Matt Ferrall

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since Dec 26, 2008
We are an Agroforestry Project located in the North Cascade Mountains.  

We have been pioneering new lifeways in harmony with our environment since Fall of 1997.

We take our inspiration from the likes of Masanobu Fukuoka, Sepp Holzer, Mark Shepard, and Martin Crawford, as well as the indigenous tribes of the area.  Through long-term observation, we are developing food production models devoid of outside inputs.  Our goal is to create a highly productive agroforestry food system that also provides the
ecological functions of a forest.  We believe horticultural societies provided the most diversity and thus represent a peak in the human experience and its relationship to the natural world.

Not domesticated, but not fully wild... we aim for a middle path.
Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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Recent posts by Matt Ferrall

I have had good luck starting seeds directly onto humus filled pots. Like most seeds of fruiting trees or shrubs, I never dry them out. I take a paste of the smashed fruit and spread it around.  Half an inch of potting soil on top. Each fruit only has one or two seeds in my experience.
1 year ago
Here is a link to the Feral Farm website.
6 years ago
Andrew:Wow,gotta say Im impressed with the length of your response.Kinda exhausted at this point.My original community was mainly just me because I couldnt find anyone fanatical enough to go along.The only point I would question in your above response is that having no one own the land does little to alter feelings of ownership.Ive seen folks feel ownership for others land if they have utilized it for any period of time.Ive seen land trust communities that publicly disavow land ownership have obvious feelings of ownership as a group which I find to be identical to the usual ownership model even if they cant see it or wont admit it.The litimus test being they dont move on and tend to protect it from outside intrusion.It seems if someone were to come and do whatever they please on this land these folks would feel some sense of entitlement to deciding to allow it or not.Is there a plan in place should someone from outside this community start to intrude?It seems feelings of ownership might naturaly occur in a defensive role as well.
6 years ago
Thanks for filling in some of the backstory.My own journey has found me feeling a sense of ownership over a landscape when I have put effort into its management.Since this group effort is to be a progression,how do you overcome the feelings of ownership/resposibility that might come up while practicing the horticultural compromise?It seems that management is THE direct lead into hierarchy.The video is interesting in that is uses horticulture to defend HG with no mention of the social structure his clients formed as a result of their extensive investment is setting this up?As for 'work',I dont do any 'work' because I enjoy what I do but I stay active all day.I think this is somewhat what Fukuoka was talking about with his 'no work' method.Landscapes are not stagnant so once established,will require management or it will revert to far less productivity.I have always found this video confusing in that everything he is talking about is horticultural(modern genetics,fences and domestic animals) but he uses HG statistics.Still though I guess I can see your point of idealising HG lifestyle while actually practicing horticultural.I hope you succeed!
6 years ago
Sorry for any confusion.In my mind permaculture = horticulture and HG = non horticulture.Of course you will understand my confusion when horticulture is associated with hierarchy while simultaniously being advocated to be used in a non hierarchical focused group.I thought permaculture implied using intention in the landscape so it seems an odd way to achieve the HG ideals of non intention(taking what you want and than moving on).Olso,there is a word to describe what the above posts claim to aim for:horticulturist.The indigenous here focussed mainly on hunting,fishing,and gathering but also created other modified enviroments to enjoy greater diversity and yield so are classified as horticulturists.As you can see,its all abit confusing.
6 years ago
I agree that its less than ideal to be combative but what did you all expect on a permies forum where the majority of folks and discussions revolove around management.The factors you can learn from that led to my giving up on that project 1- if you want to be a hunter gatherer you need to be in a place condusive to that.The tropics or subtropics seem to be where most examples come from.You dont need surpluss and even housing is unneeded.I tried being one in an area where humans probably have probably never lived as hunter gatherers as it is not really condusive to that.Steep impassable terrain and harsh winters mean no nomadic behavior.100 inches of rain makes life without solid shelter impossible.Long winters mean a strong focus on hording surpluss.Survival requires non hunter gatherer behavior.Being closer to the ocean would have helped as those folks lead an easier life in a more moderate climate.I cant say I didnt try hard to ideologically eat but really 2-I should have been the right genetics.My stomach just cant take living off of tree cambium and highly fiberous perennial un managed roots.3-I should have been rich so I could spend all my time on lots of paid off land trying to survive and 4-I should have maintained my ideological rigidity longer.Clearly when all of the above was killing me,I should have ignored all my native friends advise about management,ignored the fact that great tasting more edible genetics were easily available to me,ignored that everyone I know who is successfully making it in a rural location is making a ton of compromises to survive and ignored the path of least resistance longer and harder and continued to swim upstream.
As for the James Scott(Im assuming The Art of Not Being Governed)references,might I recommend chapter 6 subtitled 'the culture and agriculture of escape'.Not that Im that into annuals but freedom from hierarchy,at least in the form of the state,can sometimes be found in activities we would generally associate with hierarchical organization.
6 years ago
We have no oaks here,two species of pine but neither being used by the indigenous for food due to very small seeds.Im not a beginer at this.Like I said,I came to these conclusions through growing up homesteading here and ultimately heading out and trying it(i.e. Living out hunter gatherer ideals).Yes,you have berries but only some suitable for winter storage.Crab apples were a major winter food of the peoples here but,like I said,are in major decline here due to lack of management.The low percentage of food plants here is well documented.Even the creation story of the indigenous tribe here is that humans were only allowed in by the gaurdian beaver if they acted like the beaver(i.e. Managed the ecosystem to their advantage which even animals like beaver do(not sure on their social structure?))Thus the management but my point has been made so I wont harp.I wish you luck and suggest finding an ecosystem naturaly condusive to living your ideals.I have planted edible oaks from around the world so acorns will be part of my future.
6 years ago
Glad the bushmen in the tropics have some nuts without mangement.Our climax forest here turns to conifers and we have only hazels and they only produce if burned around.I do enjoy the charts but could you provide some more cold climate examples?(Obviously the inuit would have zero to gain from horticulture or any cultural change given the lack of genetic availability suited to that enviroment)Even crab apples here get shaded out eventually.Rarely even see them producing or thriving in our vast national park since its been protected and no longer managed.Its really sad to see a food forest that took thousands of years to create get over grown but hey,I guess thats a good thing on the path to hunter gatherer?
6 years ago
Is it possible that hunter gathers had a high life satisfaction because they didnt know any other possibility?Sour little crab apples would seem great if its the only fruit you have.But if you knew what was possible,how high would you rate your life quality if limited only to crab apples.This is why IMO aiming for true hunter gatherer will not neccesarily get you the high quality of life,because it is done within the context of todays modern world.Domesticated apples will not survive here without intentioned management.Does this group really aim to eventually pass into zone 5 where they will never have to taste a sweet apple again?If so, I applaud you in your determination to find this praxis.If you would like to continue to enjoy some of the last 10thousand years of plant developement,than perhaps you are aiming for zone 3.
6 years ago
LOL...yea if I seem like Im just coming out of a foxhole in a battle,its because Im more used to dealing with the green anarchist crowd on this subject.Unlike the hunter gatherers of old,these ideological ones are much more aggressive.Lets not forget Zerzans projects before GA like Black Clad Messenger.
That aside,I totally agree that the land defines the approach.Thats why,IMO,some areas just lent themselves to horticulture and semi sedentism rather than some fall from grace being the cause.
I think the number of species you listed that hunter gatherers ate is a broad generalization.Certainly eskimos didnt have 200 plant species.Other ecosystems(mainly northern)are also not naturally condusive to humans.Here in the PNW we have few edible nuts with hazel being the only exception and that never producing nuts unless full sun/management so the recorded edible species are a lot lower.Hence the development of horticulture.As you pointed out-the land defines the approach.Natives on the coast were less oriented toward management but here deep in the North Cascades,the natives were known for their land management.Areas less condusive to human existance required more effort.
My indigenous references come from personal interactions but also from a great book called 'Keeping it Living' by Nancy Turner.In it she lays down her case for why the indigenous peoples here felt horticulture was their peak and not a transitional phase.Great Book!
While focusing on available diversity(both cultural and genetic)may seem reductionist,I have a hard time viewing it as any more reductionist than focusing in on hierarchy and egalitarian power relations.I get that many end up in these discusions through their own anarchist philosophical journeys and admitedly,I also was originaly drawn in by that but I also was into gardening so ended up on the horticultural end.At one point I had over 1000 edible plant species collected but yes diminishing returns left me happy to settle on 100 for my basic needs.The difference is that I got to chose which ones.Unlike hunter gatherers,I actually got some say in what flavours would make up my existance.That freedom of choice is one of the virtues of the horticultural reality.I would encourage folks who think hunter gatherer is ideal to try it out.I found that I didnt particularly like all the species I would have been forced to consume to maintain that ideal.Like I said earlier,I like some of the advancements in flavour that breeding has brought us.Sure,there are some nutritional losses in the process but I figure Im probably healthier if Im actually excited to eat something because it tastes good rather than marginalized into consuming it.This coming from someone who was as hard core of an ideological eater as they come!
I should also mention an experience that had a profound experience on me.For many years I collected native fruit for seed.I would only collect edible fruit because that was the only ones interesting to me.Some years I collected over 1000lbs of fruit.I had to keep track of how many pounds I was picking per hour to ensure that it was worth my time.For various reasons the old growth forests were the least productive.Managed areas like under power lines were the most.It really impressed upon me how management,perhaps as simple as burning could drasticaly improve yields.Simplification of the ecosystem taken too far becomes agriculture but in the right balance can make life in this ecosystem much easier.
The zone approach,IMO, plays into the liniar path world view.I like to view horticulture as the third way.Between the extremes lies the path.In that vien,I cant help but wonder to what extent the recent trend toward paleo is just reaction to industrial civilization as that has been a factor in my own interest.As in zone 1 is really bad so zone 5 must be really good.Or perhaps Im reading the whole paleo application wrong and the goals here are just to take the things we like from hunter gatherer life and apply them to modern existence.Like crossfit excersize and grass fed beef in which case horticultural might be a more accurate description of taking advantage of both worlds.
7 years ago