Why Plant a Food Forest? Internship Highlights Thinking Long-Term

To read what else the internship program staff and interns have been doing, see Midwest Permaculture’s blog update.

We still have a few seats remaining in our upcoming internship sessions.

Hayden and Ernest walk along newly planted berm, where, in 10-15 years, a fruit overstory will shade the same place.

Hayden and Ernest walk along newly planted berm, where, in 10-15 years, a fruit over-story will shade that same spot.

Our spring interns, along with the internship staff of Ernest, Hayden, and Megan, have been busy digging into Permaculture ideas — literally.  Over the course of three weeks, we have designed, ordered, prepared, and planted a linear food forest, a multi-story edible patch of groundcovers, shrubs, fruit/nut trees, and companion plants placed along a water-catching swale.  As the forest grows, these perennials will be a lasting contribution to our yearly local harvest and provide us with tons of extra raw materials such as firewood for rocket stoves or our own living mulch.

But why plant a food forest, when it won’t truly be a forest until 10-15 years from now?  Food forests are the ultimate in slow food; in our fast-paced and mobile culture, this design doesn’t appear to work for us as individuals.

1095488_af5c674bIn my (humble) opinion, it isn’t working today simply because we haven’t recently been thinking long-term.   Imagine if your parents had planted a few trees for you at birth.  By age 20, you’d have raw materials at your disposal.  Sure, it’s not a new car, but even if you just chop up the trees for firewood, your effort is minimal.  Nature did most of the work.

Besides the estimable value of raw materials growing out of thin air, our interns brainstormed other ways in which food forest planting is useful:

  • If you are an orchardist whose wish is to maintain a healthy and productive orchard, a food forest design is insurance.  Also, with multiple harvest-able products, you aren’t putting “all your eggs in one basket.”
  • Learning to design and start food forests is a learning experience in itself, and is best learned through doing.  You learn not only how to plant a food forest, but how to work with others, and how to imagine how a place can change over time.
  • In 5-10 years when the forest does start producing, the harvest will be much more meaningful and will less likely go to waste.

Permaculture isn’t about designing something to be unchanging and final–nature doesn’t work like that– but it is about designing something that will be useful through multiple stages of growth, and not only to oneself, but to all beings sharing the same environment.  We (the intern staff) hope that this exercise in thinking long-term will, in itself, have a long-term impact.

Slide3-640x480Click here to read more about our food forest design and why we are using it in our Permaculture Design for CSC’s 8.7 acres.

Come visit our newly-planted food forest (and see other exciting innovations!) here on June 8th.

Practicing Biodynamics: Pruning in January

Permaculture Observation Journal Entry #1, January 7th, 2013: Hayden and Ernest “Practicing Biodynamics: Pruning in January”

Today Hayden and I (Ernest) practiced pruning in the orchard. According to the North American Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar “Dec. 26th to Jan 9th and Jan 23rd to Feb 5th is the Northern Transplanting Time. The Transplanting time is a good time for pruning fruit trees, vines, and hedges, with Fruit and Flower times being the preferred times for this work.”  Today, Monday the 7th until 2 pm central, was a flower time and a good time to be out in the orchard pruning. We are wanting to get ready for the January Orcharding Permablitz which will be during the next Northern Transplanting Time, on January 24th and perhaps the first half of the 25th if anyone is interested.

But for now, here is what we learned on our orcharding adventure today. Continue reading

January 24th Orchard Pruning Permablitz

This January the 24th, the Center for Sustainable Community will be hosting its monthly permablitz. We will be pruning and collecting scions in our community’s three-acre orchard. We will begin by reviewing some of the main principals of orcharding at 9 a.m., then begin pruning trees throughout the orchard. We will also demonstrate how to harvest scions and perform various grafting techniques. We will, of course, allow anyone who desires to harvest scions to take them back to their own communities for propagation. Continue reading

Orchard Pruning, December Perma-Blitz

This is an online instruction on orchard pruning. We will be watching a few selected basic orchard pruning videos. We will also look at some of the photos of the Center for Sustainable Community orchard and we will discuss what could be done with the trees. This will be an online Google hangout event and we hope to have a guest expert from the Midwest Fruit Explorers group to hangout with us and answer questions.

We are gaining knowledge and experience in orchard pruning and the use of Google Hangout. This event is will hopefully provide pre-site educational support for the upcoming Dec 22nd, Orchard Pruning Perma-Blitz, but all enthusiasts are welcome, please invite your friends even if you just want to learn about Google + Hangout!

You can sign up for the event via Google + or Facebook