I’ve decided to apply Permaculture Design Principles to my little 10 acre patch of land which used to be farmed for corn and soybeans. I planted it in tall fescue in about 2003 before I had any knowledge of permaculture and it has terraces and a couple of drains which were placed by the row crop farmer long before I owned it. I currently have a small temporary dwelling back in the woods and I would like to have some rotationally grazed animals this year if possible. Of course, water catchment is my first priority, then planning for beltways of trees would be next. I have been following the work of Darren Doherty and I’m a bit familiar with Geoff Lawton’s work as well. Today I was alerted to a man who has a hybrid model for land development – a mix of the features of both Darren and Geoff’s work. His name is Cam Wilson and his blog article is HERE. My land is pictured above. The yellow outline is my little 10 acre patch and I have superimposed contour lines on the property. However, the contour lines may be old, possibly done prior to the terracing by the row crop farmer pervious to me.
Shocking as it may sound, I have come to believe that “America, the Land of the Free … ” is at best a HALF TRUTH. We are “sort of” free. “Relatively” free, compared to say, Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. But compared to the Native Americans of the 18th Century Haudenosaunee Confederacy, we are not nearly so free. My skepticism comes from studying “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to famously say. Charles Mann has written a fascinating book entitled “1491″ which covers some of this, lost my original copy, then bought it again last week. I was alerted to the book by a former intern for Joel Salatin. While I don’t prefer Joel’s method of raising chickens for meat, I think his method for producing eggs is brilliant … and his writing is brilliant. Joel is a prolific reader and a fantastic writer. So I am interested in any book Joel writes and in some books recommended by people close to him. Let me give you a taste of what I am talking about from Mann’s book. More to come on this topic another day.
Benjamin Franklin wrote …
“When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and makes one Indian Ramble with them, there is no perswading him ever to return. And that this is not natural [only to Indians], but as men, is plain from this, that when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived awhile among them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet within a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of Life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.”
(Letter to Peter Collinson May 9, 1753) LINK HERE
People who follow my blog and Facebook account know that I am a huge fan of Weston A. Price and know that I believe that he discovered principles of nutrition which – among other things – would render our entire modern dental industry unnecessary by keeping our teeth healthy and strong without toothpaste, toothbrushes, sealants, annual cleanings and plaque removal, etc. One of the claims which Price makes is
If it [nutrition] has been sufficiently improved, [acid producing] bacterial growth will not only be inhibited, but the leathery decayed dentine will become mineralized from the saliva by a process similar to petrification. LINK
One of the scientists I interact with on a science forum has proposed a test of Price’s claim by checking my saliva pH at various times after rinsing with some sugary food (or raw milk). She has stated
Your pH will drop, I’m pretty damn certain, because I simply don’t believe Price was correct when he claimed his diet would CHECK THE GROWTH AND ACTIVITY OF ACID-SECRETING BACTERIA.
There may be some people around who are lucky enough to have mouth flora that don’t include them, but I don’t think you are, because you already have cavities. And everyone else’s pH drops after a sugar rinse. Note, the pH drops after the sugar has been in your mouth – it doesn’t have to get to your stomach, and your blood in order to cause the pH drop. First of all the effect is really fast, second, it happens even if you don’t swallow the sugar.
In other words, sugar in the mouth affects the pH of your mouth, because it feeds acid-secreting bacteria, and that acid then eats away at your teeth causing caries.
But let’s see if Price’s diet has mesmerised your acid-secreting bacteria into not growing and not eating sugar and pissing acid afterwards. LINK
Another scientist did his own test (non-Price diet as far as I can tell) … his posts on this topic begin here … LINK … Post #341.
Well, my initial results are in and photo documentation is below … The scientist quoted above said this in response to my experiment
Well, that’s very interesting.
Looks as though your diet (or something else in your diet) may have indeed CHECKED THE GROWTH AND ACTIVITY OF ACID-SECRETING BACTERIA in your mouth.
It still, of course, doesn’t make Price (or you) correct that sugar in the mouth doesn’t cause tooth-eroding acid (we know that it does, and damitall just demonstrated that it does). But it does suggest that your diet may suppress the acid-producing bacteria.
Or that you aren’t doing the test properly (it happens). LINK
The more I study microbes – bacteria and viruses – the more I am convinced that Germ Theory is at best a half truth – that is, the theory that specific microbes are responsible for specific diseases. A more accurate view seems to be … specific microbes cause various diseases IF they are subjected to conditions which cause them to mutate and become virulent. Following are some links exploring this idea WRT viruses.
Jack Challem Review Article on www.drpasswater.com http://www.drpasswater.com/nutrition_library/selenium_aids.html
Melinda Beck (2007) Selenium and Vitamin E Status: Impact on Viral Pathogenicity http://jn.nutrition.org/content/137/5/1338.short
Article by Melinda Beck on virus mutation in Cuba following severe national malnutrition after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Mention of enterovirus http://images.abbottnutrition.com/ANHI2010/MEDIA/111th-conference-report-6-6-11.pdf#page=65
Is Selenium Deficiency Behind Ebola, AIDS and Other Deadly Infections?
Taylor: Selenium and Viral Diseases – Facts & Hypotheses (1997) http://orthomolecular.org/library/jom/1997/pdf/1997-v12n04-p227.pdf
Harthill Review Article on Selenium Deficiency
Review_ Micronutrient Selenium Deficiency Influences Evolution of Some Viral Infectious Diseases – Springer
Oldfield’s Selenium Atlas http://www.369.com.cn/hcvenglish/Se%20Atlas%202002.pdf
The author has been unable to locate selenium status maps for the entire continent of Africa, although one would expect to find a wide range of selenium supply levels. Much excellent mineral experimentation has been done in South Africa, and an early paper (Tustin, 1959) attests to occurrence of selenium-responsive white muscle disease there. Interestingly, a recent paper (Van Niekirk et al., 1996) cautions against dosing sheep with selenium in reproduction during the time implantation is underway. Studies at the University of Pretoria have identified areas of Selenium deficiency in the Natal Midlands, based both on whole blood selenium levels and on glutathione peroxidase activity (Van Ryssen and Bradford, 1992). Van Ryssen (2001) of the University of Pretoria has summarized the available information on South African selenium status in map form (Figure 36). Marginal to acute Se deficiencies have been reported in the Midlands region and the mountainous area of KwaZulu-Natal province and the southern part of Western Cape province. Fairly large areas in the west-central part of the country appear to be selenium-sufficient. The situation is complicated by local choices of forage plants and many cases of definite Se-deficiency are associated with diets that are principally lucerne (alfalfa). Considerable analytical data, including selenium values, have been assembled for various African countries. For example, a study of trace element levels has been carried out with several population groups in Burundi (Bensmariya et al., 1993). Investigators noted that intake of selenium by a rural population was very low – about on the scale of the Keshan disease area in China, and they attributed this in part, at least, to a very low consumption of fish by the study group. They have charted the contributions of various local food groups to total selenium intake (Figure 38). From studies of goiter and thyroid deficiency, it was learned that that condition is aggravated by a deficiency of selenium, and a belt of severe Se deficiency was identified in Central Africa (Vanderpas et al., 1990). Mpofu et al. (1999) have identified selenium deficiency symptoms in cattle in the smallholder grazing areas of Sanyati and Chinamhora, in Zimbabwe, and have provided a map, locating these areas (Figure 37). Plasma selenium in the dry season was 0.017, 0.025 and 0.017 µg/ ml for calves, steers and cows.
So it appears that Harthill bases the yellow areas in W. Central Africa (her Fig. 1) perhaps on Vanderpas, et. al. Here’s the link to that abstract http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/52/6/1087.short … so this would need to be checked before we can deem Harthill’s map reliable.
Major increase in human monkeypox incidence 30 years after smallpox vaccination campaigns cease in the Democratic Republic of Congo http://www.pnas.org/content/107/37/16262
Monkeypox and smallpox genome comparison http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014579301031441
Deadly Companions: How Microbes Shaped our History – LINK
Ebola virus is mutating … http://www.bbc.com/news/health-31019097
Enterovirus, not ebola is the disease worth worrying about. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/10/02/enterovirus-not-ebola-is-the-disease-worth-worrying-about
Measles and Measles Vaccines: 14 Things To Consider (2014)
Large Mumps Outbreak in Highly Vaccinated Populations, New England Journal of Medicine
Effect of Stress on the Immune System http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/20131005192722data_trunc_sys.shtml
Possible effect of immunizations on the thymus https://books.google.com/books?id=EQHPoGs6CvIC&pg=PA17&lpg=PA17&dq=thymus+damage+immunization&source=bl&ots=ZdYDENUirj&sig=pXS2BTz5Ubrrxx3TXZpnWVpa1Mc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=XVPXVKbfFZCWoQTe84HwDQ&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=thymus%20damage%20immunization&f=false
Flu Vaccine Lowers Immunity (Journal of Virology 2011) http://jvi.asm.org/content/85/22/11995.abstract?sid=80ff3521-f359-4db5-b453-e71cb8a8a7ea
Influenza Vaccines: Time for a Rethink (JAMA Internal Medicine 2013) http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=1669112
Universal immunity to influenza must outwit immune evasion (2014) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054793/
Recent paper on a possible connection of Ebola to selenium deficiency urging proactive stance http://pubs.sciepub.com/ajidm/2/6A/1/ajidm-2-6A-1.pdf
Wild herbivores and selenium http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10344-012-0645-z
Effect of Vaccines on the Canine Immune System, Phillips et al (1989) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1255540/pdf/cjvetres00050-0034.pdf
Taylor paper on selenium with 106 cites http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02778984
Lancet paper on the importance of selenium to human health (2600 citations) http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(00)02490-9/abstract
Soil-type influences human selenium status and underlies widespread selenium deficiency risks in Malawi, Hurst et al (2013)
Mice and the thymus – Robert Rowen MD https://www.facebook.com/DrRobertJRowen/posts/327878564076818?fref=nf
Walene James on Immunizations and Thymus Damage https://books.google.com/books?id=EQHPoGs6CvIC&pg=PA17&lpg=PA17&dq=walene+james+thymus+damage&source=bl&ots=ZdYDKFWevi&sig=K2xF6OkJ8xTHl9UtxcIaLTTxQO4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=BEnfVIHmDMiYNoPEgrAB&sqi=2&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=walene%20james%20thymus%20damage&f=false
OK, here goes. I’ve been studying bits and pieces of a Plan to Save America via Permaculture for a long time and I think the time has come to invite ‘delegates’ to participate in the plan. [pictured at left, Native American 'congress'] First, I will cover why I believe that America needs saving. Secondly, I will talk about the technical solutions we have available to do the ‘saving.’ And thirdly, I will talk about ideas for actually pulling this off on a large scale, which I do believe is possible if we put our heads together. I’m calling this a ‘congress’ because I want lots of input from people – a congress of sorts – and I want people to understand how dire this is and – just as the colonists in the 1770s felt the urgent need to ‘do something’ about the English king and so formed a congress – so I feel that we need to ‘do something’ about the direction our nation is headed and I’m not seeing success via other methods.
EXACTLY HOW AND WHY DOES AMERICA NEED SAVING?
Lots of people realize that America is in trouble but I don’t think very many people realize how the problems in America are fundamentally tied to our agricultural practices. For about 48 years, I didn’t either. Then I started reading Joel Salatin’s books in earnest and in one of his books he told about how North Africa – now called the Sahara Desert – was once lush and green and how it became a desert through bad agricultural practices. Wow! That thought stuck with me for the next several years and suffice to say that he’s right and this phenomenon is now happening all over the world. Go to my blog at www.truthmatters.info and type ‘Sahara’ into the search box and you’ll get some interesting reading on this topic. In reading the works of other Permaculture leaders, it dawned on me that the fundamental necessity for building a strong nation is not an army or an air force or a navy or even strong families. It’s soil. Yes, that’s right … soil. Without soil, you cannot grow food, thus cannot have any families at all, strong or otherwise. And of course, without families, you have no cities, no counties, no states, no nation. A friend of mine, Dan Grubbs, has a blog entitled “It’s the Soil Stupid” and I think he’s right. It is. It really is. That’s the foundation for any nation. If you don’t believe me, go to the Sahara Desert and tell me what nation is there. I don’t find one. You’ve got some on the edges, but none in the middle. It’s a desert! You cannot have a nation in the desert and if you’ve read my articles at my blog, you will know that America is headed straight for “Deserthood.” So that, in humble opinion, is why America needs saving. And yes, I know, “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” and other verses like that, but also keep in mind 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people … etc etc … you know the verse …” How does it end? It ends by saying God will heal our LAND. Not heal our bodies, not heal our families, not heal our government. Heal our land. Isn’t that interesting? Friends, I believe with every fiber of my being what Joel Salatin says “Heal the land and many other things will be healed.” Link here. How do we heal the land? Repent, according to 2 Chronicles 7:14. Repent of what? Well lots of things, and preachers are good at covering a lot of it and blessings on them for covering those things. But one thing they typically don’t cover is Genesis 1:28 – the bit about subduing the earth. Are we subduing the earth? I don’t think so. Rather, I think by and large we are exploiting it. I actually think the Native Americans that we Europeans displaced did a much better job of “subduing the earth.” Yet they were the “savages” and we were the “civilized ones?” Go figure. A related set of verses are the ones that talk about “tilling the ground” which I believe is a mistranslation and should be rendered “serve the ground.” Link here for my article on that topic. So, to sum up, I believe that America needs saving because we are literally destroying our ability to feed our great, great grandchildren with our flawed agricultural practices. And lest anyone think I am veering off into earth worship or some such thing, let me assure you, I’m not. The Scripture says in James 2:14-17 …
“14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
My perspective is that far too many people in our world today are “lacking in daily food” and more and more will be in the coming years, so I would like to “put works with my faith” and try to do something about it. Something a little more long lasting than handing out peanut butter sandwiches to homeless people. Not knocking that. I’ve done it. But it’s not a permanent solution. So that’s Point 1 – America needs saving. And “it’s the soil, stupid.” Thanks, Dan Grubbs, for a wonderful slogan.
THE TECHNICAL SOLUTION FOR SAVING AMERICA
OK, so our soil is dying. How to fix that? This has taken me a long time to figure out but I think I’m close. Love to have your feedback. If we say that our soil is dying, this implies that soil can be alive. What? Yes, that’s right. Healthy soil is a complex web of life and when we till it and leave it uncovered most of the year so it erodes and saturate it with harsh non-renewable chemicals and fertilizers, we destroy the life within it thus ensuring that it will become a desert in the future. This is a big study in itself, but suffice to say that the Native Americans mostly had living soil because they worked WITH Nature, not against it like we Europeans do. Now, 500 years later, thanks to our “make war, not love” philosophy with respect to soil and soil organisms (and higher organisms as well for that matter), we have mostly dead and dying soil. Our soil has basically become a substrate for chemical fertilizers with very little biological life in it. We boast about being able to produce 200 bushels of corn per acre, but the sad secret that even these corn farmers don’t realize is that this will come to an end at some point. Besides that, our corn/soybean/wheat based agriculture is literally killing our national health. Recent scientific paper on that here. This can be fixed, and people like Mark Shepard, author of the recent book “Restoration Agriculture” and recent speaker at the Permaculture Voices Conference has over the last 16 years, demonstrated with his own 106 acre farm in Viola, Wisconsin one solution for the dying land problem. Mark took a 106 acre crop farm with dying soil and has transformed it into what I would call a “Perennial Permaculture Paradise” complete with trees, bushes, vines and rotationally grazed animals. Mark’s big point is that he can produce 5 million food calories per acre just like a corn or soybean farmer, BUT … with NO INPUTS and NO ANNUAL REPLANTING! That seems like a big deal to me. Search my blog for “Shepard” for further reading. (Only one “p” in his name) Please take a few minutes to let this sink in. A corn farmer is producing 200 bushels of corn per acre X ~60 lbs per bushel X ~400 calories per lb = 4.8 million calories. Mark, on the other hand is producing a little more – 5 million or so – from a beautifully organized pattern of approximately the following plants per acre: 86 chestnut trees, 34 apple trees, 120 grape vines, 208 hazelnut bushes, 416 raspberry canes, and 520 red currants. These are all planted in rows on 23 foot spacing to provide alleys with perennial grasses for grazing Mark’s “flerd” – a mixed flock/herd of cattle, sheep, hogs, turkeys, and chickens. Mark planned his farm according to P.A. Yeoman’s principles of “keyline” planning for maximum water retention, maximum plant growth and sensible road building placement. For an excellent quick primer on this system, go to www.heenandoherty.com and watch the short video on the home page by Darren Doherty. Darren has commercialized P.A Yeoman’s farm planning system (link here) and now consults with farms all over the world. He has also been selected as Joel Salatin’s international agent – no small achievement. Darren Doherty is a guy to watch, I believe. My review article on Darren’s work is here.
GETTING MORE SPECIFIC WITH THE TECHNICAL SOLUTION
Now, before we get too excited and go off half cocked, we need to ask an important question. Is Mark Shepard’s farm plan optimum? Well in many ways, yes, I believe so. Compared to corn and soybean farming, there is no comparison, in my opinion. Mark’s plan heals land and produces food calories sustainably with no inputs except tree / bush / animal maintenance labor and harvesting labor. And it theoretically can feed 5 people per acre (1 million calories per year is the approximate requirement for an average adult). Which is all great … BUT … what kind of calories do we really want from a Permaculture system? Well, that’s a hugely important question. And for me, the answer is pretty much milk, meat and eggs as a foundation, with garden produce being of secondary importance. I call this a Weston Price type diet – similar to Paleo, but some important differences. Link here for discussion on that. Dr. Stephan Guyenet has some great material on this too HERE. Dr. Weston Price’s complete volume is here. With this in mind, my plan would be similar to Mark’s, but my goal would be to produce the 5 million calories per acre primarily from meat, milk and eggs instead of nuts, fruit, meat, milk, and eggs. My own personal diet includes about 700,000 calories per year from milk, 70,000 from eggs, 120,000 calories from meat and perhaps 100,000 from butter and carbohydrates like sugar in my coffee, cookies and chocolate bars. To achieve this would require a large percentage of dairy animals in the rotationally grazed herd and if we want to achieve the 3 dimensional forage growth that Mark Shepard achieves, the choice for dairy animals would be goats, not cows because goats eat leaves and small branches. Cows – as far as I know – mostly eat grass which only grows one dimensionally, not 3 dimensionally like trees and bushes. Keeping all this in mind, I have done some preliminary calculations on calorie production. There are many unknowns at this point, but what I do know is that grass forage (in a Mark Shepard type setup) can be as high as 6 tons per acre. I know this from Joel Salatin’s reports of 400 “cow day” pasture on his farm. 1 “cow day” = about 30 lbs of grass, so 400 cow days per acre means about 12,000 lbs or 6 tons of harvestable grass per acre. Add tree and bush cuttings and I’m doing more guesswork as to yields from that. (we’re talking about cutting tree /bush limbs every day manually to feed goats – got this from Dr. Charlotte Clifford-Rathert, link here about some of her work) But let’s make an educated guess and say we could get another 6 tons per acre from 3 dimensional forage production / coppicing / etc, if we do everything right. So our maximum theoretical forage yield – considering grass and tree / bush prunings might be 12 tons per acre. If a goat requires 1 ton of forage per year, then that represents a theoretical carrying capacity of 12 goats per year. If we allocate this all to dairy goats, then we’re talking about 150 gallons per year X 12 = 1800 gallons of milk per year X 2500 calories = 4.5 million calories per year from milk. I do believe we could add a flock of chickens into this herd of goats without getting a drop off in dairy goat production because the chickens are eating things like bugs in addition to grass, plus they are manuring the grass increasing productivity. How many chickens in the flock? I don’t know. Maybe 10 chickens per goat? I’m totally guessing here. From this 12 goat / 120 chicken “baseline” flerd, we can modify anything we want to for variety – substitute a hog for 2-3 goats, giving us more meat and less dairy, and/or 1 sheep for 1 goat or what have you, and we also need to account for Murphy’s Law and for time to get all the forage producing plants productive. Mark Shepard’s theoretical maximum is 5 million food calories per acre. I would come nowhere close to that starting out – if I do everything right and start with a wooded piece of land, I might be able to produce 2 million calories per year – maybe if I’m lucky. But I’m going to be conservative and say I can only produce 1 million at least for the first few years. That is, I think I could feed 1 person per acre sustainably with no input from this type of setup. As for labor, I think it would be minimal. I believe on a 10 acre parcel of land with 10 people involved, based on my firsthand experience with rotational grazing, labor would be no more than 2 man hours per day, which would include moving the electric fence, water and portable shelters for the flerd daily, milking the dairy animals, gathering eggs, cutting tree branches for the goats, etc.
So to summarize and recap this section … my short term goal would be to produce 1 million meat / milk / egg calories per acre, sustainably with no inputs starting out with wooded acres. I currently own a 10 acre piece that has about 3 wooded acres and I would not even attempt this unless I get at least 2 other people to join me to help with daily chores. 4 people total (me plus 3 others) would be better because then no one person has to sign up for more than 2 days per week of chores. I think I could support 4 people on my 10 acres with this plan even though 7 of my acres is grass so I may roll with that.
MEDIUM TERM GOAL
I won’t spend much space on this now because I really want feedback from knowledgeable people I am connected with before I go planning for the future too much. Suffice to say for now that from my “bridgehead” of wooded ground, I would begin planting a “food forest” in adjacent non-wooded ground, consistent with the type of food calories desired (in my case “Weston Price” type food calories) So for example, on my 10 acre piece, I would hire Heenan-Doherty to create a plan for the entire 10 acres, then begin implementing it. As this becomes productive, my 10 acre property would be able to support more people and, in time, hopefully be able to support 10-20 people (1-2 people per acre) sustainably with no outside inputs. If this goes well, all involved would gain confidence and hopefully begin letting leases on cropland and begin “Heenan-Doherty-izing” them as well. This will be a hurdle for two reasons – (a) cropland is expensive to lease compared to woodland or even pastureland, (b) cropland takes some significant inputs to ‘revive’ it to the point of enough productivity to support a grazing herd (c) it takes several years to get a food forest going so as to get 3 dimensional photosynthesis happening. I have had extensive discussions with Greg Judy about how to get the grass going using sheep but more planning is needed and there needs to be a viable financial model for all involved.
LONG TERM GOAL
The long term is basically to create a successful system, then “rinse and repeat.” To take an analogy from biology, a living cell is a very small, duplicatable unit which is automatically duplicated millions of times during the growth cycle of a new organism. What I want to create is a very successful “cell” which can be duplicated in an economically favorable way far and wide, the end game being to build a much stronger America by duplicating successful “cells.”
HOW WILL ALL THIS WORK TO “SAVE AMERICA”?
Well, as John Lennon said, IMAGINE. If we can be successful at creating, say, a 100 acre piece of land which supports 100 people sustainably with respect to most of their food, water, shelter and energy needs what further needs do they have? Some, to be sure. We’re not going to “go Amish” and do away with iPhones and MacBooks and Volvos. All we’re doing is trying to produce as much of people’s needs as we can LOCALLY. And when I say locally, I really mean LOCALLY. I mean right there inside the subdivision. For an example of how this is currently being done in small way, please refer to the report “Building Communities With Farms” written by Dr. Michael Sands a few years ago. It’s a great report and I guarantee it will stimulate your brain cells with respect to this type of thing. The take away message I get from Mike Sands is … it’s a great idea to integrate food production with living spaces. So now I have given you a tour inside my brain as to how this thing can grow into “Sustainable Subdivisions.” A very important issue here is “Home Owner Association” rules for these sustainable subdivisions. I’ve proposed sharing of daily chores, but obviously in a subdivision of any size, there will be people who have no interest in daily chores and would rather pay for the service. I say fine. I’m not proposing that we do away with our money system – I just want to make food production healthy, local and cheap and I want to produce as much cheap energy and cheap building materials as possible LOCALLY. Without doing any rigorous calculations yet, it seems to me with a properly set up system, we should be able to offer subdivision residents some pretty cheap healthy food (and building materials and energy). If the Amish can sell me milk for $2/gallon and $1.50/lb ground pork, why can’t we do the same in my proposed subdivisions? But Dave, why would you sell so cheap? My response is “why not?” if I can and still make it worth my time. I will actually enjoy the production labor so long as I have help so I don’t feel like a slave. Why would I charge my fellow man exorbitantly for something I enjoy doing anyway? That’s the Amish philosophy and I like it.
Now let’s go further on this scary tour of my brain …
What if you filled an entire county with this type of “Sustainable Subdivision”? And what if your county government imposed high tariffs on all food products, building material products and energy products produced OUTSIDE the county? Do you think that would be a stimulus to local (in county) production? I think it would. It’s a old scheme that was used successfully in the early USA and I don’t see why it would not work now as well. Now keep going. If most of the things people need were produced right inside their own home county, what need would they have for welfare payments from the state? Or from the federal government? I believe that as this thing grew, there would be less and less need for the state and federal governments and thus those governments would become less and less relevant, ergo less and less powerful. Mega corporations also would become less and less powerful because there would be far less demand for their products from these new “self sufficient counties.” County government officials would eventually be more powerful than state or federal officials due to this new self sufficiency but this power could be tightly controlled and reined in due to the close proximity of the people to the county government. I’ll stop here for now, but there is much more I am envisioning including revolutionizing health care and education automatically as part of this plan.
A WORD ABOUT LAND OWNERSHIP
At the risk of sounding like a collectivist, let me make the observation that from the perspective of stewarding land and ensuring it’s health for future generations, the idea of private land ownership, compared to the Native American concept of land ownership, has been a disastrous idea. In the hands of the Native Americans, there was “plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, no taxes, etc” and – I might add – land which was actually building topsoil and much more diverse, vibrant ecosystems instead of the current situation where it is degrading and species are going extinct like there’s no tomorrow. So I’m scratching my head asking “what did private land ownership really gain us?” I’m thinking nothing good. So … what’s the alternative? Certainly not government ownership. That’s been a dismal failure where it’s been tried. I don’t have the answer but I think it’s an important question. What I would like the answer to be is “the land should be owned by those who will steward it best.” How to achieve this? Local subdivision ownership of the land? Rich guy owns the land, subdivision residents lease from him under some arrangement? I don’t know. What I do know is that I have owned land and not owned land (been a tenant) and the differences do not seem as great to me as they once did. A great example of a guy who, rather than owning a great deal of land, instead controls a great deal of land via good stewardship is Greg Judy. Greg advocates NOT owning land for the purpose of doing rotational grazing. What if we took that same approach when thinking about creating sustainable subdivisions? Another important question is “what is the essence of ownership”? Is it not control? Is it not the right to do the things we want to do on that land? I think that’s it pretty much. I can tell you for sure that my attitude has become “as long as the landowner – whoever that might be – lets me live on the land and have animals and plant trees and and a garden and play soccer and hunt and fish with my kids in exchange for some fair price, then I’m happy. Why do I need to OWN it?”
It appears to me that many workers in our society are now operating under a mild (or not so mild) form of slavery. It’s obviously not as bad for most people as the slavery situation in America in the early 1800′s but it ain’t great for all too many people. Talk to someone who works for Dollar General or Walmart and you’ll see what I mean. Most hourly wage workers these days work long hours for very little money but they have the same expenses for food and everything else that we all do and to me that’s a mild form of slavery. Sorry, but just calling it like I see it and under my plan, I believe this sort of thing would diminish, mainly because the power of ALL currently powerful entities who are currently inflicting this mild form of slavery would have their power and influence curtailed. Wouldn’t that be great?
And that, ladies and gentleman, is my rough plan for “Saving America With Permaculture.” I welcome your comments.
I have two careers – one which pays the bills and one which will save the world – Permaculture. OK, well, maybe that’s a bit optimistic and simplistic, but one can wish and hope and dream, right? Lately, my “bill pay” job has been taking me through a lot of dying cropland … ground that is being plowed year after year, sprayed year after year, planted in monoculture year after year, left uncovered year after year, and, thus, is eroding year after year and slowly becoming a desert. (See note below)
I’ve spent lots of brain cells (there are precious few to spend LOL) in the past few years trying to figure out not only a technical solution for turning this problem around, but also an economic solution. I’m getting closer on the economic solution, but I think I have arrived at the technical solution. I say “I have arrived” but I really mean that I have stumbled across the solution developed by P.A. Yeomans, via the man who appears to me to be his leading practitioner, Darren Doherty, who also just happens to be the International Agent for … [drum roll] … Joel Salatin. Heard that name a time or two in my writings? All I did was search and search and search and finally ran across his work. It’s fitting that Darren is Joel’s International Agent (Joel obviously thought so too) because I first read about “keyline planning” in Joel’s books. Let me tell you about Darren and what he’s doing. It’s exciting stuff!
First, P.A. Yeoman’s work is all about two extremely important things in our world today:
(1) maximizing water retention on farms via keyline planning and
(2) creating deep topsoil quickly by keyline plowing.
WATER – Keyline Planning. TOPSOIL – Keyline Plowing. Easy, right?
Water and topsoil (real, living topsoil) are foundationally important to everything else in life … without food and water, nothing else matters … at least with our physical life. (Spiritual life is another discussion) Yeomans recognized a long time ago that the problem with most farms is NOT “not getting enough rain.” The problem is that most farms don’t “hold onto” the rain they do receive long enough to do any good with respect to growing food. This is why millions of acres of farm ground now have those giant “center pivot” irrigation systems (pic at right). This is totally unnatural and enormously expensive and completely unnecessary for producing food … IF … the farm was planned correctly in the first place (most aren’t). As an aside (whole big topic for another day), planning farms correctly on a large enough scale can actually cause it to rain more, thus it is theoretically possible to “regreen” places like the Sahara desert. See link here.
Back to Darren. Darren has now taken P.A. Yeoman’s work and is using it to transform dying cropland (he calls it “broad acre agriculture”) into what I would call “Perennial Polyculture Paradise” similar to what Mark Sheppard has done. Click here for the page on Darren’s website entitled “Farm Design Process” which shows step by step what is done. The example given is a 570 acre farm called “Savannah” in Australia, the site where Joel Salatin appeared a couple weeks ago for a big event called “Tasting Australia.”
Anyway, stumbling across Darren’s work has literally given me goosebumps about what is now possible! Keeping in mind the work of Dr. Michael Sands, showcased in the report “Building Communities With Farms” and work by others thinking along the same lines like Lee Foster and John Shreve with their remarkable project called “Prairie Commons” in Olathe, KS … how cool would it be if some wealthy, philanthropy minded investors got the bug to buy up dying cropland all over the country and plant “Perennial Polyculture Mob Grazing Paradises” complete with earth friendly housing / infrastructure for all ages and incomes. How cool would it be to live in a subdivision where virtually ALL your food is produced right inside the subdivision – super healthy pastured meats, milk, eggs, “beyond organic” garden produce – everything! Right there on site. Do it yourself and/or buy it from the on site farm because the “farm” is not “somewhere else.” It’s right there, integrated with dwellings and common buildings. As it should be. Farming done correctly is BEAUTIFUL! I know because I lived and worked on a farm like this for 6 months. It was one of the most soul restoring things I have ever done! I gave a tour to a visitor one time who was skeptical that standing in a cow pasture could be a beautiful thing. Cows are yucky right? Wrong. She stepped into that cow pasture and fell in love with the cows and the pasture right then and there! (I would post a picture of her face but she would be embarrassed)
How about food cost? Can you imagine what this sort of thing would do to the cost of food? It would drive it down. Significantly. With food being produced locally, trucking would not be needed. Subdivision residents could be involved with production and harvesting labor if they chose to be, driving cost down further under the right structure. What about cost to live there in the first place? Land cost and housing cost. Well, I don’t know yet, but my hunch is that this could be lowered significantly as well through innovative planning. More on this in another post.
Out of time for now. I hope Darren’s work gets your creative juices flowing as much as it has mine. In closing, please have a look at Darren’s short, information rich video here. Worth your time I promise you, if for no other reason that to be entertained by Darren’s Aussie accent!
Dream big dreams!
[NOTE: In the article I linked entitled "Mother of All Problems" I used the word "rape" to describe what is happening to our cropland. I'm now sorry I used that word and will not use it again because it could be taken offensively by cropland farmers. I do NOT mean to imply that cropland farmers are "raping" land. There is NO mal intent on the part of farmers that I am aware of at all. Cropland farmers are just doing what has always been done for centuries - plowing, planting, harvesting.]
Mawasha (second from right, the tallest), one of the founding elders of the original Wai Wai church died yesterday in a hospital in Manaus, Brazil. The founding 5 elders from left to right are Melsha, Kirifaka, Elka, Mawasha and Yakuta. As far as I know, Yakuta is now the only remaining original elder. I knew and respected ‘Taam’ Mawasha (‘Taam’ is loosely translated ‘Mister’) when I was a boy growing up on the jungle mission station of Kanashen, deep in the jungles of Guyana, South America, established by my Dad and Mom, Bob & Florine Hawkins and by his brother, my uncle Neill Hawkins. The name of that station which means ‘God Loves You’ lives on in the current name for the entire district in Southern Guyana encompassing the original station which is now overgrown with jungle. Read more »
Young, old, rich, and poor all ride bicycles everywhere. With no hills, it’s a bicycler’s dream. Five miles is a gentle 15-minute ride. I haven’t seen any fat people yet. None.” –Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin’s stuff is too good not to repost, so here goes … again, hoping Polyface doesn’t mind … I’m particularly fascinated with the “Earthship Village” consisting of 20 households who pooled their money and bought 5 acres … living roofs, composting toilets, grey water recycling, etc. I have for a long time wanted to live on a piece of land with a perennial polyculture food forest and rotationally grazed animals, but to make it work well, several families are needed. I’m getting closer to this goal! Here’s Joel’s message …
I arrived in The Netherlands (Amsterdam) yesterday … This is a flat country. Everything is flat. In fact, when we landed the altitude on the runway was 22 feet below sea level. Does that give you the shivers? Water is everywhere and
canals drain it off. The soil is dark without rocks and the fields are flat–did I mention it’s flat here?
Yes, I’ve already seen some classic windmills. The tulips have already bloomed and are gone–spring was a month early here. At home, spring was a month late. They’ve already harvested their first cutting of hay. At a farm where I was yesterday the timothy was already in full bloom. At Polyface, it’ll be another month before we see timothy heading out.
The most amazing thing to me is the bicycles. They are everywhere. Of course, trains criss-cross the country, running smoothly and on time, so many people do not have cars. At the train stations, massive bicycle parking lots–I mean thousands of bicycles–adjoin the station. Young, old, rich, and poor all ride bicycles everywhere. With no hills, it’s a bicycler’s dream. Five miles is a gentle 15-minute ride. I haven’t seen any fat people yet. None.
To see gray-haired grandmas and grandpas cycling not for fun, but in the course of their day, is truly amazing and wonderful. All the roads, which are half as wide as American roads, have wide bike paths marked. This is perhaps the most bicycle friendly country in the world. Gas sells for $8 a gallon (US)–don’t worry, I already did the conversions. How do you think America would look if gas was $8 a gallon? Would we ride public transportation more, and bicycles more?
The village concept is real here. Clusters of houses and then farmland. Clusters of houses and then farmland. Many of the houses still have neat thatched roofs, and the skill to maintain them is widespread in the country. Very steep roofs. I don’t know what the ratio of bicycles to cars is, but judging by our travels yesterday, I’d say it must be 4:1–actually on the roads. Bicycles are everywhere–did I say that already?
Yesterday I visited an Earthship village. This is a group of 20 households who pooled their money and bought about 5 acres. They’re building their houses primarily out of discarded materials but they are sharp looking. Built in clusters of 2 or 3, with firewalls in between, this maximizes open space, which is held in common. Only 3 households are left after the initial project started, but a waiting list exists of people wanting in. When people discontinue, others quickly step in. The first
construction began about 18 months ago and is due to finish in another 18 months.
They are primarily professionals between the ages of 35 and 45 and are working on each others’ houses with coaching from construction experts along the way. All the houses have composting toilets and run their gray water to a common reed-recycling area. It’s a 3 foot deep bed lined with plastic and filled with pebbles and other medium to grow hydrologic plants. It’s about 30 feet wide and 40 feet long. The grey water comes in one corner and exits the other, clean enough to drink.
All the roofs are living roofs, with about 8 inches deep and then 2 or 3 inches of sandy clay soil on top. They’re all green and growing–it’s fantastic. The insulation value is hard to measure, but it’s huge. Each house has a tiny wood heater. Some have rammed earth tires as a wall, some are straw bale, but all use things that are available locally–some nice local fir adorns several– or would otherwise go to a landfill.
I’ll be touring a couple of farms today, speaking to numerous folks and enjoying this wonderful country.
“My Dad and Mom, ultra conservative by any standard, routinely befriended hippies and our house often had dope-smoking mother-earthers hanging around talking about compost, dome homes, and Viet Nam war atrocities. On Sunday, of course, I spent the day with straight-laced Bible fundamentalists who made jokes about hippies and those mother earthers. ” –Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin is probably my favorite living author … every time he writes something, I read it in it’s entirety – I like how his mind works, and he’s a great writer. The following is a complete reproduction of his forward to a new book by Noah Sanders, entitled “Born Again Dirt.” I hope he doesn’t mind me reproducing it here (I didn’t ask). Maybe this will help Noah sell more books, a good thing right? Thanks to my friend, Dan Grubbs, author of the blog “It’s the Soil Stupid” for alerting me to this book.
Like Joel’s family, I too have some associations and friendships with “cosmic nirvana earth worshipper types” because of my involvement with permaculture and at times I have felt like I was getting odd looks from my fundamentalist friends for doing so. So it made me feel better to run across this piece by Joel – made me feel like maybe I’m not so crazy after all for having some of these friendships – or at least if I am crazy, I’m in good company. Enjoy!
Growing up in a conservative Christian home on our beyond organic family farm in the 1960s, I lived in two different worlds. Our church friends lived in one world, but our family farm lived in another. My Dad and Mom, ultra conservative by any standard, routinely befriended hippies and our house often had dope-smoking mother-earthers hanging around talking about compost, dome homes, and Viet Nam war atrocities.
On Sunday, of course, I spent the day with straight-laced Bible fundamentalists who made jokes about hippies and those mother earthers. When Dad made Adelle Davis’ Tiger Milk, a concoction of brewer’s yeast, honey, raw milk from our Guernsey cows, and I can’t remember what else, our church buddies called it Panther Puke. I grew up on Bible memory programs and Mother Earth News magazine.
While our church friends made jokes about environmentalists, in our house The Whole Earth Catalogue stimulated many great discussions. Our family routinely patronized the health food store when it first came to town, a place our Christian friends thought cultish. How could a Christian patronize a place that smelled like incense, sold tofu, and had Zen literature stashed about? Our Christian friends built Tyson chicken houses and confinement dairies, used pharmaceuticals indiscriminately and poured on chemical fertilizer. Even their backyard gardens received liberal (a judicious use of the word liberal, to be sure) doses of insecticide just to be safe.
The whole notion that farming and food systems could contain a moral implication couldn’t make it past the laughter and jokes about environmentalist pinko commies. Yet our family plugged on, eschewing chemicals, building compost piles, planting trees, and attending environmental farming conferences. As our farm began attracting attention, most visitors were tree-hugging cosmic nirvana creation-worshippers. We used these visits to plant seeds of Biblically-based stewardship as Creator-worshippers. That sure made for some interesting conversations.
Over the years, I’ve seen an amazing transformation in our farm visitors. Today, probably half are conservative home-schooling Christians. I believe that the home-schooling movement spawned an entire awakening to alternative ideas. Families who left the conventional institutional educational setting, who disagreed with credentialed officialdom, found their new path soul satisfying. That satisfaction led them to ask the question: “Well, I wonder what else I’ve been missing out on?”
This quest for a narrow way within a broad way cultural context led families to chiropractors (what, those quacks?), nutrition, cottage-based businesses and home-based self-reliance. The home school idea literally sprouted kitchen sprout growing, raw milk consumption, gardens, and domestic flour mills for home-baked breads.
I believe the Christian community, which should have been the repository of “fearfully and wonderfully made,” squandered this high moral ground of environmental stewardship. Today, young people like Noah Sanders are beginning to chip away at the stereotype of the creation-exploitive (just one notch below rapist) religious right. When members of the religious right espouse creation stewardship, people listen to the Biblical redemption message who would never give it a thought otherwise.
In this great introductory and thought-provoking book, Noah Sanders dares to invoke a moral dimension into vocational farming. I am thrilled to see young people like him grasp this cornerstone of Christian credibility. Bringing every life dimension captive to God’s mind has far-reaching implications in our day-to-day decisions. Thank you, Noah, for broaching this subject in this context. It’s sorely needed and should stimulate both personal soul-searching and healthy corporate discussions.
To purchase Noah’s book on Amazon click HERE.
I am fascinated with Permaculture, which means “permanent culture.” Why? Because our culture is NOT permanent presently. It is dying primarily because of our destructive agricultural practices and policies. (Click pic at left for larger version) Search my blog with the keyword “Sahara” and you will get several articles on this topic. So my studies in permaculture have caused me to think long and hard about the Biblical statements about “subduing the earth” and “having dominion” and “tilling the ground” and so forth. You guys know these verses, right? But have you studied the Hebrew words? I had not until just recently. But thanks to a Christian man I met at Permies.com, Dan Grubbs who has a blog called “It’s the Soil Stupid,” I now have some cool new insights into these verses. Let me share with you. Dan says
“… the Hebrew word aw-bad that is translated as “till” or “cultivate” in reference to the land or soil is the word for “serve.”
Hmm … I didn’t know that. Let’s check it out … Googling the term “till awbad strongs concordance hebrew” we get the following link … http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=H5647. …
The KJV translates Strongs H5647 in the following manner: serve (227x), do (15x), till (9x), servant (5x), work (5x), worshippers (5x), service (4x), dress (2x), labour (2x), ear (2x), misc (14x).
Sure enough. 227 times ‘awbad’ is translated ‘serve’ and only 9 times as ’till.’ Looks like my friend Dan has done his homework. So the big question for me is …
Why did the KJV translators choose the word ’till’ those 9 times? Instead of ‘serve’? Read more »