Orange Trees in Colorado

Imagine picking oranges from your tree growing in your very own Forest Garden Greenhouse while outside everything is covered a foot deep in snow.

That is the daily winter reality for Permaculture teacher Jerome Osentowski.

He founded the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute (CRMPI), a non profit, and is celebrating this year 30 years of teaching Permaculture Design Courses (PDC for short) at the same location. Author of the Forest Garden Greenhouse, Jerome Osentowski

Quiet a feat, and as far as we know, it is the only place which has hosted courses for that length of time. No wonder that the 8 acres of the institute, located just 18 miles from Aspen, Colorado, seem like a Garden of Eden.

Who would have thought it is possible to grow citrus at 7200 feet elevation far from the semi tropical and Mediterranean climate zones usually associated with growing oranges, lemons and such?

When Jerome found out that Florida was hit hard with an insect threatening the survival of their prolific citrus industry, he decided to concentrate more of his efforts on pushing the envelope- to grow this crop in areas where conventional wisdom had declared this impossible. He purchased his trees at one of the big box stores and is now in his 5th year of growing kumquats, limes and oranges.

The Book: The Forest Garden Greenhouse

Jerome spent double that time – 10 years – to write his book, The Forest Garden Greenhouse.

Most of us know what a greenhouse is, but maybe not the kind Jerome is building and designing. Many techniques are used to warm – or cool – the greenhouse eliminating the need for major outside energy inputs.

I give you a couple of hints, but to get a complete picture on how it is done you have to get the book. One technique is to store warmth generated by the sun in various areas in stones which are arranged to catch every ray of sunshine and heat.

The Forest Garden Greenhouse - Book by Jerome Osentowski

The Forest Garden Greenhouse – Book by Jerome Osentowski

Another method, it sounds like one of Jerome’s favorite, is to heat up (and use) a sauna, located in a way that all heat will eventually benefit the greenhouse.

A forest garden is mimicking the growing habits of a natural forest.

Next time, when out for a walk or hike in a forest, really look around and see, hear, smell and feel what is happening. No straight garden beds neatly planted with rows of mostly the same veggies or flowers can be seen as far as the eye can reach. Instead, there are tall trees with a bunch of shorter trees growing beneath them. Vines are climbing up towards the crowns to reach for the sunlight. Bushes and herbs are hiding the soil under their cover, mushrooms are peaking up in between and patches of flowers are flourishing wherever enough sunlight comes through the branches of the taller trees. Greens are telling of tubers growing below ground and insects are buzzing.

That idea of using every inch of space came from observing nature.  Layers of plants in cooperation and often in mutual beneficial relationships are being created by permaculturists worldwide in forest gardens and, thanks to Jerome, now inside greenhouses as well.

Even the spaces beneath the walkways are being used. My first thought wouldn’t have been to place a worm farm there, but Jerome did and I think it is brilliant!

The Book Tour

Most people think that after writing their book, the author’s work is done. Not so. Some say, that is when the work begins in earnest. Yes, you guessed it, I am talking about the Book Tour.

For the authors, they are pretty grueling. Every day a different city; hours in a car to get there; then several hours talking and answering questions.

For us, they are great! We get to hear from the expert what he or she wrote about, ask question after question, and, if we buy a book, we even get it signed.

I am very much looking forward to hearing what Jerome has to tell us. I think you can tell from the podcast that he is a wealth of information and is ever ready to explore new territories. I am pretty sure that you won’t be bored when you go to one of his lectures and will walk out inspired.

Jerome is starting his Southern California Tour the end of this week. Here are the cities and locations you can find him:

March 5, 2016 – CALIFORNIA – San Diego – Lemon Grove public Library – 2:00pm
March 6, 2016 – CALIFORNIA – Santa Barbara – Ayni Gallery – 6:30pm 
March 7, 2016 – CALIFORNIA – San Louis Obisbo – SLO Grange – 7:30pm
March 8, 2016 – CALIFORNIA – Santa Cruz – UCSC – Kresge Seminar Room #159 – 6:007:30pm
Later in March, he will be back in Colorado:
In April, he will be at the Mother Earth News Fair in North Carolina:
In the podcast, Jerome mentioned a few events and courses which are taking place at the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, including the 30 year of continuous PDC party. You can find information about dates and times here:

The Health Benefits of Nature

Finally,during our conversation, Jerome mentioned a Mother Earth News article,  The Effects of Nature on Mental and Physical Health. The author, Valerie Latona, explores how research and science are confirming what many of us have always known – Nature is good for our health. I encourage you to read the article, but here are some of the highlights in no particular order.
Being in nature
  • reduces anxiety
  • helps us age gracefully
  • encourages creativity
  • boost immunity
  • lowers crime rate
  • makes us more satisfied with our work

Valerie also gives suggestions what everybody can do to be closer to nature or even to bring it into the home.

My true hope is that Jerome will inspire all of us to live more in tune with nature and to do our upmost to protect our earth from being polluted and destroyed. We all need nature, wild, or tamed as in a Forest Greenhouse, to stay healthy and happy.

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