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I woke up just to mentally rant about housing developments. Maybe after I write this, I can sleep  RSS feed

 
master steward
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AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

We've got a 30-house housing development going in on our street. It's taking up 60 acres, with each house getting a 1-acre plot and the other 30 acres being natural preserve and "open area" (whatever that means).

Since we live in a part of our county that is mandated to be 5+acre plots to preserve wildlife and "rural character," they get away with these "rural cluster developments" because they concentrate the houses and the roads and have preserved areas to "preserve rural characters."

Yeah right.

What they do in these "rural cluster developments" is CLEAR OUT EACH ACRE of LAND to make into a lawn, and plop a giant house on it. It drives me NUTS, for so many reasons.

  • Who wants to mow an acre of land? And, you bet these people won't be able to have sheep or anything, because it'll have HOA covenants that will make sure people don't do things like that.
  • There's multipple black bears that (used to) live in those acres. Now they're roaming around our houses a lot more, and will probably be roaming the development, which will certaily have tempting trash and children that will be endangered
  • All those lawns (1) have no shade and will create warmer micro climates (2) will need a lot more inputs, such as watering, peseticides, herbicides, fertilizers and gas to mow them. All just to have a stupid lawn no one uses
  • These developments in no way, shape or form look like the rest of the county side. Most other properties clear out enough room for the house, and not much more, or, if they clear out more, they graze something on it. I don't really care about appearances, but since appearances are in the laws about these things, I figured I should mention it.
  • Because it's a housing development, they will have all sorts of stupid covenants and laws that will make sure people can't do "unseemly" things like grow their own food
  • All the kids living in these developments are deprived of trees. And, the people who buy this land don't even get the choice of having trees, because they're all cut down. I hate these developments because they take that chose away from people. Right now, in our "rural" areas, there are probably more homes in rural clusters than there are outside of the clusters. Area that is supposed to be agricultural or at least natural preserve, is just LAWN.
  • By cutting down all the trees, smoothing out the land, and sticking grass on it, they kill the topsoil and remove native habitat, not just for bears, but for all sorts of live. They are, destroying all that live, just for an acre of grass
  • These developments also, then, try to strong arm their actually rural neighbors. We had a neighbor that would have friends over and they would shoot into the hill for fun. We live in a place where one can legally hunt, so it's perfectly legal and safe entertainment. On the other side of my house, accessed by a road that's miles away, is a housing development. Multiple times over the years, neighbors have driven miles to come over and complain and even call the police when anyone shoots out here. It's ridiculous. In other areas, that are still "rural" the developments have passed laws making their enclaves into non-shooting zones.
  • The development pretty much makes a place with MORE rules, that aren't democratic at all, and then enforces those rules upon the surrounding areas, and the people who reside inside. And, since there are SO MANY stinkin' housing developments, it's really hard to find a house that isn't in one, and thus a house where you can actually grow your own food and raise animals.
  • The giant houses that they build on these developments take up tons of unnecessary resources, and a huge footprint, and are generally more house than anyone actually needs. Who needs 3,000 sqft? ???
  • These housea are also priced way out of the reach of most people. They're $700,000+!
  • Here's a housing development, made by the same developer, also made in a "rural" area. It has 1/2 acre plots and $3,000 sqft houses. They're UGLY houses, too, with tons of unnesseary changes in roof types. Look at all that asphault shingles. Does this look like a "rural" house to you https://www.redfin.com/WA/Snohomish/11711-176th-Ave-SE-98290/unit-9/home/146013923


  • Here's a picture of one of those ugly houses (more pictures here)


    And another hideous house, in that same development. It's 2,500sqft of roofing, as it's only one story. Probably actually more roofing than that, because of the garage. What a huge, expensive, unnessiary house (more pictures here



    These developments drive me crazy. I wouldn't mind having a development where the plots weren't turned into solid grass and people were actually allowed to do what they want on their land, but that's not what happens with the developments. It makes me want to cry and scream as I watch each tree knocked down.

     
    pollinator
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    It kills me that people are still building developments from the middle of the previous century (but with much larger houses!), as though we haven't learned anything since then.

     
    Nicole Alderman
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    I'm even in the "progressive" and "environmentally-friendly" area of the country, and these still think this is fine and preserves wild land and "rural character." Nope, it destroys both.
     
    gardener
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    There is a development going in about 1.5 miles from my place along a bike trail I take to work. They removed all the vegetation and literally removed every small hill and variation in the land. They then used some of the soil to even further level it all. The whole area was then compacted by heavy equipment until today it is this huge bare expanse that is completely level. All this so they can plop their cookie cutter homes down on top...
    20180710_070814.jpg
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    They make it flat... taken while they were still working
     
    Tyler Ludens
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    Good Dog, those are ugly houses!
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    Tyler Ludens wrote:Good Dog, those are ugly houses!



    They really are! I'm not looking forward to having such eyesores in my neighborhood, though that's really the very least of my concerns. But, come on, for $700,000+, at least they could make them look pretty?

    There is a development going in about 1.5 miles from my place along a bike trail I take to work. They removed all the vegetation and literally removed every small hill and variation in the land. They then used some of the soil to even further level it all. The whole area was then compacted by heavy equipment until today it is this huge bare expanse that is completely level. All this so they can plop their cookie cutter homes down on top...



    It makes me so sick. In another area, that's not "rural" (it's in the "urban growth area"), they flattened and leveled each individual plot, putting up retaining walls between each property to keep them all individually level. I can't imagine that's the most stable way to build a house, especially in an earthquake are. Who thought, "let's just build a bunch of homes on leveled out fill that's held up by a retaining wall, in an area due to have a level 9.0+ earthquake"???

    Here's the development, not that they show you any of the surrounding area, because it's ugly. https://www.redfin.com/WA/Monroe/20548-134th-St-SE-98272/home/146093520 the house is 3,000+ sqft, on a 5,000sqft plot. Kids don't need a yard or nature to play in, they obviously need a giant house.
     
    Daron Williams
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    Ya, the one in my area is in the urban growth area. I live outside of it but not very far outside.

    The area they leveled used to be about 10feet bellow the level of the bike trail at the start and then equal to the bike trail at the end. Now at the start it is about 5 feet higher than the trail... at the edge of the buffer between the development and the trail it just drops down to the original level...

    The soils there are mostly clay too. With all the compaction they are doing and making it level I'm sure there is going to be water issues. Plus as you said I can't imagine this being stable in an earthquake...

    I wish I had the money to buy up the land surrounding mine so I could make sure no developments went in...

    Only bright side is the organization I work for does just that. I'm getting ready this morning to drive out to a 312 acre property that has over 100 acres of wetlands including a lot of beaver ponds and salmon streams. This was going to be developed into a ton of houses but the organization I work for bought it a few years ago and I have been restoring it (removing culverts and planting native veg in a few areas that had been degraded). We now own it and will keep it as a nature preserve. There are some old access roads that we are maintaining for hiking and other low impact activities. So far we have protected around 7,500 acres of land. When I get frustrated about development at least my work helps me feel a little better.

    I plan on putting a conservation easement on my land in the future to ensure it can never be developed or degraded.
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    How do you put a conservation easement on your land. 1/3rd of mine is already protected wetlands, but that means next to nothing if a developer comes in. They just "buy up" wetlands elsewhere and put in some retention ponds  that aren't even wetlands, and call it good. Sigh.

    I just checked our counties permit and zoning map, and there's planned to be another 112 72 houses put behind the  30 houses they're already put in. The 112 72 houses development will take place on 137 acres. The land was totally logged (because, you know, money) before the recession, and then they stopped plans for development, and the county ended up buying it up. It looks like the plan on making our private road into a public road to acces those 112 72 houses. So, our street is going from having 7 houses to having almost 150 houses. It makes me sick.


     
    Tyler Ludens
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    Nicole, how did they obtain an easement on your private road?

     
    Nicole Alderman
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    I have no idea. But, since the county owns the property behind our road, that they're going to connect to our road, I'm assuming the county can do whatever it pleases when it comes to making private roads public?

    When I looked at the plat map for the 30 house development going in now, it shows a round-a-bout at the south side of it (which is the side that connects to the 137 acre development area), and it has wording saying "Add to this note "to be extinguished when the road is extended to the satisfaction of the County." I thought I saw somewhere, too, about it becoming public, but maybe the county will just extend the private road all the way up through the development?
     
    Daron Williams
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    Conservation easements are a bit confusing at times... you need to find an organization that will "hold" it and enforce it. You get to work with that organization to determine what the easement says. Generally you sell or donate a specific right - say the right to develop. Small acres is harder to do and generally the easement has to be donated but you can still get a tax right off for the value of the rights you donated.

    I work for a land trust. I will need to look up the land trust in your area. You can look up the Washington Association of Land Trusts too to see which one works in your area. Then you would need to start a conversation with them.

    It is not an easy process but can be worth it. You want an organization to hold your easement that is stable and takes it seriously. They should do a once a year monitoring to make sure there are no violations. Might not be needed while you are living there but if you move then it would apply to the next owner and they might not be so good.

    Some easements are more limiting than others but they are all negotiated with the current owner and the organization that will be holding and enforcing the easement. Pick a good organization and it should work out. You still own your property the organization just holds the rights you sold or donated and ensures no one violates the terms of the easements.

    Development rights, timber harvest, where houses can be built, etc. All these can be part of a conservation easement.

    I plan on donating a fairly restrictive easement in the future once my land is all setup.
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    I was wrong about the 112, houses. I was reading the statement "112 2 single family residents" and thinking that was the amount of houses. But that's just a bit of code. The development is actually for "only" 72 houses.
     
    Tyler Ludens
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    IANAL, but the county should have to obtain an easement to turn a private road into a public one.  There may already be an easement to the county on the road - this information should be at your county clerk's office.  If not, you and your neighbors on the road might want to lawyer up, because it is likely the county is planning to steal land from you all.

    Our land extends to the middle of our county road, and there is an easement granted by previous owners, which conveys with the land.

     
    gardener
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    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!  

     indeed.  I don't know what to add, except that... that really sucks.  And I feel for you.  I would definitely petition or go door to door with your existing actual rural neighbors and go with your concerns to your County.  Unfortunately the county is looking to increase it's tax base and is unlikely to go against a new developer who is increasing the 'rural' population.  This is not rural development, it is sub-urban.  Get that into their heads.
     
    gardener
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    Worse yet, most of the homeowners who enjoy "maintaining" those one-acre lawns have a literal scorched-earth attitude about the correct way to do it.  I was just talking to a guy who drives a delivery truck out my way who lives in a place like that; he was real proud of the fact that he hasn't seen a tick yet this year, because he "sprays every inch of his property once a month."  I didn't ask "with what?" because I didn't want to continue that line of conversation, but you know that means the insect life at his place isn't doing well.  It's just as well his HOA doesn't let him garden, unless he wants to be out there hand-pollinating his plants!  And you know his lawn feed product contains an herbicide *and* a grub-killer, so the soil life isn't doing all that well, and I'm sure he's death on moles and gophers, and and and.  

    Meanwhile I was chortling last week about the fact that my tomato hornworm issue this year has taken a very peculiar turn.  I've had half a dozen different plants turn up with the characteristic hornworm damage on a single branch, but when I look... no hornworm!  And the damage never spreads.  "They" say nothing eats hornworms, and I don't know what's eating mine, but my garden seems to be an unhealthy place for them.  I *think* it's the huge flock of cardinals living in my yard this year due to the fact that nothing got mowed, but that's just a guess.
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    I just wanted to say, I'm not so much unhappy about people moving out to rural areas. I don't want to be one of those "NIMBY" (Not In My Back Yard) people. I understand that people need places to live, and frankly, I would be fine with those 60 acres turning into 30 homes if they weren't in a Housing Development with all it's covenants. My parents have an acre of land. Everyone on their street has an acre. Most of the properties are about 1/3rd yard, and the rest are garden, native wildlife, &/or horse pasture. Many people have chickens, geese, ducks, etc.

    But, in these housing developments, people usually aren't allowed to do any of those things. They are forces to have non-edible plants and giant lawns that take lots of resources to maintain, and provide little-to-no habitat. And, when more and more of the property in my area is in housing developments, less and less people have choices to have any other sort of place to live.

    And, these housing developments are able to get around all the rules that everyone else has to play by. Anyone who isn't a developer can't buy, say, 1 acre or 1/4 acre out here. They need to find 5 acre plots to build their homes. For every undeveloped 5-acre parcel of land, there's at least 30 HOA homes that newly built. And, for every home that's not in an HOA, there's probably 3-5 that are.

    To make matters more complicated, a normal person couldn't buy 60 acres of land to have as an intentional community of 30 tiny homes where people wildcraft and grow their own food. That's against the law. They'd have to somehow manage to make it a housing development, which would require paved sidewalks and roads, etc, that they might not be able to afford.

    My beef isn't with people moving out here, it's with HOAs, and with the land being forced into lawns. We need places for people to grow food, especially as our population continues to grow. HOAs don't often allow that, and they love to cut down all the native veg and destroy the topsoil, which people who are just one house usually don't do.

    In addition, these Rural Cluster Developments are marketed as being less destructive to the environment because they cluster the houses together and use less roads and driveways than if people built their homes seperately...but, if they really want to preserve the environment, they need to not be chopping down all these trees and destroying all the topsoil, just to put in giant, level lawns.
     
    garden master
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    Nicole, look at your deed as to who owns the easement for your private road.  Do this as a top priority because a developer or the county cannot just make a private road into a public road or a county road.

    Someone has to give permission for the folks who buy those houses and to the builder to use the private road.

    Who pays for the maintenance of your private road?  

    I would also call your County Commissioner to get more information on the status of the road.
     
    pollinator
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    Tyler Ludens wrote:IANAL, but the county should have to obtain an easement to turn a private road into a public one.  There may already be an easement to the county on the road - this information should be at your county clerk's office.  If not, you and your neighbors on the road might want to lawyer up, because it is likely the county is planning to steal land from you all.

    Our land extends to the middle of our county road, and there is an easement granted by previous owners, which conveys with the land.




    It depends.

    Here in Maine it is completely legal depending on certain factors. For instance, I have a right of way that extends to my land that comes to a point about a half mile back in off the main road. Just beyond that point I have a neighbor that has 6 acres of land, and while my Grandfather built the road over the Right of Way, by law we cannot deny access to the person living behind me who is "landlocked." If I did, it would make his land absolutely worthless. Even though that land has no legal Right of Way, by me having one, they are entitled to use mine by default.


    It sounds like this might be the case with Nicole, but I am not sure. If the land behind her home was public land, then the road leading to it was legally a public road. I am not sure that is exactly the case, but Land Laws get really strange at times. My deeds are teeming with the strangest things!!


    As for Conservation Easements, I do not like them because as with many things, while they are well meaning, there are many things they do not tell you. For instance here we have some, but they are not worth the paper they are printed on even though they are registered in the record of deeds. It is a lengthy explanation, but a person has to think of the legal rights of a landowner as a bundle of asparagus bunched together with a rubber band. Those rights include mineral rights, gas and oil rights, air rights, timber rights, farming rights, and the rights to build buildings, etc. There mare many, many rights, and a person can sell off, or give away any one of those rights. For instance, when fracking was full throttle, Grandparents who had sold oil and gas rights decades ago, suddenly had the oil companies knocking on the Grandchildren's door with signed agreements from decades before in their hand. Their Grandparents had sold out, and it was all legal.


    The Conservation Groups WANT people to think that by giving up aspects of their conservation rights the farm will never become developed, but that is just NOT the case. Here in Maine, there is fine print that says they can sell off select house lots. On one occasion a school was going to expand and had a choice. On the left side was an undeveloped subdivision, and on the right side was a farm who was in conservation easement. the State would have to pay dearly for the subdivided land because it was in 2 acre lots, so they simply took the farm land under eminent domain making everyone here quickly realize those conservation papers were meaningless. But it gets worse...

    A person who does Conservation easements must PAY THEM TO TAKE AWAY YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS. I would be darned at doing that, as the rate my rights as a property owner are being stripped away from me now is incredibly ridiculous, to even think that I am going to PAY someone to take even more away is insane!! But it gets worse than worse. You have to pay an ANNUAL FEE to have YOUR RIGHTS REMOVED!! What the fanny pack?  Yes you have to pay them every year just to be fleeced. Like that is EVER going to happen to me!! No thanks, since all they are doing is limiting how I can farm, hiding in the fine print that after my demise can sell house lots off, and charge me every year for the "pleasure" of all that, I will just stay FAR, FAR away from that nonsense!!
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    This is what my deed says about the easement:

    A non-exclusive easement for ingress and egress as delineated on the said survey.

    Subject To: This conveyance is subject to covenants, conditions, restrictions and easments, if any, affecting title, which may appear in the public record, including those shown on any recorded plat or survey.



    There is no one mandated to maintain the road in our easement. We have 2-3 different neighbors who put down gravel when potholes, and I pay them $20-40 when they do. The other neighbors should also--out of neighborly kindness--be doing the same, but they don't.

    We have wells, but there's public water that was brought into the street a few years back, and the new development is hooking up to that.


    In other news, I found the HOA covenants of other housing developments made by the same people. On these one-acre plots, the owners:

  • Can't have RVs be parked there for more than 14 days,
  • no antenae
  • can't make any signs
  • compost heaps allowed as long as they are tidy and hidden from view
  • car can't be parked in view for more than 48 hours, unless there's people visiting, and even then, they have to have permission for the cars to be parked more than 14 days.
  • no animals other than household pets
  • no discharging firearms
  • landscaping designs have to be submitted to a commitee for approval to make sure they fit the character of the other houses
  • No outbuildings (including play equipment or play houses) without approval


  • I think I'd go crazy!


    I looked up another one of their developments. It's a spiffy one on a lake, that they tout as all ecologically-friendly. They show on their webpage all the houses being tucked into the wood:



    But, in reality they cleared out the trees from 2/3rds of each property. At least it's not 100%. It gives me hope that they won't clear out all of the trees in the development.





    Kids are clammering for dinner. Got to go!
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    I'm rather amazed at the "green washing" that apparently goes on with these developments. The Wonderland Park (http://lakesideatwonderland.com/developer/lid/index.php) by our same developer lists all sorts of marvelopus things that they are doing to preserve the environment, like not cutting down trees, and not doing "catch and collect" stormwater management, and building green houses, etc...

    And then the houses they build aren't green, with composition roof and cement fiberboard siding (https://www.redfin.com/WA/Snohomish/18608-55th-St-SE-98290/unit-03/home/145511631), and they cut down 2/3rds of the trees on the lots.

    And, if they go and try to green wash the development on my street, I really gotta wonder about these extreeeeeeeemly large water retention ponds. The totally terraformed the second one, which was previously a wetland.
    DSCF0026.JPG
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    Big ol' retention pond. Sure don't look like a wetlands to me.
    DSCF0029.JPG
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    GIAGANTIC retention pond. Why are there huge cement blocks down there? They're at least 3x3x4 feet each
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    The walls of the giaganic rentention pond are a good 12 feet tall, all of mounded dirt
    DSCF0007.JPG
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    This used to be all forest. Bears and deer lived here. They're not even done clearing it out yet :'(
     
    And now I present magical permaculture hypno cards. The idea is to give them to people that think all your permaculture babble is crazy talk. And be amazed as they apologize for the past derision, and beg you for your permaculture wisdom. If only there were some sort of consumer based event coming where you could have an excuse to slip them a deck ... richsoil.com/cards
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