Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sanctuario Sisterfarm: A gem of practical, responsible, relationship building and spiritual permaculture near Waring, Texas

Adrian Dominican Sisters Carol Coston, OP and Elise D. García, OP founded the sisterfarm in 1992 on a 7 acre triangular patch of Texas off of IH 10 at the Waring/Welfare exit on Big Joshua Creek.  In 2001 they established a non-profit and renamed their permaculture experiment, Sanctuario Sisterfarm.

The farm serves as their home as well as a welcoming space for members of their order and others.  Over the years they have gradually transformed the original house, which has a double wide mobil home at its core into an efficient dwelling with saltillo tile floors, energy efficient windows, rainwater catchment, gray water reuse, a standing seam metal roof and geothermal heating and cooling.

On Sunday, October 18, 2009 Carol and Elise welcomed members of Doddi Evan's Permaculture in Practice meetup group along with a visiting sister from Kansas and two sets of neighbors to an extensive tour.   Carol was particularly pleased to have visitors who were familiar with the principles of permaculture who were wanting to implement them in their own lives.

The farm includes two tiny houses for guests, a yurt, orchards, a keyhole garden, a spiral garden, vegetable box planters and a chicken yard.   Carol reported that they formerly had guinea hens but they did not behave as advertised so as they lost one after another to various predators they were not replaced nor mourned.  Their Gaia garden is only just recovering from its encounter with the guineas.

In addition to this year's challenge of a late frost and a severe drought the sisters must deal with the deer population.  They have erected high fences in several places to keep them out.   Their spiral garden which also serves as a labyrinth like meditation walk was particularly hit by the marauding deer who apparently have found tomatoes to be quite tasty.  They also face the challenge of convincing their chickens not to drop into the area patrolled by their little black dog who has a taste for poultry.  But the chickens have a short memory and Carol, Elise and their guests keep a constant watch on Martín (pronounced mar-teen).

Among the plants that have survived and thrived are chard, basil, arugula, eggplant and many peppers.  They supplement their diet with purchases from local farmers markets.   Among the visitors to their home today was Dean and Shirley Harmison who own and operate Ahimsa Farm just down the road.  In addition to providing vegetables to local restaurants they recently started a CSA, (community supported agriculture).   Carol and Elise had not met them previously and so now will have a source of additional produce nearby.

Using wood recovered from the renovation of María Antonietta Berriozábal's parent's home they built raised bed gardens.  Using staked pvc they made hoops over which they drape Agribon row covers of various densities.  The fabric lets water and sunlight through but deflects the strong direct sunlight of summer.  In winter they help some plants stay warm enough to survive and grow.

Agribon was new to our group.  Although it is not expensive, Angela, the community gardens coordinator for Green Spaces alliance shared another sun deflecting technique which she had learned from a Vietnamese friend, which is to place twigs in the growing cages used to train tomatoes and other plants.  The twigs allow dappled sunlight to reach the plants.  The shadows allow the plants to survive in the heat and of course unless you get your twigs from Home Depot, twigs are usually free.

As our tour was wrapping up Carol and Elise shared the story of a very unusual spot on their property.   Upon arrival a visitor who is sensitive to such things said more or less. " There is a vortex nearby.  I don't know if it is on your property but I detected it as I drove here." 

As they accompanied her about the farm she suddenly paused and said it is here.  She said that it was a place where cosmic energy flowed down to the earth to spread out across it.  She said that the spot was a place for cleansing and healing.   Today the center of the vortex is marked with a round stone.   A short walk off of the stairs down to the Big Joshua Creek will take you there.

Regardless of the nature of the vortex, the energy of Sanctuario Sisterfarm is positive and spreading through the world.  It is a healing place to visit and must be a healing place to live and cultivate.

Visitors are welcome at Santurio Sisterfarm. See their website for details.

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