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Food forests, climate change, and who's going to eat!

 
Neil Layton
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The impact of climate change on food supplies has been one of the major drivers behind establishing a food forest, and is one reason I'm so keen to find the right person to go and do this with. Someone I know advocates a move to south-west Ireland because it's at the end of the inevitable migration routes of what will become increasingly desperate people as climate change starts to really get a grip. I'm increasingly worried about the amount of moisture coming off the North Atlantic due to the temperature differential between an increasingly warm Caribbean and an increasingly cold sea surface as a result of the meltwater as the Greenland Ice Sheet turns to slush, which may effectively shorten the growing season in the islands due to increased cloud cover and a greater risk of flooding.

I've been giving it more thought after this article http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20012016/climate-change-raises-troubling-question-who-gets-eat-food-supply-agriculture coming out of Denierland the USA, raising the question of who is going to eat in an increasingly disrupted climate.

The major texts on Permaculture and forest garden design do talk about climate as a question to be considered when designing our gardens, but rarely talk in detail about climate change, so I thought I'd start a thread to discuss how we make our forest gardens more climate disruption resistant, through things like better design for flood, drought and other extreme events, and the questions of plant breeding (including the advantages of growing more resistant strains through deliberate neglect). How do you make your food forest resistant to the depredations of hungry people? What else haven't I thought about?
 
Steven Kovacs
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Good question. I'm a complete newbie but these have been my thoughts:

- Aim for a diverse selection of plants. Some won't do well, but the more varieties there are, the greater the odds that some will.
- Select species that grow in a wide range of climate zones, centered on your current zone (so a plant that grows in zones 3-8 would likely do well in zone 5)
- Plant some species (especially slow-growing ones) that may be marginal in your zone now, but that should do well in your expected future zone (warmer and wetter in my case)
- Plan for extremes of wind, water, and temperature to be more extreme than they have been. Basically, use a higher "safety factor" - plan for 200-year storms instead of 50-year ones. Build bigger swales than you think you need, put in extra rain barrels, etc.

If you're really worried about hungry trespassers, the whole food forest idea should help automatically. A lot of what you plant may not be recognizable as food to many people, and a riot of plants (vice row crops) won't look like a garden to most people.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think about this a lot, even though being at a low latitude might mean my region sees more gradual changes than a higher latitude might (people in more northern areas seem to be reporting more dramatic changes than we're seeing here). I'm trying to plant for temperatures getting hotter in Summer, colder in Winter, more severe droughts, more flooding. I'm already in a very droughty and floody region and our land is subject to spectacular local flooding. To guard against possible depredations of the Zombie Hordes I'm planting native edible plants, as well as other unfamiliar food plants. I'm starting to work on a food forest which will (I hope) contain both native and domestic edible plants with a concentration on perennials and trees.

I haven't studied this website but it might offer some ideas: http://www.secretgardenofsurvival.com/

I should add, if we're gardening for survival, the most important thing to think about is calories, therefore staple crops. Though they are not as calorie dense in the kitchen as grains, roots and tubers are less obviously a "field of crops" than grains though small patches of grain might be grown in an inconspicuous way, or less recognizable grains such as Amaranth or Sorghum.


http://www.permies.com/t/51692/permaculture/Staple-crops

Nuts are a good forest staple but most take many years to reach bearing age.
 
Casie Becker
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I like the suggestion from The Resilient Gardener where she says to plant trees that can take at least a Zone colder from you. One freak winter storm (which is pretty much the only type my area gets) will ruin a decade or more of careful plantings if you aren't prepared for cold weather. On the other hand, the way most plants are judged for hardiness, most plants from one zone above will also thrive in all the warm years between such events.

The big bottle neck would be chill hours for a lot of the fruits. It would probably be a good idea to have a relatively broad window of needs between your different fruit trees. Stack the deck so that it would take an ideal year for all of your trees to produce fruit (due to sufficient chill hours but no late killing frosts) but even in bad years (too warm or cold) you pull a crop from at least some of your trees.

I don't know about in Europe, but the US a lot of landscaping plants are edible and most people don't know it. Landscaping plants tend to be nearly indestructible and all but invisible to most people. The more of these you grow, or encourage your neighbors to grow, the better.

(Heh, <generic neighbor> I love what you're doing with your yard. That's a great flowering bush. I'm sure something in the neighborhood will eat up all those berries before they make a mess. -evil cackle-)

 
Neil Layton
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I think one of the things well worth thinking about is that every variety in a forest garden is open to breeding for climate resilience (as well as the conditions in a forest garden, which differ from those in a conventional one). It's something I want to learn more about.
 
Steven Kovacs
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Casie Becker wrote:
I don't know about in Europe, but the US a lot of landscaping plants are edible and most people don't know it. Landscaping plants tend to be nearly indestructible and all but invisible to most people. The more of these you grow, or encourage your neighbors to grow, the better.


Interesting! Which landscaping plants are edible?
 
John Elliott
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Tyler has the right idea, although for many of the "Zombie Horde", an unfamiliar food plant is one that is still in the ground, as opposed to laying in a display at the supermarket (or better yet, in a microwavable box in the freezer section). I've identified about 150 possible food plants in my local area, some I actively grow and tend, some are endemic, some are weeds that need no help, some need lots of TLC and even then may not produce well. Some are ephemeral, being available for only a few weeks, others you can collect and store for months, and if need be, years.

That 150 sounds like a big number, especially in light of the fact that humanity gets most of its calories from 4 crops (corn, rice, wheat, and soy). But it is small in comparison to the dietary variety of animals in the wild. Researchers studying apes in the tropics can record twice that number of plants that make up the diet of chimps, gorillas, and orangutans.

Then there are the borderline plants, like pokeweed which is poisonous, but if you pick them young and boil them in a few changes of water, you can make somewhat edible.

Bottom line, the people who are going to eat will be the ones who know what there is to eat. Knowledge is the key.
 
Casie Becker
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In front of my I have "Backyard Foraging" by Ellen Zachos. A lot of these are already familiar to the permaculture crowd, but not to most other people. Just randomly flipping to pages from the book: hostas, Japanese knotweed, Oxeye daisy, juniper, spiderwort, redbud flowers. The book lists 65 in total with information on how to prepare them and common poisonous lookalikes.
True story, shortly after we moved into this house, I saw a fig laying in the grass in our front yard. After asking my nieces if they knew where it came from (I didn't remember buying it) one of them admitted to pulling it from a tree in one of our new neighbors front yards. She recognized the fruit from me taking her foraging in a public park and wanted a snack. We took her down to apologize for stealing their fruit and they were very concerned that she'd eaten them. You see, that was an 'ornamental' fig tree and the figs were poisonous. The girls obtained future permission to harvest that tree as long as they let the neighbors know when they were there.
 
Tyler Ludens
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John Elliott wrote: for many of the "Zombie Horde", an unfamiliar food plant is one that is still in the ground, as opposed to laying in a display at the supermarket (or better yet, in a microwavable box in the freezer section).


That's why I don't worry much about the Zombie Horde ever making it as far as my place looking for food.

Eat the Weeds has info about many common yard plants which are edible: http://www.eattheweeds.com/archive/
 
Tyler Ludens
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Another thought about resilience in food forests - make the plot "lumpy" so plants are growing in many different microclimates. So, some flat areas, some raised areas, some sunken, some sunny, some shaded, etc.
 
Neil Layton
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Another thought about resilience in food forests - make the plot "lumpy" so plants are growing in many different microclimates. So, some flat areas, some raised areas, some sunken, some sunny, some shaded, etc.


This would be good advice in creating a food forest regardless of climate change.
 
Tristan Vitali
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All the suggestions here are excellent advice. Probably the worst decision someone could make in a Zombie Hordes scenario is putting something like corn (maize) in the ground...one of the most easily recognizable plants at all stages of growth in the "western world". Not only is it generally delicate and super nutrient hungry but it will draw the Zombies to you like a gunfight does in that Walking Dead show

That said, corn grown in a dense three sisters patch is better camouflaged ... you could probably get away with it to some extent in that situation. Another excellent use might be as a trap crop, similar to what we do for insect pests. A plot of corn planted down near the edge of your property, somewhere you can easily keep an eye on things without revealing your location (or even your existence) could act as an early warning system. Let's face it, in a situation like this, the mindless Zombies are akin to a biblical swarm of locust and should be treated as such with a permaculture-friendly method.

In all seriousness, keeping food hidden in plain sight is probably the most impactful thing you could do to ensure success in that situation. Row cropping and easily recognizable crops are bad news while perennial-based, forest, bog and savanna type food systems are inherently the antithesis of what people expect to grow food.

One final thought on this end of things is that you have a choice to make regarding your survival and "who gets to eat". You can 1) surround yourself with like-minded people and build a community of intentional, rational and cooperative individuals looking out for the common good of all those involved, or 2) isolate yourself and prepare to defend what's yours. With the way the world (at least western world) is today, and more specifically, where people's education, indoctrination and sense of self-entitlement are today, there's very little gray area in-between these two extremes. That may change over time, especially with the outreach being done by those in our community, but if you're trying to prepare now you need to recognize the problems inherent in the existing system so you can insulate yourself from them. If you want to eat, you need to provide food for yourself and protect it. If you want a community to eat, you need to build that community. If you want the whole world to eat...well, you better buy yourself a soap box and join the ranks

On the other side of this, there's something I think we should all keep in mind. "Science" has been wrong, time and time again, with regards to large-scale holistic systems like climate. Heck, with all their most sophisticated computer models, satellite data and decades worth of high level research, they still can't even accurately predict the local weather a week out half the time. Though I do believe, personally and after much studying of the data myself, that there is something wrong with our climate, I have personal doubts about the official "cause" (CO2) and what the end results might be (runaway "global warming"). There's just as much, if not more, evidence pointing to the desertification and general loss of trees (with their compounding effects on weather) being at the root of the problem, and a huge chunk of evidence pointing to sudden climate "flips" where what appears to be a warming trend reverses into a catastrophic cooling phase. To me, an impending ice age is just as likely as a greenhouse-earth scenario ... and both are disastrous.

And what if nothing happens? What if we warm a little, then cool a little, and life carries on? We all should also keep in mind that this "Global Climate Change" is not the only boogeyman in the shadows - from worldwide economic collapse through the sun going on a rampage, effectively wiping out every electronic device on earth through solar flare caused EMP, through to politicians and warmongers starting up WWIII, there's plenty to be concerned about in the short and long term. Or what if we cool a whole lot for just a little while, such as during "the Little Ice Age" (Dalton or Maunder Minimum), which I believe was recently predicted for the 2030s by a British scientist?

That brings us back to the question of how to design these systems to provide resilience to epic weather events. One thing that comes to mind immediately is this video from Ben Falk of Whole Systems Design in Vermont:


His system wasn't designed with Hurricane Irene in mind but instead on building soil, slowing and infiltrating, water and creating productive food systems in a degraded landscape...it just happened to handle an epic flood event in stride

Each of the various pieces in the permaculture puzzle box is another tool toward combating these events. Constructing microclimates for and within systems helps combat those epic heatwave and coldsnap losses; utilizing keyline design, swales and ponds, and sheet mulching reduces system losses due to erosion and waterlogging during flood events while simultaneously protecting it against the effects of drought events; shooting for the highest level of biodiversity in productive polycultures and guildings protects the system against losses due to diseases, pest/insect plagues and general "failure to thrive" conditions that would otherwise result from changing local climate conditions....the list goes on.

As they used to say, "don't put all your eggs in one basket". I mean, the "global warming" basket might turn out to be a bust, and permaculture teaches us to work with the many strands model - the more strands in that web, the more resilient and productive it will be. For our purposes here, just reframe this as a "many baskets model"
 
Jan White
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I don't like the idea of protecting my food from the "zombie hordes." sepp holzer talks about planting enough so the birds, squirrels, etc. can all take their share and there's still enough for you. Well, I want to add zombie hordes to that list. A huge part of the reason I want to grow food is to provide for my community - donating crops to food banks, seeds to community gardens, and, if and when it comes to it, helping in times of scarcity. I'm not idealistic enough to think everyone's going to play nice and share when they start getting hungry, but I;m not going to horde food while other people starve either. That's one of the reasons I like guerrilla gardening so much. Plant perennial food wherever you can for other people to take advantage of. I like Casie's reminder about the edible landscaping plants too.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Jan White wrote:I don't like the idea of protecting my food from the "zombie hordes." Sepp Holzer talks about planting enough so the birds, squirrels, etc. can all take their share and there's still enough for you. Well, I want to add zombie hordes to that list. A huge part of the reason I want to grow food is to provide for my community - donating crops to food banks, seeds to community gardens, and, if and when it comes to it, helping in times of scarcity. I'm not idealistic enough to think everyone's going to play nice and share when they start getting hungry, but I;m not going to horde food while other people starve either. That's one of the reasons I like guerrilla gardening so much. Plant perennial food wherever you can for other people to take advantage of. I like Casie's reminder about the edible landscaping plants too.


I agree but, some (many? few?) are not going to be people you want knowing how valuable a resource that little plot of trees really is. Some will inevitably be the type of people who will not only harvest a system into oblivion but may do so while pointing a shotgun at you (or holding a knife to your spouse's throat). Not all of them, mind you, but some of them, certainly. Idealistically, we'd all be as smart as those squirrels and birds, never taking more than the system can provide and moving on when scarcity starts to set in, but we, as a culture, are prone to the "Black Friday" syndrome...steal, beat and lie your way to abundance at the expense of all else. If you feel that you have to kill to feed your children, some just wont think twice and that's where the danger lies.

Speaking of those squirrels and birds, during the "Great Depression" of the 1930s, it was them (and the deer, turkey and geese) that took the brunt of the people's ravishing hunger. From the stories told, it was rare to even see a squirrel after a few years in many parts of the US as people hunted them so heavily.

One person with an exceptional, 2 or 3 acre food forest can feed several families...one community with 10 to 20 acres of food forests can feed hundreds. But what do we do about the millions coming out of New York City, Los Angeles, Sydney, London, Hamburg and Beijing that have very little, if any, desire to contribute, conserve or share? Education is where this can be changed and that's where the permaculture community has been making leaps and bounds the past 10 years...to prepare for what it looks like today means you're prepared but doesn't mean you can't change your tone in the future when the climate (socially or physically) changes enough to warrant it
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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The zombie horde has already been to my garden...

I used to offer pick-your-own vegetables. So people would show up at my farm to pick. Many couldn't recognize the vegetables. They couldn't recognize the edible parts of the plant. They wouldn't have known to do such simple things as look for an onion underground. They certainly wouldn't have been able to identify a potato plant, or know that there might be tubers under the sunroots or dahlias. Even if I picked a crop, and pruned off the not-typically-eaten parts, in many cases they wouldn't have been able to name it, or know that it was food. Sure, some came that had a basic understanding of the botany of food, but most members of the horde were as close to illiterate about plants as it's possible to be.

Then, most that came were obese to morbidly obese. They might put out 20 minutes worth of slow motion picking before being overcome by exhaustion. And among those that were not immediately overcome by exhaustion, many worked so slowly that it was startling to me that anyone could be so slow. And then there were the talkers, that had to have their mouths going the whole time, and couldn't pick anything while their mouth was moving.

So I don't worry much about the zombie horde. I think that for the most part, they wouldn't recognize a food plant if it was right in front of them, and they wouldn't have the ambition to pick it even if they did.

But just in case, I grow about 55 species of food plants in my garden: spring pulses. summer pulses. fall pulses. So that there would always be something to be harvested any particular week of the growing season. I guarantee that nobody is going to come into the garden and steal all of the sunroot weeds. (Wish they would). I plant in the wildlands. I plant in the lawn. I plant edible landscaping plants. I plant trees. Food plants everywhere.
 
Jan White
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Tristan Vitali wrote:I agree but, some (many? few?) are not going to be people you want knowing how valuable a resource that little plot of trees really is. Some will inevitably be the type of people who will not only harvest a system into oblivion but may do so while pointing a shotgun at you (or holding a knife to your spouse's throat). Not all of them, mind you, but some of them, certainly. Idealistically, we'd all be as smart as those squirrels and birds, never taking more than the system can provide and moving on when scarcity starts to set in, but we, as a culture, are prone to the "Black Friday" syndrome...steal, beat and lie your way to abundance at the expense of all else. If you feel that you have to kill to feed your children, some just wont think twice and that's where the danger lies.


My point was a "little plot of trees" is not what I'm aiming for. Nonetheless, as far as the rest of your comment goes, that's not the kind of person I am or ever want to be. And I'm not going to waste energy worrying about the worst that could happen and not do the right thing in the meantime - while taking certain precautions, of course. Like I said, I'm not completely idealistic.

I also can't help but think that the kind of person who hoards and looks after only their own is also the kind of person who would end up taking from others when their luck ran out. They've already shown a lack of empathy by not helping others when they had enough to give, and that would only get worse if they were desperate. So yeah - not going there. We're going to have to disagree on this one I suppose.

Another thought about climate change preparedness, however, is that planning your crops so that something is bearing all year would be really important. Crops that come in early or late in your zone would be especially handy as conditions change - similar to the point above about growing plants marginal to your current zone, but possibly well-suited to a future one.
 
Jan White
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:So I don't worry much about the zombie horde. I think that for the most part, they wouldn't recognize a food plant if it was right in front of them, and they wouldn't have the ambition to pick it even if they did.

But just in case, I grow about 55 species of food plants in my garden: spring pulses. summer pulses. fall pulses. So that there would always be something to be harvested any particular week of the growing season. I guarantee that nobody is going to come into the garden and steal all of the sunroot weeds. (Wish they would). I plant in the wildlands. I plant in the lawn. I plant edible landscaping plants. I plant trees. Food plants everywhere.


Yes! This too! Part of what I was meaning with the guerrilla gardening.
 
patrick canidae
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Maybe the better question is, "How can I plant perennial food sources all over the nearest town to me ?" so that doesn't happen.

How do you become the John Chapman of your region? I imagine the left over inventory from some home and garden centers, some short, regular volunteer sessions at some local town properties, and a pitch to the parks and rec department you could volunteer at would get quite a bit done.

A local beek group talked the largest county park system in the county next to me into letting them place boxes on the property. The beek volunteers weed eat the areas every few weeks, put rope and posts perimeters around the hives, put up informational plaques and do a nice presentation once or twice a year to interested folks. It created quite a buzz and is well received. The beek's get free media for their events every year from the biggest newspaper and radio talker in the area.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I'm still eating food from crops that were planted about 155 years ago when my family first arrived in my village.
 
Neil Layton
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Jan White wrote:

I also can't help but think that the kind of person who hoards and looks after only their own is also the kind of person who would end up taking from others when their luck ran out. They've already shown a lack of empathy by not helping others when they had enough to give, and that would only get worse if they were desperate. So yeah - not going there. We're going to have to disagree on this one I suppose.


I tend to take a position closer to Jan's on this matter. I mean, I'd always expect some losses to birds and squirrels, and that's broadly okay when you are living in an ecosystem rather than conducting mainstream monoculture farming - indeed to me it's part of the point. I would certainly expect to be feeding surpluses to the nearest village, and that is also part of the point.

Where it becomes more complicated is when the Zombie Horde turns up and strips the place bare. If, or more likely when, the food distribution networks crack there are going to be a lot of people looking for an alternative. I've been torn between the desire to create a forest garden that is an educational demonstration site open to the public and my own tendency towards a need for privacy, and that equation is complicated by the awareness that there are those who will come and take, as has been pointed out. Equally, I'm eternally surprised by how many people can't recognise a potato plant, never mind tell the difference between oats, barley and wheat, and this goes back to Joseph's point. A good forest garden will contain many plants most people won't recognise as food.

I'm a big fan of guerrilla gardening, but I think it has its limitations when it comes to feeding a town: yes, a few people might get a few meals out of it, but you can't live on it.

 
Tyler Ludens
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During WW1, the Great Depression, and WW2, people were encouraged to grow food. It seems plausible to me that this will be the case if we face another crisis on the same scale. Encouraging community gardens, which anyone with enough time and energy can do, would be something to try if one is really worried about where the food might come from in the future. Community food forests might be a thing to try, and some are being created these days.

I admit our society has become amazingly hapless over the past two or three generations, to the extent that many people can't even cook a meal without a microwave, but in the event of a widescale crisis, I like to think folks will be able to get their act together a little.

On the other hand, because it won't be an overnight crisis, people might just complain about the cost of food escalating, and still not do anything about growing their own. Hard to say what might happen.

 
John Elliott
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patrick canidae wrote:Maybe the better question is, "How can I plant perennial food sources all over the nearest town to me ?" so that doesn't happen.


One way to start is to know what popular ornamentals in your area are also pretty good edibles. In my area this includes Korean red mustard and ornamental kale. These are available every year in the fall at the home centers, and you see them adding a bit of winter color all around town. Plant a whole mess of it and you could be eating sarson ka saag for the half of the year it is in season.

Ornamental fruit trees are usually left to the birds and other wildlife to harvest. Again, in my area there are ornamental plums, loquats, pecans, jelly palms and others that bear year after year, and nobody bothers to harvest them. If food really did get scarce, I'm sure people would pay more attention.

And lastly, I live in the South. We have kudzu. It can swallow a 2-story house in one season. I haven't calculated the biomass of kudzu in Georgia and compared it to the calorie intake of 10 million Georgians, but I'm thinking they are on the same order of magnitude. Problem is, kudzu is kind of bland and tasteless. Hey, maybe I could use it for half of the greens in sarson ka saag.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Oh, and on the "neglect" aspect of the original post...I'm sure you're familiar with Mark Shepard and what he calls the STUN technique (Sheer Total and Utter Neglect). He's been having some good success with it and I've employed it here on my little plot, so far with varying levels of success (though it's, by nature, a situation where you expect a high loss rate). You will definitely end up with hardier, more resistant systems by letting "only the strong survive", but you maybe spend a little more depending on what you use for initial stocking. If you plant everything from seed, in-situ and not to be disturbed, it's going to take longer for them to get to production age, but you'll have a healthier, more adapted root system as well. Using locally sourced seeds combined with some from both the more northern AND southern climes, by a growing zone or two, might further help your cause as you'll also be getting a greater genetic and epigenetic diversity.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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One of the things that I love most about living in the mountains is observing the huge variations in micro-climates that can happen very close to each other. There's a farm nearby that is much colder than mine because of the way the terrain funnels cool air down out of the mountains. They grew pumpkins last year. Frost hit them more than a month earlier than at my place... However, they might be able to grow the lettuce that I can't grow right because my fields are too hot.

I love having gardens close by with a thousand feet difference in elevation and then planting the same variety into fields at different elevations. That allows me to harvest the low elevation grapes perhaps 3 to 4 weeks before the high elevation grapes. So I can follow the harvest up the mountain, and offer the same variety of grapes for an extended season. Makes for great customer loyalty. "Do you have any more of those gorgeous grapes?" "Sure do!!! And I'll have more next week and the week after."
 
R Ranson
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I'm just super-stoked about all the zombies that keep appearing in this thread. I'm riveted. I want to know more about the zombies. Can they climb trees? If not, will they steal my ladder to get at the fruit? Would a hedge row of spiky things like hawthorn deter the zombies?

This is a really interesting thread.

One thing that comes to mind is that history has a lot to teach us about dealing with climate change.

Take England. You know England. Wet, damp, rainy, sometimes sunny then rainy again. Super-far north. England. England in the late 13th Century was the wine capital of Europe. They grew the best grapes there was, and exported wine to places like Italy and Southern France, where it was the wrong clime to grow wine. Three years is all it took to transform Europe from one climate to the next. With the onset of the Little Ice Age, England was no longer the grape growing capital of Europe.

That's not the interesting bit. The interesting bit is looking at how they coped. It took about two generations to really get the hang of the new weather... what with all the starvation and plague and such... but they did find ways to manage and trive. We can learn a lot from them.

Again, England during the first half of the 20th Century. War, depression and crop failures, more war, rationing... I have family members that were alive for that, and it's fascinating to hear what life was like. The biggest difference between potential zombi-rich future and their experiences wasn't the lack of food. The difference was in the attitude of the people. They were all in the same boat. Even the wealthy were seen to go without. No zombie hoards descending from the cities to the country.

What's it going to be like now? I don't know. Food forest is definitely a good idea to camouflage your food source.
 
Neil Layton
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R Ranson wrote:
That's not the interesting bit. The interesting bit is looking at how they coped. It took about two generations to really get the hang of the new weather... what with all the starvation and plague and such... but they did find ways to manage and trive. We can learn a lot from them.
.


Indeed. Have you got a good source for this? I mean, it doesn't seem to me like something to look forward to. We're talking about a less then 1 degree C drop in temperature, and yet, to quote Wikipedia, "The Great Famine started with bad weather in spring 1315. Universal crop failures lasted through 1316 until the summer harvest in 1317, and Europe did not fully recover until 1322. The period was marked by extreme levels of crime, disease, mass death, and even cannibalism and infanticide."

Not quite zombies, but bad enough. I mean, we can learn from their mistakes but, as far as I know, not from their successes.
 
Tristan Vitali
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On "Zombies", I listened to an interesting interview with Dr. Brian Anse Patrick of Toledo University on Red Ice Radio (first hour is free) on this very topic...Zombies as basically a metaphor for our modern western society's "darker side". Definitely worth a listen if you've got time

http://www.redicecreations.com/radio/2016/01/RIR-160122.php
 
R Ranson
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Wow, that's a fun wikiquote. In some places it was like that, in others not. That' the thing about wiki, it does tend to dramatize things a bit.

Then again, it was a lot more dramatic in the way it change society. Before the weather changed, labour saving devices were often made illegal or strongly discouraged as they would put people out of work. By the middle of the 14th C, they were grudgingly accepted, and a few years after that, cities saw large changes in the way things were manufactured.

Some books to read. I recommend a library card, the list can get rather long.

Medieval Lives by Terry Jones and Alan Ereira and The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England are a good starting place. It gives a good grounding in social attitudes and technology. One of the first season episodes of the TV show Connections also had a good few moments talking about the drastic climate change (he confirms the bit about the grapes - a lot of more recent historians forget that snippet) and how it changed clothing and building design - like the sudden adoption of this revolutionary thing called a chimney.

Cooking and Dining in Medieval England by Peter Brears is all about food. More importantly it is about food related technology. If you know how to look, you can see in the evolution of these tools and how the rooms were laid out, some of the effects that this climate change had on the people. If food history is your thing, anything by this author is well worth reading. I found this book to be the most helpful when I discovered my late onset allergies to several of the foods common in the modern diet - I had to go back to pre-contact cooking to discover how to eat again.

Sorry, I had a big clean out of my books over the winter, so most of them are at the charity shop now.

What I can think of off the top of my head are The Medieval World View by someone with a name and The Medieval Millennium by someone with a different name. These, I think covered some of the changes in attitudes, but they are a bit introductory. If I remember rightly, they stuck to the commonly accepted interpretation of history which seems horribly stuck in the weather-has-no-influence-on-events school of thought. But read between the lines, and you can see how the plagues and second agricultural revolution were kicked off just as the people were recovering from the changes in weather.

For some reason I'm also thinking Technology and Society in the Middle Centuries might be useful as well, but I seem to remember it ends just as the weather is changing. Mostly because there is a strong correlation between society technological and social changes at that time... must be something in the air.

I might be able to dig up some more if you run out of reading.

But to be honest, that's not where I learned the most. Sure it's background knowledge, but where I learned the most was from actually living in the Middle Ages.

Alas, no TARDIS. What we do is to put on an educational display for a local park where we set up our tents and move into the park for a week or two. We live life as we understand it to have been (notice how I'm emphasizing interpretation - history is all about that) in the year 1371. People here are just starting to recover from the weather change and settle into ice age living.

It's all well and good knowing what tools they used, but how did they use these tools? That's what we learn the most from our time travel. What sorts of problems did they have and what solutions did they come up with. There is nothing quite like practial knowlage. It's like the difference between reading a gardening book and growing a garden.
 
John Saltveit
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A really good way to create more food and not have neighbors attack is to help them grow food too. Patrick mentioned this. For example, I have a food forest, and apples, peach trees cherries, and plum trees grow accidentally. With permission, I have planted some of them in local parks, so people will have food, and learn about it. I also graft those trees and share them with neighbors. We also have a local neighborhood food sharing and trading group, where we learn and share about growing, cooking and preparing foods to eat. I respect and value the prepper habit of developing food channels, but I don't believe it will happen instantly. Like everyone freaking out about Y2k, the adjustment to technology or lack of food will be gradual, I think. Sharing ideas on permies.com is another example of how we can set up our future so we will be abundant in our food resources.
John S
PDX OR
 
John Polk
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This is a good thread - it stresses the importance of building resilience into our food forests, without attracting every hungry person into it for a free lunch.

Climate swings are a fact of life. The USDA Zone system is an average, not an absolute. If you live in Zone 6, you will have some Zone 7 winters, as well as some Zone 5 winters. To be 10* above normal means that it will likely get 10* below normal sometimes. Same goes for 'annual precipitation'. We will have wetter years as well as drier years...it all averages out.

Let's try to keep this thread on topic. It is not about the differences of diets, science of climate change, or anything else that provokes trollish behavior.
 
Scott Strough
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Neil Layton wrote:

The major texts on Permaculture and forest garden design do talk about climate as a question to be considered when designing our gardens, but rarely talk in detail about climate change, so I thought I'd start a thread to discuss how we make our forest gardens more climate disruption resistant, through things like better design for flood, drought and other extreme events, and the questions of plant breeding (including the advantages of growing more resistant strains through deliberate neglect). How do you make your food forest resistant to the depredations of hungry people? What else haven't I thought about?
I'll try this again.

To answer your first question. "how we make our forest gardens more climate disruption resistant?"
The single most important thing is carbon in the soil, both living biodiversity and sequestered carbon in the form of humus.
SOM/SOC holds water which will see you through drought.
It increases infiltration, so pools of water at the surface from flood dry out faster
It holds soil together, reducing erosion.
It makes plants more vigorous, so they withstand climate extremes
It is carbon derived from atmospheric CO2 through the process of photosynthesis, so it reduces atmospheric CO2. If it is in the soil where it belongs, it is not in the air.

The next question was, "How do you make your food forest resistant to the depredations of hungry people?"
The most important thing is to involve the entire community.
You may not be able to fight off a hungry mob. But a community of permaculturists just might be able to feed a hungry mob. Especially if there are enough permaculturists in the community. The community you feed (and feed you) is your ally!
Enough permaculture communities and there are no hungry mobs.

So that leads to the final important thing, educate others in permaculture. Enough of us teamed together and cooperating solves every point of your concern to such a huge degree that with enough people doing it, there is no problem to worry about in the first place. Or as Paul likes to say world domination!

 
Neil Layton
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patrick canidae wrote:Maybe the better question is, "How can I plant perennial food sources all over the nearest town to me ?" so that doesn't happen.

How do you become the John Chapman of your region? I imagine the left over inventory from some home and garden centers, some short, regular volunteer sessions at some local town properties, and a pitch to the parks and rec department you could volunteer at would get quite a bit done.


Here is an interesting article on the advantages and limitations of urban farming: http://www.policyinnovations.org/ideas/commentary/data/00415

Note that while it will feed some people it won't feed enough people.
 
Levente Andras
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I agree with Scott's stand on the issue of defending your food crops from marauders.

The attack of a hungry mob is an extreme event that follows the total breakdown of civilisation. You cannot deal with that on your own, and definitely not through simply choosing what you plant in your food forest.

No plant (or animal) is safe from destruction or vandalism. Regardless of their edibility, trees, shrubs and other woody plants can be cut down to make fires. Herbaceous plants can be trampled into the ground.

And anyway, you may not even live to enjoy your obscure edible plants after the marauders have moved on, because you yourself (and your family) may look extremely appetising to a starving mob...

Being embedded in a strong community is key to survival, especially in troubled times.
 
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