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

 
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Scott Strough wrote: There is no down side except some areas are too dry for large forests. Those areas can become food grasslands, again producing more food per acre than the standard corn soy rotation, if managed properly, and both resilient against climate change and mitigating climate change. So once again, no down side.



I love this a lot!
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Are any of you all growing any of the native staple carbohydrates in your food forests, what are they, how are they doing, and do you like eating them?



I'm interested in this too. The answer is going to be different depending on where we each live, but we could brainstorm some general ideas.

Pre-European contact, we have very few local starch sources, most of it was acquired through trade. Even then, a camas bulb (yep, you guys were right, the starch thing really gave it away) is very difficult to tell from the death camas. You can basically only tell one from the other when they bloom - which is NOT at the time of harvest. I don't know of any properly tended camas fields anymore (the First Nations use to tend the fields to cull out the death camas) so it's not a food source I'm depending on.

Potatoes grow well here... except, back in the first half of the 20th C someone decided to ignore quarantine and import potatoes from far off lands and they brought this nasty nematode to the soil. It was pretty well contained for a while, but it seems to be spreading again. So potatoes are out as a main carb crop.

Potatoes and camas seem to like a lot of sun and warmth anyway, so might not be the best in a food forest setting.

If I'm going to grow a food forest, I definitely want to know more about growing carb heavy staple crops with it.

...Or maybe I should be asking you to put this in the Staple Crops thread....



It would be a valuable question there too.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Unfortunately most of the edible native tuberous and bulbous plants here are rare due to the plants being yummy to cattle, goats, and sheep, who have grazed most to near-extinction. I hope to try again to grow some more of them. One which has done well for me is Canada Onion, but you can only eat so many onions. There's a native camas also. I plan to try these edible natives in some protected small clearings in the food forest. My problem with trying to grow most things in the past was I planted them in an area which was too exposed and tended to dry out before things could get established. Planting in the protection of trees seems to work well, so that even my vegetable garden is surrounded by trees. It's drier here than it used to be when these plants were common in the area; this is mostly due to poor land use but also to climate change over the past hundred years or so. The carrying capacity is now about 1/5 of what it was back when this was Tallgrass Prairie and there were year round springs and creeks all over, now mostly seasonal.

 
Tyler Ludens
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R Ranson wrote:

If I'm going to grow a food forest, I definitely want to know more about growing carb heavy staple crops with it.



Have you tried Hardy Yam Dioscorea batatas (and other species of Dioscorea)? These seem like super tough plants; they seem to like moisture, but I've had one for years that just goes dormant when it's too dry. I have no idea how large the tuber is now, could be huge, could be puny.
 
raven ranson
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I like eating yams (and sweet potato). Just learned about hardy yams this week. Keen to learn more.

Hoping to find some and experiment with them in the garden this year. Don't know how well they will do this far north. Summers are far too dry here, and winters too wet for many plants.
 
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There's a starch that's been on my mind lately that might be an option for a food forest. This is going from a memory of something someone said about what they read in a book that mentioned local folklore. I have no idea how credible this idea is. But I would like to toss it out there for us to play with.

Scarlet Runner beans:

I've grown these around trees and they are willing to climb 30 feet or more. They seem happy enough producing with part shade, or if there is too much shade for their liking, these vines are more than willing to grow to where there is less shade. Nitrogen producer, so good for the forest in that way. Deep roots, so potential for being a Dynamic Accumulator (if they are or not, I don't know). Beans can be eaten raw when young (or not depending on what school of thought you subscribe to, but I've never got a tummy ache from them). They can be boiled as green beans, or as shelly, or as dry beans.

The roots over winter about 50% of the time here, maybe more, I usually dig them up. So, they could be a semi-perennial. The pods that grow too high up the tree to be picked, release their seeds in the spring and self-plant. Seem willing to grow in cold years and hot, wet and dry, without much complaint. The part of the plant that gets the most sun, seems to set the most beans (of course).

That's the part I know.

What I heard is that the leaves can be eaten 'like spinach'. Also the roots are supposed to be a fantastic source of carbs... but how I don't know. Do they need to be fermented, cooked, something else? No idea. It's just hearsay.


So, any way we can incorporate this plant into a food forest? Would it be useful for increasing the forests' resilience to climate change?
 
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R Ranson wrote:
Potatoes grow well here... except, back in the first half of the 20th C someone decided to ignore quarantine and import potatoes from far off lands and they brought this nasty nematode to the soil. It was pretty well contained for a while, but it seems to be spreading again. So potatoes are out as a main carb crop.



If that nematode is the root knot nematode, it's a big problem in the soils throughout our region. One of the solutions we use is to rotate crops through that drive out the nematodes before planting crops that are sensitive to the nematodes. Three examples of plants that drive out the nematodes : ebon rye, tagete marigolds, mustards. It's very important to leave at least the roots behind in the ground. Usually the rye is tilled into the soil shortly before it goes to seed. I like the marigolds and mustard greens myself, as I can stack functions with either beneficial insect habitat or food.
 
pollinator
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Loving this thread

One point I want to make is that a "food forest" might be a looser concept than some would immediately think of, at least in some cases. The example I'm most familiar with is the open savanna type ecosystems such as the oak savanna that occurred natively throughout vast portions of North America, including areas as diverse as the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys, both lower and upper, parts of New England, swaths within the upper plains and right out to some of the left coast regions. This is most certainly a forest habitat, but not the one we tend to be studying when we pick up permaculture manuals and read Mollison's works since he was looking mostly at tropical and rainforest type regions. These are forests with a VERY open canopy. They contain all your forest layers but allow much more sunlight to the "forest floor", requiring not only much more ground cover and herbaceous type plants, but actually overlap a bit into the open grassland type ecosystems as far as a "type" classification. Here, you'd find "full sun" type plants growing along happily...and many of these "full sun" plants happen to also be good staple crops / carb sources. Reseeding annual and perennial grasses, rooty/tuberous "field" crops, etc.

A step further would be to include ponds, marshes/swamps/bogs, and dry raised sandy/rocky sections into the design of a food forest, giving even richer microclimate diversity and allowing for the growing of plants that fall even farther outside the general "food forest flora" thinking. These might flow more along the lines of TEFA in a way, though the season extending in this case would be more of a side benefit.

Just something to keep in mind I'd think.

Air Potato / Hardy Wild Yam (Dioscorea batatas) is one of the staple crops we're establishing here in Maine, in a zone 4b/5a, on highly acid, wet clay soil, and though it's not quite flourishing, it's certainly surviving so far (this spring will be it's 3rd year in the ground). The plant is generally thought to be hardy to zone 5, but the last two winters here tipped the scales into a zone 4a (-25* to -30*F) with nearly a solid month of below zero weather last winter. We're in a pretty wet region with an average of about 3" liquid precip per month, year-round. Now, on the other extreme, while living in Florida, this exact plant was growing so vigorously that it rivaled the scenes of the green monster, kudzu, that I witnessed while traveling through Alabama. This was on alkaline, sandy soil that dried out to dust for around 4 months of the year during the spring "dry season". Temperatures averaged around 100*F for another 4 months of the year (with high humidity - dewpoints in the 70s).

In other words, it's an EXCELLENT example of a plant for a "climate-change resistant food forest". It has a 5 growing zone or greater spread, acid/alkaline and wide ranging soil type tolerance, extreme heat and cold tolerance, and drought/flood tolerance, while producing edible tubers, readily self seeding and is capable of producing a lot of biomass.

And that's just one plant! There's countless others it seems...perennial others, and that perennial nature gives us not only the welcome edge of being not-so-easy to recognize but also the tolerance to climatic extremes.

Wapato/Duck Potato/Arrowhead - edible starchy tuber. We're growing this in paddies and pocket ponds here and would do well in practically any area with the ability to maintain "mucky" muddy conditions for a few months of the growing season. They are minimally drought tolerant, able to handle drying out entirely for a month at a time before they give up for the season, but are certainly more than flood tolerant.

Oaks - acorns are an edible starch with some minimal processing. About the only regions you can't grow at least one cultivar these guys are alpine/tundra and rainforests. Pick one (or 5) that straddle your growing zone and get them established sooner rather than later so they have the deep root system necessary to withstand the impending weather doom

Yucca/Cassava/Tapioca Root - edible starchy root. It grew well in Florida and New Mexico...maybe not suitable for cold/wet locations but certainly doable in a lot of regions and one to think about should the climate go more in the direction of "runaway global warming" and "increasing desertification".

Prickly Pear - edible pads and fruits. Another hot/dry lover in general but various cultivars range through to hardy natives found as far north as southern Ontario and high up into the alpine regions of the Rockies. Can certainly withstand some "wet feet" but would be a good one to start up on a dry, gravelly raised bed in full sun, then transplanted to a more suitable location later, if you're going from modern-day Scotland conditions to future Egyptian conditions

Birch/Walnut/Maple/etc - sap/syrup production. We often forget how valuable a source of calories sugary syrup can be and we're not just limited to tapping the classic Sugar Maple in Vermont for it. Birches, Walnuts, Hickory, other Maple varieties, Boxwood Elder, etc are all suitable and make some downright tasty, calorie packed syrups.

Cattail/Bulrush - edible starchy root. Another wetland plant that can handle prolonged dry spells (on the order of 2 months). Not only do those roots give a starchy, cucumber flavored flour product with minimal processing but the whole plant is edible and/or medicinal at various stages. About the only places it wont grow, given enough water, are alpine/tundra and dark rainforests It's also an excellent nutrient accumulator and biomass plant.

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) - edible starchy seeds. Yet another wetland plant but an excellent "growing zone"-spanning, easy to grow "en masse" one. The entire plant is edible to some degree though the seed kernels are by far the most calorie dense.

Jerusalem Artichoke - edible starchy tuber. Heat and cold tolerant with a generally accepted range of USDA growing zones 2 to 8, flood and drought tolerant. Another we tend to forget can handle a lot of what the climate might throw at it.

This list definitely goes on.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I've personally had trouble including those of that list that I grow into my diet. I think this is going to be the main problem with a food forest diet, for a lot of people, most of us are used to eating other things. Have you had much success incorporating those into your diet, Tristan? I tend to avoid anything very fussy; Cattail falls into the fussy category for me, but then I have only eaten the leaf hearts and not the roots. The potatoes my Duck Potatoes made have been so few and small, I haven't tried cooking with them. From my experience, Jerusalem Artichoke is only marginally drought tolerant in my locale. I grow it in the irrigated garden. But things like drought tolerance are very locale-specific. We haven't really learned to like it.

I'm always interested in people's experience with unusual foods, and wish folks would post more about how they prepare them, how much a part of their diet they make up, and if their families enjoy them. We ate Cardoon last night for the first time and it got a big "yuck" which is sad because it is growing exceptionally well for me! Other "weird" foods that got a yuck have been Canna, Sotol of course, Devil's Claw, Thistle, acorns (I don't think I leached them enough), and earthworms.
 
Tyler Ludens
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R Ranson wrote:
What I heard is that the leaves can be eaten 'like spinach'. Also the roots are supposed to be a fantastic source of carbs... but how I don't know. Do they need to be fermented, cooked, something else? No idea. It's just hearsay.


So, any way we can incorporate this plant into a food forest? Would it be useful for increasing the forests' resilience to climate change?



Here's what Plants for a Future has to say:

"Edible Uses:

Immature seedpods - raw or cooked[1, 2, 37, 46]. They have a pleasant mild flavour and are widely used as a vegetable in many areas of the world. They can be added to salads, cooked as a vegetable or added to soups, stews etc[183]. The immature seed is used like shelled beans as a vegetable[183]. The protein-rich mature seeds can be dried and stored for future use. They need to be thoroughly cooked before being eaten in order to destroy a toxic principle. They are soaked for 12 hours prior to use and are eaten boiled or added to soups etc. The seed can also be ground into a powder and added to cereal flours for making protein-enriched bread etc[183]. Flowers - raw. A bean-like taste[177, 183]. Young leaves - cooked and used as a potherb[183]. Root - cooked. Rich in starch[183]. Another report says that the root is poisonous[2],"

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Phaseolus+coccineus
 
raven ranson
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So the roots of the runner bean are edible. Thanks for finding confirmation.

They are definitely going on my food forest plant list.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Or poisonous.

 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

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



Thinking about hiding the garden, made me remember this thread a while back: http://www.permies.com/t/47155/forest-garden/confounding-neighbors. There were some good suggestions in there, if hiding is one's goal.

One thing I thought of today that one shouldn't do, if they want to hide their food, is to put up a fenced garden. When I drive by people's houses, those little, nice, protected gardens tell me, more than anything else about their property, that they are growing food. A person that doesn't know what food looks like outside of the supermarket will still likely be able to identify the quintessential raised garden beds and fences garden. They might not know what food looks like, but they'll know it's in there. And, like the zombie herd at Joseph Lofthouse's property, they'll do a lot of destruction even if they don't know exactly what part of a plant is food.

I would suggest, then, that you either (A) make your food forest/garden look like a rundown jungle (this is especially good if the majority of your neighbors have more run-down properties), or (B) Make it look like landscaping. Around here, most every nice house has curvy landscaping with lots of mulch--perfect for creating "edges" and growing perennials! If that apple tree or cherry tree looks like an ornamental one because it's planted in "landscaped" mulched bed, people are less likely to think it's food. If your garden beds are curvy and edge with rocks or logs or bricks (*anything* other than lumber), people will think it's just ornamental. They might not try the weird hardy kiwi's if they are growing up a piece of rebar artwork, but might if it looked like they were growing on the same structures they see holding up grapes at a vineyard. A food forest can easily be made to look like manicured landscaping. A bunch of wetland edibles can be grown in a pretty pond setting. You could grow camas, and roses, borage, calendula, lavender, dahlias, tiger lilies, nasturtiums, pansies and other edible flowers in a "flower bed." These sort of techniques are really important here in the US, where in certain housing developments and cities you can be fined and jailed for growing edibles.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Have you had much success incorporating those into your diet, Tristan?



Sadly, not yet - my "project" is still pretty immature. I've only have had the property for 3 years now and there was nothing much left behind by the logging crews that had it before us. We do incorporate a lot of native (and naturalized) wild edibles into the diet now such as wild berries of various sorts, dandelion, plantain, dock, etc, but the perennial systems are all still in their first few years, so not yet ready for harvesting.

In other words, if the climate shift happened suddenly tomorrow, we're totally screwed

 
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I grow camas. It's easy to tell from death camas. Just make sure when it blooms, only the beautiful purple blooms are growing.

I used to grow wapato. It needs a lot of water. Filberts/Hazelnuts are a local starch. You have to fight the squiirels for them or eat the squirrels too, which sounds better in that scenario.

I used to grow Chinese mountain yams too. I only imagine how big that root is now.

Jerusalem artichokes are easy and super productive-great flower for pollination too. Awesome food for your microbiome.

DOn't forget the power of weeds. Strangers won't fight you for them.

We are growing cardoon. Artichoke is off the charts in antioxidants so cardoon must be too. I plan to ferment it because the flavor is too strong. It seems a better approach than boiling the hell out of it, which I used to do. Cardoon sushi, anyone?

There is a fine line between a low open forest, like I have, and a savannah, which is our native habitat here in the Willamette Valley of Western ORegon.

John S
PDX OR
 
Tyler Ludens
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Nicole Alderman wrote:
One thing I thought of today that one shouldn't do, if they want to hide their food, is to put up a fenced garden.



Unfortunately, I can't grow anything but Sotol and Prickly Pear without a fence, because of all the deer....
 
Casie Becker
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Maybe try wiring some garden art to your fencing and including some flowering plants. If people don't recognize the edible plants and see the flowers, they still might think you're protecting a flower garden. The more garden art they see, inside and on the fence, the more likely they are to think you're all about the ornaments
 
Tyler Ludens
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I've been told "We won't have time for flowers!" when TSHTF.
 
raven ranson
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I like that, no time for flowers when the manure hits the fan.

Whatever happens with the future, things are going to be interesting... and I suspect the only flowers I'll have time for are the ones I stuff in my mouth for food.

To me, this hightls the most important aspect of this thread... The manure hasn't hit the fan yet.

Tyler may not be in a situation for making a fence to keep the munchers out. But some of us are, and we can get started now BEFORE things get urgent.

Maybe instead of a fence, we could grow dear resistant plants. Then, hidden under the resistant plants, there could go some deer yummy perennials. These might be devastated if the deer eat them young, but maybe with the protection of the other plants, these yummy plants can grow strong enough to withstand the deer damage. But you know, that wouldn't work in every situation either.

A thread like this gives us a chance to brainstorm ideas and then each of us can take from it what we can use. To me, that's where the real usefulness of this conversation lies.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I've been told "We won't have time for flowers!" when TSHTF.



They will be absolutely vital for ecosystem services. It's going to be very easy for humanity to get this wrong, focus on growing food plants in the short term, and ignore things like pollination and all the other species that go to make up the kinds of ecosystems that keep everything else running. It's not like we have a good record on this subject.

Now, to a point your food plants will provide flowers for pollinators, but a well-designed forest garden will need a range of flowering plants to keep pollination and nectar gaps closed. This is a (relatively simple) design question.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Something that keeps coming to mind for me and hasn't been explored much as of yet is the old real estate addage: location location location. In real estate, they often mean things like proximity to schools and highways, but in our case I'd suggest things like rainfall/climate fragility, population density, and demographics as they key factors.

I've been doing web development for many years now and one project I worked on not that long ago (told the client to advertise here but he never did that I know of) was for a "survival properties" website. Properties were able to be rated based on "survivability", taking into account various indicators as described in a fairly popular book (wont name names here). Me being a "survivalist" in my own way [insert tirade against NWO here], I had gone through many of the same sort of steps they were using when scouting for a place to plant my roots only a couple years prior. As you can imagine, I was keen to offer my input on the project

A bit of a tangent, but prior to discovering the permaculture philosophy and toolkit, I had fought internally between the "beans bullets and bandaids" mentality and the "revolution in the streets" mentality. I, like so many others, believed in this false scarcity shirade the establishment elite play on the world stage. You know - one day we'll run out of oil...one day we'll run out of food...water is becoming so scarce, wars will be fought over it "soon"...the world's population has grown so large, so quickly, that we must all move to cities because there's just not enough room for us people on this little blue planet... I hated the establishment for making this so and I saw no way out other than to fight for what's mine (and to hell with all else) ... that I hated even more.

But then there was the obvious answer shoved into my face...the global gardener vids I think it was Those and some of Paul's youtubes (but of course!)...then I was here, reading and learning.

Anyway, back to my point... Many of us do already have roots planted, but many others don't. In fact, I'm sure there's a few hundred future permies watching this thread right now, just like I used to do, plotting and planning and dreaming of the day they "get out there" to start their own little corner of paradise...and I'm sure there's a large percentage that are like me, with that survivalist mindset as their background.

When seeking a place to do this sort of thing, there are a lot of factors involved in figuring out where will work out easily/smoothly and where you're likely to run into trouble. Generally speaking, all of the keys to finding a workable property for permaculture-type projects come into play (Ben Falk does some interesting work on this), but in addition to those, there are a few extra points to keep in mind.

If you're even remotely close to major cities, you're close to where those "zombies" could, eventually, come seeking to capitalize on your hard work... I'm thinking specifically about gangs of well organized, armed individuals that take jaunts out to the country-side in search of food and material sources, who will kill to take it, and who have taken the time to become knowledgeable enough to recognize food. These could be existing criminal gangs that take advantage of a deteriorating situation, or they could be paid "soldiers" of whatever governmental body exists during/after a crisis. This harkens back to the mention of what happened during WWII with regards to German and Russian soldiers coming to towns demanding room and board - the same scene played out during the Revolutionary War here in the states, as well as during the Civil War.

So that's Number 1 - not close to a city or other "major population hub". A good bet would be 2 hours or more from any "major" city or military base, and at least 1 hour from even those smaller cities that tend to skirt the outer edges of the big ones. This will provide more protection than all the camouflage, security patrols, boobytraps and guns in the world from the (admittedly unlikely but always possible) zombie hordes. It also helps to insulate you from another potential in the future - urban encroachment.

Number 2 would be to pick a location where you can grow food (and keep animals) without drawing attention to yourself. You want to use the surrounding landscape as camouflage for what you're doing - food forests should blend into forests with similar structure whenever possible. Tyler's pictures are a good example of where not to plant a lush, green, jungle-like food forest (no offense Tyler ). Not only would it be near impossible to keep the plants alive during the more severe droughts that are likely in a brown matter and rotating blades, climate chaos situation, but that lush oasis would stick out like a sore thumb to anyone walking, driving, or even flying by. And now, with the advent of drones, anyone with a solar panel to charge from and a hunger pang in the stomach can infiltrate your best defenses to take a closer look at what you have to offer without ever setting foot on your property, even if all the rest of society has collapsed to nothingness. The last thing you want is the one guy in the next county over, the one everyone knows is addicted to meth or whatever it is, who's known to be a violent criminal and is not to be trusted, to fly his drone down over your food forest and spot you working with your home-made cider press, or see your drying racks full of shittake mushrooms, or get a glimpse of your rabbit hutch, and then decide to get his buddies together for a raiding party.

The best defense against that sort of thing is to not invite it.

And that leads to Number 3 - the mentality of the people around you. If you move to an area where there's more of "those" people around - those that hold their empty hands out and demand that you help them rather than holding out hands full of produce or home-brew mead while asking if you could give them a hand with XYZ - then you're going to be surrounded by potential threats. Same goes for moving to an established community of "those with means" - everything's well manicured, lollipop trees and perfectly green lawns, golf clubs and beach houses. Community is a big player in anything permaculture, for many obvious and diverse reasons, but it's of the utmost importance if and when the system begins to crumble due to climate change (or any other of the few dozen or so possibilities). If you can't trust your neighbors and communicate with them on an equal footing, you don't have a community. Obviously, you don't have to agree with them on everything, or even much, but if they're decent people, either compassionate enough to care and share, or smart enough to know they *should*, things are going to be much more safe for you and your family than if the neighbors are either all gun-toting criminal drug addicts looking for a quick score or people who believe, in their hearts, that they are somehow better than others and therefore deserve a bigger slice.

Just more food for thought
 
Tyler Ludens
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I agree, Neil. I've planted several pounds of native wildflowers around my food garden this cool season. I was just checking on previous years' plantings and many little flower plants are coming up and looking healthy. It's wonderful to be able to bring these back to the land, from which they've been missing for possibly decades due to poor grazing management.

 
Nicole Alderman
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Nicole Alderman wrote:
One thing I thought of today that one shouldn't do, if they want to hide their food, is to put up a fenced garden.



Unfortunately, I can't grow anything but Sotol and Prickly Pear without a fence, because of all the deer....



Well, the deer won't be much of a problem if the "Zombie Hordes" are coming--they'll wipe out the deer! So, just take down the fence if/when munchers change from deer to people. Also, if the fencing is curved rather than a perfect rectangle, it will also help it look "pretty" and not like a food garden. And, like Casie Becker said, fill it full of flamingos and gnomes (or other art). A bird bath--or better yet, a Bee Bath would look decorative while still being functional.



I wonder if a mason bee hive could also be made to look decorative? Maybe if they were all nestled in the center of a giant sunflower? Though, the ones I'm seeing on google look pretty decorative as it is:


There's got to be lots of other decorative but functional elements we can use to make our food look less like food and more like decoration--rocks for habitat, solar lights, herb spirals, small ponds, pergolas/arbors/gazebos with edible vines growing up them, etc.

This sort of thinking is really important not just for the "end of the world," but also for those that living today in developments or cities where they can't have gardens. Pretty landscaping is allowed, but not raised garden beds or rows of crops. Food forests and perennials are wonderful for sneaking food into these places. And, the more food people are able to grow, the more food secure we can all be!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

This sort of thinking is really important not just for the "end of the world," but also for those that living today in developments or cities where they can't have gardens. Pretty landscaping is allowed, but not raised garden beds or rows of crops. Food forests and perennials are wonderful for sneaking food into these places. And, the more food people are able to grow, the more food secure we can all be!



I love these ideas.

 
Neil Layton
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Tristan Vitali wrote:

Anyway, back to my point... Many of us do already have roots planted, but many others don't. In fact, I'm sure there's a few hundred future permies watching this thread right now, just like I used to do, plotting and planning and dreaming of the day they "get out there" to start their own little corner of paradise...and I'm sure there's a large percentage that are like me, with that survivalist mindset as their background.



I don't think you need a survivalist mindset. My thinking is actually quite different, and has much more to do with how we (that is humans) relate to the rest of the planet, and that is in many ways antithetical to much of the thinking you find among survivalists - not so much about me and mine, but about an "us" that extends well beyond humanity,and how we as humans build those relationships.

That said, part of that thinking is driven by an awareness of how much of a mess we've made of this planet, and how much worse it's going to get, and climate disruption is obviously a big aspect of that, because we're not going to support ten billion humans under current systems with the climate a mess.

Part of what I want to do is work on building alternatives, typically much more cooperative ones (and if one of those permies you mention wants to go and do that with me, you can find the PM button!), but that's no use if a bunch of self-entitled zombies turn up.

We're ending up doing similar things, but I think we're coming at it from completely different philosophies.
 
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Trust the zombie hordes to get the discussion going.

I tend to be of the slow descent persuasion. I remember reading an article a year or two ago about younger people in Greece who were moving back to their family farm from the city because there they would at least be able to eat. There was a situation where the economic situation got tough enough to squeeze them into needing to grow their own food. Or at least some of it.
But there's the sticky part about having the food ready when you need it. 6 months for veggies and 6-10 years for nut trees doesn't cut it if I'm hungry today. I see the food forest as the most vital part to plant early. That way it will be established and producing when stuff happens. Veggies and small animals can be established on a lot shorter notice. Maybe we should think of this as step one, which coincidentally won't take a lot of maintenance after it's going. That gives you a solid base to work from assuming you are diversified enough that not everything fails at once.

As far as growing all my own food. In my mind Complete Self Sufficiency = Subsistence Farming. Not a place I want to go but a food forest would be a good start. It would at least let me free up part of my food budget to pay inflated prices for other foods.

One thing that doesn't seem to have been covered much yet is water. I know we're all permaculturists but I wouldn't want to have to rely on irrigation. So extra swales and water catchment. What would really be nice is if that soil re-hydration got some old springs going. Then you'd have a little more security on that end.



 
Tyler Ludens
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Daniel Kaplan wrote: I see the food forest as the most vital part to plant early.



It's taken me many years to figure out how to grow things, I'm such a slow learner. All my early tree plantings died or were killed by sheep or deer, so my food forest is mostly yet to be planted. No food security for me yet! The most important thing in a dry climate is to work out where the rain water goes and how to take advantage of it. That has been a huge challenge for me. The greatest thing I've learned on permies was hugelkultur which led me to buried wood beds, which have finally enabled me to grow food. Now I won't try to plant domestic food plants without buried wood.
 
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Daniel: I used to be a highly paid research scientist. About 20 years ago that stopped working for me. Today, I am a subsistence farmer. However, I am not self-sufficient, and don't ever aspire to be. I am part of a community. I take care of my community, and my community takes care of me. Building a fence to hold in pigs is way beyond my budget. But it's well within the budgets of members of my community. I grow pig feed and medicines for their pigs. They feed me pork. Strong young men collect my firewood. I feed their wives and children. My fields are scattered across three communities. I cannot protect them against a zombie horde. I've been feeding my community for my whole life. Before me, my father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, and great-great-great-grandmother were feeding the community. Someone will step up to defend my fields wherever they happen to be.

In my village, irrigation is a community project. We have been irrigating our fields for 155 years. Our irrigation system is mature. It is gravity fed from top to bottom. Sure, it would suck to not be able to repair the current pressurized system so cheaply if PVC became unavailable, but we managed for 118 years without a pressurized system. We could do so again.

Pressurized Irrigation.


Non-pressurized irrigation.

 
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There are some good "city forestry" things going on in some places. They have city foresters, and there are restrictions on cutting street trees or even trees on private property once they get over a certain size (about a foot around). So there are marvelous old chestnut, horse chestnut, and ornamental trees with edible parts like maples, myrtles, cherry-plums (the purple ornamental trees with small plum-type fruits), those strawberry-dogwood things.
Mostly the fruit trees are seen as "too messy," so there are not as many apples, pears, etc. that most people can recognize.

I remember learning the locations of venerable old chestnut trees in Portland, OR; these trees bore so heavily that you could stand under them and collect the droppings in real time (plop... go get it... another plop... go back and get that one... good for burning a few hours on the way home). Sometimes I would help clean the hulls off the sidewalk because that is a LOT of hull litter, and I did not want the property owners or landscapers to resent the nuisance while we gleaners ate the nuts and ignored the mess. Once a property owner saw me doing it, and gave me a couple extra bags from their freezer - they can't eat half what they harvest.
Generally there was an etiquette, you collected on the sidewalk and street planting strip but not the owner's front lawn. You didn't dive in and start collecting if someone else was already there, but if they saw you wanted to and they'd been there a while, they'd move on and you could gather the new falls. Kinda like bums taking turns on a corner with cardboard signs.
Very civil gleaners and pan-handlers in Portland, but I would not want to be there when everyone who's ever heard about Portland rushes there to live off the urban food forests in a crisis.

A bigger issue, in my mind, is that "zombies" often don't just eat your berries. They can't tell a berry tree from a fencepost.
The idea calls to mind some of the thefts we saw during a surge in the meth epidemic, when copper gutters and bronze statues would be ripped off (literally torn and plasma-cut to pieces), and sold for scrap metal to pay for drug habits. The statues were recognized by the scrap dealers because they had recognizable body parts like hands and eyes (they didn't melt them down just chopped them up), and those thieves caught and prosecuted.
But it's very hard to tell legitimate gutter-replacement or demolition scrap from stolen church flashing.

There are stories of some of the oldest apple arboretums (a mixed planting of a lifetime's collection of special varietals) in CA being ripped out to put in modern architecture and lawns. And many, many places where trees are seen as firewood, and bushes are "weeds," and they may be ripped out or cut up by folks who run short on firewood mid-winter. We've had whole trees stolen in our neighborhood- Doug firs almost a foot around felled and hauled away in the night, or perhaps "bent over" and "cleaned up" if you want to be real charitable about interpreting the evidence. And maybe they just trimmed off the stumps real tidy with the chainsaw too. Electric chainsaws, most likely; it was quiet.

They had this problem where someone found the original strain of coffee bush in a little village somewhere (Africa?). The scientists of course wanted to study it for all kinds of things like disease resistance, etc. Once it had been identified as "special," however, the locals could not resist tearing off a twig or a branch or some leaves to see if they could tell what was special about it. The thing could have gone for firewood sooner or later, anyway, while being neglected; but ironically a little awareness of it being special actually hastened the damage. They got it more or less under control by putting a stout cage around it, with chickenwire, like you'd use against goats or monkeys.

Educating people to recognize and enjoy edible wild plants is probably a good approach to this problem, generally.
If they know how to eat the fruits and edible parts, at least they might steal the milk not kill the cow. Maybe. But the thing about short-sighted zombie types, well, they're short sighted. They might eat berries all summer and STILL cut the bush for firewood in the winter if they are feeling grumpy.
In some cases, someone who has been an under-appreciated neighbor, desperate for a friend or to feed their family, may become a loyal defender of your feral food resources, and you have made an ally.

Taking an interest in your neighbor's well-being BEFORE they get hooked on insidious drugs might be good, too.
All bets are off with mind-destroying elements that leave the body super-charged and feeling no pain, whether it's Virus X or just a bad case of meth dealing in the neighborhood.
...

But getting back to what would I plant, and how would I share it:

I found an ethnobotany text for my climate, a reference work done in 1980 or so by talking to older folks in local tribes, and it opened my eyes to twice as many wild edibles on my place (and I have been interested in this stuff for over 10 years, but every year I learn something new). If you can find ethnobotany or cultural-uses references for your local region, it's an awesome score. There is a ton of stuff that's edible, or edible with careful processing, that you are probably discounting - just as your less-educated neighbors do the bulk of the stuff we grow in our little polyculture plots.

So you can maybe reveal the secret of sunchokes, and get neighbors planting them; but keep the knowledge of wild garlic, tree lichens, saskatoon, and how to tell carrot from hemlock in reserve for family emergency use.

My stories from the 30's (at second hand) involve raccoon roasts well-seasoned, skunk being rendered down for boot-black, and the occasional mix-up where the boys came home late from the dance, hungry enough to eat the wrong one and not figure out their mistake until Grandma mentioned it the next morning.

But if it comes to poaching for survival, this generation is WAY more likely to steal cattle (or resort to cannibalism); there's not much left to hunt, compared to the size of our human population. So the zombies might literally be after munching on you.

xkcd: land mammals

Depressing.
Ernie was pointing out that we are beyond the point where just a major population reduction would help: so much of the animal population is domesticated at this point, that if some crisis started taking out the human population, there would be human and domestic animal carrion corrupting for miles around any major population center.

Growing tasty food seems like an almost hallucinatory defence: if you get raided by a bunch of cannibals, and you greet them with a wild-cherry pie, will they keep you alive long enough to make them dessert a few more times?
If so, and if you know the uses of a few lethal herbs, you might have a true plants-vs-zombies defence strategy for getting rid of unwelcome guests. A garden seeded with hemlock and baneberry might defend itself, effectively.
But you'd have to play your cards really carefully if you wanted to stay in one place and enjoy the benefits.
No matter how you make your move, taking out zombies who are actually real people with desperate but functional brains - attack or defence is likely to provoke retaliation.

I think a network of neighbors who know each other's land, have good communications, and can move people around quietly to evade or strategically manipulate any unwelcome visitors may be a stronger defence than either the welcome-friends community or the lone-commando scenario. Last thing you want is to shoot a handful of them and have the rest burn you out, food forest and all. Ammo doesn't grow on trees, and a cache of any size tends to be a real liability in a wildlands/urban fire scenario. I favor finding more locally-renewable weapons, and getting good at improvising.

Puts me in mind of the Baba Yaga stories - in the darkest part of the forest, she tests her visitors. Those who work hard and hold to their mothers' teachings, she gives inestimable gifts (fire that doesn't go out, e.g.). Those who are lazy or worthless, she unmakes them and uses them as raw material for something else (bones for bread, etc).

Hard times test a lot more than character - they test luck, ingenuity, family loyalty, resourcefulness, reflexes, the accuracy of your particular paranoia and situational awareness, and sometimes they just test how well different humans squish.

Wishing everyone a long and fruitful life, in a garden that the zombies never find.

-Erica
 
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Just a quick request - while I appreciate the brevity and macabre humor of the term "zombies", I wish people wouldn't use it. We're not talking about monsters in these scenarios, we're talking about human beings. Potentially desperate ones, potentially doing bad things; but humans nonetheless.

Using dehumanizing terms can make it hard to empathize with those who may need empathy most; and on the flip side it may make us underestimate people who may pose a danger to us.
 
Neil Layton
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Steven Goode wrote:Just a quick request - while I appreciate the brevity and macabre humor of the term "zombies", I wish people wouldn't use it. We're not talking about monsters in these scenarios, we're talking about human beings. Potentially desperate ones, potentially doing bad things; but humans nonetheless.

Using dehumanizing terms can make it hard to empathize with those who may need empathy most; and on the flip side it may make us underestimate people who may pose a danger to us.



I mostly agree. The point is that the zombie has become a cultural shorthand for the exhibition of the worst of human nature.

Part of the point of the thread is that, while I completely recognise your point about these being people who need our help (and I have, for example, spoken up against those who oppose the immigration of people fleeing from wars in places like Syria (driven, in part by climate disruption and its effects on agriculture) and indeed the "economic migration" of those who have lost livelihoods in part as a result of those same forces), there are projections that show we could well enter a lifeboat situation.

To me it's not so much about protecting what's "mine", but about ensuring the systems are sustainable in the face of people thinking in the very short term (what happens when what gets plundered is next year's seed, for example?) - and the solutions, in many cases, may be the same.

I don't want to hide the fact that this prospect scares the living **** out of me.

All that said, dehumanising desperate people isn't helpful, so yes, your point is well made. I second your request for no more zombies, and apologise for having used the term. This was thoughtless and wrong of me.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I use the term "Zombie" because of the, to me, fantasy nature of the way many people in the doomer community speak of tough times. The scenarios they present are literally like a zombie movie, in which an overnight disaster causes people to inexplicably pour out of the cities looking for "crops." I'll continue to call zombies zombies because to me the scenario is fiction. By the time things get so tough from climate change that even small numbers of people consider wandering the countryside looking for "crops" I will have been dead for many years. I hope some folks find my food forest and can recognize the food and nurture it for their ongoing survival. I plant for the people of the future, I don't plant to avoid zombies. Doomers use the term zombies because they do dehumanize people looking for food; they plan to shoot them.

Personally, I'm more interested in talking about what sorts of things we can plant that are very durable under different climatic conditions, and how we can design our food forests to be resilient to these changing conditions.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Doomers use the term zombies because they do dehumanize people looking for food; they plan to shoot them.



I suspect that in a melt-down crisis, that the people that are most likely to raid my fields would be government 'officials' or police. In that scenario, I intend a scorched earth policy... My fields are typically too damp to burn, but I'd mow them to the ground before I'd allow someone to conscript me to harvest my crops so that they could steal them. I'm practically at that point already due to outrageous property taxes.

I have next year's seed crops widely scattered, and stored in places where one wouldn't typically expect to find food.



 
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I recently lived in a (very) major city where home invasions and other crimes against property were commonplace. I had a fenced backyard and installed signs that said "Rabid dog quarantine area. Do not enter". Whether it was the signs or coincidence, my house and yard were not targeted. At some point people will probably be willing to risk it, but not until things get pretty bad.
 
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I have a couple of observations. If you are fighting the "Zombie Hordes" by your self, you will lose, it may be heroic, but you will lose. I have great faith in the creativity and drive of lots of properly motivated people ("When a man knows he is to be hanged...it concentrates his mind wonderfully. - Samuel Johnson"). I admit it is a surprising contradiction to humanities normal, bovine stupidity. (did I just insult cattle there?)

My preferred plan in a collapse is to feed my neighbors, try to help those who need help, make myself obviously valuable and a member of the group and then, if Zombie fighting is necessary, then I will have allies. This is far better for everyone, avoids piles of corpses, and we retain our integrity. We hold to what we believe is right. If you only grow enough to feed yourself, you will be in trouble. Isn't one of the premises of permaculture to produce abundance, enough for many? It will be imperative in all rural areas to allow the farmers to continue to produce. It may not be viable long term, but it will keep people fed while we develop the long term systems (food forests, etc). Food and water storage will help, learning to recognize and use wild food sources will help, "hidden gardens and/or food forests" will really help, (no sense in showing all the cards in my hand, I will still make sure my kids eat), but in the end it will come down to building community. Those who succeed in that will be fine, those who don't will die.

Everyone has probably heard the depression era stories handed down in the family, or if your in Europe, the late WWII or post war stories (which are far more horrific than any stories I've heard of during the depression). Even modern humanity, as ignorant, lazy, greedy and violent as it is, will become focused when things get really bad. During the depression the govt made sure there were soup kitchens etc in the big cities. What does the govt care if there is rioting or trouble in some hamlet in western Kansas? But the govt will become very focused when Chicago, LA, New York, etc. are hungry, because that's the kind of thing that topples governments and trust the thieves in Washington to look after themselves. Until total collapse, cities will probably receive way more attention (food, etc) than small towns or rural, even if they have to rob the small towns and rural areas to feed the cities, so the Zombie Apocalypse won't happen unless there is a dramatic and sudden shutdown. In the sudden breakdown, there will be short term, extremely high mortality in and around the cities (dehydration and bad water will probably kill way more than starvation. Diarrhea can kill within a few days, starvation takes weeks). Based on discussions I've had with many friends over the years who were denizens of New York and Chicago, many lifelong inhabitants of big cities have an innate fear of the rural, redneck, doubtless inbred, toothless and violent inhabitants of rural america (lest everyone get angry at me, it's not my opinion, and I know that there are many urbanites free of this idiot mindset, but a lot have it, although they would never say it so brazenly). Because of this, I think the devouring horde would be much smaller than we usually think. In crisis, most people will hunker down until it was too late.

There will be rioting, etc., but judging from what we have seen in the US in the last 50 or so years, folks riot in their own neighborhoods, where they feel in control of the situation.

Within a few months of a crash, I expect all the green lawns will become gardens, the weeds will be widely recognized as edible and the wild game population will shrink amazingly. If the collapse is slower, the switch from grass to garden will happen over time. I think it's already happening. This website exists because people see a problem and are trying to work together to deal with it.

In closing, the mountain men, who many view as the archtype MANLY MAN, may have lived large for a while, but they also died young and in droves. I don't remember who the man was, but a well known mountain man at the last fur rendezvous commented that he thought he was the only one who had been at the first fur rendezvous (15 years before) who was still alive. We are happier and survive far better as members of a village. In the end, we are pack animals, or to put it another way, we all need our village.

 
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turnips, potatoes and sweet potatoes would all produce lots of starch and hide well. Beets, onions, garlic and beans would also hide pretty well as long they were mixed. Most people would walk right through them without identifying them if they were in a food forest or meadow. Oaks produce a huge yield of acorns (although they may not produce every year). Chestnuts also produce a lot and would not be recognized by most folks. Hopniss is a perennial native to the eastern half of the US and grows a string of potato like tubers. The tubers get bigger each year, so if you don't need it for 5 years, you could have lots of starch and protein hidden underground. To me, apple and plum trees are pretty darn recognizable and even an idiot would recognize the fruit hanging there. If you wanted to avoid people noticing, then the edge of the food forest should be something less obviously edible and discourage closer inspection. If I were really nasty I would plant monkshood around the edge to get rid of the idiots trying the "eat it and see how you feel" strategy. I would definitely plant a big strip of stinging nettle (most folks know it stings like crazy, not as many know it's a fine potherb), maybe some rugosa roses, maybe some osage orange (not edible, but it makes a hot fire). Sunchokes might make a good screen. This would probably work for adults, but if your Zombie horde contains 9-12 year old boys or tom boys, forget it. I would bet even money that the kids will find a way into your food forest and doubtless find something that would bring the others.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Mick Fisch wrote: osage orange (not edible, but it makes a hot fire).



The seeds are edible: http://www.eattheweeds.com/maclura-pomifera-the-edible-inedible-2/

Chopped up, the fruits might be a good chicken or pig feed.

 
Steven Kovacs
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Neil, no sweat. We all use shorthand terms sometimes, and they're useful except when they're not. There's no need to apologize, to me or anyone else.

Tyler, I see your point.

To be fair, some places in the world are in much more danger than others of serious near-term unrest. I have the luxury of planning for a somewhat longer horizon than someone who can see the stirrings of civil unrest at their doorstop.

On another topic, how should we deal with erratic weather as it affects long-lived, slow-growing plants like trees? If a dry summer kills some tomatoes, you can just try again next year (maybe with a different variety, maybe by saving seeds from the plants that did well). If that summer kills a 5-year-old tree, it's a more substantial setback. What can we do to select and protect species and varieties of plants that have such long life cycles that breeding them is the work of generations? The only thing that comes to mind immediately is to plant many trees, of many types, in many places.
 
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But there's the sticky part about having the food ready when you need it. 6 months for veggies and 6-10 years for nut trees doesn't cut it if I'm hungry today.



I really like in Starhawk's new novel ("City of Refuge"), as desertified farm land is recovered, they begin by building aquaponics systems. I have been interested in aquaponics since I did my PDC. I took various seminars, but have put off building a large system bc it requires so much in the way of resources and, on an ongoing basis, is at least a part time job. I just can't figure out how to add another part time job to my life. Aquaponics could help ramp up food production in a crisis. Aquaponics does increase growth rates for at least the first 4 weeks. Very nutritious sprouts could be ready in a week. Greens and maybe turnips could be ready in as little as 6 weeks, right? A crop of Tilapia could be mature at 6 months. Chicks could be raised to "broilers" in 9 weeks, laying hens in 5 or 6 months. So, not great meals, but maybe staving off starvation for some amount of time when combined with some hunting and foraging, if everything hasn't been decimated by said apocalyptic event.

Aquaponics also requires like 80% less water than traditional growing as the water is recycling.

A plan like this requires a lot of seeds, a source of fish and chicks. And some energy, like solar or wind with a battery, and maybe a bike driven charging system for emergencies. Growing more food forests for the long run requires more seeds and propagation of perennial nursery stock. Might as well get this started now and share the products with your neighbors before the trouble begins in earnest. It cost me a considerable investment to get my food forest started and costs more every year to diversify it. Even the price of a PDC kept me, for probably 2 decades, from the understanding that ignited my passion for building regenerative systems. In the current economy many are underemployed, unable to find work, but given the resources and the understanding how to use them, might be willing to grow food for their community and keep a share for themselves and their families -- if the meth heads didn't get to them already . So how do we leverage current conditions in our neighborhoods to get the most food growing while we still have time? (I read here folks thinking that the change will be gradual, but I am not so sure. I can't think of Katrina or Sandy as gradual; although volatility in food prices has been building for sometime, I am guessing it didn't seem "gradual" to folks who marched and rioted....). There is some subsidized housing about a block from me. I have diverted my walks away from the beautiful marshland 1/2 mile from my property, and over to the parking lot of the subsidized housing. When I see someone out of their apartment, I mosey up and mention I have some land near by where I grow food and ask if they know of any gardeners who might be interested in gardening with me this year, anyone who is on a waiting list for a community garden plot. So far no takers. It is only February though, so I have time to find someone.

P.S. If you haven't read Starhawk's "Fifth Sacred Thing", I'd recommend reading that one first.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Susan Hessel wrote: So how do we leverage current conditions in our neighborhoods to get the most food growing while we still have time?



A few of my neighbors garden and/or have livestock, and I'm trying to interest one or two of them in land restoration. Because a seasonal creek runs through all the properties, if we all worked on land restoration, we could even possibly get the creek to run year-round. Millions of gallons of water pass through our properties in flood - if we could slow it down and use it to grow trees and other plants, this neighborhood could become a comparative green paradise.

 
Live a little! The night is young! And we have umbrellas in our drinks! This umbrella has a tiny ad:
Intrinsic: An Agriculture of Altered Chaos
https://permies.com/t/95922/Intrinsic-Agriculture-Altered-Chaos
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