Eco-World Laguna Beach

Dr. Bill Roley founder/director of the Permaculture Institute of Southern California and professor of environmental design at University of California at Irvine, welcomed Albert Bates, David Cann and me to his permaculture garden and environmentally designed homebuilt house on a hill above Laguna Beach.

The amaranth, carrots, onions, kale, swiss chard and other lucky denizens of Bill Roley’s sheet-mulched garden terraces on a hillside overlooking the ocean bear abundantly.

On the steep incline across the road from his home, Bill built up terraces of compost that are steadied by the roots of the many fruit trees he planted in them. Here Albert Bates inspects the terraces.

Bill’s garden is a place for poetry, music and art as well as for thriving plants that feed people, mineralize and fertilize the soil, feed insects and birds, and provide beauty and shade.

Three robust, chemical-free carrots and a leek on a bamboo cutting board, freshly washed in Bill’s kitchen after being harvested from his garden.

Bill Roley took us for a walk on the summit of the hill onwhich he lives, where we saw a distant squall in the Laguna Hills – unusual weather in those parts.

He also took us sightseeing around Laguna Beach, which deservedly refers to itself as the southern California Riviera. The landscape, weather, and artist milieu certainly resonate with the Mediterranean coast. Here we look south upon Crescent Beach, one of many white sand beach coves, and the hills beyond.

That evening we attended a gathering organized by Bill so his community could hear Albert speak, at the charming, environmentally designed home and garden of green builder/designer Christopher Prelitz and his artist wife Becky.

Rave reviews of the house appeared in Riviera Magazine in December 2006 and Natural Home Magazine in July 2005. It was easy to see why while touring the house with Chris. Elegant natural details, like the nautilus shell at the turn in the staircase abound, yet the house is gorgeously uncluttered. Chris says he built his palace on a shoestring, using many recycled materials, and spending lavishly “only on windows and doors.”

The terraced permaculture garden uses the oddly shaped lot to advantage.

Before the Prelitz’s magical fireplace, mosaic’d with abalone shells reflecting the light of votive candles, I sang an environmental jeremiad as an opening to Albert Bate’s talk on peak oil and global warming. Above the fireplace: one of Becky’s encaustic paintings.

After the talk, Albert answered questions, seriously considering the concerns of his audience.