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Greetings San Francisco Permaculture Guild

We would like to thank all of you who have been attending the monthly Guild meetings.  We love your energy, inputs and the vibrancy that your presence creates on the first Wednesday of every month.

Have you ever considered taking your participation to the next level?

As you may know we have incorporated our organization into a for public benefit corporation (501c3) in the hopes of being more effective in realizing our mission.  As such we have created the SF Permaculture Guild Council to keep us on mission and to advance our activities in the world.

The Guild Council is grateful for the members who have since stepped up to support and guide the organization in fulfilling its mission.   But, we are still looking for a special person interested in the taking on  ADVANCEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT.   This would be a great opportunity to inhabit the understory of the council while furthering your experience in this area in a supportive environment and making a positive change in our community.  Plus it's a great opportunity to have lots of fun with like-minded people.

Here's how we currently see how this position:

-  ADVANCEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT:  Keeping track of who's at the meetings, maintaining lists of attendees, records of contributions to the Guild.   Developing fund raising plans as appropriate (think of this as using permaculture design methods and principles to design a capacity/funding program). Interacting with Programs and Community Connections to ensure healthy attendance of events.

You may or may not have experience in this area, or you may want to develop a new set of skills.

If you are interested you are invited to send an email to David Cody, President ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or join the Guild Council Google Group (http://groups.google.com/group/permaculture-sf-wc) and send a note about what role(s) you are interested in or come to the regularly scheduled Guild Council meeting held at 5:30pm on the first Wednesday of every month before the Guild Gathering at the Gazebo.

Listed below are the complete descriptions of all the roles in the guild council and who in our vibrant system is filling those niches.




Here is a definition of the eight working roles for the Council describing their main characteristics and how they function within the system and in relation to the community.

THE OVERSTORY:   These are the director roles required organizationally in our 501c3 articles of incorporation and bylaws and are named as such.    All three of these members must be present for all council meetings and are essential for the health of the organization.  These roles function as the keystone elements of the system.  The bylaws outline these roles more specifically, but here is a distillation of the primary characteristics:

  • PRESIDENT (David Cody):   Facilitates council and guild meetings, summarizes the work of the council and communicates it to the guild at large.  Check signing privileges along with Treasurer.
  • SECRETARY (Jay Rosenberg):   Scribe.  Records minutes of all council meetings and summarizes the proceedings of guild meetings for the rest of the council and the community.
  • TREASURER (Kevin Bayuk):  Responsible for all funds entering and leaving the circle.  Keeps records of all transactions.  Check signing privileges along with President.


THE UNDERSTORY:  These are the functional roles that support the overall health and vibrancy of the system.

  • PROGRAMS AND EVENTS (Booka Alon) :  Planning, scheduling and providing content and structure to all guild meetings and special events.   Engaging speakers and venues, communicating event specifics to the communications and community connections council members.
  • ADVANCEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT (COULD BE YOU!):  Keeping track of who's at the meetings, maintaining lists of attendees, records of contributions to the Guild.   Developing fund raising plans as appropriate. Interacting with Programs and Community Connections to ensure healthy attendance of events.
  • VOLUNTEER  MANAGER:   Allowing all who wish to contribute to the organization their place and time in the system.   Encouraging participation in special projects and events.


THE RHIZOSHPERE:  Underlying the organization's viability is the ability to communicate and cross-pollinate with other organizations and potential new members and allies.

  • COMMUNICATIONS/ PUBLICITY:  Organizes press releases, uses social media and other communication outlets to let the community at large know  about the Guild events and activities
  • COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS:  Forms associations with other organizations and individuals who may benefit from Guild activities or events.  Creates mutually beneficial relationships with other businesses, entities , school, facilities, organizations and publications.


ZONE 5:  Former council members hold wisdom and continuity much as elders and ancestors do in traditional communities.  They are called upon occasionally, but are often interwoven into the life of the guild.

  • THE SAGE CIRCLE (Fred Bové , Diana Arsham):  Available to be called in as needed to assist with council or guild activities.   Advises in matters relating to council strategy, direction, operation,  etc.
  • COUNSELOR (Paige Tomaselli):  Available to be called in as needed to assist with legal matters as they pertain to the council or the guild.  May be part of the Sage Circle.


THE CYCLE:  All roles turn on the wheel of the year with the exception of the Overstory which follows the organization's bylaws for term.  December 21 (Winter Solstice) marks the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next.    The six Overstory and Understory council members will be responsible for succession planning for their role.  During tenure, each council member in these six positions will identify another member to succeed them when their time on the council in that role has come to an end.  In this way, the roles continually renew and the system flourishes on the energy and resiliency generated by each member's predecessor.   Successors for the following year must be declared no later than June 21 (Summer Solstice).   No member may serve more than 1 cycle per role, although any member may alternate through roles.   All Sage Circle members may continue to assist the council as needed at their own discretion.

EVERY FUNCTION SERVED BY MULTIPLE ELEMENTS:  All roles can be fulfilled by a team of people as needed.  Teams are encouraged with leadership identified for purposes of accountability and succession.

THE MISSION:  The SF Permaculture Guild supports a local community of designers and those interested in permaculture by producing educational and social events, enabling permaculture projects and providing opportunities to exchange information related to permaculture design.

Windbreak Bamboo for SF

japonica-hedge-formalI often get asked about using bamboo as a windbreak.  Oftentimes this becomes a conversation starter that let's us dig deeper into understanding the vast world for the Bamboo.  There are a diversity of genera and species in the world of bamboo and some attention is required to find the best fit for any particualr design.  Here are three species that i would invite into one's consideration set for looking at windbreak applications in San Francisco.  The criteria being wind tolerance and (somewhat) drought tolerance, density of growth, growth pattern and availability.


Photo copyright: Ned Jaquith 2006


Pseudosasa japonica (Arrow Bamboo)

Maximum Height: 18 feet

Diameter: 1 inch
Hardiness: 0º F
Recommended for USDA zone 7 through 10

This bamboo is one of the most widespread bamboos in the country. It makes an excellent screen or container plant. Pseudosasa japonica is also quite happy indoors. The leaves, 5 to 13 inches long by 1.75 inches wide, are much larger than the leaves of other hardy bamboos of similar size. The culm sheaths are persistent. This is also one of the best bamboos for a windy or seaside planting. Although Pseudosasa japonica is a spreading bamboo, this hedge in the lower pictures is 20 years old and has not spread under the sidewalk. Yadake, the Japanese name for arrow bamboo, is a literal translation: ya means arrow, and dake is one of the words for bamboo.

Pleioblastus linearis

Maximum Height: 14 feet
Diameter: 1.0 inches
Hardiness: 10° F
Recommended for USDA zone 8 through 10

Pleioblastus linearis, like Pleioblastus gramineus, will make a thick screen. However, the leaves of Pleioblastus linearis are longer and the plant can grow taller. A pathway only a couple of feet wide with mature Pleioblastus linearis lining both sides will be in total shade. The effect of walking through such a path is somewhat magical.


Thamnocalamus tessellatus

Maximum height 16 feet, 12 - 15 feet average
Diameter: 1 inch
Hardiness 5º F
USDA Zone recommended 7 through 10
* Does not do well in hot, humid climates, for example: Texas, Florida, Lousiana, etc.

One of best clumping bamboos for a sunny location. It is also more upright than our other hardy clumping bamboos. This bamboo is from South Africa, where it is called Bergbamboes, or mountain bamboo; it is the only African bamboo hardy enough to grow in the Pacific Northwest. It is an unusual bamboo, having very thick culms in relation to its height.


Sepp Holzer holds workshop in Bay Area

HolzerIn March of this year Sepp Holzer, a renowned Austrian farmer that applies many permaculture principles to his alpine farm, held a workshop in Loma Mar, CA. He is sought after internationally because he has been able to restore many parched desolate environments, such as those found in Portugal and Siberia, to hydration and fertility. His largest projects are hundreds of acres in size and include the use of heavy equipment.

I was able to attend the workshop and I can summarize it by this on key lesson: if you get the water right, everything else will work out. In his teachings, Sepp as a heavy focus on water management and is not shy about how many retention ponds, hugel beds (1.5 meters high), hugel mounds (>1.5 meters), and channels he will include into a design, just for the sake of better water retention and distribution.

Since I have attended an urban Permaculture Design Course (PDC) I was tempted to compare the two experiences. I would recommend completing a PDC first to gain a larger design framework, and after to attend Sepp's workshop. If you plan on owning acreage, Sepp's curriculum is more appropriate to that scale.

Sepp spent the first two of 5 days exposing his philosophy which includes adopting the perspective of other beings such as trees, insects, and animals to understand what makes them happy. He also encourages direct experimentation such as building mini-ponds and plant guild creations and to "get your feet wet first". His disdain for bureaucratic administrators who have repeatedly fined him for "unorthodox practices" was peppered here and there and it made his narration fun.

The following three days were more hands on and we had a chance to do earthworks, operate heavy machinery under supervision, inoculate logs for mushrooms, and survey the farm we were on to suggest a design. I will be presenting a summary of the Holzer workshop at our June 2013 guild meeting and here you will have a chance to view slides of the event and ask questions. See you there!

Daniel Catalaa

Malabar Gourd - San Francisco Superfood?

malabar-1In less than nine months, The Malabar Gourd has made itself quite comfortable at Hayes Valley Farm. All winter, this perennial squash stretched out over newly sheet-mulched ground on a steep south-east facing slope. It needed no encouragement to offer its pretty green cloak to the chain-link fence at the bottom, and even decided to meander into the neighborhood a few dozen yards to see what was what. Now football-sized fruit is seemingly appearing overnight, and getting larger. Time to figure out a fun way to eat what could be San Francisco's new Superfood.

Why is it so super? Already packaged to be stored for a year or more. From all reports, lots of protein and fat in the seeds. Certainly a lot of water. Don't know what nutritional value is in the leaves, but I'm guessing a truckload of vitamin C. And as a plant, it has already demonstrated that it can quickly provide protective ground cover in marginal soil.

Cultivating Sustainability

Urban agriculture: A hands-on approach to the food crisis


Living in an urban environment can often keep you from going outside and getting your hands dirty in the garden. Of course there are some possibilities, such as growing tomatoes on your balcony or having a banana plant in your living room. But in some cities you can take this a step further. A groundbreaking urban farming bill in San Francisco will enable residents to not only grow fruit and vegetables for their own use, but also to sell them to their neighbourhood restaurant.

San Francisco agriculture

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that on April 20, the mayor of San Francisco signed a bill that allows urban farmers to grow more fruit and vegetables than they would use for their own consumption. With this bill, the city has taken the lead in stretching the legal limits of urban farming; allowing San Francisco residents to sell their produce to local restaurants. The costs of the permits for converting empty lots to farmland were also lowered drastically. This law is in stark contrast to several other American states where people can be fined for growing too many vegetables.

San Francisco Permaculture - Craigslist Feed

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