Discussion in 'News from around the damp planet' started by Michaelangelica, Nov 21, 2010.
Nice piece MA. Thanks for posting it. He's another Joel Salatin.
A smart man. Thanks for posting. Very interesting.
I like what he has to say except that he seems to feel the need to crap on what other people are doing by calling it bullshit. That makes me sad. I'm not a farmer, will never be a farmer. It is sad to me that apparently everything I'm doing is bullshit.
Forest gardening/perennial crops in a cool, wet climate
I hear you, Ludi. Don't take it to heart. As you say, not all of us can be or will be farmers. And if anyone who is working in another job or raising kids or living in retirement etc. takes small (or large) steps towards personal or communal self-reliance, then it absolutely counts. It "adds light to the sum of light".
It is very interesting and heartening to see (or rather, hear about) an actual commercial and commercially viable farm. What a great video interview.
Mark's way of thinking about permaculture very much mirrors my own - coming from an ecologists perspective I first looked at the natural plant communities not just in this biome (which is rather large and varied), but right down to the level of the soils and climate conditions where our 2.5 acres are located. Before early Christians settled on the drumlin at the foot of which we live there would have been alder-oak-ash forest with willow, and fenland all around us (see Cross J.R. 2005 THE POTENTIAL NATURAL VEGETATION OF IRELAND https://ria.metapress.com/content/3h080661x9ug4182/fulltext.pdf). We basically started on cattle grassland. Plantings for wind shelter, suntraps, animal browse/grazing, firewood, bee forage were largely informed by the pre-pastureland natural plant communities with some non-natives thrown in. A description of our place is at https://permacultureglobal.com/projects/997-sailchearnach.
However, if we were to rely solely and directly on perennial crops in our West of Ireland climate we would have long starved to death. And I reckon there are other climates that have the same problem. Paulo Bessa (on permies.com) seems to face similar struggles in Iceland. Don't get me wrong: I love the idea, I've done plenty of research, tried a lot of things, and with backgrounds in ecology, botany, forestry, market gardening and horticulture in addition to a long-standing passion for permaculture I don't think I have taken all too many wrong turns though there certainly were some. But there has to be realism as well.
Take Eric Toensmeiers writing at
Sounds good and certainly applies or will in future apply to many cold temperate areas but unfortunately not to this one.
The British Agroforestry Research Trust is doing great work on fruit and nuts, including hazel, walnut and chestnut and I have just in the last few days learned of some work being done in Ireland (https://www.fruitandnut.ie/research.walnutsandchestnuts.html). When we started off I decided not to devote any land to chestnuts or walnuts because of their unproven potential in this cold and very wet maritime climate (at c. 53 lat.). I knew they did not work at the same latitude in northern Germany, the British research was not available to us at the time and basically everybody said "they can grow here but in all likelihood they will not fruit; in the East of the country maybe, but not out there in the West." Same goes for Gleditisia the pods of which have good potential as a forage tree crop for sheep and goats. It may grow here but it won't flower or fruit. An enlightening discussion on the topic of walnuts and sweet chestnuts in Ireland can be found here: https://www.gardenplansireland.com/forum/about1465.html
I did plant dozens of hazelnut bushes, both wild ones and carefully selected named cultivars, on different soils in different parts of our holding. 10-15 years on I have yet to enjoy a single hazelnut.
So much for perennial carbohydrate and protein/oil crops. Now, that new research gives me hope and I will get in touch with Andy Wilson, who's behind this, and see to find a spot for some sweet chestnuts at least.
What about fruit? We have had quite good success over the years with apples (20+ varieties), pears (8 varieties), even some Asian pears (2 varieties), crabapples (wild ones and 5 cultivars) as well as soft fruit (black, red and white currants, gooseberries, blackberries, raspberries, sea buckthorn, medlars). Plums, damsons (8 varieties) have done practically nothing for us as yet and the general wisdom is that you get a good yield one year in eight. Forget about cherries, peaches, nectarines, grapes here in the West unless you have a large greenhouse or conservatory to significantly up the growing degree days (a mere 850 in 2012 for example, base 10C; to put the figure in perspective: wheat needs c. 1600 GDD to ripen).
Some more unusual small fruit I have trialed such as Cornus mas, Aronia, Amelanchier, wild cherry or Crataegus cultivars are unfortunately not too promising either - they grow well but fruit tend to be scarce, small and bland. No jams or juices there. Umh, at least the birds enjoy them and the bees enjoy the flowers. Highbush blueberries work occassionally, Elaeagnus yielded good berries at times and Chaenomeles (flowering quince) work quite well. I'm planning to expand on these. I will also try out musk strawberry (Fragaria moschata) on the southern edge of a hedge that now offers the requisite shelter, and some hardy kiwi.
All our topfruit cultivars were very carefully selected for hardiness, disease-resistance, flowering times etc. (taking cues from wet Wales, cold Scotland and the Irish Seedsavers) and yet, in 2012 we had just enough apples for the two of us for about 4 months. Most of them came from just two trees. Other cultivars yielded few if any apples. (That was a lot more than our neighbours and friends, most of whom harvested not a single apple last year. Hello climate change? =( )
No pears, no Asian pears, no crabapples, no medlars to speak of, no sea buckthorn. Berries is all we got - the ones the hungry wild birds didn't get first. Ok. Carbohydrates in the form of fruit for a few months.
Our animals, goats and chickens do indeed turn vegetation that is inedible to us into meat, milk, eggs. But the chickens at least need supplementary feeding no matter how many food plants we plant for them or how much insect-rich litter accumulates under trees and shrubs. Most of their feed comes from tillage farming and has to be bought in or they would starve. Even the 10 roosters employed in clearing my polytunnel who also have grassland and a thick hedgerow with endless leaf litter and insect life at their disposal eat 100g of wheat a day each, sourced from an organic farm on the east coast.
Our new bees will hopefully provide plenty of carbs in the form of honey this coming season.
So our protein and fatcan come from animal products, but no oils for cooking or baking are to be had. For our carbohydrates there aren't many options but the good ol' (annual) humble spud (=potato) or grains. The potatoes did great for us last year despite a rotten wet summer, grown on the edge of orchard ground the chickens had cleared, mulched with (waste hay) from the goat yard.
This year I am adding Jerusalem artichokes in former chicken runs (tubers to add to the chicken diet, above-ground biomass for the goats). I will also plant a Morus alba and try out the leaves, but I guess there's only so many tree leaves one can eat and our vegetables will still need to come from the (annual) garden. And my good man will do some fishin' on the coast.
I suppose there is a reason why farmers around here have primarily been herdsmen for millenia...
I'll finish my little exploration with a sobering quote on forest gardening in Ireland from Mr. "Fruit and Nut", not to contradict either Mark Shepard or Eric Toensmeier, both of whom have my deepest respect, but to bring perspective from another place on this globe.
In my humble opinion, a dinner 100% grown in Permaculture designed, perennial ecological systems would be very difficult indeed here, unless you add in the little word "raised" and count in silvo-pastoral systems, grass-fed beef, scrub-fed goat and so on.
It is something to aspire to but not all failings are of our own making. Each climate has its own challenges and needs different answers.
Thank you, chook. To me all of these
are part of permaculture. Permaculture isn't just food forests, as far as I can tell.
chook-in-eire, we have a similar climate on the west coast of Canada and have some of the same challenges I fear. I have slowly been adding fruit and nut trees to my small holding but even established the production is dissappointing to date .
Not easy, heh? In fairness, Mark Shephard does mention forest-dwelling mammals and livestock in the interview. I guess the further north one goes, the more important livestock or wild animals as well as marine sources of protein and fat become.
Those of us in the cool maritime areas should exchange more notes on what works and what does not. Perhaps set up a thread here? Anthony "wynot" in coastal SE Alaska seems to be in a similar situation.
I think in this sort of climate the food forest idea needs some major tweaking. It is so easy to get carried away by tropical/subtropical/mediterranean food forestry examples. Where you have a 3-4 months frost-free season, cool wet summers and low light levels, things are very different. Solutions will look different too.
Some other plants I will experiment with this coming season are Mahonia (Oregon grape), more for the bees and chickens than for ourselves, Wasabi (more than enough water here, as well as the right temps summer and winter), Gaultheria, Maca (Lepidium peruvianum), Maral root (Rhaponticum carthamoides) and a whole bunch of bee forage plants.
It would be great if you could post which cultivars have done ok for you.
Here's hoping for a better year.
For folks in cold climates, Sepp Holzer's work in the Austrian alps might be a model to look at. https://www.krameterhof.at/en/
More Mark Shepard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb_t-sVVzF0 He's also over at permies answering questions this week in the food forest forum.
Thanks Ludi! I missed that. (Don't look at permies as often since I got thrown out for criticizing Holzer ... ). From looking through the answers there seems to be a greater emphasis on both livestock (incl. hay and some grain feeding) and annual crops than comes through in the videolink interview.
Here's another cold-climate, high elevation example: https://www.crmpi.org/CRMPI/Home.html
Yes, Jerome Osentowski is one heck of a guy. I've been following his exploits for the past 25 years, starting with articles about his set-up in 1980s "Permaculture Activist" issues, and certainly gotten much inspiration.
What makes his place very different from the likes of Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia, Alaska etc. is solar radiation.
Take a look at
CRMPI gets about 5-6 kWh/m2/day, we get about 2.5 kWh/m2/day. CRMPI has about 3000 sunshine hours per year, here we get about 1400 on average (only about 1250 in the past couple years). This is what drives photosynthesis and allows for heat gain and heat retention, e.g. in ponds, stonewalls, cisterns and rocks placed in greenhouses.
You can't capture what ain't there. This is why many of the fruit and nut trees may well grow here but don't necessarily fruit. Small fruit such as currants, blackberries, raspberries, worcesterberries, Josta etc. do well though.
There is a great need for research, breeding and selection of nut and top fruit cultivars that can ripen fruit under these conditions.
On a related note, the neglect of solar gain or heat zone information is a major drawback of the USDA Hardiness Zone maps. There is a huge difference between being in Zone 9 with a hot dry summer and Zone 9 with a cool and wet summer. You could be in Zone 4b in Pierre, South Dakota or in Anchorage, Alaska, in Zone 7 in southern Sweden or in Salt Lake City! So stating what USDA Hardiness Zone one is located in is really quite meaningless in terms of what one can successfully grow. It's only a small part of the story.
Yes, chook, your situation is so different from mine where we have too much sun. Most "full sun" plants seem to do better with shade down here.
I think Ludi is in the same zone 8 as I am but so much else differs , we have abundant rain so much so our soils are saturated much of the year , leaving tubers in too long will rot them in the ground and I am on the high ground in our valley . Abundant cloud cover too as chook mentions, creates low light levels often see plants (everything from apples to nuts to tomatoes) that escape fungal issues and actually get pollinated despite a wet cool period when polinating insects are not abound, can then maybe set to produce which still can fail to ripen year after year for lack of sun. We can still learn something from each others examples but will have unique challenges. I think our cool temperate maritime climate here in coastal British Columbia is much in keeping with Ireland, Britain, southern New Zealands wet west coast (?) and shares few of the challenges you have in your same zone 8 in Texas . It also makes us very different climate than a hundred miles inland from the coast in Canada as well. Alaska's coastline would differ drastically too having the difference in latitude leading to longer dormancy year round and high light levels in a few short summer months . We all have our differing challenges.
Definitely, and that's why it's so important for us all to be doing our experiments and sharing our results, so folks who have similar conditions can learn from our successes and failures!
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