There was always a lingering interest I had in gardening and getting back in touch with the delectable side of nature. But I never did anything about it until I moved into The Village next to a neat little garden at UCSC. That is where I got my first taste for well earned food that was grown by me and my friends. Winter or summer, there was an array of activity and foods coming out of the little PICA garden and I was trying to get my hands on to each experience possible and each ripe produce. I remember there was always a lack of volunteers to help turn the compost piles and shovel in the new green waste that the UC cafeterias donated and dropped off for us, so I would always be part of the compost crew. From that I got a great understanding of how to make the most of left over food (nitrogen) and weeds and dead trimmings from the garden (carbon) by combining them in layers with manure and straw and a dash of water here and there. What fun science it was and by the end of a few weeks we had amazing soil that you never would have guessed came from unwanted resources. And there it was ready to be returned to our gardens to feed the soil which feeds plants which feeds our bellies. How’s that for a sustainable cycle! Other fun activities were cobb oven making and baking, pruning workshops, greenhouse building, and of course biking downtown to the local farmers markets and to support CAN, the Fair Trade Direct coffee exchange based out of Santa Cruz.
But above all, the most lasting memories I had were from the social events held around community meals. Each week (or more) we would gather in one of many shared spaces with shared kitchens for a delicious meal prepared by each other and often supplied by the garden of course. More often than not, it was the Saturday meal I would get nourished the best since that particular day was a Work Day and nothing tastes better after hours of working the dirt than a large, fresh, organic, homegrown, home cooked meal from the dirt you just tended to. In fact, many years after the fact, I can’t remember many occasions or meals that rival those Saturday Workday lunches. Good friends, great foods, and above all – a sense of reward and satisfaction in knowing your efforts are ecologically in tune with the environment.
Gulliver Perry was a PICA student in 2007. After PICA Gulliver spent some time WWOOFing in Carmel Valley and Mendocino, became certified in permaculture through the Regenerative Design Institute and the Bullock Brothers, and with that experience he has taken to implementing as much as he can and with the help of many friends and family the household and backyard of his dad’s house. There are a few dozen varieties of fruit and nut trees on site, a three-terrace garden, a greywater system, roofwater catchment that gravity feeds the garden, an herb garden, a perennial garden, a chicken coop with four hens, and a greenhouse. He believes that now, the concepts are setting in and the homestead lifestyle is proving to be very enjoyable and rewarding.