California Fire Rant: I Was a First Responder; I Lost My Home To Fire; I Know What I’m Writing g About

Somewhere in the very deep back of my mind I thought that I might return to California to die. It was mostly fantasy. I’ve always told people that I missed five things from CA: fresh salmon, redwood forests, museums and art galleries, ethnic restaurants and the isolated, remote beaches of the far north of the state. Having lost my own home there to similar fire event, having written emergency plans, I now feel the reality. As long as governments and corporations base their actions on greed and mediocrity, on working to maintain the status quo, living in most of California will be a severe risk of loss. California has for thousands of years, been a FIRE DRIVEN NATURAL ENVIRONMENT WITH AN ACTIVE UNDERLYING GEOLOGY. With the density of development and fluctuations in climatic extremes the present events will become the norm and everyone will learn how to face loss … including the bankruptcy of public agencies and major corporations on which people depend for recovery. Check your mutual funds for property/casualty insurance companies and public utilities and get the heck out … of high fire risk areas and those stocks. Adapt now.

Growing the Nursery: New Greenhouse Video

Growth: for me, in plants, in diversification of offerings. The priority project for this year was to convert the potting shed to a small propagation greenhouse. And with the assistance of my good friend Donna this project is completed. Please join me in a little tour of the new shed with a new video on the Tara Farm and Nursery YouTube Channel. Being able to grow clones, seedlings and cuttings from plants that have been proven to thrive here in Central Wyoming is huge.  I also posted a short video update of the Fruit Garden. There will be pounds of elderberry, lots of raspberries and later this summer, grapes.

Please “Like” the videos if you find them interesting and Subscribe to the Channel for all future video updates. The next videos will each focus on one of the plants seen in the videos.

And if you live in the Casper Wyoming USA area and see plants that you would like to add to your garden please feel free to contact me with a message here, a Facebook Messenger contact, an email to or text or call 307.262.8043

Having my morning coffee in the cool green of the gardens and nursery, seeing the lush growth and the green fruits, checking their health and the moisture ~ my favorite start to any day… creating a refuge in the wind … together.



Creating a Refuge in the Wind: A Video Resume

It is very rare that a client or colleague asks about my background…who am I, what do I do, how have I done it? Why should you trust my recommendations or pay me for them without knowing the work I have put into being able to help you. Here is a brief – somewhat conventional – video resume. From here feel free to ask or challenge or trust. I want you to love belonging to the natural world just as I do. Muddy hands are a statement of purpose…and comfort.

Garden & Landscape Consults


Garden & Landscape Consults:  Meeting with clients to experience their gardens, yards, landscape, acreage, ideas and challenges is always a great experience for me. One hour consults generally turn into one and a half hour. Now is the time to walk through the future of your landscape: a place to meditate, a place to play, a place to entertain, flowers, food, organic resources, butterflies / bees / birds. I am available to meet with you Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The fee for a one hour consult is $50.00; one hour consult plus a written brief of our meeting is $75.00. Text or call 307.262.8043; email; or send a message here or from the Facebook page. I am excited to get outside with you and discover spring. Let’s take a walk.

The Permaculture Path: One Day Course to Introduce Permaculture to Central Wyoming


So much of the permaculture information found on the Internet seems like it does not apply to the Great Ancient Ocean bottom we live in here in Central Wyoming. Truthfully the principles apply on every scale, in all environments. For details on the first in the series of one-day courses visit

Balance, observation, small changes, wise use of resources – the proof that what you see and much of what you need is right here, right now. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Namaste. Laurel

Spring Internship 2016: Are you focused, peaceful, passionate, earthy? Do you live in the Northern Rockies?



Permaculture / Plant Nursery Internship

May thru August 2016

Location: Tara Farm and Nursery, Casper WY

 Tara Farm and Nursery is a small Owner/Operator practice focusing on the development of plants and landscape installations which are appropriate to high, dry steppe and sagebrush environments (“Basin and Range”), and which support the principles of permaculture. These principles include diversity of elements with continuity over space and time, environmental appropriateness, multi-purpose, self-sustaining, and supporting self-reliance for the landowner or community. The owner, Laurel Graham, also provides property evaluations, concept and detail landscape design, landscape and plant consultation, presentations and courses in permaculture-based landscaping. 

This internship will incorporate nursery work, environmental and ecological observations and application of those observations. This is a SERIOUS study and hard work situation, not a vacation in the traditional sense.

Before applying please visit the Tara Farm and Nursery Facebook page and review past postings and photos for a better sense of the type of work and the philosophy behind it. 

Term:  Weekends from May 21, 2016 to August 7, 2016

Tasks for the intern will include, but are not limited to:

  • Daily nursery operations (watering, weeding, plant inspection, insect observation, monitoring for disease and “pests”)
  • Plant propagation (seed, root cuttings, soft/hard wood cuttings, bare root stock)
  • Garden, hedgerow and windbreak maintenance
  • Research of native plants, focusing on five plants /grasses
  • Assist in planning and development of site for native plant nursery component 

Product: Students should contact their academic advisor to find out if this internship will meet the requirements for independent study or field work. Your advisor may contact me for more detailed information. 

Installation Design: Design for an installation (garden, hedgerow, windbreak) using the five native plants as keys. The design should include: 1) permaculture principles expressed or applied; 2) information, skills and activities learned in the nursery; 3) resource assets and challenges and methods to meet those challenges; 4) water management; and 5) a drawing (by hand or computer) with identification all plants used. 

Position Requirements:

  • Knowledge and/or experience in any of the following: botany, biology, horticultural principles, entomology, landscape design, ecology, environmental restoration
  • A real passion for the landscape on all scales; comfortable in outdoor environment; comfortable with animals (domestic and wild)
  • A love of applied science expressed in a creative, focused, detail-oriented, respectful manner
  • Interest in social and community aspects of horticulture
  • Clear sense of safe practices, including power and hand tools
  • Ability to do physical work; bending; working in the soil; able to lift at least 30 pounds; must be willing to work in various weather circumstances (although work will either move indoors or will be delayed based on some weather situations).
  • Non-smoker
  • Valid driver’s license and automobile insurance
  • No criminal record (traffic tickets not included) 


Field training in applied permaculture principles

  • Training in small, commercial nursery environment
  • Experience in research and planning, not just on the horticultural level but connecting the landscape to the individual and the community
  • Written product planning and research example, and all associated resume additions
  • Working outside as part of the environment, facilitating growth and production of living things
  • Commitment is for weekends from 8:00a.m.on Saturday to 5:00p.m. on Sunday, weather permitting.
  • Candidates who live outside of Casper may arrange for over-night stays which will include bed and two meals each day, if candidate lives out of town (out of town interns must provide police contact background report from local law enforcement).
  • Over-night stays for weekends only including bed and board if candidate lives out of town. This benefit will require that the intern provide police contact background report from local law enforcement.
  • Stipend of $600.00, distributed at $150.00 per month on the last working day of each month. 

** This internship could easily lead to a seasonal position of Nursery Caretaker / Propagation Technician. **

To Apply:

            Email a cover letter, resume, at least two references and a one paragraph statement on how you see this internship creating benefit for you and others in the future. Submit these in a single attachment to





When asked to reflect (briefly) on global warming…


“So what?” Travis snorted quietly. “Well, what about the foxes that’ll need those mice to survive? For want of ten mice, a fox dies. For want of ten foxes a lion starves. For want of a lion, all manner of insects, vultures, infinite billions of life forms are thrown into chaos and destruction. Eventually it all boils down to this: fifty-nine million years later, a caveman, one of a dozen on the entire world, goes hunting wild boar or saber-toothed tiger for food. But you, friend, have stepped on all the tigers in that region. By stepping on one single mouse. So the caveman starves. And the caveman, please note, is not just any expendable man, no! He is an entire future nation. From his loins would have sprung ten sons. From their loins one hundred sons, and thus onward to a civilization. Destroy this one man, and you destroy a race, a people, an entire history of life. It is comparable to slaying some of Adam’s grandchildren. The stomp of your foot, on one mouse, could start an earthquake, the effects of which could shake our earth and destinies down through Time, to their very foundations. With the death of that one caveman, a billion others yet unborn are throttled in the womb. Perhaps Rome never rises on its seven hills. Perhaps Europe is forever a dark forest, and only Asia waxes healthy and teeming. Step on a mouse and you crush the Pyramids. Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity. Queen Elizabeth might never be born, Washington might not cross the Delaware, there might never be a United States at all. So be careful. Stay on the Path. Never step off!” – The Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury,1952


Gawd bless Ray Bradbury and Edward Lorenz. By bringing the concept of the “butterfly effect” into popular culture by way of science fiction, movies and tee shirt décor at the very least the world has been exposed to it. And this is the beginning of the evolution of thought for people (I always hesitate to use “human beings” because I have a sense of that creature as a more highly evolved creature than “person” in general; think “mensch”). It is clear that the most difficult part of global warming is getting people to accept that they are not separate from their environment. That is such a huge evolutionary step. As long as we do not accept our place in and impact on the total environment, we do not have to feel guilt, regret, shame, responsible. We do not have to adjust or change and experience discomfort – the difference between climbing into our big pickup truck and climbing into public transit. For one thing the smell usually wakes you up quicker than that cup of non-fair trade coffee. If we valued public transit more the conveyances would be so much more inviting. But then I live out in the country and drink Yuban coffee. Go figure. It’s all about balance.


No one has to change so drastically that it unbalances their existence. Evolution can occur by small adjustments or by ‘shock and awe’. Set your own pace and ‘shock and awe’ will be less shocking and awesome. But I do think that change should always feel just a little uncomfortable, like peeking around a dark corner.


But let me balance this: Gawd bless some scientists too. When reading the recently-released IPCC 5th Assessment I found very clear attention paid to the tenuousness of statistics. Really good scientists (and yes, that is my judgment call; remember I’m a Thomas Kuhn disciple) always, always, always quote their source, which can only be a replicated, peer-reviewed treatment, and they always, always, always comment on the reliability of their numbers. I was HORRIBLE in math classes up and until statistics in which for some very interesting reasons I attained straight A grades.


Cast away government regulation; it swings with politics. Litigation has made some huge inroads with industries cleaning up their own act. If that kind of financial fear is the only leverage on the biggest polluters then so be it. Keep that tool sharp.


Working with individuals, giving them the tools and opportunity to experience a healthier way of doing things is the key. And then the 100th Monkey phenomenon will doubtless occur. When a shared knowledge hits critical mass in a population, suddenly and without much warning, the entire population emulates the behavior. (The Hundredth Monkey, Ken Keyes Jr; 1952 on the Japanese island of Koshima with Macaca fuscata).


As individuals we make choices which will impact the world and return to us in a manner that depends greatly on our intent (initial conditions). As permaculture disciples we appropriately share the information until the neighborhood  , the community, the city, each reach critical mass of knowledge. Revolution is a glorious thing…especially when it is sneaky.

The End. Namaste

WeekOneCornell: Reflective Writing ~ Finding my voice

Laurel Graham / Permaculture Fundamentals

WeekOne: Reflective Writing

16 October 2014

EastPalyBaySF Bay at East Palo Alto, my first patrol assignment and the beginning of other meditations…

When I registered for this course I made two commitments to myself:  1) that I would use this series of courses to fine tune my knowledge and skills in this field toward obtaining the certificate (and would commit the funds for the course fees), and 2) that I would put aside my self-definition as “student/academic” – one which feels safe – and find my real voice.  My “cow guru” calls it my “ministry”.  Some of what I write will be purely academic; some will carry a bit of dark, or earthy, humor.  I was in law enforcement for twelve years (1975-1988) in the San Francisco Bay Area as one of the first females to be hired. Nothing will bring a person down to earth so quickly as finding your uniform covered in someone else’s blood.

But one of my faults is to rest in the academic world. I hide there and look for teachers and mentors to validate my efforts, some elder states(man) to help me feel that I am on the right track.  Through my work (not my “job”) I think I may be coming to the realization that some people are now coming to me with that same hope. I’ve worked very hard, taken on challenges, had successes and losses, but that was my choice, not Fate testing me.  I am not entirely certain what kind of example I am for them.

The definition of permaculture is and should be dynamic. Change cannot be a principle and then be denied in the very processes those principles serve. Permaculture is a systems approach. It pounds into the psyche the reality that all things are interdependent, that the only constant in life is change. Resilience is how the elements and the whole survive. This work teaches us to climb inside the flow of things, to work in it and with it as much as we reasonably can and that this surrender will make our lives rich, if also a bit uncomfortable. I find the rivalries and constant comparisons between the founding Fathers – and let’s be honest, it’s all Fathers  – Mollison, Holmgren, Lawton, Hemenway, Yeomans, Holzer – entertaining, but I find myself still looking for that Teacher.  The observation that I cannot name one supremely significant female founder is a reflection of that 1970s radical thing that was painfully prevalent.  A woman’s role in the revolution was that of supporting her man. Angela Davis and I looked at each other one day in the 1980s, sitting in the atrium of the new Student Union at San Francisco State, as a band of protesters loudly marched by, and we smiled at each other. Our only communication ever.  Been there done that, sister. She is an exception.

On the other side of ‘warm and fuzzy’, I love the science. I have always had a love affair with the science, primarily the physical and earth sciences. The replication on scale and over time are proofs to me that there are principles at work in the Universe that operate with or without us. The day I actually knew the difference between alluvial, colluvial and fluvial approaches to stream evaluation was a holiday. So please do not think that I am all ‘soft science’ (social/behavioral).  The establishment of conventional scientific involvement in permaculture will only serve to make it valid to the conventional scientist – oh, and the institutions that fund projects and programs. As a Social Scientist, I have fought that battle for 40 years.

The question becomes this: of all of the elements, all the knowledge, all of the experience, all the actions of all the Founding Fathers, what is useful?  The rest is entertainment.

I also want to expose myself as a daily, applied Buddhist. I find so many of the principles offered in the world-view of Buddhism also acknowledged in permaculture ethics, principles and practices. My head is at the top of my body, feet well into the mud and heart mediating the daily struggle to sort it out.  I’m sort of a retired warrior monk digging my toes into the darkness of a different scale of life.

That relatively brief experience in law enforcement taught me that there are issues in the world for which one should risk their life. My time as an activist and protestor in my teens taught me that radical is best and questioning authority in a way that engenders respect is huge. And my time in working to save the environment, and the people who are afraid out of ignorance, brought me to an understanding of living as I believe and hoping that the example will be a beginning for others.

So my reflective writings are more about this search for my position, for appropriate, useful practice. If this process is inappropriate in meeting your expectations for the course, please let me know now. Obtaining the certificate is presently important to me and I do not want to miss the mark along the way. Thank you so very much for this opportunity.  (I also hope that midnight Mountain Time will work. If not, please advise. The starling migration has knocked out my power and I am using the last of the battery here to get this uploaded. Ahhhh, the countryside…) Namaste

WeekOne of the Cornell Permaculture Course: Finding my voice, I shudder: Refuge!!

What is permaculture?….seriously….this is where I will find the courage to find my voice…not the self-definition of the “life-long student”, but the gal who wore sidearms for twelve years, and found her heart in a trout stream….My answer to this first weeks Participant Forum:

There is so much richness in this first week. My notes have notes. I have often wondered who was speaking when my clients ask a question and I hear a voice carefully describing an answer. It just won’t be a list, or a linear equation. The description is a fractal an algorithm. And I am always so surprised that it is my voice. And they are smiling and nodding their heads. Tonight as I re-read the What Makes a Permaculture Site? article again my past opened up. Here it is: The multifunctional principle is not an element inside a middle circle with lines or lists of all the functions. I see a Venn Diagram. In the 1990s I was blessed to be the program manager for a watershed restoration site on the Northern California Coast. My CRMP (coordinated resource management program) included 36 “stakeholders” (a word I have come to loathe) from individual ranchers, farmers, loggers to EarthFirst and Greenpeace. It was the greatest time of my life…and this is difficult to describe in lines like this now, now that a window has opened: In restoring fisheries habitat we saved valuable farmland adjacent to riparian corridors which had regularly been eroded away by unnatural high flows, filling spawning and rearing habitat for silver salmon and reducing the valuable farm land and the commercial fisheries and so in selling the idea of saving rich, alluvial farmland by implementing best management practices in riparian management and farm field treatments we motivated staunchly conservative uncomfortable farmers to adopt those practices. (thank you, James Joyce). We restored fisheries, save farmland, offered the experience of success and reaffirmed self-determination to those who feared loss of self-determination, improved riparian habitat for Gawd knows how many species, improved water quality, reduced flood damage….This is the complexity of permaculture: that the asparagus in my meditation garden provides food for me, food for the ducks, protected nesting habitat for the ducks, eggs for me, shells for the compost, duck poop for the garden, shade to retain moisture, beautiful fronds of texture in the breeze, loft for the compost when cut in the fall, habitat for friendly day-glow tiny predator wasps, organic matter for the adobe clay when the tiny leaves fall to the ground, on the ducks who make nests of them….a Mandelbrot set, a Julia. And to momentarily address the quantification/metric issue that conventional science has with “permaculture”, please spare me the word counts and how many bushels difference from year to year. The variables we have the courage to flow with can be dissected and treated statistically, but in the words of my favorite scientist of all time “Normal science, the activity in which most scientists inevitably spend most all their time, is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like. Normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments. As a puzzle-solving activity, normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none. ” (Kuhn,T.; The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962)