Arduous gardening

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Ludi, May 2, 2012.

  1. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Thank you. None of what you outline is easy or dirt cheap, I do not have those materials, nor a way of scrounging them. I have about 8500 gallons of rain tanks presently storing water for emergencies such as fire or power failure (we have a well on grid power).

    Not trying to discount what I think are helpful suggestions, just that what you suggest is in no way practical for us here. I simply don't have the resources or personal energy for such a project as you suggest. Just trying to be honest here, not trying to imply it is a bad idea.
     
  2. adiantum

    adiantum Junior Member

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    That's cool! Maybe someone will read it and get as excited as I was to discover it. I was in a perhaps unique niche, with three towns within 30 miles with abundant dumpsters for carpet, plastic, building materials of all sorts, whatever. The time and energy to haul it was all that was needed. No vehicle went to town that didn't come back full! I built a cabin out of pine poles and bamboo, sheathed with cardboard, plastic, and overlapping courses of carpet stuccoed with cement on the roof and mud on the walls...for about $50. My one-liner was "I spent more on the housewarming party than I did on the house!"
    I had made some pretty serious "invisible structure" commitments that gave me huge opportunity in the short term and bit me in the rear in the long run. I refused the private property scenario, and found a caretaking/work exchange situation wherein I had permission to garden and build on someone else's land. I had no concern about "healthy" or "organic"...just whatever worked out within budget. I found food in those dumpsters too, the first years especially. I lived in a tent for four years till I built the cabin. Worked a bit of landscaping...maybe one or two days a week max, for what I couldn't scrounge (most of that went to keeping the vehicle on the road) It all worked out fine till I met a woman. My "landlady" absolutely couldn't stand her, and so out we went!
     
  3. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Maybe some people have the wrong set point for what constitutes arduous gardening? If it takes you longer to grow a few vege each week than it does to drive to the supermarket, maybe to some that is arduous.
    When I consider the supermarket time, plus gym time, plus psychologist time, plus beauty therapy time in many peoples lives, I reckon that I get it easy getting all of that out of my garden in less hours.
    I wonder if a generation younger than I is less prepared to get stuck in and work hard for something they believe in?
     
  4. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Honestly Ludi, If your interpretation of permaculture implementation means you can get away without inputing significant amounts of personal energy then I can see how you might be a bit despondent.

    My personal experience is that it takes a very large amount of personal energy if your aim is to be more or less self-sufficient. Personal energy is really my only capital, it is the thing that gets things done, it is the way I am able to make some money. It really is the essence of this whole thing. Alternatively, I think you really need to consider how you can become part of a community of permaculturists where you can offer your own brand of personal energy.

    I strive constantly from the moment I rise to the moment I go to bed at night most days to improve and implement this lifestyle. I also have to fit in a lot of effort into raising my children. But for me the whole thing is invigorating.
     
  5. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Well that was mean. I have, with shovel and pickaxe, dug out literally tons of rock from my garden to replace it with many truckloads of logs and other organic material. I work in the garden every day, sometimes hours at a time. Yes, that was really very unkind of you.
     
  6. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    The person I was worrying about that caused me to start this thread is a 67 year old retired man. His wife was just diagnosed with liver cancer. I am a 49 year old woman with some health problems. I was looking to permaculture for hope for older and/or less able people to be able to provide for themselves. Actually, I still am looking to permaculture for those things, in spite of discouraging comments from some people.

    Thank you to those who have been helpful and supportive in this thread.
     
  7. wmthake

    wmthake Junior Member

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    Perhaps what you need, Ludi, is not an easier way to work, but someone with the energy and strength to do arduous work. If you have the space but not the energy, I'm am nearly positive you could find an arrangement whereby someone takes over the more arduous tasks for some sort of exchange. I'm thinking specifically of WWOOF or HELPX here. You can arrive at less arduous labor, but not before putting in the energy to overhaul what is likely a space in need of remediation. Unfortunately, that takes work. And a permaculture approach in this case would probably be looking at what social tweaks you can make to ameliorate the lack of physical ability in your system.
    best,
    William
     
  8. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Ludi, I grow with the Ruth Stout method, and it has saved my sanity many times. I live in a rural place with weed seeds blowing through the air most of the year, but I mow those weeds and make very deep beds out of, higher than my shovel blade, and I walk on them to compress them. No fluffy stuff or big air pockets. they suppress weeds and they keep ground rodents at bay, plus I do my part to get rid of them. The soil gets in better shape every year, but it takes several years to really build up good soil in any garden. You'll get better and better results as long as you add heaps and heaps of organic matter, mowed grass, leaves, compost practically all year long. Don't stop adding unless it snows. The best time to suppress weeds and build soil is in the fall so rain can break down the amendments. Trying to suppress spring weeds is more effort. But use a sharp hoe and get them at the tiny 2-leaf stage. Don't let them get up or it will be more work.


    I also have clay soil that they used to build the missions out of a couple hundred years ago, so it's crucial that I keep it covered with organic matter, never let it be exposed to sun or pounding rain. Not sure if that's the kind of soil you have, but it makes a huge difference to keep it deeply covered.

    I know we all think our own places are special, but Mother Nature has other ideas. You won't get away with anything because She is in charge :) Even if you use Permaculture methods, there are still very hot summers, drying winds, short day length (only grow short-day onions) and freezing? temps in the winter? I grow vetches and clovers but it's never enough for soil amendments. I haul in chicken manure a neighbor lets me have and it's made a huge difference. I keep at least two compost piles going all the time, almost waist high. I save all kitchen scraps, plant cuttings and dead leaves and add them to the pile. I keep the pile quite damp, because if it dries out it will stop working. I cover it with a tarp and put heavy weights on it.

    And then the question is, do you really like vegetables? Or do you just want to do the predictable bean/pea/tomato lettuce kind of thing? all of those need very special conditions, and you'll need to research which ones work where you are. Beans are fussy if you don't have the right ones. If you have strong winds, do bush beans that stay low to the ground. Pay attention to how many days it takes a tomato to form, because if it blooms in mid summer and it's a 95-day tomato (a lot of heirloom tomatoes take a loooooong time) it will be three months before you may or may not get a tomato, because the days are getting shorter and shorter, temps are getting cooler and cooler. Try growing some hybrid tomatoes that only take 55-60 days to keep your spirits up :)

    If you don't really like other vegetables, try making soup. Lots of brassicas make great soup, like turnip greens, chard, spinach, bok choi....but those don't like high temps so they are only spring and fall vegetables, so no planting in late spring. They will bolt quickly and not form the large leaves. Try to keep records about what works where you are, use what the local nurseries sell, and if you can start things from seed it's cheaper, but make sure you don't get seduced by the description. Make sure it has worked for others in the past where you are.

    with such a large garden it would work to have some perennials in it, like blackberry vines. There are some that do extremely well in the Texas and Arkansas heat, like Kiowa or Arapaho. I have Kiowa, and they are big, semi erect plants, very hearty, but I don't get enough heat, so I had to rip them out. You can put them on the edges of your garden and still have 1,000 square feet to plant. :) Fruit trees actually add value to property, but check for chill hours and pollinators. It's best to get a full-sized tree, not semi-dwarf, and trim it to the size you want, they live longer and produce more fruit.

    https://www.alcasoft.com/arkansas/blackberry.html

    You might also consider looking into doing a food forest if you have a lot of heat. There are 6-8 layers of height of plants that create shade and give off moisture, and with companion planting they help each other, suppress weeds and improve soil. Robert Hart has a good book on the subject, and here he is on YouTube

    https://youtu.be/vBShBeC1f-Q

    It takes planning and attention, but if you plan ahead, keep good notes, do your research, put in a couple years of effort, the future ought to be easier. :)
     
  9. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Thank you very much for those suggestions. :)
     
  10. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    PS, I'm pretty sure Ruth Stout used rotten hay, like wheat and oats. Not straw, that is the leftover of some crop and doesn't add as much to the soil as rotted hay, so I think that distinction is important :)
     
  11. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I've recently begun to use a lot of mulch in my kitchen garden, mostly old hay with sheep manure, as well as some chicken bedding and manure, wool, and a very thick layer of woodchips mostly on the paths but beginning to cover the beds as well. This is all on top of buried wood (like hugelkultur, but below ground level). The garden is beginning to hold water well, though because I'm using some clay subsoil on the beds, the plants take awhile to get going and struggle a bit when young during some recent hot dry days. It is already quite hot and dry here (upper 80s F) and dry, with the clay soil in the fields beginning to crack a lot. But this garden is doing quite well. I've had people tell me it is too much work to do it as I've done, but, so far it's the only thing I've found that looks like it will really work under these conditions. Eventually I hope not to have to irrigate much at all, once the garden has absorbed enough water. And the hard work of excavating the rocks will only need to be done this one time, after which I will never need to till. That's the most helpful thing I see in the concepts of permaculture, that once the proper techniques are identified for each site, they only need to be done once and then the rest of the work is easy maintenance such as chop and drop. For me, identifying the proper techniques has been the difficult part, especially since I was fooled by a couple good years with lots of rain which made me think I could have a "normal" garden. I think maybe the "arduous" nature of gardening might be because the proper techniques have not been identified and people are stuck in a routine of tilling, hoeing, and weeding, etc. So I think it is helpful for people to talk about methods they've used to reduce the amount of labor they have to do over time, which is my original purpose of this thread though I guess poorly presented initially......
     
  12. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Sorry Ludi, I certainly didn't mean any offence. I was concerned for you more than anything.
     
  13. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I'm going to disagree with Grahame here. I think one of the core tenets of permaculture is efficiency, and using system design to lessen labour.


    Ludi, I wonder if you are giving yourself a hard time. Both by setting expectations too high, and by working beyond your means*. I'm slightly younger than you, also a woman, and have a disability. For me permaculture has been a boon because it gave me the tools to design my life (not just my garden) that made things much easier for me.

    (*I also worry that you are putting yourself down. You say you are not a good gardener, yet every time I see photos of your garden I know that is not true).

    Please don't take what I am about to say as criticism. I read alot of your posts here and at permies because I find your approaches interesting and your ability to work with really difficult land inspiring.

    I can't remember if you have done a PDC, and I'm not even sure that that is relevant to what I am about to say (given I haven't done one), but I see you doing lots of micro design (and choices about techniques), but not overall design. By that I don't mean that you have to have a mega plan for your whole property (although I expect you have some kind of big picture plan). I mean that some of the things that aren't working for you, are like that because they haven't been designed for. For instance, given your physical limitations, how can you change not only how you garden, but how you design systems? You can't design in the same way that Geoff Lawton or Bill Mollison does, you have to design differently.

    With regards to the question about arduous gardening, it's really very simple - if you live on your own, have physical limitations, then you cannot garden like someone with twice the physical strength, money, energy or help. Basic physics. Or you can try, and then get stuck in arduous gardening ;-) (that applies to the man you were talking to too). The other option is to apply design.

    For instance. When someone makes suggestions and you say you don't have the resources to implement them, that's not permaculture in my mind. Permaculture would be: I don't think I have the resources to do that, here is why (explain the actual details), and here are the resources I DO have, and can anyone see what I can to with the resources and situation I have?

    (eg I'm curious as to why you can't bring in things from offsite. Do you have no car? No money to pay someone? etc. Those are all completely valid reasons, the point I am making is that those are the things needed to be visible in order to do good systems design).


    Going back to something you said earlier:

    "I have rainwater harvesting books. It's a matter of money and energy to implement the practices. I have neither in sufficient quantity."

    Do you have Art Luwig's Greywater oasis book? There are good examples in there that are cheap and most likely within your physical limitations. Permaculture does not require money or excessive energy - if it does the design is wrong. The design should take into account the limitations inherent.


    Your last post about arduous gardening makes a lot of sense, esp re learning what the best techniques are for your situation. I think you are doing incredibly important pioneering work for you area as we go into a post peak oil world.
     
  14. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Thanks. The thread topic is a general topic - How can permaculture help give hope to people who find gardening difficult? I posted wrongly. It was not originally meant as a thread specifically about my specific problems. People asked me questions about my own situation, which I answered, but this thread was not intended originally to be about me specifically.

    You asked some more questions, which I will respond to. No, I do not have money to pay someone. Yes, I have "Create an Oasis with Greywater" and greywater from our laundry. We do not produce enough laundry water to create an oasis, I have a greywater basin with a few plants. Yes, my over all design is poor. Maybe I will post at some point asking for design suggestions.

    Again, this thread was not meant originally to be about my specific problems. I posted it wanting some general suggestions or examples of how permaculture might help people make gardening easier, prompted by concern I feel for an older person who finds gardening arduous (his word, arduous). Someone posted about mulch gardening which was very helpful but I was hoping for some examples from actual individuals who had reduced their own personal gardening labor. Again, I posted badly. I was extremely depressed that day, and not especially capable of communicating well.

    Hope this helps clear some things up. I would just as soon this entire thread be deleted, as it has not gone well.
     
  15. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    Post the overall design of your layout Ludi and maybe we can all help out?
     
  16. wmthake

    wmthake Junior Member

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    It can be free if you feel room/board is something that you can provide.

    I have worked for free on farms and I feel it was something I would have no problem doing again, under the right circumstances. If you have some ability to manage people, and you can make them reasonably happy, they will make you extremely happy.

    Anyway, I would encourage you to look at the "system" from multiple points of view, not just from a seed>plant>grow>harvest perspective. You might find that there are possibilities you didn't know you had.
    best,
    William
     
  17. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Thanks, maybe at some point I will post a thread with my rudimentary plan. :)
     

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