Winter Solstice / Christmas Time!

We cut a small fir tree at our friend’s L77 Ranch just down the road. Thanks Mary! The more I read about the life of trees and their interactions with each other, mycelia, and other forest organisms, the more I think like this will be the last time we ever cut a tree down.

We celebrated the holidays on The Hill with friends. Incidentally I’d made a batch of red gingery kraut that we cracked open on Christmas Eve. We shared it with friends and gave jars of it as gifts.

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October arrives and we begin preparing beds for the coming spring. Sheet mulching is a great way to take a grassy spot and rev it up to speed quickly. The technique, which we learned from Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway, is fairly simple. Slash the vegetation where you want to plant, then aerate the ground a bit. Add manure, then cover the area with paper.

Once it’s covered in paper, then layer on manure and straw, paper bags, more manure and straw. Pretty much like making a delicious, poop-filled lasagna. After a season or two of breaking down, you’ve got a wonderful bed of rich soil.

If you can’t wait that long, then just make a little hole in the straw and fill it with potting soil, then plant whatever you like in it.

Sorrel Bear and the fig.

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Orin Rocket and Angelica – what an amazing smelling plant!2015-10-17 17.44.27

Manijeh prepares beds with sheet mulch near the Mormon Apricot, Mulberry, and Cherry trees. And yes, that’s a freshly dug swale in the fore ground.

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When the mother is away, three dudes throw a dance party! For future reference / note to self:  Orin just turned 4 and Sorrel Bear is a smidge over 4 months. 2015-08-14 13.12.15


Here is one of my most favorite Cloud Cult songs that pretty accurately represents how we are feeling right now with pics of Sepia Permaculture Research Farm! Guest stars include Orin Rocket and Sorrel Bear as “the crazy cute kids” and Comfrey, Angelica, Choke Berry, Sage, Thyme,  Ash, Beets, Strawberry, Mulberry, Calendula, and the Aspen Grove as the “lovely green beauties”. Guest appearances by three adorable little ducks named The Scary Giant, Slytherin, and Yon.

Enjoy! I sure am!



After only 3.5 hours of labor, little Sorrel Bear Baxter was born Tuesday, March 10th at 4:29am.
Weight:  8.6 lbs
Length:  20 inches
Blood Type:  A neg

A short version of the birthing story:

My perception of time in the following events may be slightly distorted, but I believe this is reasonably close.

Earlier in the day, Manijeh drove to Portland to drop off our friend, Hermit Kyle Bray, and visit with other friends while I – operating on 3hrs of sleep and 3 cups of coffee – finished wiring the basics of the house – the last big “Before Baby ToDo” item. We now have washer/dryer, dish washer, outlets and temp lighting… just in time!

At 1:15am Manijeh’s water broke and, after a few OMGs, we called our sibling doula / neighbor, Sandra, and our midwife + crew. Sandra and I spent the next hour making the space tidy and relaxing.

We filled our claw foot tub and that is where Manijeh spent the beginning of the birth. After an hour or so in the tub, she moved to the living room and rocked for a short time on a pillow. She then returned to the tub. With all of the dish washing and cleaning, the hot water had nearly run out, so we heated water on the wood stove. This worked out well and gave us something to laugh about. The moonlight came through the window and shone perfectly on Manijeh’s belly as she labored.

Orin woke around 3:00 asking “Mama, are you yelling?” We explained that the baby was coming and that everything was fine. Sandra stayed with him, reading books and explaining the process.

Midwife Katherine Zeiman, and her crew arrived around 4:00am followed shortly by our friend, Katie Silva. I held Manijeh’s hand while Orin stood on a small stool and watched as the baby’s head emerged.

Once the baby was born and checked out by the team, we watched from our living room as dawn crept in and Mt. Adams caught the sun’s first rays. Meadow larks sang in the trees, robins peeped in the grass, tiny frogs chirruped in the pond and our little family grew by one little bear. Oxytocin makes all of this glow brightly in memory.

I fell asleep with the baby nestled on my chest while the midwife, OB and team checked on Manijeh.

I’d like to say that we all then took an epic nap. Instead we stayed awake until night, growing ever more exhausted and, over the course of the next couple of days, we eventually caught up on our sleep.

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Rough plumbing passed inspection and we hooked everything up. Well, we hooked up the kitchen sink, dish washer, and shower anyway. There’s still some wiring to be done in order to run the dish washer and the washing machine. But this is a huge step forward.

We’ve put the permaculture layout on hold as we work on the house. However, I finally made some time to take the initial sketches ( located here ), the rough contour map, and the “basic ideas” map (not shown below), and mix it all together in Photoshop.

This is only a small step toward creating a full plan, but it’s fun to see a little forward motion after so much time spent working on other client projects and the house. I’ll need to make time to finish illustrations for swales, hugels, and the like, but… one thing at a time.

Isometric Overview