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In honour of Toby Hemenway: how I apply permaculture zones to sourcing food in the city  RSS feed

 
Shaz Jameson
pollinator
Posts: 146
Location: Hilversum, Netherlands, urban, zone 7
13
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Happy new year everybody.

Sadly we lost another of the greats just before the year ended. I was offline and so missed it.

Toby made permaculture accesible to me, and explained it in a way that makes perfect sense. In honour of him and his work, I wanted to share something with you that has been sitting on my backburner for a while that is directy inspired by him. I wanted to flesh it out and do something with it, but at the end of the day, I have learnt so much from permies the best way is to give it back to you.

Living in a small town in the incredibly densely populated Netherlands, I was very much inspired by 'The Permaculture City', and how he wrote about applying the concept of zones to how you organise your life more broadly. Things you use the most should be closer to you. When I read that, the first small change I made that had a big impact was moving my kitchen knife and chopping board right next to the kitchen counter top where I use it. Instead of, for instance, hiding behind that appliance you never use.

I wanted to look at where I am actually getting my food from, using the zones analysis, and then see what I can change to align more with the lifestyle we want to have.

Especially for people living in the city, if you want to be more sustainable, this is a way to eat, and therefore live, more responsibly.

The main thing is to be smart about it, but to do what you can. You can only do your best, and that's fine

You'll see that this will also feed into my goals for 2017 so it's a bit of a thinking-aloud-piece

3 EASY STEPS:

1. observe current situation
2. dream about ideal situation
3. plan steps to reduce the difference

OUR CURRENT SITUATION

Map out where you are getting your food, with your house at the centre. The zones expand in terms of frequency - so you visit zone 1 much more frequently than zone 4.
Where do you get your food from most often? What do you get there?

This is our map:


A few things become immediately apparent:

1. My dream of growing my own food is not happening.

2. Most of my food and daily staples comes from the supermarket. Something I would like to change.

3. Good news - Most of my fruit and veg comes from the weekly market, which I’m quite happy about.

4. I’m clearly not making the most of my community garden.


So, the things that are quite literally the daily bread, right now, are being sourced from the supermarket, on which I would like to reduce my dependency.

That explains why I end up going ot the supermarket several times a week and end up walking out of there with more in my basket that I had planned, because convenience, and I end up skipping the market because I've got everything in house already.


OUR IDEAL SITUATION

Map out your ideal. Where do I want to be supporting with my time and money? What is closest and easiest for me?
What is realistic and appropriate? <<< Important, especially in the city. As much as I'd love to eat 100% from my garden, thats not realistic, nor is it sustainable (what if you get sick?).



I made my map of zones based on where I want to be getting food. Home at the centre the most, and I want to support independent stores the most, I love the market, and then chain supermarkets last. Because, ick.
You can also include CSAs and veg box schemes here too, but that's not an option for me right now.

There are veg box schemes, but its farther away than I’m willing to cycle.

As much as I wish there was ‘wild forest for foraging’, firstly I live in the Netherlands theres no such thing as wilderness, and 2, our community garden has enough bits where there are wild weeds growing I can harvest. This is permaculture for the city, after all.


STEPS TO REDUCE THE DIFFERENCE

1.Grow it yourself.
I can definitely improve my gardening in terms of the things I use all the time and would only need to nip out the kitchen for a moment to get - herbs, garlic, onions, salad etc. This also means they stay fresher - I seriously want to get rid of this bad habit of buying bags of salad that always have a little bit of greens left over that never get used and I end up feeding them to the worms.


2. Eat less of the stuff that you depend on Zone 5 for.
Eat less processed junk crap and the supermarkets lose a lot of money. Easy.
But…. Less bread? For us, that’s nigh on impossible.
Less olive oil? Not happening. But less processed crap is relatively straightforward.


3.  Make it yourself.

This one helps if you like to cook. There is a lot of room for improvement here in our case. There's a myriad of ways to replace things we buy! For me the first things that come to mind:
Bread is THE main staple food in our house, and not having it = catastrophe. So, baking good bread is one of my major goals for 2017.
Eggs, I could work out how to amp up egg production.
If we invest in a juicer, we could make our own juice with fruit we haul from the market.
Bake cookies instead of buying them. Healthier, cheaper, tastier. Slightly more planning, but I could work on this.
Moving 'frozen pizzas' from the junk category of the supermarket to 'learning to diy decent pizza and have some dough in the freezer' has been a big, tasteful, delicious, cheap learning curve.

4. Find alternative sources for your food.
Dairy I could get mostly at the market, but would need to invest in sturdier bags for my bike and figure out a way to carry everything.

If you don’t like to cook but still fancy diy food? Set up trades. I trade the beekeeper tinctures for honey. Maybe see if you can set up food buying clubs or other CSAs.
Perhaps there are other stores that you've not seen yet - i know there's a few wine shops around I could get some cheap bottles instead of depending on the supermarket. Perhaps there are options you've not thought of.


5. Remember you're doing your best!
I tend to feel guilty about living in the city and convenience and all the food packaging and I try to live and conscientiously as possible. So, no guilt, just small steps to make a difference.


Hope this has been helpful and I'd love to hear how you can work the zones thinking into our food shopping.

RIP toby hemenway and thanks for all the fish.

 
Michael Ford
Posts: 3
Location: Austin
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This is helpful. 

My family ran through this exercise over dinner tonight.  We've got an ongoing back-and-forth about optimizing our food shopping.  We have some nice options nearby that make it easy for us to get high-quality food - it's the scheduling that kills us.  Sometimes we manage it well, and other times it gets out of control.  When we made nifty pictures like yours, a couple of opportunities for improvement jumped right out at us.  Thank you. 
 
Shaz Jameson
pollinator
Posts: 146
Location: Hilversum, Netherlands, urban, zone 7
13
bee bike books food preservation toxin-ectomy urban
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Michael, I'm so glad that this was helpful! Thanks for jumping on board and giving it a try.

I know what you mean about scheduling. The more I think about it, the more I realise one of the main problems is that I need to schedule in time to go to the market once a week, and schedule time before that to meal plan to make sure I get everything I need. Then there's a lot less temptation/need to go to the supermarket.

Would you mind sharing what are some of the options that jumped out at you? I'm still thinking through my 'optimisation list' for hte year, so ideas are helpful
 
Michael Ford
Posts: 3
Location: Austin
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Sure, I'll share.  Our current circles are:

1) Garden
2) Supermarket
3) Weekly farmer's markets
4) Food co-op
5) Specialty/ethnic

Our ideal circles are:

1) Garden
2) Weekly farmer's markets
3) Food co-op
4) Supermarket
5) Specialty/ethnic

When we wrote out the things that we buy from each source - we saw that the reason the supermarket was in spot #2 wasn't necessarily food. 

Garden - eggs, herbs, seasonal veg
Supermarket - milk, yogurt, veg, fruit, beer & wine, toilet paper, soap & vinegar, hygiene, bags & jars
Weekly farmer's markets - veg, fruit, milk, cheese, honey, meat
Food co-op - grains, beans, canned & frozen, veg, fruit, milk, butter, cheese, baking 
Specialty/ethnic - ethnic groceries, apothecary

The only things we intend to buy at the supermarket are toilet paper, waste bags, soap, etc.  But then we buy other stuff there - because convenience - most often milk, yogurt, butter; sometimes produce for a specific recipe, fish.  This looks like the biggest thing that's out of place.  Here's our ideal:

Garden - eggs, herbs, seasonal veg, fruit
Weekly farmer's markets - veg, fruit, milk, cheese, honey, meat
Food co-op - grains, beans, canned & frozen, veg, fruit, milk, butter, cheese, baking, hygiene
Supermarket - beer & wine, toilet paper, soap & vinegar, bags & jars
Specialty/ethnic - ethnic groceries, apothecary, hygiene

So we need to do several things:

1) We need to cut out the convenience buying at the supermarket - a "no supermarket dairy" policy would almost fix our whole thing.  I guess this is pretty predictable.
2) We need to get more food coming from home - especially fruit.  Many fruit trees are coming along in pots and a few will be able to go in the ground this year.  And we've got two new spots prepared for blackberries, so when they go on clearance this spring we're gonna go nuts
3) We need to stop buying hygiene stuff at the supermarket (couple of small exceptions based on price).  And we could also try harder to source hygiene from the apothecary.
4) There are 2 community gardening opportunities that we haven't taken advantage of yet.  We're going to start one this spring, and we'll look into the other to see if it's something we want to do. 

Bumping the co-op up to #2 is as easy as scheduling a regular weekly trip.  I used to take piano lessons next door to the co-op every week, so we know this works.  It's just something we have to add to our schedule and then stick to it. 

The thing that seems most likely to trip us up is yogurt.  We eat a lot of yogurt.  We've made our own several times but we've never really stuck with it.  I guess this is as good a time to fix that as ever...
 
Steven Kovacs
Posts: 225
Location: Western Massachusetts (USDA zone 5a, heating zone 5, 40"+)
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Shaz, the "no knead bread" recipe by Jim Lahey is a very easy way to get into bread baking at home, and produces an excellent loaf.  All you need in terms of equipment is a cast iron Dutch oven.  The method can be expanded to sourdough with a bit of experimentation (longer rise times, different flour / water ratios depending on the type of flour).
 
Rebecca Norman
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Michael Ford wrote:
3) We need to stop buying hygiene stuff at the supermarket (couple of small exceptions based on price).  And we could also try harder to source hygiene from the apothecary.


If you've got space for storage at home, maybe some high shelves that are otherwise unused, one possibility is to stock up on the non-perishable items that you need from the supermarket, like toilet paper and soap, so that you don't have to go to the supermarket as often for those.

Making your own yogurt doesn't save on carrying stuff home since you have to carry the same amount of milk, unless you've got a better source of plain milk close to home.
 
Shaz Jameson
pollinator
Posts: 146
Location: Hilversum, Netherlands, urban, zone 7
13
bee bike books food preservation toxin-ectomy urban
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Steven Kovacs wrote:Shaz, the "no knead bread" recipe by Jim Lahey is a very easy way to get into bread baking at home, and produces an excellent loaf.  All you need in terms of equipment is a cast iron Dutch oven.  The method can be expanded to sourdough with a bit of experimentation (longer rise times, different flour / water ratios depending on the type of flour).


thank you Steven!
Sourdough is something I want to work on very much, I've experimented several times with always the same mistakes, so there's definitely room for improvement
 
Shaz Jameson
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Location: Hilversum, Netherlands, urban, zone 7
13
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Rebecca Norman wrote:
Michael Ford wrote:
3) We need to stop buying hygiene stuff at the supermarket (couple of small exceptions based on price).  And we could also try harder to source hygiene from the apothecary.


If you've got space for storage at home, maybe some high shelves that are otherwise unused, one possibility is to stock up on the non-perishable items that you need from the supermarket, like toilet paper and soap, so that you don't have to go to the supermarket as often for those.


That's a good idea, especially because bulk hygiene stuff is more likely to be on offer. We have this a lot with toothpaste, we always buy months worth when it's on offer.
 
Shaz Jameson
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Posts: 146
Location: Hilversum, Netherlands, urban, zone 7
13
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Michael Ford wrote:Sure, I'll share.  Our current circles are:

1) We need to cut out the convenience buying at the supermarket - a "no supermarket dairy" policy would almost fix our whole thing.  I guess this is pretty predictable.

[...]

Bumping the co-op up to #2 is as easy as scheduling a regular weekly trip.  I used to take piano lessons next door to the co-op every week, so we know this works.  It's just something we have to add to our schedule and then stick to it. 



Thanks so much for sharing Michael. This really underlines it for me that it's not just a question of physical space, but scheduling is so important , making space in time to do the things you want to do.
 
Michael Ford
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Location: Austin
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Shaz Jameson wrote:
Rebecca Norman wrote:
Michael Ford wrote:
3) We need to stop buying hygiene stuff at the supermarket (couple of small exceptions based on price).  And we could also try harder to source hygiene from the apothecary.


If you've got space for storage at home, maybe some high shelves that are otherwise unused, one possibility is to stock up on the non-perishable items that you need from the supermarket, like toilet paper and soap, so that you don't have to go to the supermarket as often for those.


That's a good idea, especially because bulk hygiene stuff is more likely to be on offer. We have this a lot with toothpaste, we always buy months worth when it's on offer.


Thanks for posting this, Shaz - this has turned into a whole mini-project at my house. 

There are many things that we used to buy and then started making at home - like granola, peanut butter, cleaners, etc.  There are lots of other things we want to add to that list, but you know... inertia.  But, since we're taking a closer look at our regular shopping lists & schedule anyway - we're going to bump several of those things up to start right away.  So far homemade crackers, some snacks, and frozen pizza dough!  And as long as we're fiddling with things we're trying to optimize things from a packaging/trash perspective too.  We're also going to look at bulk pricing for some non-perishable things like Rebecca said.  So... thanks for the nudges  
 
Morfydd St. Clair
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Location: Hamburg, Germany
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Michael Ford wrote:

Thanks for posting this, Shaz - this has turned into a whole mini-project at my house. 

There are many things that we used to buy and then started making at home - like granola, peanut butter, cleaners, etc.  There are lots of other things we want to add to that list, but you know... inertia.  But, since we're taking a closer look at our regular shopping lists & schedule anyway - we're going to bump several of those things up to start right away.  So far homemade crackers, some snacks, and frozen pizza dough!  And as long as we're fiddling with things we're trying to optimize things from a packaging/trash perspective too.  We're also going to look at bulk pricing for some non-perishable things like Rebecca said.  So... thanks for the nudges  


Yes, definitely thanks!  I've got a few ideas from this thread, and will definitely sit down to do a full analysis.
 
Shaz Jameson
pollinator
Posts: 146
Location: Hilversum, Netherlands, urban, zone 7
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Thank YOU guys for taking it up! It's been something I've thought about for a while, so I'm glad it was useful!

Do let me know if you find some difficulties, or if you make some realisations as you go along, I'm super interested.

Thanks again!
 
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