Sometime last winter my husband came home excitedly and said "I bought you a present." Oh boy
, I thought, I
He unzipped his bag and plopped down two giant textbooks in front of me. Textbooks? I was hoping for pajamas. He had bought me Edible Forest Gardens
Vols. I and II by Dave Jacke. "Aren't these great?" he said. I smiled wanly, not really knowing what he was talking about.
Of course, it made perfect sense. We had just finished reading 1491, which is a totally mind-blowing book, about the Americas before (and just after) the arrival of Europeans. Although i have a good knowledge of and keen interest in this history, in part because I am part Cherokee, 1491 was filled with theories and history that I hadn't heard about at all. It is seriously a total page turner. And I immediately began to think about creating a heavily visual elementary school book based on the information. That is something I really should pursue. It's daunting, of course. So many projects...
Anyway, the first half of the book had gotten us very excited because it talked about how managed the forests were in the northeast U.S. and how people here had a very complex system of forest agriculture that looked nothing like farming. In this kind of agriculture, generally referred to as permaculture, symbiotic forest plants were encouraged to grow together, nuts made up a huge part of the diet, and then also animals were herded hundreds of miles along roads to provide another food source. In the end you have a very productive, low maintenance, and sustainable food producing system. So what Europeans understood as wilderness was actually a carefully managed ecosystem of edible and useful plants and fruits. We had just bought a house on four wooded acres in NY and we were surrounded by oak trees and constantly bombarded with acorns. We have the perfect site for an edible forest garden.
So this project is still in the fantasy realm. I still have not even gotten through Vol. I of my assigned reading. But I feel confident that this winter will be a great time to read and plan for the spring. I am getting excited about all the climate appropriate things I could try and grow here: mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, jerusalem artichokes, and kiwis (yes there are varieties that can winter here). And I am really looking forward to making a protein rich drink called mast, made from acorns. I think it probably ends up being a bit like coconut milk.
Recently I found a new hero through book contributor Abigail Doan. Hi name is Fritz Haeg and he has been doing something called "Edible Estates" where he comes in and redoes your front lawn/rooftop into an edible permaculture example. He is trying to do 9 prototypes across the US to show how this can work in different ecosystems. I love me a radical gardener!
Images of Friz Haeg's Salina KS edible estate ? before:
And I may be playing a little fast and loose with the term permaculture because it can encompass a lot more than what I am talking about. For more through, less eccentric information go here. If you are not ready for the textbooks you can read about it here.
If you are not ready to drink the mast, you might want to try and find a CSA (community supported agriculture) in your area and support small local farmers. (Click here for Local Harvest and here for Farm to Table.) This is my local CSA: Common Ground Farm and i just want to do a shout out to them for NOT growing a lot of kale this year (kale is one of those crops that is very easy to grow and therefore you can get a lot of kale at a CSA, you have been warned). And here is the SuperNaturale Alt Guide on the topic. And finally, here is my truly favorite gardening site, they have a book too!
Well, thanks for reading my meandering posts. I hope you enjoyed them. I get so much joy from writing about things I love. I hope that some of that rubs off on you. In a good way, I mean!