Monday, February 24, 2014

Scotch Broom: Problem or Solution

Problem or Solution?

Scotch broom has been the bane of most folks at one time or another. Readily occupying newly cleared land, gardens or cultivated fields, with massive yellow blooms that are beautiful and torturous to those with allergies to its abundant pollen. A huge amount of foliage that rapidly springs forward, clogging industrial sites, and roadways, seemingly impossible to eradicate or even control. I used to think along these lines, that the introduced species was to be destroyed, almost purchasing a Scotch Broom removing tool and going into business trying to help people get rid of this beastly plant from Europe. Now, with Permaculture, I see the problem as the solution, and have some concepts how this plant can help speed succession and create abundance in the place of spraying this plant to control it.

Scotch Broom is native to Northern Africa and parts of Europe, and was introduced to Virginia in the United States in the early 1800's for use as fodder for domestic sheep. I was considered invasive in that area by 1860. From there it has spread rapidly across the coasts of America, not hardy enough to tolerate the cold climates of the North American interior. Scotch Broom was introduced to Vancouver Island in 1850 as an ornamental, and from three surviving plants, has spread over most of the island in that short time. However deliberate planting of Scotch broom by the British Columbia Ministry of Highways have accelerated the spread of this "weed" during the last 60 years. Because of its deep tap root Scotch broom is great at loosening soil, "mining" nutrient deep with in the sub-soil. It can grow prostrate(laying down") or upright, depending on light conditions. When prostrate it takes the niche of ground cover, protecting the soil from direct sunlight and wind, assisting with preserving moisture.

Scotch Broom, while "introduced", is a pioneer species. Most "weeds" are pioneer species, the plants that work for Mother Nature. They are the first to germinate, from seeds that may lay dormant in the soil for decades. Mother Nature abhors bare soil, nearly instantaneously sprouting fresh growth in newly tilled soil. The bane of conventional gardeners, if we understand these cycles, we can harness this power to create abundance and slow the growth of undesirable species. Dandelion, chickweed, comfrey, clover, and alder are some that come to mind. Many of these species fix nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil via bacteria located in nodules on their roots, mine deep minerals, create biomass(think mulch), act as ground cover, and attract insects and other wildlife with food and flowers. Mimicking the characteristics of "weeds" can be a wonderful technique to home gardeners.

I became aware of the power of Scotch broom from reading Miles Olson's book "Unlearn, Rewild". He has a chapter called Succession, and in this section he describes a slope that was destabilized and slid to the valley bottom. Within a few years that slope was covered in vigorous Scotch broom, holding the slope, nutrient loading the soil and creating a habitat for other species to succeed in. This information was a little mind altering to myself. Newly grasping Permaculture concepts at the time, I could finally understand the "Problem is the Solution" principle. Just because a plant is introduced and "invasive" it is only filling a niche, because mankind has done something to alter Mother Natures perfect design.

How do we attempt to utilize a problem and turn it into a solution. While I have not attempted the following techniques, the concept is based on science and natural succession. We can easily speed it up with a little technology, a wise use of fossil fuels and manpower to create a low maintenance, abundant system.

The simplest, least energy involving technique, in my mind, is called "Slash". Slash involves the chopping of biomass, laying it down as it was cut. The pile of dead shrub will protect the soil from evaporation, and smothering the new broom from springing up. Roots of the old plants acting to maintain soil stability, and rotting in time, building topsoil. The key to using a pioneer species to succeed wanted plantings, is to quickly add the plants that will fill the role of the removed one, or the cycle will repeat again. Cover cropping with clovers and legumes will fix nitrogen. Trees like Alder and Black Locust fix nitrogen too, also creating biomass and fuel wood. Along side these supporting plants we also put in the main crop of food producing trees and shrubs. Running animal through the disturbed land before and after slash would also aid in the fertility of the soil, creating a yield of meat, eggs and milk. Pigs, goats, sheep, cows, and chickens would have a variety of impacts on a Scotch broom field, disturbing soil, eating seeds and stomping the slash along with manuring the site.

There is another technique in Permaculture similar to slash called "chop and drop" which is using support species, bolted annuals, or weeds as mulch. We take the unwanted biomass and chop it into small particles, with pruning shears, lawnmowers or tree chippers, and place it around the plants we want to keep, our main crop species. This protects the soil, hold moisture, slows weed growth, add nutrient and creates habitat, plus many other micro relationships. This mimics leaf drop and branch fall after a wind storm in a true forest. We can take an area infested with Scotch broom, chop it down, and using a tree chipper, turn it into a large pile of mulch, that can be then used as a mulch once the main species are planted. I would add that doing this in the winter, or spring would be advantageous, keeping the spread of seeds down. I also would not recommend taking this mulch away to another site, unless perhaps, it could be hot composted to kill any remnant of seed. We don't want to spread this plant on purpose.

Another idea I had would be to use the biomass of broom for the base of Huglekultur mounds. Burying it deep under soil and compost to keep any seeds dormant. Again tractoring chickens through the slashed piles would be an asset to seed removal and manuring. A pioneer species is quick to break down into loam, to create fertility and water retention. Placing the chopped broom on contour would add to its water slowing abilities on damaged landscapes. Most grounds we find Scotch broom on were subject to erosion, so we must make sure that removing the plant does not re-create this wash. This will just cause the broom to come back.

I love conceptualizing different land healing techniques. While I have no proof that this works personally, the use of Mother Natures cycles will work. There is no need, in my opinion, to use noxious chemicals on this planet for anything, since we have a perfect model just outside our door. Mankind just needs to get out of the way, or we will be rolled over by it. I would love to help someone who has a broom problem to restore vitality to the land and turn it into a productive landscape.

Permaculture is a gift to humanity from Bill Mollison, who took observations of true natural systems and created a blueprint for us to harness this power to create truly sustainable and healing culture. We can do this!

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Forest for the Community

Tied Knot in the Community Forest
A Village on the edge of the Beaufort Range. Renown for its eclectic music scene and incredible mountain biking, along with just enough rednecks to keep the industrial town feeling to it. A former coal mining town, now mostly a bedroom community for the larger centers of Courtenay and Comox, as well as Campbell River and Mt. Washington Ski Resort. Our real estate is a little more affordable, the schools are within walking distance of most all who attend, and it is still okay to stop on main street and chat with another vehicle! We have a butcher, a baker and probably more than one candlestick maker! This is Cumberland, this is where I live, and have so for over eight years. This community has been a blessing and tried my patience, but there is one place within its boundaries that I will always have in my heart. The Cumberland Community Forest!
The Village is surrounded by privately owned land, the keepers of this expanse are forestry companies. They are in the business of cutting timber and selling it when prices are high and cost of cutting it is conducive with the harvest. They love land that is close to town, because costs of moving equipment, logs and men is lower with less kilometers traveled. As we in the village are fortunate to have these great lands available at our doorstep, they are at the whim of the market when they will be harvested. In the years I have been frequenting them, most of the lower down second growth has been cut, leaving scars on the landscape that will take many decades to re-grow. The forest companies are very hospitable to the locals however, helping to open up mountain bike trails as well as allowing for recreational access to these lands. A very nice gesture on the part of the company who does not need to be such a good corporate citizen.
Snowshoeing "Buggered Pig"
In 2000, faced with the imminent logging of some of the closest lands to the Villages southern boundary, a group, The Cumberland Community Forest Society, was formed to raise funds to purchase the block. The first block of 71 hectares was bought for 1.2 million, placed in a covenant and gifted to the Village to be a park for perpetuity. This was all done by private donations, corporate donations, and fund raising. No tax dollars were used in the purchase, and now there is a gift for future generations.
Delicious Lobster mushroom
Fast forward to 2014, and we are facing three other areas that are up for harvest in 2016. These are also close to the Village, and comprised of 50 hectares in total. Some of these lands contain parts of the Japanese town historical site, as well as several more of the early mountain bike trails, like Black Hole and Space Nugget. I know that this will come together and the fund raising goals will be met! This little community has great spirit, and I commend that. From plant sales, trivia nights, local merchant donations and monthly personal contributions, a large hurdle can be overcome with sheer determination and will.
Chantrelle mushrooms

As I reflect back of the years since I have been visiting the community forest, dating back to about 2006, I came to realize how much this land means to me. With thoughts of building resilient backyard food forests at the top of my agenda, I have this amazing place that I can observe interactions with plants and trees. Succession of flora and the fungi that breaks it down. The animals that call its death and re-birth home. Rotten logs that are grocery stores for woodpeckers, alders giving its fiber to the oyster mushroom, and beautiful frogs living among the detritus, waiting to ambush a slug.
The fairy houses on Tied Knot
Personally these lands have healed my spirit and served as a classroom for myself and my daughter. It was a place of peace after the ending of a relationship, having micro adventures to bring joy into a gloomy era. I mapped the seemingly never ending trail network in my mind, and brought the dog on many random wanders in the woods. I taught myself the differences between the conifers and photographed and observed many species of mushrooms, harvesting more that one meal of delicious chantrelle and oyster mushrooms. My daughter came with me on many these voyages, and she was quizzed about the flora species. She now knows more than most adults of the identifying features of trees, shrubs, ferns and fungus. These were the trails I cut my teeth mountain biking, a pastime that has alluded me as of late, but will be back to it this spring. These days we are learning about traditional archery, and these forests serve our "hunting" grounds, the well rotted stumps of long harvested trees representing deer, bears and Sasquatch! More quality family time out of doors.
Family fun!
This Community Forest is Cumberlands Zone 4, the mingling of human influence and wilderness. We see evidence of human interaction with bike trails, wild food harvesting, some domestic plants and, unfortunately, trash. This forest is also the home to wildlife, vast expanses of unbroken canopy, true forest succession and naturally occurring water flows. I am a proud supporter of this cause, one of a few that I find are that important and does the most with the donation. I urge you, dear reader, to help out how ever you can. Become a monthy donor, buy a CD, attend the plant sales, or if your are financially unable, just spread the word, take photos, bring your children and help them experience the woods. That is what they are there for.

My goal with Primal Forest Gardens is to build this business based on Permaculture Ethics and Principles. So it is, the third ethic is "Return of Surplus" which has many meanings, and in this case, I will return some surplus capital to the Community Forest, among other worthy causes that I believe in. To all Cumberland residents, if you wish to ask me for a consultation, I will donate $10 dollars from each one to the Society. I thank you for reading and hope to inspire you to think about what this worthy cause means to you!

If you like what I am trying to accomplish, please share this on your various social media outlets. I really want to help make this a better world for future generations. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter @primalforestgdn

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pig Day

Gorgeous sunrise on Grad day
It is pretty interesting the turn of events of this crazy life I am leading. A boy who had no exposure to farming or livestock is now working towards feeding people and building food security in my community. I remember at one time in my youth being afraid of the neighbours chicken hens that escaped and were milling about on our lawn. No way was I going near them! And now I get opportunities to slaughter and process chickens and pigs and even a cow! Oh the evolution of life.
In 2012, a new friend, Mandolyn, filled me in on a little plan she had. She was getting pigs! And followed that up with "Do you have a gun?" So I volunteered to assist in the slaughter and butchery of the sows when graduation day arrived. Having newly moved onto a small acreage she had homesteading goals and dreams. The pigs arrived, there were loved and fed only the finest organic foods, very little commercial feed, and grew to be very happy, healthy pastured pigs.
Stripping the belly out

Five months later I got the call."These pigs have got to go, they are getting huge!" A lump formed in my throat. Am I really going to do this. Shoot someones pets? As a hunter I have killed many birds and several deer, which cause a rush of adrenalin when the shot comes, as one works hard to have the chance to harvest an animal in the wild. But livestock? To go out and visit them, scratch their nose, and the take their life? I was anxious about that day for quite sometime. When it came down to it, the crew that gathered were very somber about the situation, having never done this before as a whole. One of the participants however was Bill, an old time farmer and hunter, who had worked in a slaughter house as a youth. We were so relieved that he was there with guidance and wisdom. That was an interesting day of skill and community building. I guess you could say fun experience, not because of the slaughter, more similar to helping a friend process any kind of food. Conversation, coffee, outdoor activity, getting to know new people. That first time was a gateway to more opportunities.
Splitting ribs and posing for cheesy shots!
Fast forward ten months. Having already completed our experiment with raising and slaughtering a steer, and butchering another hog at home, the call came again. Pig Day! I was feeling much more confident this go around. My girlfriend, Andi, was going to partake with us, as was Mandolyn's partner Justin. Bill was also coming back again to give his old time wisdom. I didn't lose any sleep over the coming event this time, and was uber prepared with multiple knives, sharpeners and packaging supplies. 2 is one, one is none. We rolled down the highway with a gorgeous sunrise coming over Baynes Sound, the temperature hovering at minus 12! Our area was at the backside of a ridiculous cold snap, and was soon to end with a snowfall warning! I think the timing of graduation day was impeccable.
We all gathered and made a plan for the process. Justin lit a fire to help warm us. I saw cooking fire! Bill rigged a hanging rope to make skinning and gutting easier. The bait came out, shots fired and it was time to work. Justin and Bill got busy with the skinning and I prepared for the butchery. It was no time at all before the sides were ready. A quick wash and hair check and the side was on the table. The initial side was a little slow going, figuring out which cuts they wanted. They made the cut list easy. Remove the rear leg and belly for processing into ham and bacon, make sausage from the shoulders and chops and roasts from the loin. Piece of cake! The first hog was done as the second one was finished being cleaned. I put a heart and a trimmed out rib rack over the fire for a snack after the butcher was done. The second side went even faster, after learning how to make the chops beautiful and easy! Andi, the massage therapist and anatomy geek, helped me decipher the spine and how it lines up with the ribs for perfect bone in loin chops. Done just like that and we were eating some fire roasted pork. Oh man that was tasty. I always prefer any meat cooked over hot wood coals, must be the caveman in me!

I love building skills! Being handy is one of the most resilient qualities a person can possess. A "jack of all trades" can always shelter and feed his family by maintaining and providing, building and growing. Learning these skill together in a situation like our pig harvest, one can grow as a person. We learn from more experienced folks, like Bill. Quiet and hardworking, happy to answer questions, and give advice with a little story. We learn by teaching those with less skill. Teaching is a fantastic way to learn, because we are constantly requested information we may not have at hand and have to think deeply for the answer. Every time I butcher, something new comes to light and my skills improve. I hope to pass that on to others who wish to learn!

There is never anything pretty about harvesting an animal. It is sad and gross and hard work. It doesn't matter if it is a hunted animal or livestock. However if you eat meat, I think that everyone should have a chance to take part in the journey from barnyard to plate. It will open your eyes, and make you appreciate what you are lucky enough to be able to consume in vast quantities in this country. Animals have become a commodity in North America, with very little thought in general, that the bits in styrofoam and plastic wrap once had a mother and a beating heart. We should all reflect on this fact often and thank those who allow us to thrive on a diet that includes animal products. And better yet, buy your meat wrapped in paper from a butcher or local grower, the way meat should be sold. Ask questions, find a farmer that will allow you to visit their stock. Pet a cow. Knowing your dinners name means you know it was food you want to feed your family.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Outdoor Rocket Stove

Its not pretty, but its functional!
 I have been a huge proponent of burning wood for home heating, cooking and recreational pursuits for ages. The primal feeling of gathering around a fire speaks to our inner cave dweller, insight near spontaneous bouts of petroglyph carvings! From a very early age I can remember going wood cutting with my family, uncles, aunts, and grandparents, everyone looking to load a shed or four to stock up while the supply was easy to gather and fill the "Ant Hill" for winter. I have been using wood heat for most of my life in various places that I have lived and the addition of the stove to my house was the best money spent at this present home, bar none.

Learning about Permaculture for the past two years has opened my eyes to so many ideas and designs. When I first heard about Rocket Mass Heaters, the idea rolled off, a concept maybe? I thought that a conventional stove was the cats meow, how could something made of recycled brick and cob be safe and efficient for use in a home? Upon further investigation and the information basically being rammed into my brain by many of Paul Wheaton's podcasts, I could see the value in these beautiful works of art. A feed tube with a fire burning sideways, travelling into a "chimney", spilling over into a barrel and then "pumped" into a manifold of pipes, heating a mass. That mass could be sculpted into a bench or even a bed, and could retain its stored heat for many hours, even days! Incredible, all while using 1/10th of the wood and creating no creosote or smoke.(Click here to see more awesome information) Unbelievable, this can't be true! However, after much YouTube perusing and podcast listening, plus browsing the forums, I was convinced. Luckily in my searches, I found a link to THE book. Ianto Evans book, Rocket Mass Heaters, Super Efficient Woodstoves You Can Build, as a PDF. So I downloaded it, and made a copy. Score! Especially since the book is no longer in print. A wonderful compendium of knowledge from the main innovator of this technology. My education had begun.
Yes it was burning, but where is the smoke?
Fast forward a few months. I was keeping my eyes peeled for a pile of used bricks, that someone wanted me to haul away for free. One mans garbage etc. My friend Chase tipped me off to house where an old chimney was deconstructed, and said the material was up for grabs. I managed to grab about 200 of them the other day. Nice and clean, the old mortar peeling off like dust. I was shocked that old chimney didn't fall over on its own. Chase had previously delivered fifty of the same style of bricks from another job to my house, so I was well stocked with building blocks to create something.
Just for fun. Took a while but got a rolling boil
This morning was supposed to be a gardening day. Another friend and local farmer, Arzeena, wished to incorporate some woody hugle-style beds on contour at her house, and I volunteered to assist in the digging. Miss Mother Nature had different plans, as she decided to bring a snow flurry to North Courtenay this morning. Unfazed by this news, I sought a new project to tackle today. I looked at the bricks and knew straight away what I must do. Arm load by arm load(I need to repair my wheelbarrow!) I carried the red masonry into the rear yard to play lego. I had no plan, just have some fun, kill sometime and be outside. The snow fall didn't dissuade me at all, I was going to play with fire!(beating chest). I dug some sod and raked a plot roughly level, my foundation for the sculpture. Beginning with four by five bricks, I had a flatish non-combustible base for the rocket burner. After about twenty minutes, the rocket was ready to launch!
Backstrap for dinner!
I spent the rest of the day monkeying around with the layout. Add a few, remove some, make the chimney taller. It was burning sideways and making almost no smoke! It was grand, couldn't have been happier. My face was constantly staring into the burn chamber and watching those orange tendrils "rocket" on their side, making that text book sound, that gave the stove its name. Time to cook! I unwrapped a package of venison sausage and placed them on an old BBQ rack over the chimney. From frozen solid to eating in about fifteen minutes. That was fast and delicious. I boiled a big pot of water. That took a little longer, but it got to a rolling boil, perfect for a crab feed. My daughter arrived home and came down to be drawn in to the fire. It is amazing how much more enjoyable sitting around a fire is when there is no smoke getting in your eyes! No need for white rabbits. We decided to cook dinner on the new beast. A package of potatoes in foil, with butter, onions and garlic. Once those were fini, on went deer loin steaks, straight on the grill, with nothing but S&P. Magnificient! A feast to make a true caveman jealous, and one to make my belly happy. She also suggested roasted apple as well as almonds. Delectable treats and the most wonderful way to spend a Sunday.
Sideways flames(mostly)
With all this fun I had today, thoughts of sustainability coursed through my mind. Tired of the NIMBY attitude of folks that I deal with in my day job, loving "clean burning natural gas" because they can't see the process of the extraction of the fossil fuel, only the lack of smoke from their appliance vent. Getting rid of wood appliances because they are messy, or are allergic to the smoke. I wonder how allergic the folks living in gas country are of fracking chemicals in their water supply? I grow more and more jaded with no solution to the problem. After today, I see the solution. Rocket stove technology could be the wave of the future, creating energy independence for those who wish for it. Completely off grid, using potential waste materials like pallet wood, or construction debris, giving a resilient back up. Three is guarantee and the rocket burner gives me a trio of options for cooking if there is a major dilemma. So I will be using the new term "IMBY" because I can get energy from my backyard, and will be working at fine tuning my little experiment and sharing that knowledge with others who wish for an interesting and resilient piece of "art" for their home site.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why a Forest Garden?

Pondering the above question, I thought, "How would I explain this to a perspective customer, what are the qualities of a Forest Garden that would help them to decide if this was right for their needs." I have come up with a few points that will be expanded on to help shed a little light and insight to show what makes a Forest Garden so damn awesome!

The first point is Resiliency. Resiliency in the dictionary says "the ability to recovery from illness, depression, adversity or the like. Bouyancy." A Forest Garden creates resiliency in several ways. We plant our forest garden in a polyculture, the inter-planting of many plant species that guild together, protect the soil and confuse pests. (The traditional row cropping of mono-culture in conventional agriculture is the complete opposite of resiliency, have no bounce back ability. If corn production fails, it fails!) Polyculture allows for resiliency because we have many other food sources to fall back on if one crop does not produce. For example, last spring, due to a late frost or heavy rain at an in-opportune time, the apple trees in both my yard and my neighbors yard failed to produce. My tree had not one apple on its branches. It was very disappointing. If we were relying on those trees to supplement our nourishment, we would have been in trouble. Those two trees the fall before yielded hundreds of pounds of fruit that were processed for future enjoyment. If there was a Forest Garden present maybe the micro-climate could have protected the blossoms, or a mixture of varieties could have blossomed at different times and save the harvest. It is imperative that we build resilience in our planting so we have options to fall back on if we have an unexpected natural events, such as late frost, heavy rain or pests.

Along with resiliency is Food Security. Food security is the same but different as resilient systems. We build food security to deal with events that happen further from our local food shed, in general. If one was to rely on buying most of their groceries from a conventional super market, it does not take much of a wrinkle to effect the distribution chain. Luck as I am to live on the west coast of Canada, where we have very little in the way of massive storms, events like hurricanes don't happen here, we are in an area that historically has been seismically active. Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, fault lines are underneath our feet. I am not trying to scare or depress you, but it is the truth. Food security during a natural disaster will greatly increase your comfort levels during such an event, and helping to feed your neighbors is one of the most significant things one can do during such a crisis. Barring such a catastrophic event locally, what happens if there is a drought or late frost in the main agriculture areas of the supermarket food shed. California and Mexico is where the majority of our produce is grown all through the year. We are at the mercy of the growers in different countries, with different weather patterns, plus a long transportation chain. Say, perhaps, there is a truckers strike south of the border. The grocery stores order on-demand, meaning they have very little in the way of reserves "in the back". Three days is the average amount of time a store would run out of food if the transportation links were kinked. Not to mention living on a island. A large storm that disrupts marine traffic could also have a detrimental effect on our food security. If you are growing at least some of your own, that gives your family resiliency and food security!

I have been observing my front yard Forest Garden this fall and winter, to see who comes to visit. I have been surprised and excited for the amount of birds that have been frequenting the space. This fall, flocks of Red Winged Blackbirds were soaring in and cleaning up the sunflower seeds that were literally everywhere. I planted so many sunflowers, which did really well in the sun soaked beds. They grew to over ten feet tall, and were even more impressive being on top of a three foot high wood core bed! Those sunnies yielded an incredible numbers of seeds, that I was, frankly, a little worried about. Was I going to have sunflowers volunteering EVERYWHERE in my garden next spring? I am now not so worried. Those voracious and beautiful birds found a food source, with shelter in close proximity, and cleaned up. It was fun to watch them fly in and out, watching for predators, and come right back after startling to continue to feed. And this winter I put out a suet feeder, homemade suet from deer tallow and various old seeds I had in my pantry. The little black capped chickadees swarmed this suet. I placed out several sunflower heads that were dried on the wood pile, and they made a feast out of it all. Our neighborhood is polluted with feral cats unfortunately, and they are opportunistic hunters, as cats are. My garden has become a favorite place for these felines to hunt, much to my dismay. However with the textured landscape and trees, the birds have perches and high look out points to escape from the prowling beasts. I am not super thrilled with the kitties but I have no control, so I just have to try to limit their destruction and using my garden as a bathroom! A Forest Garden is such a fantastic way to teach children about the cycles of life, to watch wildlife, to feed and shelter the fragile little songbirds, and to listen to their melody drifting in their bedroom window. I love seeing the fauna of my area using something created by my hands, and helping them through the tougher months of the year.

Forest Gardens are not only productive and practical, they are so beautiful! Thick, lush green landscapes with texture. Curving contour beds tall with trees, flowers and multicolored shrubs. The smell of freshly applied wood mulch. A gurgle of a purpose built fountain, that hydrates the soil and eases the mind. We can sit on the edge of our forest and stare at the foliage, the bees, the birds, mesmerized by the life in front of us. The pure, real sweetness of a strawberry, lovingly held above the soil by a mat of mulch, protecting it from wee predators, not a spec of dirt on it. The rustle of leaves, the plants solar panels, on a warm summers evening. Touching the skin of a large pumpkin, so massive you can't believe you grew it! Our five senses get a work out every time we visit our Forest Gardens. A quick trip out for some greens for dinner turn into an interactive walk that can last much longer than anticipated, touching and smelling the abundance. A handful of blueberries, dessert before dinner, fresh carrots pulled from beneath a pear tree, its top going back down as mulch. Adding value to your property, not only monetarily also in the soul healing value of relaxation and a connection with the earth that we humans are missing in huge amounts. We need soil under our finger nails, walk barefoot on dried leaves, grazing like the hunter-gathers man used to be. It is intrinsically who we are. Find this in you and feel much more at peace and more secure in your being.

My final point, the one that sold me on the concept, is ease of maintenance. I am not a lazy person in general. I love to work hard, and rarely sit down with our trying to accomplish anything. Probably putting too much emphasis on being busy and finishing something, or researching. I am one who always wants to learn and create. While this is not a problem most days, it is a problem with conventional gardening. I tend to forget about a regular garden bed. Watering and weeding are very low on my list of priorities. Thinking of recreation, camping trips, work, child activities, spending time with my girlfriend, walking the dog, making dinner. We all multi-task constantly! For some a conventional garden fits the bill. They take great pride and enjoyment from weeding, watering, making their borders neat and tidy. Finding Permaculture and Forest Gardens made it clear. We can never beat Mother Nature, she is just too damn good at what she does, so lets work with her! We can use machines and chemicals to briefly beat her back, but watch out! She will send more pioneer species(weeds) and pests to rebuild the system. A natural state with covered soil, diverse flora and fauna, and water retention not water removal. No one ever weeds a forest, and forests contain no weeds! Every plant has a function(or three!) So we mimic her style and reap the rewards. I know on my nightly wanders around the garden, the odd weed that came up was chopped as dinner was harvested. Compost was delivered at the same time. The rare time that the sprinkler was applied, it was also done then. One trip, many functions, and back to life. Gardening chores done in ten minutes. That is it. I remember spending many, many hours of my free time weeding conventional beds, trying to keep the soil bare, so my crops were not in competition. I see how silly I was then and have a much more productive system, and more free time. What is not to like about that!

Those are just five examples of the benefits of a Forest Garden. There are so many more that are smaller, however minute and insignificant, all make a Forest Garden a benefit to your landscape. They are just frickin' awesome!