|Posted by Carolus Magnus|
I have his book ''How to grow more vegetables'' its very good though I've yet to put it into practice due to lack of land though that should be rectified within the year. It's definitely worth a look for anyone interested in growing their own food.
|QUOTE (Pilgrimage of Grace @ Aug 4 2007, 05:36 PM)|
|I have a couple by John Seymour. Anything by him is highly recommended and I think the League for the Kingship of Christ have one or two titles of his available.|
|Posted by Pilgrimage of Grace|
There are quite a few good self-help books available for returning to a more natural, healthy way of life, even if not fully rural.
I have a couple by John Seymour. Anything by him is highly recommended and I think the League for the Kingship of Christ have one or two titles of his available.
Even renting an allotment, if possible, is a start. Or window boxes for some veg on a balcony!
|The life and work of a true visionary who died a year ago, on 14th September 2004.|
JOHN SEYMOUR FIRST burst into my life in 1973, when the thunderclouds of the oil crisis and the miners' strike were hanging heavily over Britain. As regular blackouts darkened living rooms, and as petrol queues stretched across the urban landscape, John merrily raised his voice to sing the praises of the good life, away from it all. Give up fossil fuels! Everybody back to the land!
John could be described as a one-man rebellion against modernism. Harbouring profound doubts about the world of cities, cars and consumerism, he wanted to know what kind of existence people are best suited to. After studying the great diversity of human lifestyles for many decades, his uncompromising answer was: people should try to live close to nature, and they should seek to be self-reliant in food as well as entertainment. John was a profound thinker, but he was much happier working in his garden and dancing a jig on a table in an Irish pub than giving a worthy speech in a crowded lecture theatre.
John was best known as the author of The Complete Book Of Self-Sufficiency, which sold millions of copies in twenty languages. First published in 1976, it helped to launch a new social movement - encouraging disillusioned city dwellers to pack their bags and seek a more wholesome rural existence. For the last thirty years it has had an enduring appeal to all those who wanted to learn about growing their own vegetables, making cheese and jam, and curing bacon. It was republished just before John died, with the subtitle The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers.
But John insisted that living off the land should not just be a self-interested pursuit. He summarised his philosophy in the introduction of another book, The Lore of the Land: "According to the book of Genesis, God put the Man and the Woman in the Garden to 'dress it and keep it'. Whether we look upon Genesis as divinely inspired or not, it is obvious that we should do just this. We should hand the land on to the next trustee better, more fruitful, more beautiful, and richer in living creatures than it was when we took it over."
In all, John wrote forty-one books, and many articles in Resurgence, covering travel, rural crafts, gardening and environmental philosophy, but his abiding mission was to preach the gospel of self-sufficiency. It was a theme that first came to him as a young man, when his family moved from Hampstead, north London, where he was born, to Frinton-on-Sea in Essex. There, he experienced a wondrous and colourful world of people farming with shire horses, tending their cottage gardens and catching herrings and salmon in small boats. This vision of a life close to nature would stay with him for the rest of his days.
John's mother was an American of Welsh extraction - perhaps why one of his earliest dreams was to become a cowboy. A career in his stepfather's chewing-gum business held no interest for John. Instead, he decided to study agriculture at Wye College, Kent, after which, at the age of twenty, he went to South Africa under the auspices of the Settlers' Memorial Association.
He soon found a job on a farm with 200,000 sheep. When he got the manager's position on a farm farther north, he chose to spend much time with bushmen, whose assured hunter-gatherer lifestyle in a semi-desert environment deeply impressed him and profoundly influenced his thinking. John came to realise that much of human culture is an ancient inheritance, and not primarily the product of urban progress.
One of John's friends was a bushman called Joseph: "What I learned from Joseph was to have great respect for nature. They treated the other animals of the soil community as equals… Killing for killing's sake was inconceivable to him. Joseph respected the animal he killed out of necessity. His relatives danced at night, by firelight, closely imitating the animals they hunted by day. Joseph's ancestors depicted these same animals, often being hunted, on the walls of caves all over Africa. Modern bushmen no longer do this because they have been driven into country where there are no caves - no rocks."
During the Second World War, John saw service in Ethopia against the Italians, and in Burma he took part in ferocious fighting against the Japanese. But at the end of the war he was moved to outrage when he heard the news of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima: "I was disgusted about it. Bombing civilians, women and little children. I cannot forgive the Allies for it. I thought it was a sordid, low-down thing to do and I've never got over it". After returning to England in 1945, he decided to travel overland from Europe to India for the BBC. On this epic journey he experienced a vast variety of ancient cultures still dominated by peasant farming and herding. Back in the UK, he was still in explorer mode, working for a time on one of the last sailing barges on the east and south coasts captained by Bob Roberts. From him he learned many sailors' songs, and, later in life, loved reciting them around campfires and at rowdy parties.
In the late 1950s, John and his wife Sally and their three daughters moved to five acres of land near Woodbridge, in Suffolk. In BBC radio programmes, and in such books as The Fat of the Land, he explored the concept of self-sufficiency, which he saw as an antidote to the emerging dependence culture that robbed people of dignity and self-respect. He wanted people to declare their independence from industrial society, emphasising that there was more, much more, to life than a nine-to-five desk job.
None the less, although John was not fond of urban life, some of his best friends, among them the poet William Empson, were city-dwellers, and he was thus at the heart of many a London party, and loved a lavish Chinese meal in Gerrard Street. In London's West End he certainly stood out in his tweed jacket with its red Indian handkerchief, corduroy trousers and brown leather brogues.
In the 1970s John and his family moved to a farm in Pembrokeshire, west Wales. When The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency started rolling off the press in huge numbers, readers began streaming to his farm, which he called The Centre for Living. All were given a meal and a bed, sometimes in the hay barn. The royalties from the book were spent as quickly as they accrued - on hospitality, on rebuilding the barn after it was burned down by careless guests, and on repairing farm equipment damaged by clumsy visitors. Yet in the middle of this turmoil John kept on writing, producing on average two books a year. He started speaking at conferences with other visionary thinkers such as Leopold Kohr and E. F. Schumacher who pioneered the 'Small is Beautiful' concept to which he subscribed with great fervour.
In the mid-1980s, John and I spent three years making the BBC series and co-authoring the book Far From Paradise, on the history of human impact on the environment. This project took us to many parts of the world - the remnants of the ancient city of Ur and the salty wastes of Mesopotamia, the last remaining villages in Europe where people still farmed without tractors, the acid-rain-damaged forests of Germany, the eroding farmlands of Kansas and the skyscrapers of Manhattan. The first-hand evidence we collected of the ever-increasing impact of an industrialising, urbanising humanity on its host planet was a shocking experience for us both.
To cheer ourselves up, we co-authored Blueprint for a Green Planet in 1987, one of the first books emphasising personal responsibility for countering environmental destruction through green consumerism. We argued that people would start making different choices once they were better informed about the environmental impact of a badly insulated house, a packet of washing powder, or a humble hamburger. Sadly, the publishers refused to include our final chapter, which linked personal decisions and the need for collective action.
In the last eighteen years John continued to write books celebrating all aspects of rural life. For most of his last two decades, he lived in County Wexford, Ireland, and ran the School for Self-Sufficiency. Participants came from all over the world wanting to meet 'Mr Self-Sufficiency'. Evenings were for storytelling, playing the harmonica and singing sailors' songs - John had the extraordinary memory of a man who refused to clutter his mind with television programmes, even if he loved presenting them.
In Ireland John made many friends. He sang the praises of the Emerald Isle and was distressed about the impact of the European Union on its rural culture. He never shied away from speaking out and taking action against the things he believed were wrong. In 1999 he joined with a group of activists who destroyed genetically "mutilated" sugar beet planted by Monsanto. The resulting court case achieved wide publicity and did much to alert public opinion to the dangers of uncontrolled technology and "irresponsible multi-national corporations".
In the last eighteen months of his life, John was back on his beloved Pembrokeshire farm with his daughter Ann, telling stories to his grandchildren and writing rhyming poetry, with an acerbic wit that was his last weapon against what he saw as our destructive era. John's primary concern was that we should not readily give up a world that had been so long in the making - a world of hunter-gatherers, small-scale farmers, herders, sailors and foresters. Should we not think twice before we launch headlong into a plastic, fossil-fuel-powered, environmentally destructive age?
John was as much at home in the humblest house on a hillside as in the manor house of landed gentry. He was like a force of nature, always willing to listen, always interested in learning about new - or very old - ways of working the land. John wrote: "I am only one. I can only do what one can do. But what one can do, I will do!"
Herbert Girardet is author and co-author of nine books, most recently Cities, People, Planet.
|In 1976 The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency was published, a guide for real and dreaming downshifters. Published shortly after E. F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful - a study of economics as if people mattered (1973) and, more mundanely, The Good Life's first showing on British television (1975), the sales of the new book exceeded all expectations. It was also set to establish the reputation of two young publishers, Christopher Dorling and Peter Kindersley who had commissioned and edited the work.|
|Posted by Clare|
I hope he is/was Catholic.
|Posted by Clare|
I really think it'd be dangerously indifferentist to be taking gardening tips from a non-Catholic. They've nothing to teach us! It's the Sillon all over again! :wh: ;)
|Honeybees may be wiped out in 10 years|
By Jasper Copping
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 20/01/2008
Honeybees will die out in Britain within a decade as virulent diseases and parasites spread through the nation's hives, experts have warned.
Whole colonies of bees are already being wiped out, with current methods of pest control unable to stop the problem.
The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) said that if the crisis continued, honeybees would disappear completely from Britain by 2018, causing "calamitous" economic and environmental problems.
It called on the Government to restart shelved research programmes and to fund new ones to try to save the insects.
Tim Lovett, the association's president, said: "The situation has become insupportable and the Government is unwilling to take steps to avoid disaster.
"We're increasingly unable to cope with threats as they arise. No bees means a huge cost to agriculture, without touching on the ecological and environmental issues. We're facing calamitous results."
Last year, more than 11 per cent of all beehives inspected were wiped out, although losses were higher in some areas.
In London, about 4,000 hives - two-thirds of the bee colonies in the capital - were estimated to have died over last winter. Of the eight colonies inspected so far this year, all have been wiped out.
The losses are being blamed on Colony Collapse Disorder, a disease that has severely affected bee populations in America and Europe, and a resistant form of Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite that affects bees.
The decline in honeybees is risking the sustainability of home-grown food. They pollinate more than 90 of the flowering crops we rely on for food. They are estimated to contribute more than £1 billion a year to the national economy yet the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), spends an average of only £200,000 a year on research to protect them.
The BBKA will this week launch a campaign aimed at forcing ministers to take the plight of the bee more seriously, and to spend the £8 million over the next five years which it believes is essential to guarantee its survival.
At their annual meeting held earlier this month, the association's 11,200 members voted unanimously to condemn the Government's position.
At a showdown meeting, between Lord Rooker, the farming minister, and the BBKA last month, the minister refused to increase the spending, even though in November, he appeared to admit the severity of the threat, when he said: "If we do not do anything, the chances are that in 10 years' time we will not have any honeybees."
Mr Lovett added: "Defra has been alerted, but chooses to take no action. If nothing happens, we may not even have to wait 10 years."
Professor Francis Ratniek, a bee expert at Sheffield University, said: "If there was to be a bee collapse the effect on Britain would be huge.
"In Britain we haven't had our fair share of bee research funds and research into bee disease has decreased just as the threat to colonies is increasing. A complete die-off is a worst case scenario."
|Bee decline threatens our dinner and the countryside|
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 03/08/2007
Bees are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. This could not only have a devastating impact on our food supplies, but could also turn our brightly-coloured meadows into grey hinterlands. Jimmy Lee Shreeve reports
"This year, right now, it feels very bleak," said Ben Darvill, a conservation researcher at the University of Stirling and co-founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. He was talking about the serious decline in bees over recent years, which is now coming to a head, what with large and unprecedented losses of bees in Europe, the US and other parts of the world.
"It's urgent and we need to do something about it now," he continued. "But all too often people notice the importance of something when it's not there - when it's too late."
Before speaking to Darvill I'd been sitting outside on my homemade garden bench having an early lunch, bees buzzing merrily all around me. What with its long grasses and wildflowers my garden is something of a haven for bees and other insects.
If I'm honest they benefit from my laziness. I rarely mow the lawns and allow weeds and whatever seeds the birds and breeze bring in to grow as nature intended - with wild abandon.
But as Darvill told me about the plight of our bees I realised with a shudder that many of the things we take for granted - the colourful blazes of wildflowers in our meadows, even much of the food on our plates - would not be around if it wasn't for them.
It's easy to forget that bees don't just make honey; they pollinate more than 90 of the flowering crops we rely on for food. Among them: apples, nuts, pears, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, tomatoes, sunflowers and cucumbers. Along with citrus fruit, peaches, kiwis, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and melons.
Crops like oilseed rape (increasingly used in biofuels), alfalfa, peas, runner beans and broadbeans also rely on visits by bees and other pollinating insects to improve the quality and quantity of fruits and seeds produced.
It's hard to believe that one small creature can be so important to our food supply. But as Brian Latham, chair of the Leeds Beekeepers Association, points out: we've become almost terminally disconnected from the natural world we live in and how it feeds us.
"We get our food from supermarkets and think little more about it," he says. "Very few of us are as aware as our grandparents were of the connection between what's on our dinner plates and the intricate workings of nature."
Albert Einstein was well aware of this connection. When it came to bees, he put it in no uncertain terms: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
Chillingly, more and more bees are disappearing off the face of the Earth. In some areas of the UK honeybee numbers have dropped by as much as 80 per cent, while bumblebees across the country have declined by 60 per cent since 1970.
In both cases this is largely due to loss of wild habitats, intensive farming and overuse of pesticides and herbicides. The simple truth is that bees need flowers, and there are very few flowers to be found in the farmed countryside these days.
In the USA, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) - where whole colonies disappear or die - has caused a devastating loss of honeybees. Since it broke out last autumn, declines of between 30 per cent and 90 per cent of honeybee populations in at least 27 states have been recorded. There have also been reports of CCD in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.
One beekeeper in London found over half of his hives mysteriously abandoned, leading many to speculate that CCD has broken out here. But the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is adamant it is not occurring in Britain.
Echoing the concerns of beekeepers across the country, Tim Lovett, chairman of the British Beekeepers Association, warns that it would be "foolhardy in the extreme" for the government to ignore the possible emergence of CCD in Britain.
Currently scientists are stumped as to the cause of CCD. Various theories have been put forward - from a parasite like the Varroa mite (which wreaked havoc on bee populations through the 1990s) to the impulses from mobile phones scrambling bee signals. But none have yet stuck.
Even if CCD hasn't arrived in Britain, the fact is, our bees are under a severe enough threat as it is. Three of the UK's 25 species of bumblebee, for example, are already extinct. If something isn't done soon, say researchers, more will suffer the same fate.
And in a study last year, scientists examined hundreds of wildflower sites in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands. They found the diversity of bees in 80 per cent of the sites had markedly dropped over the past 25 years. The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Science, also noted that the wildflowers which rely on specialist species of bees for pollination had also declined - suggesting that the bees and wildflowers were in a vicious cycle of decline.
"We were shocked by the decline in plants as well as bees," says Dr Koos Biesmeijer from the University of Leeds, lead author of the study. "If the pattern is replicated elsewhere, the pollination services we take for granted could be at risk, and with it the future of the plants we enjoy in the countryside."
Whatever the cause, adds Biesmeijer, the study raises the worrying possibility that declines in some species could trigger a "cascade of local extinctions amongst associated species". In other words, the countryside as we know it could change beyond recognition - and all because we've taken our bees for granted.
"Without bees pollinating wildflowers, the wildflowers won't set any seeds," Darvill told me. "So over a period of years the countryside would shift from being dominated by flowering plants to being dominated by plants that don't require insect pollination."
The result? We would see a lot less colour and variety. Our meadows, for example, would be made up of grasses rather than an abundance of brightly coloured wildflowers. "I think the general public would be really struck by that," said Darvill.
During his research earlier this year, Darvill got a chilling preview of what could happen to our food supplies if the bee decline worsens. "Because of the mild winter the oil seed rape, peas and broad beans flowered a lot earlier than usual," he said.
"There were very few bees around at that stage - it was even too early for some queen bees. The colonies just hadn't got going."
When he returned to the fields later in the year he noticed that the flowers had dropped off without producing seed pods, as they would normally do. "They hadn't been pollinated," said Darvill, "and that gives us an insight into the state of affairs that could result if the decline in bees continues. You're going to have decreasing yields and more and more pea pods that have only got one pea in them."
Beekeepers and researchers alike are now talking about the "pollination crisis". Yet the government doesn't seem to recognise the potential consequences that could result from any further decline in our bees.
The economic contribution bees make to agriculture and horticulture in the UK is estimated to be £1 billion per year (globally it's thought to be between £20 billion and £50 billion). But Defra has slashed research budgets, resulting in world-class experts on bees being laid off from UK research institutes.
In June, the British Beekeepers Association set up an emergency meeting slamming Defra over the "paltry" £180,000 currently being allocated to bee research. John Howat, secretary of the Bee Farmers' Association, was quoted as saying: "Less than one percent of the hives' value to the economy is being spent on research and development. The government seems totally oblivious to the consequences of honeybees being wiped out."
Even more worryingly, this summer's floods and torrential rains could have made the bees' plight far worse. "A year like this will have a big effect - particularly on bumblebee populations," said Darvill.
"Bumblebees largely nest underground, so you can imagine the terrible effect the flooding and rains have had on their colonies. The fact is, a series of bad summers like this one could easily lead to further national extinctions."
Before I finished talking to Darvill he stressed that it is within the realms of possibility to slow down or even halt the bee decline. "Farmers can join environmental stewardship schemes and plant bee-friendly 'pollen and nectar' strips alongside hedgerows, the least profitable sections of their fields," he said.
"And people at home can help too, by joining the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and by cultivating their gardens with traditional cottage garden flowers such as Rosemary, Bluebells, Foxglove, Comfrey and Vipers Bugloss, which bees love. Britain's manicured gardens and lawns make up a virtual savannah across the length and breadth of country - but by planting the right flowers, our gardeners could do a huge amount to help restore bees' lost habitats."
Preserving Catholic Traditions for Tomorrow's Faithful
|Growing a Beautiful Edible Landscape in an Urban Neighborhood |
by Robert Waldrop
When people think about growing food in urban areas, the first idea is generally to hide the vegetable garden somewhere in the backyard, and all too often, that means "out of sight, out of mind". At my house Oklahoma City, this isn't an option, as the property has no back yard, so I had to figure out something else.
There are four major influences on my garden philosophy.
1. The Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, author of the One Straw Revolution, who first began to spread the word about "no till farming" in the 1970s. More information about the Fukuoka farming movement can be found on line at FukuokaFarmingol.net.
2. Permaculture, as presented by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, about which more will be said presently. For further information about permaculture, there are a number of links in the forest gardening section of my website page, www.bettertimes.info.org.
3. My belief in the importance of living lightly on the land comes from my religious faith which teaches me that it is my moral duty to be a responsible steward of earth's resources. The average urban landscape wastes a tremendous amount of water and uses incredible amounts of chemical fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and fossil fuels, and destroying the land is not a way to be a responsible steward. There has to be a better way, and that is what I am looking for.
4. I am a fourth generation Oklahoman who grew up on a farm, and from my earliest years I learned to appreciate the goodness of food that is grown close to home. The wisdom of our Oklahoma ancestors remains as important and relevant today as it was during the Depression. Growing food is a way to both create wealth and conserve resources, while at the same time adding greatly to the quality of one's life.
I began my project with a standard American city lot in the Gatewood neighborhood of Oklahoma City, an area that was developed in the 1920s. When I bought the property, there were 2 large mature elm trees (on either side of the driveway), a mature pecan tree, and patches of daylilies, mints, lemon balm, and garlic chives. The rest of the property not occupied by buildings, sidewalks, or driveway was bermuda grass lawn. Over the last 3 going on 4 years, I have gradually changed the landscaping to the point that last summer I had over 100 different varieties of useful or edible plants growing, 2/3rds of them perennials.
I am not a trained landscaper nor do I have long experience with designing edible landscapes. I am basically making this up as I go along, and I am always learning new things, by studying available materials, by applying basic principles, and also by making mistakes and successes. There is nothing quite like putting plants and seeds into the ground to teach a person important lessons.
Remember the old story about the way to boil a frog is to simply increase the heat very slowly so that he doesn't notice he's about to become soup? This is the way our food system has deteriorated, one little step at a time our sensibilities have become so degraded that we actually will pay money for a tasteless, watery supermarket tomato that was picked green, shipped thousands of miles and than gassed to turn red. Unfortunately, the gas doesn't do anything for the taste.
To get away from this, one solution is for me to grow more food myself, to create wealth from my labor, the soil, and plants.
So I think about a forest. We can easily find 7 different layers: (1) mature canopy trees, (2) under story trees, (3) shrubs and bushes, (4) ground covers, (5) climbing vines, (6) roots, and (7) herbs and smaller plants. There is also a much less visible "layer" (or perhaps population would be a better word) of micro flora and fauna, busily at work, as well as insects, worms, and other wildlife, all of which contributes to the greater whole around them.
My lot, which measures about 220' by 85' and has a house, duplex, and detached garage on it, is not big enough for a lot of mature canopy trees. The two mature elms I started with were taken down by ice storms over the last 3 years. I do have one mature pecan tree in back, but my neighbors across the street have mature trees. The closest thing in nature that I can think of to describe my situation is "forest edge", the place where the trees thin out and become prairie. Lots of light, yet some dappled shade here and there.
For under story trees I am planting semi dwarf fruit trees. I expect to add another 4 trees or so (I have been having failures 2 years in a row in getting apricot trees to start, I would like 2 apricot trees and 2 sour cherry trees).
I have a number of shrubs and bushes and plans to add more. Currently I have Oregon grape, blackberries, bush cherries, elderberries, clove currants, high bush cranberry, and aronia. As you can see from the map and key I have passed around, I have lots of different kinds of smaller plants and herbs, many perennial, some annual. Ground covers include the chocolate and lemon mints, plus I have planted clover and vetch everywhere as cover crops. Climbing vines include grapes and luffas, dewberries, boysenberries, and I plan to add passion flower. Roots include onions, shallots, day lilies, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
How do you put something like this together? One plant at a time, of course, but there are some basic principles to keep in mind. I'll list 15 of them here. Most of them are derived from lists that can be found in most texts on permaculture and natural farming, plus my own personal experiences.
"Gardener, know thy land," would be the gardening equivalent of "Physician, heal thyself." You can learn a lot by simply looking at your land, whether it be great or small. Consider my little place, 225' by 85'. You wouldn't think a little patch like that would have many microclimates but it does. I have cold spots and warm spots, some places are dry and others wet. I'm still learning, and I'm also still impacting this land so things change. If I plant a tree in a spot, it will change that place. Sometimes the change is good, sometimes not. I've already decided I need to move some things around. And when I do that, I am liable to have to change some others. Eventually I'll get it right, but in the meantime, before you start, you have to spend some time simply observing the land.
Observation also includes yourself as the garden designer, the others who live on the land, and the community in which the land is located. All of this impacts your design. If you think about the whole field of landscape design, it's easy to see there are many schools and many possible ideas for design principles. For example, a formal garden would be absolutely symmetrical, balanced, lots of straight edges and if there are curves, they are perfect. A more natural garden would not be so symmetrical, there wouldn't be many straight edges and curves might take many shapes. Between these two poles there are many options. So spend some time also observing yourself and your community.
2. Multiple uses
Black-eyed peas, besides providing food, also fix nitrogen in the soil and provide mulch. Logs used as landscape elements provide (1) habitat and food for worms and other little critters, (2) places for humans to sit, (3) cat petting perches, (4) are aesthetically pleasing to look at, and (5) potentially could grow mushrooms. Not a bad deal for something that a lot of people would just throw away. Edible flowers provide (1) beauty, (2) are very tasty to eat, and (3) they attract bees and beneficial insects. The vines on the trellis (1) yield grapes (wine & jam), (2) leaves (mulch and stuffed grape leaves), (3) provide shade. Mulch (1) moderates the temperatures of the ground, (2) helps control weeds, (3) encourages earthworms, and (4) composts in place, thus feeding soil flora and fauna and the plants Also not bad for something that many people put in plastic bags and bury in holes in the ground. There's lots that has to be done even in a small garden ecosystem, and it's better for the plants to do their job than for the gardener to rush around doing backbreaking labor and spending piles of cash to make up for the lack of a functioning ecosystem in the garden.
3. Relative location
Everything has its place, and everything is in its space, so to speak, but everything in the garden is also related and if you ignore the way plants interact with each other and the environment, you're just making extra work for yourself. If you look at nature, nothing grows in isolation, and generally also not in monocultures. Rather, plants exist in communities. You have mature trees, under story trees, climbing vines, herbs, and etc all growing together, mutually supporting each other.
Permaculturists talk about plant guilds in the same way that vegetable gardeners talk about companion planting. For example, a plant guild centered on a fruit tree would want plants that are nutrient accumulators, nitrogen fixers, mulch producers, bee plants, pest repellants and ground covers, while at the same time producing useful products. Everything has places in the garden where it will do well, and where it will do not so well. The trick is to find good places for everything so they are able to do their work as plants, thus taking a load off the gardener's back.
4. Each important function is supported by many elements
If it's important, one cannot afford a failure. So rather than planting one kind of lettuce, I planted 8. Nitrogen fixing is important, as this is an all organic process, so I have planted 2 kinds of clover (a white clover and crimson clover), vetch, black-eyed peas, and a redbud tree.
Diversity is critical, and if you don't believe that is true, look what happened in Ireland due to the potato blight. How many millions starved or immigrated because one plant failed? Natural systems are characterized by a diversity of species of flora and fauna, and so must be the edible landscape. If you come to my house for a salad in summer, it will have maybe 15 different items. Imagine what an upscale restaurant would charge for such a plate. I think that ultimately we will have more than 200 different varieties of useful or edible plants growing on our little land, but it will take a few more years to get there.
5. Planning for energy efficiency
This is less about "miles per gallon" and more about "work for the gardener", although this does have implications for fossil fuel consumption. Food grown close to home does not embody much in the way of fossil fuel, but every calorie of agribizness food you buy has at least 7 and sometimes as many as 12 calories of fossil fuels.
It is better to frontload some work at the beginning, as you are setting things up, so you have less to do later. And the best kind of frontloaded work of course is intelligent design so you don't waste time, money, effort, or resources, while at the same time achieving a sustainable yield that can be harvested for the benefit of you and your family.
Once you plant an apple tree, you don't have to plant it again next year. I don't till any of my garden beds once I have them made, and I make them without tilling or even removing the sod. Every bit of soil is mulched. I recently made a detailed inspection of the garden, and found that every single bed was loaded with earthworms and night crawlers. The first year I bought a 5 gallon bucket of worms and released them onto the first beds I made, they have obviously multiplied. (I have also released some night crawlers that my various roommates have bought for use as fishing bait. Whenever I find such a container in the fridge, I release them in the garden.)
One application of energy efficiency in the garden is the use of zones to plan the garden. Zone 0 is the habitation of the human persons who live on the land, zone 1 being high maintenance plants that are visited often, zone 2 is perennial but cultivated plants like berry bushes and fruit trees that aren't visited so often. Zone 3 is orchards, pasture, animal areas, zone 4 is semi managed, semi wild areas for gathering, and zone 5 is wild unmanaged area. In an urban setting, all that most people will have room to implement is generally zones 0 through 2. My kitchen is at the back of the duplex (which is no longer a duplex, I have converted it to single family use), so the herbs, greens, and salads are within a few steps of the back door or across the driveway. Berries and fruit trees are further out. They require less maintenance, but the greens and herbs are visited virtually every day, so it makes sense to put them close at hand.
6. Use biological resources, minimize inputs
I use no commercial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides, although the bermuda problem has sorely tempted me. I make a lot of compost and use it, and also have encouraged worms and other beneficial insects. This last year there were lots of lace wings, lady bugs, and praying manti in the garden. I am not self sufficient in terms of avoiding all inputs from outside of my garden, I bring home bags of grass clippings, leaves, and wilted flowers from my church for the compost pile, but I think that eventually I will be able to close that cycle. To border the beds, I used logs from the elm trees on my property. Some of the mulch and compost was made from the shredded small limbs of the trees taken down by the ice storm.
One thing I have failed at for three years is growing squash and pumpkins, due to problems with squash bugs and cucumber beetles. This year I am planting buffalo gourds among the squash, as there are anecdotes that it will repel squash bugs and cucumber beetles. This is a potential biological solution that will not require the use of poisonous pesticides.
There is no necessity that requires the use of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. Pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers come into play when humans have failed by destroying an ecosystem or by not creating an effectively working ecosystem (or by failing in adapting or evolving an existing system). It makes simply no sense to destroy the soil that is designed to nourish plants, but that's the basis of much gardening these days.
7. Energy cycling
The way we live is filled with energy sinks. We spend piles of money to heat water and then throw all that heat away by draining the hot water into a cold sewer in the ground, without even trying to at least recover the useful heat, not to mention reuse the water. Many such examples of flagrant waste and energy gluttony could be cited. We should remember what our grandparents told us: WASTE NOT, WANT NOT.
One way to waste not want not in gardening is to make your own compost. Food scraps, garden waste, newspaper and etc are recycled into useful compost via natural processes. If not composted, they are typically thrown in the trash and buried in a landfill or washed down a sewer via a "disposal". Kitchen disposal's should be renamed as "money shredders" or "wealth wasters" because that's what they are.
Natural forests and prairies do not waste energy in this matter. Everything is recycled. The more your garden does this, the less work you have to do, the healthier the garden will be, and the more bountiful will be the harvest.
We are also investing in super insulation for the house, as we do not use air conditioning. In the summer we open doors and windows and use fans to pull air in and out of the house. We also put a trellis along the western wall so that now the west windows are shaded in the summer with grapevines and mulberry bushes. We have made window quilts to use during the winter inside to help hold heat in at night.
8. Work with natural forces, not against them
In nature, if a piece of earth is laid bare, plants rush in to heal the breach. First come what we generally call weeds, then bushes and then trees. This is the principle of natural succession. In an edible gardening landscape, you help this process along by substituting useful or edible plants for volunteers.
Much gardening and landscaping these days is a matter of working against, not with, nature. From this attitude of opposition and dominance comes our heavy reliance on commercial fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. We kill the natural fertility with poisons and chemicals, and then we try to grow plants in a dead growing medium by substituting artificial fertilizers for the complex natural system that has worked pretty well for several hundred million years.
But even if we avoid chemical traps, there's still plenty of ways we can work against, rather than with nature. In the first year I planted currants I bought from an out of state nursery catalog, and they fried in the summer. The second year I bought clove currants, an Oklahoma native, from an Oklahoma nursery, and planted them so they got some shade in the hot afternoon sun and they have thrived. The first year I worked against the natural forces, the second I worked with them.
People often come by and want to help, and generally, the first thing they want to do is reach down and pluck up a dandelion (dandelions generally grow in just about every bed on my property). This is such a problem I am thinking about putting small signs here and there amongst my beds, "Please don't pluck the dandelions." Dandelions are incredibly useful. Their long taproot brings up trace nutrients from down deep, they contribute to mulch, and all parts of them are edible. Not to mention how pretty their yellow blossoms looks. Pulling them is working against nature. It is better to let them alone, and enjoy their beauty and usefulness, and let them do their job, thus working with nature.
Another way to work with nature is to create polycultures of annual and perennial plants. I have no garden beds devoted to just one plant, all of them have a variety. My garden will always require some "cultivation", but it will never require e.g. tilling, or excessive amounts of watering or poisons.
Perhaps the most important thing is to pay attention to the soil. Much of what we do in gardens, such as tilling, and using pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers, is harmful to the long term health of the soil. Herbicides and pesticides destroy the micro flora and fauna that are essential to healthy soil. With lots of earth worms, you won't need to till. It is better to let the worms do their job rather than a human try to do a worm's job with backbreaking labor.
9. Optimize edge
I think of my project as a "forest edge" garden, such as might be found at the point that a mature forest evolves into a prairie. In ecology, it is evident that such "edges" between ecosystems tend to be more productive and diverse than the systems that are merging. So edges are good, and that is true of both the garden as a whole and its various parts. One advantage of a curved line over a straight line in a garden is that more plants can grow along curve than a straight line.
10. Use natural patterns
Nature doesn't have a lot of straight lines and square edges, and neither does my garden. All of my beds are irregular shapes. One element I intend to add this year are spirals, which are small mounds with plants spiraling up them to the top. One thing that makes vegetable gardens not generally considered to be front yard material is that they are all straight rows. But my cabbages and broccoli and etc are scattered among everything else, so even though they are very useful and edible, they also look good.
11. Optimum size
Permaculturists generally speak of small systems, and that is the scale that most gardeners work at. We would like to have a farm some day, where we would grow food for distribution to the poor. In the meantime, I think it is important to learn what to do with what I have before me. If I can learn this 225' x 85' bit of land well, then later if I do get more land I might have some idea as to what to do with it.
Appropriate size is a consideration when you are putting things together in the garden. There are lots of details. A garden bed should be about twice the width the gardener can reach, that way the center can be reached from both sides. Pathways should be wide enough to get a wheelbarrow down them, but no wider than is necessary. Etc.
12. Start small
The first year I did only 3 beds, less than 100 square feet total. The second year I added more, the third year we got to the present place, and this year I will be adding more beds. It won't be until the fifth year that all of the lawn is disappeared. Actually, the very first thing I did was make a compost pile. "We start small or we don't start at all," is good advice for beginning edible landscapers. Be willing to accept small harvests at first, as an edible landscape will take time to develop its harvest.
13. Work smart and minimize backbreaking labor
It's important to think things through and pay attention to details. To illustrate this, let me describe one of my major mistakes. I made my garden beds by first putting down a layer of mulch, then two layers of brown cardboard, more mulch, and then some topsoil mined from elsewhere on my property. Then I planted into that surface and covered with more mulch.
The big mistake I made was to not at the same time mulch the paths. Who knows what I was thinking of, but that one mistake has caused me a lot of extra labor which is just now getting under control. So from the beginning, mulch the paths as well as the beds, assuming you are building your project on top of garden sod. This is called "sheet mulching." I do not remove the sod at first as that is the most biologically active layer of soil. It will compost in place and thus be very useful. Instead of mulching the paths, you could take the sod off of them, compost it, and return it to the tops of the beds, but that is more work the first year.
14. Use color effectively
We are talking about edible landscaping in an urban area here, so it's important to use color effectively. This is something I am still experimenting with, but useful and edible plants are also colorful and beautiful and the colors can be combined very effectively to create incredible displays. The first year that I used crimson clover as a cover crop brought a nice surprise, in early spring, my yard and garden beds were covered with beautiful crimson flowers. People driving by would stop and ask, "What is that growing there on your yard?" Many plants generally considered to be ornamentals are also edible, this is especially true of flowers. Every part of the day lily plant is edible - flowers, roots, and leaves. Rose petals are edible as are the hips (which are a major source of vitamin C), as are Rose of Sharon flowers and red bud flowers (also the seeds may be ground for flower). Rye can be as beautiful as ornamental grasses. Purple coneflowers besides being beautiful are also an important medicine plant.
Winter color can also be found among the edibles. Right now (January 2003) I have beautiful kale plants, purple, pink, and green. Every time I chop a head to eat, they grow back in pairs, so I have some plants with 4 heads on them. Arugula (a self seeding annual salad crop) is still green, as is salad burnet and french sorrel, and of course the sage. Oregon grapes, besides producing an edible berry, also have glorious copper colored foliage. Rue is a nice silver green that is still bright in the winter. For Thanksgiving I made a table decoration with branches of tarragon, rue, Oregon grape, horehound, and arugula, and sprinkled bright red rose hips. And of course, the vetch and clovers are growing all winter long. The lemon and chocolate mints are still green and thriving, even after snow. And even though I don't think we consider broccoli a winter crop, I have several broccoli plants that are still thriving, and producing heads even though I have cut them regularly. Silver beet is another colorful plant that survives into winter, and as an edible it is a "cut and come again" staple.
Fall and spring color are also found among the edibles. In spring there are blossoms on the fruit trees and berry plants, and I highly recommend the sand plums for beautiful orange and red fall foliage, as well as the interesting shapes in which they grow
Many wildflowers are also edible or medicinal or produce dyes, and many of them that are suitable for this area are also local natives. Another show stopper is the maximilian sunflower, which produces multi branched plants covered with yellow blossoms.
15. Plug the gaps and fill the layers
When I pulled the shallots, garlic, and multiplying onions in June, I filled in the gaps with black-eyed peas. If anything failed, I put something else in its place. Keep the mulch intact and add as necessary. Mulch is really important both for soil conditioning and weed control.
Don't hesitate to scatter some seeds at random and see what happens. I did several beds of a salad polyculture with 8 different kinds of lettuce, plus buckwheat, radishes, ground cherries, and tomatoes. Except for the tomatoes, all the others were sown by simply broadcasting and then raking/mulching. I let some of everything go to seed, and I have a nice little January crop of baby greens under the mulch.
"Fill the layers" refers to the seven niches of a forest garden (mature trees, under story trees, etc). Each niche, except perhaps for the first "mature canopy trees" (this depends on the size of the lot) should have several elements in it. I don't have room for more than one mature canopy tree, but my neighbors have them.
16. Use decorations appropriately and outline boundaries
Some folks like lawn decorations, others don't, I do. No, I don't have any pink flamingos, but we're making some miniature wooden "oil derricks" which will substitute for tomato cages, and also provide supports for both peas and hops. Other possibilities include gazebos, trellises, arches, and windmills.
When I made my first beds, I thought, "Hmmm, this looks a bit ugly." But then I outlined them with logs, and that made all the difference in the world. Proper treatment of boundaries is important for most neighborhood aesthetics.
So these are some of the facets of my garden design project. The important thing is to get started, if you wait until you know everything about gardening, you will harvest even one tomato. You can always build a compost pile, and once you get that going, you can try sheet mulching an area and making a couple of beds.
Don't think that you have to draw everything out on paper first. If you can do that, that's fine, but I'm not really talented or experienced with that so I haven't done it. I get a general idea in my head as to where I want to go, and then I do a little at a time, always looking at it to see if it looks different and adjusting as necessary. Zoning your garden space is one of the more important design principles, and the best place to start is literally on your doorstep.
One final point. Don't be in a hurry. Growing a healthy, attractive, and productive edible landscape doesn't happen overnight, even if you have a lot of money to throw at a situation. But patience, coupled with love, intelligent design, and good work can create for you, your family, and for those who will come after you, a beautiful and abundant garden.
Eleison Comments LXIV
Over the last few years I have advised several owners of a house with a yard or garden to pull up the rose-bushes and plant potatoes. Some of them must have wondered what on earth I was talking about. With the collapse of Wall Street and finance capitalism now well on its way, they may understand better.
It is the last Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the banksters’ puppet at the head of the banksters’own Sesame Cave who for several years promoted, pushed and protected those financial instruments known as “derivatives” which the famed American investor Warren Buffett denounced prophetically soon after they appeared as “weapons of mass financial destruction.” In other words the banksters themselves put in place the rolling rock to let loose the avalanche.
“Free enterprise” means in effect survival of the fittest, with freedom for the stronger to eat up the weaker, until takeovers and mergers make enterprises so massive that they become too big to fail. Then, by capitalism’s internal contradiction, the failing enterprises that used to scream for the government not to intervene, now scream for it to intervene, and we see, for instance, the US government nationalising Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (Sept. 13), AIG, etc. Thus capitalism and socialism that always pretended to be enemies suddenly discover they are friends, while the banksters’ globalism is waiting in the wings to swallow up both of them.
So what is the solution to the grand problem of the false split between capitalism and socialism? Many serious and honest non-Catholics recognize it is to be found in Pope Leo XIII’s famed Encyclical of 1891, “Rerum Novarum”. That solution is the Gospel. Yes, both capitalism and socialism are problems ultimately religious!
And what is the solution to the immediate problem of rising food prices and imminent war (classic solution for capitalism’s problems)? See the article on “Guerrilla Gardening” in the August 25 edition of the admirable “American Free Press” – dig up the lawn and plant potatoes. Kyrie eleison.
La Reja, Argentina
Posted by Bishop Richard Williamson
|The Vegetable Gardeners of Havana |
Climate change, drought, population growth - they could all threaten future food supplies. But global agriculture, with its dependence on fuel and fertilisers is also highly vulnerable to an oil shortage, as Cuba found out 20 years ago.
Around Cuba's capital Havana, it is quite remarkable how often you see a neatly tended plot of land right in the heart of the city.
Sometimes smack bang between tower block estates or next door to the crumbling colonial houses, fresh fruit and vegetables are growing in abundance.
Some of the plots are small - just a few rows of lettuces and radishes being grown in an old parking space.
Other plots are much larger - the size of several football pitches. Usually they have a stall next to them to sell the produce at relatively low prices to local people.
Twenty years ago, Cuban agriculture looked very different. Between 1960 and 1989, a national policy of intensive specialised agriculture radically transformed Cuban farming into high-input mono-culture in which tobacco, sugar, and other cash crops were grown on large state farms.
Cuba exchanged its abundant produce for cheap, imported subsidised oil from the old Eastern Bloc. In fact, oil was so cheap, Cuba pursued a highly industrialised fuel-thirsty form of agriculture - not so different from the kind of farming we see in much of the West today.
But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the oil supply rapidly dried up, and, almost overnight, Cuba faced a major food crisis. Already affected by a US trade embargo, Cuba by necessity had to go back to basics to survive - rediscovering low-input self-reliant farming.
With no petrol for tractors, oxen had to plough the land. With no oil-based fertilizers or pesticides, farmers had to turn to natural and organic replacements.
Today, about 300,000 oxen work on farms across the country and there are now more than 200 biological control centres which produce a whole host of biological agents in fungi, bacteria and beneficial insects.
Havana has almost 200 urban allotments - known as organiponicos - providing four million tons of vegetables every year - helping the country to become 90% self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables.
Alamo Organiponico is one of the larger co-operatives employing 170 people, which was built on a former rubbish-tip that produces 240 tons of vegetables a year.
There are a wide range of crops planted side by side and brightly coloured marigolds at the edges.
"We produce all different kinds of vegetables," says farmer Emilio Andres who is proud of the fact that his allotment feeds the local community.
"We sell to the people, the school, the hospital, also to the restaurant and the hotel too.
"It's important because it's grown in the city, it's fresh food for the people, it's healthy food, and it provides jobs for the people here too.
"We don't spray any chemicals. We only spray biological means like bastilos - a bacteria and fungus to kill the pests. And we use repellent plants like marigolds to keep away the pests.
"When I see all of these healthy crops, without too many pests, grown without any chemicals, it's amazing for me - I am making a contribution for the people that get healthy crops, healthy products."
The organiponico uses raised beds filled with about 50% high-quality organic material (such as manure), 25% composted waste such as rice husks and coffee bean shells, and 25% soil.
As well as marigolds, basil and neem trees are planted around the containers to keep the aphids and beetles at bay. Sunflowers and corn are also planted around the beds to attract beneficial insects such as lady bugs and lace wings. Sticky paper or plastic funnel-shaped bottles are positioned throughout the beds to trap harmful pests that do get into the garden.
And the methods work. Lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach herbs and many other crops are grown in huge quantities and sold cheaply. Mangoes are 2 pence (3 US cents) a pound. Black beans 15p (25 cents) and plantain, just 12p (20 cents).
At the time of the oil shock, average calorie consumption in Cuba dropped by a third to dangerously low levels. Since then they have bounced back and Cubans eat just a little less than people in the UK.
The biggest difference is that a Western diet includes about three times as much food energy from animal products like meat and dairy.
The Cuban diet is much less fatty and requires less fuel to produce. A far less varied diet than in the West, it is also much healthier. The standard lunch for the farm workers is black beans, potatoes and rice.
Cuban agricultural researcher, Fernando Funes reckons the rest of the world has something to learn from the Cuban agricultural story.
"Well, do you have oil forever? And there also other considerations like global warming, nature conservation... the conventional way of farming generates a lot of damage to the environment and to human health.
"Developed countries as well as developing countries should pay a lot of attention to this kind of agriculture which takes care of land, people, environment and is also efficient and productive. You can combine both."
Find out more on BBC Two's Future of Food, Mondays 17, 24 & 31 August, at 2100 BST. All three episodes will also be available in the UK on BBC iPlayer .
|QUOTE (Margaret Clitherow @ Apr 7 2011, 03:34 PM)|
|I've been making wines for a good few years now and no two lots are the same, even when the recipe is identical.|
|QUOTE (Oldavid @ Jul 26 2011, 03:31 PM)|
|Perhaps this has to do with the box of goodies and candles but we're here.|
I seriously think that if it all comes to the worst one should be trying to know how you can do with nothing.... rather than what you can get and save. Civil crisis invariably produces rampaging mobs (looters) with no respect for people or property. Even if you think you've provided for your necessities, chances are that it will be stolen from you with violence. Learn to do with nothing... guns... you can kill a few desperados with them but you and your family will still need to survive.
|QUOTE (Svelte Sven @ Jul 26 2011, 02:48 PM)|
|Thanks for the links SR. They look pretty useful.|
Do you eat your chickens? Are they a dual breed? Not sure whether to bother with birds for meat as there won't be room for many, though there's something in eating your own produce.
Sorry to hear about your crops. I imagine that the romance of living off the land soon turns to a bit of a stressful nightmare once one is truly living off the land and not helping himself to Tesco supplements.
|QUOTE (Silver Rose @ Jul 29 2011, 05:22 AM)|
| Thank you for reminding me of the mini birds,CC. :) If you're limited on space bantams are great. They may be small but they're very hardy. We have some that hatched last spring and they pretty much take care of themselves. The only downside to having bantams is that they multiply like rabbits and tend to sleep in the highest tree branches they can find. |
|QUOTE (Oldavid @ Jul 28 2011, 03:37 PM)|
I was about to mention that. :D
Around here everyone used to have a couple of bantams as brood mothers as they go clucky at the drop of a hat and make very fussy mother hens. The larger breeds are often clumsy and careless with chickens; particularly the loony egg-layers like leghorns.
|QUOTE (Silver Rose @ Jul 29 2011, 06:16 AM)|
|I hate Leghorns with a passion! I think they're the 2nd most hideous breed of chicken next to Turkens! Most of my herb garden was eaten by a Leghorn hen. :angry:|
|QUOTE (Clare @ Jul 29 2011, 05:47 PM)|
|:o Chicken racism!|
|QUOTE (Silver Rose @ Jul 28 2011, 11:16 PM)|
|I hate Leghorns with a passion! I think they're the 2nd most hideous breed of chicken next to Turkens! Most of my herb garden was eaten by a Leghorn hen. :angry:|