Much Ado About Dirt

The group listens as Carolyn describes the uniqueness of the landscape and biomes of Patagonia during our mine tour.

Much Ado About Dirt

Our week as a playbook at Deep Dirt Farm & Institute

Written by Rachel, Jacob, and Freya

Monday, Nov. 12

Scene: The Carpe Diem van and Jeep arrive at the Deep Dirt Institute with Kate T

(Owner of Deep Dirt) waving at the welcome center. After brief hellos, the group follows her to a spiral rock structure where they introduce one another and converse. Kate explains what permaculture is, tells a bit about her life and gives us lots of sage advice. 

Kate T: Welcome to Deep Dirt Institute. I am the owner, Kate Tirion. Deep Dirt was an idea created by my aunt and turned into a reality by myself and my husband. We focus on bettering the environment through permaculture. Before I go any further can anyone describe permaculture for me?

Freya: Is it growing food in a sustainable way that mimics natural patterns?

Kate T: Yes! The way that I like to describe permaculture is farming that cares for the earth, cares for the people, and can be shared in abundance. With one greenhouse, one micro-environment, and many plants we apply these concepts to make the world a better place.

My life has been very unique and has had many distinct aspects. I grew up on a farm in Wales and then moved to California as an adult and got a high profile real estate job. Then I got sick. As a single mother I simply could not afford to be ill so I decided to drastically change my lifestyle. My diet was one of the biggest things that I changed as I learned how big of an impact what you eat affects the way your body functions. I changed careers and enrolled in a sustainable farming program at UC Davis. In 1992 I adopted the “full” permaculture lifestyle and then in 2005 I opened up Deep Dirt to fully dive into and live out my passions.

Jacob: That’s so impressive! But why did you drop your job?

Kate T: I wanted to and feel an obligation to make the future better for the upcoming generations.

Group: (Admires Kate T)

Lily: It’s so inspiring seeing how you totally changed your lifestyle, Kate! So awesome to see you following your true passions!

After a detailed tour of the property making sure to stop at the composting toilet – which we all awed at its spaciousness – the underground seed storage unit (a converted shipping container) and the awesome adobe structures, we head to the spiral for lunchtime…

Jacob: I’m so excited for my sandwich!

Kate T: Did you know, the industrial food system is poisoned? In fact mass production of food is a big part of our downward spiral in terms of climate. Growing your own food minimizes the carbon footprint and healthy soil increases the nutritional value of food.

Elsie: Wow, what an amazing perspective on our planet. I love thinking about how we are all an extension of the planet and are all connected to one another through the Earth.

Kate T: Who are some of your heroes everyone?

Petar: My hero is Neil DeGrass Tyson. I love his work with astrophysics!

Mari: My hero is Jane Goodall, she’s incredible!

Kate T: Lovely, having a mentor or someone you look up to is so important. You all seem a little slouched. Here’s how you boost your testosterone with one easy step!

Kate T proceeds to reach both arms up over her head in “winner’s pose”. The whole group follows suit.

Kate T: Now it’s time to get to work!

Group: Woohoooooooooo!!!!

Cue: Kerri starts a lively round of “It’s a Hard Knock Life”. Meanwhile during rock structure building… 

Leila: Lily, do you eat a lot of fresh veggies? Because that’s the vibe I get from your fam. Also how are you with kids?

Lily: laughs Well, we do in fact!

Rachel: Eli, look how many rocks we’ve put on the berm already! It’s looking great!

Eli: Isn’t it splendipidous!?

Freya: Kerri, you are killing that rock placement! You have a natural talent for this fo sho

Jacob: Great teamwork everybody!

Kate T: Now it’s time to scatter the seed balls in the cracks between the rocks!

Sophie: Cool! Caleb, one of our old contacts, taught us that the grasses and plants are what will really hold the rock structures together once they start establishing roots!

Kate T: Exactly! And the rocks themselves help trap moisture so that the plants will grow.

After a collective admiring gaze at the beautiful newly rock laden berm, we head back to the rock spiral for a closing round at Deep Dirt.

Kate T: Great work today! Here’s a final thought for you all to ponder: what type of world are you dreaming into being?

The group arrives back at the dorm.

Adam: I am going to cook dinner tonight while you all do a lesson with Kate.

Kate: We’re going to learn about stuff! Literally stuff!

The group watches a video about The Story of Stuff; a video that explains the linear path of consumption. After the video…

Kate: What are some things that were surprising about consumerism?

Leila: It’s so interesting how many people and different countries go into making a single product and how we are blind to that process.

Other members in the group add comments about how 99% of the things we purchase get thrown away within six months and every trash bin a household produces equates to 70 trash bins produced. After a great conversation, the group returns to the dorm and eats a scrumptious dinner and then heads to bed early.

Tuesday, Nov. 3

Scene: The group walks into the conference room after enjoying the beautiful morning and are welcomed by Carolyn and Robert, founders of PARA (Patagonia Area Resources Alliance). After a round of introductions, Carolyn (wearing pearls in honor of RBG) gives some context about why she does what she does.

Carolyn: Given the chaos of the times, there is no other place nor any other group of people that I want to be with as we transition through these multiple crazies. Our community has every skill set needed to co-create a thriving and resilient life.

Petar: We are so excited to work with you today and to see the impact the mines have on your community.

Robert: Make sure you all pay attention as we drive to our destinations to look out for the changing biomes.

Rachel: That sounds super cool! We also saw changing biomes on our backpacking trip last week!

The group gets in the van to start a 6-hour driving tour of the mines in the local area. The cars make an unexpected stop.

Mari: Look at all of the cows!

Kate: That’s a weird looking dog!

The group all laughs at Kate’s silly joke.

Robert: Notice how the tree’s leaves are changing colors at this altitude; that is the result of a change in the biome.

Carolyn: Our next stop will be what an old mine looks like followed by what the new mines look like.

After a bit of a drive and the chance to walk inside an old mine, the group was in awe about the difference in size and scale between the old mines and the new mines. They head back to the dorm feeling hungry and ready for dinner. Kerri, Jacob, Elsie and Freya made scrumptious roasted veggies, Leila made homemade hummus and Lily made amaaazing tzatziki

Leila: (to the chefs of the night) The true test of this hummus will be if Adam approves.

Adam: (tries the hummus) This is stellar, wouldn’t change a thing!

Leila: Wow, all my dreams have finally come true!

After dinner, everyone is huddled in the conference room, Eli standing next to his immaculate hand drawn map of USA, red and blue markers in hand, Jacob is the DJ of the night and several people are huddled around a multi-person solitaire game emitting sounds of excitement as the election unfolds in the background.  

Freya: Mmmm this tea Adam made us is so yummy.

Sophie: I usually don’t like hot beverages but the ginger, lemon and honey combo is quite delicious.

Lily: True that.

Later Kate presents a made from scratch, red white and blue, themed cake.

Group: Wow! That is so cool! Thank you so much!

Kate: This cake was made with flour, eggs, milk, etc, strawberries, and blueberries.

Petar: Yum!

Eli wolfs down his first serving and lightly encourages others to finish so that he can kick start the line for seconds. After many hours, the group decides it is time for bed.

Wednesday, Nov. 4

Scene: Leila in her linen pants and leather work gloves wrassles with a rampant desert rose bush entangled in the mesh shade covering 

Leila: This bush is a stubborn one!

Lily: Tell me about it.

Sophie: Hey guys! I’m over here! Look at this giant branch I have to cut down!

Earlier that same day….

Kerri: Let’s cue some Hamilton this morning.

Freya: Ooh yeah! And some Lauryn Hill please.

Back at the farm…

Kate T: Ok everybody, time to move all this sediment!

Petar: Everyone grab some shovels!

Eli: Ahh!

The group looks over to see what the commotion is.

Jacob: Eli, do you need some help?

Eli: The wheelbarrow just fell over on me! The sediment is heavier than it looks!

Freya: If you pretend you are someone super strong it is much easier.

Mari: I am going to channel The Rock.

Several top heavy wheelbarrow loads later… 

Kate T: This isn’t very efficient, let’s throw the dirt over this berm instead.

Elsie: Let’s do it assembly line style, we can pass the big chunks of clay-like dirt down the line to be more efficient.

Half the group forms a line stretching from the dried up pond to the berm as the other half uses digging forks and shovels to dig up the sediment. 

Jacob: Let’s make a game out of this!

Mari: Ooh good idea!

Jacob: Okay, how should we pass the chunks?

Freya: We can be robots!

A few awkward robot moves and lot’s of laughs later…

Mari: Okay, time to be ballerinas!

Rachel: Alright guys, let’s have a water break and then switch jobs!

Elsie: Oh! We can play the song game while we dig up the dirt!

Freya: Great idea!

We all laugh and sing as we work, passing the time wonderfully. Later, we hopped back into the van and drove back to the dorm, tummies rumbling. 

Sophie: Ugh! I wish we had something to put on these chips.

Jacob: I think we have some leftover beans in the fridge!

Freya: We should def make nachos!

Eli: (heading out the door to get his requisite Mexican coke from town) Hey save some for me!

Later that night in the conference room, the group watches a video on biomimicry and a video on population growth to end the day. The group enjoys brownie sundaes with Oreos that Petar had generously bought for the group. 

Petar: You guys deserve it, we all worked so hard today!

Thursday, Nov. 5

Scene: The group hops out of the van eager to have another sunny day at Deep Dirt!

Kate T: Let’s get back to work on moving the sediment from the pond! It should only take one more hour. I have dug up a little bit this morning to get us started.

Rachel: C’mon guys let’s get to work!

Sophie: We should fill the buckets with the sediment and pass them down a line to be more efficient.

Group: Great idea!

Eli: I call being the one who runs the buckets back down to the pond!

The group got to work while having intellectual conversations about gender pronouns and how over generations they have changed. After an hour passes the pond is almost finished.

Kate T: Great work! Now all we have to do is tamper the soil.

Petar: I can do it!

Lily: I can help too!

After a quick snack break, the group transitioned to working on rock structures to slow down water paths. Jacob, Rachel, Elsie and Petar worked on one structure while the rest of the group worked on another.

Elsie: Which rock do we think will fit best in this spot?

Jacob (pointing at the longest rock): I think this one will fit best.

Petar: I can move it!

Rachel: First we have to dig a little bit so that the rocks fit in the ground perfectly.

At the other rock structure…

Leila: Okay let’s start with the biggest pieces of urbanite first.

Lily: Good idea! That one looks good there.

Eli: I’ll add the little rocks to fill in the gaps!

The group works together to move pieces of urbanite in place, shifting the positions like jigsaw pieces to try to find the best fit. 

Freya: (admiring the finished structure) Wow this looks amazing! Great work everybody!!!

Kate T: Time for lunch!

After a scrumptious lunch the group settles down and prepares to make seed balls. The group continues to have more insightful conversations. Eli counts his seed balls and then announces his final count proudly…

Eli: I have 32 seed balls!!

Leila: Beat you! I have 72!

Kerri, still focused on making the seed balls, looks up. At her feet are around 200 almost perfect balls.

Kerri: I think I won!!

Later that night at dinner…

Kerri: Wow, I didn’t think I liked lentils; this is delicious.

Rachel: I didn’t think I liked them either.

Elsie: Me neither. Thank you Leila and Lily!

Mari: Let’s watch Pitch Perfect 2 tonight since we are having an earlier dinner!

Eli: I can’t wait to sing and eat my pint of ice cream!

Scene ends with the group launching into a riff-off

Friday, Nov. 6

Scene: The group sits around Freya and Petar who just finished making avocado toast for everyone. The captains, Jacob, Freya and Rachel, give a few announcements about the day.

Rachel: Unfortunately, our plan to go to the border on Sunday has been postponed. That means that we get to chill today since we will have time on Sunday too.

Freya: We need to clean our dorm and plan our mini road trip that is happening in a few weeks. After dinner, we will have an activity planned by Kate!

Jacob: To be most effective we will split into two groups, one that starts with cleaning while the other brainstorms ideas for our road trip and then we will switch.

The group spends time in their groups and then enjoy some downtime (along with a blast from the past for lunch). The scene switches to a full group meeting to discuss the earlier brainstorming.

Freya: We should go to Antelope Canyon!

Kerri: I’ve been there and it’s super cool.

Petar: That is 7 hours away, I don’t know if I am up for that.

Rachel: How about this cool AirBnB in Scottsdale?

Leila: Is it close to Arcosanti? I really want to go there.

Eli: I want to go to Arcosanti too! The architecture looks really cool!

Elsie: We should get a tour of the town!

Jacob: What if we stay in the AirBnB for three nights and then camp near Arcosanti the fourth night?

The group agrees and the scene ends. The next scene opens in the dorm. Jacob, Kerri and Rachel are playing speed solitaire on the ground. Lily, Elsie and Sophie are cooking dinner with the company of Leila and Mari playing the ukulele.

Mari: Leila, can you teach me how to play the ukulele?

Leila: Sure! It’s pretty easy.

Lily: Oh no, this spring roll is a fat one!

Sophie: Look at the one I just rolled!

Elsie: Wow that’s perfect. Making these are fun!

Mari: I love playing the ukulele! I think I am going to buy one!

The group enjoyed yet another yummy dinner and then headed to the conference room for Kate’s activity. 

Kate: We’re going to learn about permaculture! I am going to split you into groups and you will race each other by putting these cut up sentences into one sentence that makes sense.

The group made up of Freya, Eli, Sophie and Mari were speedsters and were able to create the most correct sentences. The other teams seemed to struggle a bit, but everyone still had fun and learned a lot about permaculture.

Saturday, Nov. 7

After a delicious brekkie of breakfast tacos made by Leila and Lily (the chef’s of the week) the group piled into the van + jeep and headed to Deep Dirt for our last day with Kate T

Kate T: Good morning everyone. Today we have lot’s to accomplish so let’s be intentional and stay focused! First we will do a quick walkaround to look at some of the rock structures and water catchments we have on the property.

Adam: About how long does it take you to build one of these things?

Kate T: About 6 months

Group: Woahhh

Kate T: Okay now it’s time to grab shovels, rakes, digging forks and wheelbarrows and get to work! Who wants to move these large rocks and design a rock garden?

Sophie, Jacob, Rachel, Freya & Eli: (in unison) We do!

Kate T: Well I think 4 people will be enough considering the small space and large tools

Eli and Freya proceed to play rock, paper, scissors. Freya wins triumphantly. The rest of the group splits into two sub-groups and begins digging two 12 x 12 areas that will eventually become garden beds 6 inches deep. 

Sophie: This is actually pretty fun!

Freya: Yeah it’s really satisfying getting the huge rocks in place and having it be aesthetically pleasing!

Kate T: You all are doing a fantastic job, make sure to look at the area from all angles to get a full picture of how it looks.

During lunch, the group gives Kate T our parting gift of a native plant and soil terrarium (made by Jacob) and a handmade card including notes of thanks and 11 things we learned from her. She loved it and said she would cherish it forever. 

The garden beds dug and the rock garden completed, the group transitioned to collecting rocks to line the beds and dispersing hay and straw bales to act as mulch over the dirt pathways. Coming back with a large load, Sophie’s wheelbarrow gets caught in a rut and capsizes taking her with it. Petar runs to the rescue grabbing the fallen wheelbarrow and checks in with Sophie.

Petar: Sophie! Are you ok?

Sophie (On the ground giggling): Yes!

Jacob (Watching from afar): Is she laughing or crying?

Kate T interrupts the commotion…


The group erupts in cheers, shouts, and hugs. After four long days, the weight of the election has finally lifted off the shoulders of the group members.


After another hour or two of hard work the group finishes the tasks for the day and heads up to the Seventeen House (A hut made out of a satellite dish, hay and adobe) to have a final closing meeting with Kate T. 

Kate T: Thank you all so much for all your hard work, it has been a pleasure working with you all and getting to know each of you throughout this week. To close, let’s go around and each say what you are taking away from this week and what you want to implement once you get back home.

Jacob: I was really inspired by you Kate and how your career has focused on intent rather than on wealth.

Kerri: When I get home, I want to eat better and buy more organic. I’m really inspired by you [Kate T] saying ‘our biggest challenges are our biggest teachers”.

Sophie: I really want to help out with my mom’s gardening and landscape back home.

Leila: For me I was really inspired by the conscious consumerism we talked about and I want to think more about what and how I buy.

Elsie: I’m really inspired by using waste materials as a resource.

Lily: I plan to be more conscious of the things I throw away and try to repurpose things before getting rid of them.

Kate: I loved seeing all your awesome teamwork throughout this whole week!

Rachel: I want to stay away from processed foods!

Mari: I am super impressed by what we all accomplished this week, it made me realize that I’m more capable than I thought.

Eli: I was really surprised to see the impact livestock can have on a landscape.

Freya: My action plan for back home is to use waste material more because I’m really inspired by seeing how someone’s trash can be turned into something so beautiful.

Petar: I am inspired by what we did this week and want to be more conscious of “want vs. need” while buying.

After a heartfelt goodbye the group decides to reward our hard day’s work with a trip to the Corner Scoop, a brand new ice cream shop right outside of Patagonia.

Eli: Today was a good day; it rained, Biden won, I got pumpkin pie, and there was a double rainbow on our way home!

Mari: And a great week too!

Chef’s Corner

Curious what we ate this week? Here was our menu:

Breakfast: yogurt with granola and fresh fruit
Lunch: sandwiches
Dinner: Adam’s chicken, cheesy potatoes, salad w/ homemade croutons

Breakfast: pancakes w/ banana + choco chips
Lunch: grilled caprese sandwich
Dinner: homemade hummus, roasted vegetables, toasted pita, tzatziki

Breakfast: Texas toast
Lunch: leftover veggies and hummus
Dinner: fajitas

Breakfast: grilled bagels
Lunch: sandwiches
Dinner: curried lentils and rice

Breakfast: avocado toast w/ scrambled eggs
Lunch: dino nuggets and baked mac and cheese
Dinner: fresh spring rolls w/ veggies, tofu, rice noodles and peanut dipping sauce

Breakfast: breakfast tacos
Lunch: sandwiches
Dinner: Kate’s famous vegan brisket