I find if I top up the cardboard every couple of months it eventually clears up. And to weigh it down well with bricks or whatever you have. If you don't keep an eye on it it will eat the cardboard, so a fresh layer is needed whenever you see a blade grow through. I am now trying a grand experiment where I am putting a wormfarm on top of the cardboard in the hope that they will migrate as it breaks down and I will end up not only with weedfree but also rich soil. Will keep you posted.
Personally I think humus is Godde. After having read all the contributions that is my considered opinion. Was trained as an economist myself, we have the same problem, namely that a static science cannot deal with a dynamic world. The problem is with the methodoogy, a theoretical blind spot that at least economists sometimes admit. An analysis of the market that is static produces quite different outcomes than one which is dynamic and deals with relationships of power. Which is why economists are so often wrong :)
I really like the idea of using humus to loosen up clay and will definitely try it. Up to now my method of making soil from the stuff - instead of the bricks it clearly was intended for - has been to make sunken hugels. It has been rough and expensive since the ground requires a pick to loosen it. Eying a particularly tricky spot and will report back in a few years.
I use drums as wormfarms and they work really great. I put wood at the bottom, then a layer of twigs and small branches up to about half. Then fill with dry grass, sand, green grass, household waste, a handful of horse manure, and top with a layer of good soil and plant in it. The twig layer provides areation because the worm castings can pack solid otherwise. Plus the worms really seem to like nibbling at them when nicely rotted. The level will sink as the worms eat so you have to top up regularly with dry grass or leaf mulch and maybe more small twigs. It is amazing to plant not only in the top, but also around the parameter of the drums. It is an ideal place to get trees or shrubs off to a good start, or simply more vegetables. If not, be sure to mulch deeply around the drums because you will get lots of plats wanting to grow there. For my climate it serves the purpose of using the same water three times, but does of course require consistent care.
I empty mine out and refill about once a year because I need the castings. Would be curious to see how this works as a permanent system.
Very jealous of your free supply of drums :) If I had that my whole garden would look like this:
I hate Kikuyu. It's a &^%*%$! invasive weed brought here by ignorant people. My 2.5. acre farm is overrun with it. I recently had to leave for six months and came back to find it climbing the roses. And like a flash I had a vision of what my gardening life would be without this nuisance. I hear there are lands where people just plant things and don't spend the rest of their lives keeping them free of invaders. Goodness..
My problem was that the first fifteen years here, I planned the whole space, and tried to follow the plan except where nature objected ( which was pretty much most of the time, lol :) ). So I had trees all over the place, and growing vegetable beds around them to feed the trees. This led to innumerable squares of cultivated soil, each with borders that had to be kept free of Kikuyu. I employed a man who spent at least half his week dojng this. I found a few barrier plants (Sunflowers, indigenous garlic, vetiver where enough water) but even these could not hold their own without a regular cleanup. It was crazy. When it rained in winter it was like a race to keep up.
Well, now the trees are big and I have diagnosed my Kikuyu as an indicator of an ecological imbalance. I am saving for a fence so that 2/3 of the place can be grazed by sheep. They will at least keep it short. Then I am doing what I should have done from the beginning: working outward from the house I am eradicating every last bit. It gets thrown into a big pile and will get covered with cardboard for a year. The borders get covered in cardboard and brick, which actually lets it kill itself. Bit by bit I will start expanding the cardboard boundary and have a zero tolerance policy within it. Where it is invading house foundations and breaking up concrete I pour with vinegar. With the roses and other living plants there is no alternative but handweeding and vigilance. I don't like to declare war on anything but unfortunately my neighbours are all overrun too, so there will never be an end to policing boundaries. Hopefully the sheep will take care of most of that leaving me with only my eastern side to police.
If anybody has additional advice on how to conduct total extermination, please let me know? Would be nice if the grandkids could do something else with their life.
I let my digestate run into a sump from which I pump out to whatever plant is being spoilt. A french drain leads out of the sump and into a trench along which some roses and hibiscus have been growing happily for years. So both systems work.
I think the advantage of building in some space for human intervention is you never know which plant needs spoiling. New fruit trees, for instance, really benefit from this precious resource. So don't lock yourself out of options.
My neighbours gave up on me when I started pumping biogas digester effluent on my olive trees. But even my fosterson who lives with me appears to have his own opinion of my sanity. I was speed dryiing some tobacco (not very permie I know but I wanted to fill my pipe) the other day and it caught fire. I said "O, don't mind the smell, I accidentally set fire to the microwave." He started laughing. "Nothing you do will surprise me" he said.
I speak with reseervation being a southern hemisphere gardener, but what I understand about Ruth Stout's method is that the mulch must be put down in the fall, thickly. that gives it time to rot down and the soil warms up quickly. Nitrogen deficit will not occur because of the snow, by the time the plants need nutrients the bottom mulch has broken down.
It s a wonderful book, I get visions of a little old lady laying down hay on a naughty weed.
I have 16 m solid clay here so dig deeply once and fill with organic matter. After that I mulch though little and often works best in a climate that grows food year round. It gets thick with time. I might yet be that little old lady :)
i I would say plant some deep rooted nitrogen fixing trees with strong root systems. Here we have Sweetthorn, I don't know what is your local equivalent. Plant at the bottom at your wettest spot and they will suck up the water while their rootsystems will gradually break up the hardpan, if that is what it is. Then give it a year or two while you wait to see how the climate pans out.
Rufaro, it is good to see your family eating the fruits of your labour! I wanted to tell you that Wangari Maathai, Vandana Shiva, Masanobu Fukuoka, Wendell Berry and our own Dr Redhawk all have Ph D's. I have one too. It comes in handy occasionally for farming, say if you, need a dayjob quickly to cover a capital expense. Not much help in feeding the worms, though. Still, in my country we say "I cannot be insulted by fools". If people have a problem with educated farmers, it is their problem, not yours. Your family is eating well. Let fools criticize :)
I vermiculture in 20 l buckets. I throw in ashes from the fire that often contain the odd lump of coal. Of course it is a small quantity compared to the overall biomass and I mix it well with coffeegrounds and a little sand. The worms haven't complained yet
There is also an entire rocket stove forum here on permies - rocket stoves are designs that allow you to use less wood, even twigs and brush rather than logs. A heat preserver (Wonderbag) is also a piece of equipment that meets speedy uptake in the communities I have worked in.
You can also go really old school and heap some thick rocks in a hollow and line with foil. They will get hot enough to fry an egg in, don't worry.
I am sad for the trees and the climate, but more than that it seems only a matter of time before they are all gone. Might as well start working on the solar cookers while you still have time because it is the inevitable option. There will be plenty of sun this summer.
Actually the worst problem is saltwater infiltration of wells, that is why the people are moving from Vanuatu. Apparently Miami is having the same problem. Nature abhors a vacuum. The more groundwater being extracted the faster it happens. Obviously one can desalinate, but it is costly and creates a waste problem with your leftover salt. Bottom line is that the economics of climate change tend to trigger a crisis long before environmental extremes occur.
Bettet to face the fears head on than to live in denial. Another new skill I am learning is to see possibilities where I used to be blinded by privilege. You are going to be ok - and more fortunate than most
Rene please draw the conclusion of your own observations. Climate change means the system is collapsing. Everybody I know is struggling, including the salaried supposedly safe and secure options. A trader cannit be richer than her market, so one of the new lifeskills I am learning is how to do more with less. How is reality going to affect your plans?
Adaptability is the heart of permaculture. Indeed Nathanael is right, the most important thing you have to teach may be how to survive under adverse conditions. Not how to carry out the original plan as if climate change was not there. I too would focus on food first, and decent shelter. Everything else is optional. Except also medicinal plants - one of the obvious consequences of global warming that we seldom think of is how viruses and bacteria can multiply faster because of warmer moister conditions. Sounds to me like you should still be convalescing. Rest and meditation will do much towards a calmer state of mind so you can cope better. Find the resources within you that you are looking for out there.
Dear Rufaro, how are you? It is good of you to check in! Your harvest looks delightful! Well done!!!
I hesitate to alarm you, but it is only fair to tell you that there are rumours down here that the amount of water in Mozambique is so high the secondary rivers are flowing back into the Cahora Bassa Dam. They are going to have to open the sluices of the dam sooner or later, it is only a matter of time. And choosing whether a slow inundation is better than another flood.
I have no way of checking if the rumour is true, nor do I know where you are in relation to the dam, but wanted to warn you in case you need to do anything to prepare for flood and to warn your neighbours. At least beware when you cross dry rivers so no lives are lost.
Your thread should be renamed "too much, too little water" :)
With your sandy patch I see nothing that more humus cannot improve. Making it the focus of your compost building efforts should make it the ideal mealie field, especially if it is at the bottom of your slope where you can slow down the flow of water off the field, always with an easily removable midpoint in case of flood. This site has many discussions of the pro's and cons of hugelkultur swales, I have never had the opportunity to try it on my dry land, sunken hugels are the only thing that works for me. Still, I suggest you look into whether it might be a possibility for your land.
If your neighbours have similar problems perhaps you could club together and have the river dredged? It sounds to me like it could well be topsoil runoff from higher up that is causing your problem so hauling up the rich silt from the riverbed and using it to raise the level of your land could prove a win/win.
Also I would be curious to hear what your waterside plantings look like. Willows are indeed great for situations like these and as you do some research there are probably other trees that would grow practically in the water if given a chance. Because while a sudden flood is dangerous it seems to me your deeper problem is damp ground which is never healthy for humans. Eucalyptus is a terrible invader here in our dry country but I have heard that parts of Australia would be uninhabitable without it.
Dear Rufaro, it is so good to hear that you and mom are doing well! No rain from Cyclone Idai? Even so far south I hear such distressing news from the cyclone, and am only happy to hear that you and yours are OK. What a tragedy, just as you are recovering from the recent troubles too.
Like you I am learning to be thankful for small mercies. The way everyone is pulling together and trying to send help warms my heart. I remember how parts of Puerto Rico have not had electricity for eight months and then I see how from government to civil society people are contributing to make sure that no one waits for help in vain. In action we are showing that we are one species, one ecosystem.
Your beautiful seedlings give me hope too. Such triumph over adversity! Warm hugs.
Dear Rufaro, I am so sorry the rains are ended. But indeed it would have been much, much worse if you had not done all those preparations years ago. And you will find it gets easier as time goes on, as your soil gets full of humus and your trees get big. My first ten years were the hardest and although it never gets easy the garden is standing up to the challenges of the changing climate.
You should think about making large batches of that incredible lotion and selling it. That is how I make a cash income for myself, by selling soap and beauty products. You might think it is simple to make but it is surprising how happy women are to pay somebody else to do the work :)
WOW! Sounds like they are worth a few pigeon peas :) So basically it is a problem that should resolve itself as your soil heals? If you have space maybe plant a sacrificial crop or a few extra plants so that they may be persuaded to leave you some.
I struggle with the rapid rate of breakdown as temperatures rise as well. Couldn't seem to do better than chop and drop till I am tired. That is how I started getting interested in plants that produce a high degree of mulch material for little care. Am very fond of pumpkins because they not only produce great mulch but also chop and drop themselves, all you have to do is cut off the water supply when they are where you want them. Oh, and they also produce food sometimes...
I am aware of this dynamic. Since 2015 i have watched my plants grow steadily larger, torn between congratulating myself on increasing levels of humus in the soil and worry over the C02 factor. It is also a bit early according to predictions, 400 ppm is not supposed to be sufficient for an observable difference. On the other hand if Africa's temperatures are rising at twice the global average I suppose it is not impossible that CO2 levels are as well, though I have no idea of the science behind this.
As a plantswoman I can't say I wholeheartedly approve. Plants grow big and floppy and keel over in the wind. And more tasty to pests. The amount of biomass is increasing so much that I wear myself this time of year chopping and composting, plus most of the rest of the year I am goat trying to keep plants away from each other. So much so that I have ceased to haul in manure except for a tiny bit for potting.
I too wonder if CO2 on its own is sufficient to account for the increased growth, and can only suspect that this would depend on what is in it. Ancient carbon should be great but then again they make glyphosate and Agent Orange from it so who knows?
Related to this concern is whether the faster growing plants are able to make high density nutrient rich food to sustain healthy humans? I mean, even if we grant that the effect is real that does not necessarily mean it is to our advantage. Pardon my flakiness about the eons but I seem to recall that the dinosaurs went extinct during an era of high carbon levels? All I can say is that greenhouse tomatoes are terrible compared to organic sunkissed ones and taste in a healthy mouth should be an indicator of nutrients.
Water is my limiting factor too. Even on my tiny 2.5 acres I am not able to grow about 1/3 of it because I do not have sufficient water. Bit by bit as older parts start to become self sustaining I move driplines, but it literally is a calculation every spring how much I can afford to grow. I am more and more starting to think of the landscape as a waterholding flow mechanism, and am converting my dam to a wetland. We are next to the sea so with rising temperatures more evaporation is making the drop in rainfall easier to deal with. However I am also preparing for floods this winter just in case because all that extra humidity looks like it is going to come down as soon as the weather cools. For both purposes looking at water in the air, plants, and humus seems to make more sense than open water which I am coming to detest. It evaporates faster. in the dam too
It gets easier as the ecosystem matures. Shade trees especially if nitrogenous work wonders, as do swales. I am most fortunately on a foothill at the bottom of mountains, so slowing down water flow with a few escape systems in case of floods is working just fine. I am working outwards from zone 1 and getting there one guild at a time.
Could there be an ecosystem problem with the termites? I can tell you that with snails there is a direct correlation between the number of snails and the number of cats I have in the house. Right now I have three and we are having a cool and rainy autumn - quite unlike the long dry one we used to have - so I am assuming that there will be plague of snails come spring. The baby ducks and guineafowls don't make it to adulthood when there are too many cats about and so the snails thrive. I am trying to grow more of a wetland in my dam in the hope that the trees and reeds will offer the birds more cover. Sure will miss it if there are no ducklings this spring.
What would be a parallel for termites?
Nathaniel for understory my favourite is rose geranium, simply because it copes with our very difficult climate, yields high amounts of biomass for minute amounts of work, and can be used for the soaps. Its leaves can be used in cooking to flavour cakes and in a cordial. Our situation is a little different from yours in that it is not only very dry in summer but also very wet in winter. So plants need to be versatile. Tried pigeon pea once but the snails ate it in the winter. You make it sound so good I feel like trying it again with more care this time.
It looks like winter is starting early too, climate change has cut our rainfall by about 30 % but it is more evenly spread throughout the year. So I can't be sure if these are early winter rains or late summer rains but of late it has been raining once a week. Which is lovely but not if it is to flood this winter.
This means I can't plant pure desert plants because they will rot. Geraniums are the next best thing because they are adapted to extremes. I grow a lot of native species and the rose one is the best. Grows easily from cuttings, needs no water once established and will grow in the most humus deprived soil. Obviously it will grow better if you can throw some water and manure its way but will still deliver harvestable quantities in a drought. This is something people tend to overlook: lots of plants will survive a drought but if you want them to produce fruit or whatever you are harvesting they will need water. Plants that can deliver even in a drought are very rare, I only know a few.
If you don't cut it rose geranium will grow old gnarly branches that make long lasting coals. Its best quality for me is the beautiful humus it produces, when one looks at the foot of a rose geranium the soil is black and comely. I use it a lot to make soil from the 16 m deep solid clay I farm on. I chop for mulch - for which it is very handy since it doesn't seed and will not self root if you lay it on its side - and compost heaps. Once I am done extracting from leaves for soap these go onto the worms which they love.
I have been thinking a lot about the landscape as a total system of water and energy flows, there is a way you can see plants as water pumping mechanisms powered by the sun. That is affecting how I evaluate plants. Key to making this work is to accumulate humus in the soil and so 90% of what I do is aimed at that. If I were to start over I would simply plant guilds of sweet thorn (Acacia karoo), rose geranium (pelargonium graveolens) and silver wormwood, water till established and then do nothing for a couple of years while they sorted out the ecosystem. I did everything backwards (planted fruit trees first) but then hindsight is 20/20 vision :)
Lol, Rufaro, with the whole world drinking Rooibos tea we have learnt to be proud of our indigenous foods here. There are some people working at spreading the knowledge of how to grow them and cook them - not me although I do make the traditional black soft soap from olives. Hopefully a movement will grow around your feet too, it is easier to do these things when many are helping.
It is wonderful to see you thriving so well in the midst of the drought. I am sure people are looking and will strive to emulate you next year.
Nathaniel, Great system! My grey water feeds a lemon tree and a stand of vetiver. It is the only way I can grow vetiver in this dry climate, the roots of which I harvest regularly for soap scenting. The leaves are also really useful for repelling flies and insects and make a long lasting mulch.
Using water twice is something I do a lot of. My favourite is to put holes in the bottom of a tin drum - instant wormfarm. I will put some leguminous wood at the bottom - Acacia spp here - and then start filling up with vegetable peelings and whatever I can get my hands on: coffee grounds, ashes from the fire, lawn clippings, seasand, etc. And some worms. I plant around it those vegetables which are hungry like tomatoes or pumpkins, and then the once daily watering the worms receive also feeds the plants at its feet. Normally I use rainwater for this which I collect off the gutters. When the drum is half full I will plant in it, tomatoes, chillies or eggplants seem to like this situation, and keep mulching on top. One can keep planting as long as it is warm, when the tomato is done plant a pumpkin, when the pumpkin is done put some beans in, the old plants just adding to the compost. So now I am watering four plants from one bucket of water a day. When the drum is full I still have perfect worm compost for my trees, plus some nicely inoculated wood to throw in my beds.
The wood at the bottom helps retain water on the days I go to market, and if you run the drum long enough the worms seem to like nibbling them. I will make some comfrey kombucha and throw in the drum once or twice to get the micro-organisms going, but that is just spoiling the worms and isn't really necessary.
Total side-track: Love the idea of cotton seed soap. Now I am going to have to get some :)
in relation to fire, creeping succulents are good (what Americans call iceplants). Plant a firebreak at least 3 yards wide around the forest and allow them to creep under trees, which will also help with shading the ground. Look out for local species, ours are often invasive in the US. You never need water once established and some bear edible fruits or have leaves with herbal applications. I chop mine every year just before the rains come, they make a lovely compost in the middle at the bottom of the heap - not where they can regenerate because then they will
For us, the SHTF in 1652. It was hairy for a while, slavery, genocide, colonialism and so on, but we are here still, surviving with somewhat of our old values left intact. I am happy to share what we have learned about surviving system change. For what its worth I think the coming collapse is likely to be a slow one rather than one drastic event, but there is no saying if you live near a toxic factory or a nuclear power station that disaster cannot come suddenly.
To my mind, the most important thing is community as a key factor in improving survival chances. Some of us went north to escape slavery, there meeting others who had moved inland and south from the slave raiding. Eventually colonialism caught up with them too but they had an extra couple of centuries to preserve the old traditions and knowledges. They moved in community. In Africa we are so poor, we did not even own our bodies at one stage. Getting out of that trap was hard because still to this day all our trading routes are directed to the former colonial powers and trading locally is the most frustrating and expensive thing. We manage because every time the system is not there to do something for us we turn to our networks. For instance, one third of African women do not even have bank accounts. They buy and sell, lend and borrow through kinships and community networks. Likely, it is the rural uneducated woman farmer who will survive better than the highly urbanized elites. She doesn''t have much to lose, and she has spent generations making a way out of no way.
Part of the reason why community works is because travelling alone you cannot provide for the eventuality that you might get hurt. A small group is safer because you can watch out for each other. So start taking that bike trip or boat ride once a year. There is nothing like the long road to figure out who you can trust. Research your most likely escape route and then experience it in practice. That is the only way to properly assess its dangers. Figure out your bolt hole well in advance and in fact set up a series of minor bolt holes along the way. You do this by visiting regularly, so that your first appearance is not as the stranger in need but the friend who brings a strong back and useful skills. These can never go wrong. Invest what assets you can spare into your bolthole(s) so that when you are in need it shall come back to you. That is how we get by.
Lol, Chris, you tempt me and we will be thread hijacking in a minute :)
Ok my view:
97 % of human history - matriarchy. There will always be some controversy on how one interprets archeological findings. I can say with a high degree of certainty that this holds true for Africa, see the work of Cheikh Anta Diop, Ifi Amadiume and others. Also https://www.hagia.de/en/international-academy-hagia.html The chief economic feature of original matriarchies (as opposed to transitional forms on the way to become patriarchy) appear to be gift economies, that is to say markets in those days would be thought of as what we today would consider sites of barter. See here: http://gift-economy.com/ These economies tended to have very formal redistributive functions which prevented people from accumulating wealth, kind of like the one you envisage but in a context where levels of inequality were a fraction of what they are today. There are of course lots of contemporary studies which show that the gift economy continues to operate and can form a considerable portion of GDP (women's free labour, migrant remittances, indigenous cultures of gift giving, etc).
12 000 BC to 5000 BC a transition to patriarchies, except for Africa where this began to happen around the year 0 and we can see a fairly systematic spread from north to south. So like I say for my continent this is pretty straightforward, archeological disputes notwithstanding.
2000 BC - 400 AD Greeks, Romans, Vikings,Mongols: equal parts trading, raiding and plantation slavery.
Feudalism proper ca 1000 AD - 1500 BC (dates are going to overlap because we are talking about different places in the world.) Defined as a class system where people were tied to the land.
Capitalism proper 1500-? Defined as a class system where land has become private property (post-enclosure society). I have written about why collapse is inevitable here: https://khoelife.com/the-politics-of-food/ But that is a very old paper and there are much better new contributions, not least this one: https://jembendell.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/the-study-on-collapse-they-thought-you-should-not-read-yet/ He gives us ten years before irreversible negative feedback loops set in, maybe a bit pessimistic but the paper is well argued. More to the point, I have searched the web flat to find somebody calling him a charlatan and couldn't. In fact, the IPCC quietly revised its estimates for negative feedback loops after his paper was published.
As for what will replace it: is that not up to us? Tyler I think regenerative landscapes are absolutely the thing, in fact bioremediation generally tends to be underrated. We have barely begun to explore its possibilities.
So perhaps to bring us back to the OP, I personally think it would be great if a safe and economic way to reclaim nuclear waste could be found. My comments and questions in that regard are meant to be helpful, in the hope that it could be done as speedily as possible. Not an engineer, just a farmer who thinks it would good if issues of scaling and adaptability were designed in at an early stage.
Yes great idea Nataniel! There are people from Zimbabwe and Kenya too I have seen on this forum so it sounds like an idea whose time has come.
Ina, not a qualified permaculturalist but I do practice indigenous knowledge systems on my place in Cape Town. Have just inherited some land outside Windhoek so will be doing some development work there next year. It would be great to network and share ideas and experiences. Let us stay in touch!
Thank you Bob for your comments!
Chris, I share with you a fundamental scepticism regarding neo classical economics. It is the source of half the problems we have today because it only holds true under certain assumptions, none of which are applicable in the real world. In this sense one can confidently say that our economies are run by psychotic people (have a sense of the real world which is not consonant with facts) whom politicians listen to. I have written extensively about this in my latest report and will be happy to share it as soon as it is launched.
However the market predates capitalism by many millennia and will outlive it. No sense in throwing out the baby as the bath collapses, so to say. Speaking as a farmer I would not be able to make this place pay for itself without markets. So, I am not saying that one cannot find funders for any research effort, but are there any calculations as to the proportion of existing research funding in relation to the amount of investment that would be needed? These comparisons would lead to us asking questions which are slightly different from what is being said:
1. what does it take to bring a new technology to scale?
2. are there certain technologies that lend themselves to scale economics (millions of poor people implementing it because it pays them to do so) better than others?
I would have thought that such questions would be of interest to people developing new energy technologies. In any new research what matters is asking the right questions. In my experience supporting communities to advocate for renewable energy i have discovered one core truth: people are not going to move to save the planet or even to prevent some danger a few decades away. They are so busy surviving today that that is all they can focus on. So if you want political pressure to be applied you have to address what is in it for them today? And, as i have said, I fear that political power is the only thing that would challenge vested interests in respect of new nuclear technologies.
I guess what i am raising is the issue of technologies which lend themselves to democratic action and which don't. And I think it is fair to ask whether such questions have been considered ?