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Edible Forest Gardens 1 & 2  RSS feed

 
Kevin Swanson
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Hi,

I've been slogging through Edible Forest Gardens 1 & 2. At times I find the books enjoyable and inspirational. At other times I find the amount of design work they are describing absolutely daunting. Reading through the books and understanding what they are prescribing is a daunting task in and of itself. Never mind getting out in the field and actually performing the were they prescribe before you break ground. Others that have worked through this books or similar books, could you please shed some light on how you handled the massive amount of information and how you kept from getting discouraged? Sometimes I feel that I will never make it all the way through the book, but I don't want to stop because I know that thoroughly thinking the design through will end up saving me time in the long run!
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think it's easy to get overwhelmed by design information. I get overwhelmed when I try to read Mollison's "Designers' Manual" though I have read most of it (ok, I admit I skip some parts!). Sometimes seeing information in a different form, such as a video, makes it comprehensible for me. For instance I found the PRI video "Establishing a food forest" extremely helpful. Just this portion was amazingly helpful to me (though it's the "boring part" ) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMQ8eSm92xQ
 
Brenda Groth
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I read both and found them very informative but also wearying..and I'm a very fast reader who takes in information easily.

there are books that have easier to digest information, but these two are good references if you can afford to buy them (i got them from a library )..

I highly recommend gaia's garden by Toby Hemenway for straightforward information..and for handling your harvest I recommend The Country Living Encyclopedia by Carla Emery
 
Andi Houston
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Location: Gainesville, FL
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I am about 150 pages into volume one and slowly plowing my way through. I only found out these books existed a month ago, and I was quite hesitant to even begin reading them. I started planting my mini-food forest months ago and I was sure I would find out I've done everything wrong.

The part I'm finding quite daunting so far is the amount of knowledge expected about each plant we use. This book kinda feels like I need a degree in botany before I can plant anything. I've always been more of a "let's put it into the ground and see what happens" kind of gardener. This means I've made a lot of mistakes, but it means I've tried a whole lot of different methods and ideas, too. I'm good about recording my trials and errors so I'm generally only making NEW mistakes, but to me this is all a big experiment. Otherwise I get bogged down in perfectionism and never actually start anything.

Is this just a difference in philosophy? I don't know. I'm definitely learning lots from the book.

 
Kevin Swanson
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Yes I'm with you on the whole needing a botany degree. I'm learning a lot too. The amount of information and design work is daunting!
 
Shawn Aune
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I'm not so sure the second book is one to read through.

The first book is a good read and well worth it.

The second book is a reference manual with some really helpful tables. I'm a fan of being succinct which made reading the second book pretty difficult. A lot of information was just repeated using different words. The book could have been only half as thick as it is.
 
Brian Jeffrey
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Location: Connecticut
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Edible Forest Gardens (EFG) were what really set me on the path I am currently on. I stumbled upon them in the public library, and WHAM, when I looked up after finishing volume two and it was a month later. I thoroughly enjoy reading technical book/ textbooks, so it was not much of a struggle to stay engaged (is that the right word?).

I do have a few things I do in order to make reading and retaining the information a enjoyable. First and foremost I keep my own "manual" of what I want to do. It's just a 3" binder with a few hundred sheet protectors in it, sectioned out into Home/Greenhouse/Landscape/TEKS/Misc Notes/Bibliography. I was kind of self-conscious about making it at first but it has been the biggest help in finding and organizing all the facts in those big books. Be sure to take the time to write your ideas and quotes with their proper citation, as I often need to reread the page or two in order to fully get the idea back when it is months or years later. Just the rhythm of reading, working in your manual, reading, and back, seems to give ownership and purpose.... very motivating.

Also I do not worry about getting everything possible the first read through. Reading EFG vol 1 and 2 the first time I got the big ideas and little pieces that sparked my interest. After a year or so of reading other books, the topics of which were inspired by EFG, I re-read both volumes and it seemed like I understood and retained everything, like afterwards I could finally see the forest for all the trees. I guess what I am saying is don't skip parts, seemingly useless chapters only seem that way because permaculture is a "greater than the sum of the parts". And some parts are poop and ditch digging.


In the spirit of things here, this is me and two of my little books:
 
Kevin Swanson
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Andi Houston wrote:I am about 150 pages into volume one and slowly plowing my way through. I only found out these books existed a month ago, and I was quite hesitant to even begin reading them. I started planting my mini-food forest months ago and I was sure I would find out I've done everything wrong.

The part I'm finding quite daunting so far is the amount of knowledge expected about each plant we use. This book kinda feels like I need a degree in botany before I can plant anything. I've always been more of a "let's put it into the ground and see what happens" kind of gardener. This means I've made a lot of mistakes, but it means I've tried a whole lot of different methods and ideas, too. I'm good about recording my trials and errors so I'm generally only making NEW mistakes, but to me this is all a big experiment. Otherwise I get bogged down in perfectionism and never actually start anything.

Is this just a difference in philosophy? I don't know. I'm definitely learning lots from the book.



I feel you on needing the botany degree. Do you plan on creating a full fledged design as this book describes?
 
Kevin Swanson
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Brian Jeffrey wrote: Edible Forest Gardens (EFG) were what really set me on the path I am currently on. I stumbled upon them in the public library, and WHAM, when I looked up after finishing volume two and it was a month later. I thoroughly enjoy reading technical book/ textbooks, so it was not much of a struggle to stay engaged (is that the right word?).

I do have a few things I do in order to make reading and retaining the information a enjoyable. First and foremost I keep my own "manual" of what I want to do. It's just a 3" binder with a few hundred sheet protectors in it, sectioned out into Home/Greenhouse/Landscape/TEKS/Misc Notes/Bibliography. I was kind of self-conscious about making it at first but it has been the biggest help in finding and organizing all the facts in those big books. Be sure to take the time to write your ideas and quotes with their proper citation, as I often need to reread the page or two in order to fully get the idea back when it is months or years later. Just the rhythm of reading, working in your manual, reading, and back, seems to give ownership and purpose.... very motivating.

Also I do not worry about getting everything possible the first read through. Reading EFG vol 1 and 2 the first time I got the big ideas and little pieces that sparked my interest. After a year or so of reading other books, the topics of which were inspired by EFG, I re-read both volumes and it seemed like I understood and retained everything, like afterwards I could finally see the forest for all the trees. I guess what I am saying is don't skip parts, seemingly useless chapters only seem that way because permaculture is a "greater than the sum of the parts". And some parts are poop and ditch digging.




Brian, thanks for the response. Originally I couldn't decide how to take notes on such a massive amount of material. I thought to myself, I'll just return to this page/chapter when I need it. What you've described makes more sense to me, and I think I will start keeping a binder to organize my thoughts along with citations so I can easily refresh my mind as to what the content in the book was.


I think another one of my problems is that when I get home from work I am just mentally exhausted and don't have a lot of energy left over for dedicating to the textbook material. I am a software engineer so my brain is constantly churning all day. It is frustrating because I really feel drawn and compelled to practice permaculture, I feel the need to fully understand and design something on paper before spending a lot of money attempting to implement this in the physical realm.(I've planted a couple of fruit trees and will be turning these into guilds). Trying to stay positive on it all, but I can really see the whole "The man keeps us so busy we don't have time to make a change in our own lives" mentality.

This winter I hope to work through about 3/4 of my design, hopefully the site assesment doesn't prove to be a major road block as most, if not all of it will be challenging with the cold weather coming.



 
Kris Minto
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My take on the Edible Forest Gardens book is they become repetitive and for those starting out in permaculture, it carries a bit of an information overload that both authors have gather over a long period of time. I personally recommend sepp holzer and Martin Crawford books as I found them to be an easier read while provide more diagrams and pictures to refer.

I have been spending a large portion of this last year learning from all types of material (books, article, video and forums) and find that there is no perfect model or way of doing things no matter how much you read. Bill Mollison even said in his book "turn problems into solution". Even if you make a design mistake, figure out a way to make it work. I believe as long as you have a basic understand of the design concert, you really can go wrong.

Kris
 
Josef Theisen
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Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
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I think it's important to keep in mind that these plants, and the relationships between them, exist weather or not we understand them. It helps me a lot to keep index cards on each species I am actively learning about and add notes as I find them. The act of writing the information really helps me to remember it later. I have also started a binder for my master plan, and keep notes in there as well. Ultimately, though, learning about permaculture is a journey that will never be complete.

I have not yet read EFG 1&2, but they are top on my list if I ever finish A Designer's Manual.

Brian, I love the front cover reminder of the most important bit of advice in the universe.

Don't forget your towel.


(Edited: Some day I will remember that alot is two words. For now, thanks for the reminder.)
 
Brian Jeffrey
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Robert Marr wrote:


... when I get home from work I am just mentally exhausted and don't have a lot of energy left over for dedicating to the textbook material. I am a software engineer so my brain is constantly churning all day.



That is so very true. I work in construction and was lucky(?) enough to be jobless for 6 months in 2009, it seemed crazy how much more endurance I had without normal work. It's kinda funny but during the work week I daydream about reading more than I actually read.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Josef Theisen wrote:I think it's important to keep in mind that these plants, and the relationships between them, exist weather or not we understand them.


I think that's why geoff lawton says you don't need to know botany or even ecology to create a food forest, you just have to get the design/pattern basics right and the plants do the rest of the work. I haven't read the Edible Forest Gardens books so I don't know if they mention this anywhere, or if their philosophy is completely different. If I thought I had to know botany to make a food forest, I would give up! :p
 
Josef Theisen
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It's pretty crazy how learning works. When I first started actively studying, it seemed like such a jumbled mess of overlapping information that my mind would never retain. But many species that I hadn't even heard of a few years ago seem like old friends to me now. It is very important to get past the books at some point and meet each plant in the real world. Plunge in with both feet, make mistakes, change your mind then change your plan and you will gain practical experience.

Go talk to any serious fantasy football player and you will quickly realize just how much information the human mind with a little passion can hold on to.
 
Andi Houston
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Location: Gainesville, FL
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Joe-

That is definitely true. Studying books and learning theory and plant data is important, but getting outside and digging in the dirt and just LOOKING is a good cure for too much reading (and staring at the computer, I've found).

I am reading your blog and I love your swale+hugelkultur+lasagna bed craziness. I can't seem to log in correctly to leave a comment... just wanted you to know that I like your blog!

Andi
 
Andi Houston
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Brian-

I have a book too! Mine is just a cheap composition notebook, but it's my garden journal, planner, and idea space. I take notes from books, meta-theories scrawled across the tops of pages, draw crazy diagrams that don't make sense to anyone but me. It helps keep me motivated. Glad I'm not the only one.

I know that eventually I need to break down and do a computer-rendered, actually-measured-out, technical diagram of my yard so I can track things like tree growth and planting distances with accuracy. i even have decent software. Maybe that's a good winter project.

Andi
 
Josef Theisen
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Andi Houston wrote:Joe-

I am reading your blog and I love your swale+hugelkultur+lasagna bed craziness. I can't seem to log in correctly to leave a comment... just wanted you to know that I like your blog!

Andi


Thanks Andi! It is craziness, I sure hope it works!
 
Paul Cereghino
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I think the work of interacting with the system itself is part of the design. If you are creating a system that is managed and utilized using hand tools, I believe it CANNOT exist on paper. How you use your body, and the tools, the timing, the intuition, the feel of different seasons, all become part of the design. Paper design and field practice are a feedback loop. The timing, the observed revelations, the failures, the succession, cannot be contained on paper.

I learned some pruning from an Arborist in Seattle--Arthur Lee Jacobson. He said something like.. "I wanted to be a renaissance man, and so I started with horticulture, and I've been stuck there ever since."

By attempting to learn how to design ecological systems you are actually developing a skill set that is so vast, that you should likely be thinking about your lifetime as a down payment on cultural evolution. Your children may begin to understand the relative virtues of some of your design choices.

Understanding the behaviors of plants is so fundemental, and I believe it can ONLY be achieved by planting and tending plants in real places so that you can observe the feedback mechanisms. There are just too many feedback mechanisms.

My two bits... and I've got 9 years of post-secondary education and three degrees on the topic and 20 years in the landscape industry, and it still runs my head in circles We just get used to playing on the edge.

I planted an apple tree, but a buck came through and trashed it, but I realized it was getting too crowded for light anyway so now there are three honeyberries, but I have never grown them in my climate... try bringing in some chicken manure and wait another year or two, and I had one groundcover, and the chickens got out and trashed it but left the less desirable buttercup, but now I have a seedbed, so what seed do I have in the garage, and boy that apple mint sure makes a nicer cup of tea than the curly mint, so that'll go out next year, and my wet chicken paddocks are too small, and the chickens didn't really prepare a good seed bed without a mulch input, but I'm getting better at timing my scything so that will work, and on and on and on...

That being said, one of the first things I did when I was in college was develop a plant database (before PFAF), to try to understand the palette.

The deeper you go, the more tied you become to place.
 
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