Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sheet Mulching - First Try (And Asking for Help!)

Saturday came and we couldn't have asked for better weather. The sun was beaming, the crickets chirping, no mosquitoes... it was near-perfect. The lawn was anxiously awaiting to be aerated and doused with beneficial minerals and organic matter (compost). Around 9:30am we started with some aeration weed clearing.

We had plenty of tools as I had no idea how many people would actually show. I was expecting around 20 and we got 15...not bad at all! These are the tools we borrowed from GardenShare at UMass:

... Then there was the UHaul Truck...filled with compost and cardboard, and tools. I got a story to tell about that one, but I'll save it for a later date.

The amount of cardboard we had was ridiculous...

(In the rafters of the garage, too)

And 10,000 pounds of compost...

But not nearly enough compost!

I have a lot of work left to do... in fact, we need about 30,000 more pounds of compost, which will cost around $400.. and that's a problem as I don't have that kind of money at this point in time. I am funding this project myself and it's costing me much more than I anticipated.

Here is my call for help to anyone who chooses to listen:

To all those who are concerned for our planet's future, who want to help heal the Earth in some way or another, here is an opportunity not to be overlooked.

My name is Ryan Harb. I am a 23 year old graduate student at UMass Amherst. The degree that I will be obtaining is in "green building," but more specifically, I am focusing all of my energy toward the regenerating the land.

To graduate with a M.S. in green building, students must complete a 6-credit practicum (internship) related to the field. I have always been a self-motivated person and I decided from the beginning that my project had to be unique...

Not only unique, it had to be something big. It had to be something that would get people talking. Most of all it had to be educational; something that people would actually want to learn about which would benefit both the individual and the planet as a whole. The goals were clear and the project developed after months of consultation and exploration.

(Read a few posts down about "permaculture" if you are interested.)

I am transforming my yard into a model permaculture edible forest garden that teaches tenants about sustainable living and having a minimal environmental impact. We started work this past Saturday which will help improve the soil before spring planting. UMass donated 5 cubic yards of compost, tools for our efforts and the local recycling yard is providing us mulch. However, my budget has already been surpassed as the cost of minerals (for regenerating the soil) and transportation is much greater than initially expected.

I am now searching for about $500 to keep my project alive. The university has helped me thus far, but now I am left to foot a bill that I cannot afford. Any donation you can spare, be it $10, $20, $50 or even 5 dollars… will all go toward bettering the planet.

If we can get this one garden finished, and have it be successful in the long-term... sky is the limit for how far this could spread. Imagine "Food Not Lawns" ... edible gardens that take very little to maintain rather than the constant battle with nature (humans mowing grass!)

I have the spare time and the energy to make this garden a success. Now I just need some financial resources to help achieve this vision of returning the land to a more wild and natural state while also benefiting insects, animals and humans alike.

Thank you for the consideration, and if anything that I said moved you, donations can be mailed to:

Ryan Harb
3 Willow Lane
Amherst, MA 01002.

I appreciate this more than you realize. Be well, everyone.

Ryan Harb

Thanks for reading this post all the way through. In Summary: Before yardwork began on Saturday...

And after...

With some mulch on top, she will be ready for the cold weather.. then the planting begins in spring! Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sheet Mulching (This Saturday, Sept 26!)

So I did not have a chance to write a reaction to the Tom Brown Tracker School course I just took. It's because I've been incredibly busy since I came back - organizing for this Saturday. That is when I'll be having anywhere between 15-30 people at my house doing yardwork... or in a more positive tone: we are having a sheet-mulching party!

What is sheet mulching?

I took this definition from the following website as I though it described it well:

Sheet mulching is also known as lasagna gardening and no-till gardening. It
is a great way to get rid of grass and weeds without using chemicals and adds
nutrients to the soil. It also attracts beneficial critters such as worms.

How to do it:

This is the e-mail I've been sending out to students in all my classes and department. It describes what we will be doing on Saturday:

The goal of this Saturday is to prepare the yard for spring planting. We'll be spreading 500 lbs of minerals across all of the grass (thanks to Dan Kittredge and the Real Food Campaign for supplying), aerating the soil, then covering it with about 3 inches of compost, lots of cardboard, and some wood chips on top.

I was luckily able to get all of the compost (5000 lbs!) donated from UMass as this is going to be my 'practicum' research project. The Amherst recycling center is also donating 5 cubic yards of wood chips. I am renting a UHaul on Friday and to transport all of these materials from point A to point B (our yard).

The tools are donated by GardenShare - a UMass student organization that grows its own food for members.

And the cardboard has been collected over the past month via me going dumpster to dumpster in search of the largest boxes (which cover the most area) that have no glossy-ness to them (like beer boxes)... you want the nice brown or white ones with very little printing, tape, staples, etc.

Hopefully we'll have a big turn out on Saturday... the yard area is about 5000 s.f. so there is a lot of sheet mulching to do I will surely document the process and post pictures once I get some more time. And also will eventually post about my experience at Tom Brown, which was fantastic.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tom Brown Jr. Survival Course (and Live Stream Sun. 9/13)

In about one week I'll be heading down to southern New Jersey and beginning a 7 day course with Tom Brown Jr. For those of you who aren't familiar with him, he is a expert on how to survive in the wilderness. Tom spent 11 years when he was a kid with an Apache scout named Stalking Wolf, otherwise known as grandfather. Now, Tom teaches others what he learned over the years; locating water and wild medicinal plants, how to make shelter, building fire and tracking animals. It should be quite an amazing experience.

The first night I'm there, Sunday September 13, 2009, Tom is being broadcasted Live over the internet. He will be talking to us (the students in his class) about Awareness...and anyone sitting at home will be able to watch it as well.

Check it out, and try to tune in if you can. He has some pretty awesome spiritual beliefs from what I've read of his so far.

Free Awareness Live Stream!

Tom Brown Jr Live


September 13th, 2009

6pm-8pm ET

This broadcast is FREE, has no prerequisites and will take place on Sept 13th, 2009 at 6:00 PM ET and will go until 8pm ET. Please follow the following link to register today:

You must make an account with us to view the live stream. Please set up an account here:

***To register put the class in your shopping cart and proceed with check out, as you normally would.

If you are only registering for the Awareness live stream, once the payment page comes up, you DON’T have to enter your credit card info, you only need to fill the required lines in with one character and then hit “Continue” and you will be registered.

If you have trouble logging on please contact us because you will need to logon to receive this live stream.

To make sure you have no issues before the Live Stream please see to it that:

1. You are able to log into your Tracker Account. You must be able to log into your account to view the live stream. Please make sure you can log on BEFORE the end of the day (5pm EST) on Friday September 11th!

2. You have the latest Adobe Flash Player installed on your computer. You can down load it here: If you are having problems downloading Adobe Flash Player, please visit their support section here:

3. Make sure your intent connection is at least 300kbps. If you are concerned about whether or not your internet speed is 300kbps or not, you can check it out here: Just follow the directions on the page (you are interested in the “download speed” number).