Wednesday, March 29, 2006


GANA Speaker Series
Peter Bane and Keith Johnson
Long-time permaculture teachers
Newly relocated to Bloomington

8:00 – 9:15 p.m., March 29, 2006 (after our monthly meeting, see meeting report)

Peter and Keith introduced us to the concept, philosophy and practice of “permaculture.” The group then discussed permaculture in the context of neighborhood concerns — trees and voles.

The Process
Lucille Bertuccio, of Bloomington’s Center for Sustainable Living and our scheduled speaker, unfortunately called to say she was ill. However, it just so happened that Peter Bane and Keith Johnson were in town briefly to sign closing documents for their new home. I had invited the two men to my house for tea, and when they arrived, asked if they would substitute for our friend Lucille. They graciously agreed. (We will schedule Lucille for a later date.)

And what a wonderful synchronicity, to have two knowledgeable and well-known permaculture teachers speak to us just as we begin to get a grip on what it means to envision our fair neighborhood as a sustainable village within the greater Bloomington area. For “permaculture,” as Peter said by way of introduction, or “perma-culture,” means “permanent culture,” i.e., culture that can sustain itself over time. Permaculture, he told us, is “applied ecology.” As we learn to understand the complexity and diversity of natural systems we can put this knowledge into practice to design systems that mimic, utilize and enhance natural laws to encourage abundance for all.

Peter Bane has been a permaculture teacher for over 15 years and publishes the national magazine, “Permaculture Activist” (, now in its 21st year. Keith Johnson has been designing and constructing natural gardens for over 30 years. They now relocate to Bloomington from Earthhaven, an intentional community in North Carolina. Let us welcome them!

The first principle of permaculture, says Peter, is to “observe and interact.” As an example, he spoke of this area of the country as “a former mosaic of prairie and forest” with a vast diversity of native plants. So, in our neighborhood, he suggests, plant fruit and nut and berry bushes and trees, since they naturally grow well here and create food for us and other creatures. He also suggested that as we think about places for the city to plant trees in our neighborhood that we consider locations that will also be people-oriented in some way — for example, where a tree could serve as a gathering place.

Peter mentioned that, since it floods, Green Acres was originally a seasonal wetlands, and that instead of trying to funnel water into expensive storm drains and even more expensive sewage treatment plants, we could start imagining ways to utilize rain water in our neighborhood. Like catchment systems for rain off roofs for gardens and washing needs. Like shared backyard ponds and other water features to attract birds and wildlife.

Over and over the two men talked about how in nature waste for one species becomes food for another, and how we can design systems that take advantage of this fact. Species like to live with one another, said Keith, rather than apart (like in formal gardens), because when together they nourish each other.

And they talked about how, in permacultural understanding, “the edges are where the action is.” Edges — where two or more plant or animal species or ecosystems collide — generate conflict, dynamic unrest, and this in turn attracts new species to create more diversity, and thus stability. So, with a pond, for example, design it to have fingers. That will give it more “edge” and thus encourage nature to allow in more plant and animal species.

Likewise with human culture. Let us design systems in our neighborhood to encourage “edge,” through interactions and exchange of our diverse ages, backgrounds, skills and knowledge. To create stability, encourage diversity. Humans are part of nature. Permaculture principles permeate our lives too, or they can.

At about this point, I looked around the room to see everybody’s jaws dropping, as we began to take in the first glimmers if this new (and very, very ancient) way of understanding the natural world and our place as creators inside it who can use our native intelligence to experiment with different ways to work with nature in order to enhance her capacity to feed and shelter us and all her creatures.

Then Diane Dormant dropped a bomb. “What about voles? she asked, sheepish. As if she felt terrible for bringing us all down to this nagging pesky problem that we all share. Their tunnels create spongy, uneven lawns that are hard to mow and those who are frail or elderly have trouble walking on them without stumbling. What’s more, they eat certain plants from underneath leaving them sitting on air. Diane said she’s tried everything, and nothing works. After $400 of time, energy, and worthless remedies, her little creatures have become bolder, actually running over her feet!

Keith reeled off a number of alternative ways to work with voles. These include planting daffodils to circle plants the critters like; encouraging friendly snakes and shrews that will eat them (no need to bring snakes and shrews in, just allow them when they appear); and laying gravel, about six inches worth, in the primary root zone of their favorite plants (their tender little paws have trouble digging through gravel).

Peter added that, as with anything in nature, we need to start our investigation of how to deal with moles and voles by asking “what is the yield?” i.e., what do these species give us? What is their purpose in nature? And our response to that question can then be the first step towards designing a system that will both include them and help us.

I must admit here to being a total convert to permaculture, since last November when I took the first half of their two week long course. In its breathtakingly philosophical attitude and nitty-gritty practical approach, and in its challenge to use our long-dormant inventive imaginations, I feel that permaculture offers real hope for the future, in that it can galvanize us to re-make our world. In my view, permaculture should be adopted as the curriculum for all U.S. schools — just as it has now been embraced by some Indian tribes for their schools as “Native American science.” What better way to ensure our children’s future? What better way to galvanize the children than for them to realize their own actions can make a huge difference?

I would love you to join us for the second week of the Peter and Keith’s Permaculture Design Practicum, to be held in Spencer, Indiana, May 5-13. Contact: or call 317-259-4417 or 812-336-4486.

I close with a quote from the Permaculture Activist website by one of the founders of permaculture in the '70s, Australian Bill Mollison:

“The ultimate end to a growth economy is the same as an analagous growth: cancer. But for national economies, the victims are nature, soils, forests, people, water, and quality of life. There is one, and only one, solution, and we have almost no time to try it. We must turn all our resources to repairing the natural world, and train all our young people to help. They want to. We need to give them this last chance to create forests, soils, clean waters, clean energies, secure communities, stable regions, and to know how to do it from hands-on experience.”


Ann Kreilkamp
GANA scribe

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GANA Meeting Minutes

GANA (Green Acres Neighborhood Association) Meeting
3/29/06, 7 – 8 pm
First United Church on 3rd St.

Georgia Schaich, Julia Jackson, Betty Byrne, Stefano, Ann Kreilkamp, Kim Fernandez, John Gaus, Jelene Campbell, Nathan Harman, Maggie Jesseph, Adam Lowe, Marian Shabaan, Kadhim Shabaan, Noriko Hara, Diane Dormant, Kathy Ruesink, Al Ruesink


  • Neighborhood Plan
  • Small and Simple Grant
  • Tree Committee Report
  • Plant Share Committee Report
  • Dr. Houze Building Construction Update
  • Pick-It-Up Committee Report
  • Summer Solstice Committee Report
  • Flow diagram overview

We discussed the overall purpose of the Neighborhood Plan and bureaucratic details of the Small and Simple Grant. The Tree Committee reported on their meeting with John Huss, City Urban Forester, and the city’s offer of four trees. Plant Share Committee and Pick-It-Up Committees reported on times, dates and locations of their respective upcoming events. We learned of sidewalks on 3rd and Hillsdale in exchange for Dr. Houze’s building permit overreach. Summer Solstice committee reported on still-evolving plans. We received flow diagram hand-outs to discuss at the next meeting.

The Process
This meeting was smoothly facilitated by Julia Jackson, who successfully steered us through a large agenda in the usual hour, followed by a ten-minute break with refreshments prior to scheduled speaker(s).

NEIGHBORHOOD PLAN: Our intrepid neighborhood networker and grant writer Georgia Schaich let us know that she got the Neighborhood Plan in to the city on March 24, two hours ahead of the deadline, thanks to great help from both Nathan Harman and Adam Lowe.

This year four neighborhoods hope to be the one chosen to work with the city on an overall 20-year plan for its future. This neighborhood will demonstrate “maturity,” that is, will show that it is far enough along on fleshing in its own vision of itself to receive the city’s help with infrastructure plans — roads, signs, parks, paths, sidewalks, etc.

Each year one neighborhood is chosen. Three neighborhoods — Broadview, McDoel Gardens and Propect Hill — have already developed their plans, and work with the city to create their specific character. For example, McDoel Gardens sees itself as a “conservation district,” and its plans reflect that vision. This is our first attempt at a Green Acres Plan and we will work the next year to further develop our vision of Green Acres as a sustainable community.

SMALL AND SIMPLE GRANT: Georgia also spoke of the details of the $1000 Small and Simple Grant that she and Sabrina Grossman wrote up and successfully submitted to the city last month. This grant, to help fund GANA events, must be used up by August 11. Unfortunately, the process is somewhat cumbersome: rather than the money being held in a special account that we draw from when necessary, each line-item needs to be presented to the city for disbursement of funds at the time needed. We discussed possible ways to alleviate the red tape involved.

The Small and Simple Grant is a matching grant. GANA will donate $100 out of its own kitty, plus contribute the 100 volunteer hours GANA members have already signed up for. East Side Bloomington, Inc. (the association of businesses on 3rd Street between High Street and Smith Road) has enthusiastically agreed to at least a $75 in-kind donation and probably much more, since it will solicit donated goods and services from its member businesses. Georgia suggested that we also invite the realtors who work with Green Acres to participate somehow in the grant.

TREE COMMITTEE: John Gaus reported on the meeting that he, Georgia and Tim Mayer had with Lee Huss, City Urban Forester, who showed them the city’s computer-generated maps that catalog the location of every tree in every neighborhood. Huss asked that the group suggest three or four locations for several mature trees that the city has earmarked for Green Acres this spring. Tim, who obviously came prepared, suggested the following: 7th and N. Bryan by the new Ambulance Bay, Roosevelt along the new sidewalk area between 3rd and 4th, Jefferson between 7th and 8th, and Overhill from 3rd to 5th. In addition, in response to the group’s concern about all the blacktop that has been created in the Dr. Houze construction project on 3rd Street and Hillsdale, Huss said that the city would donate three mature red oak trees to be placed near the new sidewalk on 3rd St (see Houze Update below). If you wish to join the tree committee, please email John at

A general discussion of trees ensued, and continued off and on all evening, including during the speakers’ presentation. What kinds of trees are best? Should we only use native trees, or are exotics okay? How about flowering trees, fruit and nut trees? What kinds of fruit trees actually produce enough fruit in Bloomington? How to balance our need for trees with solar needs for gardens? John Gaus spoke again of our need for an urban Forestry ordinance” in Bloomington, which, as Diane Dormant commented, “after all, does bill itself as ‘the city of trees’.”

PLANT SHARE COMMITTEE: Jelene Campbell reported that the Plant Share event this year will be held from 9:30 to 11:30 AM on Saturday, May 13, the day before Mother’s Day on her driveway at 2521 Eastgate. (She has a garage in case it rains.) Email Jelene at if you wish to donate plants and cannot get them there or will not be there that day, as she will pick them up. Jelene will also get donated plants from a few plant clubs to which she belongs.

DR. HOUZE BUILDING CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: Julia Jackson reported that as part of Dr. Houze’s deal with the city — in exchange for having gone beyond his building permit to remodel his Chiropractic clinic by black-topping part of the next lot (which he also owns) — is that he will be required to extend the sidewalk both from Hillsdale to Overhill and, moving around the tree on the corner of Hillsdale and 3rd, to extend the sidewalk down Hillsdale to the edge of his property.

Julia also reassured us that the city promises to keep the zoning on the Green Acres part of 3rd Street “single family residential.”

PICK-IT-UP COMMITTEE: Noriko Hara reported that she and her husband Phil and Adam Lowe will coordinate a neighborhood Pick-It-Up Day, Saturday, April 29th, from ten to around noon (with April 30 as rain date). So far, eight people have volunteered to help, and will meet at Noriko and Phil’s house, 2415 E. 4th. Diane Dormant will offer refreshments at her home afterwards. Please email Noriko at if you wish to help, and Diane at if you can stay for refreshments.

SOLSTICE CELEBRATION COMMITTEE: Stefano, who dreamed up the idea for this celebration, asked for and received our permission to change the date from June 24th to June 17th, due to a crucial scheduling conflict that would make it impossible for him to attend on the original date. He then reported on where plans stand now. We will have a banner (with logo and design by GANA member and graphic artist Jiangmei Wu) and a brochure (to be designed by graphic artist Tim Mayer). We will offer (at cost) tee shirts with the GANA logo. The event will include a parade led by Nathan Harman’s percussion band through the streets of Green Acres to the empty lot at the Bypass end of 7th Street where we will hold a barbeque. This will be our signature event for the year, and more committee members are welcome. The committee will meet next on April 12. If you wish to join the committee and/or attend the meeting please contact Stefano at

GANA OVERALL FLOW-DIAGRAM: Finally, Stefano handed out the first draft of a flow diagram that visually presents one possible overall perspective on how we can accomplish our goal of creating Green Acres as a truly sustainable community. The diagram includes home and community projects, plus outreach to media, IU, IUPUI, City of Bloomington, federal, state, and other grants. He asked us to contemplate this diagram so that we can discuss, amend, and further develop it at GANA’s April meeting.

The next meeting date
(last Wednesday of the month):

APRIL 26, 2006
7 – 8 PM
First United Church on 3rd Street

Be well!

Ann Kreilkamp
GANA Scribe (secretary)

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