Article — March 4, 2017 — home, language, organization, lucidity
This is an attempt at describing how I want to garden, or farm, or do forestry, or practice permaculture.As a disclaimer: I’m not even an amateur yet. My intent is to share my vision, just the way it is, knowing it will change as I gain experience. I don’t want to prescribe anything to anyone else, at this stage.
None of the terms I know sound right to me, so, for previously mentioned etymological reasons, I’ll use “cultivate” as a code word.
Here’s how I want to cultivate:
It all starts at the center. (source) Step one is to establish the center of cultivation. This is a precise point on the surface of the Earth, around which all the cultivation will occur.
It’s good if the center is at the highest point in the landscape you intend to cultivate. Other than that, no physical qualities are important.
Crucially important, though, is the attitude of the cultivators. They need to be very clear about what they’re committing to. For that reason, establishing the center requires a ceremony, where each cultivator names where they stand in at least these two aspects of commitment: duration and intensity.
Most of my commitment is to another kind of cultivation. (source) For example, the duration of my commitment might be “one year”, and the intensity “ten days per month, four hours per day”.
Cultivation at its best is a form of karma yoga: the cultivators do not seek the fruits of cultivation, only the cultivation itself. The ceremony should include a vow to reflect this.
Some kind of stable object should be put at the center, like a large stone, so that it’s visible to the naked eye. Then, cultivation can start.
Step two is to establish the earthwork ring.
The area of cultivation consists of concentric rings, of varying width. Earthwork takes place primarily in the outermost ring, which is the only ring, at the beginning.
The idea of earthwork is to give the land a better“Better”, in the context of cultivation, always means better for the land. That doesn’t exclude taking human needs into consideration; rather, it means taking the needs of all the beings living on the land into consideration. shape. That means, mainly, creating landforms that hold rainwater well, like swales.
Creating homes for animals is also part of earthwork. Dry stone walls provide homes for smaller ones, in the nooks and crannies between the stones. Caves might be made for bigger ones, or even whole buildings.
Space for human beings is included here, on the same basis as space for everyone else. It’s important to make wise choices about the intended human population density.I tend to name 50 per hectare as my goal. Most people find this alarmingly high. Bear in mind: a cultivated forest is comparable to a city.
We work around healthy trees, but chop down dead or dying ones. (source) Earthwork is high-impact, for better or worse. Only the sturdiest vegetation in an earthwork ring is likely to survive. That means big trees, mainly, which should strongly inform the earthwork itself.
If it doesn’t benefit the big old ones, something is wrong with the work.
Humans don’t do much of it, but most of the work is done there. (source) Step three is to take all the organic material uprooted from the earthwork, and use it to establish the compost ring.
The idea here is to build soil. The area within the compost ring should be entirely covered with deep, rich soil.
The compost itself will barely move: it might be turned or spread, in the process of becoming soil, but, essentially, it stays where it is.
The rate at which the compost becomes soil determines the rate at which the outer rings (earthwork and compost) advance, and the inner rings emerge.
Step four , which is the last step, is to introduce plants and animals to the environment left behind by the advancing outer rings. They might be rescued from the earthwork ring, or invited in from farther away.
This creates the inner rings, which don’t have or need names. They emerge without conscious intention.
Succession never ends. The goal isn’t to reach a stable point, but rather to accelerate the cycles of evolution. (source) The role of humans here is to consciously observe and participate in the ecological succession, such that the emerging ecosystem gains an ever greater capacity for photosynthesis, alongside whatever other values are being pursued.
You might notice this is all a bit abstract. I can name two reasons for this.
One is, simply, that I lack experience.This will change, in the coming year. What I imagine is still pretty abstract, even to me. I’m writing it down to make it a bit more concrete, and so that I have a base to talk about it with people.
Possibly a zero-step process. (source) Another, though, is that cultivation is actually a one-step process. I was only able to break it into four steps by looking at the very beginning, where uncultivated land becomes cultivated, and identifying the broad categories of activity that take place in the different rings.
In reality, you just go out and cultivate.