Mother Earth News Blogs > Green Homes

Green Homes

Building for the future, today – combining the best of historical wisdom and modern technology.


Two Stories About Building Resilient Communities and Bio-Regions

It's been a while since my last blog. It was a productive summer in the garden with tons of tomatoes, figs and peaches. Here are two very recent green and resilient experiences. One on my street, the other a large gathering of permaculture enthusiasts.

The second North American Permaculture Convergence 

The second North American Permaculture Convergence took place the third week in September near Ukiah, California. It was hosted by and companion to, the Building Resilient Communities Convergence, formerly known as the Northern California Permaculture Convergence.

For five days, more than 400 people engaged in networking, presentations, plenaries, panels and culture. The event took place at the Real Goods Solar Living Institute, located on thirteen acres of transformed road side waste land ten miles south of Ukiah. Rubble, scrub and weeds have been turned into beautiful gardens, edible landscaping, ponds, shady niches, solar design and educational displays for living more eco friendly. A great location for a permaculture event!

Fountain and trellis area of the Solar Living Institute

Most attendees were from California but I met people from Texas, Indiana, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado and even Germany, Italy, India and Bulgaria. I also reconnected, after 25 years, with my own permaculture teacher from Austin and re acquainted with the person I knew in Houston over 25 years ago, who had the first suburban permaculture project I had ever seen. Its amazing now.

The event had a good deal of California flair, like a high energy drumming session one morning at 9am. There were fancy laser light effects up in the trees after dark that reminded me of the movie Avatar - the night time scenes in the jungle with the bio luminescence.

Still, the core convergence content remained intact — the application of permaculture ideals and principles to every imaginable realm such as home, media, food production, technology, urban design, economics, diversity and culture.

Over two dozen organizations had information spaces while close permaculture cousin and ally Transition Towns, had a strong presence as well. There were several domes, large solar cooking apparati, a kid zone, tini recycled house and community kitchen. The entire event was outdoors.

The program included scheduling for working groups and bio regional groups. Working Groups met to discuss particular niches of permaculture. The Resilient Homes and Neighborhoods group I was involved with was a great chance to talk with others about how they were greening their homes and neighborhoods.

Working Group Introductions 

One woman in our group from Melbourne, Florida, was surprised, through our discussions, to discover, she had more allies and assets to work with for greening her community than she realized — a church, school, extension service.

There were working groups for economics, media, women, education, the upcoming international convergence to be held in India next year, earth repair and "permaculture meets politics."

Bio Regional groups met as well. The idea was for people to network, mix and mingle based on geographical location. Dozens of regional groups met. Both the bio regional groups and working groups reported the highlights of their discussions to the entire gathering on Friday afternoon.

Diversity was another very important part of the event. There were many people from a variety of ethnic, generational, First Nations and economic backgrounds. It was great to find out more how all kinds of people — from rural to suburban to urban - are making use of what they have available where they live for creating green transformations.

One plenary panel was about greywater issues in California. Panel members explained how grey water practitioners went from illegal, underground and discrete to sought after consultants when using grey water became legal in California. I spoke with a man from San Jose who employed twelve people in his grey water and rain water catchment business.

Grey water panel

Another important outcome of the gathering was the unveiling of xPollinators – as in “cross” Pollinators. This is a new web platform that can host a near unlimited number of working group discussions. Search xPollinators and check it out. You can join the discussion.

Each group that met at the Convergence can continue their conversations and others who were not at the convergence can register and join in. A tech savvy participant created this a great platform to compare notes, connect and learn from each other

The Convergence was a great experience. Greening our homes, communities, economy and culture is a growing movement and permaculture has a great deal to contribute

I met energetic and motivated people from all over the country and beyond who are dedicated to a more green and peaceful planet. Permaculture is becoming a global language with a set of values, principles and way of looking at the world that serves as a fast forward for making common cause with others to bring about a culture and economy that can live within its economic and ecological means.

The site and date for the next North American Permaculture Convergence is yet to be determined. Stay tuned!

Neighborhood Watch Groups

Just a couple days ago, neighbors on my street had their first Neighborhood Watch meeting. Fifteen of us, including a Neighborhood Watch professional from the Sheriff's Department, came together. We live in a relatively low crime area but still, its a very good idea for neighbors to meet.

Everyone made new friends. Several people I had never met before at all. Most attending were baby boomers, several retired.

We heard about how to set up a watch group, dos and don't and we went around the circle so everyone could share a bit about themselves.

Simple invite to the Neighborhood Watch meeting

I pointed out that our host, who recently moved in to the corner property, was planning to build raised bed gardens in the front yard. I suggested her project should be popular with those nearby because she would be out in front in the garden but also with eyes on the street and nearby homes. That makes for a safer neighborhood.

We also identified emergency preparedness as another topic of interest. I handed out brochures about “Green Preparedness.” The brochures explain how taking care of more basic needs closer to home such as food, water and energy and making common cause with our neighbors can bring about a wide variety of benefits such as improved safety, resilience and a greener environment.

I also pointed out I had been working on green preparedness for 15 years on my own quarter acre property and we could use my place as an educational resource to see what edible landscaping, water catchment and passive solar retro fits look like.

Permaculture house on the street is an educational asset 

An important take home message from this second story is, even a middle of the road, mainstream program like Neighborhood Watch, can be used as an ice breaker for neighbors to meet, find common cause and work together for creating safer, more green and resilient neighborhoods.

Jan Spencer has been transforming his quarter-acre suburban property for 15 years. The project shows what home economics and suburbia can look like — taking care of more needs closer to home, including food, energy, water, and culture. Read a draft preface for his forthcoming book, Notes from the Suburban Frontier at www.SuburbanPermaculture.orgHe is available for making presentations about transforming suburbia, economy and culture. Find his contact info, CV and more topics he can address on his website, and click here to read his other MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts. 


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.