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Posts Tagged ‘permaculture’

Back in early December, I wrote about seeding a ‘food meadow’ in my large garden plot. Fast forward a few months, and here is how it turned out: a great success!

Weeds have been light to non-existent, except for one small area where the sheet mulching was too shallow and grass came up. A light session of hand-weeding took care of that.

In this close-up, we see various bits of fennel, carrots, dill, and cilantro are showing their feathery tops above the lettuces. This salad in the making is making me hungry! Alas, it’s dark and rainy at the moment, so the greens are safe for now. Tomorrow, though, watch out!

I think the mixed-seed meadow idea has really done well, and I will be doing it again in subsequent years. To do it fully, I’d dedicate an area to it and let a few plants go to seed and keep reseeding themselves. I’m not going to go that far on my main garden bed… I think… but may let a lettuce or two seed out.

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I will quote directly from this excellent factual article on the history of hemp in America:

The American colonists relied heavily on hemp. At that time, hemp was the world’s leading crop. A law enacted in Virginia in 1619 made hemp production mandatory for all farmers. Similar laws were passed in Massachusetts in 1631, in Connecticut in 1632 and the Chesapeake Colonies in the mid 1700s. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both farmed hemp. “Make the most you can of the hemp seed and grow it everywhere,” wrote George Washington in 1794. The first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper and all early American flags were made with hemp. …

So why is hemp not grown in America today? Why has the American creative genius not found ways to process hemp efficiently and turn it into a myriad of useful products, at least on a large scale?

The reason is twofold: Hemp competes directly with wood products and hemp belongs to the same plant family as marijuana. The history of how hemp products were removed from the American commercial scene deserves retelling, but only after this important disclaimer: This article is not intended to endorse the legalization of marijuana or the recreational use of this drug in any way.

While I personally think that the criminalization of hemp is ridiculous alongside the legal use of alcohol, this is not a song about Alice. My position on hemp is that it could be a key crop for sustainability, from the useful fibers to the oil-rich seeds. There are low-THC strains out there, but growing hemp in this country is very hard to do because of the fanaticism of the anti-drug folks. I’ve read pieces of the story in other places, but this Weston Price article lays it out and links several of the pieces together in ways I’ve not seen before, such as the Dupont/Hearst deal.

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A permaculturist explores the cultural affordances of foraging vs horticulture vs agriculture. Fascinating.

http://www.patternliteracy.com/sustag.html

“…
Even if we note these structural problems with agriculture, the shift from foraging at first glance seems worth it because—so we are taught—agriculture allows us the leisure to develop art, scholarship, and all the other luxuries of a sophisticated culture. This myth still persists even though for 40 years anthropologists have compiled clear evidence to the contrary. A skilled gatherer can amass enough wild maize in three and a half hours to feed herself for ten days. One hour of labor can yield a kilogram of wild einkorn wheat.(7) Foragers have plenty of leisure for non-survival pleasures. The art in the caves at Altamira and Lascaux, and other early examples are proof that agriculture is not necessary for a complex culture to develop. In fact, forager cultures are far more diverse in their arts, religions, and technologies than agrarian cultures, which tend to be fairly similar.(3) And as we know, industrial society allows the least diversity of all, not tolerating any but a single global culture.

The damage done by agriculture is social and political as well. A surplus, rare and ephemeral for foragers, is a principal goal of agriculture. A surplus must be stored, which requires technology and materials to build storage, people to guard it, and a hierarchical organization to centralize the storage and decide how it will be distributed. It also offers a target for local power struggles and theft by neighboring groups, increasing the scale of wars. With agriculture, power thus begins its concentration into fewer and fewer hands. He who controls the surplus controls the group. Personal freedom erodes naturally under agriculture.

Horticulture is the most efficient method known for obtaining food, measured by return on energy invested. Agriculture can be thought of as an intensification of horticulture, using more labor, land, capital, and technology. This means that agriculture, as noted, usually consumes more calories of work and resources than can be produced in food, and so is on the wrong side of the point of diminishing returns. That’s a good definition of unsustainability, while horticulture is probably on the positive side of the curve. Godesky (10) believes this is how horticulture can be distinguished from agriculture. It may take several millennia, as we are learning, but agriculture will eventually deplete planetary ecosystems, and horticulture might not.
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