Radical Homemaking: What Permaculture Looks Like in Jacona, New Mexico

Permaculture experts and radical homemakers Scott and Arina Pittman live a bounteously full life—on their own terms.

| March/April 2014

Arina Pittman’s life moves in circles with the grand repeating rhythm of the seasons. From a satellite photo you can actually see the pattern etched lightly on the earth in her round vegetable garden. Inside those nested wheels of time and tilled land, she lives her life.

With her husband, Scott Pittman, and their 5-year-old son, Sasha, close at hand, Arina intensively gardens an acre or so in the high desert community of Jacona, New Mexico, near Santa Fe. She and Scott produce much of what they eat while maintaining—even improving—the ecological balance of the land.

Calling what they do “gardening” is missing the point. They practice permaculture: a holistic, science-based system for living in harmony with the earth, whether on a farm or in a suburban yard.

Although Scott has taught permaculture worldwide for 30 years, even he will tell you that the Pittmans’ lush, jungle-thick, absurdly bounteous home plot is mostly Arina’s doing. At an elevation of more than 6,000 feet, the place has a strong four-season climate with cold winters and hot, often dry summers. The Pittmans irrigate from a 300-year-old hand-dug canal or, in drought years, a drip system from the well.

“We have a perennial polyculture going,” Arina says, referring to the wide variety of plants that feed the family, along with four goats and nine chickens, and help sustain each other in a living web.

“We’re not trying to be self-sufficient. There are things you do well and things you don’t. We focus on things we do well. We’re really good at onions, tomatoes, producing milk, making honey…”

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