Suburban Permaculture with Janet Barocco and Richard Heinberg

pm100_600Tour Janet and Richard’s quarter acre for an example of what’s possible in suburbia. Their front yard of edible plants also provides habitat for birds and insects. The backyard radiates out from an herb and kitchen garden to vegetable beds and containers; 25 fruit and nut trees; and a restful Zen garden. Near a future pond is a “three sisters” spiral of corn, beans and squashes. Check out their rainwater catchment barrels system, solar ovens, grid-tied photovoltaics with backup batteries, a low-energy house, solar-heated garden room, and a comfortable “summer palace” of natural and salvaged materials. []. See photos of their yards, including a “before” picture here. Episode 100.

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  1. Iselin Celestine says:

    So appreciative of all the ideas, perspectives, and information presented here in response to the initial questions. I have wondered about all of this myself. Most/much of our society in modernity seems convinced of the overall benefit of modern medicine, housing structures, etc. I think that we have made profoundly concerning trade-offs. The sheer amount of medical waste that is buried, burned, etc.? What of that simply used by people in their own homes? Pharmaceuticals dumped into water and soil (years ago, I worked in a medical clinic – witnessed the large hefty bags of expired pharmaceuticals ready to be disposed of…how and where)? And virtually everything that is used to construct or “improve” a house or building? Totally toxic! I find it greatly challenging to accept that, at this point – due to the widespread prevalence of all of this ‘industrial waste’ – we can probably only do…the best that we can do. Chemicals (everywhere) and all. On an uplifting note – this show. It (does) uplift me with every viewing – probably 5+ of these thus far. So thank you:)

  2. In response to the compost question. One thing to consider is that if the waste is part of the humanure system, then that means it has already been consumed and passed through a human system once. If anything, the process of then composting it and turning it back into food will greatly reduce any toxicity. I don’t know specifics, mainly what I have read in “The Humanure Handbook”, but composting seems to do a pretty impressive job of breaking down anything that would be passing through our system. As Alan shared, the key is heat and time, both being preferable, but either being sufficient. It is also important to consider who is using the toilet. If it is primarily family and you know what you are putting into your body and therefore what is coming out, then there’s not much to worry about. I would recommend trying to consume as little of the artificial substances that many of our “foods” are contaminated with and then you won’t have any problems. The short and sweet answer I would give, as a lay-person, without lab testing capabilities, is that yes, composting will do wonders in wiping out the toxins that we encounter on a daily basis. Ultimately, if you’re still concerned about it, you can always use your humanure compost for non-edibles. Have fun!

  3. What the Heinberg’s did in their own backyard is not just promoting an eco-friendly home where they are not promoting solar energy but being near to Mother Nature. With their own rainwater catchment’s barrels system, solar ovens, grid-tied photovoltaics with backup batteries, a low-energy house, solar-heated garden room, and a comfortable “summer palace” they are one of those few people who would like to save our planet. They are not just cool, but compassionate family to nature.

  4. What a great story. I think that this will really resonate with people, particularly as our economy falters and everyone is striving for more sustainable, low-impact (and low-cost) living. Unfortunately, in American suburbia, more and more developments have covenants in place that would prohibit homeowners from planting front yard gardens—and other things you’ve discussed in your video.

  5. The Cascadia Permaculture Institute is offering a certificate in Teaching Permaculture, this June 5-11 in beautiful, southern Oregon. One of the best ways to spread the word about permaculture is to hold workshops. Churches, schools, neighborhood associations, freinds’ houses. That’s how I discovered permaculture, at a friend’s house. It was life changing! Now I’m I’ve got my Permaculture Design Certificate and will be taking this class in June so I can spread the word myself. Maybe I’ll see you there!
    For Teacher Training details, visit:

  6. Re: 100: Suburban Permaculture with Janet Barocco and Richard Heinberg

    I am the designer/inventor/owner of the Hanging Food Dehydrator called the “Food PANTrie”
    801 652-5577.
    Fun to see someone making good use of one, but they didn’t mention the Sprouting aspect. One can grow more enzyme rich food by sprouting in the Food PANtrie that a family can consume.


  7. Here are my responses to Kris’s questions:

    Question 1: *What is the best way to sterilize rainwater for consumption? I think there is a solar method (used in Cuba maybe?).

    – My response: My answer assumes that your stored water is not infested with mosquito larvae, which is another topic regarding netting or screening. What are the surfaces that the rainwater travels on before it is harvested? Assuming that this is a rooftop: is it “composite” material that could include petroleum-based tars? Is it cedar shingles, now often treated with fire retardant chemicals? Is it a metal roof, and if so, is it galvanized or painted? Boiling will handle micro-organisms, but not necessarily chemical waste… A very good filter will handle both, but replacement parts may be hard to obtain in potentially uncertain future conditions…

    Question 2: *When using a composting toilet–Is it safe to use our culture’s “raw material?” I mean we consume so many chemicals. Does the composting process fix this?

    My response: One issue is whether the chemicals in average North American human feces are transformed or at least neutralized (rendered harmless) in the composting process. It is an entirely different question whether or not there is uptake into the edible tissues of food/medicine plants, or a health-risk through direct contact between food plants and contaminated material.
    My preferred composting toilet methodology is detailed in “The Humanure Handbook” by Joseph Jenkins. In this book he has a whole chapter dedicated to biological pathogens & parasites; what handles these, ultimately, is a combination of heat & time. And I realize your question was about chemicals. His is a hot-compost method from which the finished product is preferable to most commercial mouldering (cold) composting toilets.
    One very intriguing Permaculture-related book is “Mycelium Running” by Paul Stamets. In this book he details the use of mushroom mycelia to break down diesel in contaminated soil, to render chemical munitions harmless, and to uptake radiation and heavy metal contamination for safer disposal.
    Your concern very much depends on WHAT chemicals you are concerned about, whether or not there is any realistic chance of uptake by the plants (and into the specific plant parts) you’d be consuming, and whether you have a healthy enough mycelial population to handle what you put down (and the willingness and resources to do before and after testing).
    Stamets’ book has extensive charts on what mushrooms handle which types of contamination.
    I hope this helps.
    ~Alan Seid

  8. 1. I use a solar water distiller to “distill” water, which purifies it. Sterilizing water kills it.

    2. I understand that if anyone who uses your toilet takes pharmaceuticals or chemicals that there is no guarantee. Those that use composting toilets usually have 2 composting toilets…
    one big one for use later in the garden
    and a little one for sick people and very toxic people. This waste is isolated away from food plants, trees and bushes

    Most states and counties are avidly pushing composting now, to save room in the landfills. You could call your county extension agent and ask them. Some good scientists are working now in the composting industry. To accurately answer you would probably require a lab.

  9. Folks into permaculture could answer your questions, I think. My guesses are – possibly solar distillation for the rainwater (basically, boiling it). As for the toxins we consume, I want to know that, too! I’d hope the bacteria breaking down the compost would do a pretty thorough job, but perhaps not with the complex drugs and food additives and even airborne pollution. Let’s try to find out and post it here.

  10. Just watched this video. Heinberg’s preparations at home give his books/presentations validity.

    Our family will soon (I hope this summer) obtain a larger spot of land and attempt to start from scratch with eco-friendly living. I’m not sure if this is the appropriate place to ask, but I have two nagging questions:

    *What is the best way to sterilize rainwater for consumption? I think there is a solar method (used in Cuba maybe?).

    *When using a composting toilet–Is it safe to use our culture’s “raw material?” I mean we consume so many chemicals. Does the composting process fix this?



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