Our Team. Join Us!
Leah and Diamond have been working hard on the Oppenheimer Ranch Project for almost 3 years now. We have had successes and failures as we learn from doing in the high desert wilderness. The setting and atmosphere is purely magical, and the transformations that are taking place during this whole process are immense. We certainly cannot do this alone. Won't you lend a hand?
Leah spent two decades in Philadelphia after growing up in New York. She earned her bachelor's degree in philosophy of science and physics at the University of Pennsylvania and later studied biomedical writing and ethics at the University of the Sciences. She has worked as a writer and researcher in science history and policy and arts advocacy, and is an intermittent writer of poetry and narrative nonfiction. Long dreaming of a life in which the body and mind is fully invested in the act of living itself, her passions for sustainability, food sovereignty, and resourceful homesteading find their home at Oppenheimer Ranch.
David, otherwise known as Diamond, grew up in Southampton just outside of Philadelphia. He attended Temple University where he received his B.S. in geology and stayed on to teach and get his masters degree. Diamond's recent work on social and environmental justice initiatives, including urban vacant lot farming, GMO awareness, and other green endeavors find even greater expression in the Oppenheimer Ranch Project. He has an extensive background in landscape, residential, and commercial construction, and is also a master dry-set mason, skills which fit nicely with the tasks at hand. Earthship anyone?
Everyone can help!!
Even if you can't physically come to Colorado to help our dreams become reality you can certainly spread the word about this project. Let your friends and family know about what we are doing and why it's important. Share with those who may be able to contribute to this lifelong mission.
I'm a Volunteer
This could be you. If you have the desire to learn by doing and want to share in our collective experience please let us know. We will have many short- and long-term volunteer opportunities available in the 2015 spring and summer season. Projects include construction of an earthship, barn, and greenhouse, as well as planting an orchard and polyculture farm. Click the link below and fill out the easy form to inquire about joining our team.
Join Our Team
Oppenheimer Ranch Project Philosophy
Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.
Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.
(Twelve Permaculture design principles articulated by David Holmgren in his Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability)
Click on pics for expanded view
Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.
Layers are one of the tools used to design functional ecosystems that are both sustainable and of direct benefit to humans. A mature ecosystem has a huge number of relationships between its component parts: trees, understory, ground cover, soil, fungi, insects, and animals. Because plants grow to different heights, a diverse community of life is able to grow in a relatively small space, as each layer is stacked one on top of another. There are generally seven recognized layers in a food forest, although some practitioners also include fungi as an eighth layer.
Agroforestry is an integrated approach of using the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock. It combines agricultural and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and sustainable land-use systems. In agroforestry systems, trees or shrubs are intentionally used within agricultural systems, or non-timber forest products are cultured in forest settings.
Forest gardening is a term permaculturalists use to describe systems designed to mimic natural forests. Forest gardens, like other permaculture designs, incorporate processes and relationships that the designers understand to be valuable in natural ecosystems. The terms forest garden and food forest are used interchangeably in the permaculture literature. Numerous permaculturists are proponents of forest gardens, such as Graham Bell, Patrick Whitefield, Dave Jacke, Eric Toensmeier and Geoff Lawton. Bell started building his forest garden in 1991 and wrote the book The Permaculture Garden in 1995, Whitefield wrote the book How to Make a Forest Garden in 2002, Jacke and Toensmeier co-authored the two volume book set Edible Forest Gardening in 2005, and Lawton presented the film Establishing a Food Forest in 2008.
More recently Stefan Sobkowiak of Miracle Farms had proven is that Bill Mollison’s permaculture ideas can work outside of subtropical areas. Stefan had been farming in a beyond-organic way for over 20 years, with great success. What’s unique is that he interplants multiple NAP species per orchard row – NAP stands for nitrogen fixer, apple, and plum/pear. This method confuses pests while providing much needed fertility for the fruit trees. Rows are separated by harvest date instead of cultivar type. Hopefully, Oppenheimer Ranch will benefit from utilizing the NAP method.
Tree Gardens, such as Kandyan tree gardens, in South and Southeast Asia, are often hundreds of years old. Whether they derived initially from experiences of cultivation and forestry, as is the case in agroforestry, or whether they derived from an understanding of forest ecosystems, as is the case for permaculture systems, is not self-evident. Many studies of these systems, especially those that predate the term permaculture, consider these systems to be forms of agroforestry. Permaculturalists who include existing and ancient systems of polycropping with woody species as examples of food forests may obscure the distinction between permaculture and agroforestry.
Food forests and agroforestry are parallel approaches that sometimes lead to similar designs.
Hügelkultur is the practice of burying large volumes of wood to increase soil water retention. The porous structure of wood acts as a sponge when decomposing underground. During the rainy season, masses of buried wood can absorb enough water to sustain crops through the dry season. This technique has been used by permaculturalists Sepp Holzer, Toby Hemenway, Paul Wheaton and Masanobu Fukuoka.
A natural building involves a range of building systems and materials that place major emphasis on sustainability. Ways of achieving sustainability through natural building focus on durability and the use of minimally processed, plentiful or renewable resources, as well as those that, while recycled or salvaged, produce healthy living environments and maintain indoor air quality.
The basis of natural building is the need to lessen the environmental impact of buildings and other supporting systems, without sacrificing comfort, health or aesthetics. To be more sustainable, natural building uses primarily abundantly available, renewable, reused or recycled materials. In addition to relying on natural building materials, the emphasis on the architectural design is heightened. The orientation of a building, the utilization of local climate and site conditions, the emphasis on natural ventilation through design, fundamentally lessen operational costs and positively impact the environment. Building compactly and minimizing the ecological footprint is common, as are on-site handling of energy acquisition, on-site water capture, alternate sewage treatment and water reuse.
Rainwater harvesting is the accumulating and storing of rainwater for reuse before it reaches the aquifer. It has been used to provide drinking water, water for livestock, water for irrigation, as well as other typical uses. Rainwater collected from the roofs of houses and local institutions can make an important contribution to the availability of drinking water. It can supplement the subsoil water level and increase urban greenery. Water collected from the ground, sometimes from areas which are especially prepared for this purpose, is called stormwater harvesting.
Greywater is wastewater generated from domestic activities such as laundry, dishwashing, and bathing, which can be recycled on-site for uses such as landscape irrigation and constructed wetlands. Greywater is largely sterile, but not potable (drinkable). Greywater differs from water from the toilets which is designated sewage or blackwater, to indicate it contains human waste. Blackwater is septic or otherwise toxic and cannot be reused.
In agriculture and gardening, mulch is a protective cover placed over the soil. Any material or combination can be used as mulch, stones, leaves, cardboard, wood chips, gravel, etc., though in permaculture mulches of organic material are the most common because they perform more functions. These include: absorbing rainfall, reducing evaporation, providing nutrients, increasing organic matter in the soil, feeding and creating habitat for soil organisms, suppressing weed growth and seed germination, moderating diurnal temperature swings, protecting against frost, and reducing erosion. Sheet mulching is an agricultural no-dig gardening technique that attempts to mimic natural processes occurring within forests. Sheet mulching mimics the leaf cover that is found on forest floors. When deployed properly and in combination with other Permacultural principles, it can generate healthy, productive and low maintenance ecosystems.
Sheet mulch serves as a "nutrient bank," storing the nutrients contained in organic matter and slowly making these nutrients available to plants as the organic matter slowly and naturally breaks down. It also improves the soil by attracting and feeding earthworms, slaters and many other soil micro-organisms, as well as adding humus. Earthworms "till" the soil, and their worm castings are among the best fertilizers and soil conditioners. Sheet mulching can be used to reduce or eliminate undesirable plants by starving them of light, and can be more advantageous than using herbicide or other methods of control.