Wes Cooke

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since Nov 03, 2014
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building homestead trees
Co-owner, 7th Generation Design: creating lasting freedom in time, health, wealth and spirit for current and future generations through the design, implementation and stewardship of regenerative ecosystems that restore the health and function of the land, abundance of water and food, and cultural integrity.
Co-owner, Honey Badger Nursery: Hardy fruit and nut trees, berries, herbs, and perennial vegetables with air-pruned non-circling tap roots.
Co-owner, Woodland Foods Co-op: Focusing on the forest-based cultivation of culinary and medicinal mushrooms, berries, perennial greens and herbs all layered amongst one another underneath an evergreen oak canopy. Every year we thin neglected oak woodlands to generate logs on which to grow mushrooms. The trimmings unfit for log-based cultivation are chipped and either used for wood chip based mushroom beds or turned into biochar, which banks biologically active carbon into local soils, enhancing their ability to retain moisture and create a thriving mycosphere to the benefit of all forest life.
Central Coast, CA
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Recent posts by Wes Cooke

Hey permies folks,

We just published parts one and two of three of blog series on our website called "Living with Fire".  It is written from the perspective of two designers/forest tenders living on the central coast of California, but is applicable to anyone living in a fire ecology or who simply wants to be better prepared for the possibility of fire.  On the west coast of the USA, centuries of poor planning and design, of trying to eliminate fire rather than coexist with it's natural cycle in these areas, has caught up to us.  We are hoping these blogs posts are a good resource and will help create more resilience, both for humans and the environment, in areas like this. The first two are linked below, I'll update this thread with the third when we publish shortly.  Looking forward to hearing what you all think!

Living With Fire Part 1 - Personal Responsibility, Basic Fire Science, and Site Selection

Living With Fire Part 2 - Regenerative Firescaping: Protect Your Home with Good Design
7 months ago
Great post, this is definitely a highly applicable topic for us California folks at the moment (and many other folks around the world).

We just published two out of three blog posts on our website (third coming shortly) that are specifically about proper design in a fire ecology.  Centuries of poor planning and design, of trying to eliminate fire rather than coexist with it's natural cycle in these areas, has caught up to us.  We are hoping these blogs posts are a good resource for home/land owners in any fire ecology. The first two are linked below, I'll update this thread with the third when we publish shortly.  Looking forward to hearing what you all think!

Living With Fire Part 1 - Personal Responsibility, Basic Fire Science, and Site Selection

Living With Fire Part 2 - Regenerative Firescaping: Protect Your Home with Good Design
7 months ago
Hello permies world, us folks at 7th Generation Design wanted to share a bit about an Off-Grid Irrigation System we recently designed and lovingly call "OGI" (pronounced oh-ghee). The OGIS is an self-contained automated solar-powered 1-12 zone irrigation system with down-to-the-second interval capability. It is ideal for food forests, nurseries, orchards, market gardens, mushroom cultivation projects, agroforestry projects, or anywhere else that could benefit from automated irrigation. All that is required for operation is pressurized water from a hose and a nearby sunny location. It is portable, durable, lightweight, pest-proof, weather sensing, inexpensive, and best of all - you can build it yourself at home with tools you likely already have!

Why did we create the OGIS?

This system was born out of a situation commonly experienced by many ecopreneurs and permaculture enthusiasts - we had access to land where we wanted to begin propagating fruit and nut trees and perennial plants and growing edible mushrooms, however the land tenure arrangement was uncertain and likely to remain so. Water was already present on site, but we needed a way to apply it to a range of growing plants and trees at various life stages - meaning we needed a lot of flexibility in how long we could irrigate depending on the developmental stage of the plant. We also didn’t want to invest in trenching, conduit and hiring an electrician to run power to the nursery location given that we might have to pick up and leave at a day’s notice. As it turned out, the OGIS system we created has applications far beyond our initial design criteria.

The Off-Grid Irrigation System allows us to power our irrigation system from occasional sun, thereby saving us the expense of tying into the grid. If we have to move locations, we can literally disconnect the water source (a garden hose), pack up our irrigation lines and roll out.  It weighs less than 30 lbs, fits in a single 50 gallon Husky tote, is easy to disassemble and maintain, runs off two rechargeable 9 volt batteries hooked up to a 1.5 watt modular solar array that keeps the system charged on occasional sun, and operates up to 12 DC solenoid valves with down to the second irrigation window precision for meeting the needs of everything from fresh herbaceous cuttings, newly germinated seedlings, and 1 year old in-ground trees.

The OGIS is the first in our line of Eco-System Knowledge Products - tools and systems that help ecopreneurs leverage their time and capital to make a living regenerating our landscape.

Below is our 4 minute video walkthrough of the OGIS system.

If you're interested in a step-by-step guide to building your own, with full part lists and detailed instructions, as well as a pre-assembled solar panel unit for this system, please check out our product page here.  We also have an in-depth video walkthrough of the assembly of our first system prototype here.

Please let us know if what you grow and could use this system for, or if you have any suggestions/tweaks, please post them here - we will be continuing to fine tune this system and extend its applications. Thank you!
7 months ago
Thanks Cristo for the input!

The rock sounds like an effective but labor intensive and somewhat expensive solution. And of course, the only true long-term ecological solution would be to have a complete food chain present, which is unattainable due to the fact that the forest has already been removed, the cleared section fenced off, and a monocrop of fruit trees planted. So I know that there is going to be some level of maintenance and energy input for the life of this orchard required... I guess the idea of adding a lot of rock into the soil of the orchard feels a little off-putting.
7 months ago
Hi permies folks,

Thanks in advance for the help. I just started to help with the managing of an avocado orchard, ~1,200 trees. ~12 acres, ~5 years old, planted in off-contour rows, mono-cropped. This is one thread of several that I'll be putting up for advice on what can be done to try and steer this ship a little closer to the correct course (I also recognize that several type 1 errors have already been made, that can't be rectified without clearing the whole orchard and starting over - not feasible).

One of the issues is that there are several areas that the ground squirrels have decided are a great place to make a home.  The trees are planted on mounds about 1.5' high, and it looks like they are digging tunnels under the root system. So far none of the trees have died, but I'm feeling concerned about that outcome. I spoke with a friend who was thinking that perhaps they won't damage the trees, and in fact they may be helping with fertilizer and aeration... I'm having a hard time believing that a huge underground network of tunnels under the trees won't damage the root systems, or at the very least destabilize their foundation and cause eventual toppling.

Thoughts? and if abatement is needed, thoughts on best approach? Options considered thus far include...

-hunting: time consuming
-poison: not ideal if pursuing organic certification?
-trapping: anyone have recommendations for effective traps?
-introducing predators: definitely ideal in the long term, hard to alleviate the problem quickly with this though. Entire property is fenced. Owl boxes could be used...

8 months ago
Thank you everyone for the thoughts thus far, I really appreciate the feedback. My partner-in-crime in this endeavor suggested, along the lines of the providing more easily accessible water idea, installing a low pressure drain at the bottom of the system, so after the irrigation shuts off, all of the water in the overhead lines drains into a basin for them.

Although, kyle, as you mentioned, I'm concerned that this just attracts more and compounds the issue.

I like the idea of the heavier duty irrigation... PVC or metal pipes.

Any other input is welcome!
11 months ago
Hi permies crew,

I've got a forest gardening project on the central coast of CA. Currently have oak logs in crib stacks inoculating under a mature live oak canopy. This being dry summer CA, and the logs requiring somewhat consistent moisture for inoculation, I ran 1/2" poly from a valve to the base of one of the trees, up the trunk, and then attached it to an overhead web of paracord that is suspending the irrigation line above the oaks. From the 1/2" poly we have a piece of 1/4" hanging down to a mist emitter over each stack of logs.

The problem is, the squirrels around here also is dealing with the dryness of southern california, and has figured out that there be water in them lines! So far, any section that is laying on the ground (the line going to the base of the tree) is getting punctured at a rate faster than I can or want to repair.  There have also been two punctures on the overhead line, where the line passes close to a tree.  I haven't found any punctures where the line is suspended from the paracord - hoping that means that the squirrels can't navigate the tight rope.

So - hoping for some brainstorming as to solutions.  First thought is maybe I just set out an easier source of water for them, and they'll leave my irrigation lines alone. My concern is that then this little corner of the forest is going to become a magnet for all wildlife.  Second thought is perhaps I suspend all of the irrigation, and make sure none passes to close to a tree - and hope that stops em. I'd be bummed to do all that work and then realize that they actually have no problem navigating the tight rope, they were just hitting the easy targets first.  Third thought is heavier duty irrigation - something thicker than the home depot thin poly, or maybe even PVC.

I'm hoping for any input, or other ideas! Much thanks!
11 months ago
Hi everyone, thanks for the help in advance. I'm getting a nursery started for propagation of fruit and nut trees and herbaceous perennials in sunny coastal Central California. I've got a south face area of about 3/4 acre to work with, with a slight slope (<3%). I'm going to put the nursery beds on contour.

Most of the area is exposed to full sun, but there is a large oak tree in the middle that provides some dappled sunlight to a decently sized area in the area north of it. Obviously there is dappled shade to the northwest of the tree during the morning... and dappled shade to the northeast during the evening.

My question is - how best to utilize this microclimate? Are there certain tree or herbaceous perennial seedlings that do better in dappled shade? Does everything do better in dappled shade? Certain things that do better with morning dappled shade? Better with afternoon dappled shade?

I'm starting small, with just a few nursery beds, and then expanding outward. I'm trying to figure out if I should start with my first few beds in this dappled shade area, or start in the full sun.

Thank you!!
1 year ago
Thanks in advance for the help! I'm trying to make some potting mix for an herb/annual veggie container garden without using perlite/vermiculite. I have read a lot on this forum about substituting leaf mold as a substitute in potting mix - like 1 part topsoil, 1 part compost, 1 part leaf mold. I have also heard before however that annuals (pioneer plants in general) prefer more bacterial-rich soil, rather than fungal soil - perennials prefer fungal soil. This makes sense from a succession perspective.

It seems people have success with using leaf mold in potting soil, so I guess I'm curious - why is this working? Are there other substitutes that would provide the aeration and drainage yet promote a more bacterial soil for these annual veggies? Any thoughts appreciated!
1 year ago
Thanks Nicole and Kurt! I had seached for threads about mattress alternatives already in existence but somehow missed that one.