247. Permaculture Skills Center | Erik Ohlsen | Sonoma County, CA

Permaculture Skills Center.org

chat box you can click I get those messages

people can send me an email


check out the website

let us know if you have any questions or inspiration.



I run an online school, we have live webinars and coaching calls. Got to be

lots of projects and ideas and keep going …

a couple of years ago I decided

good light

good color

nice camera

learning about the time of day

end of the day

go out

flack from people

shutter stock

kind of thing, you’ll catch up with ourself someday

the next thing

just finally got done

in the last two weeks, started and

in my ecosystem

there’s stuff that I want to do,  that’s the learning process

beginning of last year…. partners

all right these ten short courses together now this is nine months later we almost have one of them done. Maybe it’s gonna take a few years, it’s a lot of


it takes its own time

reality takes over and you want to do it right …

Not quite millennial material, xy generation …

Tell us a little about yourself.

Erik Ohlsen director of the

Prinicipal of Permaculture Artisans

water harvesting systems

anything under the sun

doing this work since I was 19

adult life

in eco design realm

worked with hundreds of clients mostly in California

take action

build community


small business

grassroots activism

dabble in a lot of different angles


Tell me about your first gardening experience?

I have 2 answers for that

my first answer

my grandparents lived in Santa Barbara

going out with my Grandma Marie

she buried her kitchen compost in her garden

that was how she handled her kitchen compost

I was always her little helper

she planted mostly tomatoes

I remember helping with her compost

out of her garden that we ate for lunch

kid that I made that connection

being able to grow your own food in your own backyard

colors and flavors are so

mabye it’s like an older generation thing that is passed on

first kind of memory

first gardening experience

19 years old

started an organization

planting earth activation

we learned about

woke up to the realities of


terminator seed technology

sell seed to the farmer

the plants were genetically engineered to not grow more seed, sterile

wreakng havoc on our biosphere

we have to respond somehow

came up with this idea

give gardens away to our community and save open pollinated seeds

went down to the community garden from our home town of Sebastabol CA

garden party

30 people come out

built this huge garden together in one day

important moment in my life

experience what it is like to work in the earth

grow my own food

catastrophe the earth in


it can be a life changing experience

planted over 200 community gardens over a 2 year period

in our community now

annual seed gardens to planting perennial systems

herbal gardens in our downtown district that we planted way

Forests of fire

forest of fire

I have a few children’s books and coloring books

also appropriate of adults

pristine forest

beneficial relationship with fire


move one

clear cut build their homes

different scales of fire

relative a healthy fire


catestrophic fire which deeply impacts the environment

here’s the thing

much of the population

live in fire ecology ecosystems that depend on fire for health


native seeds in fire ecology

10s of 1000s of years of evolution

natural ecosystem

what we really have to point out

eveolution form a strickly non


ecology evolves with the management regime

I wouldn’t disagree

her take

something to be said to call a conversationists and environmentalist


unpack that is a pretty big deal

log the forest

do need to think

ecosystems holistically

through the lens of management

forest in Montana

over the past 10k years

what kind of management did it evolve with


big animals there

here in CA

the indiginsou

always used fire as a management tool




regenerative distrubance

management regimes

stay healthy

one of the issues we have had

fire suppression campaign

squelch any fire that comes up

too much emphasis on fighting fire

have on using fire in a prescribed fashion

allowing fires to burn where they don’t threaten health and safety

one of the things that happened in the 1970s

during the conversation movement

don’t touch nature

don’t cut a thing


that has taken the management

taken the relationship

humans and big animals that are there any more

fuel load

dry dead material that burn up really fast

there’s been little to no management

complex topic to unpack

folks who support clear cutting and major logging

sustainable thinning as a way to increase logging protection

sustainable thinning is a solution

what it ultimately comes down to

the whole issue is about the whole relationship with the natural world

when we relate

what’s the holistic view

the multigenerational

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

I’m looking at an Asian Pear, we are having an asian pear bumper crop, eating too many giving them away as fast as we can

one acre homestead

90 fruit and nut trees

1/4 acre vegetable garden

medicinal herbs

habitat plants

all the trees we planted

coming into maturity

every day is like the harvest experience

daughter is 8

son is 10

new fruits and flowers

lately it’s been the asian pears

we have a suckle pear which is just coming on

also a honey pear

they are small

they don’t get bigger

too much bigger then golf

you never know year to year

this year in CA

Northern CA

peaches and nectarines did’t do well

wrong time storm during flowering

hardly any harvest

bumper crop

year to year you never know

climate changes



Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

one thing,  a lot of what we do are perennial based, a lot of it, a new persimmon that is finally doing well this year

very excited

first year

never had a good crop

have to wait to november


propping trees up

veggie garden

last two years

lemon cucumbers

really rediscobered for


bright yellow

see if you can get some seed

fresh eating they win it for us

armenian cucumbers

we like those a little better

best cucumber in the garden

at any stage you can eat it and it tastes good


yellow lemon looking things

out produce

every other cuke

time and time again

planted maybe 3 plants

taking about 10-12 feet long

sprawled off the

10×10 off two plants


Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

one of our big issues here are gophers

probably the biggest challenge

pepper crop

my daughter loves fresh sweet peppers

a lot of time

prepping the pepper bed

choosing varieites

planting them out

planting intensively

let a lot of things go to seed

diverstiy without anything

planted peppers that has all kinds of other stuff that wants to come up

picked our peppers planted them out

went on vacation and came back

weeds grew up and shaded the peppers

stressed them out

gophers started sucking them down

20 plants

two left hanging on

bent over in the pathway

kind of a bummer

haven’t quite figured

8 miles from the coast

pretty foggy

peppers not really working

one of the things we do with our trees

clients that hardly have any water

water catch


try to get all of our trees

dry farmed if we can

water them for the first 3 years

use thick mulch

plant them somewhere winter rains can infiltrate around them

that opens up our water budget

use that budget for a new system

dead trees that can’t handle being dry farmed

self selected out

the way you dry farm a tree

you water very infrequently

water very deep

train them so their roots will go down really far

slow process take them off

really hot summer gonna give some water

if they look stressed

after a few years

building the top soil

focusing on concentrating rain and surface water flow

water holding capacity in winter

infrequent but really deep water

many species of trees

moderate success

first planted them

time to train them to get their roots to down farther

try to retrain them

watering frequency

ease them into a new pattern

change pattern too fast

used to sleeping


successionally what you would do is each year

water them even less frequently then that

once every two weeks

once a month

train them by slowly

more time in between

want the trees to be healthy and thriving

five them more water

start in the spring time

move into

when you have more moisture available already

try to get to once a month of 20 gallons

might be a solution

sprinklers are the

generally want to do sprinkle

the other thing

we do in more dryland situation

burry a pipe at the base of the tree at planting

2-3” in diameter

maybe some gravel

it gets the water down into the deep roots

surface area

can absorb a ton of water

help the water get deep

drip system

water for an hour straight on one tree once a month

deep watering that way

train the tree

these things called ova pots?

same idea

clay pot

burry next to your pot

water slowly leaks out of the pot over time

little bit of water over time

keeps are moist day after day

dry land technique

reduces evaporation

in a clay pot

sun and wind won’t evaporate so fast

filled it

next to plant

slow drip

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?

trapping gophers…

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

what I would call chop and drop

come out

our garden is

perennail vegetables and frruit and nuts

biomass plants

soil building endeavor

cutting back the biomass plants

placeing them back down on the ground as mulch

perennial system in a food type of set up

one of my favorite

harvesting biomass

know that I am feeding the soil

try not to bring in mulch and compost from off site

grow all of my gardens biomass

Well you get another amazing harvest if you let it go to seed

genearrly want to cut it down when it’s still flowering

might consider cutting down a portion of it

leave cover crops

espeically 30% save the seed

the other 70%

what your style is

want to achieve

don’t pull it up

cut it at the base

take that material and broad fork it in

double dig if you do that

some people will compost that and prep it for the next round of seeds

cut it at the base

lay it on the site

mulch on top of that

other biomass


chop and drop

nitrogen fixers

when you lay it on the ground if you don’t cover it



integrate it into the soil

tillage into the mix

releases carbon

depending on what your goals are for that bed in that area

lay it on the ground

put a little straw or leaves

wet it down so it holds mositure

cut it and leave it then

put a mulch on top of it

like a lot of organic matter

like thick mulch

will do awesome that situation

chop and drop

saves you on labor

not carrying it around

leave everything where I cut it

love that idea of keeping nutrients

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

don’t over think it

avoid paralysis by analysis

two camps of gardener folks

really into the science

everything based off of scientific data

people that go and experiment

read and learned from scientists and stuff

my approach

constantly experiment

keep putting things int he ground

growing stuff


a lot of experiments

draw dropping

so green and abundant


its my mad scientist going for it

issue people think they are going to mess up

afraid I was going to do it wrong

five different methods of prepping my bed so i didn’t do it

just let all that stuff just compost in my mind

just start planting

start composting

you’ll learn what’s right for you

energy you have

never learn any of that from a book

hands in the ground

best advice


never put your orange peels in your worm bin

research about that

separate my compost in different buckets

practically everything for the last twenty years

just insane


that’s it

don’t get peralysis by analysis

go ahead and try it

natural environment

something doesn’t work this year

so what

learning experience

act of getting out there and doing it

one of the things that I tell all of my students is

the best information you are going to get

about your garden is being in your garden

listening to the pattern

having a hard time

they’re giving you a message

follow your intuition

don’t let anyone tell you don’t do something

this is what’s calling me

go for it

I don’t think there is any better skill a gardener can learn

listen to the garden

best skill to cultivate

more that you can operate

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.

The rogue hoe

that is

it’s a company


it’s a special kind of hoe

there’s a couple of them that are my favorites

I could describe it

it’s pretty small

comes down a point

more like a little scarifier

like a triangle


what I love about these hoes

they are so sturdy

over the years

I have used so many different hoes


retaching the head

middle of hard work

deal with your tool

never had an issue

20 years of using these rogue hoes

never had a head get loose

angle of hoe

just right with bad of hoe

ergonamic use

nothing beats that

triangle head

seed prep tool

scarify little depressions in my seed bed

can plant 100s of seeds of bed

with that hoe

many years of use

one of my mentors taught me on that

When I was young

Tai chi of tool use

never gone

went back

how you center your

when you use the hoe you want to have your knees bent

back straight

as you bring the hoe into motion

align your breathing and movement

all of the power that goes into the hoe

coming from hip

kind of center of gravity

if you perfect this technique you can work

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

OK, so my favorite on my moms side my mom is from Argentia

goes back generations in Argentina, grandfather was born in Italy

my mom perfected is our family

putenesca sauce

spicy italian sauce





what call a foggest – august can be all fog


waiting for a week of sun to ripen

this has been the smokiest summer I have lived in CA

never had a summer as smoky as this one

always had a fire season

starts in Sept goes through Oct

fire season started in June

we went to the Sierra Nevadas

smoke the whole way

central valley CA

lake tahoe

beauty of the lake

couldn’t see any mountains this year

changed the climate here

summer down


A favorite internet resource?

I would say

for folks who are interested in an amazing plant data base

we design a lot of perennial edible systems

perennial trees

vegetables and edibles

data base

probably one of the best in the world

plants for a future

what is so great about that site


ecological function that the plants provide

growth type

nitrogen fixer

mulch producer

insects it might attract

based on

human need

provide some sort of ecological function

Erik olsen.com

permaculture skills center

permaculture artisans

myself and Brock Dolman

water wizard

Jesse Savo

Blue Barrel Systems

rain water systems all over the world

in person program

in CA

literally build systems

not just conceptual

3rd year running

we live in an extended bought

vital information

home owner and gardener

water abundance

we will put a tool in Bill’s hand

he can

some celebrities

totally into permaculture and ecological design


free webinars

permaculture skill center

free design webinar

2 hours

how to do a professional ecological design

students are folks who want to make a career

to do for their life

build for their family

best and most successful

professional designer

service clients




private clients

juicy projects

be your career

free webinar you can opt-in for at the Permaculture

eco-landscape mastery design school

give people all of the tools necessary to run your own ecological design

how to run consultations

professional design process

build community

a lot of this work is

inspiring people and bringing people together

how to do that in a professional

every month we have global experts

live coaching calls

one on one coaching

amazing journey

almost a year since we launched

people can sign up any time

immediate access

all the

access forever

working with for almost a whole year now

getting design projects working with schools and churches

provide for their needs

Right now it’s set up as a one time payment

payment plans and scholarships

lifetime access

maybe move to a subscription

one time payment

you become a member

maintain it like this for now

first year students

from a business model point of view the subscription thing

they only have to pay a month

long term point of view

IDK which way I like better

$997 for the whole course

typical course

50% off scholarship

take a number of scholarships a month

twice  a year we have a 100% scholarship

equity and inclusion scholarship

discount the course $200/ offer a 100% no charge

people from all over the world

diversity and community in there

real leaders in their community

lot of different options

always like to work with people to make things work

access to people who are going to use the material

finding a way to work

that’s the thing

basically taking the model that I have developed over the last 15 years

estimation templates

that has cost us 10s of thousands of dollars to

live coaching

life time access

for $1000 in one year if you follow the system we provide

could easily make 6 figures in the first year….

if you are ready to do the work…

when you start working with people and social systems

natural systems thinking

same we use in the garden

really fulfilling and engaging to do this work professionally

connecting people to the earth

providing them with access to healthy food

that curse is very specific to people who want to do this as professional

regenrative ag course

penny livingston startk

director of the regenerative

30 years around the world

smaller much more accessible program

teach folks all about

agriculutral tree systems

look for that

hopefully gonna launch that this fall

amazing teachers

amazing stories and knowledge

takes a bit of literacy

people realize that

professional designer

not landscpae architecture

just designing patios and arbors and stuff

plenty of clients over the years

designing a commercial organic farm

organic homestead gardens

people are really moving back to the land

don’t know what to do

where do I put my orchard

vegetable garden

as organic gardeners

professionalize that c

can do all the fun stuff

through that process

paid to do it

much more consistent

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

right now the book that I am starting to devour

carbon farming solution by Erik

a book about ag solutions to sequester atmospheric carbon

it is amazing

he has the science back it up


open on my dining room table



technical enough and cited enough that you can feel the authority but written

Final question-

if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

global warming

we are seeing the results both from an environmental and a social caastrophe

would be a huge WAKE UP call


CAL Fire

leadership came out

we are on the front lines of Climate change

my community that got hit

literally climate refugees

homes burn tot he ground can’t live here anymore

serious situation we are facing



means of production

new regenerative economy

eco landscape mastery school

one of the clear issues we face

we need to move into an economy focused on restoring

catching water

sequestering carbon

globacl economy



restorative economy

built on taking care of our systems

big gap there

access to create careers to regenerating the

not enough for organic gardening to be a hobby anymore

find time

find way to make this relevant to the mass population

economy comes into play

roundup glyphosate




20+ years

finally the science comes out

this does cause cancer

tested every wine

had traces of glyphosate in it

round up even organic wine

calling it out all these years

chickens came out to climate

focus on solutions

bring people to the table

this is happening

across cultural divides

doesn’t matter

i don’t care

that’s whats so beautiful about a garden

healthy access to food

revel in the beauty

things o



unify people around food

interface on any cultural institution

built a whole water harvesting

turing the whole school into a huge edible garden

fits into al the curriculum standards

make these connections

they’re the future

the world they are inheriting

How do we connect with you?

Permaculture Skills Center.org

chat box you can click I get those messages

people can send me an email


check out the website

let us know if you have any questions or inspiration.

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