Planning to garden next spring?

Reader comments on this previous post on heating issues encourage me to post this interesting interview with Portland, ME permaculturalist Lisa Fernandes on gardening, resilience, and abundance. (Portland has the largest permacultural MeetUp in the world.) You might not agree with everything Fernandes says, but man, is her garden awesome.

(I’d post a link to “permaculture,” but permaculture is really to be found out there “in the dirt,” and in conversation. Permaculture is a little Occupation-y in that way.)

Fernandes: “Beauty is the opposite of poverty.” I guess this video does have implications for political economy….

And I love it when Fernandes uses “mycelial mat” as a metaphor for organizing her life. Garden geekery! Keen followers of the Occupations movement might think of this as a useful metaphor for horizontal scaling. So there’s another implication for political economy…

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Susan the other

    Thank you Lambert, that was really heart warming. I’m an old gardener from way back and I share her reverence for healthy soil and the innate pleasure of watching things thrive. If Lisa is a Pagan, I’m downright primordial. She is quite profound, giving voice to “abundance thinking.” I remember 5 Acres and Security, an old 70s book. She does it on 1/3 of an acre. I’m going to follow #permaculture now as we are looking to buy a smaller house. I told my husband I want a little house and a big garden.

    1. different clue

      There is also a book called Five Acres and Independence.

      Also, another book in that vein is called The Have More Plan, written in 1940. Here is a webcopy.

      That webcopy came from an amazing little site I just now stumbled across while hunting links about The Have More Plan. It is called Farming After Doomsday and here is the link.

      1. Kurt L.

        You should check out Steve Solomon’s web site, You will find dozens of scans of agricultural books from earlier eras. (Recall that Steve started Territorial Seeds in Oregon, and went on to write the bible of PNW gardening, “Gardening in the Pacific Northwest”). Steve Solomon’s latest book is “Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food In Hard Times,” and it’s a very useful book.

    2. eclair

      OMG, Susan. I remember reading this book back in the ’70’s too! Except that some kind of title inflation had occurred and I have been looking for 10 acres. All these years, the idea of building a garden, an orchard, a berry patch, bee hives, and keeping chickens and a goat, has been a little fantasy in the back of my mind. Who would have thought that my link to it would be naked capitalism?

  2. ambrit

    Good Sir;
    Thanks for this link. A litle daunting, but it shows us ‘weekend gardners’ just what a litle application can accomplish. Now to find the right piece of land.

  3. different clue

    One could certainly post links to information resources about permaculture. One can’t do permaculture without information about what it is and how/why to do it.

    Here is a meta-site with a short introduction to the permaculture concept and many hi-valu links.

    Here is a link to a site called Permaculture Reflections which offers uniquely informative and brain-expanding articles on various aspects of the subject.

    And since permaculture is not the only word in gardening, I hope that people will offer links/titles/resources/etc. about other forms and approaches of/to gardening.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks! However, I think that listening to the video (instead of, say, NPR) is an excellent way to get into the mindset. And yes, gardening is a very rich topic.

      1. different clue

        Well, its true that a newscast or a video can reveal the spirit and mindset of a thing in a way that written material just can’t.

        In that spirit, here is a video by Jeff Lawton about a Moroccan Food Forest . . . a legacy Permaculture feature still pursued in Morocco after all this time.

  4. Cal

    Google “grow food” if you want to start on your
    way to food security. Just Do It. You’ve got all winter
    to study and plan…unless you’re lucky enough to live in California…

    Fun fact, you can put -com into your searches to
    exclude all commercial sites.

    1. mk

      in california we have to consider the radiation accumulating in the jet stream from Fukushima, falling to earth on our gardens and farms. i suppose we’ll have to should we start growing indoors and filter air, water, soil, etc.?…

  5. spooz

    We bought a small farm a few years back with the intention of experimenting with sustainable living. We were lucky that the previous owner used methods she learned in “Gaia’s Garden” to set up the beds (lasagna style) and we are able to focus on what to grow instead of starting from scratch. Every year we have a new bumper crop. This year I canned and froze so much tomato sauce that I finally ended up throwing several bushels of tomatoes on my compost.

    Today is our turkey Tom’s last day of free ranging before he goes off the the Amish to be “processed”. Those fat white birds sure are friendly. Always following you around, peeking in windows, gobbling to get your attention. I’m still not sure I will be able to eat him after getting to know him. Next one will be a heritage bird, who I have heard are not as friendly.

    I am, unfortunately, still spending most of my time in the suburban home, living kind of a bipolar life while dh spends most of his time at the farm (4 hours away). Wish I could immerse myself in it fully, but I can’t stop watching the slo-mo train wreck. Also, I am thinking about getting involved with the local OWS, though according to conservative blogs dh reads I may be in danger of being brainwashed by commies like Bill Ayers.

    1. wunsacon

      >> Today is our turkey Tom’s last day of free ranging before he goes off the the Amish to be “processed”. Those fat white birds sure are friendly. Always following you around, peeking in windows, gobbling to get your attention.

      Oh, the poor bird! If only he had read Taleb, he would’ve known what was coming.

    2. bob

      This was the way of the world for a long time- during the winter move into more populated areas, come spring move out into the fields.

      Wild turkeys, in this area(upstate NY), have exploded in population over the past decade.

      Benjamin Franklin wanted to make it the national bird, instead of the eagle.

    1. different clue

      I hope more and more people will offer recommendations for links, book and periodical titles, etc.; about this subject. It will be one of several important personal and community survival-enhancement subjects going forward as we attempt to survive the unfolding Forced Yeltsinization of our societies and economies.

  6. K Ackermann

    I wrote a humorous but accurate essay on raising a few chickens in the backyard. if you think it fits somewhere, you are more than welcome to it.

  7. Bill

    On an odd blog I found latest post 11/20 about new food laws proposed in New Zeeland .

    I am a gardener , have had a plot to use in many years . Looking forward to gardening again this spring . There are many many tricks to increase yield per sg ft. Just one is plant double rows of beans ( wax or green beans ) . Or replanting over early spring crops like sugar peas , broccoli , cabbage et al. Mulching is a must for water conservation .

    But… when many become veggie sufficient , the large food companies i.e. CAG , MON will lobby for laws that will try and prevent it . Can’t sell of trade your veggies or seeds it cuts intoo big corp profits . Look at corn growers being sued by Monsanto .

    My wife is accumulating heirloom seeds .

    As a boy I collected the late season dry wax bean seeds from my dads garden , put in a cleaned peanut butter jar and planted next season . Worked great .
    Watch for US USDA and other Gov’t laws to restrict our gardening or stop it altogether.

  8. Rehabber

    The permaculture movement really runs afoul of that pinnacle case holding of FDR-era progressivism, Wickard v. Filburn.

    1. lambert strether

      Sounds like a law firm from Rocky & His Friends…

      That said, I just Wikipedia’ed the case, and two very sketchy thoughts: (1) If you get serious about growing food in your own garden, it becomes apparent after the first year that the problem is not production, but storage and distribution. I forget how big Fernandes’s garden is, but it’s not big. Mine’s even smaller, and I grow too much for me to eat. This is actually good, since it means we can feed others in need. (2) The production and distribution problem links off to larger, structural issues of food security and even food sovereignty, another movement up here in the great state of Maine. So we have begun with a few vegetables and ended at great questions of political economy.

      I thought twice about posting this, since it isn’t central to the mainstream of NC postings (although see above, eh?). But then I said What the heck! It’s fun, it’s interesting, and it raises big questions. Maybe it’s not appropriate here, but “bold, persistent experimentation”!

      NOTE I should say that I don’t really consider myself a member of a permaculture “movement.” I love the metaphors, and I love the techniques — they’re are stone gardeners, all about beauty AND yield — but “take what you like and leave the rest” for me on some of the more esoteric ideas, especially spiritual practices.

      1. Rehabber

        I’m glad you posted it. I think discussion of sustainability and self-reliance are as much a part of a struggling cultural synthesis as battling banksters. To quote Wendell Berry:

        “In the loss of skill, we lose stewardship; in losing stewardship we lose fellowship; we become outcasts from the great neighborhood of Creation. It is possible – as our experience in this good land shows – to exile ourselves from Creation, and to ally ourselves with the principle of destruction – which is, ultimately, the principle of nonentity. It is to be willing in general for being to not-be. And once we have allied ourselves with that principle, we are foolish to think that we can control the results.”

      2. spooz

        This is one area where states rights should be put above federal rights. If a state chooses to let its citizens establish local markets it should not be the federal government’s rights to have anything at all to say about it.

        I suppose that’s why I call myself a libertarian socialist. I see lots of gray that needs to be treated on a case by case basis. One size does not fit all.

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