So, are you sad that you didn't get to go to the Permaculture Voices conference? Did you go but you can't remember what was said? Well, I am an obsessive note taker (most of the time) and I took notes at most of the talks I attended.
I will share them here with you!
Please note that this is in no way a transcription. These are my notes, taken in real time, on the fly, whilst trying to look at the slides and follow along. I find that note taking helps me synthesize information. None of this should be construed as an accurate quotation, even when I put it in quotes. (For example, I'm pretty sure not a single speaker used the utterance "Yo.") Much of the time, I am trying to summarize and it's entirely possible that I've gotten some things wrong.
My next notes document is Mark Shepard. The topic this time was "Restoration Agriculture, Designing Your Perennial Farm"
I first heard the word permaculture in the late 1980’s.
The aim is to create systems that are ecologically sound and economically practical.
My book is called “Restoration Agriculture.” We absolutely need restoration. Usually ecological restoration means that you buy a property, expel the people, spray all the “weeds” and bring back what you say is natural but is just a replication of a snapshot in time.
If you eat, you get food from farms. Nobody can produce all their food in their own yard. We need farms.
Let’s have permaculture farms. We will go to a place, identify the (. . . missed it)
Why “restoration agriculture?” I moved to the Midwest, and I had to distance myself from permaculture.
Cobpizza oven: yeah, if you’re building a pizza oven in Vermont, stone would be the right material.
Permaculture is not all these silly details, like (small) rain barrels, herb spirals and so on.
Every culture that has ever relied on annual food crops has eventually collapsed. 99% of our food is from annual culture. You have to destroy down to bare earth on a yearly basis.
6-10K years ago there was a big climate change and 60% of the megafauna went extinct. People had to settle and turn to agriculture.
Think of the life cycle of the annual: massive growth, explosive production and then collapse. This is also the pattern of agricultural societies. An annual crop society finds an abundant resource, extracts it and destroys it.
The places with cool misty winters and hot dry summers have created the largest plants on earth. Redwoods and sequoia in N. America, *** in Australia, the cedars of Lebanon. Pic: the last vestiges of the cedars of Lebanon.
Americas number one export by weight is topsoil. Everybody knows about the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, there is one at the bottom of every river, actually.
Description of what Jefferson’s surveyors saw as they crossed the country. They had passed through a forest with chestnuts with 10 foot trunks and in between “understory” maples, also massive.
When they got to a clearing, the grass was taller than the horses.
Dustbowl: our family is deeply affected by the fact that back in 1930, grandpa lost the farm in the dust bowl.
Extreme drought, followed by extreme flood. I don’t care why the climate is changing, but it’s changing, yo.
Oil is about to get a lot more expensive.
We are starting to walk away from Rome. We have yet to create the systems that will support us—we need to do this, and fast.
In order to observe and interact you must first know the difference between an observation and a concept. An observation is concrete. A concept is an intellectual idea, created in the mind. It’s not always helpful. We need to be able to set our concepts aside.
An orchard is not going to succeed, because nature doesn’t do orchards. We should be planting thousands of apple seeds. Yes, it could take 1000 to get “a good variety.”
Identify your biome and keystone species.
Grains and legumes are not for people to eat. I say they are addictive substances. Try going without for a month.
Keyline design. Everybody does it differently. We did our site, and see what happened.
You don’t have to have a great large voice—you need to plant trees.
Look at what naturally wants to grow, where you are. (Long lists of food crops: tree and bush, that I couldn’t copy.)
Savannah is the most effective ecosystem for harvesting sunlight. Extreme three dimensionality. Back in the day, we had elephants in California. Now we can use cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, to manage our savannah. We grow oil crops to make our own fuel. We run our tractors on straight vegetable oil, feed the press cake to animals.
We have animals working between our walnuts and mulberries. The cows prune and control weeds for us.
Mechanically harvestable - necessary for mass production. Pic: big machines harvesting apples in South Africa. South Africa produces 50% of the world’s apple ethanol.
Pic: machine that harvests hazel nut (I think on Mark’s farm). He lets the hazelnuts grow as shrubs - no pruning.
Pic: Mark’s farm - can you spot the apple tree? Neither can the pests. We’ve got native birds, 7 kinds of amphibians on our land. These are our pest control.
We are making soil, we’re cleaning air, cleaning water.
There’s no plowing, no cultivating, no pest or disease control once established. We have a year round harvest with multiple yields and products. There’s no erosion, it’s non-toxic.
If you want to farm, FARM! There is land all over the place! You just have to step up and take responsibility for yourself.
The usual agriculture is degrading - everything (can’t type it all).
Stop eating their shit, walk away from Rome.
We have to create a new system. We have to get out there, get off our asses and actually DO something REAL.
We have the power of love on our side and we’re going to leverage it for all we’ve got, and we’re going to change the world.
I stepped away from the corporate world when I was 22 years old. I have been making stuff happen ever since.
//Every culture that has ever relied on annual food crops has eventually collapsed. //
//I'm not trying to be a tool.. this is an honest question. Are there any cultures that have not collapsed?//
This was exactly what I thought, but there are actually several, as long as you make the division between those that collapsed and those that were conquered or absorbed.
Many Native Americans had societies based on perennials and were basically destroyed by plague (smallpox) and then a plague of Europeans. So not collapsed, more like crushed/murdered.
The Hawaiians and probably several other Polynesian nations I think survived on perennials (Coconut, pineapple and taro) and most did not collapse, but were mostly subsumed.
The Mongolian tribes survive on perennial grasslands and they are still around since before Genghis, so they have to count.
Does anyone know about the tribes in New Guinea?
It does look like that but it was really the long since departed goats who demolished the oven. They seemed to get joy out of jumping all over it. I've got 125 acres of brambles but they wanted to demolish that oven, eat my blueberries and stand on my deck looking in the sliding glass door (while relieving themselves, of course). Grrrr.
My project thread Agriculture collects solar energy two-dimensionally; but silviculture collects it three dimensionally.
If you live in a cold climate and on the grid, incandescent light can use less energy than LED. Tiny ad:
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