The agricultural technique known as “Wild Farming” is a growing alternative to “factory farming”. Wild farming consists of planting crops that are highly associated and supportive to the natural ecosystem. This includes intercropping with native plants, following the contours and geography of the land, and supporting local food chains. The goal is to produce large crop yields, while still promoting a healthy environment. Wild farming is a backlash against the dominance of factory farming. Up until the mid 20th century, agicultural crop yields relied on natural inputs such as rainfall patterns, natural soil resources, recycling of organic matter, and built-in biological control mechanisms. Currently, agricultural practices have been conventionalized to include large monocropped fields and use of synthetics: pesticides and fertilizers. Avoiding the conventional farming practices, wild farming adopts many practices from sustainable agricultural systems such as agroecology, permaculture, forest farming, and greywater systems. The four basic guiding principles of the wild farming movement are:
1. Direct managers to develop long-term vision for future of landscape
2. Basic recognition of ecosystem processes.
3. High value on biological diversity.
4. To consider the quality of life of the community as well as the self.
“Yet soil is miraculous. It is where the dead are brought back to life. Here, in the thin earthy boundary between inanimate rock and the planet’s green carpet, lifeless minerals are weathered from stones or decomposed from organic debris. Plants and microscopic animals eat these dead particles and recast them as living matter. In the soil, matter recrosses the boundary between living and dead; and, as we have seen, boundaries-edges-are where the most interesting and important events occur.”—Toby Hemenway, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture
It’s already the 13th of May! Some of you picked a permaculture project and many more of you have been lurking and waiting for more information. Before we talk about today’s topic, the Zones, I want to show you how my own project is going. Remember my sad duck area? Significant progress has been made.
First there was cleanup and some dirt moved around the bathtub:
Then today we began building the duck house:
Looks better already! The next step is to finish the duck house, and then I’m going to create some very small hugelkultur beds around the perimeter to grow flowers and plants to attract bugs for the ducks to eat. Then I’ll introduce duckweed to the bathtub and it should be pretty much ready for ducks.
So let’s get down to the topic of the day - Zones. In permaculture design, zones are the key to being organized. Basically, your property is divided into areas based on how often you have to go and work there, and partly based on topography. In a sustainable lifestyle, you have to do a lot more work. It’s inevitably less convenient to grow your own food and make the things you need, creating more labor for you and taking up your time. When you start to do it, you begin to realize that you can save SO much time and work by finding little ways to be more efficient. For example, we have plastic covers over our 14 low tunnels held down with hundreds of sandbags. Every time we water they have to be moved to the side which takes FOREVER. Originally we uncovered one row at a time, but we realized that we could uncover two at a time if we uncoverd them facing each other. This cut our time down by half. We later found that because of the volume of PVC we ended up buying over the long term, we could have afforded full greenhouses which don’t need to be uncovered. This was a design flaw on our part that has used up hundreds of hours of time and worn us out.
So, zones help you prevent design flaws like this and make being sustainable and self-sufficient dramatically easier. Here are the five zones:
Zone 0 - the house. This is where you spend the most time, so it includes the greenhouse attached to your house and the shade patio/outdoor kitchen.
Zone 1 - the garden right by the house and other things you use daily. This is the garden where you will spend the bulk of your time, and it should be right outside your door so you can pick from it all the time. This zone might also have a tool shed, small pond and some fruit trees depending on how big your property is. Water collection would help facilitate watering the garden.
Zone 2 - this is the area just beyond the perimeter of your kitchen garden. It is where you would keep your compost, and grow staples like potatoes or grains. You would keep chickens or ducks here. In the city this is probably as far as your property would extend.
Zone 3 - this is the area that you don’t have to go quite as often because it’s further away. The gardens here would be perennials, living mulches, windbreaks and firebreaks. You might keep some goats out here, and beehives. If you are growing a cash crop, this is where you would do it. It’s an area that you grow stuff in, but only stuff that uses up lots of space and takes less daily attention.
Zone 4 - this is your rural woodlot, edible forest garden, pig foraging, large pond area. This is where you can develop large tree plantings and long term projects.
Zone 5 - this is the wilderness. Even a small property should have a Zone 5, a small area that you simply allow to return to its natural state. It’s difficult to just not mess with it, but that’s the goal. This area helps you by attracting beneficial insects and allowing wild creatures a safe harbor rather than foraging in your garden.
Some people are a little confused about the difference between Zone 1 and 2. Zone 1 is really the perimeter of your house and only spans the space it takes to throw on some flip flops and meander through in five minutes. It should be as packed with edible plants as possible, and the more your grow here in every spare inch, the more time and effort you will save. This garden should be well mulched between plants and on pathways. Zone 2 is where the stinky stuff goes. On a small lot, you would grow some fruit trees here, possibly a hedge, and some edible shrubs like raspberries. This area would be mulched too, but everything is bigger and more spread out so it takes less attention to detail.
So that’s it. The Zones. It’s a struggle for me to do things efficiently because my food is grown on a completely different property right now, but it is also a cash crop. I treat the barn like Zone 1, and the small pond is right by it. The ducks will utilize that and provide me with compost. The compost pile is on the other side of the barn, but we got an old fridge that will act as a large insulated vermicomposting bin inside the barn. The barn also has the one water source so everything branches off from that. Even though I don’t own it and have to drive there, I still find that having an understanding of the zones is so valuable.
How many people have a little greenhouse at the back end of the property where it gets all forgotten, stinky compost by their back door, and an apple tree causing problems against the side of the house? These are terrible design flaws that can be easily fixed if the simple zone system is followed.
So now that you understand the zones, how does that affect your project or inspire a new one?
“Globalized industrialized food is not cheap: it is too costly for the Earth, for the farmers, for our health. The Earth can no longer carry the burden of groundwater mining, pesticide pollution, disappearance of species and destabilization of the climate. Farmers can no longer carry the burden of debt, which is inevitable in industrial farming with its high costs of production. It is incapable of producing safe, culturally appropriate, tasty, quality food. And it is incapable of producing enough food for all because it is wasteful of land, water and energy. Industrial agriculture uses ten times more energy than it produces. It is thus ten times less efficient.”—Vandana Shiva (via homininae)
I don't know/care if oysters are vegan or not I still refuse to eat them. Moving on. Can you recommend some watering solutions for small spaces that will not attract mosquitoes? Basically landlords requested we put our garden in one section of the yard and currently I'm hauling buckets out to water it every day. I have no restrictions on what I can do in this one section of field except budget. It's very low. Have a combination of raised beds with and without sides and dug in beds.
The first thing that comes to mind are wicking beds. These water from the bottom up, though they may not fit your budget. But check them out, you might be able to get a lot of the components on the cheap. You can also water by using terracotta pots immersed in soil. Check out something like this. Using biological control to combat mosquitos would be really helpful, too. Plants like lemon balm, catnip and rosemary have been known to repel mosquitos, this is a good article on nature’s mosquito control.
I’ve probably missed something, but hopefully that helps?
...Oysters AREN'T vegan. If you're basing that idea off Christopher Cox's Slate article, it's a load of crap.
Hey everyone sending us messages about oysters! This is a blog about gardening, not veganism. The person who asked the question believes that oysters are vegan, I just said I didn’t know how to answer their question. People can investigate and decide whether or not oysters are vegan on their own initiative, but it’s not really relevant here.
Let’s move on - if anyone has anything about permaculture that they want to share, feel free to use the submit button.
Would an completely indoor aquaponic farm function properly with an alternative to fish? I'd like to use a vegan substitute such as oyster or maybe a fish with a significant life span to cut out 'harvesting.' Any tips?
Anyone? Do oysters poop? We’re not sure about this question. Maybe vermicomposting may be more up your alley.