Thursday, February 23, 2012

Permaculture and our Hugelkultur Beds

Last Summer I was on vacation and came across a video of Geoff Lawton and Bill Mollison speaking about Permaculture and for the next 7 days (and many days since) I have watched, read, and absorbed everything I could about this topic. What is this Permaculture? It's a fairly complex idea that can be stated as simply creating the perfect situation for permanent agriculture, permanent culture. I have heard and read so many things now, but what it boils down to, in my understanding, is

Care of the planet...Care of people...Distribution of abundance.

I don't have a soapbox. I have a 50x100 ft lot in the middle of one of the biggest cities in New England, and I believe that we can supply at the very least all of the vegetables, fruits and nuts that our family needs. If they allowed chickens and goats...we would have all the protein and milk too.  I do think it is crucial that each of us thinks about where our food, clothing, etc. comes from and what it is costing other people, nature and our resources for us to have these things. I don't think it means giving up anything, but just being aware and grateful for the many gifts that this world gives us.

Two things that are always in the forefront of my mind: Plants want to grow. It's what they do! And all they need is the perfect environment to do so...and Nothing we do is failure, it's all a learning experiment and we just try until we find what works.

Our experiment this week:  Hugelkultur Beds. Sepp Holzer is one of the leaders in practicing this method. He has a few great books and some videos on-line.

It has been such a mild February that we were able to dig and prepare one of the beds this past weekend. We have a bunch of stumps from various removals of trees on our property....stumps and sticks not useful for the wood stove and that have already started to decompose. So we decided to use this resource to raise a few smaller beds.

The first step is to dig the up the sod and put it aside.

Our less than marvelous "lawn" becomes useful!

Once the sod was up, we replaced the bed frame.
The frame isn't necessary, it is just part of the design we have chosen.

After digging out some soil, we placed the rotting logs in the hole. 

Then we filled in and left the sides of the bed free from logs.

Next we turned the sod upside down over the logs.
This, along with the logs will retain the moisture during the hot months.
The goal of Hugelkultur is to not have to water these beds.

We soaked the entire bed with water.

Then we replaced the soil that we dug out of the hole.

Covered the bed with a thick layer of bark and mulch.

Watered it all down again and left it to do it's magic.

The purpose of the Hugelkultur bed, in my understanding is to hold the moisture in the logs and sod and help restore the soil to a natural state. It also takes many years to break down and gives these seemingly useless pieces of rotting wood and "yard waste" a purpose.

The plan is to plant shallow rooting plants - such as lettuce and beans in this and the other two beds - so  there is a food also grown here and the soil and mulch will be held in place as well as aiding in the growth and watering of the plants.

This is all an experiment, but the very next day I saw birds  in this bed picking out bugs and the mulch is holding the soil in place. It is creating/restoring an ecosystem.  It is restoring a natural process that we have changed by clearing out our land of what we consider waste, but what is actually the necessary ingredients for the next year of growth.

There are two more beds to be dug, and with the way this "Winter" is going - at least one should be finished this weekend.  

Plants want to grow - all we need to do is provide the environment for growth! Observing nature around us - I see that all that is needed is right before me.  

In my mind I see these ideas and imagine that all the world was once a garden of Eden. There was food everywhere and nothing was lacking. I believe if we all do just a little, we can reverse this culture of consumption and have a better quality and more sustainable choice of food, clothing and life. Just on a small scale, where we are, we can all make a difference for our own lives...even just a small change in a new direction.

Life, after all is all an experiment! Try something new :)

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