Wes Cooke

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since Nov 03, 2014
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-Co-founder, 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-founder, Honey Badger Nursery: Hardy fruit and nut trees, berries, herbs, and perennial vegetables with air-pruned non-circling tap roots.
-Co-founder, 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

Thanks so much for the reply Cristo.  I've heard many of the same things about it, and am definitely aware of how maligned it is in California!

I just can't help but feel like it MUST fill some ecological niche.  I don't think nature creates something that doesn't have some role in a healthy ecology (as much as I wonder about mosquitos, black widows, etc...). And I don't think French Broom is going away in California.  As much as some individual landowners might try to fight it, nature will continue to spread it beyond our reach.

I would love to hear anyone else's thoughts about how this "problem" could be in some way turned into a solution for California?
5 months ago
Hi permies folks,

My in-laws live in Big Sur, and their property is being slowly taken over by French Broom (Genista monspessulana) - though the rate of spread is increasing in recent years since they started trying to suppress it by pulling it.  In general, the plant is greatly maligned in Big Sur and California as a whole for its' invasiveness.  All discussion I've heard is on how to get rid of it - yet the harder everyone works to get rid of it, the more vigorously it comes.

I had a discussion with the about trying to reframe their thinking, that perhaps the "problem is the solution".  The broom is colonizing a hot, south-facing hillside with few trees that is a mix of barren DG, chaparral, and non-native annual grasses.  Being a nitrogen-fixer, being such a vigorous grower, and a producer of a lot of deadfall, it seems clear to me that this plant is filling a niche - it is a pioneer in this area, trying to increase organic matter and soil health while also keeping the soil shaded, in preparation for the next phase of succession - trees, which will eventually shade it out.

My first instinct is to advise them to just let the French Broom be, to allow succession to run its' course, and if they want to speed up succession, to plant some native oaks, madrone, etc. admist it and use it as a nurse plant.  However, a valid concern I am hearing is the flammability presented by the level of deadfall.  Great in a natural fire ecology where fire needs to cycle through periodically, bad if your house is located there.

So - I'm curious on some thoughts regarding this plant, its' role in the ecology, and how it can be best embraced as a solution rather than a problem?  Clearly the suppression technique that the folks in the area mostly employ is an uphill battle that will most likely be lost.

Thanks everyone, in advance, for the thoughts.
5 months ago
Hey permies folks,

We at 7th Generation Design just posted this on our blog, but I thought I'd post it in its' entirety here as I think it may prove helpful to some.  None of these strategies will be new to the regulars here at Permies, this is just our take on things in this especially interested moment when we're all receiving "free" monies - and our compilation of strategies.

----

We all just received $1,200 in our bank accounts (some of us more) - and this may continue to happen for a few months. While undoubtedly these stimulus checks will prove to be hugely helpful to many, we would be ignorant to think that it is free money.  Money is a representation of energy – it is a “claim” on energy. And the first law of thermodynamics, discovered long ago, tell us that energy in a closed system can neither be created or destroyed.  To create energy (represented by money in this context) in one place means that it will be removed from another place or time.

All of this means that the money (energy) that was just seemingly just created out of thin air will have to be paid for – either by people in a different place, or by our future selves or generations (through the form of incredible inflation, degraded natural environments, etc).  It’s what’s been happening for decades – this is just a particular massive borrow in a particularly short amount of time.  Likely, it will be a combination of the two – we’ll pay, and someone else will pay, for the $1,200 we each received.

Knowing this, how can we prepare for the eventual settling-up that will inevitably occur? Perhaps a time when a wheelbarrow full of cash can barely buy a loaf of bread? (Actually happened in Germany in 1922, and many other places throughout recent history).  I would like to suggest that the best way we can utilize these stimulus checks, and our surplus financial resources in general, is to become familiar with the other 7 mostly-forgotten-but-much-older-and-more-stable forms of capital besides money (intellectual, experiential, material, natural, cultural, social, and spiritual), and implement strategies that reduce our requirement for financial capital and build those other forms of capital moving forward. Savings in those other forms of capital will help to carry us, and hopefully spare others in some other place, through the payment due period from this time.

A few of the perhaps the highest leverage ways (among many) to reduce the need for financial capital and invest in the other forms of capital are listed below, in rough order of effectiveness at reducing the future requirement for financial capital:

  • Buy/move into a smaller house – they’re cheaper to buy, fill, and maintain (reducing mortgage/property taxes/maintenance costs), you’ll use less energy (and thus reduce money requirements for utilities), own less unnecessary stuff, and have more space outside to enjoy/implement strategies discuss below.
  • Even better than buying a smaller house, but bringing in the challenging people piece: turn your large house into a duplex, and invite another person/family with shared values to co-own it with you (huge savings all around, including shared energy input into building/growing/maintaining). This may also make it feasible to buy a home rather than rent. [This strategy simultaneously presents an opportunity to build natural capital, material capital, and social capital]
  • Change habits surrounding energy use. Start a game with your family to develop a habit of turning lights off.  Close the doors and windows when it’s hot, open them when it’s cool.
  • Install a clothes-line or rack, and build the habit of doing laundry/drying clothes while the sun shines – it’s free!
  • For the energy use that remains (probably far less than there was), invest in energy efficiency upgrades. Learn about passive solar design, and implement those strategies where you can. Add insulation. Seal up your building envelope. Replace the following on a “procurement strategy” (as they burn out/fail – sending perfectly functioning equipment to the dump is a larger environmental issue): incandescent and fluorescent lights with LEDs, refrigerator w/ energy-star rated (or better yet, replace vertical fridge/freezer with a chest fridge and chest freezer, which are far more energy efficient – you can convert a chest freezer to a chest refrigerator using one of these).
  • Only after you’ve reduced your energy usage using the above strategies, install solar. At this point, your energy usage will likely be 50-85% lower than it initially was, so you won’t need much of a system.  [also builds material, and if you can go off-grid with batteries, builds natural capital]
  • Redirect your laundry and shower water from the sewer “away” to food-growing systems in your landscape –reducing your sewer, irrigation, and grocery bills. You’re already paying for the water once – don’t pay for it twice, and also pay to get rid of it! [also builds natural, experiential, intellectual, and spiritual capital – gardening and being outside is good for the soul]
  • Repattern your landscape to slow the rainwater that lands on it or comes off of your roof, spread it out, and sink it near food-growing systems – as opposed to running off into the street and ultimately a storm drain. Doing so will further reduce your irrigation needs and grocery bill. [also builds natural, experiential, intellectual, and spiritual capital]
  • Redirect your food and green waste away from the trash and back into your landscape by converting it into valuable soil amendments, using (each linked to our blog post on the topic): vermicomposting, bokashi, compost tea, thermophilic composting, biochar, and number of other nutrient-cycling methods.
  • Get a bike – and use it for some of your errands/work commuting/school drop offs/etc. [also builds natural capital – muscles!]
  • Grow a garden, plant fruit trees, learn about backyard livestock and get some. [builds natural, experiential, intellectual, and spiritual capital]
  • Invest in developing skills, real world skills – fixing your bike, your car, your home, growing and processing food, etc. [builds intellectual, experiential, material, and natural capital]
  • Meet your neighbors, build relationships with them.  Start trading childcare, garden surplus, ferments, etc. [builds social , cultural capital]
  • For the food you’re not growing/raising, pay a little bit extra your local farmer doing things in an ecologically-sound way (join a CSA!), to support them so you have established nearby farms that are improving your environment and relationships with those folks running them. [builds natural, social, cultural capital]


  • These are just a few ideas, but they’re big leverage points for preparing for a time of having to correct the balance sheet – and not just the financial balance sheet.  The added benefit of doing all of these things is that they result in greater personal, community, cultural, and environmental health, for only a small sacrifice in luxury – or perhaps none, when we look back.

    For more information about the eight forms of capital, check out Ethan Roland’s article about them. There are other great websites and podcasts out there, and several great threads on this forum discussing them.  Weve also put more information about the strategies presented above on our 7th Generation Design website, including a library with our favorite books on the various topics discussed here, how-to blog posts, a free e-books on Resilient Property Design Essentials, and YouTube videos.

    Let’s put these stimulus checks to good use – not just so that we’ve already been working to restore the balance sheet before the payment is due, but also so that they’re entirely unneeded in the future when something like this, whether it be a pandemic, a natural disaster, a personal crisis such as a health issue or job loss, or something else, inevitably happens again.
    5 months ago
    7GD compost tea blog post cover image

    Another blog post in our Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads series - this time on Compost Tea!

    Brewing your own compost tea is one of the lowest-hanging fruits available to any home gardener, homesteader or farmer to quickly and powerfully increase the vitality of the soil food web and the trees and plants that grow amongst it. Brewing setups can be scaled to practically any usage level, and can be made on the cheap with simple materials or be complex and capable of producing precision mixes geared towards specialty crops and landscapes. Inputs can be obtained for free or made on your own with vermicompost (which we discussed in an earlier post!), thermophilic compost, indigenous microorganisms (IMOs), foraged or farmed fungi, kelp and other plant extracts and more.

    Here is an outline of the info covered in the blog post.

    Nutrient Cycling for the Homestead: Compost Tea

    ”compost

    Compost tea is nutrient and microbe rich liquid that is aerobically brewed to maximize the number of beneficial microbes, fungi and bio-available nutrients for the soil food web and plants. Basically it’s an immune-boosting, growth-enhancing, nutrifying power drink for your garden!

    The benefits of regular application of compost tea to any garden, orchard, food forest or otherwise preferred group of plants are innumerable. Below is a short list of known benefits, and we are still learning about more every year.

  • Aerobically brewed compost tea is an excellent way to grow your own beneficial microbes and fungi for application to your landscape. Instead of applying yards of imported compost to your garden every year, regular compost tea application can be just as, if not more, effective in boosting soil health and production yields simply by making sure that the biology in your soils is optimal.
  • Compost tea is a great way to stretch valuable but typically limited amendments like worm castings, kelp extracts, mycorrhizal inoculants and finished compost itself. By brewing a tea in aerobic conditions for 12 – 48+ hours you can dramatically expand the number of beneficial microbiota in the mix – effectively making a beneficial probiotic tea that can be sprayed on plants or fed directly into the soil.
  • Regular compost tea application to damaged or healing soil (i.e. every annuals-based garden) is one of the best ways to quickly build soil structure. Healthy soil structure increases resistance to wind erosion and enhances porosity to improve infiltration during heavy rain events (and thus minimize flooding and top soil loss). Better soil structure (a consequence of a diverse and healthy soil food web) increases drought resistance as well. A well-structured soil is able to hold onto more water for longer, thus enabling plants to weather tougher conditions than those in less healthy soils.
  • Compost teas are known to improve yields (often quite dramatically) for both annuals and perennials. They help jump start and/or reinforce the soil food web (community of micro and macro-organisms) that makes for healthy plants having access to the nutrients they need when they need them – without the need for outside inputs!
  • Compost tea application is known to improve plant immunity to various pests and diseases – again, simply by ensuring that necessary nutrients are available at the right time and in the right amounts to the plants.
  • Compost teas reduce and ultimately eliminate the need for fertilizer application in concert with other soil-tending practices (like no-till gardening, polyculture, crop rotation etc). A strong soil life community, with a healthy dynamic balance between bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes, will be able to supply all necessary nutrients to a growing plant without the need for external inputs.


  • Also covered in the blog post:

  • How does compost tea brewing work
  • How to remove or neutralize the microbe-killing chemicals present in tap water
  • The various ways to use your compost tea at your homestead
  • Step-by-step guide to creating your own compost tea brewing setup


  • ”bubble

    Compost Tea is yet another amazing technique to have as part of a homesteaders quiver.  It’s easy to get started - so check it out, and please make sure to leave a comment to let us know how compost tea has worked for you (if you’re already utilizing it), or share any questions you have!

    With gratitude,

    Wes and Casey



    -----

    The 7th Generation Design “Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads” series covers the many ways you can build fertility, create soil, cycle nutrients and take responsibility for “waste” streams on your property. These systems all integrate with one another to increase resilience, improve nutrition (for soil and humans) and save dollars. The posts are written from our own experience and are geared towards the DIYer, though options are provided for ready-to-go purchased systems as well.  For more of our blog posts, or our free e-books "Resilient Property Design Essentials", check us out at the link below!
    6 months ago
    We're in the midst of putting out a blog series called "Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads" that covers the myriad ways to cycle food scraps back into the landscape.  The first three we've written are linked below... the next ones, on thermophilic composting, indigenous microorganisms, biochar, and biomass generators are coming shortly, so check back if you're interested!

    Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads Part 1 - Vermicomposting

    Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads Part 2 - Bokashi Composting

    Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads Part 3 - Compost Tea
    6 months ago
    7GD bokashi blog post cover image

    Hey permies folks!

    We're back with a new blog post on Bokashi Composting, part of our Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads series.

    Earlier this week, we published the first part of the series, on Vermicomposting- utilizing worms to break down some of the food waste we produce and turning it into a valuable garden soil.  What about the food waste that worms DON’T like though - meat, dairy, bones, oils and fats, citrus rinds, etc.?  

    While we certainly can throw those in a homestead compost pile (animal carcasses and fallen citrus certainly do decompose in nature), it isn’t recommended for a few reasons: animal products will attract other animals and can also introduce pathogens into your compost pile (remedied by either letting it rest for a year or two, or not putting it around your annual veggies), and citrus peels take a long time to break down - also remedied by letting it rest for a long while.

    If you don’t want to deal with all that, but don’t want to resort to the trash can, there is another solution: Bokashi! Here is an outline of the info covered in the blog post.

    Nutrient Cycling for the Homestead: Bokashi


    Bokashi is an anaerobic method of fermenting organic wastes (i.e. pickling them) as opposed to typical aerobic thermophilic composting that decomposes organic material.  Bokashi systems in this sense are more of a pre-composting method, as they do not yield finished soil, but instead microbially-rich fermented food wastes that are primed for incorporation directly into soil (or thermophilic compost piles, or vermicompost systems).  And bokashi systems can handle juts about anything, save for perhaps gallons of used fry oil.

    Also covered in the blog post:

  • The other reasons to do bokashi in your home
  • Step-by-step instructions on doing bokashi composting
  • How to use “finished” bokashi pre-compost
  • How to make your own bokashi system and create your own inoculant
  • Links to some of the pre-fabbed systems available




  • Bokashi is yet another amazing technique to have as part of a homesteaders quiver for cycling food waste back into a usable garden product (even possible for apartment-dwellers who have a vermicompost system).  It’s easy to get started - so please make sure to check it out before you go, and please make sure to leave a comment to let us know how bokashi has worked for you if you’re already utilizing it, or share any questions you have!

    With gratitude,

    Wes and Casey



    The 7th Generation Design “Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads” series covers the many ways you can build fertility, create soil, cycle nutrients and take responsibility for “waste” streams on your property. These systems all integrate with one another to increase resilience, improve nutrition (for soil and humans) and save dollars. The posts are written from our own experience and are geared towards the DIYer, though options are provided for ready-to-go purchased systems as well.  For more of our blog posts, or our free e-books "Resilient Property Design Essentials", check us out at the link below!
    6 months ago
    Thanks, Timothy! Green screen is low-density shadecloth, to let finished the worm castings fall through... we're planning to put up a step-by-step build up of the flow through vermicomposter design in the near future. I'll update this thread when we do!
    6 months ago


    Hey permies folks!

    We at 7th Generation Design just released a new blog post on Vermicomposting, part of our Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads series.

    Like many, our journey of redirecting food scraps from the trash to the landscape started with throwing them in a pile in a corner of the yard - and oh the smell! Oh the flies!!  While that certainly works if you can get it far enough away from the home, it wasn’t working for us, and thus we learned about proper thermophilic composting, and began doing that.  Works great, but it’s a whole lot of work sourcing carbon, turning piles, etc - not to mention not possible if you live in an apartment.  While thermophilic composting will likely always have a place on our homesteads, we’ve fallen in love with vermicomposting and those prolific red wriggler worms as a much lower-maintenance way to transform that food waste into something that is incredibly valuable for the garden, and can even be done indoors.

    Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about vermicomposting, and have put the best info we’ve found, along with our own experiences, in one place. Here is an outline of the info covered the blog post.


    Nutrient Cycling for the Homestead: Vermicomposting



    Vermicompost systems employ compost worms (Eisenia fetida) – a.k.a. red wigglers – to transform a wide variety of organic wastes into nutrient-rich worm castings. The worms don’t actually eat the organic material – they eat the microbes that are breaking down the organic material. The worm castings (worm poop) are an incredible garden fertilizer, and can be brewed into aerobic teas and applied to soil and plant surfaces alike to further increase their beneficial impact on soil fertility, disease resistance and plant nutrition.

    Some of the info we do a deep dive on include:
  • Links to some of the best DIY systems we’ve found on the interwebs, as well as some of the best prefabbed systems we’ve seen
  • A list of what to feed and not-feed worms
  • Sources of red wrigglers
  • Step-by-step details on how to get your system started
  • Information on how to harvest the castings (including a preview of the cheap, easy-to-build flow-through vermicompost system we’ve designed and are testing!)
  • How to use your worm castings, with a brief primer on compost tea, our favorite way (and another post in our Nutrient Cycling for Homesteads series!)


  • flow-through vermicomposter

    Vermicomposting can be a low-maintenance, highly efficient solution for homesteaders (and even apartment dwellers) to turn food scraps into black gold for the landscape. It’s easy to get started - so please make sure to check it out before you go, and please make sure to leave a comment to let us know which vermicomposting systems have worked well for you if you already have red wrigglers, or which you’d like to try if you’re ready to get started!

    With gratitude,

    Wes and Casey


    6 months ago
    resilient property design essentials cover image

    Hey permies folks!

    We at 7th Generation Design just put out a new ebook called “Resilient Property Design Essentials” - Eight Critically Important Principles, Strategies, and Techniques to Make Your Land More Beautiful, Resilient, and Productive While Avoiding Expensive Mistakes - it’s totally free, and we wanted to share it with you, a community that we’ve learned so much from over the years!

    After several years of designing and implementing permaculture whole-site designs for various properties, we’ve distilled down what we believe are some of the highest value strategies to bring to any property - and put them in writing to easily share with friends, colleagues, clients, and land stewards.

    Here is an outline of the info covered in the e-book:


    Resilient Property Design Essentials

    permaculture sector analysis

    Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.  In the context of a landscape (and the projects being implemented on it), resilience refers to the ability to survive - and dare we say thrive -  in spite of the energies influencing a site (sectors) beyond the landowner’s control.

    Eight of the essential design principles, strategies, and techniques we’ve identified in order to achieve this are:

  • Pattern your access with water in mind - the most overlooked way to save time, energy and money for the long haul when managing land
  • Understand energy, and don’t pay for it if you don’t have to - how to consciously unplug from the energy consumption matrix and make your life simpler, healthier, less expensive and more resilient.
  • Put water to work - and water harvesting and recycling is the way to start!
  • Maximize your unfair advantage - align what you want to do with what your land wants to be)
  • Know thyself (and those with whom you travel) - create your minimum holistic goal, the ONE THING that makes everything else easier or unnecessary that most people never do
  • Avoid type 1 errors - errors that cost you time, energy, money, or emotional well-being for as long as they remain present in the system
  • Know your existential risks (i.e. understand Nature’s erasers in your area) - how to design your property to be anti-fragile in the face of man-made disasters and natural phenomena.
  • Produce something and use it, share it, and sell it - why production is the key to a healthy bottom line (i.e. passively pad your pockets)

  • If these strategies are well-understood and utilized when designing for and implementing a project on the land, things will only get easier as time goes on - instead of harder!


    contour market garden

    The ebook does a deep dive on these eight essentials - a 42 page deep dive, with plenty of examples presented. So please make sure to check it out before you go!

    We’d love to hear how you’ve already employed these strategies on your own property, and what projects you have planned next!

    With gratitude,

    Wes and Casey




    Resilient Property Design Essentials - Free E-Book
    6 months ago
    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
    1 year ago