My Review on Larry Santoyo and the Permaculture Academy Los Angeles.

My time with the Permaculture Academy Los Angeles all started when my husband moved our family to Los Angeles. I had already studied Sustainable Agriculture 101 on a farm in a hands on manner in San Diego. This was all to prepare for growing food for my charity’s program to rescue and raise children off the streets of Asia. Learn more here

However, I was in for a surprise on the depth of thought that my new instructor Larry Santoyo would bring to the table.

Santoyo, center.

As one of the original young men who studied, and taught with, one of Permaculture’s main founders, Bill Mollison, Larry Santoyo is a treasure of knowledge who can change the way you see the world by giving you new eyes to see natural systems.

Truthfully, he already brazenly esteemed himself as a brilliant young man before he met Mollison, but realizing that he was no longer the most knowledgeable person in the room, he passionately applied himself to what he was learning and went on to master it and iterate on it. Santoyo has been teaching for 28+ years, part of that time with Mollison himself.

First of all, you will never fall asleep in his class. No way. My fellow classmates and I were always waiting to hear the surprising and brilliant ways in which he solved natural problems. I would like to describe his thinking as an astonishing four layers deep.

Plus, to keep us awake, he graciously peppered his speech with…. well let’s call it, colorful language in a non complaining matter-of-fact tone. Hahaha

One of the most notable things about his P.D.C. (Permaculture Design Course) was that he wasn’t just gonna sit there and tell you how great swales are and how it’s a marvelous permaculture idea like you hear on permaculture videos Youtube. No, no, no, no……

Illustration from the book “Gaia’s Garden” which we got free with the course.

This man will tell you to examine the reality of the land you have, and the grade of your land for you to determine if a swale even has any business on your property considering the conditions.
After all, Permaculture is not simply confined to natural gardening, as Larry says, “it is a set of decision making protocols that can be used in every area of life.”

Another thing that stood out about his P.D.C. is that what people used to cram into 6 weeks of a fulltime P.D.C. on a farm somewhere, Larry has spread out over 6 months.

This was really important because classmates break up into teams to solve problems on a particular real world issue. He said that when they used to have the class crammed into 6 weeks, students’ presentations were really bad because it had to be thrown together so quickly and half of it done before the students had a chance to learn much.

Instead, Larry’s classes at the Permaculture Academy Los Angeles were on two weekend days, once a month for six months. And believe me those six months were over sooner than we wanted them to be.

This course really has helped me, and will help me in achieving my goals as a person who is putting together a community of people to care sustainably for orphans in Asia.

One of the best things about this class was the fellowship we shared with our classmates at the beer garden after class on Saturday nights. And this was our opportunity to have more time to talk and dream with Larry Santoyo and ask questions specific to our interests and needs.

Now I have two composition books chock-full of a treasury of notes from class that I can always refer to and re-sharpen my mind on.

Here’s a bit of the class syllabus:

Ethics of Permaculture Designers:

  • Care for the Earth; to repair and conserve.
  • To seek peace, and guard human rights everywhere.
  • To invest all capital, intelengence, goodwill, and labor to these ends.

Mollisonian Principles:

  • Work with nature.
  • The problem is the solution.
  • Make the least change for the greatest possible effect.
  • The yield of the system is theoretically unlimited.
  • Everything gardens…
  • Indicators of Sustainability:
  • Natural Succession.
  • Diversity of Functional Relationships.
  • Recycling Flow Through Energy (source to sink)
  • Multi Functions for Single Elements.
  • Multi Elements for Single Functions.
  • Stacking in Space and Time.
  • Biological Resources.
  • Relative Location.

My recommendation is, take this course while you still can. Larry is old.

What I love about Wooden Toys

We really want to use fun and durable toys in the children’s homes we’re establishing in Asia.

For me there’s a lot of nostalgia around wooden toys in particular. Especially for old Fisher Price brand toys that I grew up with, that are seemingly indestructible!

The above xylophone for example. I still have it.

These days (now that I’m grown up) I was surprised how much fun I had when my child got this Melissa & Doug wooden food set with knife!

It’s crazy but, this particular wooden toy really does feel like you’re slicing real vegetables! My children love it and it’s literally relaxing to cut up these wooden pieces of food.

The pieces are held together with hook-and-loop-tape (commonly called Velcro) and give it that fun slicing sound.

I guess beyond the normal wonderful felling you get of wooden toys being so classic, bright colored, and durable, this “Cutting Food” set takes it to a new level.

Not only is it fun to slice, but it is actually a puzzle that challenges your child’s brain to put it back together!

They also have a “Cutting fruit” set and a “Sandwich making” set that also slices apart.

I am the founder of a charity. We’re working on building a school and children’s home in Asia. We’re definitely interested to share our love of wooden toys with the children we will rescue there.

Watering your yard Naturally

Have you ever thought about what happens to the water that rains down on your yard?

Did you ever wish you could become less dependent on the municipal water supply?

Did you ever want to take some of that massive amount of water that rained down on your yard and have your plants use it later, with or without having a rain water tank?

The changes you need to make all start with a pickax, a shovel, and a plan……

Some boys wanted to give us a hand in changing the topography of our yard to help us do just that.


“the arrangement of the natural and artificial physical features of an area.”

-Oxford Languages

Take a look at the two examples below.

This first example shows the typical city or suburban yard.
What’s wrong with this picture?

  • Mounds of dirt around the trees cause runoff
  • Clean water from the roof that could have been captured for future use is wasted
  • The semi clean “greywater” from the sink and bathtub drains are lost to the sewer
  • No thought has been given to the shape of the surface of the ground so that water puddles near the house causing damage
  • Downslope the water runoff causes flooding or fills the ocean with the runoff water that has picked up contaminants and sediment along the way

All the clean fresh water from the Lord above is being flushed off the property by the way the yard is shaped.

Now take a look at the second example below.

The wisdom of this homeowner is causing an abundance of water resources for himself, his plants, and the surrounding environment.

Look at all the things he’s doing right!

  • Indentations instead of mounds around the trees allow the rain to soak into his yard causing an underground water supply that his trees can tap into during dry times.
  • Runoff from the roof is captured into a rainwater tank and the runoff from that, waters his fruit tree.
  • The semi clean “greywater” from the sink and bathtub drain into the yard to water the tree.
  • Runoff from the walkway goes back into the yard instead of off property.
  • The water soaking into the ground recharges the water table keeping well water fully stocked, and creeks and rivers as well. Downslope flooding is also reduced.
  • Leaf drop and mulch stay on the property instead of being washed away, causing fertility and increasing the soil’s water holding capacity, further drought proofing your land.

By: Christina Hans

Christina Hans is a student of nature and has studied sustainable agriculture at Wild Willow Farm, San Diego and at the Permaculture Academy, Los Angeles.

She is founder of Future And A Hope Ministries Inc. a charity founded to rescue street children in Asia and care for them sustainably.

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