Physical Ecology

What happened at TLC Farm in 2023?

poplar enjoying the sun.JPG

TLC Farm hosted many happenings this year and looks forward to many more in 2024!  


A place to Gather

  • Monthly movie nights

  • Potlucks and song circles

  • Monthly anti-social socials

  • Hosting meetings and conversations: Oregon Humanities, Jewish Voice for Peace, an evening with legendary activist Ben Morea, Pacific NW Forest Climate Alliance

A place to Learn

  • Willow Creek Forest School – pre-school & summer camps

  • TLC Farm’s Hands-on outdoor education program hosted field trips from Catlin Gabel School, Sabin School, Audubon Summer Camps, Renaissance Arts School, Carpe Diem, University if Portland, Lewis & Clark College, Girl Scout troops and more!

  • Workshops on native food sovereignty and basket making

  • Elderberry School of Botanical Medicine classroom

A place to Celebrate

  • Annual Apple Fest – with over 200 people!

  • Tu B’shvat Seders with Havurah Shalom and Forest Defenders

  • Seven birthday parties – from one year old to 45

A place to Grow

Many work parties focused on removing invasive species and tending the ecosystem. Partners included Tryon Creek Watershed Council, Village Building Convergence, and Connecting Canopies, and the awesome goat herd!


And, if you prefer a month by month breakdown: 

February: Tu B'shvat Seder, Land tending workparty

March: Watershed-wide Restoration Day, Elderberry School of Botanical Medicine starts its eight-month program, baby goats born

May: Potluck & Song circle, Fry Bread & First Foods event; Educational tour and service projects with students from Carpe Diem, Catlin Gabel & Sabin schools.

June: T-Whale deconstruction work parties; Village Building Convergence restoration project, TLC Farm tour & volunteer orientation, educational tour and service projects with Renaissance Arts school students, conversation with Ben Morea

July: Willow Creek Forest School summer camps; Get Plastered: Natural building work party; Land tending work parties, Audubon farm & forest camp; Pride movie night.

August: 3 Land tending work parties; Farm tour & volunteer service project; Apple cider pressing; Hoot movie night.

September: Willow Creek Forest School pre-school starts; Movement movie night for social justice.

October: Apple Festival! Scout field trip and service project. No Ivy Day!

November: Community potluck; Invasive species identification, clearing, and basket weaving work party!

December: Another invasive species clearing & basket weaving work party!

Land Projects


At TLC Farm, Portland's sustainability movements are creating one example of how urban density human habitat can coexist with thriving food systems and native ecologies. Our demonstration projects, all of which are workshopped and volunteer-run, illustrate how specific technologies and practices work, and how they can interconnect.
You're welcome to come and walk through the land, learning from the signs along the self-guided tour. But the best way to get involved and learn about what it's like to build a new world, is to help create it alongside the rest of us!
The areas we're focused on are:

Primarily focused on food production using standard organic and permaculture techniques: sheet mulching for weed control, interplanting, insectivories, etc. Primarily annuals and small perennials. Coordinated through the Garden working group, which has regular meetings.
Food Forests
Planning and implementing multi-story food forests both within existing native forest and orchard areas, and from scratch. In the medium-term we intend to establish a Food Forest Research Center in collaboration with local permaculturists, educational institutions, and urban policy planners. The purpose will be to develop experimental trials of various micro-habitat configurations and assess human food productivity, native habitat suitability, and human habitat usability. The goal will be to identify combinations that can be used on both public and private land to create corridors of stacked habitat and function.
Working with volunteer professional architects, designers, and builders, TLC Farm pushes the envelope for regenerative design in Portland: built environments that are fully integrated into energy, water, food ("waste"), and habitat cycles with the rest of the local ecology. This includes a wide variety of demonstration natural building techniques (strawbale infill, cob, light straw/clay, earthen plaster, earthen paint, poured earth, earthbag, etc.). Saturday work parties frequently include a building element.
    Water flow
We intend to wean ourselves from city water, and to catch and use as much of our stormwater as possible (while keeping all our inside places dry). Our planning calls for bioremediation for runoff, multiple rainwater cisterns, multiple irrigation/aquaculture ponds, greywater systems, keyline swales, and possibly a nanohydro generation system.
    Domestic partners
TLC Farm currently manages a flock of chickens and herd of goats, and many mason bees. The goats especially offer a wealth of volunteer opportunities: learn to milk goats, tend to their needs, and help them eat our blackberries. The goat working group meets irregularly; contact to get connected.
    Native habitat
Starting with the edges of the forest, and moving inwards, we are improving the native habitat function of the land. At the same time as we are managing invasive species like ivy, blackberry, thistle, garlic mustard, knotweed, and the like, we are planning long-term perennial plant systems that will create environments conducive to native plants and animals. Contact for more details.

The easiest way to get connected is to come out to a workparty.
Or contact us:
Together, we're building a better world!

Village Building Convergence Happenings, May 31, June 1, 6, 7th

May 31 2015 (All day) - Jun 7 2015 (All day)

Village Building Convergence at TLC Farm

May 31 & June 1 and June 6

We're happy to be participating in another great Village Building Convergence - our tenth one!  The VBC is a 10-day "Urban Permaculture Extravaganza" organized by the City Repair Project, with natural building and community-focused projects happening all over the city.

On May 31 and June 1, we'll be re-painting our beloved Tea Whale and using earthen plaster to finish our new seven-sided building. 

On June 6th we'll apply some permaculture design techniques to the garden, building an herb spiral and sheet mulching garden beds. 

We will be hosting work days from 10am to 4pm on May 30-31 and June 6, and running a shuttle to the VBC main venue at the beginning and end of each work day (RSVP for the shuttle).  Lunch, snacks and a delightful time will be provided! For more information, contact Jeffrey or call 503-245-3847.  

VBC Evening Event: Sunday June 7

"Singing-Alive" Song Circle, Snackluck, and Sauna
June 7th, 6 - 10pm
We've done it! For the final night of the VBC, Tryon Life Community Farm invites you to come celebrate all of the amazing work we've all done.  Please come join us for a "Singing-Alive" inspired evening where we will gather together at TLC Farm surrounded by beautiful forest and share space through the power of Song.

This is a time to share and learn new and old songs and be nourished by the beauty of voice, regardless of ones singing experience.  We will have multiple singing circles at a time and YOU are welcome to help hold a circle if you feel inspired.  There will be some snacks available, and we ask that if you are able to please bring more! Oh, and we will be firing up our wonderful earthen sauna for the occasion (note: the sauna is clothing optional).

What to Bring:
- you, your friends, and your beautiful voices
- any snacks you'd care to share
- a $10~$20 donation (no one turned away for lack of funds)
- a towel and water bottle for those who want to sing in the sauna

What not to bring:

- intoxicants

- dogs, unless they can be on leash at all times


There is NO onsite parking at TLC Farm, unless folks with special needs prearrange with us (send me an email if this is you). We will be running a shuttle from Riverdale High School - 9727 SW Terwilliger Blvd, Portland, OR 9721,  which is about 1 mile away. Also consider carpooling to the high school, and feel free to use our rideshare board.


Learn more about Recode!

Launched by TLC Farm in 2007, Recode is now an autonomous project with its own website:, office space, and director Melora Golden who can be reached at: info at recodenow dot org

Read on for a brief summary of Recode's goals, and see bottom of page to sign up for email announcement list, and download relevant files.

Recode is an organization that brings together citizens, planners, builders, activists, and other stakeholders in developing, coordinating, and building the movement for regulations that support grassroots sustainability.


·       facilitates collaboration among the existing organizations and people doing various aspects of the work;

·       creates space for grassroots groups in the discussion; and

·       specifically advocates for acting within a strategy of systemic change.

Sign Up for Recode’s newsletter:


Thanks for the New Stage Roof!

Butterfly roof at night

TLC Farm's stage gets a Beautiful Butterfly Roof!

A few months ago we put out a call to friendly architects to find a design for a new stage roof.  We were very blessed that Mark Lakeman & Sebastian Collet from Communitecture not only designed an amazingly beautiful butterfly roof, they bottomlined building it.  Many, many thanks!

Thanks also to the crew who helped build the roof (in the rain, and long into the night): Jacob, Frances, Matt, Maralena and more.  These good folks worked hard to ensure that our butterfly would be ready in time to dazzle the folks at Bloom, and every day since.

For more information about Communitecture and their wonderful earth inspired designs, call (503) 230-1293 or visit

Spring Weekend Workparties and Events

Chicken Tractor

Spring work parties at TLC Farm!


All work parties from 10-4, unless otherwise noted. Please bring your own lunch.

  • March 13: Mucking the Goat Barn. Hosted by Marc & Kelly

  • March 20: 1-3pm. Extended land tour. Hosted by Jenny

  • March 27: Upgrading our chicken scene. Hosted by Marc

  • March 28: TLC Farm office organizing party. Hosted by Kelly

  • April 4: TLC Farm office organizing – focus on organizing financial documents. Hosted by Laura

  • April 10: Garden tools care & maintenance. Hosted by Emily

  • April 17: Barn care work day. Hosted by Maralena, and extended land tour from 1-3, hosted by Jenny

  • April 24: Join us at City Repair's Earth Day Celebration at Washington High School!

  • April 25: Barn care work day, take 2.  Hosted by Otter & Kelly

  • May 1: Outdoor Kitchen organizing. Hosted by Kelly

  • May 8: BLOOM!

  • May 15 & 16: Primitive skills gathering

  • May 22: Garden-focused work day

As always, parking is limited so please carpool or bike to the farm. We are looking for more folks to help host work parties, so if you are interested, please give us a call: 503-245-3847!

Garden records

Garden map from 2008

We keep our garden records in hard copy. But, from time to time we will convert some of them to online form and make them available here.

ReCode Portland: TLC Farm Case Study

The Case of TLC Farm: Affecting Change in Zoning and Building Codes
by Amy Tyson

Amy's paper provides a detailed exploration of the history of building and zoning codes, with specific discussions regarding TLC Farm's proposed changes to city and state coding to allow for more sustainable building practices.

Natural Building Work Parties!

Mar 28 2009 - 10:00am - 12:00pm

(These are ongoing most every weekend!)

Join us in a building extravaganza of clay and straw! Or pound shingles on the roof of the Outdoor Kitchen!

The ever-ongoing barn project is still going on - the final earthen plaster on the loft is done, and we're moving downstairs to begin plastering the barn walls. Also, there are many, many shingles to be pounded into the new Outdoor Kitchen roof. Come enjoy spring as we work and build community.

Saturday work parties (10 am-4 pm):
April 18
April 25
May 2 (special Grateful Dead-themed work party)

TLC Farm will provide snacks, but please bring your own lunch. Call us at (503) 245-3847 or email for more information.

R.E.S.O.U.R.C.E. (a master's thesis on composting human excreta)

Reclaiming Everyone’s Soil: Opportunity to Understand Relational Cycles of Ecology

by Laura Kathryn Dvorak

See attached file (or click here) to download full document (PDF).

Foreword (Forward!)

In the Humanure Handbook, author Joseph Jenkins suggests that learning to recycle human excreta may in fact be the key to our spiritual salvation. It’s perfectly natural to laugh at this prospect, but after you’ve had a good chuckle, please read on. We are more than halfway through the year 2007, and most people whom I know would find it hard to say that they are especially hopeful about the future of humanity in the years to come. War rages on, our waters are polluted, our soils are depleted, and the post-colonial globalized free-market system has wreaked havoc on indigenous communities and the earth’s flora and fauna in a seemingly endless tirade of development and exploitation. Depression and obesity in the United States are at an all-time high, small farmers everywhere are being displaced, and First Nations are struggling to treat widespread alcoholism and prevent teenage suicide. Considering this sorry state of affairs, who in their right mind would suggest that human feces might be a solution to some of these problems?

The answer is, in fact, a large number of people, and that figure grows each and every day. As Margaret Mead has noted, we are for the first time at a point in human history where we are able to explain what is happening while it is happening, a phenomenon known as meta-reflection (Laszlo 2000). We are able to learn from the failures and successes of the countercultural movements of the 1960s and 70s as their composted forms experience resurgence today. More and more people each day are waking up to a new ecological imperative which emphasizes the importance of recycling, conserving resources, eating well, breathing clean air, drinking clean water, and exercising. Community food movements and organic gardening are thriving in many rural and urban areas alike. The intentional community and ecovillage movements are regaining popularity as well. While dogmatic religious practices still exist, many people are choosing instead to embark on profound spiritual journeys, often simultaneously introspective and expansive. Although confronted with seemingly perpetual racial segregation and class division, people have still found ways to initiate dialogue across socioeconomic boundaries and open up to cultural pluralism. Entire communities are identifying with bioregions and finding ways to relocalize their material resources. While the locus of the localization issue has mostly been around food, in time it will no doubt turn to the other end of the nutrient cycle: human ‘waste.’

The human being’s disconnect from the earth and from one another has no doubt been a root cause of the ecological and spiritual crises mentioned above. I recently had a friend tell me that just a few years ago, he was so disgusted with people and what we had done to each other and to the earth, that he simply didn’t want to be a part of it any longer. He didn’t see it getting any better. To this day, he still has the physical scars as evidence of the drastic action he took to make that feeling disappear. Fortunately, this wonderful person survived his ordeal, and has since learned to sublimate his angst into creative expression and healthy relation with other people. My point is that our conversation made me think, though, about the shame it is to be human, especially without purpose or connection, a condition imposed upon us by the powers that be. This report offers much evidence of ways in which to mend these disconnects.

When we flush our excreta “away,” we are also flushing away personal responsibility and true understanding of what our bodies have created. In the United States as well as in all industrialized nations, excreta are disposed of into our drinking water, extending from our bodies into a linear stream of treatment and pollution. In contrast, throughout much of China and Japan, excreta is collected and immediately used for agricultural purposes, maintaining a closed loop system which renders transparent the nutrient cycle. By flushing our nutrients away, by not even realizing that our excreta are resources, we generate unconscious feelings of shame and self-loathing. Our collective unconscious is also scarred by the shame of involuntary participation in an exploitative, destructive society. This shame manifests in many ways. When we face it head on, and with the appropriate support and resources, it can bring about deep transformation. When we bottle it up and shove it aside, however, we are in for an eventual implosion.

Fortunately for us unsuspecting humans, there are pioneers of reintegration who have devoted their lives and careers to addressing this process. Naturalist Jon Young has worked on creating a model of cultural mentoring in which we can confront, and eventually heal, our historical psychic wounds. It is known as the 8 Shields Mentoring Program, and was developed to bring humans back to their place in nature, valuing the Peacemaker’s path and recognizing commonalities which exist across all heritages (Young 2007).

Spiritual ecologist Morgan Brent (2007) also sheds profound light on the human condition. He suggests that, in relation to other life on the planet, the human species is relatively young. Bacteria and plants are our elders, as they have been around far longer. The earth is our mother, who has given us life through the sacred elements. Brent proposes that we are in the adolescent stage of our collective human lifespan, the stage in which separation from and acting out against one’s mother is a typical phenomenon. We all know teenagers who have selfishly turned away from their parents and elders in order to cultivate a sense of self and independence. Later in life these adults might realize that in order to attain happiness and spiritual harmony, a large part of their adulthood might need to be spent healing those disconnects. This is especially true of Western, Anglo cultures who value individuality and competition.

If we compare the experience of the typical Anglo adult to the collective experience of humanity, then we are witness to the maturing and flowering stage. We must work to heal our wounds, and apologize to our mother for past grievances. It may sound silly, but if we look around we can see that most of humanity is still engaged in rebellion of some form against the earth. Yet slowly, we are trickling back, asking for forgiveness as only a good hearted child can do. Only after we have cultivated this kind of humility and awareness, are we truly able to move forward (Brent 2007).

One of the basic principles in Permaculture Design, a system for creating sustainable human environments, is ‘mistakes are tools for learning’ (Mollison 1988). Let us consider a few mistakes we have made that are relevant to this story: continuing to use the flush toilet system; perceiving human excreta as a waste product we should fear; encouraging other cultures to adopt our ways; and preventing access to alternatives such as site built composting toilets by making them illegal. These mistakes are perhaps yet additional sources of collective shame, but with a major attitude adjustment, we can overcome and learn from them. In this project, I have chosen to focus on the incredible opportunity we have before us as children of the earth. Rather than misuse valuable energy laying blame and deepening existing wounds, I will instead focus on the proactive leaders who are challenging the status quo. I will explore alternatives and initiatives that inspire others and instill hope in even the darkest of hours. In a recent article in Lost Valley’s Talking Leaves publication, Pramod Parajuli shared a favorite remark by Manfred Steger and Perle Besserman (2001), from Grassroots Zen: "We don't have to create waves when the ocean is flat.... Finding ourselves in the middle of a big wave itself presents us with an opportunity. All we have to do is dive right in."

Every day I watch this fair city of Portland move and shake without ever stopping, evidence that our human systems of commerce, law, education, politics, and civic engagement are in a state of constant flux. We eat and drink and plan and meet and watch and schedule and text and dial and type and speak and sing and sleep and drive and walk and ride and write and read and talk and talk and talk. Yet how often do we listen? How often do we pay reverence to our bodies and to the sacred earth which sustains us? What if we paid as much attention to the clouds moving swiftly overhead, or the world telling us to be quiet, as we did to our grocery lists or to neighborhood gossip?

If we submitted to silence, we could hear the thunder rumble in the distant mountains. We could taste the rain instead of rushing away from it. We could smell the salt of the sea as though it coursed through our very veins. We could be truer to ourselves perhaps. I know that I would not make a very effective educator or leader if I did not take the time to silence, and get to know myself. For this I am thankful. That for every moment in the process of creating this document in which I wanted to drown out the noise of my own thoughts, to erase my nagging voice from the pages, I had the songbirds and the night crickets to help me do so. That for every moment I have forgotten that I am alive, I have had the sun to warm my face and the moon to lift my spirit. That for every moment I have not remembered how much I am loved, I have had my heart, to beat gently, tenderly, through its cradled cage of skin and bones and remind me of its purpose. For this I am thankful.

Feedback and participation welcome! Please send bug reports to

Syndicate content