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The Umbrella: Winter 2015–16

Umbrella2colTHE UMBRELLA:
A catch-all of resources,
events, media, and more
from Brad Lancaster

Winter 2015–16

What more meaningful way to celebrate the approaching SOLSTICE (Winter Solstice is December 21 this year in Tucson) than by engaging with, noticing, and highlighting the 23.44º tilt of the Earth? After all, this tilt is what gives us our seasonally changing sun paths, ergo the seasons themselves. We can see, design, and live in cooperation with those changing sun paths all year long to passively heat, cool, and light our buildings. How? See Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 2nd edition, and here for much more. Glean how-to info on planting and harvesting wild, Sonoran-Desert-native foods on Desert Harvesters’ website.

We hope you’ll agree that Brad’s books would make for a most apropos gift for your partner, your neighbor, or your local public library for Solstice—whichever seasonal holiday you celebrate!


A blissfully bountiful harvest resulting from planting a multi-use rain garden in Tucson, Arizona. See the Drops In a Bucket Blog post for before & after photos of this street corner.

From Brad’s vantage point, the Multi-Use Rain-Garden Plant Lists provided on this new webpage, and whose creation story (for Brad) is told in this new blog post, are invitations to collaborate with and enhance living systems in our shared built environments. They are the result of striving to transform simple plant lists into more dynamic tools that invite greater understanding, maximize beneficial connections and relationships, and lift the potential of what designed living systems can regeneratively provide. These lists promote multi-functional plantings of rainwater, stormwater, and vegetation which, when done well, will not require supplemental irrigation after the plants get established. Several experts have compiled and contributed lists geared to their unique bioregions, and we invite you put their insights and experience to good use. If you don’t see such a plant list for where you live, consider compiling one—and perhaps sending it in to us!

If you and your neighbor(s) are excited to implement street-side water-harvesting basins planted with above-mentioned multi-use rain-garden plants, but are unsure how to begin, you are in luck. Check out the new Street-Runoff Harvesting section of Brad’s website, with the many resources it puts at your fingertips, including new illustrations, a DIY curb-cut guide, key slope details and elevation relationships for street-side eddy basins and curb cuts, and a variety of great links. As you might have gathered from the caption above, we love a good set of before-&-after comparison photos… hint, hint!

Want a spark of inspiration to turn your vision for your neighborhood streets into reality? Check out Brad’s article on pages 24–25 of Bike Life Tucson’s fall issue, Living Streets in Tucson: The many ways you can help create your dream community. This short & sweet article provides an engaging illustrated narrative touching on many of the key elements and motivators Brad saw, felt, and experiences that, when viewed through your lens and applied to your neighborhood, might help you begin to seed vibrant place-based life in your commons.


Click ABOVE ^ on the linked header to find more details about some of Brad’s early-2016 events, including:

    • LIWONDE, MALAWI (January 11–14): Brad and colleague Tom Cole will build on the foundation laid in November by another colleague, Warren Brush, with their contributions to a series of agro-ecology training courses in Malawi. These are designed as opportunities to share strategies and engage in mutual learning with Malawian stakeholders, all intended to enhance the living ecologies upon which we all depend. Stay tuned for Brad’s blog post on this experience in the Spring issue of The Umbrella…
    • TUCSON, AZ (February & March): The 21st Annual Permaculture Design Course, a Tucson tradition, is taught and facilitated over five weekends every spring by Dan Dorsey, Brad Lancaster, and Barbara Rose, each with two decades of Permaculture experience—with supporting instruction by many extraordinary associate Sonoran Permaculture Guild teachers. Register soon, as this course historically fills up with a waiting list every year.
    • TUCSON, AZ (March 14–20): If you’re looking to add still more tools to your community-enhancing kit, a newer Tucson classic learning experience is Watershed Management Group’s Water-Harvesting Certification Course. Unless Brad is called back to Africa during mid March, he may co-teach portions of this spring’s course. Inquire about early-bird discounts and limited partial scholarships via the link above.
    • TUCSON, AZ (early-2016 dates TBA): Brad expects to offer a home tour or two of his urban, integrated-design dwelling in the New Year—be on the look out for that on his website’s Events page (link above) and social media. If you don’t already, we invite you to follow Brad on Facebook &/or Twitter.

We’ve also received preliminary inquiries for possible events in Mexico, California, Australia, and Colorado… so keep an eye out for yet-to-be-booked events with Brad in those and other locales.

Click here if you’d like to inquire about hiring Brad for your public or private event.


This year on December 5, Desert Harvesters’ 20th annual planting of rain, trees, and mulch was carried out in the Dunbar/Spring neighborhood of Tucson, bringing the total trees planted in that program since 1996 to 1,425. Thank you to Sky Jacobs, Omar Ore-Giron, Rocky Yosek, Ezra Roati and the many others who participated!

Photo credit: ??
Photo credit: An esteemed Calgary organizers. If it was you, let us know and we’ll credit you!

In November while in Calgary to present at Landscape Alberta‘s conference, locals from Eclipse Sustainability Projects, Leaf Ninjas, Pixie Gardens, and Open Streets Calgary helped Brad extend his Calgary bicycle-powered-PA-system-presentation tradition at a public talk at the University of Calgary—with the help of rotating cyclists from the audience. So fun and interactive! For more on the bike-powered PA system, check out the folks who invented & sell it: and for how the Calgary folk rent their system:

In September, thanks to the forward thinking of Charlene Dufresne of Copper Rose Community Management, Brad was invited to present alongside others at an event in Tucson with an audience of representatives from almost 100 HOAs in Pima County and 10 landscape companies with contracts with those HOAs. He thought the presenters’ info on proper tree pruning and maintenance was great—a good start for shifting ways. Too often Brad observes that plants are excessively pruned into unnatural shapes causing more plant stress, death, and water use. Brad’s suggested addition to their pruning regimen, which he mentioned in his talk, was the reuse of the prunings on site for mulch. We hope good momentum for continuing education was set in motion at this event—there is huge potential here.

For those of you who haven’t heard Brad speak but would like to, we present this YouTube video of Brad’s full presentation, Integrated Local Harvests, which he gave in Irvine, CA, at the Coneybeare Cleantech Conference back in May. Thanks to Coneybeare for recording and sharing!


Scott Mann invited Brad back for a second interview on The Permaculture Podcast; this time their conversation focused on how and why Desert Harvesters was begun, how it has evolved over the years to serve the interests of and celebrate the wild foods and human communities of the Sonoran Desert, and how the basic premise of the organization can (and should!) be replicated in cities and towns in any climate. During the closing Brad shares some of the current research on using street runoff to irrigate street-side plants, as well as four water-assessment suggestions he uses to evaluate every site. Brad and the Desert Harvesters core group would be thrilled if you would show your support by becoming a member &/or donating toward the new expanded edition of their sold-out Eat Mesquite! cookbook.

Several more interviews are in the works—keep an eye on Brad’s Facebook &/or Twitter for future links.

… & MORE!

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 9.46.47 PMHonors
As described on MOCA’s website, their Local Genius Awards were “established to honor those visionary and innovative Tucsonans whose activities have a global impact, and whose talents have been internationally recognized.” Brad and three other Tucson-based individuals (Ofelia Zepeda; Andrew Weil, M.D; and Mort Rosenblum) have been each been selected to receive a 2016 MOCA Local Genius Award based on their laudable accomplishments. Awards will be presented at MOCA’s annual black-tie Gala—featuring cocktails, auction, dinner under the stars, awards program, and dancing—at MOCA on April 16, 2016. More about the awards and ticket sales for the Gala can be found here.

Other projects
Brad loves to live, share, and listen to a good story—so much that he’s created a new Storytelling page on his website. His inaugural post there features a story he recounted at a monthly theme-inspired Odyssey Storytelling event in October in downtown Tucson. To listen to Brad’s story about Home, cruise on over to his new page and settle in for 15 minutes to listen to Brad spin a colorful and heartfelt yarn.