Archive for gardening

BOOK REVIEW: Introduction to Permaculture

Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison

Introduction to Permaculture

Introduction to Permaculture

This is pretty much the classic textbook on permaculture.  Don’t believe me?  What if I told you Mr. Mollison INVENTED the word permaculture to describe the multi-tiered growing system he developed on his Australian land.  Yep, that’s the guy.  And although he can be credited with this amazing feat, he doesn’t waste time with jargon in his book.  Instead, he gets right down to the business of how to most effectively plan land for both environmental and personal maintenance.

To describe it in brief, permaculture involves the integration of native plants and animals in a system that eliminated the need for additional inputs such as fertilizers and outputs such as yard waste. To see things from a permaculture perspective, a goat is no longer just a furry animal that makes funny noises, but rather a recycling and fertilizing machine, that, when properly utlilized, can keep an orchard pest (and pesticide) free while providing milk, companionship, and dung for the garden.  So too with chickens, cows, horses, fish, even green mulches.  Everything in a system must be looked at in terms of its TOTAL needs and outputs, and a balanced system can be created that makes the best use of everything available.

Of course there is a lot of plant talk here.  After all, it makes perfect sense to use native flora wherever possible.  And though Mr. Mollison is located far from the US of A, there is lots of good information here for any aspiring permaculturist.  Especially interesting is the discussion of planting cycles which replace the traditional English planting system of crop rotation followed by fallow periods to recoup soil nutrients.  He shows that by properly mixing plants with different strengths (such as leguminous nitrogen fixers and natural pesticides), you can completely eliminate fallow fields while still improving yields.

There’s a nice discussion of water management too, with ideas for ways to increase the productivity of “transition zones”, those microclimates along the edges of land and water which are traditionally the most diverse of a given area.

Now, none of this information would be very useful if it weren’t also practical.  After all, you don’t want to hike five miles for water every day any more than a woman in Kenya does.  Nor do you want to be flooded out every time it rains.  To that end, there is a lot of discussion in the book about how to situate the various components of your permaculture system so that you have easy access to the things you need and living takes as little energy input as possible.  Bravo for that reality check!

Overall, the book covers familiar ground in many areas, though it’s important to note that in actuality, as it was written in the EARLY 90s, this was the pioneering work that others have since used as inspiration.   I would certainly recommend it to any gardeners, off-grid enthusiasts, botanists, or just plain nature lovers out there.  Everything is nicely illustrated and purely practical.  Even in reading, he keeps extra work down to a minimum.

RATING: 5 / 5 stars

LENGTH: about 200 pages of pretty easy reading

PRACTICALITY: lots of sage advice here for anyone at any stage of land development and also good theoretical discussion of the lifestyle.

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Database of Edible and Useful Plants

Trying to figure out what to do with that daylily in your front yard? Wonder what it’s good for? (It might be edible!) Check out http://www.pfaf.org/, where you’ll find an impressive database of over 7000 plants and their alternative uses for humankind. Their Top 20 Plants lists for edibility and medicinal value are a great resource when planning what you can plant in your garden that might help you out after grid crash.

Daylilies

According to the introduction to their companion book, 20 is also the magic number when it comes to our current diets: only 20 plants supply 90% of human food. Wow! I wish that they’d gone on to list those twenty foods, but perhaps it’s buried a little deeper in the text. This site is a great resource for someone who either wants to find out about a particular plant via their search function or someone looking to plan a landscape that does more than simply look nice.

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Quickie – Food Politics

Here’s a link to a good article about what’s happening to our global food supplies, and why it’s translating to more at the register.

Read the full story here

The Presidential Candidates

As we deepen into our self-created oil and energy crisis, we can only expect more articles like this, and more future costs, not fewer. Consider planting a garden if you don’t have one already. It takes a bit of trial and error to discover how particular plants grow. If you have something you “can’t live without”, try growing it a few times. Soon, it may be the only way for you to get it!

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Rogue Waves: Putting it in Motion

There is a phenomenon in the oceans known as a rogue wave. For reasons until recently unfathomable, occasionally, a single ENORMOUS wave would arise from its surrounding brethren and cause devastation to anything whose path it crossed. Sort of like a 90 foot tsunami without the underlying earthquake, and out at sea. According to the History Channel, recent advances in marine science have allowed us a better glimpse into possible causes. They theorize that these waves, defined by being more than twice the size of any surrounding wave, are caused by undercurrents which slow down the wave and basically cause water to pile up high. Other waves also overtake this slowed wave and add to its strength and content, pushing it forward with great power. Here’s my oversimplified diagram:

To me, this seems like the perfect analogy for changes in your life. We are all just flowing along like waves, each on our own “wavelength” but still in accordance with the greater tide. Occasionally, we are slowed down by currents flowing in another direction, currents which underly our own existence and form the foundation of our own flows. History, media, physical laws. These base currents are traveling in their own wave pattern, and so they interact with each wavelength, or individual, differently depending upon where in their period the two collide.

Obstacles in life be they physical, emotional, or intellectual can cause us to literally slow our roll here on earth. It can be frustrating. What I like about this analogy is that when you slow down, your momentum and that of others actually catches up with you and feeds you force and strength. What you might perceive as a breakdown in the flow is actually a period of recharge for you to gain whatever strength you require. If you are trying to get your landlord to let you install drought-friendly landscaping, and he or she insists on calling you that “garden nut” no matter how many good reasons you supply about how much money this will save their business, you can either be frustrated or you can use that to your advantage. After all, now you have a big folder of solid reasons that xeriscaping makes sense at your disposal. A folder that you can take to local businesses at which you already shop and show them why it is in their interest to consider such installations at their storefront. You can start a business that outsources the work of it, and you make money and the world gets a little more responsibly beautiful BECAUSE your landlord frustrated you by asking for fifteen sources and still saying no.

Or, if the last scenario seemed too user intensive to you, how about this one? You sit down at your computer, frustrated by the recent response, and you start searching for that perfect source. Along one of the twisted lanes that Google weaves, you discover a chat room of people frustrated just like you. You start talking about what you’d REALLY like to happen in the world. It makes you start thinking a little deeper about it, and you realize how much you love plants. So much, that you might like to get a plot at the community garden. You get one and get to know people there as well as staying in touch with people from the chat room. When a big-city developer comes in and wants to turn your community garden into condos, you rant about it in your chat room, and someone, a lawyer, offers their services to save the garden free of charge. Garden saved. A garden that you weren’t even involved with until your landlord said… NO!

Rogue waves are the result of the interaction of many different energies, just like social progress. It can feel overwhelming to think you are only one wave in a big old ocean, but rest assured, there are other forces at work that you can’t necessarily see, and that just might work to amplify your cause in strange and unpredictable ways. You’ll never know until you put it into motion.

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zeroHouse – Making Your Home Work for You

Nice. No, really, everything about this concept is nice, from the idea, to the execution and the website. So nice that you’d better go check out the website for yourself, so I’m only going to provide one chart here as a teaser.

zeroHouse by Scott Specht

This house does it all. Collects water, uses high-capacity solar, makes its own compost, and looks amazing while doing it through your laptop. And you can construct one in under a weekend. How’s that for simple? It’s certainly inspiring.

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Xeriscaping the Dead Sea – A Case-Study

Click Here to See Geoff Lawton’s Dead Sea Restoration Project

Geoff Lawton, Xeriscaper Extroardinaire

This EXCELLENT presentation gives you a nice video overview of a successful xeriscaping and land restoration project carried out in the Dead Sea area of Jordan. You can actually watch the progression from desert to a lush canopy of green and edible foods. And to see that the salt levels of the soil dropped so dramatically is quite a convincing argument to try it yourself. Geoff Lawton and his team are genius to have done this. If you are considering doing your lawn with drought-friendly plants, or in converting waste-space to something much more beautiful while restoring the natural balance of the soil, please check out this site!

Here is SoCal, the Salton Sea is a popular tourist destination, as it is a similar environment to the Dead Sea. In fact, like the Dead Sea, the Salton Sea is getting saltier every year as its water evaporates. Given the hot temperatures (there is a reason that all the spas of Palm Springs are so popular!), there is a lot of sandy desert for every patch of green. Do you live there? Try this and send us pictures!

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Organic Farming Learning Opportunities

If you are planning a garden, I can’t recommend enough that you go organic in your approach. After all, since 50% of all pesticides used in America are sprayed on cotton (and therefore your clothes!), you’ve likely already got a lot of toxins to offset in your life! However, the topic of organic gardening can be a little intimidating at first, as it is so large.

If you want to get your feet wet, while learning from experts in their field, why not volunteer at a working organic farm in your area? The originator of all organic exchange websites, WWOOF.org has many such opportunities to do just that. And it’s sorted by area, so you’ll be able to find something local. Also, try OrganicVolunteers.com for similar invitations. Most of the opportunities listed allow for you to sample or take home some of the produce you help to tend for a taste test. It’s like a free grad school education with an excellent cafeteria!

Do you know of any other great sites? Post them here!

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