Calley O’Neill has worked in the field of ecological fine art landscape design since 1977, when she began research for her Master’s degree from The Institute for Social Ecology, Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. Calley’s graduate fieldwork involved a research garden called The Solar Shield in collaboration with her partner at that time, Dr. Barry Costa-Pierce. The beautiful, verdant bio-intensive garden was a favorite spot at Goddard’s Cate Farm.
Calley designed the garden as a backyard model (standard 50’ by 50’ size) of an integrated aquaculture/agriculture system for intensive food production. Pierce tended the aquaculture and research, and Calley, the agriculture.
The most striking element in the garden were the five (750 gallon) large, vertical, translucent solar algae ponds at the back, set high enough on the land to be used for warm green nutrient rich irrigation. Pierce grew tilapia in the ponds, feeding them primarily from the garden produce. The left side of the garden was filled with fish feed crops, such as comfrey, vetch, alfalfa, and purslane, and the right side was a family kitchen garden, with the goal of producing enough fresh vegetables and herbs for a family within three years. Between the triple dug (3' deep), soft beds and the fish waste, the health and growth of the plants was tremendous. The challenge Calley faced was a changing academic leadership, thus she was unable to continue work on the garden for sufficient years to determine the right amount of each crop to sustain a family, and continue her study of canning and freezing (essential in Vermont.)
Biodynamic preparations were used, along with compost, mulching, Bio-Intensive planting, succession and companion planting, perennial flowering plants, everlasting flowers, sawdust paths, potted plants including rosemary, and tire stacks for potatoes.