Repelling the bad bugs of summer

Insect Repellant without chemicals – mosquitoes, ticks etc.
So many of the bug repellents on the market have chemicals and toxic elements in them. Even Neem causes reactions in some people. So, with some good research and experimenting with what grows in my garden, I have come up with a really simple solution.
I make a big recipe of nice smelling chemical free insect repellent every year for myself and my interns and volunteers and have for several years. I make a big (two gallons) slow decoction (simmer about half an hour – don’t boil) of Beauty Berry leaves. (two big handfulls of the leaves) Strain. Add vanilla (nice scent but also helps with insect repellent) – about a Tbs. or two. Add 60 drops of Rose Geranium essential oil and if you want, 40 or so drops of Tea Tree oil (Trader Joes makes a good one for little money). Put in about 2/3 cup cheap vodka or Witch Hazel. Shake. Keep extra in the frig. Pour this mixture into big spray bottle. I keep this on hand and spray everyone down every morning when we start in the garden. Smells delicious and keeps off not only ticks but mosquitoes too. I have never found anyone who had any allergic reaction to this mixture and everyone ways how delightful it smells and feels good too. You may have to respray if it is very hot and people are sweating a lot, but usually one spray does it. Be sure to get all the exposed skin (for mosquitoes) and clothing too (for ticks), and shoes and socks.

I sell dried beauty berry leaves enough for this recipe for $8 plus flat rate usps shipping – $8. It makes enough spray for the summer  – even with a bunch of kids. If you aren’t lucky to have a beauty berry bush growing in your yard and would like to, I can also send you a small bush start for the same amount. We’re in Zone 8 here but it is hardy all over the states except very cold climates. These are beautiful plants which grow into small trees. Asian beautyberry plant in early fall. The berries in late summer make a delicious jelly. And they are very beautiful in berry – very bright majenta color. Purple berries on beautyberry plant

Spectacular berries on beautyberry plant!

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry )
Leander, Bruce

Callicarpa americana

Email me at for orders. Pay with paypal on this site.

Diann Dirks 5-18
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Summer Hydrating Drink

It’s getting hot out there off and on now, so I thought I’d share my recipe for hydrating electrolyte (aka diy gatorade) with you. It’s delicious, you can use the herbs in your garden or kitchen window, and it’s so much better for you than commercial drinks – besides being way cheaper. Plus you can drink as much as you like without overamping the body or causing water over-detoxing.
Summer Hydrating energy drink – like Gatorade but better – Diann Dirks
16 oz. pure water (or coconut water or Water Kefir) (Or start with a big pitcher and make the same ratio as below for the ingredients – once brewed and flavored, keep in the frig.)
1 Tbs. honey (or Sucanat, organic cane sugar, or maple syrup) (or Trader Joe’s Stevia powder but in lesser amounts as it’s very sweet)
1/8 tsp Himilayan or other colored high mineral natural salt (not table salt)
Juice of 1 lemon or lime or orange (even grapefruit)
Optional: Two or three sprigs of your favorite aromatic herb – my favorites are:
Purple or green perilla (aka Shiso)
Mint (any variety – sweet, peppermint, spearmint, chocolate, etc.)
Basil – any variety
Lemon balm (or lime balm)
Thyme, Oregano, Winter Savory or other similar fresh herb I sometimes successfully mix the herbs for great flavor variety. Basil and Perilla are a good mix. Mint and Lemon Balm or Basil also excellent.
I place the herbs between my hands and roll them to bruise – this brings out the flavors. The herbs also have healing qualities so it isn’t just for flavor.
Or substitute flavorful fruits like strawberry, cherry, peach, elderberry, or other fruit.
If using fruit, crush them well before adding to get the most out of them.
Mix the ingredients, put in the flavorings or fruit, sit on the counter for an hour or so for full flavor. Sometimes I add a portion of Kombucha Tea to the liquid for probiotic
benefits. Water Kefir is also very high in probiotics.
Pour some into a glass with ice and drink.
You may want to experiment with how much salt you want but don’t leave it out unless you have someone in your household who can’t have it.
For an added caffeine energy burst, you can make iced tea as the liquid with Red Rose Tea – the other brands commercially available are contaminated with sprays* unless specifically stated as Organic. (* based on my research)
(I have a great water filter system if anyone wants the best filter on the market – PM me if interested)
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The Value of Trees

The Value of Trees

By Diann Dirks


Here in Georgia, in the NE section, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we are surrounded by trees. When my husband and I first arrived here over 12 years ago, from drought ridden California, I was enthralled by the green of everything, and of all the trees. When I saw our area begin to be developed and they took down whole areas of those trees, many of them valuable hardwood trees, I was so saddened. I was told by a lot of the local people that they were just ‘weeds’. But as the subdivisions and strip malls went in, with only a random tree to replace what was lost, the air quality has diminished.

Somehow the value of vast green lawns surrounding McMansions is a kind of status symbol here. And when landscaping is put in, it’s the usual pretty or ornamental with no real other value. So much of the HOAs around this area keep one from having vegetable gardens, and people are busy so they don’t want to have to take care of things other than install watering and hiring the landscapers to come in now and then to touch up or fertilize. The big thing is the green lawns.

Now I am a Permaculture Designer and an Organic Gardener. In our design science, which follows the laws of nature in how the environment continues to thrive without man, taking out whole areas that keep air full of oxygen, and trees that make it possible for rainclouds to form, having a couple of acres of green lawn that doesn’t do anything but look green is a total waste. Not only that, but to keep out the ‘weeds’ (which are really nature’s band-aids to hold in the top soil and restore the nutrients in it, plus prevent erosion), people use vast amounts of very toxic chemicals that end up in your water. Plus usually the water used to keep it green uses up valuable water from the aquifer or from the running water that needs to be used for other things. It’s a loose-loose just for some status.

I have a better idea. And this has been implemented in our own subdivision .7 acre lot on a rather steep hillside. We surrounded the lawn on one side of the drive way with landscape timber held in place by metal spikes, to hold in the wood chips that cover most of the space. In that space we have built rock surrounded beds and put in deep top soil. These beds hold plants that take up the 7 layers of vertical space. Lawns are one layer and the space above it is wasted. In the configuration we used which is called a “Food Forest”, each layer of vertical space is made use of.

We have ground cover such as wild strawberry, ground ivy, cleavers (a wild medicinal herb), cinquefoil (also medicinal wild), and others which form a carpet.

Herbaceous plants which are mostly soft bodied self seeding, or perennial small stature plants are placed in families of plants which help each other, using what is called “Companion Planting” or in Permaculture “Guilds”. These are plants which help each other by bug repelling, pest killing, nitrogen capturing (which fertilizes the soil naturally), bee and butterfly pollinating friendly insect attracting, and medicinal and edibles for people. In this class are included myriad flowering bulbs and plants such as Iris, Daffodil, Texas Bluebell, tulips, daisy, lilies, and other ornamental bee attracting plants. And in this are also some perennial herbs such as fennel, lemon verbena, lemon balm, mints, yarrow, and others. Also included are perennial plants, some woody in nature, such as roses, hellebores, winter savory, rosemary, sage, thyme, Russian sage, grow in amongst the flowers and herbs.

Small shrubs and dwarf trees grow over these plants to capture sunshine and create some shade. In this category are bush cherry, blueberry, aronia berry, Mexican sage (loaded with flowers in the late summer), butterfly bush, Witch Hazel, Rose of Sharon, Bay leaf, Beauty berry, Elderberry bush, Sweet Olive bush, dwarf fruit trees and others. There are in this category some under-story trees which are larger than bushes such as dogwood. All of them either provide food for the bees and butterflies, or grow fruit for people, or are medicinal. The herbs and ground covers are chosen for their beneficial groupings to help the ‘anchor’ trees or bushes. It’s like a giant jig saw puzzle with everything fitting together.

Canopy trees including regular sized fruit trees, nut trees, and forest sized trees grow tall and create areas of tall shade and animal habitat. In this category here at Hillside Gardens are included Apple, Peach, Pear, Plum, almond, curly willow, straight willow, and larger trees such as Green Ash, many kinds of oaks, pine, hickory, pecan, walnut, etc. These provide a vast network of leaves which are busily making oxygen, and in the fall their leaves cover the ground with topsoil renewing minerals brought up from deep in the earth.

These tall trees provide habitat for the critters that help in the whole natural intertwining functions such as birds and squirrels. Bird’s song opens the pores on the underside of the leaves which let in air – from which 80% of the tree’s food comes – so they drink in nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The squirrels collect the tree’s seeds, and bury them in the fall for winter. But they never retrieve all of them, and this is how the tree gets their seeds planted in the soil for future trees. It all works together.

But there are two other layers that are part of this composite. There is a layer of roots that are in themselves a use of the vertical space. Many plants use the soil as their habitat and are in themselves plants – especially fungi which connect all the roots of all the plants – transferring nutrients and information – and in the process decompose dying plant matter to keep the land clear of debris, and to provide their fruiting bodies – mushrooms.

Lastly vines weave it all together by their long growing nature. In our space we have smilax aka Greenbriar, Japanese honeysuckle, and a host of other vines which can be used for basket making, cording, building wattle fencing, used to tie together fencing and other uses.

One other use I don’t use here is the water feature such as a pond or stream, with its own set of water plants and marsh dwelling plants. Our land is too steep but downhill from us is the creek which draws from the surrounding land.

Tying together all these layers of growth are trees. The root system of trees holds in the topsoil, and in company with the fungi pass nutrients across the substructure of the soil so needed food is spread out among this bio-diverse natural mix. Fungi is the transport system under the surface we never see, but without which the plant world could not exist.

Trees can be planted independently of the understory plants or all layers can be used in a landscape. But rather than waste all the resources putting in grasses, it’s so much more beautiful and productive to set out trees that have all the various uses their species provides. I love going out at various times of the year to pick a basket of blueberries, peaches, pears and others. There is something satisfying about eating a bowl of fruit picked minutes before out of your own garden. And being a basket maker, I enjoy gathering vines and making creations at the times of year when they are most flexible and fresh.

Rather than fill a landscape and a yard with only ornamentals which provide no product for pleasure other than a certain visual display, I have chosen to get multiple uses out of the things I plant. I even collect some plants to make dye for coloring the yarn I spin. I also make insect repellent from Beauty Berry bushes and peppermint to keep away the mosquitoes.

Another wonderful effect having trees in the lawn is the cooling effect these trees provide, and the increase in bird music as they nest in the branches. Using bushes that draw beneficial insects adds the pleasure of seeing the butterflies flittering around or hearing the cheerful sound of bees eating their pollen. This to me is the sound of nature working in harmony, all things helping each other, and that includes people.

I would love to see the subdivisions and estates around here planted carefully and beautifully with fruit and nut trees, medicinal trees like Witch Hazel, and bushes producing fruit like blueberry and aronia berry. If there is no possibility of a vegetable garden on a given property, having trees that produce food goes unnoticed by these harmful regulations of HOAs. Having a hedge of blueberry instead of holly is so much more beneficial. Planting a large tree in a vast lawn which shades and holds in moisture helps the atmosphere produce rain, and gives us oxygen. Inter-planting beneficial bushes among the flower garden areas, and adding kitchen and medicinal herbs among the hedges and bushes adds use and benefit where none existed before.

I have seen information that says to give one human enough oxygen to breathe we need about 18 trees. When we cut them all down to make parking lots, what produces our oxygen? It isn’t a machine. It isn’t a freeway, or a vast lawn that produces a tiny fraction of it we need. We need our trees.

Without trees rain doesn’t form. A big lake doesn’t produce rain. It takes the trees doing something called transpiration, where the moisture comes off the leaves and enters the air thus to form clouds. Without trees we loose streams because without the transpiration, enough water isn’t drawn into the atmosphere to cause rain.

To my way of thinking, in nature the percentage of open non-tree growing spaces such as meadows is out of wack when we cut down the trees to make open space. There is a natural ratio which requires a certain percentage of our land to be filled with leaf growing branches in vast numbers to support the rest of our needs to survive as a race of people, and to support the animals and other life forms which support it all.

Bio-diversity is a concept that is crucial to the survival of life on earth. Each different kind of life form fills a certain knitch in the overall plan – there is such an inter-relationship going on. When we loose a certain species of tree, a whole ecological strata is often lost. Loosing the vast hickory groves from disease and over-harvest lost us food for whole kinds of animals which have gone extinct or their numbers so greatly lessened that they are on the endangered list. If we can restore some of these tree species we can help to rebalance the earth’s systems. We are now loosing the Hemlock to disease brought on by another imbalance in the natural order. This is another crucial species that supports a whole strata of life forms. We are fighting its extinction.

It is my dream that vast grass lawns be a thing of the past and only created in small areas for playgrounds or sports functions, but the rest of that land be repopulated by trees that help the environment, so we stop having droughts and the fires they spawn. So we restore the cleanliness of our air from pollution that doesn’t get the cleansing of that rain, so we can breathe without our children being plagued with asthma and other respiratory diseases that are amplified by smog and bad air.

I would like to see every space that isn’t needed for pasture or specific functions of human life, to be planted with trees in vast numbers. It is my dream that people somehow change their considerations about land use to regrow forests and that we stop this heedless slaughter of our forests. Our trees are treasures, not weeds. If we don’t like kind of trees we have, then cut them down and replace them with ones that are more to our liking, but just cutting them down and leaving it at that is irresponsible. It takes years to grow a big tree. When we value trees they become treated with respect. In Japan when a forester cuts down a tree for lumber, he replants 3 trees to cover that loss. This is the greatest wisdom.

We need our trees. In Oregon, they come in with their huge deforesting machines, disturb the soil, leave the topsoil open to erosion (which it takes a hundred years to create one inch of in nature), then if they bother to replant, do so with single plant mono-cropping that destroys the natural bio-diversity. We need to get wiser with our resources because when they are gone, it takes so much more effort to replace it or restore it to life friendly condition.

But I don’t agree that these kinds of ideas be enforced by government regulations. No, we need to enlighten people so they understand their relationship with the planet, with nature, and to understand they are part of it, not that nature is something other than themselves. We need cooperation, not enforcement. A kind heart that grows a tree is worth ten government regulations.

Please, join with me, and plant trees as often as possible. It’s a grand and noble investment in our future.


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Bringing Back Bitters for Health

Bitters Benefits  2-1-18

You may know I have been studying digestion for Loren (my husband with GERD). But while researching, I have come up with some very interesting data for people with diabetes, blood sugar issues, weight loss and food cravings, gas, bloating, and liver and gall bladder issues which I thought would be of interest to you.

In light of the problems we are facing with our food these days – toxins, poor nutritional quality and content, GMOs etc, digestion has become an ever more important aspect of our lives. People are complaining more of heart burn, gas, bloating, poor energy, stomach aches and cramps, and food cravings.

We are seeing an increase in GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease where stomach acid comes back up from the stomach inflaming the esophagus and causing other problems including auto-immune, leaky gut, and much more).

It turns out that the Scandinavians have had it right all along. Bitters has been a traditional part of their diet for ages. Or the French who make it a habit of drinking an aperitif before a meal. By tasting a bit of bitter flavor before eating, it does all kinds of things listed below.

I’ve known for a long time that the taste of bitter stimulates the entire endocrine system, every gland in the lot, which kicks off good digestion and handles a bunch of problems throughout the whole body. It’s a toner, rever-upper for the metabolism, and relaxer all at the same time.

I’ve been researching this in depth today, but took a class in it two years ago at a Permaculture Gathering in N.C., and learned you can make your own delicious bitters with some 100 proof vodka or Everclear and some herbs usually available in a lot of places. It doesn’t even take a lot of different kinds but I found out I was already making some of them for medicinal uses.

One could even go a little nuts and make a hobby or business out of the creative blends of botanicals and spices listed in the website below. It’s so rich in possibilities.

However, you can purchase “bitters” at any liquor store. Just put a couple of drops on your tongue before eating. It’s strong flavor, but it ramps up the whole digestive process so your body really gets the benefits of the nutrition you are trying to get from eating. Eating a salad with some bitter leaves before a main course does the same thing as does an alcoholic aperitif, even some red wine with dinner has similar properties.

If you want to try making your own you can do that. I’ve included a site to check out for that below. and

 Benefits of digestive bitters:

  • Bitters have also been used to supress food cravings.  The craving for sugary snacks or starchy salty snack foods can be quenched with a drop of bitter taste on the tongue.
  • Bitters relieve gas and bloating.
  • Bitters help maintain healthy blood sugar levels
  • Bitters support the liver and gall bladder.
  • Bitters relieve heart burn and indigestion
  • Bitters relieve upset stomach and nausea
  • Bitters are both drying and cooling
  • Bitters aid weight loss by curbing sugar cravings and maintaining healthy blood sugar
  • Bitters help to regulate fat metabolism
  • Bitters can improve your complexion by improving digestion


But for bitters to be effective they must be tasted.  It’s the bitter stimulation of the tongue that triggers the cascading effect of bitters on the digestive system.

How to increase the digestive bitters in your diet.

  • Eat raw green salads before a meal.
  • Drink a glass of red wine with dinner.  White wine doesn’t have the same astringency as red.
  • Take a bitter tonic or aperitif about 30 minutes before dinner.
  • Take a bitter tincture 20 minutes before eating.  Just a few drops on the tongue is all you need.
  • Include bitter tasting food in the meal
  • Use less sugar to mask the taste of bitters

If you have an herb garden or access to fresh herbs listed in the website above, you can have some fun making the infusions (soaking herbs in liquid for some time) or tinctures (soaking in alcohol or vinegar) and getting creative with flavors, also covered in one of the sites above. They can be quite delicious.

Or you can purchase already made bitters from a number of herb companies like Mountain Rose Herb Company or your local farmers market or homestead group from people who do it for you. Whatever the source, when making them or purchasing them, use and purchase what has been made with organic botanicals and herbs so you aren’t accidentally exposing yourself to the chemicals sprayed on non-organic plants or on the ground they are grown on. Alcohol will concentrate toxins.

Bon Appetite

Diann Dirks




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Permaculture and Organic Internship open now Spring-Summer in Auburn, Ga.



OPENING Spring to Summer session NOW

Hillside Gardens, Auburn, Ga. in Barrow, County, NE Georgia

Permaculture* Demonstration Garden

Get in on the early Spring planting season on into Summer

Work, Learn, and have Fun in this beautiful bird, bee and butterfly haven.


Taught by Diann Dirks, Certified Permaculture Designer, 45 year organic grower, herbalist, researcher, educator, consultant.

7th Year of our Internship Program. Accepting only 8 people per session

so Act Now! Must be 16 years old or older.

Must be able to lift 30 lbs, bend over repeatedly, & walk on uneven terrain.


On our 100 bed facility, using Permaculture Design technology and natural laws:  Annual beds, Orchard and Herb Gardens, Vegetables and Fruit, Wild Crafting knowledge, Advanced soil techniques. Learn Korean Natural Farming techniques (ways of increasing fertility and soil ecology).


Minimum 4 month commitment, only one 4 hour week-day session required per week (but you may attend more if desired). Fee $45 for the 4 month program.


We will begin the season with seed starting and plant propagation. Don’t miss this fascinating process to choose the best varieties of foods and herbs.


This is the only Permaculture Internship program in the South East.


Increase awareness. Learn these subjects: organic soil building, seasonal plants, companion planting for best yield, organic fertilizing techniques, orchard management, herbs for medicine and food, bio-char, moon phase planting, harvesting and food and herb preservation methods, seed saving, composting, manure and weed teas for fertilization, rain catchment methods, creative plant supports, bee and butterfly haven creating, best garden tools and their use, container gardening, raised bed and in-ground methods, berms (hills) and swales (ditches) for water catchment, contour bed arrangement, mulching, pest handling without chemicals, relationships with nature and the organic garden for highest yield, using no chemicals or GMOs.

Get your hands dirty in beautiful rich organic soil and have fun!


If you are interested email, Personal Message at FB – Georgia Dirks, or call 678 261-8141 and leave a message so I can get back to you (I don’t answer if I don’t recognize the number so please leave a message.)

*Permaculture Design is a science of design based on natural laws and an ethic towards the environment: care for the earth, care for people, equitable use of abundance.


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Good Design in Life

Good Design in Life

By Diann Dirks

If you look around you, you will find everything in your life that you use (even nature) is based on a conceptual design, manifested into physical universe stuff. There are things that work great and are beautiful and efficient – that’s good design. There are things that work poorly, break down easily, are ugly and inefficient – that’s bad design. There are things made everywhere in between these two aspects. In the world we live in, usually the good design stuff is either so well established in life that we don’t even think about it, and is the ‘standard’, or they are new and usually expensive. Bad designed stuff is usually made of junky material, breaks down after a year or a few months, and ends up in the land fill, but are usually cheap and made in another country – though not always. (I try to buy local or made in the USA.)

When you make a choice about what to purchase, or make, or create (as in a whole environment), by basing your choices on long term sustainability, and what is good for the earth, and people, you become one of the solutions, not the problem. Maybe nobody will come by and pat you on the back and say to you “Good Job”, but in a hundred years people will be better off because of it, as will the other critters of the world we live in. We all survive together or not at all. Just think of the honey bee – for every 5 bites of food you eat, 3 of them were compliments of a bee. When they go, we will end up like they do in Japan, hand pollinating every fruit, with the cost of a peach around $5.

An old adage is “you get what you pay for” or “penny wise and pound foolish” meaning you aren’t looking long term and only seeing the immediate price tag.

For some reason, I have always loved the aesthetics of really good design. A pair of shoes that lasts a very long time, is comfortable, made of good leather, beautiful, well made, and keeps you going where you want to go without hurt feet, slipping on a floor or the earth, or breaking down after a month of getting wet. How about a tool that you can use over and over for a lifetime, and pass onto the kids. One of my favorite examples of a garden tool that is masterful is the “Terra Planter” * of which I have two. It’s made of good steel, rubber-like handle that doesn’t get sticky with time, is lightweight but sturdy and is perfectly balanced, has a pokey kind of side and a trowel kind of side perpendicular to the held stem, like a “T”. This can do almost anything in a garden. Dig, loosen soil, plant, smooth out soil, dig out a root, make a trough in the soil, chop up hard clay, spread mulch, on and on. It’s so well designed that it replaces about 10 other tools, and because it’s just one tool, I carry it around with me and don’t loose track of it in the garden. It’s about $17 online plus s&h. The old version had a wood handle which was replaced with steel. There are knock offs, they are ‘downstream beer’ and don’t have the balance or ease of handling. I’ll take good design any day over cheap. *The new name for it is:

So, when I had the opportunity to do certification training in Permaculture Design, I was delighted to find that just good design can be used to heal the earth, increase efficiency and cut waste to almost nothing, and bring abundance into life and the earth itself, no matter where it is. Because the best design of all you find is nature, and Permaculture Design is based on 23 natural precepts and laws of how nature works. So instead of imposing our will on the world with bad results and lack of knowledge of how it works, we have the benefit of billions of years of natural selection in what survives and what doesn’t over time, which then leads to better survival for ourselves and everything up to and including the world. This ranges in scale from a back yard to global think and management. “Act local, think global”.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of people on this planet and limited resources. Why is there poverty, suffering, famine, etc.? Simply put – bad management and bad design in how to use resources and how to optimaly work with people. That’s why design is so important – form follows function – you look at what needs to be done in the best possible way, then implement it in the most efficient way possible and that’s good design. That’s the beauty of Permaculture Design because first of all, it’s based on an ethic, the only design science on the planet that is: Care of the Earth, Care of People, Wise and Equitable Use of the Abundance (thus formed with good management and smart planning and design). It isn’t based on what makes the most profit for the share holders or how a government can maintain control over a vast area and get the most taxes out of it. The design criteria is what makes a better world.

Often we live a life of designs not of our choosing, but taken on because of necessity and lack of options – gotta feed yourself and if you have one, a family, or a nation. Usually in humankind systems, the pattern of it goes way back to feudalism or barbarism. These systems have worked to put certain people in charge and in power, and the rest of the people in various levels of being ‘followers’.  Currently on this planet we have Monarchies and Corporate systems, which are basically the same thing. Monarchies still pull the strings, while corporate systems work to organize and reap the system in a similar fashion. The only difference being blood line and tradition or corporate boards and profit. In some areas we still have vestiges of democratic Republic governing but money and control are power so unless we can restore “We the People”, we sink back into totalitarian regimes.

But when we work together as individuals putting sanity into the mix, we have a chance to live the ethical and sane life we choose.

Into this we have centralized Religion that has been used to create standards of behavior and control by the top of the heaps over the centuries, and have brought some comfort to the ones below that when there is sanity in the beliefs. There is a spiritual world, there is order, and there is chaos that needs taming. That is basically life. Without ethics and order, we sink back to barbarism and suffering. With reason and good design in how we manage the planet and our lives, we gain freedom and long range survival.

When you can tap into the natural world and take advantage of that orderliness and long term survival, and have a connection to the spiritual power in all of us, which also is intrinsic to the natural world, you can really start to live an optimal lifestyle with joy. Most agree that there is ‘intelligent design’ at work.

In order to tap into that reason and good order, it requires that you know firstly that things can be better, that life can be better, and that you and others like you can do something to influence and remedy the problems created by the bad design or mistakes made which harm that natural balance.

Don’t be naïve though, there are about 1/5th of the people on earth who are either bent on making things worse, or are under their control and making mistakes, which influence the rest of our lives. People who would have us be slaves (economic or otherwise) work to create the illusion that we are helpless and help to create a ‘why bother’ attitude, apathy or distraction onto the pleasures of the moment. So, when you go to fix things which are obviously not doing well, realize you have this also to contend with.

Just remember, the greatest things on this world were created by a dedicated few visionaries who were willing to roll up their sleeves and do something worthwhile about it. They are the heroes of history, unsung or celebrated, doesn’t matter. Anything good we have in our lives was created by well thinking people who were ethical and smart, who cared about the future. Be one of those people and join others who are too. Below you will find a partial list of some of those people who have really done this and made a better world.

But remedying things requires knowledge – knowledge = power. It also = becoming causative as opposed to being the effect of the mistakes and disasters others have caused. The good news is that you can do this gradiently, improving in steps, as you learn and are inspired to act.

Getting inspired to go from what isn’t working to what does is a wonderful journey, full of realizations, wins, comraderie, learning, and a lot of joy. That requires actually having correct data and a correct system based on truth. There’s a lot of ‘information’ out there that is influenced by people who want to bend the truth for their own enhancement to the detriment of everyone else. (Again, ‘global warming’ as an example, put forth as a way for a handful of people to make billions.) So, you have to consider the source of whatever you wish to apply. Look at the actual long term effect. Permaculture Design is based on designing things that are good design for 7 generations – not months, years or even decades – generations!

There are some people in the world who have been great sources of really workable planet healing technology in Permaculture Design. To name my favorites:

Bill Mollison – the founder of Permaculture who wrote among many books “Introduction to Permaculture” ,

Masanobu Fukuoka – precursor to Permaculture by several decades who wrote “The One Straw Revolution” considered a master of many of the precepts in PD,

Geoff Lawton – student and associate of Bill Mollison, a co-founder who has gone on to do a great deal around the planet to restore eco-systems including deserts, urban blight and others (see his many videos at,

David Holmgren – another of Bill Mollisons associates and cofounders who wrote “Permaculture – Systems and Pathways Beyond Sustainability”,

Paul Wheaton – designer, well known permaculturist, known for his rocket mass heater and sustainable toilet system designs, as well as COB* building and other techniques who also has many videos (,

Toby Hemenway – author of “Gaia’s Garden” masterful small scale Permaculture Design,

Paul Stamets – master mycologist (study of fungi and mushrooms) who has developed ways to remedy the soil using fungi, among many other discoveries – see ,

Tradd Cotter – another master mycologist who researches to remedy soil and many other discoveries – see,

Wayne Weiseman (my instructor), Daniel Halsey and Bryce Ruddock – designers and consultants who wrote “Integrated Forest Gardening” – the Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems”, and

Sepp Holzer – a Swiss well known permaculturist who also wrote a book called “Permaculture”.

Another little book I use for quick reference is “Permaculture in a Nutshell” by Patrick Whitefield.

There are many outstanding Permaculturists who have done much to forward these principles, but I don’t have the space here to include them all.

If someone would like to get really inspired to do something about the current deteriorating condition of this planet, they would do well to read some of the books I have mentioned, and pull up these many sites,  and watch the videos by Bill Mollison, Geoff Lawton and Paul Wheaton and others. It’s quite a wonderful uplifting adventure to watch what these people have done to turn things around so beautifully.

You can save so much energy, time and resources by taking the time to learn good design, or by hiring a Permaculture Designer for your project. I am available for consultation in NE Georgia, or by internet almost anywhere. But however way you go about it, by applying natural law to your environment, you leave a legacy of restored earth, and survivability to your people into 7 generations. We can do something about it.

As a final note, and for those good people who see the logic and necessity to help turn things around, there are specific things we each can do to ensure good design replaces the chaos of the current situation on the planet which is so dangerous to the future.

We constantly see the warnings about ‘global warming’. First of all this concept is junk science motivated by politics and power seeking. But we do have troubles in the environment – contamination and pollution, droughts and loss of arable (useful farmable) land due to desertification and erosion. The loss of vast numbers of trees is the primary source of many of our troubles.

By individually taking responsibility for our waste, and what products we use which can go into the natural system as contaminants, we do our part. When we recycle, we are doing our part. When we only buy food that is pesticide and chemical free, organically grown and non-GMO, we force the market and farming practices to change, thus removing the source of most of the pollution in our water and air which comes from industrial agriculture practiced in most of the farmland in the U.S. and elsewhere.

When we cut down trees, especially in large areas, the planet’s mechanism to make rain is destroyed. Trees make rain! We have seen massive deforestation by corporate powers motivated by greed and the fast buck and wealth at the expense of everyone else. Or just the consistent removal of forested land to build houses and cities in the name of the economy. When agriculture in this country went to mostly mechanized methods, the rows of trees that used to line the fields and which protected against wind erosion were removed to facilitate the huge planters and harvesters. This made the land hotter, cut out a great deal of natural bio-diversity which helped to keep pests down and held in moisture. We need to rethink agriculture. Permaculture Design does this.

The best way to turn this around is first to protect every tree possible. Think twice before cutting down a tree on your land. Or if you must, plant another two trees as replacements. On a broader plane, where you have a say, stop clear cutting of forest. Instead care for the earth by careful harvesting and replanting of diverse tree species. Instead of tree farms which are just another form of mono-cropping (like millions of acres of corn and soy), take the care to plant multiple species in more natural combinations. When building a house or a subdivision, save every possible tree. This takes some careful planning, but it is important. And it requires careful grading to not harm the trees left standing. Insist that the builders you invest in practice tree preservation and good land management of soil and water source.

Another way is to take care in your purchasing of things to only support ethical companies (boycott Monsanto), and those which do not destroy the environment to make their crops or products. Avoid purchasing things grown in the Amazon forests where vast areas have been deforested to grow GMO crops, coffee and chocolate, palm oil and other products while ruining vital bio-diverse species and eco systems.

And for pete’s sake – plant some trees! Plant them wherever there is some space to grow them. They can be fruit or nut trees, herb trees, or lumber creating trees, but just plant trees! For every human being on the planet we need 15 trees to supply the oxygen and remove the carbon dioxide we personally create, not to mention that which is created by our cars and to make electricity to run our houses and industry. Do you have 25 trees on your land for every person living there? If not, we can support the planting of trees on waste land if you don’t have a place of your own to do so.

I have been certified in Permaculture Design since 2009. It has been an amazing journey and adventure, full of ongoing inspiration and spiritual and intellectual growth. If you are interested, I have an internship program in NE Georgia. There are good people all around the country and world who can help you learn. And you can take courses or learn on the internet. There are groups of people doing meet-ups you can hook up with. Or you can form such a group yourself.

I wish you a wonderful, prosperous, and joyful journey.

Blogsite:    FB addy: Georgia Dirks and

FB page: The Garden Lady of Georgia

8/29/17 Diann Dirks

Certified Permaculture Designer

Hillside Gardens, Auburn, Ga.

Mothers School of Self-Reliance


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First Big Freeze of the Winter

We’re expecting the first low freeze tonight. 20 something, brrrrrr! So, we have to get ready. We’ve had a lot of leaf fall, which can be bunched up around potted plants outside for added insulation, 002then covered with plastic. 016
Here’s my list:
0. Gather organic matter for mulching such as autumn leaves, pine straw, or straw. I put mine in large construction grade heavy duty bags from Home Depot – Hefty brand. They can be re-used over and over as many as 20 times before they start to be too full of holes or shredded to be useful as a bag. Then I use them to line bins or other uses.007
1. Check moisture content of all beds to be secured for freeze, water if necessary.
2. Drain all the outside water lines and bring in the watering wands (they tend to break if left out in the cold), wind the hoses onto their carts.
3. Put extra mulching around the bases of all the annual plants, and any recently planted perennials which didn’t get extra mulch already.008
4. Bring all the unplanted trees, bushes, and other perennial plants into a circle and surround them with bagged up autumn leaves – cover with clear plastic and secure.  022
5. Dig in any kitchen waste in un-planted beds and cover with soil – they will be planted again once we have a warm day. Then cover open areas with mulch. 009
6. Harvest any greens needed in the next several days from annual beds.
7. Harvest hard perennial herbs such as thyme, bay leaf, lemon verbena, Echinacea roots, etc. for later processing.

8. Lay tomato cages on their sides, alternating direction down the length of the beds, carefully placing them around existing plants.

Click pictures to enlarge.

9. Bring in any of the plants which are tender perennials or warm weather plants, and place by the window where they can get some sun, including seedlings not yet planted.
10. Rake un-planted beds smooth and mulch with autumn leaves so the mulch can be pushed aside for later plantings, but are protected from freeze meanwhile.015
11. Bring out clear or white plastic sheeting and roll it out for sizing to be placed on beds, organize for best use.
12 Carefully lay sheeting over tomato cages, secure with one-cell cinder blocks around the perimeter, and use bricks or rocks over path ways here and there if sheeting covers them, to avoid wind catching the sheets and blowing them off. 021
13. Neaten the area, bringing in plastic planters and stacking them, raking up spilled soils or leaves around staging areas, securing any un-used plastic sheeting, etc.
14. One last check making sure sufficient coverage of all annual areas including containers and back deck area and side of house where some perennials are living, and securing with bricks or other weights to prevent blow-offs.

15. We don’t have a riding mower or tractor, or other outdoor machinery here at Hillside Gardens, but if you do, empty the gas tanks, including warm only weather stuff like chain saws or chippers, clean out the tanks, and if you have an equipment shed, bring in the machinery, or if not, cover with heavy tarp.
Watch the weather in your area. If the temperature gets into the 30s’ even if it doesn’t say it will freeze, prepare your garden for a long freeze anyway. Water pipes burst, watering wands are destroyed, tender perennials freeze and die, annuals which aren’t sufficiently cold hardy will be lost, and losses occur. But if sufficient preparation is done while it’s still above freezing, the garden can keep producing, and your equipment will be secure. If you have mowers you can run them over leaves and catch them for great mulch.
I purchase rolls of white 3.3 mil plastic sheeting from Home Depot for around $20. It’s a big sheet which I usually cut up into wide strips for rows. They also have clear sheeting in smaller rolls for about $13 which works well too, 3.5 mil. This sheeting lasts several seasons.
When the weather warms up between cold spells, if the temperature goes above about 65 F, I roll the sheeting back because it holds onto heat and cold weather annuals don’t like it too hot.
Who says you can’t grow all year long. You don’t need a green house, just some ingenuity.
Here is the winterized growing area within a deer fence, with screen panels strengthening the base of the netting. This area will grow a tremendous amount of greens and cold weather vegetables this winter – yum.

Annual garden area surrounded by deer netting and panels of window screen. The beds are all covered, secured with bricks and cinder blocks. The foreground is the staging area soon to be organized. 

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