It is a Wardrobe!

Bill Mollison described a class he was teaching and a stranger who lingered on after the meeting, who looked very much like Karl Marx. The stranger said you know what you’ve done, you’ve arranged all the elements of life in good order in a wardrobe or closet.

Bill seemed to like that description about how Permaculture made good order out of all the different elements of life on earth. Others might say it is a toolbox . One may use hundreds of different tools and tricks along the way, and in the end the result hoped for is improvement of our lives and the health of the earth as a whole.

I have heard people criticize the idea of saving the planet, the earth has been here for millions / billions of years, and short of a black hole it will continue on in the blackness of space, with or without us. We are simply fleas riding on its back. The issue here is not saving the rock that is the earth, it is saving the earth’s systems for the people.

To that end, Permaculture continues to collect those methods and tools that will help the earth continue to sustain us as a species.

Big Developments

It has been some time since any substantial developments and I’d like to talk a little about the psychological side of this work/ fun. Many of these techniques are as yet unfamiliar here in the states, so implementing them is more a question of trust or belief, or possibly just being able to grasp the theory and take it to the level of practice.

No matter how reasonable any theory may sound I still have that element of “show me”. I need to have my hands or attention in it to really understand any new principle, and when it comes to water management there is a great deal of faith involved when investing thousands of dollars in a system, not to mention time and energy, in order to get things started and working.

Even after systems are up and running it can often take years before any visible results are observed. With this in mind I went ahead and hired a forest mulcher to facilitate the next part of my water management system.

For those unfamiliar with clear cuts, around here there is a massive pulp wood industry, that relies on fast growing pines and miscellaneous deciduous trees. For me , unfamiliar with this industry, I thought I would have to start planting trees on a property with nothing but briars everywhere., but here in this climate trees regrow almost immediately, some from seeds or low sprouts, but often from the stumps left behind.

This means several sprouts from each stump and other seeds all competing for light, shooting up fast and tall and thin.So these trees are efficiently harvesting light, sequestering carbon, but producing little in the way of useful lumber or fruit.. Also, removing 20-40 years growth when the trees were cut does not improve the soil quality as much as if the tree had simply fallen and rotted into the ground. So soils around here would not be that good for regular orchards or quality tree systems.

A friend suggested 20 years ago that I should walk around with a sharp machete cutting off extra sprouts to make the remaining trees stronger, At the time I didn’t know about Permaculture, had no extra money to install special dams or swales, and spent all my energy off the land just trying to pay the mortgage.

It is into this tall thin jungle of trees I went on different occasions trying to build ponds and swales with a backhoe. Yes, it can be done, but it is tedious and time consuming. So after surveyors marked my property line, yesterday I had a forest mulcher come through and clear a path about 8 feet wide that outlined the boundary and then followed various contours around the land scape.

Recent windfalls financed this project, and this is the big development.It is quite unusual to see a landscape change so dramatically over the space of a few hours. The boundary line painted by the surveyors now has a sight line hundreds of feet long, and actually seeing the contour paths cleared gives many new insights into the actual “lay of the land”.

Of course keeping my backhoe running through this next phase will actually allow the project to become functional, but overall just having the paths cleared to give the backhoe freer access should make the project move much faster with better results.

One unexpected outcome was the nature of the soil left behind. I expected wood chips, but the mulcher did more than that, it also mixed up the top soil and left behind a rich resource of garden soil that will soon be installed in my gardens and likely create many new ones as well.

It’s like turning a corner, or moving to the next level of productivity, what an exciting time!