By Rileigh Barton
Hi, I’m Rileigh, and I’m 13 years old. I volunteer for Sustainable Solano with my dad. I’ve gone to two Sustainable Landscaping classes so far at a food forest in Fairfield called “Mom’s Delight.” But first, I’ll tell you a little about me, and how I got involved in permaculture.
It all started at The Tomato Festival, Fairfield’s annual celebration of the tomato harvest, in August. My dad met Kathleen Huffman, Landscape Designer; and Nicole Newell, Program Manager at Sustainable Solano, and got involved with the program. Once he bought certified permaculture expert Denise Rushing’s book, “Tending the Soul’s Garden: Permaculture as a Way Forward Through Difficult Times“, Dad became fascinated with the idea of permaculture, which is short for permanent agriculture. Permaculture design is a way to work with nature to grow a resilient and edible eco-system. In September, Dad went to a Speaker Training class which kicked off my own interest in permaculture.
Two weeks ago on Saturday, Dad and I went to a Sustainable Landscape class, and witnessed the birth of a food forest. Kathleen talked to us about what we were going to be doing that day, and she taught us what swales were. Then the Food Forest Keeper, Brenda, came up front and told us about the forest. She’d nicknamed it “Mom’s Delight” because before she planted the garden in the backyard, her mom stayed inside all the time. Now her mom comes out and walks around and she’s happy. We then got to work. We first dug a swale, a ditch about 2 feet wide and 1 foot deep that is flat on the bottom. Then we filled it with mulch. There were lots of big dirt clods, and Kevin, a fellow volunteer, came in with a mattock to break up some of the clods. Before we planted the calamondin tree and the apple tree, Kathleen gave us a small lesson on how to plant trees and the best conditions for them. Then we planted the trees, mixing the natural soil with organic potting soil, and watered them.
A couple days ago, Dad and I went to another Sustainable Landscaping class. This time we were installing a Laundry-to-Landscape system, which saves time, saves water, and conserves energy. Christina and Nina from Greywater Action talked to us about these benefits and more, and oversaw the event. Up until lunch half of us worked inside while the other half worked outside. Dad and I worked on digging mulch basins, which are similar to swales, but often surround a single plant. Kevin and I took turns with the mattock to help with the digging. After lunch, we assembled and installed the Laundry-to-Landscape pipes. Then we worked together to irrigate the mulch basins. We didn’t quite finish, but Dad, Kathleen, and I came back the next day to finish.
This experience was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Permaculture is the only way to make Earth a healthier, and nicer, place to live. Definitely more people should participate in this, and I’m glad I got the chance to: “Save the world, one yard at a time!”