Rolling a tread between People and Permaculture


What is PermaCycle?

By Seth Columbia

PermaCycle is an adventure, a journey, a desire for the liminal phase of transition, a coming of age, and pursuit of happiness. I am comfortable saying it feels like all those things on the inside but what is it on the outside?

PermaCycle is a cycling trip across the country that will connect Jasmine and myself with all things Permaculture related, or as many as possible. This can include small or large farms, food forests, eco-villages, homesteads, or even just backyards, its as much about the people taking action as the actions they take.

With this adventure we hope to inspire others to follow their dreams, and with this blog we hope to promote the ideas, people, and places that make this bike trip an epic journey.

PermaCycle is a lot of things, some will be planned, others might just happen, and others that wont be visible until we are far down the line long after we finish up here.


Change of Priorities

Thank you to anyone who has been reading and keeping up with this blog and also my apologies to those who believed in its success and continual growth because the main motivation for this blog has not really been from the heart. I have come to realize that this blog follows a recurring theme in my life that I wish to discontinue. That theme is one of justification for doing what I want. The justification comes in because until recently it would have seemed absurd to simply go out into the world and travel and adventure without staying in touch, or creating something for the praise of others, akin to a scholarly program I have been following for so long.

It is not until recently that I have realized that I can do whatever I want, literally, sure I have heard it from a young age but not util recently have I really felt that way. This blog is not something that I want deeply from the heart, not in the way that I simply wish to embrace this trip and the wealth of life experience and education that will come with it for the sake of personal growth.

Simply, the blog feels like homework, the kind I don’t like, and I don’t want to do, and I will stop doing it for that reason alone.

However this spot will still exist as a space to share fun pictures, stories, and other snapshots of our lives if we feel so inclined.

Thanks you again people reading. Much Love,


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Read Jasmine’s Daily Cycling Journal

I included this photo of my dad on a moped because I thought it was funny and I needed an image to spice this post up.

I included this photo of my dad on a moped because I thought it was funny and I needed an image to spice this post up.

Jasmine here.

I found that the PermaCycle blog wasn’t the best fit for me to blog everyday.

If you’d like to follow my “almost everyday account” of what we are doing on an intimate scale visit my Crazy Guy on a Bike Journal.

The direct web address is:


Gather 2

May 21st 2015

Gather Baltimore Part 2

Here is a run-down on a few cool details that we have learned since the last time we talked.

  1. 300-400 bags get sold each week.IMG_1531
  2. Volunteers make this program possible by organizing bagging and separating the food into the blue bags.IMG_1539
  3. The huge walk-in refrigerators that the foods are stored in were built by Arthur and his friends chopping the typically $20,000-30,000 dollar price tag down to $3000-4000.IMG_1540
  4. A little action shot of making some of the bags up, in the line up for todays bags there were avocados, organic butter, yucca root, grapes, apples, zucchini, lettuce, chili peppers, a loaf of bread, and bananas.IMG_1533
  5. Gather is on the cusp of growing into a bigger organization. Using grants and other aid money from the network of non-profits in the city Gather hopes to construct a new coolers, expand and further organize their volunteer program, find an AmeriCore Vista member.


Dumpster Diet!!!

This is the first of a new series of posts that will recap how and what we are eating on this long and harrowing road-trip. We hope to bring light to the plight of hunger facing hundreds of millions of people around the world, and the sheer excess and waste of perfectly viable food that is thrown out every day by Americans for menial reasons. By opening a window into our lives we hope to destigmatize finding food in “dumpsters” because perfectly good food can be found anywhere if one looks hard enough.

Today started out rough…. After a late start to the day (11:00 AMish) we reluctantly headed out to an Aquaponics site we had heard about only to find that it had closed for the day and we were too late. This coupled with my bike absolutely falling apart prevented any real progress as far as scouting out cool farms, gardens, or community outreach programs. We finally threw in the towel and decided to forage for dinner in local dumpsters as is customary for us these days. We bounced around the streets of outer Baltimore perusing compost bins and dumpsters looking for our next great haul. We got yelled at behind Pizza Hut for rummaging through a dumpster that some guy claimed was private property. Despite this, we found about half of a pizza still in the box and snacked on it with great fervor. Later we stopped by a produce market where no one spoke enough English to know what the hell we were talking about when we asked for any excess produce that was to be thrown away. Later we checked behind Boston Market for cornbread which we had been craving, only to find 8 pairs of shoes still in the box (one of which I claimed as my new shoes). Later on just minutes before giving up, Jasmine heroically climbed into a dumpster behind a grocery store and emerged victorious from the bin with a box full of delicious canned goods. I’m talking plum tomatoes, roasted red peppers, green beans, none of which expired until the year 2018, which perplexed us greatly. Later that evening we made pasta with crushed red tomato and pepper sauce and wild garlic that had been picked the day previous while doing some gardening and harvesting.


Seth and I had been painfully picking Stinging Nettle for 11 dollars an hour, which seemed awesome before we realized what Stinging Nettle was. It is a nightmare of a plant that causes immediate allergic reactions to any and all that have the misfortune of touching it, causing hundreds of bee sting-like sensations in the affected area. We picked this for hours which is irrelevent if not for the fact that in between getting our asses kicked by this small evil plant, I picked and foraged for wild garlic that absolutely littered the massive yard we had been unleashed upon to harvest Nettle. THis garlic came to great use later on not only for the delicious pasta sauce, but also the garlic bread that Seth painstakingly crafted with the tender affection not afforded to even the most beloved newborn infant. The result was a feast of garlic bread bagels (we had found about 100 bagels the night before the last) and pasta with seasoned spicy red pepper sauce, which almost certainly made up for the lack of progress that day. Amazing meals are few and far between sometimes, so it is always appreciated when we can create culinary masterpieces from free dumpster food and wild growing plants. It is especially amazing to me, who only months ago was grossed out by the prospect of eating exclusively from dumpsters, but now cannot believe the amount of good food and items that is thrown away each day by regular people. I was half disgusted by the tendency to throw away perfectly good things, and half bewildered by the amazing bounty that had befallen us. I wish more people were aware of how good the food that is thrown away can really be. Hopefully what we do can someday be destigmatized, but until then, we shall feast on your “garbage”.



May 14th

Gather Baltimore Part 1

Today’s action began around noon when we headed into the heart of Baltimore and met up with a dumpster-diving inspired non-profit called Gather Baltimore. The hours were from 10-2 but when we got there at 12:30 there was almost nothing left to do. Everyone looked at us like a couple of slackers and made some off handed comments about showing up late. None the less we made our introductions and walked out with a huge blue bag of produce and a couple of large melons.

The blue bags are amazing. We have been eating primarily stale bagels from a dumpster for the last 3 days. If you swish with water they soften up a bit and I ate four of them today (before the blue bag entered our lives) The blue bag seems to be their main schtick and this is the deal. Anyone can walk into the mill valley general store on Sisson st in Baltimore and buy a weeks worth of produce in the blue bag for six measly united states dollars. Theyre all the same but the makeup changes week to week. Today it held an outrageous bounty, two heads of kale, two heads of lettuce, a couple pounds of brussel sprouts, green beans, carrots, grapes, tangerines, cucumbers, asparagus and maybe something or other more. Its crazy how affordable this bag is and even crazier it used to be free.

How is this possible? the man behind it, Arthur Morgan, used to work farmers markets and wanted to do something wit hthe massive waste that promptly followed every market. It wasn’t worth it for the farmers to keep it because it wouldnt make it and just get stanky and never sell. So Arthur started organizing, bringing volunteers together and delivering the goods in a beat up pickup truck.

Today things are different, now he has two huge refrigerator trucks (hence the six dollars) and gets his goods directly from wholesalers and warehouses. Just to paint the picture a single company on a big enough scale can spend up to a million dollars a year for waste removal for their excess produce. Arthur slips into that crack, receives ample free goods and turns them to a community in need.

So on top of all that Arthur is a total homie and let us camp out at his place, fed us an amazing dinner, built us a fire, offered us ample beers, and tomorrow we return to learn more and work our asses off like we promised to all the begrudging volunteers who formerly scoffed at our reception of a blue bag ((and melons)mostly the melons)).

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Life in the Whirlwind

A note from Seth:

Traveling slowly south from Connecticut to my current resting ground of Baltimore has proved allready to be much more adventure than I could have expected. It is great, I love it, and I am in love with the fluidity and serendipity with which my life is so obviously revolving.

As far as the permacycle mission things are more or less spot on, given that it is a rather general plan anyway. The only issue on that scale is the lack of contact with the fine people reading this blog. I have been quick to hold onto the new knowledge and often pictures with the intent of posting but without much action. It has been a major weakness in the trip so far.

But let me explain. Pretty much the last thing on my mind while biking all day or working on a farm or doing both is how I plan to get on the computer and process my experience into size 12 font, so in other words I have been a bit selfish or trip-centric but I do desire a balance in this area and relaying the knowledge I gain to the fine permacycle family\friend\community is a skill to be gained.

To reflect back on the flow and serendipity of the night Carmelo and I were discussing the essence of this post through and through today so when we did the daily Buddha quote, what is basically a daily random reading from a small book of Bhudist quotes titles Heart of a Buddha, the quote was perfect, it reads,

If we look upon our work not for self-benefit, but as a means to benefit society, we will be practicing appretiation and patience in our daily lives.

So expect more to come,


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Philadelphia, PA: Heritage Farm

If you thought that having a farm in a cemetery was an exciting way to use space, how about when a former  Methodist orphanage now social outreach center decides to turn their lawn space into a bustling farm? Too damn cool.

You know what’s cool? When the head farmer is practicing and applying permaculture design on their farm. Adrien of Heritage farm installed a fruit tree orchard which surrounds the garden beds on this 3 acre plot. Working with the topography of the land, Adrien used the natural  50 foot depression at the bottom of the hill for his benefit. This is where rain naturally runs off of the building and roads too. Utilizing this resource reduces their waste water and increases their productivity. The space is being used to cultivate mushrooms, but not in your ordinary run-of-the-mill-way. The farm receives from local mushroom farmers the mycelium activated sawdust. Mycelium being the roots of the mushroom, its fruit. These are discarded because after two  fruitings of producing mushrooms, a third fruiting is possible, but commercially unreliable. By looking to permaculture, Adrien is getting the most out of the land and boosts the farms opportunity for more income.

A bit of the 3 acre property

A bit of the 3 acre property

Evening farm shifts kick ass

Evening farm shifts kick ass

Adrien created this retractable roof to keep the area cool (it's a sheet!).

Adrien created this retractable roof to keep the area cool (it’s a sheet!).

More of the blocks.

More of the blocks.

These are the sawdust blocks inoculated with mycelium.

These are the sawdust blocks inoculated with mycelium.

This is the mushroom pit!

This is the mushroom pit!

Here we are planting  kale. We planted two rows.

Here we are planting kale. We planted two rows.

Meet Adrian.

Meet Adrian.

Here is a close up of the sawdust block

Here is a close up of the sawdust block

Fun fact about Adrien? His favorite vegetable is stinging nettles. He wild forages those bad boys, boils them for four minutes and enjoys them as is. How’s that for free fresh wild veggies?


To learn more about Heritage Farm go to: