Conservation Farming, Living Mulches and Raising Chickens!


Missoula darling, Helen Atthowe, talks at length about conservation farming techniques, living mulches, mammal and insect eco systems and, in general, aligning farming practices with nature rather than trying to beat nature into submission.

More about Helen in a moment. I now feel the need to talk about chickens!

I’m going to be presenting on raising chickens 6:30 Thursday night (3/24/11) in the big meeting room at the library. The presentation is called “Raising Chickens 2.0: no more coop and run”. I explore six different ways to raise chickens, and conclude with techniques where you can eliminate chicken feed, eliminate dealing with chicken poop and make it so you can leave your chickens unattended for up to ten days.

Come to my presentation or I will call you rude names!

Now, back to Helen. Helen Atthowe, goddess of the soil (She says she hates it when I say that, but I think she actually likes it).

As I put these videos up to youtube I’ve had a dozen people contact me to remind me “isn’t it sad that Helen has moved to British Columbia?” And I have to point out: She’s back! Ish. Kinda. Sorta. A little bit. I mean, she’s not here today. But she was here yesterday. She sorta moved into a little cabin in Stevensville. And by moved in, I should say that I get the impression that she hasn’t unpacked anything.

What can I say? She’s a woman in demand. With her massive horticultural knowledge, everybody wants a piece of her. And with so many new experiments to do, I think Helen wouldn’t even be happy with 40 plots in 40 different parts of the world and a staff of thousands. She would still want to do more.

I’ve stopped trying to predict where she will be in the next weeks, months or years. She calls me and says “I have more video, can I come over in ten minutes and we can put it together?” During the editing she makes plans for the next day, but then later cancels because she is flying off to some place a thousand miles away to properly examine the data collected on some experiment at a big organic farm. Not for pay. She just needs to know.

I have the footage for seven more videos. I need to get them edited and pushed up to youtube.

In the meantime, we have put together a web site for her. Check out

Yes, she is now officially on the permaculture bandwagon. She has been on the cusp for decades, but she saw a true permaculture forest garden in Costa Rica a few months ago and is now bonkers about permaculture.

For myself, I’ve been mighty busy. I put up three new videos:

A Tiny House Created for $362

A farm in Victor shows using chopped up Christmas trees for chicken bedding is superior to wood chips

A Soup Made From All Native Ingredients: salmon, stinging nettles, camas, bitterroot, seaweed, ozette potato, lady fern fiddlehead, cow parsnip shoots, horsetail and lomatium (biscuit root)

I was interviewed for a 90 minute podcast about replacing irrigation with permaculture.

And I cranked out two podcasts of my own:

Urban Permaculture

Diatomaceous Earth

I made a podcast with Helen and hope to get it uploaded in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I’ve been talking to some folks about the idea of coming up with a permaculture plan for the Randolph Moon Homestead on the North side of Missoula. That great big span of dried up brown is just calling out to me to convert it into some of the lushest farmland in all of Montana! I think it would be great to take a tour up there with Mark Vander Meer and some of the folks that manage that land and come up with some ideas. Naturally I will want to video some of that!

Just to put you in the mood, here is a video of Mark showing a slice of land on the Missoula North side that is tall and lush and despite being filmed in July, has not been given one drop of water:

I now hereby command you to come to my chicken presentation on Thursday night. If you don’t I will make ugly faces in your general direction!


BIO: Paul Wheaton is is the tyrannical ruler of two on-line communities. One is about permaculture and one is about software engineering. There is even one for Missoula. Paul has written several permacutlure articles starting with one on lawn care that he presented at the MUD Project 17 years ago, including articles on raising chickenscast iron and diatomaceous earth. Paul also regularly uploadspermaculture videos and permaculture podcasts. In his spare time, Paul has plans for world domination and is currently shopping for a hollowed out volcano in the Missoula area, with good submarine access.

See all of Paul’s contributions to MakeitMissoula on this Blog Homepage here.