[permaculture] Overly optimistic permaculture attitude towardsland

Margaret & Steven Eisenhauer eisenhauerdesign at earthlink.net
Thu Dec 3 09:14:37 EST 2009


I have just got to jump on this issue of degraded land.  I have a back
ground in design/build/historic restoration but have also recently (6 years)
been working to bring an old orchard around.  This year we have spent a lot
of money buying imported nutrition - hydrolyzed fish/seaweed/humic
acids/chicken pooh/elemental minerals with the benefit that we were able to
bring along crops to harvest such as apples, potatoes and tomatoes along
with the usual garden fare even though in the northeast we received 14
inches above average rain fall & it was quiet cool.  I mention the potatoes
and tomatoes because most were destroyed by blight elsewhere in the region
this year. 

I suspect all these fertility imports are unsustainable in a post oil world.
So how do I garner fertility without employing a tremendous amount of
overhead, and the work to apply these materials? 

I am looking at the farm organism model whereby there are many players -
plants/animals/microbes/people - all of which will do work for food with the
potential result of balance and resource availability/fertility.  This is
systems modeling but with the added WAG that goes along with learning from
experience and often failing. 

It is not easy or cheap - So my hat is off to those that are trying new
things and letting us know about it!

-----Original Message-----
From: permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Scott Vlaun
Sent: Thursday, December 03, 2009 12:31 AM
To: permaculture
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Overly optimistic permaculture attitude

When I interviewed Bill Mollison he related this story. it has always  
inspired me not to be discouraged by poor soil.


"...in Ecuador, around a little town whose name is Cangagua, when  
they took the rain forest off there was only a thin layer of soil,  
about a foot, and it washed away. Underneath that was silica, so all  
the hills and valleys and everything's made out of glass. So you own  
a glass landscape; how do you reclaim that? Standing on a glass hill  
looking at a glass valley with a glass hill across the valley. Well,  
one day, some of the troops in permaculture down there on the coast  
noticed a guy up on one of those hills with a sledge hammer and he  
was breaking the glass-which is thick-smashing it up and making a  
sort of channel around the hill and then he was planting little trees  
in the channel and they said, "Oh we can't let him do that on his  
own," so they all went up there and helped him break channels around  
the hills. And now they say there's a little jungle coming along but  
it's going to take much longer than five to six years, but he decided  
that he wasn't going to be dispirited by the glass. Cangagua, it's  
called, after the town where it is. So, there are some very  
discouraging places.

Since then we've managed to coax a trashed-out logging landing in the  
woods, with very little soil and lots of erosion, into around five  
thousand square feet of fertile raised beds, and produce some surplus  
for our coop.  We've gleaned tons of organic matter from local  
resources but have also trucked in some locally made compost. Our  
local cafe, conveniently located under our office in town and whom we  
supply with greens, has been a great source of food waste which feeds  
our chickens which feed the gardens. We've just discovered tons of  
invasive plants that have been pulled from the local lake.

It seems like for most of us that are not blessed with 10 feet of  
topsoil there are abundant resources of organic matter nearby in the  
form of animal manures and food waste, not to mention of course  
humanure which we'll all have to deal with to create anything close  
to sustainable systems in the long run. CityFarm in Chicago is a  
great example of a closed loop right in the city (no humanure...yet).  
They have over an acre of organic production growing in windrows of  
compost created from, among other sources, the waste stream of the  
restaurants that they deliver produce to. Of course, plenty of fossil  
fuel is burned in the process, but everything they do could be done  
with human power. It will just take a lot more people.

We are now looking at two new projects which will need vast amounts  
of organic matter to create soil. One is down a hill from a horse  
farm and  the other is in a small urban setting. In the former, a  
private residence, the horses could haul their own manure to the  
site, in the latter, a community garden project we could use bicycles  
with trailers to haul waste in from the neighborhood.

I'm sure most of this group has read Heinberg's "50,000,000 Farmers"  
essay. I still find it to be a source of inspiration and hope that we  
can redefine "agriculture" to something that is human-scale,  
community based, beautiful, and ultimately sustainable.

Scott Vlaun
Moose Pond Arts+Ecology
Design Solutions for a Sustainable Future

450 Main Street, Studio 2
Norway, Maine 04268
207-739-2409 Studio

On Dec 2, 2009, at 1:20 PM, Rain Tenaqiya wrote:

As for myself, I was deeply influenced by Bill Mollison, and he  
definitely seems like a booster to me.  I remember him saying not to  
worry too much about soil since you can always transform it with  
organic matter and amendments (which is common in Australia given the  
poor soil).  His Global Gardener videos make it all look so easy.  He  
talks about how cheap earthworks are (not!) and gives inflated  
statistics about how radically you can transform local climate.  For  
results within one person's lifetime, I'm learning to expect much less.

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