Tag Archives: permaculture

Permaculture goes mainstream, hope rises

Sometimes little things give hope that progress is possible, and that maybe “if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time,” to quote the Cheerful Disclaimer.  This last week the little thing for me was the discovery of permaculture by the New York Times.  Now, I’m not so naive to believe that seeing permaculture in the mainstream press is going to make a lot of difference immediately, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see a surge of interest in permie classes across the country with long-term benefits to both participants and the environment (FYI, classes are offered here in Houston by the Permaculture Guild of Houston, through Urban Harvest).

I think the important point is that awareness is growing in our country:  awareness of our ecosystem impacts, awareness of the lack of sustainability in our lifestyles and economy, and also awareness of that which is missing in our lives–community, connection, purpose.  Permaculture is a positive response to that growing awareness, as is the permaculture-based Transition movement.

There are a couple of opportunities to join with others in our Transition Houston community this week and next.  Please avail yourself of these options to increase your awareness and find connection with a community of folks working for a resilient Houston region.

Transition Houston Hub meeting, Tuesday, August 2, 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Green Film Series Presents Blue Gold: World Water Wars, Tuesday, August 9, 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Transition Houston Hub meeting, Tuesday, August 2, 7:00pm to 9:00pm
We hope to see you at Tuesday’s Transition Houston meeting, which will feature a guest speaker in addition to news from the Transition Neighborhoods and Action Groups.

We are very fortunate to have Peter Wang, League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, as our guest speaker.  Peter is considered a local biking expert.  He’s everywhere as a go-to guy for media interviews about bikes, and has been involved in a lot of bicycle issues.  He is risk-averse–exactly the kind of guy you would want to help you practice being safer!–and has taught a lot of these safety classes.

Peter will present a video screening followed by a discussion. The video is Enjoy The Ride, about essential bicycling skills.  It will provide straightforward instruction for checking over your bike, bike-handling skills, and riding confidently in traffic.   The video is based on principles of the BikeEd curriculum developed by the League of American Bicyclists.


  • pre-ride checklist
  • bicycle handling skills
  • riding in traffic
  • identifying & avoiding hazards
  • riding in all conditions (night, rain, hills)

We will also have updates from our Neighborhood Initiatives and Action Groups.

As is our tradition, the business program will end at 8:30 and the time for refreshments, conversation, and community will begin.

Parking:  If the Church lot is full, parking is available in the parking lot of the Rice Village Animal Hospital just across Rice Blvd. on the northwest corner of Rice and Greenbriar.  Another option is the Rice University parking lot across Greenbriar from the Church ($1).  Bicycle parking is in the greenspace within the church parking lot.

Transition Houston Hub Meeting
Tuesday, August 2 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Christ The King Lutheran Church
2353 Rice Blvd., Houston, TX 77005
For more information and RSVP: Ning or Facebook

Green Film Series Presents Blue Gold: World Water Wars, Tuesday, August 9, 6:30pm to 9:00pm
The Rice University Environmental Club, Houston Tomorrow, the Emerging Professionals of the Houston USGBC, and Transition Houston present the August film in our Houston Green Film Series–Blue Gold: World Water Wars.

Based on the ground-breaking book by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke, Blue Gold: World Water Wars sheds light on the world’s rapidly approaching water crisis and suggests that wars of the future will be fought over water (as they are today over oil) as the source of all life enters the global marketplace and political arena.

Following the movie, we will highlight the local non-profit Living Water International that is working to solve global water issues.

6:30 Meet and Greet
7:00 Featured Film
8:00 Water Non-Profit Showcase

Refreshments will be served.   A $5 donation is suggested and greatly appreciated.

Blue Gold: World Water Wars
Tuesday, August 9
6:30pm to 9:00pm
Rice University Media Center
2030 University, Houston, TX  77005
For more information and RSVP:  Facebook

Looking forward to seeing you at these events!


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Reflections from a northern state

I’ve had ample opportunity during the last couple of weeks in Montana to consider a broad range of transition (with a small “t”) issues:  From first-hand experience on the producer end of the food system to watching grain and cattle prices rise.  From feeling the effects of an enhanced Arctic Oscillation, with temperatures only now moving above freezing, to watching the Weather Channel report the results of increased atmospheric moisture load as intense storms and heavy precipitation.  From watching oil prices rise (along with rhetoric about responses with no hope of addressing the fundamental issue of resource depletion) to watching my father’s 10-kW Bergey wind turbine continuing to crank out the clean kilowatt-hours–more than 46,000 of them in the five years since it was installed. 
Those challenges that Transition (with a capital “t”) emerged to address are here-and-now; we are not preparing for a distant future but are here to build a resilient and satisfying life in the present.  We are indeed fortunate to have found each other in this community, and fortunate as well that every one of you bring so much in knowledge, skills, experience, and passion.
There are always so much going on in the Houston Transition and Transition-related community, but this week we would like to highlight two upcoming opportunities for you to learn and connect.

Transition Houston Permablitz #6, Saturday, March 19
Our next Permablitz is coming up in just a week and a half, and like all of the others this looks like it is going to be a lot of fun and educational too!  Please join us as we build resilience one backyard at a time, with projects and experiences including:

  • Wildflower identification (great for the kids)
  • Build a 3 compartment compost bin
  • Build and plant two 4’x8′ raised bed vegetable gardens
  • Rebuild a snag (for wildlife habitat)
  • Plant a variety of fruit trees
  • Build a permeable front walk
  • And more!

As is the Permablitz tradition, breakfast will be provided.  We will have a potluck at the conclusion of the morning’s activities–please bring a labeled (name and possible allergens) dish.  It would also be helpful and consistent with our values if you could bring whatever plates, cups, and utensils you need.

Transition Houston Permablitz #6
Saturday, March 19
Start time at 8:30am
Lunch at 1:00pm
4021 Woodfin St.
Houston, TX  77025
for information and RSVP: Facebook or Ning

Houston Green Film Series: ScrapHouse, Tuesday, March 29
The Emerging Professionals of the USGBC Houston chapter, Transition Houston, and the Rice Environmental Club present the March film in our Green Film Series on Tuesday, March 29th.
ScrapHouse is a 44min documentary following the ScrapHouse build in San Francisco. It is directed by Emmy Award-winning director Anna Fitch and it aired in The National Geographic Channel in 2006.  The San Francisco Chronicle said of the film:

Forget about “Snakes on a Plane.” If you want to see a thrilling nail-biter of a film, check out the documentary “ScrapHouse.” It tells the story of how a team of architects, builders, structural engineers and scrap artists came together last year to build a house entirely out of garbage. No, not the green materials everyone is talking about, something greener than that — real and true garbage plucked straight from the waste stream.

The trailer for the movie can be viewed at www.scraphouse.org/Documentary.

We are again fortunate to have an expert panel available to discuss the film and answer questions after the screening.  The schedule for the evening is:
6:30pm Meet and Greet
6:50pm Meet the Sponsors
7:00pm Featured Film: ScrapHouse
7:45pm Expert Panel

Houston Green Film Series: ScrapHouse
Tuesday, March 29
6:30pm – 8:30pm
Rice university Media Center
6100 Main Street, Entrance 8 (on University Blvd.)
Houston, TX  77005
For information and RSVP: Facebook or Ning

I hope to see you at these excellent events!

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November is Transition Time too

It is very nice here at the beginning of November to have the return of cooler weather, but the farmer (and avoider-of-lawn-watering) in me is hoping for for some rain as well.  October certainly wasn’t a dry spell as far as events and activities of interest to our Transition community go, from our very interesting Transition Houston meeting with guest speaker Richard Johnson, to the Global Work Day on 10-10-10 in which so many of our members were involved including at Transition Houston and Clear Lake Transition Initiative’s Permablitzes, to the most excellent GreenWeek activities which engaged at No Impact Project workshops and the Green Fest at The Last Organic Outpost…what a month it has been!
Now here we are in November and our activities continue apace in learning from each other and from experts in our communities.  We hope that you might have time to participate in these many opportunities to learn about–and build–a resilient Houston area.

Transition Houston monthly meeting, Monday, November 1
It is hard for me to believe, but it is time for our November monthly meeting already!  We will have a special focus on Permablitzes at this meeting, with a recap of the 10-10-10 Permablitzes and discussion of upcoming ‘Blitzes including the one discussed below on November 13.  We will also have reports from neighborhood Transition Initiatives, Action Group reports, announcements, and our traditional time for snacks and conversation.

Transition Houston November Meeting
Monday, November 1
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Urban Harvest
2311 Canal St.
Houston  77003
for more details:  transitiontexas.ning.com/events/transition-houston-november

Pallet Building Workshop starts Monday, November 1
New Jura Natural Building owner and Transition Houston member David Reed is holding a free pallet building workshop near Waller starting on Monday, November 1.  Natural building techniques have much to recommend them during transition times, as they often recycle materials or use low-cost and low-embedded-carbon materials.  Says David:

We will be teaching YOU how to build a home out of the highly abundant waste material: PALLETS!  We will be insulating the pallet walls with slip straw and then plastering the inside and outside with an earthen plaster.  The roof will have a rainwater capture system and the home will have a grey water system.  We will be working on this pallet house until it is finished, hopefully in time for the cold to set in!
Please RSVP to Dude@newjurabuilding.info or call 832-775-3930.  Lunch will be provided, a $10 donation/person is suggested.

Clear Lake Transition Initiative meeting, Thursday, November 4
The Clear Lake Transition Initiative will be holding their monthly meeting on November 4.  Among the agenda items are Fall permablitzes, film screenings, and a Transition Town introduction.  Rob Williams from CLTI shares this:
Interested in having a suburban farm on your property? Maybe just harvesting and recycling water? Or maybe you just want to get involved. You won’t want to miss the next CLTI meeting on Thursday November 4th at 6:30-8:30 pm at the Coffee Oasis in Seabrook.
Call me at 281.705.4307 or email me at clearlaketransition@gmail.com for more information.

Clear Lake Transition Initiative Meeting
Thursday, November 4 ·
6:30pm – 8:30pm
Coffee Oasis
4650 Nasa Rd 1
Seabrook  77586

Transition Houston Permablitz #4, Saturday, November 13
Our next Permablitz promises to continue our tradition of excellent learning and community-creating opportunities while building resilience one bit of land at a time.  This one will be held in the Transition Japhet Creek community.  Current plans include driving a well, adding drip irrigation to existing garden beds, installing a rain barrel, planting an herb garden, and a cob building workshop which will result in a cob oven.  While most of the Permablitz will be finished around mid-day, the cob workshop will continue to 5pm.  As is our tradition, we will have a potluck after the morning portion of the Permablitz.

“Cob or cobb is a building material consisting of clay, sand, straw, water, and earth, similar to adobe. Cob is fireproof, resistant to seismic activity, and inexpensive. It can be used to create artistic, sculptural forms and has been revived in recent years by the natural building and sustainability movements”.- Wikipedia

Preparation work for the cob oven will begin on the weekend before the Permablitz (November 6 or 7).  If you would like to participate in that as well please RSVP to Jim Ohmart (JMOhmart at AOL dot com or 713-674-2528).

David Reed of New Jura Natural Building (www.NewJuraBuilding.info) will teach the cob building workshop.  This workshop will cover the basics of mixing cob and plastering techniques involved in building a cob oven.  David also offers more advanced cob building classes for building larger structures including homes. You can learn about and sign up for those classes at this workshop.
The Japhet Creek Community is on the near-Eastside of Houston.  The hosts offer these directions:  If you’re coming US-59 exit I-10 East.   Once on I-10 East exit at the Waco St,  Exit 771-A, first exit past US-59.  At Waco St turn right (south) to the first stop light at Clinton Dr.  Turn Left (East) on Clinton to the second street on the right (Emile).  Turn Right (South) on Emile and go two blocks to Inman.  Turn in the next driveway on the left at the warehouses and park there.  Our house is 4510 Inman on the left.  Enter on through the gate on the right side of the house.  If you get lost call 713-674-2528.

Transition Houston Permablitz #4
Saturday, November 13
8:30 am – 5 pm
4510 Inman St.
Houston  77020
Please RSVP to Mark Juedeman (mjuedeman at gmail dot com)

Sustainability seminars and workshops
Members of Transition Houston have passed on word about several seminars/workshops coming up that will address sustainability issues:
Sustainability Pay$ – The Copenhagen Experience, Tuesday, November 9
The Royal Danish Embassy, the Royal Danish Consulate in Houston, the American Danish Business Council, and the Shell Center for Sustainability invite you to join us for this workshop which will present some of the best examples to reflect on the path Denmark has followed to make it the most energy efficient country in the EU.
The morning session presents a focus on the municipalities that are leading the way to carbon neutrality. In the afternoon we will present the business case and the technology to assist in implementing these practices to allow Denmark to reach its aggressive goals.

Sustainability Pay$ – The Copenhagen Experience
Tuesday, November 9
9:00 am – 3:30 pm
Shell Auditorium, McNair Hall
Rice University.
Please register at:

Houston-Galveston Area Council Fall Planning Workshop, Friday, November 12 
Join us for our annual fall planning workshop to learn how your community can plan for sustainable growth. This free workshop will feature presentations on encouraging conservation through development codes, integrating density and a mix of uses, revitalization, and sustainable economic development.
Topics of Discussion:
Establishing the Framework: Why Sustainable Growth?
Revitalization as an Economic Engine
Dealing with Density
Successful Strategies for Designing with Nature
Space is limited, so please reserve your place today.

Houston-Galveston Area Council Fall Planning Workshop
Friday, November 12
9:00 am – 12:30 pm
H-GAC Conference Room A, Second Floor
3555 Timmons Lane
Houston  77027

Houston Peace and Justice Center Awards Dinner, Friday, November 12 
Last, our friends at the Houston Peace and Justice Center (and good friends they are, acting as our fiscal sponsors and providing significant financial support for the May 1 Local Business Conference) are having their Annual Awards Dinner on Friday, November 12.  This really looks like an exciting event, as they will have as their guest speaker and honoree Dr. Helen Caldicott:

Dr. Helen Caldicott is our 2010 National Peacemaker Awardee.  She resides in Australia, but travels worldwide to promote peace, justice and protection of the environment.  Dr. Caldicott is co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her outstanding advocacy work over many years.   The Smithsonian Institute named Dr. Caldicott one of the most influential women of the 20th Century.   She is the subject of several films including “If You Love This Planet” which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Film in 1982.  She is author of several books which will be available at the dinner, and she hosts a radio show on KPFT Radio titled “If you Love this Planet”.   More information on Dr. Caldicott can be found on the HPJC website www.hpjc.org.

As the HPJC says, this is a wonderful opportunity to network with other people and promote our cause.  The dinner is a fundraiser for the Houston Peace and Justice Center, a 501(c)(3) organization, so that they can continue their vital work for peace and justice in the community.

Houston Peace and Justice Awards Dinner
Friday, November 12
6:00 pm
Marriott Houston West Loop
1750 West Loop South
Houston  77027
Go to the HPJC website www.hpjc.org, or call 832-288-4099 for more information

One amazing thing to me is that these activities all take us up only to mid-November!  The Transition Movement, and other organizations which share our concerns and values, are increasingly active in the Houston region.  While our challenges are tremendous, we continue to believe that these community-based efforts to raise awareness and build resilience are our best hope.

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