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discussion: Lawton's Cold Temperate Video Site  RSS feed

 
Roberto pokachinni
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Hi There Everyone.

New to this site, and saw a recent thread here about a video that I had watched with geoff lawton. It's topic though was about the nature of Geoff's style of filming and his manner of setting up this video series, while I was hoping it would be more of a discussion of the video's topic itself.

I as wondering if anybody wanted to discuss the cold temperate subjects that Geoff was mentioning specifically in the video? Or if anybody has personal experience on this site, or any relevant experience in the north that would be great too.

I was confused in the video, for instance, when he was discussing hugulkultur and said that the decomposition in this climate happens in the winter. I've got a lot of respect for the guy, but it seemed like he just hasn't seen a compost heap in the winter in this climate. It's solid. And it's dormant until the spring thaw. There might be some decomposition in the lowest areas of a hugulkultur's logs for longer than all other parts of the garden, but once the frost sets in, it really sets in deep in my area. I posted this question on Geoff's site comments under the video, but did not yet get a response.

Anybody have insight or other comments about the workings of the permaculture site and Geoff's take on it's workings ?

I love the idea of rice growing. I'm a colder, I think in the summer, than that site, but would love to give it a go in my upper meadow and see what happens. Even if some rice comes to head, and I save the seed and replant it, I'm bound to develop a hardier strain. Any ideas on making it work, without the perfect micro climate that the video shows?

Thanks in advance,
-Roberto
 
Burra Maluca
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This is the video in question - 18 MINUTE FULL VERSION

You must log in with name and email address to see the full version.

And this is the short youtube version


 
Roberto pokachinni
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Thanks Burra! I really appreciate you posting the video.
 
William James
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I think his point about the hugelkultur is that in the tropics/sub-tropics if you put down a hugelkultur, you will have soil activity and decomposition right away because things are wet and there is active soil biology breaking down the wood at a fast rate (almost too fast, which is why hugelkulture might not be best for those climates).

In temperate climates decomposition usually happens after the wood inside has had a chance to be saturated with water and have fungal build up. Saturation with water happens throughout the winter. You're right that the decomposition happens later as the temperatures go up, but the point is you have to wait a winter for things to start "working".

I saw it as another way to say what Paul says, which is something to the effect of "year one, it sucks - year two, it's okay - year three and beyond, awesome".

I would add, "If you do it right."

best,
William
 
Cj Sloane
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:
I was confused in the video, for instance, when he was discussing hugulkultur and said that the decomposition in this climate happens in the winter. I've got a lot of respect for the guy, but it seemed like he just hasn't seen a compost heap in the winter in this climate.


I just re-watched it and I think he's using the term "winter" loosely. Like he says all growth happens in the summer. Well, clearly growth happens in spring and fall too. Sometimes instead of winter he'll say, "when rainfall exceeds evaporation." For much of the temperate climate, that's "winter."
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Thanks for the replies.

I've not built a hugulkultur (YET!!!) but I'm pretty well read on the subject so I understand the concepts you are laying out. I also have a background in ecology and grew up in the temperate rainforest so I know the characteristics of rotting wood, and the potential of hugulkultur. It just seems strange that Geoff would choose his words so loosely/poorly when for the most part he is pretty clear about what he says and how he says it-he particularly seems to make the point of annunciation and clarity in this video series. Although he may see Winter as being the wet season-and it very well may be-but is not always wetter than the spring or fall in Temperate locations, I think that his perspective might be a bit too stuck in the Wet Season/Dry Season tropical mindset to really articulate it clearly, or he made a mistake. Even if the soil or hugul beds are recharging with water, the decomposition and such will happen when the soil microbiology is in it's prime conditions, and that would be warm and damp, which might be spring, or summer, or autumn-not winter, by any stretch of my imagination; not in a 4 season temperate climate that can frost heave posts out of the ground!-as is the case in the video site. Perhaps it's just a poor choice of words, but winter, where I come from is serious, and there is no mistaking it for anything but what it is. The way I think it: "When rainfall exceeds evaporation" is another term for saying a forest, not winter. In all seasons where I live rainfall exceeds evaporation because I live in a forest region bordering on west coast style rainforest as it's on the west side of the Rockies. The peak of summer may be an exception to that rule, as it certainly was last year.
 
William James
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I've heard him talk about hugelkulturs before and he says something like "usually you're building it for next year, because you need the wetness that winter brings". Not a direct quote.

I really think he's just saying you can't put it to use right away or that it's beneficial qualities may take some time to take effect. I think he might be cautious of advising people who might construct huglekulturs in the spring and then dismantle the thing in september after it "doesn't work". Hence the use of the concept of "overwintering" the hugelbeds in a cool climate.

I think the advice is sound. At least for where I am.

The quote we're referring to, just to be clear, is:
"This will break down over winter, so you're getting winter decomposition, and in these cold climates there's no growth in winter - all the growth happens in summer, so after the decomposition you're getting the growth of trees..."

Maybe he's just not talking about the Uber-Cold-Temperate where you live. I get decomposition in winter, but I'm more cool temperate.

Have you tried insulating the compost pile? Straw bales and a straw covering tend to keep things active for me.

William
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Hi William,

Like I said, I understand the concepts of the hugulkultur system, with letting it charge with water and waiting for it to gain that moisture and begin to break down. I also believe that the settling of the materials and the stabilizing of the air systems in it will likely kick the greater communities within it to work as a cohesive unit/system into the high gear system that it is a year or three deep in the process.

That said, the place in the video gets deep frosts. He mentions it being Zone 4. I'm zone 3, I think, though it's hard to say for sure in my valley. If you observe, in the video, those concrete posts that the frost has heaved out of the soil, tossing the deck of the sauna way out of whack, you get an understanding of this type of depth of frost. I'm not talking inches, it's feet (or metric: it's not in a few centimeters it's more closer to a meter). In my area, and probably in the site of this video you have to put your water lines a minimum of 3 feet (1 meter) down, and the old timers say 5 feet, and the extremists go six (2 meters), because some years it can be bitterly cold with little to no insulating snow. There is nothing that compares to trying to fix a water line in that type of winter!

This year is mild with tons of snow, and I imagine the frost is not 3 feet, though I was not at the property to see how fall descended into winter to know or really accurately guess the type of frost. I'm not at the land right now.

So yeah, the quote you mention William is what started me raising my eyebrows in question, but there is a second quote later in that hugulkultur sequence in the video in which Geoff further states "This is an ideal system for cold climates because your decomposition happens in the winter and your growth happens in the summer." Which, in my thinking, simply can not be true, if like I said, the frosts are like the location of this video. There's not going to be much-if any-decomposition, or much water penetration for that matter, until the spring thaw passes and the warming of the beds out of winter's cold begins. There will be mechanical breakdown due to the frost, but decomposition will only happen in the warm conditions suitable for the microbes and greater fungi to have good metabolism and water/nutrient flows. The hugulkultur extends the time period that this process can occur, which is very precious in a cold temperate environment, but, the way I see it this does not stop winter from penetrating with it's frost, except maybe at the hugulkultur's very center base. Some more decomposition will occur on those years that deep snow comes very early in the winter and stays on the ground all winter until spring, but even then, the decomposition process would be hindered greatly by the cooler temperatures. The temps needed for good steady decomposition would have to wait until spring. That's at least how I see it. I could be wrong. And Geoff should know or know who to ask if I am. Perhaps the synergistic combination of the insulating air pockets, and the large thermal mass covering a large area of earth, and the decomposition process, and the sun absorption all summer and fall, and the density of hugul beds on that slope are enough to keep those hugul beds rocking all winter? I can't tell you, but it doesn't make sense to me at this time.

When Mother Earth News did an experiment with a Jean Pain type massive compost heap of dampened wood chips, it shut down in their winter too. Jean's system was extremely productive in the south of France, but unlike Mother's experiment using a standard chipper, Pain shredded his wood which allowed proper moisture and biological penetration, allowing it to be metabolized. And I think, if I remember the article, Pain's piles were decidedly more massive than Mother's. There was a guy in Manitoba who buried tons of silage in a pit with copper tubing in it for radiant hot water heat in his home and hot water. But that was buried deep.

As for covering my compost with straw... I must be a bit colder than you. Just a bit. Yeah, that extends it a bit, but it shuts down. I'm thinking of doing an indoor compost system at some point, not only so that I can compost in the winter, but so that I can play with worms as a project for something to do-the winter can be 4-6 months long! I was also thinking of doing an indoor Jean Pain system at some point.

When I build a hugulkultur, and I'm on the land in the winter, I'll see if I can scrounge up a compost thermometer and pierce the bed with it's deep probe in a few places to get some readings.

Perhaps the huguls just have to be bigger in the colder places? I heard that Sepp builds his 7 to 8 feet tall sometimes. I wonder, though, if it's possible to make them too massive so that the sun just can't heat them up enough after a cold winter??!



 
Mike Haych
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:Hi There Everyone.

--SNIP--

I was confused in the video, for instance, when he was discussing hugulkultur and said that the decomposition in this climate happens in the winter. I've got a lot of respect for the guy, but it seemed like he just hasn't seen a compost heap in the winter in this climate. It's solid. And it's dormant until the spring thaw. There might be some decomposition in the lowest areas of a hugulkultur's logs for longer than all other parts of the garden, but once the frost sets in, it really sets in deep in my area. I posted this question on Geoff's site comments under the video, but did not yet get a response.

--SNIP--

If he's talking about the site that he was walking, and I can't think of a reason that he wasn't, he's wrong. Even below the frost line, temperatures are in the 10-15˚C range. If the heat required for microbial action to exist can't be maintained, then no decomposition will occur. I also have an immense amount of respect of Lawton but I think he's over his head in a cold climate. You can't simply walk a cold climate property and have an understanding of what is going on. You need to live there in January. The first thing you say is where did the food forest go? Then you start to think very differently about food.

 
Roberto pokachinni
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Hi Mike and thanks for contributing your thoughts. Yeah, that was pretty much what I've tried to articulate in a lot of words. When the site owner contributed with his bit about the rice, you know he knew his site and what's going on in his climate. But I really think Geoff's use of the term Winter in regards to decomposition, in such a place as Zone 4, is, well, just wrong. And if he's trying to really get people's interest in this zone, then he should be more on the ball with it. I'm just surprised by it that's all. It seem to me he should know that. Shouldn't he? LOL I love the guy heaps though, and would love to have him on my property for an hour or a week!

As far as food forest goes though, I personally believe that too is possible, but it will require a lot more planning, particularly with spacing to get the required light/heat. My intentions (I have not developed my Zone 3 land), are to plant a food forest, with plums, apples, cherries, and pears, and possibly hardy apricots as the tall trees, and perhaps a few dwarf varieties as a small tree layer, but with shrub trees like wild hawthorn, saskatoon, and elder involved. The early stages will be quite packed with alders in order to fix nitrogen deeply but these will be chop and dropped, for the most part, as the system progresses-though I may keep a couple just for their wild element to be present. A carregana hedge on the windward side, and possibly in a few places, combined with clovers and peas and bean will keep the nitrogen up. The key, I hope, will be creating micro climates, with odd shaped hugulkulture beds, stones, and ponds, in order to increase the potential of the site.

There is a food forest developing on that site, it just doesn't have the tropical vigor that one sees with ten or twenty foot trees in a few years.

Is there a reason you do not think a food forest is possible there, or in cold climates?
 
Mike Haych
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:Is there a reason you do not think a food forest is possible there, or in cold climates?


I do but the problem is that a perennial food forest does not have enough diversified nutrition to take you through the winter. Squirrels may be satisfied to live on acorns, walnuts, and hazelnuts but I'm not. There is a scarcity of cold climate perennial vegetables. There is no scarcity of annual vegetables that can take you through the winter - root vegetables, squash, legumes and corn. Cold climate food forests are a design waiting to be drawn. Cold climate food forests must move beyond trying to tweak the existing tropical/temperate climate model. If permaculture teachers don't recognize this, those of us who have a strong horticultural knowledge will start to call bullshit.

 
Mike Leo
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The site in the video is Whole Systems Design's research Farm. More info here: http://www.wholesystemsdesign.com/

Which is run by Mr. Ben Falk, who incidentally has written an excellent book about the site, the design, pretty much everything: http://www.wholesystemsdesign.com/resilient-farm-homestead-book/

I have the book and have met Ben. I highly recommend both as enjoyable experiences. To add to this knowledge I have of the site, I also live in the Northeast United states (admittedly Zone 5 not Zone 3) but I have some knowledge to speak from, being close by.

Except for areas with permafrost, the ground freezes gradually and only down to a certain depth. This isn't a huge distance, as properly installed footings and foundations attest to. So in places with little to no freeze the ground may not freeze at all. In places with a more severe cold for longer periods the ground freezes from the top down and while there will be a band of soil above freezing but below the threshold for microbial activity you don't have to descend very far to hit the depth where the soil constant temperature is 55 degrees and stays there.

In the example of hugelculture you will usually have wood below grade, with an additional pile of insulating soil and biomass above, not to mention (at least at the site in Vermont) an additional insulating blanket of snow. Is it going to be be a hot pile of 100+ degree hot decomposition? No, but it also will not be frozen solid throughout the pile.

Something else to consider is the progression of this ground freezing. Especially in areas with a thick snow blanket the soil itself may not freeze, or may not freeze right away. Is the ground frozen solid the first day temps drop below freezing where you are? Around here I wouldn't want to dig any holes right now but at the beginning of the season I definitely could and the week worth of 40 degree days we had this month had no trouble melting everything again (in Zone 5 NH with a foot of snow to melt first).

You are correct that in the right conditions, fully exposed, frozen compost does not decompose. You are incorrect in assuming that the entire winter decomposition cycle is impossible because at some point it might freeze. There's plenty of decomp going on under that blanket of snow, and below the surface. Yes some of it may stop for the freeze but not as much as you think and a lot less in a buried situation like a hugel system.
 
Mike Leo
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Mike Aych wrote:
Roberto pokachinni wrote:Is there a reason you do not think a food forest is possible there, or in cold climates?


I do but the problem is that a perennial food forest does not have enough diversified nutrition to take you through the winter. Squirrels may be satisfied to live on acorns, walnuts, and hazelnuts but I'm not. There is a scarcity of cold climate perennial vegetables. There is no scarcity of annual vegetables that can take you through the winter - root vegetables, squash, legumes and corn. Cold climate food forests are a design waiting to be drawn. Cold climate food forests must move beyond trying to tweak the existing tropical/temperate climate model. If permaculture teachers don't recognize this, those of us who have a strong horticultural knowledge will start to call bullshit.



I appreciate your... attempt to "call bullshit" Mike but you've got a few things backwards. You're right that you won't be harvesting out of the forest in deep January, and the list of crops you disdain as squirrel food are possibilities but only the tip of the iceberg.

If you want to see what Ben is already doing in this space, and the prodigious amount of production he is getting from his perennial model (which includes only a small amount of the crops you list) I think you would enjoy reading his book which I linked above.

Geoff has been quick to say (I've personally heard it in 2 PDCs and again in more content he's done) that the Cold Temperate systems are going to allow for annuals and that they thrive there in a way that isn't possible elsewhere. One of the follies of European/modern agriculture was trying to bring and force annual systems in the tropics which is why the tropic's food forest looks the way it does. It would be a similar folly to suggest that in the climate where annuals are king that your system would not include them.

In addition to his permanent systems Ben Falk does quite a bit with annuals and his pantry has an amazing amount of stored or processed annuals.

What you can, and should be getting from a cold climate temperate food forest is, wood fuel, nuts, fruits and fodder. All of which is possible, and with some species even easy. If you aren't getting your proper nutrition from a mature system your design is lacking. Between your annuals and perennials stuffing your larders and your livestock cured or stuffing your freezer you can live quite comfortably.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Thanks Leo,

I'm really grateful that you jumped in on this. This is exactly the type of info that I was HOPING BEYOND HOPE, would come of this. With my own systems (in dream stage at this time), and being in such a cold place, I need to know this to design with the most efficiency to tilt the ecosystem in my favour.

Question: Is there permafrost in New England? I've never heard of such a thing in the lower 48, except possibly under a glacier in Washington maybe. Or are you just throwing that out there as a general statement about permafrost?

I've been meaning, since seeing this video, to get in touch with Ben and possibly get his book. You are lucky to be close to this site.

Like I mentioned, I figured that in the depth of the pile there might be some activity in a deep freeze, but I certainly I do not think I inferred that the hugulkultur would be expected to have a similar decomposition temp as a properly built hot compost heap!-and I don't think you were expecting that I thought that. The compost thermometer test I proposed was just so that I might have an indication of what was going on in the hugul. What I did mention was that my compost turned solid as an example of the extreme low temps it can experience and also the Mother Earth news experiment with Jean Pain's methods as further evidence of the unlikelihood of winter being the time of decomposition.

No the ground does not necessarily freeze deeply the first time the frost penetrates the soil. It depends on many variables... The predominant ones being: the suddenness of the freezing cold weather as winter transitions out of fall, the length of time of this initial hard freeze, the amount of water in the soil immediately before said freeze, and the degree of snowfall that occurs immediately thereafter. I get frost, and understand that it doesn't jump right into a three foot freeze the first day the ground solids up. Right now, for instance, I'm assuming with the hotter and drier than average summer, and a deep snow pack, that the freezing is not that deep this year. I was not present on the land to see the progression of fall to winter this year, though, and some of those factors mentioned may have played a role in deepening the frost's penetration.

It is very good news indeed to think that the system might insulate itself (and be boosted by snow insulation) to keep decomposing in the winter, albeit at a lower level of microbial production then the growing season.

That said, the idea that Geoff presents: ...that decomposition happens in the winter, while tree growth happens in the summer... makes me think that he really should be mentioning that decomposition happens throughout the year, EVEN in the winter (and get all excited about that), with a quick expanation about what a hugulkultur can do for the winter. However, again that said, decomposition does not stop when summer growth kicks in so that trees may grow. As far as I know it's at it's microbiological peak in summer! And winter is not the time of peak decomposition, it's at it's lowest. No?

I'd say, in zone 3 where I am, on a year with a colder November without much snow, that the constant deep earth temperature, might be considerably below the biologically active soil horizons, EXCEPT possibly in these deep hugulkultur with under-grade burial of logs, that is why it's so exciting to read what you wrote. I will contact Ben and ask him some questions in this regard. I should have done it right off.

Thanks again for your imput Leo!
 
Cj Sloane
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Mike Leo wrote:
What you can, and should be getting from a cold climate temperate food forest is, wood fuel, nuts, fruits and fodder.


Hi Mike. Remember me from Geoff's lecture?

Well you're forgetting about another huge yield from a temperate food forest:

pigs 2014></a>

Don't forget about the animals! A local harvested 2 pigs for me a few days ago. He'll be back in a few months to help me harvest some ram lambs.
 
Mike Leo
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Almost CJ haha I tucked it in at the end:
Between your annuals and perennials stuffing your larders and your livestock cured or stuffing your freezer you can live quite comfortably.


But your picture says it so much better! Life without bacon would hardly be life at all.
 
Cj Sloane
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Roberto, the further north you live, the more you must rely on animals.

The Inuit eat almost no veggies, and the word for them translates to "those things you eat when you are starving." They did not develop heart disease or other Western illnesses till they gave up their high fat animal based diet.
 
Cj Sloane
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Mike Leo wrote:Almost CJ haha I tucked it in at the end:
Between your annuals and perennials stuffing your larders and your livestock cured or stuffing your freezer you can live quite comfortably.


But your picture says it so much better! Life without bacon would hardly be life at all.




Whoops, I missed it! The other thing that stuck me was
Squirrels may be satisfied to live on acorns, walnuts, and hazelnuts but I'm not.


Well, then eat the damn squirrels!
 
Mike Leo
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@Roberto,
Without knowing where you were precisely the comment about permafrost was offered tongue-in-cheek. Since you asked though I did check a map which confirms your belief too, it's all well above the northern border of the contiguous 48 states.

I have a problem where my sometimes sarcastic somewhat joking way of speaking and thinking creeps into my writing and you guys reading wouldn't know. Sorry about that.

More on decomp. Everything happens by degrees. Lets move a bit further south. Freezing is rare and not deep, less snow more rain. We'll call it soft winter, nice and fluffy and gentle. As the summer ends there's relatively little fuel for decomp, it's been nearly a whole year since the last big fall drop and except for places with a multi-year build up (like a mature forest system, no coincidence there) you won't see material on the ground waiting to break down. So summer ends, turns to fall, all that fuel drops, gets a good soak in a lot of climates and starts breaking down. Geoff, when discussing climate is really talking in halves of the year. Wet/Dry Season for the tropics, wet/dry season for the desert, summer/winter for the temperate. So in as much as summer ended therefore winter has begun the cycle is a winter cycle. In a forest system you often do have multiple years worth of decomp fuel built up that will be visible on the ground even in summer but you'll find very few places where that is deeper than a mulch layer. The forest already ate the rest.

So when talking about when the ideal point in the cycle is in the cold temperate climates for decomp, chop and drop, etc. we look to the above model. The freeze acts as a general pause but not a universal one as I tried to describe before. The cycle is a winter cycle and in our climate we should keep that in mind but in truth there will be decomp in a hugel bed year round unless (as you surmised) it does freeze but that should be rare. Anything in ground contact starts decomposing right away. Branches or structures above the ground get carried to the ground by the weight of ice and snow, and when temps come back up will start decomposing well before summer.

I hope that helps.
 
Cj Sloane
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Roberto,
could you edit your profile to show your location? That'd be helpful.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I thought I noted a wee tad of sarcasm there, Mr. Leo! Ha ha and again in this post. No need to apologize for it though. My own humor is often lost in translation as it comes down in type, but oh well, worse things have certainly happened. Often I have to throw an "LOL" or "ha ha ha" in just so people will see it as a joke instead of an off/incorrect comment.

I really appreciate your insight and explanations. That solves the hugulkultur query to the extent that I was hoping... now for growing rice!
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I've got the location in there now CJ. I'm in Dunster, an agricultural hamlet nestled in the midst of some of the largest conserved parkland on the continent. I feel very fortunate for that and my south-ish facing sloping meadow with a creek and a large wild forest.

I just got on this site and haven't spent much time getting into the nitty-gritty of it yet. There should be a newbies or FAQ for the site so that it is easier to know how best to navigate it. It is a great site. Way better than most. And I'm slowly figuring out it's workings.

I appreciate both your comments and Mike Leo's on how this works in context of big deep cold, and I also appreciate the description that Mike Leo provided to Mike Aych. From what I can gather, the nature of growing a permaculture food forest in the north is that you grow what you can, and you store what you can, and then in the winter when you can't grow much more, you brainstorm on how to increase your diversity and yield while putting out the least energy.

 
Roberto pokachinni
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As far as your comments, Mr Aych,

The Adirondack natives survived quite well in the mountains of New England, largely on vegetable sources, non of which were the ones you mentioned, which were brought from Europe." The name Adirondack means tree eater, and that was not referring to nuts (of which several species were often tended and harvested in quantity by them in their region), but because they ate tree cambium, a very nutritious and sustaining food source not often even known or understood by the majority of permaculturalists.

While you infer that you would consume legumes that you could store for the winter, but that you shun nuts, I have to shake my head. The nutrition in nuts, and their ability to be assimilated in the human system, if properly processed, far surpasses most legumes. Not that i have a problem with legumes. I love them. I have to agree with CJ: Eat squirrel. BUT get them to harvest the nuts for you first!

Also, Mr Aych, you are very Correct in your statement "Cold climate forests are a design waiting to be drawn". In that I would add that for each cold climate site, the designs are not yet written, and from what I have seen, this revolution has just begun to awaken to it's possibilities, and has just scratched the surface of what is possible. The decades to come will begin to unfold a new paradigm of what food production looks like.

As far as I am aware, Mike A, there is not one single definition for what a food forest is, and in saying that, I have never once heard someone say that a food forest has to consist solely of perennial crops with no annuals, though some will infer the superiority of perennials in regards to the ease of maintaining such plant systems. Even the video in question highlights many annuals, as do many of Geoff's videos available in this series.

I will certainly have annuals throughout my landscape, and in quantity. The ease of traditional organic practices marry well with food forestry and wild gardening, as many of the existing examples would attest, especially in colder climates. The limits to what a food forest is and what it can provide, are only created by the lack of either the imagination or information available to the person designing the system, as Mike Leo, accurately stated.

Further: Toby Hemmenway, in his Ted Talk: How Permaculture Can Save the World, the description he gave was about horticulture, which includes perennial crops, but does in no way exclude the annuals. Do not feel that the background in horticulture that you have somehow excludes you from being a food forest permaculturalist by any stretch of my imagination. This means that the way of the future is Horticulture (bio-intensive farming in ways which approximate-as best as possible-the natural systems), rather than Agriculture (mechanically intense farming in ways that force landscapes to yield food in spite of the natural systems). How you choose to manifest that, is really your choice.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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sorry: CORRECTION in the first part of my last post, which presently reads:

"'the Adirondack natives survived quite well in the mountains of New England, largely on vegetable sources you mentioned which were brought over from Europe."

I meant to write "the Adirondack natives survived quite well in the mountains of New England, largely on vegetable sources, non of which were the ones you mentioned, which were brought from Europe."

now corrected thanks for the tip CJ.
 
Cj Sloane
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I noticed that and so I'm glad I waited to reply.

BTW, you can edit your posts (thought there may be a time limit). Middle brown button on right should say "edit"
 
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Hi CJ... on eating meat.

While I agree that the Inuit survived almost without exception on meat, as the only means of obtaining the bulk of their nutrition, and I would even add that there is scant evidence of any vegetarianism in northern temperate climates, particularly in my Zone 3, no indigenous culture had the access to the entire temperate world as it's potential seed for creating a food system.

That said, in the present time, sites like Plants for a Future are attempting to show the great diversity and volume of crops available that have either been under-utilized or scarcely know to the modern western tastes. And as I stated in a very recent post, we have only scratched the surface of our possibilities in the preliminary stages of this food system revolution. I have an omnivourous diet at this time, but I see no reason to necessarily not attempt a plant based diet as Thoreau and many others with far fewer possibilities of crops or access to information in this regard have done.

Slaughter your forest swine as you must, kind sir, and all the power to you for gaining such an abundant harvest from your land! And I may go the same route myself... But, it is honestly really hard to say. I am not entirely convinced, though, that it is absolutely necessary to include meat in your diet until you are considerably further North.
 
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Thanks CJ,

i should have noticed that, but like I said, I'm new here and haven't looked at everything. Glad to know. Cheers.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Cj Verde wrote:
The Inuit eat almost no veggies, and the word for them translates to "those things you eat when you are starving." They did not develop heart disease or other Western illnesses till they gave up their high fat animal based diet.


The Inuit had very little access to vegetables, or plants of any real variety. And if any vegetarian was forced to eat veggie food from the tundra, they'd soon starve or convert to meat eating. It's a bit tiring though to hear the Inuit quoted as a reason to not have a vegetarian diet.

When the Inuit began to develop heart disease and other Western illnesses, it was not at all because they adopted vegetarianism by any stretch of the imagination, but because they adopted a diet based on white flour, white sugar, and later on to processed foods, and garbage oils. In spite of this there are few inuit today who have given up having high fat animals as part of their diet, because they realize the lie that the crap Standard American Diet is in comparison to their traditional diet.

It is unfortunate that processed food ever came to these peoples, and certainly their health has been severely compromised by it's influence. Unlike many areas of the U.S., traditional food sources are still widely consumed in most indigenous communities in Canada, albeit with far too much substitution with inferior convenience garbage. But the argument is not sound. Never was.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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To further a discussion in regards to diet and disease, it is interesting that you should attempt to connect the concepts of human illness and a vegetarian diet, when the clear facts of heart disease and most human diseases have no connection whatsoever to eating a diet free of meat. On the contrary, the correlation between diet based illness is clearly with over eating, and to making poor dietary choices and combinations, especially those including processed food.

While cardiovascular illness and cancer are the greatest killers in the western world, there is no evidence that this is related to a consumption of vegetables.

On the contrary, to a vegetarian diet causing problems with health, a quick bit of research on the web about the sources of most diseases that are not related to our poor diet, reveals the true source, which is animal husbandry (albeit poor animal husbandry, and poor water conditions no doubt are the greater cause):

"About 60 percent of all human diseases and 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, according to the researchers. Most human infections with zonoses come from livestock, including pigs, chickens, cattle, goats, sheep and camels."

The top 13 were, in descending order: zoonotic gastrointestinal disease; leptospirosis; cysticercosis; zoonotic tuberculosis (TB); rabies; leishmaniasis (caused by a bite from certain sandflies); brucellosis (a bacterial disease that mainly infects livestock); echinococcosis; toxoplasmosis; Q fever; zoonotic trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), hepatitis E; and anthrax.onoses

The history of animal husbandry has not been the cleanest, and the result has been more human deaths than can be counted.

That all said, I ate meat this evening.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Perhaps you weren't making that connection, but were simply playing with the fact that meat eating can be very healthy within the proper context, in which i would agree, and again salute you in producing quality meat on your land.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Rather than discuss diet...
I'd much rather brainstorm about rice growing.

Anybody growing rice without using flooded paddies, as in the methods of Masanobu Fukuoka, using intensive rotations of barley with a clover ground cover?
 
Cj Sloane
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:
Slaughter your forest swine as you must, kind sir,....


Hahaaaa!
I can be called many things, but "kind sir" is not the most fitting! Something along the lines of "sharped tongued Jewish woman who raises pigs" is probably a bit more accurate!

Anyway, there are several threads here a permies devoted to diet and or raising livestock. I'm not sure I've seen too many addressing the prospect of disease transmission. I have read Guns, Germs, and Steel though.

I feel like I've done my duty, mentioning the animal yield from a food forest. I think no one has mentioned fungi as another yield. I've had some success with shiitakes:
Shiitakes></a>
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Ha Ha! My apologies, Sharped Tongued Jewish Woman Who Raises Pigs!---you would be a rare beast indeed considering the kosher taboo against pork! The only CJ I knew was a guy, sorry for the mistake.

Yes, both home cultivated and wild tended fungi will be a part of my food supply. Though I have no experience with cultivating them as yet, when I was market gardening (on other people's land) within the valley where my land is I gained considerable profit from boletes, and field mushrooms, especially with the chefs in the resort town of Jasper Alberta. I also made part of my living in the past gathering both pine mushrooms and chantrelles. I have experience gathering and eating about a dozen varieties on the North Coast, but have not found all of those present in the more interior climate where I have chosen to settle.

Nice photos of your project. How long has your food forest been advancing?
 
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Mike Leo wrote:If you want to see what Ben is already doing in this space, and the prodigious amount of production he is getting from his perennial model (which includes only a small amount of the crops you list) I think you would enjoy reading his book which I linked above.


Yep, I know what Ben Falk is doing: "Sustaining 100 percent of the year on what is produced in roughly 30 of that year represents a primary challenge to inhabiting a cold climate."

His system is predominantly annual right now and may always be that. To my mind, there is nothing wrong with a annual vegetable dominated permaculture system as long as it is done the right way. Many permaculture elders acknowledge growing annuals - Hemenway, Holmgren, Toensmeier but, as far as I know, none comes out and says what Falk is saying: "Annual vegetables simply provide high and often reliable yields when compared with fruits and nuts in this climate."

BF: Though as a permaculturist (and historical realist) I aim for my focus to be "permanent producers," vegetable gardening still comprises the bulk of my time on the homestead during the summer. aside from moving and protecting plants from animals. This is a factor that is constantly changing as I work toward less of a focus on annual agriculture every year. If this system keeps improving, we will spend a small fraction of our time gardening annual vegetables in another five to ten years as the perennial systems mature and we get better at working with them. While ours is certainly not a perfectly optimized farm. the lessons we're learning continue to prove valuable to us and others pursuing an optimized situation. Annual vegetables simply provide high and often reliable yields when compared with fruits and nuts in this climate. Only animals compare with reliability in this regard. This is not to say that overall reliability in perennial systems cannot be high - but that situation requires decades to develop. We're getting there, but are not there yet.

Thus far we have had some great fruit years and some bad-there's no predicting it. So we must stock our eggs in as many baskets of self-reliance as possible. For us that means vegetables. animals, fruits, nuts. and fungi. And when it comes to veggies, we aim for high diversity because some years will be hot and dry, good for corn and squash, while some years are cool and wet, better for the cruciferous family of crucial veggies. Again, there's no predicting the growing season's weather. so we must stock the gardens with an array of food.


What you can, and should be getting from a cold climate temperate food forest is, wood fuel, nuts, fruits and fodder. All of which is possible, and with some species even easy.


Firewood is an interesting problem. It's not just BTUs but it's regrowth speed of the coppice. My experience has been that the coppice cycle on hybrid poplar is 5 years. My initial experience with black locust has been good although I don't yet know yet about how they regenerate. A regenerative firewood source requires dedicated, appropriate acreage if you are to obtain maximum yields while expending minimal energy. Perhaps Dave Jacke and Mark Krawczyk's "Coppice Agroforestry" or maybe Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel's "Farming the Woods" will start to refine the process.

If you aren't getting your proper nutrition from a mature system your design is lacking.


I would say that this is more of a goal right now in cold climates rather than a reality so we don't really know what the nutritional yield is. Perhaps CRMPI has looked at this aspect of their system?
 
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:While you infer that you would consume legumes that you could store for the winter, but that you shun nuts, I have to shake my head.


I wasn't shunning nuts, just saying that I wouldn't want them to be a dominant part of my diet but then again that could be my not knowing how to process them in different ways. To illustrate, potatoes can be the core of a meal and can be prepared in a large number of different ways. I would love to be given tasty examples of acorns, walnuts, or hazelnuts used as the core of a meal.

As far as I am aware, Mike A, there is not one single definition for what a food forest is, and in saying that, I have never once heard someone say that a food forest has to consist solely of perennial crops with no annuals, though some will infer the superiority of perennials in regards to the ease of maintaining such plant systems. Even the video in question highlights many annuals, as do many of Geoff's videos available in this series.


True but to this point the examples have been mostly warm climate (I consider Crawford to be warm climate). These examples have tended to a de facto picture if not definition.

Further: Toby Hemmenway, in his Ted Talk: How Permaculture Can Save the World, the description he gave was about horticulture, which includes perennial crops, but does in no way exclude the annuals.


You've absolutely nailed it. He doesn't exclude annuals but he doesn't include them either. Since he includes perennials but not annuals, those new to permaculture or to gardening in any form will tend to focus only on perennials. The teaching of permaculture to this point has tended to emphasize perennial vegetables and ignore annual vegetables. It's exciting to see someone with the permaculture cred than Ben Falk has start to design with annual vegetables as a key component of his food plan.

Do not feel that the background in horticulture that you have somehow excludes you from being a food forest permaculturalist by any stretch of my imagination.


I don't. In fact, my horticultural knowledge combines with the design aspects though not all the execution aspects of permaculture in powerful ways. I grow Jerusalem artichoke, skirret, groundnuts, Chinese and Japanese yams but I don't harvest them because the yields are relatively low, there's a lot of disruption of the soil, and the cycle to the next harvest is more than a year. My tubers are potatoes and sweet potatoes grown intensively in raised beds with extremely friable soil where harvest can be done quickly with a broadfork. My raised beds are extremely fertile because they are in a nitrogen fixing rotation with heavy additions of plant-only organic matter. So why do I have the skirret, etc.? For resiliency. They're there as backup. If allowed to grow untouched other than transplant to create new plantings, they will get to a size where they might substitute for a failed root crop if they had to. The challenge is to grow those potatoes and sweet potatoes in ways that minimally disturb the soil, keep it covered all of the time, make minimal use of water and continuously improve the soil. If I'm obtaining the maximum yield from that cultivated area and have storable nutrition that has a variety of meal presentations then I think that I have a highly desirable component in my design.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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So when I read this post of yours Mike, I can't help but think that you aren't necessarily getting Ben, although you are close. When you write that Ben's system may ALWAYS be predominantly annual, I'm not sure you have the full understanding of where he's going. I may be wrong.

Although Ben relies predominantly on annual veg production at this time, he does so because he sees that they are more reliable in the initial stages of his system. Ben: "constantly changing as I work toward less of a focus on annual agriculture every year"

He also goes on to say that the perennial system in cold climates takes decades to be where it must be for providing reliability, but that does not mean that it can not be achieved.

Ben's system and his methods will improve over time, and his annual crops may not be dominant in his future strategies. If systems like his become more and more common, over time, we will see fully mature food forests that produce with reliability, and without the dominance of annuals. You are right, I suppose that his system MAY always be predominantly annual, but I think that to focus on that gains you nothing in regards to what you are capable of nutritionally on your own land.

As far as firewood, it really would have to be related to a lot of factors some of which you mentioned, like dedicated land. But also, and perhaps more importantly your efficiency in the use of the heating materials is of paramount interest in calculating this. A super efficient heating system, and a well insulated and well designed small home need not require much fire wood, for instance, even in a very cold climate. Also, a lot of willow can be grown in a small damp area for rocket stove fuel. I am fortunate in this regard with 32 acres of wild forest (and more creeping into my meadow) to utilize. In my climate the poplars pretty much come to me! The roadside ditches are filled to bursting with willows that the road crews regularly have to brush out every few years. There's so much wood that it's an issue! But I get that that could be a problem on a small acreage, or with a large poorly made house, or in a less forest intensive place. Not the problem for me at this time.

As for nutrition: I'm not sure where you are heading with your statement... but with my thinking:

Even if the system does get to a mature enough level that the majority is now being provided by perennials, the annuals will still be present in the cold climate, and with mature permaculture better guilds systems for the annuals will be created and stabilized and the soil systems will be perennial. The nutrition in these regards will be as complete as will be available in any system, perhaps more so because the longer growing perennials and wild areas and other elements of a good forest system, will contribute nutrients and synergistic soil systems that would not otherwise be available in a regular horticultural vegetable plot.
 
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:
Nice photos of your project. How long has your food forest been advancing?


I've got a project thread you can check out -click the My Project Thread link at the bottom of my post.

My property is mostly wooded so the food forest advances as we push back the un-managed forest. I've had a really hard time planting things due to my wide assortment of livestock. Chickens were the bane of my existence last year. The breed I got flew over the electric fence even with clipped wings. I've switched to a heavier breed.

I'm about 2 hours south of Ben Falk's place so I'm trying seaberries & honeyberries because I was impressed with his. Blueberries are heavy yielders for me, and I can't wait till the fruit trees really start yielding.

I really need to make my pond more productive.
 
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- I am really sticking my neck out here trying to plumb the depths of the difference in the way we use the terms summer and winter, and the way some Aussies
use the terms, But it definitely is true that while we use the terms to denote specific weather patterns, Aussies and Kiwis, many of whom live in areas with only a
wet and a dry season, or trade wind littoral climates with two wet and two dry seasons, use summer and winter to refer to times of the year.

This comes from standing on yer head , when Geoff states most of the breakdown of the wood happens within the Winter months,he is talking about the calendar
winter months, Dec, Jan, Feb -when we are having our cold and they are (generally) warmest and wettest !!

Geoff L. is not misspeaking, many of us are just too trapped in our cultural bias to understand what he is saying ! For the Good of the Craft BIG AL
 
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:

So when I read this post of yours Mike, I can't help but think that you aren't necessarily getting Ben, although you are close. When you write that Ben's system may ALWAYS be predominantly annual, I'm not sure you have the full understanding of where he's going. I may be wrong.


Ben himself says "Annual vegetables simply provide high and often reliable yields when compared with fruits and nuts in this climate." He's saying that in absolute terms not in terms of a development stage. He says that it will be decades to develop a perennial system. While he may believe that it is doable, he will not know until further down the road. That does not mean that it's not doable nor that he shouldn't try, only that the future will confirm. Where he wants to go and where the climate will let him go are two different things. If he offsets his climate by adding season extenders that have an oil component, I think that he is designing in system weakness not resiliency.

You are right, I suppose that his system MAY always be predominantly annual, but I think that to focus on that gains you nothing in regards to what you are capable of nutritionally on your own land.


Yep but as he says "we must stock our eggs in as many baskets of self-reliance as possible." Who knows where the balance between annual and perennial is but I need only look at the spring and summer of 2012 to conclude that I agree 100% with this statement. We had a warm March which caused flowering in all of our fruits and berries. Then we had a cold, freezing April and lost ALL of our fruits with the exception of our honeyberries. Then the extreme drought of the summer caused our nut trees to shed their leaves and drop their nuts early as they struggled to survive. The annual vegetables that we had in our raised beds gave us a yield although we had to add additional mulch to try to retain water. Do I conclude that I should focus on annuals? Absolutely not. In my cold climate, I can't afford to. I need to carry as much as I can into the ~245 days that are not frost free.

There's so much wood that it's an issue! But I get that that could be a problem on a small acreage, or with a large poorly made house, or in a less forest intensive place.


Absolutely. Your size of your firewood coppice is a function of the energy demands of one's house and one's ability to live comfortably at a particular temperature. Many do not have the most energy efficient house. Depending on where you live, code and who's issuing the permit can be a struggle, maybe even an impossible one.

As for nutrition: I'm not sure where you are heading


We don't have many mature cold climate systems in North America other than CRMPI so we can't know yet if a diverse nutritional yield will be there or not. Hence, my wondering if CRMPI was measuring the nutritional output of their system over time.

Even if the system does get to a mature enough level that the majority is now being provided by perennials, the annuals will still be present in the cold climate, and with mature permaculture better guilds systems for the annuals will be created and stabilized and the soil systems will be perennial. The nutrition in these regards will be as complete as will be available in any system, perhaps more so because the longer growing perennials and wild areas and other elements of a good forest system, will contribute nutrients and synergistic soil systems that would not otherwise be available in a regular horticultural vegetable plot.


I don't understand "with mature permaculture better guilds systems for the annuals will be created and stabilized and the soil systems will be perennial." Nor do I understand your use of synergistic soil systems.

 
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Mike A, I like your more verbose responses a lot more than your initial comment. Thank you for adding so much to the conversation.

I get the impression that when one of us uses the term "food forest" or "mature system" you are picturing an end result with little to no annuals and one producing only tree crop yields. This gives the impression at least to me that you are somewhat anti annual or at least that you would not include annual production in a food forest or a discussion of a mature system. Are my impressions of your feelings on the matter correct?

Ben's system is currently 10 years old if I remember correctly and there are elements of growth and succession and development taking place every year. I know there are lessons learned at the WSDRF which aren't in this book and will be in the next when he gets to it, but such is life.

Annuals are part of succession in nature everywhere. As I mentioned before and as Geoff and others have also said that annuals are a necessary part of forest systems as well. The 2 layers of herbaceous plants/shrubs that appear in cold-temperate forests are mostly annuals in that climate. As long as the annual production is managed in a way that doesn't damage the soil ecology and applies the ethics responsibly is there really a problem with annuals?
 
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