In a few weeks some friends will be getting married at the farm so I’m trying to spiff up the place for the occasion. The old tractor that I use for mowing is being a bit temperamental so I’ve used it and the trail mower and a regular four-cycle lawn mower to get the ‘lawn’ under control.
For heaven’s sake! Not only do I have to invest a silly amount of time in cutting all this grass, but I’m using loads of fossil fuel. How resilient is that?!
While I’m mowing, I’m pondering Ben Falk’s book, The Resilient Farm and Homestead. Falk writes about 10 years of developing a permaculture-based, low carbon, resilient farm in the hills of Vermont. In contrast to his densely productive land – developed over many years, to be sure – so much of the space in our farmyard is, at present, just a maintenance issue. Sure there are a few apple trees and a fern or two that could provide fiddleheads, but mostly it’s just, well, there – soaking up my time and energy and wasting precious ‘ancient sunlight‘.
This is a permaculture problem, isn’t it? I want to make this part of our farm not just lovely to view and pleasant to visit, but both productive and (relatively) low-maintenance. I wonder, could I establish ‘guilds’ under the apple trees so they are happier and healthier and I don’t have to mow under their low hanging branches? Are there other areas of the farmyard that could be, say, planted to herbs, berries or nut bushes or made into a useful outdoor social space? What might thrive under the black walnut trees? besides growing things, what other activities or ecosystem services could or should take place in this area?
The more I think about this the more it seems both that I need a deeper knowledge of permaculture myself and to find some knowledgeable permaculture collaborator(s). Who’s interested?