Permaculture blog

Permaculture Links - January - Part 2

Published by Jeremy Dawes on 20 January 2013

Growing Carrots the Organic Market Gardener way


Last year it was so easy, the carrots seemed to grow themselves! This year, however… not so much.


Carrots are one of those crops that, in dry summers like this one, need a lot of love and care from before they’re even planted, all the way through to harvest. Under Michael’s tender care the carrots are flourishing, but there were many tricks to getting them this far!


A Review of the Intelligent Gardener, which explains how to grow nutrient dense food, rather than just how to grow food


The Intelligent Gardener, by Steve Solomon, is a fascinating and well-written, if potentially controversial, explanation of how to grow more nutrient-dense vegetables by balancing your soil.  If you've heard of William Albrecht and/or Michael Astera, but didn't feel comfortable wading through old classics, Solomon's book is the quick and easy way to access the same data.


Steve Solomon stumbled across the work of Albrecht after coming to similar conclusions on his own.  He and his family lived for nine years in Oregon, where they grew most of their own food on worn-out soil that was deficient in several major nutrients.  As a result, Solomon and his wife began to get sick, with lowered energy levels, loose teeth, and soft fingernails.  A six-month vacation in Fiji created drastic changes in their vitality, due (Solomon believes) to the local produce grown in soil fertilized by silt from volcanic rocks.  This experience led him to the work of Weston Price, who argued that we really need four (or more) times the recommended daily allowance of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins A, D, and E for best health.  To get those high levels of vitamins and minerals, Albrecht adds, you must garden in well-balanced soil full of minerals.


Great pictures of permaculture in action "Greening the Desert"


Our one month long internship at the Greening the Desert Project (the ‘Sequel site’) just ended. Ten students arriving from seven different countries were part of the first internship to take place at the project site in the Dead Sea Valley in Jordan. This will be a journey through pictures on what Geoff, Nadia, the interns and the WWOOFers were up to.


A lovely article on coppicing and the features of coppicing that created the abundance of the old forrests


The forest-dwelling cultures of northern Europe developed cultural methods of woodland management well suited to sustaining both permanent forest and a continuous flow of woodland products to support their societies.


A permanent system of forest cultivation called coppice-with-standards evolved in the British Isles over the past thousand years, which provided a large range of productsfrom construction timber to fencing and furniture parts to fruits, nuts, honey, and wild gamewhile maintaining continuous forest cover. "Coppice" is the practice of cutting trees to the ground purposely to stimulate resprouting. The word also refers to the regrowth itself. "Standards" are the trees selected (often planted) to grow into large timber.


The continuous cutting of small blocks of coppice creates a mosaic of environments that offers much more diverse habitat for game animals and birds than the native forest itself. These "fells," or management blocksusually no more than an acre in size also provide patches of higher light intensity within the forest, which in turn stimulate a tremendous profusion of flowering and fruiting shrubs and wildflowers.


How do you quantify the value of growing your own food - from a professional chef turned garden fanatic


“Is growing your own food worth it?” When I get asked that question, people are talking about cash-in-hand not harvest-in-hand. They aren’t saying, “Is it worth it to have the very freshest sugar snap peas?” or, “Is it worth it to see your child poke a bean seed in the ground?” because there is, clearly, only one answer to those questions.


No, when people say, “Is it worth it to grow your own vegetables,” they want to know if they can save money by gardening. It’s a tricky question to answer. When people ask me how much I save on my grocery budget through gardening, I usually defer answering.



I can say honestly we buy very few vegetables – onions, carrots and sweet potatoes are the only vegetables I regularly purchase – and we eat a lot of them. Berries too. What’s the cost of 8 or 10 pounds of organic strawberries at the market these days? That’s what we harvest every few days for a month in a good year. Raspberries? We pick ‘em by the bucket. Tarragon we hack off in bunches as big as your wrist. Figs, apples, herbs, greens – that high-ticket stuff sure seems to pay for itself. But does that make it worth it?


If I didn’t grow pounds of strawberries, would we eat pounds of strawberries? Probably, since I still supplement with purchased local berries for freezing in early summer. But I sure wouldn’t upend a pint of organic golden raspberries at $5 a pop into each of my kids’ pieholes every few days. If we bought those berries there would be some pathetic and unsuccessful attempt to, you know, savor every bite, which would really mean, treat every berry like you are swallowing a dime, because basically you are.




No one asks a golfer if it is “worth it” to invest in new clubs, or a runner if it is “worth it” to get $80 running shoes. Whether it’s worth it to grow your own food has to come down to, would you spend your time this way for free anyway, as with any other hobby? Gardening is consistently listed as in the top 5 or 10 most popular hobbies in the U.S., so plenty of people are happy to. And for us, oh yeah, it’s totally worth it.


Root Exudates - getting plants to do more work than just providing food for us


The more I learn about farming, the more I realize that plants are truly wondrous things.  It’s easy to think plants are boring and passive.  After all, they just sit there.

But here’s some news!  Plants are powerful chemists and very active participators in their environment.  On our farm, we now see plant properties and behaviors as a tool for rejuvenating our dead soil.  Here’s what we’ve learned so far.


A gorgeous Tiny House (600 sq ft) - just looks amazing!


We’re tickled to announce that the Milkwood Tiny House is featured in the latest edition of Green Lifestyle Magazine… get it while it’s hot!

As many of you know, the building of this Tiny House has been a looooong labor of love – but 5 years, some false starts, various small disasters, one massive learning curve, one child and one permaculture farm enterprise later, we are living in our small, natural, hand-made home. And now it’s in a magazine. Who would have thought.

A tool from engineering to help prioritise your permaculture design evolution 

The problem with a typical “to-do list” is the list itself!  How do you prioritize lists?  How do you ensure that you really should do the activities, or buy the items on the list?  Where do you begin working, and where do you allocate your valuable resources, whether that be time, money or labor?  As personal resources tighten, a methodical approach to prioritizing your lists becomes more important, and allocation strategies are likely to change.  For example, someone that works long hours is unlikely to have a surplus of time as a resource.  A single parent may not have extra time or a surplus of money.  For efficiency and practicality, priorities and a game plan must somehow be assigned.


Instead of developing endless lists that have no definite priorities, purpose, or urgencies associated with them, a better idea is to incorporate a strategy called Value Engineering.  Value Engineering (VE) is defined as “an organized effort directed at analyzing the function of goods and services for the purpose of achieving basic functions at the lowest overall cost, consistent with achieving essential characteristics”.   To simplify, you must think of your list items in terms of function, not simply items on a list. 

5 more ideas for sharing


Sharing of all types is integral to any transition initiative. While Transition Towns from to Brisbane and from Peterborough to Palo Alto each have their own unique approaches for sharing, specific innovations are not confined to any particular locale.  They can be replicated by any community on the planet. "It's not important that we have a project no one else has thought of," says Bart Anderson of Transition Palo Alto. "What's important is that we are encouraging a community which values sharing and contribution."


With this in mind, here are the five most shareable and replicable Transition Town-style activities to bring into your own neighborhood.