ceelove: (serendipity)
I wish I could make screenshots of my thermometers from various points in the last few days. I've been attending closely to the brutal cold, mostly because of how it might affect the greenhouse. Even when the low temp was down to 13 outside, and with no solar energy available to collect, just geothermal energy kept the greenhouse above freezing.

But last night, when it got down to -4, the greenhouse came down to 23 degrees. Oh noes, Cee, will it kill your plants? Maybe; but they're cold-hardy broccoli, leeks, carrots, Asian greens - it's not like I'm trying to grow tomatoes in there - so I'm not rushing in with a space heater, I'm just noting the data. And right now, the temp in there is back up into the 60s - while we're at the today's high of 16.

There's tinkering yet to do - I bet in years to come, I can do even better at trapping the heat - but I believe I have made my point.

Oh, and just because it amuses me: the broccoli was intended purely as an experiment, to teach me when I would need to plant it to get a yield. But now, in January, when it gets a mouthful of sunlight a day, it's producing heads. With salvaged glass and lots of insulation, I have turned the seasons on their ear.

whew

May. 30th, 2013 03:33 pm
ceelove: (Default)
How's gardening going this year? I think I've leveled up, though I've scaled down. For starters, the backyard is now a community garden plot, given that I've allotted raised bed space for my zombie-apocalypse friend to hone her skills alongside mine. That's about as permaculturey as you can get, right? (Admittedly, it's [livejournal.com profile] moominmolly's quail-coop-building project that's really going to sew up our status as bohemians of the block forevermore.) I've also been called in to consult on three other gardens getting underway this year, which is awesome: other people taking advantage of my ten years worth of mistakes! And I have, with help, successfully created the foundation for the greenhouse. Next up, framing.

I've pulled all the overwintered leeks, kale, scallions, carrots, and salsify from the garden, and most recently the winter lettuces to make way for other stuff. Just before the heat wave began, I gathered a little bowl of strawberries and the first handful of peas, from plants five feet tall and resplendent with purple blossoms. This year, the asparagus performed sufficiently that I ate a few - so tender that cooking was extraneous. I've had flowers brightening my eyes for the last three months solid. The raspberry patch is truly coming into its own, the blueberries are just starting to, the comfrey is a shower of bell-shaped blossoms, and the goumi berry plant smelled heavenly as it bloomed. I loooooove spring.
ceelove: (Default)
I was ruminating on some kind of gardeny updatey thing, while I harvested this morning.

Like, there are tomato hornworm cemetaries, their innards becoming the stuff of parasitic wasp larvae instead of my plants becoming the stuff of hornworm innards. I encouraged the wasps with plants that lure beneficial insects. Permaculture: it works, bitches!

Or, ye gods, when I plotted this garden in the winter and planted in the spring, I expected it to be feeding, y'know, plenty of people. Now and for many weeks this summer, I'm the only one in the house eating measurable amounts of it. You can imagine the plotting I do to prepare and share my surplus, which is both great and surreal. I was going to take pictures of today's ridiculous bounty and mock-lament my fate of how to deal with it.

But with my hands full of harvested cucumbers, I met an old homeless Asian man on the sidewalk. I see him around, harvesting recyclables for the return fees. We found enough English and gestures between us to transfer several pints of cukes and tomatoes to his keeping. He was clearly very pleased, and I was very glad to give them to him, and yet the whole thing left me with an overall feeling of pensiveness and melancholy. I share so much food, but it goes to my friends, who are not undernourished. It was pure chance that I could give my fresh veggies this one time to someone who really needs them, and pure chance will not feed him well tomorrow, nor the hundreds of millions who spend much of their lives hungry.

So. Lots of happy ruminations on gardening going gloriously well. Rapture at the plants bejeweled with tomatoes, harmony with the pollinators so busy alongside me, a fair sense of awe at what my hands and some soil and the sun have wrought...all somewhat muffled by sorrow at how very rare it is for people to have this kind of luck and magic at hand.
ceelove: (Default)
The course I took in Northampton showed me how social change (or stasis) is interwoven with my personal/ecological choices. It also showed me how a lot of my choices already reflect that concept, how I just didn't notice the connection. I'm happiest when sharing skills with my community: learning how to grow, cook, ferment, can, and pickle food, and then gather with others to teach each other or pass on our surplus. For my birthday last year, there was a "grubbing bee." Soon, there'll be a grain mill to share around. And of course, there are other examples, like throwing massage parties, which aren't about how we relate to food, but how we relate to our bodies and each other.

Now, what does permaculture matter to you? More than you might imagine, actually. There's a good chance you're recycling resources back into your community, like at a clothing swap, or sharing them, as in a group household. Pooling childcare. Attending bodywork & energy shares. Group art. Passing along sourdough starter. Teaching someone to knit. Selling each other local eggs and meat. Really, whatever things we do to put ourselves into our connections with other people and our surroundings, instead of handing a credit card to a faceless corporate fictional entity.

Yes, permaculture can get vastly more esoteric, simultaneously back-to-basics and cutting-edge. Yes, I'm excited about the idea of taking raw land and starting an edible forest garden, which might be years or forever away. Yes, I want a graywater system and a pond with fish and a root cellar (and a pony). I'll settle, though, for all the new perennial plantings (which, I didn't mention, will involve sledgehammering concrete to install), the rain barrels, a clothesline Carl's been building, remaking the compost pile for optimal performance, digging up and rebuilding our first depleted raised bed with a bunch of permacultural ideas, and designing a solar greenhouse for use next year. Well, okay, maybe I'll settle for a lot less, given all the annual crops to play with too. And, y'know, the vagaries of the universe.

My favorite example of permaculture-at-work in my life, right now, is the results of the cold frame, this first year of use. It has outperformed my wildest hopes. We had claytonia and mache, little salad greens, until February, of this winter. Then they sprang back in March, as did some of the winter lettuce that died off in December. Sylvana has been nibbling them like a bunny, and I've handed off large bags of greens to friends. Surplus to share in April. Meanwhile, the overwintered kale and scorzonera are thriving, getting a huge head start on the seeds planted in March/April. And next year, I expect we'll be doing a lot more winter harvesting, now that I know what's possible.

I'll leave this with a couple of recommendations, if your interest has been piqued. Gaia's garden is awesome as a means of understanding and applying permaculture at a small, even urban level. It's beautifully written and accessible, and I'm happy to loan mine around.

And if you'd like a taste of the overarching, holistically-different thinking that the course was trying to inspire in us, here's Andrew Faust, my favorite guest speaker. He spoke without notes for a couple of hours, tying ideas together in rapid-fire succession, so none of the clips available is going to do him justice, but they'll at least demonstrate how different a paradigm permaculture advocates, and what a shift in thinking it can require.
ceelove: (Default)
So, that permaculture thing. I've been trying to grasp and assimilate it, in class for one or two weekends a month since September, to get the gestalt beyond the concepts.

We spent a lot of time in class, which was formally titled "Permaculture for Social and Ecological Transformation", quietly scrunching up our foreheads around different ideas about doing things. We did exercises and had speakers to shake up our ideas about race and class and spirituality. We visited economic collectives, a backyard nursery full of about 300 kinds of plants you've never heard of, and an off-the-grid B&B. We examined the one-way process of human systems, from cultivating/mining a product's raw materials through disposing of the waste, versus the circular process of nature, where one entity's waste is another's raw material. We wandered snowy woods and fields to speculate on their history since the settlers. We talked of forest gardens which provide a host of human-and-other needs with very little human work for multiple generations. We practiced skills for differently seeing the potential of a place; we learned about reshaping the land to capture and hold the energy of water and sun and beneficial animal life.

I looked up the Wikipedia entry on permaculture, and while it's accurate, it somehow manages to be kind of boring.
Inhabitants’ needs are provided for using proven technologies for food, energy, shelter and infrastructure. Elements in a system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another. Within a Permaculture system, work is minimised, "wastes" become resources, productivity and yields increase, and environments are restored.
How would I say it concisely? Permaculture is a way of re-seeing the human world by emulating the strength, complexity, and versatility of relationships that have evolved within nature.

What does it mean to me? I'm still figuring that out, and I imagine I will be for a long time to come. But it's gelling enough that I can explain it to others, or at least such that I'm feeling more pulled to try, so here goes:

Permaculture, for me, is the best mechanism for reducing my feelings of helplessness. )
ceelove: (Default)
Permaculture: difficult to define, difficult even to describe, because in its essence it's about a paradigm shift, a different cultural perspective. After three days of the new class, I'm getting a sense of how to work it, but it's still hard to explain to others.

This, though, is a perfect example of permaculture in action - not that they use the word, just that this works with the principles. This family in New Mexico bought a house with "an old swimming pool without water but full of promise" and transformed it into a garden/chicken coop/tilapia pond, using vegetation generated within the system to clean the water and feed the chickens, manure as fertilizer, and so on. It is beautiful, inexpensive, and self-sustaining in less than a year.

wow.

Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:13 am
ceelove: (Default)
I still don't know what "permaculture" means, really. When people ask me what I'm going to be learning, I fumble a bit and respond with something like, "I don't know, everything!" But I've read Finding a Sense of Surplus, an essay recommended by the course that I'll be starting this upcoming weekend, and...just, wow. If you want to know where my life is going now, this can explain it far better than I can.

It's been a while since I've encountered something that neatly summed up a bunch of what I already knew to be my beliefs and then went on to describe a bunch more of what I do believe, I just didn't know it. The way I relate to our garden - the pleasure piled on pleasure of harvesting and then sharing the bounty - and the increasing closeness I've felt to divinity, it's all here wrapped up together.

By the way, yesterday I harvested (to share) the last of the sungold tomatoes for the year, and the score of remaining peppers; a bunch of mustard greens and lettuces, including hardy greens that I'll hopefully still be harvesting into January; a handful of fall raspberries; and some broccoli and kohlrabi. I love the garden. It's even helping me transition into the cold weather...

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