“Permaculture is the conscious design of ‘cultivated’; ecosystems that have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is a harmonious integration of people into the landscape in such a way that the land grows in richness, productivity and aesthetic beauty.”
A Permaculture Elder
Cis Wilson, the owner of this property, grew up in Kentucky where her maternal grandparents owned a farm. On their farm, she observed the inter-relatedness of working with nature, good farming practices and, at mealtimes, the satisfaction of eating fresh produce grown on the farm. From an early age, she wanted to have a farm of her own, but a career in New York City put that dream on hold.
Over the first 50 years of her life, Cis had the opportunity to travel, sometimes to far-flung corners of the world, where she observed agricultural and horticultural practices in many different climates and terrains. She was able to see how simple farming practices in tune with nature were both sustainable and produced healthy and nutritious food. This simpler and more natural way of farming and gardening made good sense to her. Someday she hoped to have the opportunity to put what she had seen into practice.
In 1993 Cis was drawn to Costa Rica in search of her dream farm and a balance to the life she was living in New York City. Having looked at many properties all over the country, when she first set foot on what is now Refugio de Los Angeles, she knew she had found the property of her dreams. The land was a diamond in the rough. Much of the land had been converted to monoculture tree farming. Cis had a vision and knew that by using permaculture practices she could return the land to a more natural, bio-diverse environment where all indigenous wildlife would thrive again.
“Observe nature thoughtfully rather than labour thoughtlessly.” From ‘One Straw Revolution’―Masanoba Fukuoka
Cis had one over-riding principle in restoring the land, and that was to work with rather than against nature. That meant not using chemicals that would poison the land and the wildlife that make their homes there. Nature would provide for Refugio de Los Angeles everything needed to create a bio-diverse farm. And, the first order of business was to start making and enriching the soil. From rich fertile soil, all else would follow. The land here supplied everything that was needed except the vision, dedication, and the labor, which Cis, her Tico workers, and many friends provided in abundance.
“The best fertilizer is the farmer’s shadow.”—Chinese Proverb
A four-year reforestation project was initiated to find native seeds from which to grow trees into healthy saplings for planting. The existing monoculture trees were systematically reduced in number and provided lumber via an Alaskan chainsaw mill to build and repair structures, build steps into the miles of trails, and benches for sitting.
All the tree trimmings are used for erosion control, for making natural habitats for wildlife, and eventually all the remains will decompose into the soil. Composting piles are created in multiple locations around the farm creating rich fertile soil used to plant a wide variety of plants and trees: indigenous and native trees, fruit trees, ornamental trees and shrubs, medicinal plants, and floral and vegetable gardens. On Refugio de Los Angeles nature is used to fertilize itself.
“The conversion to native permaculture is the only avenue to real biodiversity, especially where the birds are concerned. Many consider the work of restoring native vegetation to be among the noblest of human endeavors.”
and frequent visitor to Refugio de Los Angeles