Coats and sweatshirts and 10 blankets for the homeless.

Thank you, Jennifer

Another local non-nocturnal date

 Permi Blitz 2013 
Saturday, November 16th, 9am-1pm
Rogers Ranch Community Garden, Pleasant Hill

Taught by permaculture specialists through hands-on activities, this year’s Permi Blitz workshop is all about taking easy, sustainable practices into your own home. Learn all about composting and worm casting, seed saving, how to build an herb spiral, and how to make your own delicious almond milk (and bring some home with you)!
Coffee, tea, snacks and a healthy lunch will be provided.

Space is limited. Register at

Got Scratch?

Henrietta and Egglintine have just gone through a molt period. This is a normal part of their laying cycle whereby their systems basically take a rest. They stop laying and loose a lot of feathers. Their natural laying cycle is orientated to an increasing day length. As the day length decreases they stop laying. Same avian physiology as wild birds who generally build nests and lay eggs in spring.
Happily their plumage is recovering and they we open to being photographed.

We planted onion sets and Beets at CACG this week.
 The local Fruitless Mulberry  (Morus alba) trees have entered their season for pollarding.

"Pollarding trees" means cutting them back nearly to the trunk, so as to produce a dense mass of branches.  Today, usually for aesthetic purposes and/or to keep a beloved tree from outgrowing its bounds, necessitating removal. But traditionally, it was done for other reasons: the cut branches were either fed to livestock (fodder), burned as fuel or used to make furniture.
We will have the wattle panel maker set up soon and you are welcome to come by and build a section.
We also have a plan to build a nest like structure made from Mulberry limbs in the garden. More on that soon.
We are looking for a display cabinet structure to start our own Little Free Library at the garden.
You can see more of the concept behind this community building project at:
Or if someone would like to build one for us that would be wonderful. There are plans on the website. There is also a gallery which showcases many beautiful and creative designs.
I hope you will enjoy some some wonderful November Nights this year.
925 286 7225

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Evolving CACG "I Love That"

Now at three and a half years into the development of CACG I believe we are being guided to begin a new planting. I have some friends that punctuate almost every statement with “I love that” and I’m feeling the same way about the evolution of CACG. So to these new directional seeds I say “I love that”.
Late October Sunflower

Through Life in general we can be assured that change is necessary and constant. I feel that these CACG changes are gentle and joyful evolutionary shifts rather than a cataclysmic breakdown forcing radical change. It might be seen as the example of the forest flora and fauna adapting to a new stage of habitat development rather than recovery after a forest fire.  “I love that”.

A friend of mine reminds me not to ‘over think it’ when I write something for the blog …..       I can tell you that is out the window on this one :)

What is “Evolving” at CACG?
We note that consistent, responsible weekly management of the garden beds has landed in the hands of less than ten extremely dedicated friends. I am honored to work alongside these folks. I will not name them but they know who they are! These few have done much more individually than we know of collectively. They hold the vision with me of where the garden can lead us as a community.
The Center Avenue Community Garden concept has always been mindful of, and open to, other aspects of sustainable, resilient and happy Community Building.
Because of the gift of land as an available resource and my own gardening bias the edible and medicinal components have triumphed and formed the structure giving what is to follow a “There, there”  Other aspects of Permaculture not initially expressed in the launch of CACG would be, not in order of importance: Finance, Energy, Transport, Art, Education and Health plus a few others. “I love that”
Pioneers of the Garden September 11 2010

Initially we had more volunteers on a weekly basis and even though many only participated once or twice we were still able to add features and maintain the raised beds and perimeter plantings. Many came to learn about raised beds, what crops we were growing, when to harvest and how to eat them. They took the knowledge home to apply in their own space and that is a success for CACG. I hope this continues to happen because …. “I love that”
Calendulas. Good cover crop ... bit out of control!
This summer we have not been able to fully utilize the planted areas mainly because of fewer hands on Saturday mornings. We know that Saturdays are not good for some would be volunteers and we hold the space to be able to offer a weekday afternoon and or evening in the future. That would be ideal and at this time none of our ‘core’ group that know what needs to happen can commit consistently to that time in order to instruct drop in helpers as to what needs to happen that day. The slate by the storage area might offer some guidance yet there is only so much we can write on there (not enough details).
This underutilization of the raised beds combined with a burgeoning water bill ($345 for July /August) directs us to ‘edit’ our planting plans for the 2014 season by omitting the Tomatoes and Corn, Beans and Squash in ground planting areas.
We can look forward to a more vibrant, well cared for and financially sustainable raised bed section in 2014. “I love that”

Another Facet of CACG Evolution
While numbers of gardening participants have dwindled this year we have enjoyed strong participation and are inspired by the attendance at our community gathering type activities. These include the Burlap Sack Giveaway,  monthly Crop Swap, Kids Craft Evening and events centered around the barbeque pit. Not to forget the Movie Night which will resume soon. We plan to host more of these events in the future as a means of building community.

Even More Growth
This Spring and Summer the New Leaf students helped us build a Huglekulture bed as part of their curriculum.
I often hear the question ”Why don’t you get more school children involved”?
We have invited school groups. The challenge seems to be fitting it into the school curriculum requirements and just simply finding the time to visit CACG.

Daisies Growing
Our neighbor Elizabeth Mohr with Girl Scout Daisy troop33337 has contacted us regarding focusing their activities on one of our raised beds to further their Green By Nature philosophy. “I love that.”
This is a new direction for us because to date no specific area has been assigned to anyone. It has been decided that the “Thanks” bed best suits their purpose and the Girl Scouts will soon be taking responsibility for that area. They are likely to be helping in other areas of the garden and join us with the spirit of sharing. We will have a small sign set up to inform others of the educational function of this designated area.
Perhaps another local group will be willing to adopt another raised bed or specific area and this could be a great way forward for us!
The "Thanks" raised bed

However CACG is growing I’m continuously touched by stories of how people have found sanctuary, clarity, wisdom and some inner peace during a visit to the garden.
I am encouraged and inspired by those who hold the vision with me. Those who know, without the words to describe exactly how, that this park like space is an important oasis and common ground to bring our neighborhood together, to educate, open hearts and minds and remind us that together we can evolve and thrive.

 …. And I just love that!


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Are You Grateful For?

We held our Center Avenue Community Garden 2nd annual Harvest dinner on September 27th.

Our intention was to celebrate the abundance of the garden with a potluck dinner that generated zero landfill. Everyone brought their own plate and silverware plus a dish to share. We received $30 in donations. Many thanks to all who helped with the organizing, preparation and cleaning up.
There was an impromptu live theater performance.

There was Story Telling

Lots of Gratitude here!

The food was local and wonderful for the most part.

The Crop Swap continues on the 4th Wednesday of each month.

These two images are from the July 24th Swap. In the True spirit of sharing the surplus Buttercup Farms brought over a large amount of surplus produce that might have been sold elsewhere.

Much Gratitude there!

The Sunchokes, or Jerusalem Artichokes are almost ready. They can be harvested in October but, in my opinion, are actually much more tasty in December or January when they have matured in flavor.
Sunchokes flowering in mid September
They can be stored in the ground to mature. Here they could be at risk from Gophers. Or stored in a bucket immersed and covered with sand or soil placed in a cool spot such as a garden shed.
Sunchokes are washed and then can be eaten raw, in a salad for example. They can also be steamed, stir-fried etc.  Here is a link to get you started on feeling Gratitude for Sunchokes.
These are the tubers - the part we can eat
There is so much more to be Grateful for ... and I will have to stop here for the moment and take a breath!

Happy Fall. Happy harvesting in Gratitude.