Intro to Permaculture Workshop

Sierra Permaculture Design California USAWant to get your feet wet with Permaculture? I’ll be teaching the following workshop at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply on September 13th, 2014.

Intro to Permaculture at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
with Paul Racko

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 – 9:30am – 11:30am
$15.00

Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is a harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. We will cover the design principles of permaculture and how to apply these sustainable practices. No matter if you live in an urban apartment, suburban tract home, or on a multi-acre ranch, permaculture will help you live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Paul Racko is certified permaculture designer and offers consulting, design, project management & training though his firm Sierra Permaculture Design (sierrapermaculture.com)

Pre-registration & pre-payment is requested. Call Peaceful Valley’s store to register at 530-272-4769 x106. Cash or check payments only, no credit cards.

To pre-pay, please mail a check made out to Paul Racko to
Peaceful Valley, Attn: Workshops, P.O. Box 2209, Grass Valley, CA 95945

Workshop Location:
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
125 Clydesdale Court, Grass Valley, CA 95945

Map and Directions: http://www.groworganic.com/store.html

Categories: company, courses, events, news.

No Future for Hierarchies

Hierarchies have no future. They are failing all around: governments, central banks, the Vatican… all crashing down.

“Power may come out of the barrel of a gun, but it requires people willing to hold and aim guns to exercise power.” – Anon

Other than the fictional political hierarchies created by the human mind, there are NO hierarchies to be found anywhere in nature.

The solution?

Sustainable models are local, regenerative, autonomous and decentralized.

Permaculture + Voluntaryism = the ethical, moral and regenerative frameworks of the future.

 

Categories: ideas.

Ultra Cheap Software Defined Radio!

SDR#

The SDR# front-end

As I’ve said in previous posts, ham radio is an important part of any permaculture design. Not only does it provide for communications resilience in times of emergency, it also makes for a really fun hobby. While the learning curve, licensing requirements and equipment costs can be a hurdle for some, the simple act of listening (AKA ‘monitoring’) is a great way to dip your toes into the world of radio.

Flipping through the January 2013 edition of QST Magazine I read the article ‘Cheap and Easy SDR‘ by Robert Nickels, W9RAN. It describes a very inexpensive way to assemble a 300 KHz to 1700 MHz receiver for your laptop using off-the shelf components that you can buy online. The article is behind a paywall, so I’ll paraphrase the content here and provide added resources and recommendations.

DVB-T & RTL-SDR Receiver

Newsky TV28T v2 USB DVB-T & RTL-SDR Receiver

OK, so here’s the super inexpensive way to get into Amateur Radio (and more!) monitoring. We’ve all heard of scanners — those radio receivers that can pick up public service, weather, police/fire/ambulance, marine, aircraft, commercial mobile, amateur radio, citizen’s band, walkie-talkie and even baby monitor transmissions — but up ’til now, such wideband receivers were quite pricy, costing anywhere north of $400. What is a radio newbie (or even a veteran) on a tight budget to do?

Not too long ago (Q1 2012), Linux kernel developer Antti Palosaari discovered that $20 USB dongles used for DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcast – Terrestrial) reception had a really wide-range radio receiver in them, so he teamed up with developers at Osmocom (Open Source Mobile Communications) to build drivers and utilities to couple these dongles with SDR (Software Defined Radio) software commonly used by licensed amateurs to receive radio transmissions of all kinds. The DVB-T dongles have limited reception in the 64-1700 MHz range (which includes the 2 & 1.25 meter and 70, 33, and 23 cm amateur radio bands as well as many others including FM broadcast, marine, public service/emergency, and commercial 2-way services), but with an inexpensive $40 RF upconverter developed by Opendous, reception could be extended all the way down to 300 KHz, allowing for monitoring of AM & shortwave broadcast, maritime distress, Citizens’ Band and the 160 to 6 meter amateur radio frequencies. Wow… a nearly “DC to daylight” receiver for about $60 plus laptop, free software, antennas, feedline coax and connectors. With this system  you can pretty much monitor anything: all the ham bands, CB radio, AM & FM broadcast channels, public service/police/fire/emergency, commercial 2-way radio, shortwave, marine, air, MURS, FRS, GMRS, intercom systems, older wireless telephone systems and more. This is really quite a breakthrough!

Ham It Up v1.0 - RF Upconverter

Ham It Up v1.0 - RF Upconverter

Here is what you’ll need:

1) Computer with a USB port
2) SDR Software. If you’re using Windows, start here: http://rtlsdr.org/softwarewindows. For those on Linux, see: http://rtlsdr.org/softwarelinux
3) Newsky TV28T DVB-T dongle (w/ R820T tuner): http://www.nooelec.com/store/software-defined-radio/sdr-receivers/tv28tv2.html
5) RF Upconverter board: http://www.nooelec.com/store/software-defined-radio/sdr-accessories/ham-it-up-v1-0-rf-upconverter-for-software-defined-radio.html
6) Antennacraft ST4 ultra-wideband discone antenna for 25-1300 MHz receive: http://is.gd/g5Y2Yo
7) The LNR Precision ‘EF SWL’ antenna for 1-30 MHz receive: http://www.lnrprecision.com/endfedz/
8) Appropriate length of 50-ohm coaxial feedline for antenna connections and any adapters needed to attach the feedline to the antenna jack on the RF upconverter. You’ll also need a jumper to connect the dongle to the upconverter. You can find coax and adapters of all sorts at Ham Radio Outlet, but prices are often cheaper on eBay, so search around.

Antennacraft ST4

Antennacraft ST4 for 25-1300 MHz

I’ll be putting my SDR receiver system together soon and will write a follow-up with my experiences. If you decide to set one up for yourself, please be sure to let me know. It’s really amazing how modern technology is making PC-based wideband radio accessible to nearly everyone now!

And here are some resources that you might like to check out along the way:

SDR#: http://sdrsharp.com
Open source Software Defined Radio project

NooElec: http://www.nooelec.com
SDR dongles, RF Upconverter, and accessories

RTL-SDR: http://sdr.osmocom.org/trac/wiki/rtl-sdr
Info on DVB-T dongles based on the Realtek RTL2832U chip

UniTrunker: http://www.unitrunker.com
Trunk tracking for APCO25, EDACS 4800/9600, Motorola, and MPT1327 protocols

HamRadioScience SDR videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/hamradioscience?feature=watch

HamRadioScience.com: http://www.hamradioscience.com

W9RAN’s SDR Archives: http://tinyurl.com/blsg2or
SDR tutorials, guides and reference material

Monitoring Times magazine: http://www.monitoringtimes.com

Popular communications magazine: http://www.popular-communications.com

ARRL: http://arrl.org
The Amateur Radio Relay League

Ham Universe: http://www.hamuniverse.com
Not just for hams, it includes articles, tip and tricks for CB and shortwave listening too!

Short-Wave.info: http://www.short-wave.info
Shortwave broadcast listening guide, forum and resources

Worldwide Radio Forum: http://www.worldwidedx.com
Discussion forum for all things radio. Have a question? It’s probably already been asked and answered!

Have fun and 73!

Paul

Categories: amateur_radio.

Ham Radio at the 2012 Permaculture Convergence

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been chosen to present a workshop and demonstration on Amateur Radio at the 2012 Northern California Permaculture Convergence in Castro Valley, CA on October 12-14.

My workshop is called ‘Building Communications Resilience with Amateur Radio’ and its focus will be on how and why ham radio should be incorporated into permaculture systems everywhere. During the course of the weekend, I will also be operating my station to demonstrate phone (voice) and digital (data) modes on both VHF (2 meters) and HF (40 meters). The station will give Convergence attendees a hands-on opportunity to work the airwaves for the purposes of demonstrating amateur radio’s diverse capabilities for one-to-one and one-to-many voice and data (including chat and email!) communication. If the propagation characteristics of the site allow it (the M.A. Center is located at the bottom of a canyon), I will be running a VHF packet station on 145.050 FM to show how text-based messages & data can be sent, stored, forwarded and retrieved via Packet Bulletin Board Systems (PBBS) as well as demonstrate the Winlink 2000 system for the delivery & retrieval of email via IP the world over! On HF, I’ll be running 100 watts on the 40 meter band using a horizontal dipole antenna optimized for NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) which allows for regional communications within a 30 to 400 mile radius. For updates on my station’s operating times and frequencies, please see my page at HamQTH.com/k6yba

For more information on the 2012 Northern California Permaculture Convergence, please visit their website at http://www.livingmandala.com/Living_Mandala/Northern_California_Permaculture_Convergence_2012.html

Categories: amateur_radio, company, events, news.

Amateur Radio = Communications Resilience

Amateur Radio for communications resilienceOver the dozen or so years that I have been studying and applying sustainable design principles, I have observed that one of the permaculture community’s weakest areas of focus is in the realm of developing resilient communications systems. Here in the relatively affluent western world, we take it for granted that telephone landline, cell phone and internet service is available 24/7/365, all of which is possible due to the readily accessible and affordable energy that is currently at hand. But what is the likelihood that these convenient communications channels will be available in a world of increasing energy access constraints? Will the server farms and cell towers continue to function? Besides the energy issue and fear of a potential ‘Zombie Apocalypse’, how can we stay in touch with our friends and family while also keeping important information flowing when natural disasters such as earthquakes, wildfires and other catastrophies occur at the local and regional level?

Building redundancy into our systems is a key part of permaculture design. When one or two elements fail, fall-back strategies help keep the overall system functioning. This I believe, is why amateur radio is so important and should be adopted as an integral part of everyones’ overall design system, both at the home and community level.

I personally caught the radio bug at a young age. My father, who was an immigrant from Eastern Europe, brought his console radio with him when he moved to the United States. Included in the cabinet was not only a turntable and standard AM/FM broadcast receiver, but also a shortwave receiver with a graphical display of all the frequencies that could be tuned to in order to receive broadcasts from around the world. I was fascinated by the notion that it was possible to hear stations from Mexico, Canada and Europe and I’d listen to them whenever the ionospheric conditions allowed these long-distance transmissions to be heard. In all likelihood, it was this early exposure to radio that motivated me to become a radio broadcaster at KZSC 88.1 FM during my college days. After college, I purchased a shortwave radio of my own and challenged myself to hear DX (long-distance) broadcasts from around the world, I got to guest DJ for a neighbor at Burning Man who was operating a 1-watt FM “pirate” radio station, and later, I toyed around with CB radios, only to find the 40 channels there polluted with cussing loud-mouths using modified rigs and 100 watt linear amplifiers which prevented anyone else from getting a word in edgewise. It was impossible to cut through all the noise and have an intelligent conversation. Then I discovered the amateur radio service!

At first, the notion that I had to take a technically-oriented test in order to get my entry-level ham “ticket” was off-putting, but I eventually put my mental block aside after I realized that hams take the art and science of radio much more seriously than do the jabber jaws of the CB band, and not only that, knowledge of morse code was no longer required! If passing a simple 35 question multiple choice test (the FCC makes the question pool and all the answers available to you in advance) to get a Technician’s license was the only thing getting between me and a free, decentralized, wireless communications system, I eventually had to ask myself, “What the heck am I waiting for?”.

So I ordered a copy of the ARRL’s Ham Radio License Manual and began devouring the info. The great thing about this book is that as you read about licensing regulations, radio theory, safety and good operating practices, you are referred to the relevant test questions that appear in the appendix at the back of the book. To my relief, I discovered that there really isn’t all that much math or knowledge of electronics involved. It took me about one month of on-and-off studying to get through, and at the end, I loaded the book’s software CD onto my laptop so that I could take randomized practice exams. By the 5th or 6th try, I was aceing them and fully confident that I would do just fine on the actual test day. I contacted my local club, the Nevada County Amateur Radio Club, to let them know I planned to attend their next test session and showed up on the day of the test with money, pencil, and photo ID in hand. The club’s Volunteer Examining Committee (VEC) charged me just $15 to protor the test, grade it and submit my test results and license application to the FCC. The license itself doesn’t cost a penny and it lasts for 10 years, at which time you must renew it through the FCC for another decade. The room was quite full, with both aspiring hams going for the entry-level Technician class license, and those who were testing to upgrade to either a General or Amateur Extra License Class which would give them additional operating privileges on the HF (high-frequency) bands. My studying paid off! I scored 35/35 on the Technician exam and was given the option to test for the General license, which I took them up on at no extra charge. Without even studying, I scored 20/35 — not quite enough to qualify, but not too shabby considering that I hadn’t even read up on the General class info. Once all my paperwork was submitted by the VEC, I waited 6 days and my new call sign was posted on the FCC’s amateur radio license database: KJ6UPR. Now I could finally start operating!

So what are you waiting for? Cultivating communications resilience is easy and it doesn’t take a big investment in gear. In my next entry, I’ll detail my particular choice of gear, where I got it, and how I plan to use it for communications beyond voice: file sharing, text messaging, email and even internet access!

73,

Paul

 

For more information on amateur radio please visit:

The Amateur Radio Relay League: The national association for amateur radio

The Federal Communications Commission: Amateur Radio Service

The Nevada County Amateur Radio Club

Amateur Radio at Wikipedia

Categories: amateur_radio.

Local Food Freedom – Nevada Co. Event!

Local Food Freedom Nevada County would like to invite you to an evening of information and dialogue regarding your freedoms and fundamental rights.

WHO DECIDES what we EAT, GROW & SELL?
Local Food Freedom Event

Friday March 23, 2012 7pm – 9pm
Nevada City Vets Hall

Speakers:
Shannon Biggs – Community Rights Advocate
Pattie Chelseth – Farmer whose small farm was targeted by FDA
Dale Jacobson – Chiropractor and health care advocate

Donations accepted

Unbeknownst to many, our basic right to grow food and share with friends and neighbors, to have bake sales, potlucks, or a child’s lemonade stand, enter into contract with local farmers for healthy food, or simply buy an herbal cough syrup can no longer be taken for granted.

Recently, the FDA and court rulings have held that:
·         There is no fundamental right to obtain any food we wish.
·         There is no fundamental right to freedom of contract.
·         There is no fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or dairy herd.
·         There is no fundamental right to consume the milk from one’s own cow.
·         There is no fundamental right to board their cow at the farm of a farmer.
·         There is no absolute right to produce and consume any particular food or feed it to our children.
·         There is no deeply rooted historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds. Private contracts do not fall outside the scope of the State’s Police Power.

Because we are concerned about our beloved Nevada County, a diverse group of community stakeholders representing all political points of view are bringing this basic human rights issue before you.

It is our inalienable right to grow and consume our own food without government interference. We oppose regulating small farms out of existence and unwarranted raiding of the offices of honest, hard working citizens.

Please join us for an evening together, exploring our food rights and right to choose. Come and learn what we can do to protect our local rights!

Local Food Freedom – Nevada County

Join the LFF-NC listserv for e-mail updates!

Categories: events.

Save Water, Save Money: How to be Water Wise in your Home and Garden

Nevada City’s new WaterWise Program presents free Public Workshop and Fixture Give-aways  NC_Water_Wise_logo

Nevada City has recently initiated its WaterWise program to help residents save money on their water bills by using water more efficiently.  As part of the public launch of the program, WaterWise will be holding a free public workshop on water efficiency titled, “Save Water, Save Money: How to be Water Wise in your Home and Garden.”  Many local home and gardening experts will be speaking at the event, and there will be a raffle of a Dual-flush toilet donated by Sierra Plumbing Supply, an irrigation “smart-controller’ donated by Weiss Landscaping, and a gift basket donated by Rare Earth Landscape Materials.  In addition to these raffle items, Nevada City will be giving away one of the latest designs in low-flow showerheads.  Although the raffle items and give-aways are only available to Nevada City water utility customers, the program itself is open to the general public, and everyone is invited to attend.  Light refreshments will be available.  The program happens Saturday, March 17th, from 10am to 1pm, at Seaman’s Lodge, in Pioneer Park.

Save Water, Save Money: How to be Water Wise in your Home and Garden

Speakers and topics:

Zeno Acton with Acton Arboriculture – The steps and value of an irrigation audit.

Adam Weiss/Brian Coalson with Weiss Landscaping – Landscape maintenance strategies, irrigation improvements and adjustments that conserve
water

Karin Kaufman, Landscape Architect: Reducing or removing lawn, and what to put in its place

John Whalin, from Sierra Plumbing Supply: Water efficient fixtures inside the home

Lyn Muth, Master Gardener at A to Z nursery: Using water wise plants in the landscape

Paul Racko, Sierra Permaculture Design:  harvesting and reusing water in the landscape with swales, ponds & greywater

Following new state guidelines which mandate all California water suppliers to use metered billing and to reduce per capita water use, Nevada City installed new water meters and switched to metered billing in 2011.  As often happens when switching to metered billing, many residents’ water bill increased dramatically.  The Nevada City council initiated the WaterWise program to help residents bring those bills back down and under control.  The program also aims to guide residents towards the state mandated goal of 20% lower water use by the year 2020.  WaterWise may also help the city during the peak use summer months when it has to buy additional water from NID, as well as stave off spending millions of dollars on infrastructure and water treatment plant renovations.

Many area residents have wondered at the reasoning behind a water efficiency program when Nevada City is located so close to the headwaters of a large watershed and water seems so abundant.  The bigger picture behind the need for water conservation is that California has a serious water problem.  There has been a warming trend in California for decades which is predicted to continue.  This warming trend is not only melting away millennia-old glaciers in the Sierra, it’s causing earlier snow melt and run-off, and faster evaporation rates.  Faster evaporation rates mean more water is required to irrigate crops and landscape.  Compounding this problem is the fact that California is expected to continue growing in population by many millions in the coming years.  Much of this population growth is expected to happen in areas that are already experiencing severe water shortages and already rely on reclaimed water for irrigation.  In simple terms all of this means that California’s water supply is decreasing at the very same time that its water demand is growing.    Facing a serious failure of the water supply system in the not too distant future, California instituted Senate Bill SB7.7 in 2009, which calls for more efficient water use by all Californians, with a reduction of 10% by 2015, and 20% by 2020.  Thankfully there are many new technologies and practices available to the public to help them reduce water use without sacrificing comfort or utility.  Some of the new low-flow fixtures not only use less water, they actually perform better than previous higher flow models.  For instance, the new generation of high efficiency sprinkler heads use up to 30% less water, while simultaneously providing better soil infiltration than previous designs.  The goal of the WaterWise program is to inform residents about newly emerging water-saving technologies while also promoting practical and time-tested water wise practices, such as adding mulch to the garden, and shutting off the faucet while brushing our teeth.

WaterWise Nevada City coordinators Katie Merrill and Ellis Garvin may be contacted directly at (530) 265-2496, ext. 121.  Or by email at:  nevadacitywaterwise@gmail.com

Categories: events, news.

Permaculture Basics class at PVFS

Saturday, March 24, 2012
9:30am – 11:30am
at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply in Grass Valley, CA
$15.00

Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is a harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. In this two-hour class, we will cover the design principles of permaculture and provide advice on how to apply these sustainable practices to home landscapes and the surrounding community. No matter if you live in an urban apartment, suburban tract home, or on a multi-acre ranch, permaculture will help you live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Early registration and prepayment is required one week prior to class. Each student will receive 10% discount coupon at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, good for one week.
Please pay prior to class with cash or make checks payable to Paul Racko.
Go to Peaceful Valley Farm Supply at 125 Clydesdale Court in Grass Valley to sign up, or call (530)272-4769 ext. 114.
Website: GrowOrganic.com

Paul Racko has been studying and applying permaculture principles for over a decade. He is a certified permaculture designer and offers consulting, design, project management & training though his firm Sierra Permaculture Design. SierraPermaculture.com

Categories: courses.

OMG the debt ceiling! It’s overrrrrrrr!

“OMG the debt ceiling! It’s overrrrrrrr!”

Well, sort of…

The US debt crisis wrangling in D.C. is crass, concocted political theater to keep the global masses scared and distracted, opening the door to yet more disaster kapitalism. Just watch: the ceiling will be raised at the 11th hour and Uncle Sam will continue to borrow and spend his way into the compost heap of history, yet another iteration of the patterns of the past (Rome, Spain, Britain, et al.) Today, Greece is just a prelude to the inevitable coming attraction.

Our job now, as intelligent beings who clearly see the game they’re playing, is to start getting creative about how we’re going to organize our communities & social affairs.

One place to begin is at the philosophical and macro-economic levels. This site is chock full of excellent free resources (ebooks, MP3 audiobooks, journals and pamphlets) to get your gears turning:  libertyactivism.info

At the personal, micro-economic level, begin to apply permaculture principles at home in your immediate community: permacultureprinciples.com

Together, these two concepts are truly ECO-nomics and I believe that they go hand-in-hand.

For some of you, either of these concepts may be a whole new realm of experience & understanding, but as the collapse of current paradigm shows us, the system we have now is just not sustainable at all. Society needs to set out on a bold new path. Let’s start exploring, learning, networking and applying – sustainably, cooperatively, and non-violently.

Please feel free share your favorite links and resources related to this theme in the comments section.

In abundance!
Paul

Categories: ideas.

Tags: , , ,

Permaculture Basics Class at UUCM

Permaculture BasicsSierra Permaculture Design California USA
with Paul Racko

July 24, 2011
12:30pm to 2:30pm
Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains in Grass Valley
$5-20 sliding scale donation suggested

Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is a harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. In this two-hour class, we will cover the design principles of permaculture and provide advice on how to apply these sustainable practices to home landscapes and the surrounding community. No matter if you live in an urban apartment, suburban tract home, or on a multi-acre ranch, permaculture will help you live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains
246 S. Church St
Grass Valley, CA 95945
Map: http://goo.gl/C5zM9
The presentation will take place in the sanctuary following Sunday services.

Paul Racko has been studying and applying permaculture principles for over a decade. He is a certified permaculture designer and offers consulting, design, project management & training though his firm Sierra Permaculture Design. SierraPermaculture.com

http://goo.gl/C5zM9

Categories: courses.

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Sierra Permaculture Design

Permaculture design and consulting services in Auburn, Grass Valley, Nevada City, and North San Juan, California. Also serving Nevada County, Placer County, Sierra County, and Yuba County, California CA.

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