Chris Kott

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since Jan 25, 2012
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bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
Toronto, Ontario
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Recent posts by Chris Kott

So I found some of my own answers. I found this thread again, so I figured I'd share this thread.

19 minutes ago
If there are no herbivores or regular fires, forests will pop up, but not all forest systems are equal.

The boreal forest, as much as I appreciate it, is a coniferous desert. If you compare it to temperate hardwood/boreal forest transitional zones, the amount of biodiversity in the former, both faunal as well as floral, pales to stark whiteness compared with the life explosion of the latter.

As an aside, the comparison of the boreal biome with that of deserts shouldn't be surprising; needle-shaped leaves and waxy coatings are, after all, evolutionary adaptations to periods of intense aridity.

Also, forests without a successional pattern become artificially senescent, or older than they're biologically supposed to get. This is different from long-lived forest systems, whose ancient trees might continue to actually grow, accumulating biomass and trapping carbon, for centuries. Carbon sequestration drops off with the drop-off in biomass accumulation, as instead of growing trunk and branch, growth energy is relegated to seasonal growth related to reproduction.

And many of the food plants, in the boreal forests in my neck of the woods, anyways, are disturbance-related. If you want blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, often all you need to do is visit a clear-cut or burned-over area in the following seasons.

I think what you see a lot of in these disturbance-free green deserts is the slow build of fuel reserves, just waiting for fire events to finally allow succession, with insect infestation to dry things out and push them along.

The point about the function of deserts in rain cycles is valid, but the point behind the greening the desert movement, as I see it, is to reverse the trend of desertification. This has been an issue since the first wooden plows, stone axes, and domesticated and feral goats and cattle. It might be well and good that we need some amount of desert. We don't need them to increase in size. We don't need the desert to swallow farmland so that more land is cultivated, for the cycle to continue, leaving us with dustbowls and famine.

The reason, as I see it, that prairie and grassland is more resilient is because the growth rate of individuals is so much quicker. A individual grass plants will attain maturity and go to seed before a tree seedling is a year old. In addition, the growth of the organism is stimulated by grazing, whereas browsers kill young, and even older but immature trees, by their browsing.

So I don't think we should be down on grasslands, nor should we only tolerate them until we can get them to "succeed" (I hate that word in this context because if you follow the logic of the appellation, closed canopy old-growth forest is the apex of that "succession," or the pinnacle of success, if you will, but some of those systems could be better from a biodiversity and carbon sequestration standpoint if they didn't "succeed") to a closed-canopy mature forest.

Honestly, the only argument, aside from some shared sentimentality about enormous ancient trees, that makes sense to me with regards to not gradually replacing most of the oldest trees with young ones that have more carbon sequestration potential, is the fungal argument. Ancient forests with long-undisturbed soil layers borne of centuries of leaf and limb litter house giant, ancient fungal colonies (are they described as colonies or individual, massive organisms, I forget), and these, I think, need to be nurtured to foster health in their surrounding regions.

So I say don't worry about preserving the deserts. It would be good to be able to forecast what effect reversing desertification will have, and what effect increased desertification has had on weather patterns over the last few millenia, but I think it's most important to lock up carbon in ecosystems and in soil for now, and create resilient, food-and-soil-producing and anthropogenic change-buffering systems where there is only way too much desert now.

28 minutes ago
Also on making warm spots, what about using a modified hugelkultur to keep a bed warm using a hot compost layer buried deep with the wood? I know I commented on season extension when I posted about my first hugelbeet years ago, as my specific composition included a lot of raw manure and woody bits of varying sizes, and a hole poked deep into the bed in February of that year yielded steam.

I have also experimented with capped cardboard tubes acting as biodegradable compost chutes to the woody core of a hugelbeet, allowing me to keep feeding scraps to the hungry hot compost machine, keeping the temperatures up in the winter. The edges of the bed were crispy and hard, but the three feet or so around each compost chute was soft and growing clovers and other small green manures.

Would this be a piece of a separate experiment, or would it fall under one of the others?

Yes, thanks for sharing, Matt. They are gorgeous. I love the detail. You don't often get to see it when they're busy at work!

1 hour ago
Good to hear from you, Dale.

I like the way you've phrased things, about colonialism for their own good.

If nothing has survived of their original traditions or culture, and as you say, they're worshipping intoxication and gluttony, or consumption in general, showing those willing to listen and benefit from you how to get off the consumerist teat and start the upward climb that is the progress to self-sufficiency you represent is far better than the way it was going before you got there.

I see it as a system that at one point might have thrived on its own, but was then disrupted by invasive species, in this case the original European influence, which brought about the Philippines we know today. You're putting in place a new system because right now there is no functional one. The current setup consists of vice slavery (people are enslaved to their own vices, because that's the best they think they can do for themselves), which offers no way to build up their families' or communities' financial, intellectual, or social capital.

It's like they've ceased to tell their own stories because everything is lost. Is there traditional music? Does anyone play instruments? Does anyone recount family history, or are there family legends recounted?

You could essentially kick off either a brand-new culture, or a recreation of sorts, taking what beneficial cultural tatters remain and reworking them as cultural touchstones to connect what was with the permaculturally aligned new system you're introducing.

As to the sweet tooth angle, I had a random thought: would mangoes or some other sweet fruit grow there? You could try to kickstart a dried fruit or fruit leather craze to replace the junk food. You could likewise see what root vegetables will do well and see about the viability of vegetable chips replacing salty snack food.

If you moved towards a model where you could provide healthy, community-grown and processed alternatives to their snack-foods, along with locally-appropriate biodegradable packaging, they would snack cheaper, compost as opposed to ditching plastic, and potentially produce value-added shelf-stable goods for sale to outside communities. You'd be offering a better alternative that still fits aspects of their previous wants, and at the same time potentially starting up regional permacultural employment.

That would be harder, probably impossible, with alcohol as part of the business model. I would just skip that part, and when you have more control, just do what you can to make it less available, and more expensive, to purchase locally.

Good job, Dale. Keep it up, keep us apprised, and good luck.

1 hour ago
Ah, the stripy tree rat. Also sometimes called "stinkless tree skunk", or just "those goddamn vermin."

I loved them at the cottage as a child, or camping. Without fail,  they'd find any scraps of food or uneaten bits of baked potato and make them disappear from around the camp fire of the previous night.

I think I like them better than tree rats, but not so far as to want them playing in my gardens. They're lucky they're so damned cute.

3 hours ago
My much better half and I grow out our grocery store avocado pits. Our oldest is 4 and taller than me.

Who knew they were berries?

19 hours ago
My errors in reporting always resulted from my messages being too long, or for having the pop-up open too long.

I notice all the silt accumulation upstream of each dam. You are obviously exerting control over some aspects of hydrology-driven change.

Do you have a larger plan for the land-form? As in, are you going to increase the height of the dams as they silt up, creating terraced steps down what appears to be a large gully-like formation?

20 hours ago