Board of Directors


Tim Talty is finishing his 20th year as an educator at Lorna Byrne Middle School, where he has taught earth, life and physical science along with elective courses such as drama, leadership, video production, computer technology, yearbook and physical education.

In addition to classroom instruction Tim has also co-coordinated the SMILE Club (Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences) for 11 years. The SMILE Club supports student interest in the areas of science and math with team-based, hands-on engineering challenges. The program is sponsored by Oregon State University.

Tim’s educational background includes a bachelor’s of science degree in biology from Denison University in Granville, OH (1987), a year of graduate coursework in microbiology at Glasgow University in Glasgow, Scotland (1987-88), and a master’s degree in education from University of Oregon in Eugene, OR (1999).

A desire to earn a more rounded education and explore the world led Tim to a Rotary Foundation Scholarship for International Study in 1988. During that time he served as an “ambassador of goodwill” in which he gave presentations to Rotary Clubs around Scotland and attended Glasgow University.

More recently, Tim earned an “Asset Builder Award” from The Josephine County Commission on Children and Families (2002). Tim’s passions include craft brewing and alternative energy. He hopes to soon combine the two and open an alternative energy based nanobrewery in Takilma, OR.
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Vice President

Amy Schell-Lapora grew up on the shores of Lake Ontario in Northern New York. She was drawn to the wild rivers and mountains of southern Oregon almost 20 years ago. Her background is in outdoor education and she loves getting kids into the woods. Amy is a passionate gardener, and the mother of two boys. She enjoys being an active and involved parent, coaching youth soccer and serving as Team Mom for Little League Baseball. Amy is a graduate of the Ford Family Foundation Leadership Program and has served on the Spiral Living Center Board for 4 years. In addition, she serves on the Board of Directors of the Dome School, a small, private school. She believes in giving back to her community through active community service.


Alan Eisner is a piano teacher, homesteader, and former board member, The Dome School.

Alan moved to the Illinois Valley in 1999. He has a BA in Finance from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is raising a family on a small farm near Cave Junction, and teaches piano lessons.


Nellie Barrera received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland in 1995. She worked in theatre in the Bay Area as a costumer for many years, including 13 years with the San Francisco Opera. Nellie's belief in positive social change led her to volunteer with several organizations such as Food Not Bombs, The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and Homes Not Jails. After living for more than twenty years in the Bay Area, Nellie and her fella, Keeeth, said good-bye to city life. They settled in the Illinois Valley at Chinook Bar Ranch in 2013 where Nellie works as a seamstress and farmer.

Beginning with the First Annual Otis Memorial Bike Ride in 2013, Nellie has participated in and helped organize various Spiral Living Center events, including the Farm and Garden Festival, the IV Bikespace, and the Local Foods Dinner. She is currently very involved with SLC's new and very exciting project: building a community-based radio station in the Illinois Valley. She is a member of the KXCJ Steering Committee and serves as KXCJ's Volunteer Coordinator.

Nellie's interests include gardening, sewing, knitting, drawing and riding her bicycle to explore the natural beauty of the IV. She also very much enjoys music and plays the washtub bass with a local band.
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Steve Orr has designed and installed artistic and functional edible and medicinal Permaculture gardens for more than thirty years. He teaches people to use the plants in their gardens and especially enjoys converting lawns to gardens. Steve manages a ten-acre Permaculture farm, Frog Farm, where you may find him teaching WWOOFers (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms interns), milking goats, pruning fruit trees, building compost, planting perennials, or playing his guitar. Steve has been active in forming a seed-savers network, a local farmer’s market, and the tool-sharing library. He is also a member of Southern Oregon Beekeepers Alliance. He is skilled at designing and building useful small farm tools, such as soil sifters, a chicken plucking machine, and a seed ball machine.

John L. Gardiner MBE, Ph.D. P.E., a naturalized American citizen, enjoyed a highly successful career in the UK, honored by Queen Elizabeth II for services to society and the water environment. His many years of practical experience in all aspects of river management include project planning, feasibility, design, construction and applied research. While a tenured Professor of Sustainable Environmental Management in London, he was invited to open the first branch office of Philip Williams and Assocs (of San Francisco), in his wife's Christine's hometown of Portland, Oregon.

John and Christine worked on a wide range of river projects in Oregon, California, Washington and Idaho. In 2007, they moved their livestock farm from Sandy, Oregon to Cave Junction; it's the largest suri alpaca farm in southern Oregon. In 2006, John served on the Independent Scientific Review Panel for Northwest Power and Conservation Council, assessing over 60 applications for Bonneville Power Administration's $150million river restoration fund for the Columbia Basin. He wrote assessment protocols for fluvial geomorphology and soil bioengineering for ISRP.

A Board member for several local organizations, since 2007 John has served on the Advisory Board of Spiral Living center, as a Member of the Illinois Valley (IV) Watershed Council and as an Associate Director for the IV Soil and Water Conservation District; he was elected as a full Director in 2014. In 2013, he was elected a City Councilor for Cave Junction. He has served as President of the CJ Farmers' Market since its inception in 2013, and is a member of Cohort II of the Ford Family Institute Leadership Program, taking a lead role in creating a bioswale (CJ's first) at the Evergreen Elementary School, as an outside classroom - he and Christine involved many children from the school and have started an on-going 'plants and planting' program.

John also serves on the Board of the Rogue Basin Partnership (formerly Coordinating Council), the IV Community Development Organization, the IV Wellness Resources Board (formerly the IV Medical Center) and is thrilled to sing Tenor (Christine's an Alto) in the RCC Choir.

Michelle Steevens grew up in Brookings, Oregon. She was active in 4-H, competing at state level, as well as an avid junior leader. She continued leading youth after she graduated. She is a self-taught permaculture gardener, and is dedicated to working with nature to grow food, and getting the word out that there is a better and easier way to garden.

Michelle is building a culinary and medicinal mushroom business. It is her goal to provide mushrooms to the community. She always makes herself available to educate anyone that wants to know about the healing properties of mushrooms. Not only can they help with our health, but compost can be made with spent mushroom logs to improve soil. Also, mushroom mycelium can be used to compost some types of hazardous material.

Michelle is on the board for the Cave Junction Farmers Market. It is an exciting time for the market, which will begin its third year this spring. It has been growing and it's now time to move it to a bigger venue. Michelle believes the farmers market is the key to linking the community together and education on the importance of being more self sufficient, buying local, and supporting local farmers.

Michelle spends her free time building her farm. She has goats, chickens, rabbits, and a huge garden. It's her goal to have a self-sufficient farm that is not dependent on buying feed. She plans to make and grow everything the farm needs to run on it's own.

SLC Staff

Executive Director

Debbie Lukas works as a Clinical Herbalist and Herbal Pharmacist with 25 years of experience. She founded the family business Siskiyou Mountain Herbs, and propagates and grows many medicinal plants on the Frog Farm in Takilma, Oregon. Debbie teaches classes emphasizing respect for the land, ethical harvesting techniques and propagation of rare medicinal plants. She has been involved in nonprofits as staff, board member or volunteer for many years, and dreams of uniting diverse people in the Illinois Valley in the quest for sustainable living. She raises chickens, vegetables, herbs and hope! In 2006, she founded the Spiral Living Center to provide education and support to those living in the Illinois Valley. She serves as volunteer Executive Director of Spiral Living Center.


Kate Deschamps has business degrees in Accounting and Finance, and founded and has led the growth of her own consulting firm providing accounting software solutions and systems along with financial advice to professional corporations. Kate currently serves as Secretary and is a member of the Board of Directors of Bumblebee Marketing Services, Inc. Previously, she served as Vice President of Finance for M&T Publishing, a company that published Dr. Dobb’s Journal as well as other technology publications located in the San Francisco Bay area. Kate was Western Region Manager of internal accounting for KPMG Main Hurdman, a CPA firm (now part of KPMG) and worked in their New York and Chicago offices. Kate manages the finances of SLC’s many programs and projects, including KXCJ-LP.

Illinois Valley Gleaning Project Coordinator

Jeff Meier is a Crew Leader for Youth Conservation Corps, Wildland Firefighter, and a gardener.

Jeff coordinates the IV Gleaning Project, organizing crews to harvest produce that would otherwise go to waste, and distributing crops to food programs and food banks in the Illinois Valley.

Stewardship Committee

Maureen Hanson retired to the Illinois Valley on Jan. 1, 2009 with her husband, Paul, after living their lives in the Seattle area with a large extended family. They came searching for a simpler way of life, and found it here through connecting with the Spiral Living Center and developing growing friendships.

The Hanson’s are constantly learning new skills, as well as generously sharing their time, energy and skills in sustainable building techniques, herbal medicine, gardening, and more. You can find them working in the garden, building a cob house, singing in the IV Community Choir, and promoting Ecostry, a practice of extraction of forest products without forest decimation. They also belong to One People's Public Trust. Maureen spent 21 years as a school bus driver and driver/trainer in the Seattle area, and 6 years driving for Seattle's metro.

Charles Samuel Greenwood, P.E., has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from California State University at Sacramento. An Oregon native, he has lived and worked in Takilma since 1975. For over 25 years he has owned and operated Greenwood Engineering, pioneering the engineering of tree mounted structural systems, including code-approved commercial tree houses. He has worked on hundreds of conventional and un-conventional building designs, including straw bale, ICF, and soil based floor systems. He has designed and installed low pollution/energy storage heating systems and has engineered, constructed, maintained and operated numerous hydroelectric plants including utility interconnected and stand alone projects. HumanCar, his primary interest, is known world-wide.

Charles has been a member of SLC since its beginning, serving as treasurer on the original board and now on the stewardship board. He has two adult children and a number of surrogate grand children.

Christine Perala-Gardiner, Ph.D. is a geo-morphologist with over 20 years of experience conducting research and restoration practice on urban and rural watersheds in the western USA and in Europe. She has worked for over 30 years in horticulture, botany and ecological restoration, in her primary range on the West Coast; mainly Oregon, California and in Western American plant communities. She has expertise in monitoring and managing annual and perennial invasive weeds at a landscape scale. Christine combines a strong background in watershed assessment with geomorphic process dynamics, GIS landscape analysis and recovery of floodplain and riparian functions.

Christine co-founded WaterCycle Inc. with Dr. John Gardiner in Sept. 2000. She was President of the firm until it was dissolved in 2012. In those 12 years, the firm sought to elevate physical process dynamic interactions with vegetation within watershed management. Christine brings considerable breadth of international research and practice in soil bioengineering, called “biotechnical bank stabilization”; integrating hydrology and hydraulics with geo-technical parameters, fluvial geomorphic process and plant community dynamics. She taught watershed science and fluvial geomorphology for Portland State University, and continues to provide public presentations as a speaker and expert witness.

Since Sept. 2000, Christine has jointly managed an alpaca farm, first in Sandy OR and since 2006 in Cave Junction, OR. Practicing what they teach, she and her husband have identified key elements in sustainable farming. They have brought a new economy to SW Oregon that they showcase on their farm and in the Cave Junction area, and teach associated living skills such as pasture management, livestock husbandry and shearing.

Deborah Lukas works as a Clinical Herbalist and Herbal Pharmacist with 25 years experience. She founded the family business Siskiyou Mountain Herbs, and propagates and grows many medicinal plants on the Frog Farm in Takilma, Oregon. Debbie teaches classes emphasizing respect for the land, ethical harvesting techniques and propagation of rare medicinal plants. She has been involved in nonprofits as staff, board member or volunteer for many years, and dreams of uniting diverse people in the Illinois Valley in the quest for sustainable living. She raises chickens, vegetables, herbs and hope! In 2006, she founded the Spiral Living Center to provide education and support to those living in the Illinois Valley. She serves as volunteer Executive Director of Spiral Living Center.

Deborah Murphy has a Master's Degree in Elementary Education with a Specialization in Early Childhood from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She worked at the Van den Berg Learning Center, the lab school at SUNY where she trained student teachers and taught children from first to fifth grades. She has taught in New York, California and for many years she taught at the Dome School, a private, alternative school in Takilma, Oregon and also served as its administrator.

Deborah has written a series of children's books and designed curriculum kits for the Southern Oregon Historical Society and for the Siskiyou Field Institute. For several years she worked as a Mentor for the Oregon Center for Career Development in Childhood Care and Education through Portland State University and the Oregon Resource and Referral Network in a statewide mentoring program. She has been employed by the Oregon Caves National Monument in the Curriculum Based Education Program. She is an education consultant, an Oregon certified trainer and an Instructor for Rogue Community College and Eastern Oregon University in the Early Childhood /Elementary Education Programs.

Grace Brookman has a degree from Evergreen State College. She is currently pursuing an accelerated Bachelor of Science Nursing Degree at Oregon Health Sciences University. She enjoys hiking, biking, beekeeping, swimming in the river, cooking with fresh foods, and teaching others about nutrition and health. Grace helped to start SLC’s IV Bikespace in 2008. She has volunteered to organize seed swaps, a silent auction and a local food contest at the Illinois Valley Farm and Garden Festival, and has taught workshops in bicycle repair, gardening basics, and feta cheese-making. Grace also led a bicycle tour of Takilma gardens.

Jeff Meier was born and raised on his family’s turkey farm in Northeast Wisconsin. After the family business went bankrupt in 2000, a restlessness stirred within Jeff to find his own path. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology and minor in Classical Humanities. Upon graduation he took an AmeriCorps position that landed him in Oregon, a region of the country that seemed to beckon him.

Jeff has been living in Oregon since 2007, albeit in phases and stages. His primary passion has been leading crews of teenagers to complete trail projects and restoration efforts the Forest Service/BLM sponsor. Jeff has been employed with Northwest Youth Corps for 7 years and has worked in practically all corners of the Northwest. In the Fall of 2010, he discovered Takilma after maintaining five miles of trail along the Illinois River. He quickly became enamored with the botanical diversity and wild rivers of the Siskiyous. Jeff has been returning to the Illinois Valley every winter since and dedicates his spirit and energy towards making the valley a more resilient community.

Jerry Lapora has a B.S. in Crop and Soil Science from Oregon State University. He owns and operates Wild River Organic Farm with his family. He has taught courses at SLC skillshares and workshops, such as extending the growing season using hoop houses. Jerry usually has dirty hands and a happy heart!

Laurel Peña is an herbalist and freelance writer living in the Klamath River region. She began her formal training as a Clinical Herbalist in 2001 by studying with Michael Moore whom she considers her mentor. Her first step into emergency medicine was certifying as a Wilderness EMT in 2009 and the next step is Paramedic school this Fall. Her passion for sharing information led her to become an instructor of CPR, Wilderness First Aid/First Responder, and EMT courses as well as herbal classes. She has 12 years of experience providing care in challenging environments.

Margaret Hall Morton was born and raised on a small family farm in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains of southern Virginia. She volunteered as a family intervention worker for the Pace County Florida Guardian Ad Litem program from 1990 to 1994, while attending West Florida University. For ten years she worked as a youth social worker, helping to start grant-funded family integration programs throughout the country. She moved to the Illinois Valley in 2005, where her family owns and operates an off-grid farm, raising and preserving eighty percent of their annual produce consumption. Margaret serves as Spiral Living Center’s Membership Coordinator.

Rachel Goodman was born in New York City, and moved to Oregon in 1971. She has been growing and preserving organic produce ever since, believing increasingly that small rural communities can be sustained though community and economic self-sufficiency. Her interest in natural healthcare led her to become a Licensed Massage Therapist in 1986. She maintains a current practice in Cave Junction.

Steve Orr, see Board of Directors.
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Betsey Norton R.N. was born and raised in Maine, graduated from Tufts University in 1965 with a degree in Sociology and worked in the inner city of Boston for three years before relocating to the West Coast. While living in E. Washington, she served on the local school board for ten years, four years as chairperson, always seeking to positively influence the local children and community. She returned to school in 1987, completing another Bachelor's degree, this time in Nursing. Working in the health field propelled her interest in the relationship between health, food, and our environment. Always an avid gardener, she dedicated herself to promoting organic ways of growing food, teaching her own children as well as others in the community. Betsey moved to Southern Oregon with her family in 2000, looking for a more "like-minded" community and to escape the aerial spraying of herbicides, which was rampant in the E. Washington wheat-growing area. She focuses on growing berries, enjoying promoting healthy food for our local people and encouraging the move to a more self-sustaining way of life.
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John L. Gardiner MBE, Ph.D. P.E., see Board of Directors.
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Kelpie Wilson is a writer and a mechanical engineer. Currently, she works with the biochar industry though her consulting company, Wilson Biochar Associates and as an editor at the Biochar Journal, published in Arbaz, Switzerland. From 2008-2012 she worked as a project developer and writer for the International Biochar Initiative. From 2004-2008 she was the environmental editor and columnist for and a contributing editor for Yoga Plus magazine. She has published more than 100 articles in numerous magazines and online publications.

From 2004-2006 she was a technical writer for Energy Outfitters, a solar equipment distributor. Prior to that she spent 12 years as a forest protection advocate with the Siskiyou Regional Education Project in Oregon, serving as its executive director for 5 years during that time. Before moving to Oregon, she worked for a small R&D firm designing Stirling cycle engines in Berkeley, California. Kelpie graduated with honors from California State University, Chico in 1987 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. Before beginning her engineering degree program, Kelpie worked as an auto mechanic in Austin, Texas and was a certified engine performance technician.

Kelpie's volunteer experience includes many presentations and demonstrations of biochar technology for community groups and schools. In November 2014 she helped organize the Biochar School, a 5 day workshop near Petaluma, California on all aspects of biochar use for small farms, with a permaculture perspective. In 2010, she developed and presented a semester-long program on biochar science at the Dome School, a combined 1st through 5th grade classroom in Takilma, Oregon. Kelpie has appeared on numerous radio shows discussing environmental and political topics including the need to save ancient forests and the climate change benefits of biochar. A list of her publications is available at and she blogs regularly at
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