Today is day 4 of my certification training with Becky and Bill Wilson and Milton Dixon of Midwest Permaculture and we visited the home of UW River falls Professor Kelly Cain. He owns 80 acres outside River Falls along with 4 other people in a land trust. Each family privately owns 5 acres and the remaining 60 acres is a wonderful shared private forest. His daughter operates a CSA from their property including raised beds of vegetables, fruit trees, honey and perennials such as asparagus. The passive solar home is also partially powered by a solar panel.
We looked at the concept of zones in permaculture with zone 1 being closest to the house and planted with kitchen garden food and things needing daily tending. For Kelly Cain this zone included chickens that need food and daily care. Vegetables are planted along the way to the chicken coop to be weeded and harvested. Zone 2 are plantings visited less often such as orchards and zone 3 would be the fairly wild forest beyond.
We also discussed plant ‘guilds’ which are groups of plants that work together to create synergy.. A combination of fruits, vegetables, bioaccumulators and nitrogen fixing plants are planted together, often at the base of a hugelkulture mound. These guilds also mimic the forest edge which is the most productive part of a forest. For example a fruit tree guild might include a dwarf fruit tree (apple, pear or cherry) at the base of the hugelkuture with Hazelnut, Highbush cranberry, Corneliancherry dogwood, Elderberry or other fruiting shrubs planted next. Horseradish, daikon radish or comfrey would be included as bioaccumulatosr to pull nutrients from the lower soil depths, asparagus to harvest and lead plant or Indigo used for their ability to fix nitrogen. Wild ginger, clover, strawberries or spring bulbs can be used as groundcovers to prevent soil erosion and choke out weeds. Flowering plants such as fennel, yarrow, lemonbalm and dill planted along the edges will ensure good pollination and attract insect predators.
Permaculture is the study of sustainability which of course must include discussions of energy. Alternative energy and ‘peak oil’ was the discussion of the day which basically means we have come to a peak in petroleum discovery and it will only get more difficult to find and extract it from here. Large reserves of oil continue to be available from the middle east but that is an increasingly bad situation. We can drill and dig and frack and destroy every wilderness and every ocean in the US but the supply is but a drop in the bucket and would only last for a couple years. Cuba was forced to quickly deal with a sudden disruption in their oil imports when Russia collapsed and with it Cuba’s oil supply. See how Cuba survived peak oil by watching this video. I’m not sure we would fare so well in the US living in a cold climate and being under the rein of capitalism and ‘the rich take all’ culture. Why do we only see such bad news about Cuba?