Fire the Landscaper - How Landscapers, HOAs, and Cultural Norms Are Poisoning Our Properties

Phil is right you need a really great trailer for the Crash Course!  What a great idea to send a trailer to people!

Hi Phil, I had no trouble using my Kindle online free reader to read your book. Wow! It was like I have lived that book too. I have taken the PDC this Spring (2015) and 3 years ago my partner and I moved out of our long term home in an HOA to an 8 acre homestead in the county - no rules! We have totally enjoyed our chickens, building our own greenhouses with no one looking over our shoulders and letting most of the lot go wild while cultivating a small amount. The property was originally designed by a well known permaculture designer so we were extremely lucky to happen upon it. In fact, looking back on a 3 year battle with our HOA complete with threats of being jailed, having a whole group of friends sued and forming a legal defense fund organization for them, one opponent saying that he had always brought a concealed weapon with him to Board meetings (I got elected to the Board and lasted 6 months and stepped down after they began to go after my partner and accuse him of garbage too even though he wasn't even the homeowner), I could go on. It was the most bizarre time of my life. I felt like I was living in nazi Germany. In fact I coined a new name for our development - Eldorado became Helldorado. The issue was chickens but in reality it was neatness and conformity. But your book described my situation perfectly. The people who had gotten on the Board wanted total control and they would drive you out of the neighborhood if they didn't get it by using libel and slander and threats - even trespassing and harassment. But the good thing was that we left and our new place is fabulous. And permaculture is the perfect tool to use to make it even better. 
So what I like so much about your book is that it is such a good story. It's engaging. You give us enough detail about yourself that you are the main character and in any good story - it's important to identify with the main character. And then even though you are giving information about an extremely important subject - it continues to read like a story and you want to know how it is going to turn out. 

I have posted a good review and plan to order some copies of the book too for myself and gifts. Congratulations. I hope this book gets widely read as I believe you are hitting the essence of where we are at as a culture especially relating to excessive chemicals. Now which way we will go from here is up to people like us who are getting this message out.

Do you ever go on If you could get a book review on there it might help you.

I'm glad you're finding the book informative. Thank you for reading it.

A lot can be done to build soil by simply adding mulch in the form of wood chips to degraded exposed soil. With the wood chips, the earth worms simply appear building good fertile soil for you. 



Thank you so much for your support. I hope you find the book engaging and compelling. I'm glad you enjoyed the trailer. It took me 7 hours to piece together 2.5 minutes. Of course I'm a total amateur videographer.



I'm really sorry to hear about what you and your partner had to go through. The research I did on HOAs was quite an eye opener. I found so much material on the abuses perpetrated by HOAs. I had to limit what I wrote, because I didn't want to make the book solely about HOAs.

I'm glad you landed on your feet in a fantastic place. We should all have the freedom to provide for our families, by living off the land. It amazes me that many of us have to beg for permission.

Thank you the review and the support. I'm going to try to submit the book to I think that's a good idea.



Jandeligans wrote:

… have posted a good review and plan to order some copies of the book too for myself and gifts…

Excellent idea. Christmas is not too far. Much valuable and durable gift than a bag of perfumed tea or a gift certificate.

Edit: Christmas?  Hey! No need for a reason. :wink:


Thank you so much for the kind review and your support. I wrote a more detailed response to your post last night, but for some reason my post was quarantined by PP for mediation. I assume it will post soon. Anyway, I didn't want you to think I did not notice your post.



I am about half way through and love it. 

I have a little story which is in line with your experiences.

My house is over a century old, on a small in town lot, and has a front yard that is only about fifteen by forty feet.  About ten years ago I started ripping out the grass and replacing it with medium large rocks and perennial flowering plants, bushes and clump grasses.  I attempted to find plants which would flower at different times from crocuses and daffodils in spring to late blooming mums in early fall.  I probably have twenty-five different species.  Over the years the whole area has grown into a semi jungle of plants and bushes. In June and early July it is a riot of colors.  I do clear out the leaves and dead growth in fall but that is generally about all I have to do.

One day last summer, as I got out of the car after work, my neighbor across the street came running over.  He informed me that our district's town councilor had been on the side walk in the afternoon inspecting my "garden".  Apparently someone on the street had reported me to the zoning office for "not maintaining" my yard.

I never heard anything from the town (I was prepared to make them tell me which species of plant were illegal and had to be removed.) but I have also never discovered who complained.  This occurred in a hundred year old, working class, neighborhood with no association and no deed restrictions.  My story ended better than Jan's but the lawn police are not just in the suburbs or communities with associations.

Thanks again for your work.




I'm glad you're enjoying the book. Thank you for your support. I agree with you that local governments and cities can be just as tyrannical as HOAs. As a coincidence with my book launch, I am facing a township hearing on Tuesday 9-15 to decide whether or not I am in violation of the grass and weed ordinance. I've had a complaint from the same person three years in a row. The specifics are in the book. It's very scary as they can fine me, destroy my property, charge me for the corrective actions, and put a lien on my property, and jail me if I don't pay. 


Thanks for offering your book as a free download. I wish you much success with it!
One question. I live in Southern Arizona in a desert climate. Are your ideas adaptable to low water use settings?

Great question.  I'm halfway through Phil's book and I'm enjoying it quite a bit.  The writing is excellent and I am 100% behind the general message. But I not sure how much of it applies to me here in northern Nevada where we average 9 inches of rain per year.  

Thanks for sharing your work and insight with us, Phil!  I am swamped with work this school year due to some new projects, so it may be a while before I get to it.  It's clear from the second half of the trailer that your gardens and orchards are thriving.
In the meantime, I wanted to mention Phil's website (  He's got over a hundred great podcasts on permaculture there as well as tons of pictures and articles.  He's also done some consulting for both me and some of the students at my school regarding what to consider when looking to buy land as well as land management, which has been very helpful.

Thanks for posting the link Hugh, the site looks amazing. I have just started to explore it.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise with us Phil!

I'd love to comment on the issue of living in the drought stricken southwest. I took my Permaculture Design Course in Tucson, AZ ( where my daughter has lived for 14 years. The typical landscape there in Tucson is just as chemically drenched and sterile as the lawn and boxwood landscape back east and the landscapers are just as clueless. Typically they cover the yard in gravel and plant a few hardy typical cactus and trees such as ironwood and mesquite. The gravel will cover itself in weeds if there is the slightest rain so it is usually sprayed with herbicides frequently. These landscapes offer nothing to people or wildlife. The permaculture yard is much different than that. Plants are planted into lowered basins and mulched well so that they can take advantage of any rain. They are planted in compatible groups that benefit each other - some gather nitrogen, some provide good mulch material, some provide food for us or birds, and some are pollinator attractors. But they are planted together and all mulched so they are similar to a forest - although you must stick to species that are able to survive and thrive in the desert climate so you won't be buying anything from a national catalog or big box store. So it will be lush and productive but will be a palette of plants suitable to the region. My daughter's yard is amazing and beautiful without outside water (they use all their gray water) or any chemicals. An example of excellence is a place called Beantree Farm ( where they harvest and sell all kinds of food from an assortment of native desert plants and have gorgeous Permaculture food forest. When I got a tour of that place I was shocked when upon looking at a gorgeous Sonoran desert scene I was told "Everything you see is edible". I said "What? I don't see anything edible." Lunch was delicious and included an assortment of desert tree beans and cactus fruit, pods and greens - all grown there and none of it was anything you would expect. And yes, they have had their share of legal problems too since our culture does not seen to approve of common sense land use. I think Phil's book applies directly to the desert environment with the exception that maintaining the LAWN isn't the issue since lawns often can't survive at all. But the substitute for the lawn - the gravelscape or bare dirtscape - is just as chemically laden and sterile and harmful to the environment and is often required by HOAs. 

I agree 100% with Jan's excellent post above. My book does center around the temperate climates of the northeast, but the broader premises are applicable in any climate. The strategies are different, but permaculture design is applicable to any climate. I have designed in low rainfall climates.
Some of the broad concepts I use when designing in the desert:

  1. Rain tends to be sporadic, but when it comes it can be a gully washer, so large swales, gabbions, roof water catchment tanks, and seasonal ponds if the soil is clayey enough. This will slow, store, and soak the deluge of water and nutrient.

  2. Shade, so pergolas and trellises with vining plants that can provide shade, and hardy drought proof trees growing on the berms of the swale system. 

  3. Heavy mulches, like Jan said.

  4. Sunken beds, like Jan said.

  5. Smart choices of appropriate plant material.

  6. Drip irrigation fed by rainwater catchment.


Thanks Hugh, I appreciate the plug. I've very much enjoyed working with you. I look forward to more in the future.

Thanks Tall, for the positive feedback. I've enjoyed your PP posts over the years.

Jan and Phil, thank you very much for addressing the subject of desert permaculture.  I'm encouraged that it can work here but absolutely sick that I didn't do more research before spending lots of money and time tearing out my grass lawn and replacing it with a xeriscape.  

Don't feel too bad, we're all learning as we go. I've rearranged my garden 3 times. I feel like I learn something new everyday. I think gardening and permaculture is a lifetime pursuit. With permaculture it's best to start with the smallest changes that can make the biggest improvements.