Introduction to Permaculture class

May 11, 2010

Once again, I will be teaching my popular ‘Introduction to Permaculture’ class at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. Sign up now as space is limited.

Introduction to Permaculture
with Paul Racko

May 22, 2010
9:30am – 11:30am
at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply in Grass Valley, CA

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 major design principles of permaculture and provide advice on how to apply these sustainable practices to the home landscape. 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.
Please pay with cash or make checks made payable to ‘Paul Racko’.
Go to Peaceful Valley Ferm Supply at 125 Clydesdale Court in Grass Valley to sign up, or call (530)272-4769 ext. 116.

Paul Racko has been studying and applying permaculture principles for over a decade. He is a certified permaculture designer and offers consulting services though his firm Sierra Permaculture Design.

Categories: courses, news.

Obama Cops to Peak Oil Reality

April 1, 2010

Obama Administration Cops to Likelihood of Looming Global Oil Shortage: Post Carbon Institute Requests Transparency of Energy Policy

by Tod Brilliant

In an exclusive interview published March 25 in Le Monde, Glen Sweetnam, the Obama administration’s official expert on the oil market, confirmed nearly every element of the “Peak Oil” scenario that many analysts both in and outside the oil industry have warned of for years:

• A decline of world oil production could begin soon—perhaps next year, and
• Only extraordinary levels of investment by the oil industry can maintain current rates of production much longer.

After decades of ignoring the “Peak Oil” theory that predicts global oil production will peak and then rapidly decline, Sweetnam’s admission marks a profound shift in the U.S. government’s position on energy depletion.

“I understand how difficult it must be for officials of the Department of Energy to acknowledge that the lifeblood of the industrial economy–cheap oil–is disappearing faster than they had previously forecast,” says Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow at Post Carbon Institute. “But the American People deserve the truth.”

Semantics Won’t Save Us
While Sweetnam and the Obama Administration prefer to use the term “undulating plateau” to “peak,” the terms are nearly identical. Lauren Mayne, responsible for liquid fuel prospects at the Department of Energy notes: “Once maximum world oil production is reached, that level will be approximately maintained for several years thereafter, creating an undulating plateau. After this plateau period, production will experience a decline.”

“Approximately.” “Several years.” In other words, the Obama Administration is predicting declining oil flow rates in the near future. Also known as peak oil. With 2005 now standing as the record year for total world crude production, we are already five years into the “undulating plateau” forecast by the DoE. Regardless of the shape of the mountaintop–years-long plateau or sharp peak–there is wide consensus that we are about to head down the steep opposite slope.

Asher Miller, Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute, calls on the Obama Administration and the DoE to be honest with the U.S. citizenry about pending oil shortages and what it could mean to our economy and way of life. “Since the DoE is as concerned, apparently, as we are about the implications of energy constraints, perhaps the Department could allocate just 1% of the money saved by terminating fossil fuel subsidies to conduct a thorough and timely study of the impacts of high oil prices and shortages, and what could be done to mitigate that impact. The likelihood is that we will never again see an increase in the availability of cheap oil. If we are honest about this, we would immediately shift our investments from highway expansion to public transit and rail.”

A Call for Honesty
Post Carbon Institute hereby issues a formal call for the U.S. Department of Energy to come forward with all possible clarity and directness on where the world stands with regard to future oil supplies. The American people have already paid for this information through their taxes and they will bear the brunt of higher oil prices if these are indeed in the offing.

We also call for urgent updated studies on (1) what would be the economic impacts of high oil prices and shortages, and (2) what could be done mitigate those impacts. Independent analyses have so far suggested that building public transit and rail, rather than more highways, would give the nation more and better options in the event of a permanent decline in world oil production; however, that conclusion will carry far more weight if it bears the imprimatur of the DoE. If, as previous studies suggest, world oil production is at or close to its peak and the economic impacts will be severe, then it is incumbent upon government at all levels to begin preparations.
The Le Monde article follows upon three recent developments prominently reported in foreign news services:

• On February 10, the UK Industry Task Force on Peak Oil and Energy Security, headed by Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines among other prominent industrialists, issued a report, “The Oil Crunch: A wake-up call for the UK economy,” which forecast that “oil shortages, insecurity of supply and price volatility will destabilise economic, political, and social activity potentially by 2015.”

• On March 23, the British government convened a closed-door meeting between energy minister Lord Hunt and the British business leaders responsible for the headline-grabbing report.

• On March 22, the British Government’s former chief scientist, Sir David King, reported that the world’s oil reserves have been exaggerated by up to a third, and warned of shortages and price spikes within years. A peer reviewed paper by Dr. King and others, soon to be published in Energy Policy, supports the conclusion that world oil production may soon go into decline, followed by shortages and price spikes.

Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, and environmental crises that define the 21st century. PCI envisions a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.

Tel: +1.707.823.8700 • Fax: +1.866.797.5820


Categories: news.


April Sierra Permaculture Guild Meeting

March 29, 2010

Learn about creating sustainable human habitats! If you’re concerned about peak oil, climate change, economic descent, or just want to give Mother Earth a helping hand, please join the Sierra Permaculture Guild at our next public meeting.

For the month of April, we have two exciting speakers lined up!

Local permaculturist Aaron will show us how to build simple, low-cost biogas digesters for home methane production used for cooking
Jan Spencer from Eugene, Oregon will present a slideshow on Transition Town initiatives and permaculture sites he’s visited along the west coast from Bellingham, WA to Chico, CA. Please bring photos of what you’re doing at home or work: grass to garden, solar, water, green building, greywater, cooperative projects with others, etc. to share!

Always free and open to the public — donations gratefully accepted.

Anyone interested in permaculture, sustainable design, ecological agriculture, peak oil, relocalization and related topics is encouraged to attend and participate. Bring your questions, ideas, stories, and visions of how permaculture can help us bridge the transition as we co-create sustainable homesteads, communities and livelihoods.

Saturday, April 10, 2010
2:30pm gathering & networking
3:00pm meeting start/presentations

at Willow Springs
29085 State Highway 49
North San Juan, CA 95960
Site phone: (530) 292-3463

Seating is limited. Please bring a mat, pillow, or folding chair to sit on.

For Sierra Permaculture Guild information, please contact Paul Racko at (530)292-3031 – paul(at)sierrapermaculture(dot)org –

Categories: guild.


IEA Economist: ‘Era Of Cheap Energy Is Over’

March 10, 2010

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The chief economist of the International Energy Agency said predicted Tuesday that the “era of cheap energy is over,” with oil supply unlikely to keep up with demand.

Fatih Birol told the National Association for Business Economics that China will be the main driver of global oil demand, which he sees increasing by about 1.5 million barrels a day this year.

Birol said he has “serious worries” about whether future supply can meet demand.


This is huge news, especially to those who have been claiming over the past decade that the concept of Peak Oil is a “hoax”. Each year, the production data and the spot price of oil confirms that yes indeed, Peak Oil is real and it is here now. This has major implications for the entire global economy because so much of the food, medical, transport, travel and manufacturing sectors of the economy are so dependent on fossil fuels.

The good news is that there is still some time to prepare. Invest in a permaculture system for your home today.

To get started, please call Paul Racko of Sierra Permaculture Design at (530)292-3031 or 613-4181.

Permaculture is the wisest investment decision you can make. Call today.

Categories: news.

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The Simpler Way

February 23, 2010

In this provocative and engaging essay, Ted Trainer critiques the Transition Towns movement and posits that a much more radical approach will be required if our individual communities are expected to survive the transition. Rather than narrowly focusing on energy, local food systems, and recycling schemes, Trainer says that the entire for-profit capitalist system must be jettisoned in order to provide any hope that Earth’s 7 billion human inhabitants will be able to succeed on a planet that is already experiencing resource overshoot.


by Ted Trainer


We have to build a local economy, not a national or globalised economy, an economy designed to meet needs, not to maximise profits, an economy under participatory social control and not driven by corporate profit, and one guided by rational planning as distinct from leaving everything to the market. This is the antithesis of capitalism, markets, profit motivation and corporate control. Nothing could be more revolutionary. If we don’t plunge into building such an economy we will probably not survive in the coming age of scarcity. The Transition Towns movement will come to nothing of great significance if it does not set itself to build such economies. Either your town will get control of its own affairs and organise local productive capacity to provide for you, or it will remain within and dependent on the mainstream economy.

In other words, the goal here is to build that Economy B, a new local economy enabling the people who live in the town to guarantee the provision of basic necessities by applying their labour, land and skills to local resources…all under our control. The old Economy A can then drop dead and we will still be able to provide for ourselves. This kind of vision and goal is not evident in the TT literature and reports I have read. There is no concept of setting out to eventually run the town economy for the benefit of the people via participatory means.

Categories: ideas.

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Sierra Permaculture Guild meeting – 3/13 @ 3pm

February 22, 2010

Join the Sierra Permaculture Guild as we kick off the 2010 planting season with a special talk on spring garden planning by Seth Rosmarin.

Seth will cover:
– what to intially get into the ground
– succession planting over the following weeks
– companion plantings
– flower habitat
– how to have extended harvests
– soil amendments and biology
– till vs. no till considerations
– mulching
– compost and vermiculture
– pruning
– gopher elimination
– seed saving
– old fruit tree varieties
– perennial agriculture
– and pest managment.

Seth Rosmarin has been living and farming in the Sierra foothills for ten seasons. His passion lies in the diversity of food, diet and health. Growing, living and learning in a season specific climate has given him an appreciation for the gift of growing food and the knowledge of its potential.

Free and open to the public!

Anyone interested in permaculture, sustainable design, ecological agriculture, peak oil, relocalization and related topics is encouraged to attend and participate. Bring your questions, ideas, stories, and visions of how permaculture can help us bridge through the transition as we co-create sustinable homesteads, communities and livelihoods.

Saturday, March 13, 2009
2:30pm gathering & networking
3:00pm Seth Rosmarin talk on spring garden planning

at Willow Springs
29085 State Highway 49
North San Juan, CA 95960
Site phone: (530) 292-3463

For Sierra Permaculture Guild information, please contact Paul Racko at (530)292-3031 – –

Categories: guild.

The Sierra Permaculture Guild Returns!

January 16, 2010

Good news! Starting in March, Sierra Permaculture Guild meetings are returning to a wonderful new location: Willow Springs in North San Juan.

Meetings will be held on the second Saturday of each month at 3pm. Folks are also invited to gather and network beforehand at 2:30.

Stay tuned for more details & tell your friends!

Categories: guild.


Caution: Monsanto Frankenseeds on the loose!

January 12, 2010

Many thanks to local grower Ray Diggins of Grizzly Hill Organic Farm & Nursery who passed this info on from a discussion group he belongs to.

As we all know, megacorporations such as Monsanto and Bayer have for some time now been attempting to wrap their greedy tentacles around life itself. Now they are buying up small and regional seed companies so that they can inseminate these formerly independent seed lines with their own GMO Frankenseeds. Their ultimate goal is to strip humanity of our natural, open-source heritage so that they can claim ownership of all plant life and charge a premium price to anyone who wishes to grow or reproduce the plants that they control — even crops that are unintentionally cross-pollinated!

This is pure evil and must be stopped — so what we must do is make our money do the talking!

Here is a bit of background on the main players and a list of the seed companies that are dealing Frankenseeds so that you can spend your money wisely.

PLEASE NOTE: As of 2016, much of this information is now outdated. I have made edits to Ray’s post to indicate the current state of affairs regarding many of these companies to the best of my ability. The good news is that many of them heard your protesting in the marketplace and have signed on to the ‘Safe Seed Pledge‘!

January 12, 2010

From: Ray Diggins


Is Monsanto determined to own all the seed in the world?

Monsanto began aggressively moving into the vegetable seed arena with the $1.4 billion purchase in 2005 of California-based Seminis, which gave Monsanto control over more than 30 percent of the North American vegetable seed market, as well as more than 20 percent of the world’s tomato seed market and more than 30 percent of the global hot pepper seed market.

Last year, Monsanto formed the International Seed Group Inc (ISG) as a holding company for the company’s growing investments in regional vegetable and fruit seed businesses.

Unlike the Seminis business, which is primarily directed at the open-field vegetable market, the bulk of Monsanto owned De Ruiter’s business is for greenhouse growers, known as the “protected culture market,” which Monsanto said is the fastest-growing area of the vegetable seed industry today.

Monsanto’s vegetable seed business will now include De Ruiter Seeds, the “protected-culture” vegetable seed market; Seminis, the open-field vegetable seed market; and the International Seed Group, which will serve the regional seed businesses.”

Monsanto is not the only chemical company buying up small seed companies. Syngenta and Bayer are also buying up regional seed companies. In the corn seed business it is hard to buy seed that is not owned by Monsanto, Syngenta or Dow.

Here is an interesting post on Seed companies supplied by Monsanto. If you think it is relevant please pass it on to the growing food and justice community

All of these seed companies are owned by Monsanto or buy seed from Seminis or other seed companies, which are owned by Monsanto.

* Territorial Seeds (I have contacted Territorial and they are sending a list of seeds they buy from Seminis) [Ed. – see their response below…]
* Totally Tomato [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Vermont Bean Seed Co.[Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Burpee [Ed. – see Burpee owner George Ball’s response below…]
* Cook’s Garden [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Johnny’s Seeds [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’. See also Johnny’s response below…]
* Earl May Seed
* Gardens Alive
* Lindenberg Seeds
* Mountain Valley Seed [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’. See Mountain Valley’s response below…]
* Park Seed
* T&T Seeds
* Tomato Growers Supply
* Willhite Seed Co.
* Nichol’s [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Rupp
* Osborne [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Snow
* Stokes
* Jungs [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* R.H. Shumway [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* The Vermont Bean Seed Company [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Seeds for the World
* Seymour’s Selected Seeds
* HPS [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Roots and Rhizomes [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* McClure and Zimmerman Quality Bulb Brokers [Ed. – Has signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’]
* Spring Hill Nurseries
* Breck’s Bulbs
* Audubon Workshop
* Flower of the Month Club
* Wayside Gardens
* Park Bulbs
* Park’s Countryside Garden

Recently on a gardening forum in which I participate, a list of various seed companies now owned by or supplied by Monsanto was posted. This is relevant because or Monsanto’s commitment to GMO’s, continued efforts to control the world seeds, and the resultant numerous lawsuits as a result of their effort to control the market by placing genetic markers in seeds which Monsanto “owns” I was so shocked to discover Johnny’s and Territorial Seeds on the list that I immediately wrote to them to ask if it was true…

JOHNNY’S: Response: ” We have no affiliation with Monsanto. I would kindly ask you to read about “Who owns Johnny’s Selected Seeds” on our website. For more insight on this subject, please visit the following link: However they did not mention Seminis or other any other Monsanto affiliate.

TERRITORIAL’S Response: While Territorial continues to be owned privately, by Tom & Julie Johns, HOWEVER? -one of their seed suppliers, Seminis, is in fact owned by Monsanto. Over the course of my correspondence with staff from Territorial, they provided me with a list of the seeds currently purchased by Seminis, which I have attached. And I was told that the owners are ‘considering’ whether or not to continue using Seminis as a vendor. Attached at the bottom of this email is a list of products sold by Territorial from Seminis..

The following is a list of the current varieties of seed that Territorial admits “purchasing from” Seminis (Monsanto) :

BNO28 Romano Gold
ML463 Ambrosia
BN042 Liana
OK533 Cajun Delight
BN045 Etna
ON542 Mercury
BN059 Helda
ON544 First Edition
BR089 Small Miracle
ON558 Super Star
BR091 Packman
ON559 Candy
BR104 Early Dividend
PL643 Hamburg
BS121 Vancouver
PP663 Northstar
CF170 Early Dawn SG
PP673 Holy Mole
CF173 Fremont
PP674 Gypsy
CF188 Cheddar
PP679 Mulato Isleno
CN203 Seneca Horizon
PP684 Senorita
CN207 Passion
PU722 Snackjack
CN235 Obsession
PU727 Wyatt’s Wonder
CR266 Thumbelina
SP775 Correnta
CU294 Pearl
SP783 Oriental Giant
CU295 Cool Breeze
SQ792 Butterstick
CU302 Orient Express
SQ797 Gold Rush
CU305 Glacier
SQ798 Portofino
CU312 Babylon
SQ804 Sungreen
EG325 Dusky
SQ825 Early Butternut
EG332 Fairy Tale
SQ827 Ambercup
EG333 Twinkle
TM870 Celebrity
EG334 Hansel
TM871 Big Beef
LT387 Esmeralda
TM896 Viva Italia
LT388 Simpson Elite
TM914 Greenhouse 761
LT400 Summertime
TM924 Super Marzano
ML456 Fastbreak
TM938 Window Box Roma
ML458 Pulsar
WA989 Yellow Doll
ML459 Earlidew

I’m sending this information out in the hopes that you’ll consider writing to Territorial Seed – – to request they terminate their relationship with Seminis, as well as expressing support for them as a company you’d continue to buy seeds from in the future. I can’t express enough how important it is for those of us who are dedicated to food security, and the ongoing availability of good, local, organic produce, to do whatever we can to prevent Monsanto from colonizing our primary sources of seed.

(End of Ray’s post)

Fedco is one of the companies that are fighting to stay independent of corporate takeover – check out their website dedicated to the subject:

July 6, 2016 UPDATES:

Kaitlin Jones of Mountain Valley Seeds contacted me to say that they have taken the ‘Safe Seed Pledge‘. As a result, we’ve scratched them off the list. Way to go, Mountain Valley!

In this blog post by Burpee owner George Ball, he clarifies that Burpees does buy seed from Monsanto, but that they do not sell it. He also makes clear that they are not owned by Monsanto in any way.

Territorial Seed has also signed the ‘Seed Pledge’:

The Council for Responsible Genetic published this list of companies who have signed the ‘Safe Seed Pledge’.

Categories: news.

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Graywater systems now legal in California

January 8, 2010

Good news! Simple and effective home greywater systems have been approved by the California Plumbing Code. Here’s a snippet of the law:

1603A.1.1 Clothes Washer System and/or Single Fixture System. A clothes washer system and/or a single fixture system in compliance with all of the following is exempt from the construction permit specified in Section 108.4.1 and may be installed or altered without a construction permit:


1. If required, notification has been provided to the Enforcing Agency regarding the proposed location and installation of a graywater irrigation or disposal system.


Note: A city, county, or city and county or other local government may, after a public hearing and enactment of an ordinance or resolution, further restrict or prohibit the use of graywater systems. For additional information, see Health and Safety Code Section 18941.7.

2. The design shall allow the user to direct the flow to the irrigation or disposal field or the building sewer. The direction control of the graywater shall be clearly labeled and readily accessible to the user.

3. The installation, change, alteration or repair of the system does not include a potable water connection or a pump and does not affect other building, plumbing, electrical or mechanical components including structural features, egress, fire-life safety, sanitation, potable water supply piping or accessibility.

4. The graywater shall be contained on the site where it is generated.

5. Graywater shall be directed to and contained within an irrigation or disposal field.

6. Ponding or runoff is prohibited and shall be considered a nuisance.

7. Graywater may be released above the ground surface provided at least two (2) inches (51 mm) of mulch, rock, or soil, or a solid shield covers the release point. Other methods which provide equivalent separation are also acceptable.

8. Graywater systems shall be designed to minimize contact with humans and domestic pets.

9. Water used to wash diapers or similarly soiled or infectious garments shall not be used and shall be diverted to the building sewer.

10. Graywater shall not contain hazardous chemicals derived from activities such as cleaning car parts, washing greasy or oily rags, or disposing of waste solutions from home photo labs or similar hobbyist or home occupational activities.

11. Exemption from construction permit requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization for any graywater system to be installed in a manner that violates other provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances of the Enforcing Agency.

12. An operation and maintenance manual shall be provided. Directions shall indicate the manual is to remain with the building throughout the life of the system and indicate that upon change of ownership or occupancy, the new owner or tenant shall be notified the structure contains a graywater system.

California Plumbing Code – Graywater Systems (Title 24, Part 5, Chapter 16A, Part I)

Categories: news.

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Spring 2010 Cooperative Permaculture Design Course

December 12, 2009

I will be co-teaching a unique, cooperative Permaculture Design Course this coming spring at Ananda Dhiira near Grass Valley. Please join me for this life-changing experience!

2010 Permaculture design course in Grass Valley

Cooperative Permaculture Design Course

Sierra Nevada Foothills – Grass Valley, California
April 24 – May 5, 2010

Course Price Just Reduced: More Students = Lower Rate. Bring friends and save hundreds more!

This cooperative permaculture design certification course weaves together the creativity and energy of the participants and trainers in a 12-day exploration of how to design our world to work for all life.

Amongst the breathtaking scenery of the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California, we will share our collective insights, wisdom and experience about how to create sustainable, self-reliant communities, low maintenance foodscapes, healthy homes made from the earth, greywater systems, alternative economic systems and all the many other hallmark techniques of permaculture design.

Innovative Cooperative Model

This course is designed within an innovative cooperative framework which allows us to:

* Share in the work, quickly build community, and learn in a hands-on environment
* Invest in this special site and leave behind artifacts memorializing our time together and what we have learned.
* Reduced Rate! With additional students now signed up, the course rate has just been reduced to $1,000. By sharing the work and its fruits, we can offer the 12-day course for as low as $700. As the number of participants crosses certain thresholds, the economy of scale will reduce everyone’s course fee further, so tell your friends! Work trade discounts are available.

The practical sustainable living and cooperative working skills built during course are set in the context of the ethics and principles of permaculture design – the principles of natural systems.

Completion of the 12 day training results in the internationally standardized Permaculture Design Certificate.

Introductory Weekend Permaculture Course

The first two days of this course, April 24 and 25 will be offered as a stand-alone ‘Introduction to Permaculture course for those with weekend availability only.

The training is appropriate for beginners just learning of permaculture for the first time and experienced designers looking to apply what they have learned before on an inchoate site, for job seekers looking to invent the new economy and for those interested in the intersection of spirit, yoga and sustainable living.

An Abbreviated List of Course Topics:
– Ethics, Principles and Methods of Permaculture Design
– Translating Patterns into Designs
– Watershed Stewardship
– Soil Fertility
– Food Forests and Perennial Vegetables
– Diversified Renewable Energy Strategies
– Community Economic Systems
– Natural Building

A Collaboration of Teachers

A diverse array of instructors have been assembled for this unique Permaculture experience. Teachers include: Sage Mata, Kevin Bayuk, Matt Berry, Shawn Berry, Sean Culman, Benjamin Jordan, Paul Racko, Kevin “Karmendra” Rossy, and Scott Stoller.

About The Location

Ananda Dhiira is beautifully located in the Sierra Foothills adjacent to the South Yuba River State Park, a few miles from Grass Valley, California. The 20-acre parcel consists of about 12 acres of sloped oak-woodland, and 8 acres of meadow bisected by a perennial creek. It is a place of self-discovery where subtle energy flows throughout the land. Ananda Shiira holds space for personal and community development. It is a place for you learn, contribute, and leave a lasting impact for future generations.


Registration is now open. Visit today!

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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