The Benefits of Nature Hikes and Observing the Seasons

One of the first things about permaculture that I learned was to first observe, then observe, then wait and observe, and then take small actions for change.  You have to understand your context before you can apply techniques or principles to your situation.  For applying permaculture to gardening and farming, it’s important to observe the local area where you want to grow (soil tests, rain fall, sunlight, etc).  However, it’s also very important to know your surrounding region (climate, local plant and fungi species, local wildlife, etc).  I frequently hike through parks near my house to get a better idea of what is already living near me.  Doing so gives me the opportunity to observe natural ecosystems and patterns around me, and contemplate how I can copy these existing natural patterns to benefit my garden.  This also gives opportunities to find herbs and other resources for wildcrafting or herbalism, or plants that you might want to propagate for your garden.  No need to order seeds if you can collect them, or better yet transport species that are plentiful.

There are several hiking groups that explore areas in our region.  Many of these groups meet several times a week, exploring areas minutes from my home that I never knew existed.  I’ve met lots of friendly people, seen some amazing sights, and learned a TON about my local ecology.  Improve your plant identification knowledge, learn to forage, learn to track animals…  I encourage everyone to become more aware of your surroundings, and spend some time in nature!

Here are some local hiking meetup groups:

Hiking Around Philly – My favorite hiking group.  Led by a friendly guy named Sidney who seems to know about every marked or unmarked trail within 100 miles of Philadelphia (maybe an exaggeration, but I’m constantly impressed by his hiking knowledge of our area).

The 20’s Hiking/Indoor/Outdoor Adventure Group – A group that occasionally does hikes in the Philly area.

Return to Nature – A foraging teacher from NJ that gives classes from NYC to Philly.

Wild Foodies of Philadelphia – A group that organizes hikes and plant walks to identify useful, medicinal, and edible plants in and around the city.

Here are some photos from a recent Hiking meetup that my girlfriend and I attended at the Schuylkill Environmental Center:


One of the Art Exhibits at the beginning of the hike was this beautiful native pollinator garden.



We hiked past this huge community garden.



The community garden had an area for beekeeping.


Some animal bones off the trail



The hike leader led us through large holes in fences, and we did some exciting off-trail hiking.


Another art exhibit


Swirly wood grain in this tree.


Interesting formations on this tree.


Beautiful exposed roots.


We hiked past a small pond with some canoes.


A tree loop!


The bird observation station.

 Here’s some inspiring poetry from the Poetry Trail at D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton, NJ:



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A Food Forest in Philadelphia

About a month ago, I was visiting the Shofuso Japanese house in Fairmount Park with my girlfriend when we stumbled upon a food forest right here in Philadelphia.  I’ve read about several Philly Food Forest plantings done by the Philly Orchard Project, but hadn’t seen any yet.  They had signs surrounding the site that described the process of installing the different aspects of the system.  Well done, Philly Orchard Project!  Check it out:

POP Plant Sale and the start of a Backyard Forest Garden

POP Plant Sale and the start of a Backyard Forest Garden

The Philadelphia Orchard Project’s plant sale happened a few weeks ago.  They had a free fruit tree giveaway to the first 15 people to arrive, so I got my buddy Miles to come with me and we got two fruit trees!  We got a Fuyu Imoto Persimmon and a Reliance Peach tree.  I also bought a small Blueberry bush, a Pawpaw seedling, and a strawberry plant with white, extra tasty strawberries.  I also got to meet Phil Forsyth for the first time.  He’s the guy that started the Philly Orchard Project, definitely a guy that I look up to.

I planted the trees and the shrub at my parents house to start a food forest garden there.  I also had a comfrey plant that I got from a friend.  My buddy had some planting soil with mycorrhizal fungi, so I used that to surround the roots of the tree.  Here’s some photos.  Some of them are blurry, sorry!


Our loot from the plant sale and tree giveaway!


Miles was excited for the event.


All the perennials for sale!


Some more plants for sale.IMG_5648


Price List. We made out pretty good getting two fruit trees for free!


The Persimmon Tree we planted.


The Peach Tree we planted.


Pawpaw seedling


This is the area of the yard where I’m planting the forest garden. There are some taller canopy trees, but the Persimmon, Peach, and Blueberry will get plenty of sunlight. The Pawpaw will be a bit shadier when it grows, but it can handle that.


The Peach tree, and a comfrey plant.


Persimmon Tree


Blueberry bush next to a drainage ditch.

Permaculture Movie Screening and Potluck

I’ve been frustrated with how disjointed the Permaculture community in Philadelphia is.  Lots of people are doing really cool things, but these different projects aren’t always very visible in the community.  I’m starting what I hope will be a monthly meetup for Permaculture folks in Philly.  A monthly movie night / potluck where we’ll screen a permaculture related film and share food and stories about our projects.  I hope this can turn into a venue for people to share ideas and organize for projects, but for now, let’s just get together and watch cool, permaculture-related films.


The first meetup will be Monday December 8th at 4029 Market St in Philadelphia, Pa at the Repair the World office.  We’ll screen “The Fruit Hunters,” a film about plant diversity and lustful obsession with exotic fruits.  We can gather at 7PM to share some food and meet one another.  We’ll start around 7:30PM with the film, ending around 9PM.  Bring some food to share if you’d like.  This is a free event, so come out and meet some other Philadelphia permaculture folks!

Here’s the trailer for the film we’ll be watching

Facebook event page