Six Things we need at our Regenerative Oasis in the Desert

Our latest volunteer, Indy Rishi Singh, encouraged me to write a list of what our ecofarm needs. Here’s what I came up with.

Billimarie Lubiano Robinson
For Every Star, A Tree
7 min readJun 8, 2024

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Drone Photography by Keyjun

Financial Transparency

One of the reasons I started our nonprofit — For Every Star, A Tree — is because I wondered where all the money disappears to in restoration and afforestation projects.

That’s why I offer this snapshot of our fledgling nonprofit’s financial transparency:

The nonprofit’s bank account currently holds ~$600. We automatically deposit funding from individual donors as well as overnight glamping/camping stays to fund the Tiny Forest maintenance and expansion. We also have special reserves for our Tiny House, the Starry Night Skoolie, which includes repairs. We also save for land maintenance, construction, and stipends for volunteers who spend all day helping us plant. (Cultivating a small desert town’s economy, even on such a small level, mirrors our mission to cultivate biodiversity through compassionate care.)

Since we’re reserving these funds for Autumn’s planting season, I’m publishing a list of the top six things we need at the land. This list comes directly from our volunteers, donors, guests, and faraway dreamers that make this Tiny Forest in the Desert possible.

If we accomplish everything on this list, it will drastically improve our off-grid conditions.

…Why is this important?

We want to nurture the needs of every human that shows up to help us regenerate this land. We believe that as our energy and spirits grow, so does our ability to care for the land.

And we need that more than ever this summer.

⭐ We started to receive donations since I last published this post! We no longer need the gorilla cart — thank you Nancy — and someone signed up for a monthly donation of $50, which will cover our water delivery costs! THANK YOU!

Here’s what remains on our priority list of immediate needs:

  1. UV-Blocking Window Tints for the Starry Night Skoolie
  2. 1 Composting Toilet
  3. 7 Solar Panels
  4. Widening our Entry Gate for truck deliveries from LA Sanitation & Environment
  5. Installing a Skylight on the Skoolie to see the stars
  6. An Outhouse / Shower for an upscale glamping experience

Our Everyday Needs

UV-Blocking Window Tints, Composting Toilet, and Solar Panels

I speak often of my time writing in Sweden. There’s one conversation from that time that I still return to in my head. Maja, a Danish writer, often talked with me about translation. One of Maja’s poems spoke about “the everyday” — specifically, the difference between “every day” (with a space) and “everyday” (without a space).

Here is my take on the everyday — or what I told Maja, “the magically mundane” — needs of our regenerative ecofarm:

UV-Blocking Window Tints (Amazon)
  • UV Blocking Window Tints: The Starry Night Skoolie needs a protective tint to keep us cool in the summer. Now that we’re experiencing 100° heat, we need to find creative ways to stay cool. My hope is that we can tint every window on the bus, resulting in a much cooler environment for volunteers that work hard in the desert and need a cool place to rest.
Compost Toilet (Amazon)
  • Nature’s Head Composting Toilet: Manure from humans is great for the garden — after ample time has passed. This toilet would be a huge improvement from our current off-grid bathroom, which is a bucket system.
Solar Panels (Aptos Website)
  • Aptos 400W Bifocal Solar Panels: Did you know I configured out solar system to take in more than 3,000 watts of energy from the sun? Unfortunately, our current solar panel system means we ONLY take in 400 watts 😧 That means we are only taking in 12% of energy from the sun…this number should be close to 100%. These solar panels would go a LONG way to increasing the Starry Night Skoolie’s efficiency, making it an even more comfortable stay for future guests, volunteers, friends, and supporters stopping by for a visit.

Building, Fixing, and Repairing

Entry Gate, Skylight, and Outhouse/Shower

I’ve joked before about how I’m no construction expert. There are a lot of things around the land that need to be fixed, but due to timing and volunteer availability, we’re not able to quickly complete them.

  • Extending our Entrance Gate. This is critical! Once we replace two old posts, extend the length to at least 10 feet, then attach an entry gate, we will be able to welcome the Los Angeles Sanitation team with open arms. They would be able to dump the mulch, compost, and soil deliveries closer to the Tiny Forests…which means less work for volunteers…and a greater ability to expand the Tiny Forest’s growth.
  • Creating a Skylight on the Skoolie. This has been on my to-do list for a long time. I’m just afraid to do this by myself. If there is a volunteer who can help, here’s a YouTube tutorial that the legendary tiny house builder, Ansel Troy, has recommended to me personally.
  • Building an Outhouse and Shower. I printed out pictures from this Reddit post as inspiration. It’s taking some time to find the right builder for this, but once we do, it will get done ASAP. So many guests have recommended we create an outhouse, since a lot of glamping guests want privacy and a little bit of luxury while doing their thing.

How You Can Help

💫 Volunteer. Come to the land and help us move mulch, water the Tiny Forests, and clean up any trash that rolls in. Send over an email to schedule a time and day to drive up.

🦋 Browse Our Wishlist. We made an Amazon wishlist that captures the items we need. These range from “essential” to “nice to have.” The UV-blocking window tints and the compost toilet are both on this list.

❤️ Donate. The easiest way to help is by donating any amount directly to our nonprofit bank account. You can do this through our “zero fee” donation page. You can also do this through our website…but we are charged 2% of each donation by our payment processor, called Stripe.

🌱 Plant A Tree! We recently launched an online shop where you can choose your favorite native plants and we’ll plant it in the fall. Add a bunch to your cart, and we’ll make sure you’re updated in September when we start sourcing different plants for the Tiny Forest extension.

🚌 Book A Stay. Come to the Starry Night Skoolie for an overnight stay! You can enjoy the silence, rest in our cozy tiny house, walk around the plants, and take solace in the desert sunrise, sunset, and night sky.

💌 Let’s Partner. We partner with individuals, organizations, and businesses to heal the land through the best technology on the planet: trees, soil, sunlight, and water. Book a time on our calendar to chat more.

The Tiny Forest in the Desert

Our nonprofit, For Every Star A Tree, teamed up with Ecosikh, Afforestt, and Urban Forest Pakistan to create our first Miyawaki Forest in the Mojave. This Tiny Forest is called the Guru Nanak Sacred Forest, named after the poet Guru Nanak (founder of the Sikh faith).

Since then, we have planted three — and working on the fourth — Tiny Forests throughout the Southern California desert region.

We recently raised $555 from a local Southern California author and storyteller, Cara Lopez Lee, who graciously donated the funds from her book launch to our efforts in the desert.

Our Ultimate Vision is to plant an entire 10-acre oasis.

Our mission is to create a positive climate resilience story for desert residents as well as the next generation to come. We do this through education, art, music, tourism, gardening, and farming. Our specific projects include our tiny house, the Starry Night Skoolie, where guests contribute to the Tiny Forest by staying overnight in our renovated school bus in the desert. Besides cultivating Tiny Forests, we also steward community garden beds, pollinator gardens, and food forest projects.

Our Goal this year is to grow the Tiny Forest to at least 1,000 square feet.

It is currently made up of two ~100 square feet circular plots, which means we have ~800 square feet to go. (Or ~216 trees, shrubs, flowers, herbs, and other native plants.)

Read Our History

You can read about our history — including the beginning of the project, before we even had access to land — in our “Flow The Desert” publication, which consists of over 18 articles documenting our humble attempts to grow a forest in the desert.

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