Can't See the WOOD for the TREES
The second 6 principles tend to emphasize the top-down perspective of permaculture... patterns and relationships that tend to emerge by system self-organization and co-evolution.
From Observe and Interact - pattern recognition - in the bottom-up perspective of the first 6 principles, we progress to the design process of Design from Patterns to Details.
The spider and its web are the symbolic icon for this principle in Holmgren's book, and I just can't seem to get away from spiders so far this month. Maybe its the unrelenting heat that's driving them into my basement, creating webs that fill the corner by the water heater, span the corridor past the furnace, and fill the mouths of shelved, empty vases and planters everywhere I look. They scurry out out from under my perennial flats and through the un-mown slopes of my back garden as I selectively weed out the - um, weeds, actually - as I continue to encourage my lawns to move from grass to moss, groundcovers and planted beds. For all the spiders and the dearth of rain, you'd think there'd be fewer mozzies*
Maybe my garden Deva is trying to get me to stop digging (which I thought was better than planting in this heat!) and start looking around some more. I've spent so much of the 3 year's I've been here looking at how water moves across this place. Maybe I really need to look at how the drought moves while it's here...
Why does this blueberry bush wilt and the other 2 in the row not so much? Why this tomato plant stays turgid through the afternoon and not the others? Why is this astilbe completely fried and the others are, if not lush, at least surviving with the same amount/absence of water? More attention, I think, to the subtle aspect and orientation of the slopes, which spots get that little extra bit of shade that protects a bit more, which are more exposed to drying winds...
A respectable reason to put down the shovel and watch from the shade for a while...
*Australian slang for Mosquitos
Roadsides are looking good if they are lined
by Queen Anne's lace and chicory.
Female milk snakes lay about
a dozen eggs in July. They will
hatch in six to eight weeks.
The fragrance of milkweed in bloom
can be almost overwhelming. Bees,
moths, wasps, butterflies, and even
flies are drawn to its nectar.
Wild leek leaves have faded away. The white, star-
like flowers are out now, in a cluster on a single stalk.
Honeybee lore: A swarm in July isn't worth a fly.
-Virginia Barlow, The Outside Story
Refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle, restore, respect
Exemplified by Lauren's artistic use of garden tools which may no longer be as functional in their original purpose as they once were but which have been 'upcycled' as garden art. Their use and placement demonstrate the huge respect Lauren has for their contribution to the history of her land.
Common daylilies are flowering; a mark
that spring has changed into summer.
Now that summer fruits like strawberries
and raspberries are ripening, bears
will begin to gain weight.
Luna moths are drawn to lights, and if
the porch light is on, one may be found
sleeping on the screen door the next day.
Thistle seeds are the goldfinch's favorite
food, and the birds line their nests with the
seeds' down; plus, the colors of goldfinches
and purple thistles go together well.
- Virginia Barlow, The Outside Story
Hugel in progress...mulch removed gradually as slope is leveled (left to right in the photo). Harvested soil moves upslope to the hugel, and harvested stone goes tso wall, stair and fill projects elsewhere on site. Note lush suburbia beyond the fence.
So my sister and her husband bought a house to renovate, and I got to work with the gardens. Stacked along the garage was a woodpile which had obviously had significant time to age and collect a host of critters which none of us wanted to bring into our homes. So, with the help of another brother-in-law (one with a truck) and a nephew, we collected the wood (sans some of the critters anyway) and brought it to my mulch-only sloped side yard.
Having wanted to tame my slope for some time, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to try a hugel while leveling things out a bit. Continuing the line of my next-door neighbor's white picket fence, I trenched across the slope, and proceeded to stack and bury the cord wood, creating a simple hugel. Excavating further down slope in a leveling project, I brought the harvested soil up to the hugel, which ultimately came to about 24" high. It now works to dam water flowing off the slope towards the street/catchbasin, which will in turn water the new berry garden upslope of the hugel. Planted some pumpkins and squash into the hugel to see what happens there...not expecting much since the hugel is new, but maybe the partially composted logs will actually feed some plant growth in the first season. Downslope will become a level service yard (finally! a flat place to dump incoming compost and other bulk supplies) with a retaining wall ultimately in front of the hugel.
Spending considerably more time digging than blogging
A month spent working, landscaping, and working my own property...not a lot of time spent blogging, sorry. Quite literally following David Holmgren's conclusion in chapter 5,
We need to recognize that sustainable systems are more likely to emerge from an intimate partnership with nature, rather than applications of natural design principles within the confines of the technosphere.
Holmgren uses an analogy generally reserved for business, comparing renewable resources to INCOME and non-renewables as CAPITAL ASSETS. Successful investors strive to live off their interest rather than the capital, and so I've spent May exploring what exactly my asset base is here and what 'revenue' or income my property is generating, and how I can increase that. Activities included:
- Digging trenches to manage my water flow through the property reducing erosion to save my soil and capturing more water to irrigate gardens
- Digging out terraces from the slopes of the side yard to create a vegetable and fruit garden
- Taking stones and boulders from said excavations to create steps and walls in key places to, again, manage the flow of resources through the property.
The neighbors are (hopefully?) becoming accustomed to the strange lady at the end of the street with the green Honda stopping by on alternate weeks to ask what's in their yard waste bags, asking a few questions about chemical use on their properties, and taking their waste back to her garden. A few ask me if I want things before going to the trouble of bagging it up. The fella next door often just chucks 'approved' materials over the fence into my designated drop spot. My hope is they will be inspired by the changes in my landscape & start seeing their own 'yard waste' as a resource...right about the time my own place is generating enough that I need to bring it in.
Lilacs are in full bloom, and so are grapes, Virginia
creeper, highbush blueberry, pin cherry, hawthorn,
nannyberry, and red ossier dogwood.
A male leopard frog's call sounds like a long
snore, lasting up to three seconds, but these
frogs make several other sounds as well.
Most newborn fawns are walking and
nursing when less than one hour old.
The olive-sided flycatcher has a loud and
penetrating call, sometimes described as
a melodious whistle of whip-three-beers.
- Virginia Barlow, The Outside Story
Last night as I was sleeping
I dreamt—marvelous error!--
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
- Antonio Machado
Or, how to allocate personal resources in the thick of it.
OK, so it's a given that I once again deferred my tax filing until the last possible moment. Which just happens to coincide with spring cleanups and spring planting, preparation for classes and garden tours; a new PDC Course starting next weekend; NOFA-NH Winter Conference final report and financial acquittal coming due,...oh, and life as usual.
So, how to manage?
First priority is to survive (obtain a yield from captured energy) - sustain the various parts of my diversified income stream while getting a bit of my own garden work progressed so I'm feeding myself later in the season. Promote the PDC course that starts in 10 days so we have a full class. (Have you signed up yet?). Eat well, get some exercise and sleep in between things.
Second priority is to pay for what I get - finish the taxes and pay my share, and hope the government does something useful with it. Pay the bills that are buried under the tax stuff. Write in my gratitude journal.
Third priority - contribute in some way to the wider system - send my sister Janet flowers and call her on her 50th birthday, finish prepping for composting class at Blueberry Bay Farm this Saturday, then swing by my sister Marie's house and prune the rest of her roses while she's running a conference; give the first Garden Tour of the Season at the Zimmerman House at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester.
There is a concept called 'tripartite altruism' described by Howard Odum that describes how organisms or populations allocate resources/energy. In nature, about 1/3 of captured energy is required for metabolic self-maintenance; another 1/3 is fed back to lower-order system providers, and 1/3 is 'paid forward' to higher-order system controllers. Bunnies demonstrate this concept splendidly.
Bunnies eat grass to survive. While they hop around the lawn eating grass, they leave behind little jelly beans of fertilizer, the 'waste' product from the energy they captured from eating the grass. The jelly bean fertilizer feeds the grass (the lower-order system) that feeds them, More grass grows to feed more bunnies.
Some of the bunnies (lets say the older, slower ones for the kids at home reading) become a tasty lunch for a hungry fox, hawk, raccoon,...well, just about any carnivore (higher-order system controller) big enough to snack on a bunny. By culling out the weaker bunnies, the predators keep the population of bunnies fit and in balance with their resource base.
There are checks and balances in the system to ensure that everybody gets their fare share. For example, if the bunnies spend too much time hiding under brambles to evade predators (and leaving their jelly beans there instead of in the grass) the brambles begin to overtake the grass, less food for bunnies, less bunnies. If predators snack on other things, too many bunnies survive, leading to over-grazing from over-population; this leads to less grass, eventually fewer bunnies. Which allows the grass to grow again, to support more bunnies. Populations of various species - plant and animal - can wax and wane, but overall, the 1/3 for self, 1/3 down to others and 1/3 up to others is about average.
The colored eggs are a bonus.