Well, it rained all day today. I’m happy for my garden, and the rest of the island, but it meant that I had no excuse not to do housework. Shudder
But of course I did manage to peruse some interesting threads here on Permies, and gather more good ideas, as well as conjuring up ever more questions. It’s all part of the big puzzle of permaculture, and life in general.
The first thread was entitled Clay Pot Irrigation Experiment. Now, I’ve often seen those big ollas that people use for this, and I love the idea, but I've also seen how expensive they are. I’d need a LOT of those for the garden I’m building. But K Putnam’s thread made me revisit this technique with new eyes. Putnam buries regular terracotta pots, with the hole plugged, and uses the accompanying tray as a lid (you could use something else if you don’t have the tray). Presto, instant irrigation! Then someone suggested gluing two pots together, plugging one hole, and watering into the other hole. Love it. I would still need many pots to take advantage of this technique, but I am already amassing a collection - there were a bunch here when we bought the place, and I pick them up at the free store whenever I see them, just because I like them. And I think many smaller pots would work better than a few big ones.
One of the reasons I am eager to try this technique is that I am disillusioned with the idea of irrigation. It’s so bloody expensive, and so fiddly, and I think it will be a pain in the butt if trying to do any sort of crop rotation. I don’t want to be dragging lines all over the garden every time I replant, poking new holes and plugging up old ones, and always having to check to see if the little nozzle thinygs are working. Just seems to be a waste of time, money and energy. There has to be a better way. My main goals with my garden are to be drought-resistant, low-input, low-energy, and low-cost. I am confident that the buried wood beds will not only be quite drought-resistant when they hit their stride, but will also be fertile, and easy to plant year after year. No tilling, no hilling up beds each year; just put another layer of compost/mulch, perhaps a few other amendments if needed, and plant.
I’ll start by using the pots I have, amongst the plants that require the most consistent moisture to grow well. I have already planted the tomatoes in circles around a cage, so plopping a pot into each cage will be simple enough. I don’t have trays for all of the pots, but I can cover them with anything, and they’ll still work I believe. So I’ll do the tomatoes first, as well as the cucumbers. When I plant the next crop of celery, I’ll try to work the pots into them as well.
I think it will take a bit of experimentation to see how close the plants need to be to receive the benefits of the pots, and what size of pot works best with different plants and configurations, but that’s all part of the fun of this, for me anyway. Just trying all of the ideas that seem best for my situation, and seeing what works for me, where I am, with what I have.
So! Buried clay pots in my buried wood beds is my next experiment. As soon as it stops raining.
Another garden related thread was concerned with crop rotation. I have been considering this as well, as you may have read in my last post. Just contemplating the logistics, and balancing the benefits of crop rotation - which really do
make sense - with what I’m learning about creating diversity, encouraging beneficial plants and creatures in the garden, and generally doing everything I can to mimic a healthy growing system, as seen in nature. Of course, bad things happen in nature too, but from what I’ve been learning, those ‘bad things’ can more often than not be traced back to abuse of some sort, by humans, of the natural landscape, either directly or indirectly.
In my garden I want to plant as naturally as possible, which includes mixing things up, planting a wide variety - even within plant groups, such as planting different varieties of broccoli and lettuces - and keep the watering and feeding of the soil as natural and low-energy as I can. Most of my brain says that this is the right way to go, and that I will eventually be creating a natural balance that will minimize the effects of natural ‘disasters’ such as pest insects, diseases and drought. But there is always that wee tiny part of the brain that says, “But that’s not how it’s DONE. You plant in rows, water with irrigation hoses, and cover everything up so the bugs don’t get them!” Silly brain.
I don’t want to cover anything up; I don’t want to keep buying expensive and throw-away inputs like plastics, row covers, and irrigation bits and pieces. I just want to grow a garden. I just know there are simpler ways to do things that will be just as effective without throwing money at them.
So, I am not covering anything up; I have planted a very mixed bag of plants in the first bed, and will plant the next crop of celery, herbs, and lettuces, etc. in the tomato bed; I have planted onions everywhere, and herbs and flowers that the pollinators and beneficial insects like. I am hand watering, and will be incorporating the buried clay pots into the garden now, to help along the water retention of my buried wood beds. I have put water in the garden for the birds and dragonflies. And I will continue to glean other helpful hints to incorporate into the garden as it progresses. Time will tell which work, and which don’t. And I’m good with that.
Another thread I read incorporates two topics: 1) feeding yourself from your land with a minimal diet, without compromising your health, and 2) failures.
I, like most others who get involved with permaculture I believe, am excited about the possibilities of growing all of my own food. I am not a vegetarian
, although I don’t eat tons of meat, but The Man is REALLY not a vegetarian
, so feeding ourselves from the land would have to including growing our own meat. Chickens
will be the first up, followed by ducks, and a couple of pigs a year to fatten up for the freezer (while helping to create ponds!). We have deer, but The Man doesn’t like deer meat. I could raise goats or rabbits
for meat, but I don’t think he’d eat that either. And he doesn’t much like fish, either. So, chicken
and pork will be the only meats we will raise, for the foreseeable future. And of course, eggs. I’m okay with that. He won’t drink whole milk
, so getting goats or a milk cow would be a waste. So that leaves us with the growies.
The main garden is going to be planted with mostly annuals, with perennials making their way in there as I expand the garden, in the form of more herbs and whatever perennial vegetables I can grow here - artichokes! Yum. The garden will grow the usual suspects such as lettuces and greens, tomatoes, squashes, alliums, cabbage family, potatoes, drying peas and beans, etc. I am also getting a plot ready to plant amaranth and quinoa next year (to see which grows best here), so that will make a great addition to the overall haul of growies. Very much into preserving by drying, but will do some canning once I have an outdoor kitchen (mine is just way too tiny, and way too hot for canning).
And then there are the future food forest plans: nut trees, fruit trees, berries, ground cover things like strawberries, and other perennial edibles such as grapes. Of course, these won’t all be available for some time, but they will be available for a long time I hope.
So, that is the dream - and is probably the dream for most of us working toward sustainability and self-reliance. But can we attain the dream? Can we grow enough food, and enough varieties of food, to create a healthy and balanced diet? Are there things that we need in our diets that we can’t grow ourselves? This seems to be the tripping up point for many - if your growing conditions aren’t conducive to growing everything you need for a healthy diet, what do you do?
I think a main contributor to actually attaining that healthy diet is going to be completely rethinking what and how we eat. If we think, “Okay, I’m going to grow all of my own food!” and then we try to grow all of the things we normally eat, I believe we will be sorely disappointed when we find that there are a gazillion things that we just can’t grow, for whatever reason - climate, soil conditions, time and space constraints, etc.
So, do we just go and buy those things at the grocery store? Or do we stop and think about whether we really
need to eat that, or if we’re just so used to eating it that we can’t imagine not
eating it? If we approach it from a different angle - finding out exactly what a ‘real' healthy diet contains - for each of us as individuals - and then studying all of the plants, animals, and minerals that provide those things, and figuring out what we can reasonably hope to grow and raise ourselves, we might come up with a vastly different variety of foods than we are used to eating. And some of those foods might take some getting used to! I figure that’s what herbs are for - making ‘healthy' foods more palatable.
(Now we need to learn how to cook differently, too? Does it never end?!
) And then there is the excellent option of trading with others near you who are growing the things you can't grow. We are not islands.
I am not a ‘healthy’ eater by any stretch of the imagination; but I would like to be. And I would like to eat what I grow, because it is becoming increasingly obvious that the foods produced ‘out there’ just ain’t so good. And I would like to raise my own meat, and collect my own eggs, so I know exactly what I am putting into my body (plus they taste sooooo much better!). This is the dream for many. And I know it is attainable, because people lived like that before industrialization. So we can live like that again. We just need to adjust our thinking, and approach the ‘problems’ from different angles until we find the solutions that work for us.
These are just the musings of a curious mind.
The next topic, which many of us have experienced, concerns ‘failure’. I think that’s a horrible word. I think that you have only failed if you have stopped trying. If you are still working toward your goal, and you haven’t given up on it, you have not failed. Even if you change your mind, and decide to head in a different direction, if you are still moving forward - even a tiny bit at a time - you have not failed. So, if your plants die the first year, and you walk away from your garden straight into the grocery store, and leave your little plot to the weeds forever, then yes, you have failed at gardening. But only because you stopped trying. And that’s just the plain truth according to me.
So that is where my mind was wandering today. And I'll have a lot more wandering and experimenting to do before I find the answers I’m looking for, I’m sure. There are always constraints that we have to work within - whether they are climate, space, time, health, or living with other’s who do not share our particular visions - but even within these constraints, I believe that we can do so much. We just have to retrain our minds to think differently, look at situations from many angles, and question all of the things we think we know, and have been told are 'absolute truths', to see if perhaps there is a better way.
Okay, that’s just about enough of that! If you have any insights, stories, or musings of your own to share, please feel free. This is a safe place. But you have to play nice.
Here are the links to the threads mentioned:
Buried clay pots - https://permies.com/t/56986/plants/Clay-Pot-Irrigation-Experiment
Growing enough healthy food & Failures - https://permies.com/t/56996/frugality/Minimal-diet-deficiencies
Garden rotations - https://permies.com/t/56537/gardening-beginners/Crop-rotation-home-garden