John Mosby on Permaculture

John Mosby of the Mountain Guerrilla blog has some thoughts on permaculture. He’s mentioned a few times in other articles, but here are two blog posts of his where he spends a bit more time expounding upon its goodness.

First is a “From the Library” post from July 16, 2019.

I get a lot of questions about why I’m so gung-ho about Permaculture, since to the newcomer, it appears to be a “society” dominated by social justice warrior liberals. While that’s not entirely inaccurate as an observation, it’s really a simplistic approach, and ignores the inherent value of the Permaculture concept to not only survival, but tribal culture.

My general, semi-humorous answer is, I’m gung-ho about Permaculture because I’m…lazy. The ideal behind permaculture, for those unfamiliar with it, is that it is “permanent agriculture.” To whit, it involves planning and planting, in such a way that requires minimal human interference, to maintain continued useful production for decades. This is contrary to standard agriculture that requires annual replanting, fertilization, and all the related tasks and inputs that go along. I like the idea of not having to work too much to produce food, because I’m…lazy.

Really though, if we’re being serious, from a preparedness perspective, this makes sense for resilience. In a post-grid environment, I suspect I’m going to be awful busy. If I can reduce my task load then, by planting a resilient, low-maintenance food production system—a food forest—now, that seems like a no-brainer to me. It’s more labor-intensive in the front end, especially if you do it like I do, without using power equipment any more than necessary, but the back end pay out is brilliant.

In an speech he did before he died, called “Liberation Permaculture” (If you do a Google Search, you can find audio files of the speech. It’s well worth listening to.), the late Toby Hemenway, author of my favorite Permaculture book to date, Gaia’s Garden, made the point that Permaculture is really the ultimate guerrilla/insurgent/survivalist form of food production, and it is incredibly anti-totalitarian…

And the second is Permaculture for Preparedness

Permaculture is famous for its ethics and principles. These are the basic guidelines along which permaculture was codified by Mollison and Holmgren. Sadly, many readers have limited themselves to second, third, and even fourth generation permaculture teachers and writers, and much has been lost in the translation, so to speak. People have learned a shallow understanding of the tactics and techniques of permaculture, without really understanding the strategy or operational capabilities.

An example of this in preparedness can be seen in a comment I received a few months ago, in which a reader lauded the discussion of alternative energy, food production, and other aspects of daily living in a post-industrial environment, but wanted me to focus on the “partisan” aspects, by which I assume they meant the cool-guy action figure gunfighter stuff. The problem with this is something that all too often, people who have never had to plan an operation, let alone write an OpOrder, overlook: you can only “operate” so long without support in the form of food, equipment, and shelter. There’s a reason, after all, that an SF ODA has engineers and medics, as well as weapons sergeants. As a mentor in SF once asked me, “What do you call an A-Team made up entirely of Bravos?” The answer? “An understrength Ranger Platoon.”

If we approach the discussion of Permaculture from the UW perspective, the focus on Permaculture begins to make considerable sense from both an operational and a strategic perspective. If we define our UW strategy as “We don’t have to win. We don’t even have to not lose. All we have to do is make sure our supporters and the unaligned populace both know that we’ll still be here when the enemy is gone,” and we define our strategic goal as “cultural and genetic survival” rather than “individual survival,” then the permaculture approach begins to make even more sense…

Related:

Eaton Rapids Joe: Permaculture and Cheap Dates

…Another factor that makes Permaculture valuable is that it recognizes that human’s do not have unlimited ability to manage. That limit is often the factor that bottlenecks productivity. Permaculture’s solution is to break the property into “zones” based on how often then need to be attended to and order them in rational ways.

For example, the path between your door and the mail box is walked at least once every day. It is the ideal place to plant everbearing raspberries and strawberries or edible flowers. Bringing in the mail would also mean bringing in a small basket of fruit for dessert or for your morning cereal.

Conversely, “the woods” might only get visited a few times a year for gathering nuts, hunting or cutting wood for fuel and construction…

John Mosby: Guerrilla Gardener

John Mosby of the Mountain Guerrilla blog has some thoughts up on getting your garden started – Guerrilla Gardener: Some Thoughts and Observations on Vegetable Food Production (Or, Gardening for Knuckle-Draggers).

One of the truisms of gardening is that “Your first year of gardening will result in abject failure.” There’s so much to learn, about the plants, about starting seeds, about your local soil conditions and what amendments are needed, about weather and climactic conditions, etc.

We had gardens when I was a kid. We successfully raised rocks, tomatoes, rocks, okra, rocks, and peas, as I recall. Of course, as any gardener will tell you, those are some of the simplest crops to raise in a kitchen garden. In fact, they’re so easy to grow, you could almost grow them without even planting them (especially the case with rocks…).

After leaving home for the Army, I had never had a garden. Hell, I’d never had a potted plant.

My wife had never, as far as I know, had a garden in her life.

So, when we decided to start raising most of our own food, to increase our sustainability, my first instinct was to raise small livestock: chickens, rabbits, etc. Of course, I’m a meat-eater, both literally and figuratively, so that makes sense. My wife on the other hand, likes her veggies, and we want the kids to eat well-balanced meals, so a garden, it was decided, was a necessity (And, to be clear, by “it was decided,” I mean, HH6 said, “We’re going to plant a garden this year!” and I responded with, “Roger that, boss!”)

So, as is my norm, when confronted with a new, unfamiliar—foreign—mission, I started doing my “Area Study” research. I dug out a couple dozen books on subsistence gardening, organic gardening, no-till gardening, and etc.

Let me set your mind at ease: there’s a metric …ton of material available out there on gardening, and it’s fair to say that any given reference book on the subject will contradict what every other available reference book will say.

In the end, between our research, and my wife and I bickering about differing visions for the farm’s production, here’s what we ended up trying…

Click here to read the entire article at the Mountain Guerrilla blog.

Sensible Survivalists: Basic Homesteading Skills My Grandmother Learned

The Sensible Survivalists have a nice article up titled The Basic Homesteading Skills My Grandmother Learned During WWII And Then Passed On To Me.  If you are getting ready to start your first garden or just beginning to move toward more self-sufficiency, it’s a good read to get you on your way.

I think the person who taught me the most, especially about homesteading, was my wonderful late grandmother.

She was a young woman in England during the Second World War. It was a difficult time for everyone, especially families. Food and resources were limited, and morale had to be kept up. She and her friends learned so many new skills in order to cope, and managed to make it through in one piece.

My grandmother passed on some of her homesteading skills to me, which has been invaluable for our own experience. Along with those skills, she taught me to be resourceful, resilient, imaginative and tough, and I’ll always be grateful to her for that.

In this post, I want to pass my grandmother’s wartime beginner homesteading skills on to you.

I think there’s something wonderful about taking the painful lessons that our parents and grandparents learnt during difficult times, and then learning and growing from them. I sometimes wish I could go back in time. I would go and speak to my grandmother, aged 17, trying to get a coop of stubborn chickens to lay eggs, and I would tell her that generations and decades into the future, her granddaughter would be applying those lessons to her own homesteading life. I think she’d be happy about that.

To put together this post, I’ve gone back through our family archives, my grandmother’s old notebooks and a few Internet sites to collects facts, pictures and lessons we can learn from today. I’ve found the old WWII posters that my grandmother will have seen at the time, and will share those with you…

TACDA: Survival Landscaping

The American Civil Defense Association has an article up on Survival Landscaping — how to use permaculture to provide food in the event of a long term disaster.

…According to Marjory Wildcraft of www.thegrownetwork.com, it is just too land intensive to realistically support a family on the hunter-gatherer system. She states: “Let’s start first off with the almost magical dream of the pure hunter/gatherer. I often hear this one from those concerned about a collapse of civilization. Just how much land does it take to support you without destroying all the wildlife and plant populations? How much area do you need in order to live sustainably as a hunter/gatherer? Since there are so few actual hunter/gathers left alive on the planet, and the few places where they do still exist tend to be jungles which look nothing like anything in North America, we will turn to anthropological data. The quick and easy answer is that traditional peoples used on average, about 10 square miles per person. Ten square miles is 6,400 acres – that is for one person.”

So what’s the answer? It just might include creating your very own self-sustaining food supply. Call it survival landscaping, permaculture, sustainable agriculture or whatever you like. The goal is to work with nature to create a truly sustainable system. A garden paradise that requires little or no human intervention once established. Due to the “natural looking” nature of this type of landscape most individuals would never suspect the amount of life-saving food growing in the tangle. Thus protecting your food supplies in plain sight.

The objective is to create an environment which requires very little human intervention once it is established.

The ideal permaculture design produces food year after year without weeding, pruning, tilling, fertilizing or using pesticides and herbicides. The system is perfectly balanced for the local climate. It is possible to accomplish permaculture landscape on a half-acre city lot as well as in a more spacious country environment. Permaculture takes many years to establish and become resilient to changing conditions.

Selection of plants is critical to take best advantage of local climate conditions, ensure natural balance and to extend the harvest throughout the entire growing season. There are a growing number of great reference books to guide you through the process. Many of the authors recommend a more “natural or wild looking” landscape which is perfect for a remote bug out location, but may not be welcomed in a gated community…

Click here to read the entire article at TACDA.org.

Related Resources:

The Prepared Homestead – Provides permaculture training, assessment and design.

Strategic Landscape Design – Provides land planning and permaculture consulting.

Zucchini, You Can Eat the Stems, Too.

Upper left: Peeled Zucchini stem on left, unpeeled on right. Lower left: Stems cut into penne shape. Upper right: Blanching cut stems in salt water. Lower right: Blanched stems glazed with butter, sherry, and stock. Center: Finished dish with sauce and parmesan.

You’ll find zucchini in a lot of local gardens. The squash is yummy and nutritious, but also grows quickly and is an early garden producer which usually produces its low calorie fruit in abundance. Zucchini recipes abound almost as much as the fruit itself.  But did you know that you can eat the stems, too? A relative recently passed along a recipe for Zucchini Stem “Penne” which we tried out today. The zucchini production is over for the year for us, but we still had several large zucchini vines sprawling in their corner of the garden. Our stems were old and large. The consistency of the resulting “penne” is a bit more like celery than pasta, but it makes for an interesting dish and is definitely good to know if you need to squeeze all the food and calories from your garden that you can. Our two- and four-year old kids enjoyed it. We’ll try it again next year with some younger stems and see if there is a tenderness difference.

Zucchini Penne Recipe