An OP Summer Intern's 'Before' Perspective June 2019

We are proud to post a great introspective piece from a very gifted intern, Clara Wolcott. She is a student in architecture and her perspective is raw and refreshing. Enjoy.

Permaculture seems full of paradoxes to the Western human brain. It is intentional but looks like an overgrown weed forest. It seems as though humans don’t know where to stop interfering and neither does nature. I am a possible architecture major, and therefore, I cannot help but compare and contrast architecture and permaculture.

Architecture and permaculture seem different in most ways. In my architecture class this past semester, my professor held the belief that when architecture (the design of space using light, shadow, the surroundings, materials to convey some essence that a human would be interacting with) remains distinct and separate from the natural surroundings while maintaining a relationship and dialogue with it, both nature and the architecture became more fully themselves. With the resulting contrast, both the space and its surroundings were more beautiful and were happier instead of one trying to become the other. I had a very difficult time with this concept. On the one hand, I understand where my professor is coming from. A distinct border often produces a sort of elegance much coveted by architects. On the other hand, as someone who is interested in using plants in the actual design of a building, this seems altogether too black and white for me. Cannot both be beautiful together? Working even a little bit with permaculture has shown me the other side of this coin. Everything is melded and meshed and productive and not in the least elegant unless I know exactly what I am looking at. And I don’t.

But it is beautiful. It is beautiful in the same way that architecture is beautiful. Every piece of the design has been chosen and placed with care. With architecture, I often do not see the intentionality within the overall design. It is the same with permaculture. The designer might have to walk me through a garden to understand the choices and the reasoning. It might take me simply looking a bit harder at what is around me to see the details and not just the great swirling mass of green plant matter. I am excited to keep learning and to keep seeing the details, both in architecture and in permaculture. The questions of “how do nature and architecture interact? Can they combine? Should they?” is one that I will continue to ponder over, but permaculture beautifully conveys a relationship between humans and the natural world that I have not seen before.

An OP Summer Intern's Perspective of 2018

We are pleased to introduce another guest writer for our Blog, our summer intern from Doane University, Jared Foote.

“The goal is to exist on Earth by using energy that is naturally in flux and relatively harmless.”

First of all I would like to say that this is the first time I have ever written a blog! Thanks to Omaha Permaculture I’ve been able to learn the concepts of the permaculture philosophy throughout this enchanted experience of growth. My own growth, the area of North Omaha’s growth, and the growth of this wonderful non-profit organization. I’ve learned that the overall design of permaculture is to harmoniously integrate landscape and people. Well, I’d like to tell you a little about the geological and social impacts OP has been making to the Northwest Omaha and Benson community this summer (and some of the future possibilities too)!


Let’s talk about the people I was blessed to work with this summer. The most exciting days out on the lots were definitely with the ILC groups. In the picture above Heath, Nikko, Katie and their two advisors helped us start the construction of Tiffany’s “OURS” garden on 24th and Fort St.



Here is a picture of Gus, myself, and Dan from left to right. This was my first week on the job and I couldn’t of been happier with how these two introduced me to permaculture and sustainable agriculture.


Chris, Dan, Megan and I were the main crew everyday and we all got along great! I loved learning the names of grasses, plants, insects, and much more from Chris and Dan.  They each have such interesting and astonishing backgrounds where they’ve learned all about botany, sustainable agriculture, basic gardening techniques, and much more. It was also great having a student from Stanford on the team, Megan! 

As a team, our main job was to tend to the 4-5 main OP lots that have food growing in them. I also got to work with an amazing young man named Myo, who is a Burmese refugee that has been living in the Benson area since he came to America four years ago. Myo and I worked on the Benson Business Improvement District together for a few weeks. Our main goal was to pull all the bad weeds out of the mulch beds in downtown Benson and to put new plants in.


Caring for people is one of the two big concepts of Permaculture that I have picked up in the past weeks while working for Omaha Permaculture. The basic needs of society include food, shelter, education, employment, and an enjoyable atmosphere. On our lots we typically work with 2 different types of social service groups: Integrated Life Choices and an Omaha Re-Entry program for young adults on probation.  Throughout working with these groups I’ve realized that it is important to instill the little things in the mind of the community. Whether it is to pull a certain weed or to leave it, or how to successfully grow a squash plant that produces food for families. Or like the time that Dan gave an awesome crash course lesson on soil microbiology. He helped these so-called “thugs” understand that a cover crop such as clover has the ability to break up soil and replenish it with its root system. Here is a picture of my first time with a re-entry group!


Since this summer began I have widened my diet, enhanced the lives of hundreds of plants, and been able to enhance the lives of a few people along the way. The best part about growing food in these community gardens is that the end result is putting a smile on a neighbor’s face and food in their gut. A few times this summer I’ve had the chance to walk up to a neighbor’s door with squash and tomatoes. They are always so pleased to see you, even in this rough of an area. This kind of work has inspired me to study news techniques of sustainable agriculture, such as plant fermentation and water recycling. I’m very excited to keep on walking down this path that has begun with Omaha Permaculture.

Jared Foote

Poison Ivy ( Toxicodendron radicans): The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Please welcome another guest blogger, Chris Madden of Upstream Weeds. He is our resident staff farmer/scientist funded through the Claire M. Hubbard Foundation. Please enjoy as he removes the mystery behind our region's most toxic plant. Please welcome Chris Madden!


If you’ve been outside lately, here’s an anecdote to remember this time of year: Leaves of three, let it be! Yes, I am talking about poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans; and from what Dan and I have been seeing in the lots, It’s that time. And all the rain has just helped it right along. Peak time for poison ivy all across North America, and the Omaha area is no exception.

Before I get any further, first some symptoms in case I am too late and you think you need to know if you already have it … stat:

·       Primarily a rash, and it can be quite nasty. This is a clinical allergic reaction. Think something like chicken pox, but itchier. There will be some swelling and redness, but the itching will be MADDENING, and the rash can even blister for those who are sensitive.

So, what do you do?

·       RINSE! With WARM water for several minutes – really, the experts say about 30 minutes. But, this method works. Basically, you are flushing the toxins out of your skin, and it can take awhile depending on how long they have taken to absorb.

·       Cool icepacks help relieve the itching, I know this very well.

·       I tried an oatmeal bath once for a particularly bad case I got … everywhere. I worked well and my skin was amazingly soft afterward.

·       Or, try washing the area with alcohol. Some people have found relief this way too.

·       There are many commercial topical ointments available that work to varying degrees; however, I cannot recommend any one over the others. We use Calamine lotion at my house.

·       Here’s a clever one - many antihistamines will help with the itching, as well.

·       You can also try using degreasers and detergents for help when washing, many say they speed up the process; but be careful, you don’t want to get a chemical burn on top of a poison ivy rash.

·       Most importantly, feel free to call a doctor/dermatologist – they are the pro’s. Some people can have terrible allergic reactions, and it can be painful and/or harmful– not just ungodly annoying.

·       The good news, if you can call it that, is that if you do nothing at all and just suffer through; it will only last one to three weeks tops. Again, it’s the itching that’s the hard part.



So, what does it look like? What should you be looking for?

·       First of all, it’s a climbing vine that you will find on and around trees, especially along neglected tree lines and overgrown fences. It can also grow more “shrub-like”, but around Omaha we see it more on the ground and vining lower in the trees, as seen in the photographs below.



·       Next, as I you’ve probably heard, “Leaves of 3 …”. Technically, we call this trifoliate. Poison Ivy has three leaves that stem out from one place. These three-leaf clusters are usually alternate on the ivy vine, as the clusters are not directly opposite of each other on the vine. Note the trifoliate leaf-structure within the photograph below.


·       It’s a perennial meaning it

comes back each year, and also

a deciduous plant, which

means it loses its leaves each

fall. The leaves usually turn a

pretty red color, to its itchy