Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture, Kykotsmovi Village, AZ


View from Second Mesa. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

View from Second Mesa. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

The 1.5 million acre Hopi reservation is located in Arizona, surrounded on all sides by the Navajo Nation. The Hopi Nation consist of 14 villages on three mesas, where Hopi people have farmed for over a thousand years. Using dry-land farming, Hopi people are famous for their ability to coax abundant crops of corn, beans, squash and melons out of the sand. The growing season is short in the high desert; between 120-160 days depending on elevation (most of the villages are at 6,000 feet) and the increasingly unpredictable weather. Hopi farmers also contend with high summer temperatures and very little rainfall. Corn is often planted deep in the ground, sometimes up to 10 inches,  to accommodate rising soil temperatures and receding moisture. Hopi corns are uniquely selected to thrive in this environment and have been adapted to this challenging climate over many generations;  Anthropologists/ Ethnobotanists Daniele Soleri and David Cleveland (1993) noted that “The Hopi are foremost among Native American farmers in the United States in retaining their indigenous agriculture and folk crop varieties.” In addition to working to maintain this traditional agriculture, the Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture project is also integrating permaculture methods to grow additional food crops, and help Hopi people become more self sufficient.

Hopi corn grown by Manny Talasmaynewa in Moenkopi Village, a Hopi community about 50 miles northwest of Kykotsmovi Village. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

Hopi corn grown by Manny Talasmaynewa in Moenkopi Village, a Hopi community about 50 miles northwest of Kykotsmovi Village. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture project based out of the home of Lillian Hill and her husband Jacobo Marcus in Kykotsmovi Village on Third Mesa. After driving through the desert, pulling into her driveway is like arriving at an oasis. Through the hard work of she and her family, as well as through the labor of interns that they have trained here, their home demonstrates how possible it is to coax food out of the desert using permaculture methods.

Lasagna beds in the garden.Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

Lasagna beds in the HTP Living & Learning Demonstration Site garden.Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

In the Hopi language “Hopi Tutskwa” refers to the life ways and knowledge of the land and soil. The organization got its start in 2004 at a Natwani Food and Agriculture Symposium hosted in Kykotsmovi Village, during which over 300 Hopi community members participated in a discussion related to health, nutrition, farming, culture, and subsistence. Lillian Hill, a youth project coordinator, and 15 Hopi youth documented the community’s thoughts and concerns, and drafted the framework of HTP. Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture, directed by Lillian, currently works to provide trainings, workshops and  hands-on learning projects  that support Hopi youth and community to develop skills in creating sustainable homes and villages.

Interns Kylan Yazzie, Ashley Kyasyousie adn Juhriene Alaine Poleahla sift compost. Photo by Angelo Baca

Interns Kylan Yazzie, Ashley Kyasyousie and Juhriene Alaine Poleahla sift compost. Photo by Angelo Baca

Lillian and Jacobo’s home serves as the Living and Learning Demonstration Site, where apprentices have the opportunity to learn through doing. The apprenticeship program, which brings participants in for 4-8 weeks to learn about permaculture design, gardening, and green building,  is currently in its third year. A majority of their interns come from the surrounding 14 Hopi villages, and described to me that they were there because they wanted to take this knowledge back to their families, so that they could improve their own homes.

A graywater catchment system on the side of Lillian and Jacobo's house nourishes Nanking cherries, gooseberries, Jerusalem artichokes, different types of mint, a butterfly bush, siberian peashrubs, elderberries, sumac berries, and honey locust. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

A graywater catchment system on the side of Lillian and Jacobo’s house nourishes Nanking cherries, gooseberries, Jerusalem artichokes, different types of mint, a butterfly bush, siberian peashrubs, elderberries, sumac berries, and honey locust. In the background is their rainwater catchment system, used to collect water for the gardens. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

With the help of interns and family members, Lillian and Jacobo are also building a cobb and straw bale home for her mother. The house is built with a passive solar design to cut down on heating costs, and utilizes all local materials, including  sand, clay, straw, and local timber from a mill in Flaggstaff. The insualtion for the home is made from sheep wool and recycled denim. Photo by Angelo Baca

With the help of interns and family members, Lillian and Jacobo are also building a cobb and straw bale home for her mother. The house is built with a passive solar design to cut down on heating costs, and utilizes all local materials, including sand, clay, straw, and local timber from a mill in Flagstaff. The insualtion for the home is made from sheep wool and recycled denim. Photo by Angelo Baca

Lilian and Jacobo's home was built using a similar design. Photo by Angelo Baca

Lilian and Jacobo’s home was built using a similar design. Photo by Angelo Baca

Attached to Lillian and Jacobo's home is a passive solar greenhouse. In the summer, the sun only reaches the plant beds, where they grow tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, chilis, chard and lemon sorrel. In the winter when the sun is lower in the sky, it reaches the side of the house, where the heat is radiated through the evening. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

Attached to the house is a passive solar greenhouse. In the summer, the sun only reaches the plant beds, where they grow tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, chilis, chard and lemon sorrel. In the winter when the sun is lower in the sky, it reaches the side of the house, where it helps to warm the home. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

Chickens provide eggs, and manure for the garden. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

Chickens provide eggs, and manure for the garden. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture has also been active in restoring old orchards in Hopi communities, as well as starting new ones. Planted all around Lillian’s house are 85 young fruit trees, that will someday bear cherries, apples, pears, apricots, nectarines, peaches, currants, and gooseberries. Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture receives a grant every year from Fruit Tree Planting Foundation that allows them to buy heirloom varieties of drought tolerant trees from Tooley’s Trees in New Mexico. In total, the project has planted nearly 3,000 fruit trees at different Hopi school and village sites. The hope is that as these trees mature, the fruit will be eaten by the community, and help with economic development.

Planted all around the house are 85 young fruit trees, that will someday bear cherries, apples, pears, apricots, nectarines, peaches ,currants , and gooseberries. Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture receives a grant every year from Fruit Tree Planting Foundation

A few of the 85 young fruit trees planted around the Living & Learning site. The white bins are for compost. The holes poked into the side allow air to circulate as the food waste breaks down. When the material is composted, the buckets are lifted, and the soil is spread out around the trees. Lillian pointed out that the plants around the trees are not weeds: they’re used for teas and basketry materials, and their presence (as opposed to bare soil) helps to prevent soil erosion. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

When we stopped by on July 9 to visit the project, Lillian and the interns were creating a new lasagna bed in the garden. The rich beds created by layering compostable materials underground create an environment which better provides moisture and nutrients essential for plants that are not as well adapted to the desert as Hopi crops. In these beds, crops can be planted close together, which also helps to conserve space and water.

Lasagna garden beds step 1: dig out a square of soil, (about a shovel-head length deep)

Lasagna garden beds step 1: we dug out a square of soil, (about a shovel-head length deep). Photos by Elizabeth Hoover

Step 2: layer cardboard along the bottom of the square

Step 2: Jacobo layered cardboard along the bottom of the square

Step 3: water the cardboard

Step 3: Kylan watered the cardboard

lasagna4,greencompost

Step 4: Kylan added a layer of high nitrogen green materials

Step 5: add a layer of high carbon brown materials

Step 5: Jacobo added a layer of high carbon brown materials

Step 6: add a layer of composted manure (in this case from chickens)

Step 6: Kyle added a layer of composted manure (in this case from chickens)

Step 7: dig the next hole, using this soil to cover the square that was just completed

Step 7: Kyle (with everyone’s help) dug the next hole, using this soil to cover the square that was just completed. This process  was repeated until we reached the end of the bed. The last square was covered with dirt removed from the first square.

Step 8: when each square has been completed with steps 1-7, smooth the entire bed

Step 8: When each square was completed with steps 1-7, Ashley and Juhriene smoothed the entire bed

Step 9: A layer of sifted compost over the soil

Step 9: Lillian added a layer of sifted compost over the soil

Step 10: A layer of TerraPro microorganisms

Step 10: Hawthorne, Ashley, Qalan, and Kyle sprinkled on a layer of TerraPro microorganisms

Step 11: a layer of cornmeal to feed the microorganisms

Step 11: And then a a layer of cornmeal to feed the microorganisms

Step 12: add the plants!  (In this case tomatoes) And a layer of straw to hold in moisture and discourage any weeds

Step 12: And then tomoato plants were tucked into the new bed, and Caroline surrounded them with straw,  to hold in moisture and discourage any weeds

Step 13: water the plants. The lasagna beds will hold moisture much more effectively than the soil alone would have

Step 13: The plants got a good soaking. These lasagna beds will hold moisture much more effectively than the soil alone would have

Lasagna beds, with cabbage, chard and onions. Photo by Angelo Baca

Lasagna beds, with cabbage, chard, dill and onions. Photo by Angelo Baca

Juhriene and Hawthorne with seedballs- balls of clay and seeds that we threw into the wash to help vegetate it. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

Juhriene, Hawthorne and Jacobo with seedballs- balls of clay and seeds that we threw into the wash to help vegetate it. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

seedballs. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

seedballs. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

The mission of Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture is to “create community based solutions in order to pass knowledge to the future generations and rebuild culturally sustainable and healthy communities.” To accomplish this, Lillian and the other staff and advisors of HTP have been trained in permaculture design, organic and natural orchard keeping. and watershed restoration. They then take these trainings, adapt them to the culture and climate of Hopi land, and share them, giving interns the tools they need for this community building work.

Categories: Permaculture, Southwest (AZ&NM), Youth ProgramsTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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