By Joanna Palmer, Resilient Neighborhood Homeowner

Last Saturday, my neighbors and I were incredibly touched to see how many people came out to help us install permaculture features in our yards. Around 20 volunteers showed up early on a weekend morning to our block in Vallejo’s Morningside Addition to dig swales, plant trees, mulch and build garden beds.

Throughout the day, neighbors kept dropping by to ask what was going on, and in some cases offer to help out — I think I met more people in one day than I have since the first few weeks of moving to the neighborhood. We had snacks and cold drinks to offer them, but hopefully soon we’ll have something more special: homegrown fruit from the many trees Sustainable Solano helped us plant. If all goes according to plan, in a few years they’ll be providing a harvest much bigger than we can possibly consume on our own.

So many things are better when they’re shared: work, food, knowledge. Sustainable Solano’s permaculturists offered an abundance of the latter on Saturday. We learned how to dig a swale to collect rainwater runoff; how to plan a hugelkultur, a raised mound for recycling yard waste that creates great soil; and how to build an herb spiral that creates tiny little microclimates for growing many different plants in a small space.

Creating the hugelkultur garden bed at one home and the herb spiral at another

My partner and I are recent transplants from the East Coast, and this project represents a realization of so many of our hopes for moving to California. We were drawn here by the natural beauty, the weather that makes living outdoors year-round so appealing, and the easygoing lifestyle. Vallejo in particular seemed to offer a chance to make our home in one of the few places left in the Bay Area that’s still full of multigenerational families with a community-minded orientation.

Strong communities will be essential to thrive in the world that’s coming, and I’m so grateful to Sustainable Solano for providing us with this vehicle to start building one. Over the long term, I hope we can use this project as a foundation for an array of different offerings. I’d love to help develop a food-sharing network, workshops and a hub for disaster-preparedness resources.

More immediately, I’m just really excited to be learning so much.

Joanna is part of the Vallejo pilot project in the Resilient Neighborhoods program, which is funded through a grant from the PG&E Corporation Foundation.

Learn more about this Resilient Neighborhoods pilot project in Vallejo here.

Interested in learning some of these techniques to bring to your own community?

Register for the upcoming workshops at the links below:

June 1Greywater and Lawn Conversion
June 8: Understory, Drip and Water-Capture Feature
June 15Swales, Mulch, Trees, Hugelkultur
June 22Laundry-to-Landscape Greywater Installation
June 29Understory and Drip Irrigation

We hope to see you there!