Friday, September 20, 2013

Missouri food forest design project

In addition to going back to school full-time studying horticulture and maintaining the day to day drill of family life and support, I've been conducting exhaustive research into food forest design relative to the temperate climate of Missouri.  My focus thus far has primarily been on plant species native to Missouri, but I will not exclude other productive or supportive plant species that are easily naturalized and are non-invasive.  I will be talking about native vs. non-native species in an upcoming post.  Nonetheless, I have become obsessed with this fanciful notion of establishing permanent food forests all over the state so that, for generations to come, Missouri residents can have a place to go for sustenance and, overall, food sovereignty.

This is my approach.  Research, research and more research.  This is the phase I am in now, but I am getting close to implementation, hence this post.   My research includes, but is not limited to, Missouri forest ecology and evolution, average precipitation per region, native productive and supportive plant species as well as easily naturalized, non-invasive plant species, diversified interactions of those species, and much more.

Once the research is complete and I feel like I am ready for implementation, I intend on launching a crowdfunding campaign via seeking people all over the world who want to play an integral role in establishing permanent food forests all over the Missouri landscape and, hopefully, beyond.

I will first seek out two to five acre tracts of land, but I will not seek out the most pristine as most would when buying land.  The goal being to repair damaged soils, build more soil and instigate the evolution of an ecologically healthy food forest, my focus will be on the most ecologically damaged, recently logged, cheapest and unwanted lands.  It is time for us permaculturists all over the world to take our knowledge of permaculture design science to begin selflessly repairing lands in our respective regions to ensure food resiliency and sovereignty for our entire species.  Be a part of the herd barreling toward the edge of the cliff or plant a few trees in front of the herd and change its course.  I choose the latter.

Once the land is acquired and its starting ecological health is assessed, the repair process will begin by establishing swales where needed to slow down the movement of water over the landscape and put carbon back into the soil using hugelkultur or wood core concepts to ensure drought resistance.  Then native, pioneer plant species will be brought in to begin the healing process.  Throughout the healing process, productive plant species will begin to be integrated into the design relative to that specific landscape and the natural evolution of a forest and its various layers.

As the food forest begins to become established in as little as two to three years, it will be open to the public, initially as a display model for what is possible and, eventually, as a life-support system that can always be depended upon.

In short, my vision is this, establishing a momentum that leads to an exponential growth of food forests far and wide utilizing sound, ecological design science.  I hope that soon, when I am ready to implement this process, I can count on all of you for support as, some day soon, a food forest just might be coming to a landscape near you.  In the days and weeks to come, look forward to an eBook I am putting together about food forest design in Missouri that will be offered for free.  It will be as comprehensive as I can possibly make it.  I don't only want to begin establishing food forests all over myself.  I want to give all of you the step-by-step knowledge of how to design them yourself.  Also, look forward to the initial launching of the campaign to begin the ongoing process of repairing the land and establishing food forests in Missouri.  Until then, let the research continue.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

12 Principles of permaculture: Principle 6 - Produce no waste

"Waste" is a very subjective term. With that said, I believe that all the ethics and principles of permaculture can easily be wrapped up into this one principle, produce no waste.

Simple, right? Well, one would think. I get so overwhelmed sometimes when I really put into perspective the task we are up against. I'm not just talking about the waste and toxins that currently exist in the environment, but the ever-pervasive frame of mind within our society as a whole that produces such toxic wast to begin with.

I remember hearing an analogy describing our species as a herd of buffalo. This massive, powerful herd of buffalo is running at breakneck speed towards a cliff and if the herd doesn't stop and turn around now, the entire herd will go right over the cliff and plummet to their death. there are a few buffalo within this herd, however, who can see the cliff and impending doom. They scream and protest their direction to no avail.  What are these few buffalo that are stuck in the middle of a speeding herd supposed to do? The only thing they can do is be carried off of the cliff to their death all while screaming, "Wait! No! Not that way... this way!" I get that feeling often.

I once read an article featuring a family living a sustainable lifestyle.  Their goal was to produce as little waste as possible.  In more than a year's time, they only produces enough trash to fit inside a shoe box and that box was far from full. So, I'm here to say to you that it is possible to lead a lifestyle that produces no waste. In permaculture, nothing goes to waste. Our "waste" ultimately becomes soil that feeds the food that feeds us. If waste exists, your design is lacking. This is also where we can take from the previous lesson and accept feedback.

Practical exercise:

What are you wasting?! Here's what I want you to do. Place a sheet of paper on the wall near your trash can. Every time you place something in the can, I want you to write down what it was you threw away and come up with some ways that you can avoid having to throw that in the trash in the future. What can be composted? What can be recycled? Upcycled? Get creative.

12 Principles of permaculture: Principle 5 - Use and value renewable resources

This principle actually falls right in line with the previous one, doesn't it? More and more people, even those who have never hear of permaculture, are already becoming more and more renewable-conscious. That is a great thing, but we've so far to go yet.

Renewable sources of energy are all around us, we just have to think outside the box to recognize them. These sources of energy aren't just fuels to burn. Composting is a renewable resource. The biggest renewable resource I can think of is people. There's nothing like a group of people coming together to plant a community garden or design a permaculture landscape. The energy and synergy is absolutely palpable.

I used to collect the yard "waste" from my neighbors. Then more of my neighbors caught and started giving me their yard "waste." I would then notice limbs, grass clippings, logs from downed trees, etc. all over the place. My effort in collecting all of this "waste" resulted in a higher return in the form of firewood for cooking and organic matter for some of the best compost you could amend your soil with.

For those of you in the south St. Louis area, Carondelet Park makes available to the public large piles of compost (see image below) free for the taking. I once picked up one small truck load and couldn't help but notice the intense heat emanating from the pile. Do you see where I'm going with this? For the amount of time and energy it would take to transport a good five to seven loads, you could cover a water reservoir and have free hot water for a few months. That is an amazing renewable resource.

I think you get the idea by now. It can be easily broken down to a simple formula by recognizing if the yield is lesser than or greater than the amount of energy spent to acquire the yield. If the energy spent was greater, then it is not sustainable. Does consumption exceed natural reproduction? If it does, it is not sustainable.

The wind that blew upon our faces today, will do the same tomorrow. Harness that energy. The sun that shines upon us every day will shine again tomorrow. Harness that energy. New innovations in solar technology are taking place literally every day. Who knows? Maybe one day we'll be driving on Solar Roadways™... hopefully.

Practical exercise:

Try to recognize some of the sources of energy you use and try to determine if they are renewable sources. Again, keep track of this process in a notebook for future reference. Try to recognize some of the less obvious renewable resources. Think of ways you can harness the energy from those sources on your own property and in your own life whether it be purchasing food and goods from local sources or putting up a windmill.

Further reading: