Austin Permaculture

An Austin area journey in developing an abundant and sustainable landscape.

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The Dream

So like many people, I have had several dreams in life.  A goal so massive that it requires other people’s help to accomplish.  I like to think that aspirations like these are best shared with others.  My dream was to help people achieve freedom with food.

Food is control; food is freedom.  If you are dependent on other people or a third party to satisfy your food needs you will not have the same level of freedom as someone that produces a majority of their own food.  I don’t believe we can be 100% self-sustaining with all our food needs, but I think we can get close. Especially building community around food production.  When you can produce your own meat, fruit and vegetables you control how they are grown and thus you control what goes into your body.  You also gain the freedom to have more influence on your quality of life.  Now imagine doing this for a living and building a successful business at the same time.  That’s not necessarily the dream for me, but helping others is.

Not everyone has the monetary resources to purchase 20 acres of land and fast track a food production business.  That’s where my dream comes in.  I wanted to create a company that purchases land, helps make permanent improvements, leases it out and aids in successful business development.  I needed to prove the model first.  I made two companies, bought 20 acres and started the process at the beginning of this year.

The first company is the investment company that purchased the 20 acres.  It’s main responsibility is to ensure any permanent needs are met: water, septic, electricity, buildings, fencing and access.  So the actual electrical service is the responsibility of the lessee, but setting up the service is the first company’s job.  All expenses are metered out based on depreciation schedule based on IRS standards (more on this later).  Any expenses generated from the initial setup are calculated in the lease payment.  All business is conducted above board with transparency to taxing agencies.

The second company leases the land from the first company.  This company is responsible for anything temporary or anything that could be moved to another piece of land.  Animals, feed, cages, temporary fencing, electrical service, trash service, internet, etc. is their obligation to meet.  This company uses the land and available resources to build a profitable food production business.

The investment company aids the food production company with loans, a comforatble lease payment schedule, business and marketing training and possibly even leasing equipment.  At the end of three or four years, the food production company gets first right of refusal to purchase the land.  The investment company gets fair market value for the land and moves on to another of the same project.

So the idea here, as I stated earlier, is to prove the model.  Thus was born Food is Freedom Investments and Bountiful Acres.  I own both companies and my goal is to get a food production business up and running with enough money tracked and saved to buy the farm from the investment company.  This all started in January of 2016.  Come and watch the progress at



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Contour Woody Bed – Planting Trees

Fast forward again to March of 2015.  I ordered about 35 trees from Bob Wells Nursery and Grow Organic.  28 of these trees got planted in the contour woody beds.  I still had two beds fallow and unused.  At this time in my life, work had become an incredible drain on my time.  This was pretty much the last project I had been able to complete in 2015.

I ordered Chinese chestnut, halls hardy almond, Li jujube, plums, peaches, apples, pears, a couple of fig trees and a wonderful pomegranate.  I completely failed to snap pictures of the trees.  I instead became very fixated on nature’s compliments to my garden.  Namely the animals.  Lizards, frogs, a garden snake and baby fricken bunnies.  No kidding!  I got pictures to prove it.


A little garden snake upset that I put him in the wheelbarrow.  I released him elsewhere in the garden away from the end of my shovel.  As I continued to plant the trees, I noticed the soil was very easy to work and almost effortless digging.  As I made my way along the beds, soil had settled between the logs making holes for nature to fill.


Frogs in your garden are a compliment from nature.  Since frogs respire over 50% through their skin, they are very subject to pesticides and chemicals.  My garden is devoid of these damaging agents and I actually stumbled upon another set of frogs.


After finishing the first row of trees I continued to the second row.  As I put my shovel into the ground I stepped back and heard I high pitched screaming.  It was pretty horrible, but my coolest discovery was yet to be found.


I had inadvertently stepped on a bunny burrow.  I lifted up the straw and fur to find a den of kits.


I removed the fur and straw to make sure I hadn’t hurt any of the little ones.


Every night when I come home, I see the adult versions running around.  It was pretty cool to actually be able to see the babies.  Everyone was just fine and were nestled back together in their burrow.  I got all the rest of the trees planted.  I was exhausted and consequently I forgot to snap tree pics.

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Contour Woody Bed – Sweet Potato

Skip a couple of months to November of 2014.  Time to pick the taters.

In the middle row, in the most forward of the three beds, I planted sweet potatoes.  I had two slips that I grew out and an actual potato that I let grow roots.  These were planted back in late June of 2014.  I wasn’t too sure how well they would turn out as this was my first intentional attempt at a food crop.

Sweet Potato 1

This is when I knew they were ready.  I left the tubers in the ground for a little bit longer than I read.  Apparently they are ready for harvest after 100 days, but I chose to leave them in the ground for around 130 days.  Remember that I stopped watering them back in August.  They developed a root system that tapped into the wood core and drew upon that moisture.  They survived a Texas summer and set some ready beautiful purple flowers in September.

Sweet Potato 2

One of the slips with my finger for reference.  Now I don’t have fat fingers, but I had a healthy happy and fat sweet potato slip.  I wasn’t too sure what to expect to find underground.  Much to my surprise I had earthworms and lots of tubers!

Sweet Potato 3

You can see the old potato I planted at the top left.  There is still greens attached to the top. We put these to good use and we made an amazing sweet potato pie out of them.  The smaller tubers were a little fibrous, but we made due and unfortunately the pie was finished off before I could snap a photo.

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Sheet Mulch Followup

Fast forward from July of 2014 to September 2014.  After I planted the pear trees in the sheet mulched area in my front yard, a familiar leaf structure emerged.  The project follow up post is here:

Sheet Mulch Project Updated

The leaf structure was that of a cantaloupe.  I had ran out of compost during the followup part of the project.  I used my own compost that I had made in the back yard.  Interestingly enough, not all the seed from a store bought cantaloupe had been “cooked” in the composting process.  What resulted was an amazing growth represented in the picture below.

Cantaloupe 9-7-14

That is one plant that yielded 48 melons.  Amazing production and a true testament to the power of permaculture!  These melons were the most tasty cantaloupe I had ever tasted.  There must have been some amazing biology going on in the soil.  I was able to sell a few to co-workers, because they smelled and tasted so good.

Bear in mind that the original soil in this area was fill dirt brought in after construction.  This base along with the lasagna structure of fertility fostered a prime growing environment for the cantaloupe.  A pretty cool accident.

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Contour Woody Bed Followup

A lot has happened since my last posting on my woody bed.  I have been taking lots of pics, but I haven’t been keeping up on posting.  I will bridge the gap between mid-2014 and the present.  Some very exciting things have been going on leading up to a couple of companies that I’ve started.

Lets start with July 2014.  The contour woody beds.

Contour Wood Core Garden Beds

Bean Mix

After putting down a layer of compost and mix of black-eye pea and cowpea, I covered it with a layer of compost-infused mulch.  A good watering and a couple of summer showers later and a flurry of nitrogen fixing growth ensued.  I established 2 rows of the 5 rows in this manner.  Remember, these rows are about 25 ft. long.


The middle row consists of 3 beds.  One bed with chickory, one with strawberries (they all died) and the other with…

Daikon Radish

Daikon radish.  Daikon or deep root in Japanese is well suited for the semi-arid conditions here in Texas.  It has a very deep root akin to a carrot and tastes like horseradish.  You can harvest the seed pods when they are young and use them as a salad garnish adding a spicy flavor.  You can also cut the top of the plant (chop and drop) leaving the root to decay adding organic matter (worm food) in your soil.

The chickory in the previous picture bloomed in the middle of August attracting bees and providing a pollen source while other plants had died.

In the final bed of the middle row I planted 2 sweet potato slips that I grew out and an old sweet potato I let go to root.  This was the only food crop that I yielded in November.  Interestingly enough, this plant did not like my well water.  I’m sure due to the alkalinity.  It was necessary to water everyday with rain water I collected.  Once August hit the tubers had set on and were tapping into the wood core for water.  I stopped watering all together.

More updates to get caught up incoming!

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Nature’s Resource: Plantain

In my journey for knowledge I happened upon a website that I have learned a lot about Texas edibles.  I knew there was a veritable medicine cabinet in my yard, but I didn’t have a resource to tap it.  Thanks to a podcast by Jack Spirko at,  I learned about

I already knew that Plantain, sometimes called Greater Plantain,  was great for bug bites and stings.  I had a couple of chigger bites on my leg from watering the garden one night.  I took a couple of plantain leaves and rolled them together to get them to “juice up”.  I then rubbed the afflicted areas with the green pulp.  In seconds the swelling from the bites subsided.  The next morning it was hardly noticeable where I was bit.

I took a picture of a plantain plant in my back yard.  We were nearing the end of the season for this plant.  The Texas sun and heat makes them go to seed quick.  If you want to extend your season for plantain I would recommend that you plant it in pots and keep them in a shady, cool area.


The above picture is from the north side of my house.  Its cool and shady on that spot, so it prolonged the life cycle of the plant.  Notice the exposed “cobs” in the foreground of the picture.  They look like spiny corn on the cob.  They are dried out and the cobs in the back are shaded by other growth; they are green.  I saw this plant everywhere when I learned about it.

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a doctor or an herbalist.  Please seek the counsel of your doctor or herbalist before undertaking any self-taught remedies.

About the time I was researching this plant, my girlfriend had the worst chest cough I had ever seen her experience.  She couldn’t shake it.  Worst yet, she had chest congestion that wouldn’t shake loose.  I made some tea with plantain leaves and the next day she started to have productive coughs.  I was really impressed, but not completely convinced.  We also went up to Natural Grocers in Cedar Park and bought her a herbal cough remedy as well.   Cue one of my co-workers the next week.  He was going on his third week of a non-productive dry cough.  I made some tea for him too and the next day  he was remarkably better.  I didn’t give him the herbal cough remedy that we bought since it was for wet, unproductive coughs.  I was really convinced at this point.

To make tea you break the leaves off, about 4 good sized will do.  Wash them up real good.  You will tear them into 1 inch by 1 inch pieces.  Boil some water in a separate container and place the leaves in another pot.   Pour the boiling water over the leaves and steep them over a low heat for 20 to 30 minutes.  You don’t want to boil the water in this steeping process, but you want to have constant waves of steam rising from the pot.  The longer you leave the heat on past 20 minutes the better.  Leaving it on past 30 minutes will have diminishing returns.  I went for 25 due to time.  Remove from heat and strain out the leaves as you pour into your coffee cup.  I used a little honey to sweeten.  Unsweetened, it tastes like green bean water.

So there you go.  A cough remedy in your back yard.  If anyone would like some seeds please contact me on the “about-contact” button and provide me a mailing address.  I would be happy to mail you some seeds.  Plantain makes an excellent companion plant to any group of plantings.  It will perform the role of herbaceous ground cover in a seven layer food forest.  I will post later on food forestry.  Enjoy nature’s resource!

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Online Legume Resource

I found an amazing legume resource, but first some background.

When I was taking my online Permaculture Design Certificate course, Geoff Lawton had suggested a book:  “Legumes of the World”.

Why is this so important?  Legumes are species like peas and beans that are considered pioneer species.  There are also legumes that are trees.  These are very hardy and grow in conditions that are not as favorable to other plants.  Some  legumes are “nitrogen fixers”.  They will add nitrogen into the soil while they are alive.  There are other species that will add the nitrogen when they die.  Legumes will interact with beneficial bacteria in the soil.  They will form nodules, little white or pink balls, on their root system that trade starch produced by the plant through photosynthesis for nitrogen from the bacteria.  You can also encourage nitrogen release by cutting the branches of legumes before the rainy season and laying them down on the ground.  As these branches decompose  they will amend the soil.

Since legumes are pioneer species, they will grow in poor soil conditions and areas affected by adverse weather.  They will help repair the soil over time giving way to other species.  For example, the mesquite tree can have a tap root that will go down up to 190ft.  This allows it to be very drought tolerant by reaching water tables in some areas.  It will then be replaced by a taller tree.  Legume species are also fast growing and can provide a wind break or you can companion plant them with younger plants and trees.   I have some pear trees that I planted earlier this year.  Unfortunately I should have planted a support tree with them.  They were very late bloomers and have suffered for it from the Texas sun.  If I had a Russian olive or an Autumn olive planted with it they would have helped to shade these young trees from the sun.

As promised the website.  I would recommend using the common name index.  Have fun identifying legumes in your local area.

The same people that wrote the book, converted it into a quick access website.  Enjoy!