I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. ~Thomas
Trial and error, scientific discovery, educated guesses; reading books, essays, blogs; theory after theory; and finally, sit back, relax and simply observe!
Last year’s intense heat and drought caused a fairly epic fail on our little fledgling farm. Rather than quit, we decided that Mother Nature had issued us a challenge. Ultimately she is in charge, not us. After reading everything I could get my hands on throughout summer and fall, I finally found something that make sense to me. It’s being called a ‘Food Forest’. Here is a great explanation of it, so I won’t repeat.
Just like all the other theories and models out there, this is man-made. The difference though is we’re observing how Mother Nature does it and mimicking her. Jason and I have watched Mother Nature reclaiming her land around us over the last 2 years that we’ve lived here. We’ve taken several walks lately in the old growth forest just a few miles away from home. Observing, . . . even in winter you can see the pattern. No one ‘helps’ Mother Nature with this forest/meadow combination. There are tall, straight trees in heavily forested areas–nothing much grows at ground level; a few bushes, some shade loving herbaceous plants. Then there are areas where the taller trees are fewer; a few shorter trees are able to survive and sunlight reaches the ground; more bushes and brambles, and herbaceous plants. Then there are the meadow areas–wide, open spaces with a few baby trees scattered here and there, but alive with grasses, and sun-loving herbaceous plants. Lastly the pond areas, where she adds bog and water plants into the mix.
So, . . . a food forest mimics this system, but we plant things with a definite use in mind. To maximize our land, any additions to the farm must provide food, fiber, fuel or medicine for the farm.
Now we are in the planning stages, trying to figure out what comes first. Honestly I was having coffee on a Sunday morning at Panera and these ideas blossomed onto a couple of napkins! I’m going to try to walk you along with us as we muddle through this one step at a time–and surely one mistake at a time too! We’ve decided to begin with the ‘bones’–the pond, the larger trees and a much-needed wind break. We will be auditioning both flora and fauna for inclusion in our little system and I’ll try to put the auditions here on the blog page so you can follow along.
We will be building ‘guilds’ which consist of 1. canopy (tall trees; nuts, fruits, windbreaks), 2. understory trees (small and dwarf fruiting trees), 3. shrubs and bushes (mostly berries and medicinal plants), 4. herbaceous growth (herbs, veggies, annual and perennial flowers and fruits), 5. ground covers, 6. roots (veggies and herbs), and 7. vines. Each guild will consist of cast members who complement one another in some way; so that each guild will be different just like in our old growth forest.
Alright? So let the auditions begin! Feel free to leave cast member suggestions in the comments and we’ll explore them together.
Our first cast member auditions will be for the role of the ‘pond’, and will begin next week!