Scott Gallant

5 “Grow-Your-Own” Mulch Plants for the Tropics

The tropical forest is constantly self-mulching. After a walk in the woods I usually return with bits of leaves and twigs caught in my hair. Lying in bed at night, my partner and I often hear branches and even whole trees tumbling toward the great soil food web below. This self-mulching is one important piece in the self-renewing fertility cycle of the tropical forest. And of all the functions of […]

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Salak Palm: A Guide for Tropical Permaculture

Salak palm or snake fruit (Salacca edulis or Salacca zalacca) is a high-value understory species for tropical agroforestry plantings. Salak palm is native to southeast Asia, where it is commercially cultivated in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Java, in their wet tropical lowland climates. At higher elevations, the “Bali” variety can be grown. It produces a delicious fruit, eaten out of hand, with a taste similar to strawberry with an apple-like texture. […]

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8 Tips for Starting your Tropical Homestead

You’ve just purchased your dream property in tropical Costa Rica. You want to grow your own food. You are anxious to get to work now, have bought some plants from a nursery you randomly drove by, and have a shovel in hand, but where to start? Most of our clients fall on either side of a spectrum of project implementation. Either they experience paralysis by analysis, overthinking every step, their […]

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Invisible Infrastructure: How We Build Our Lives Together

Developing the physical infrastructure of our campus gets me up every morning. I don’t need coffee nor an alarm clock; I’m just excited to keep building. Building the orchards and earthworks, furniture for my home, a better feeder for our chickens; these are the projects that rev my permaculture engine. They are concrete, you can see the results of your physical labor immediately, and they are often the first projects of burgeoning permaculture sites. It requires little effort to dedicate the time, space, resources and money to these projects. Yet their impact on the success of a project, despite all this dedication, pales in comparison to another type of infrastructure; the invisible infrastructure.

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Making Microbes: Fungal vs Bacterial Soil Life

Organic gardeners and farmers understand the need to cultivate and protect soil microorganism life. The strategies to do this involve mulching, composting, and avoiding soil disturbance as much as possible. We know that these strategies, in addition to many others, encourage a healthy soil-food-web. The soil-food-web is the interconnected matrix of invisible (fungi, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes) and visible (earthworms, beetles, arthropods) creatures that have a whole host of functions which […]

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Transition Ethics: The Art of Compromise

This article originally appears in the NuMundo Transformational Times Blog. The Ranch was recently named a NuMundo Impact Center. Permaculture Design is many things to many people, but one of its pillars is a set of three ethics. These as originally laid out by Bill Mollison are • Care of the Earth • Care of People • Redistribution of the Surplus These are our primary directives for how to act […]

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Tropical Orchard Establishment Practices and Concepts: Part 3 of 3

I’m building an agroforest. An orchard of tropical fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, tubers and vines. And this is how it is happening. This is the final piece on the tropical orchard establishment patterns we use at Rancho Mastatal Sustainability Education Center in Costa Rica. Part 1, found here, looked in depth at our site goals, layout patterns, and water management. Part 2 continued this succession of thought into […]

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Tropical Orchard Establishment Practices and Concepts: Part 2 of 3

I’m building an agroforest. An orchard of tropical fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, tubers and vines. And this is how it is happening. This article continues the examination of the tropical orchard establishment patterns and techniques practiced at Rancho Mastatal Sustainability Education Center in Costa Rica. Part 1, found here, examined the goals of our site, the alley cropping layout pattern, and how we manage water. Part 2, below, […]

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Tropical Orchard Establishment Practices and Concepts: Part 1 of 3

As I land back in the rural town of Mastatal, Costa Rica after my yearly rainy season sojourn to the states, I can’t help but step back and marvel at the sheer growth of biomass that has occurred on our farm. Even with the drought-inducing effects of El Niño at play, the ample rain and sun in this humid tropic pre-montane region combined with our strategic planning for soil and […]

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Patterns for Experiential Learning

Co-Authored by Laura Killingbeck How do we learn? When we engage with new information, what enhances or inhibits our ability to move it from our short-term working memory to our long-term reference memory? Each individual learns in different ways: visual, auditory, tactile, etc, but at the heart of all these mechanisms lie a few shared roots. The power to tap into these roots of learning is what makes it possible […]

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The Art and Practice of Tadelakt

The art of Tadelakt has for centuries been steeped in mystic and wonder. Few who leave the fantastic halls of the Marrakesh palaces or the beautifully reconstructed Riads will fail to notice the glimmering monolithic plaster that twinkles in the light as it seamlessly extends over these proud buildings. Tadelakt is a plaster finishing technique historically used in north Africa to protect earthen structures. It is specifically valued for its […]

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Permaculture Site Establishment: Phases of Abundance

An abundance of jackfruit at Project Bonafide in Nicaragua Five years ago I had the opportunity to join a land-based project (Rancho Mastatal Sustainable Education Center in Costa Rica) already eight years into operation. At my arrival I found a site that had focused on infrastructure and program building over its initial life span. This was an important leverage point in building a financial base as an education center, but […]

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