On the way to kickstarting an industry of apples in the Southeast I have had to consider what an indigenous apple, actually looks like. They say you have to have some idea about where you’re going before you step off so I’ve certainly considered this a bit. I know one thing about it.
No, not the difficulty of the project of building tasty apples from seed, but the actual apple itself has to be tough. It may come to surprise some, but your fruit trees have to stand outside in nice weather, and bad. Just remember this:
You go inside when it rains, its cold, or it there is a hurricane. Fruits must live outside.
This is supremely why I will not use dwarf rootstocks, ever. Nor will I advocate for their use. Isn’t this behavior dangerously close to stealing from future generations? Regardless, plants have to deal with reality, while we deal with abstract ideas, like spreadsheets.
For an actually sustainable and indigenous food system to work life forms must be more adapted to actual earth conditions, than ones modeled on excel. The alternative is a continued race to the bottom, globally.
Today, the Apple’s is Ripe
There has never been a better time for a return of apples growing in the South. There is quite a lot of land throughout the southeast that could immediately be put into apple production today. If people planted apples with similar enthusiasm as they do with crape myrtles the changes in quality of life could be measured as extreme. Yes there are other fruits I am interested in working with on a large scale, but one at a time. (cough: chestnuts, mulberries, honey locusts, others…).
But why spend anytime on the apple?
While others may be interested in figs, apples as a species are just impressive. They have an established record across the genome of having ripe fruit from June through December. Heck, it seems they don’t even seem to mind heat. The real cherry on top is that I believe due to the genetic variability that is often cited as a reason NOT to plant from seed, is actually a strength that gives seedlings the power to out surpasses any use of clonal varieties. Although, we’ll let future tell us which produces with less inputs.
Let’s not forget what the apple can do. The apple can be used as alcohol, vinegar, all the way up to great tasting fruit. Fresh localapples, at any time of the year, is THE 21st century grocery food. I have talked to enough people by now to stake my claim on two facts.
1. Local Fruit is Going to Dominate the Future 2. People Like Apples
Does anybody still believe that humans of tomorrow or going to eat fruit that is half ripened, shipped thousands of miles away, covered in chemicals and has been sitting for a year? Seems reasonable enough to believe that the internet has popped the lid off of that genie.
The worst part about this “extreme” statement is even if you get industrial products fresh they’re still, fruit half ripened, covered in chemicals, and come from thousands of miles away.
I’ll pass for now, and keep working on the apple.
Back to it.
I’m convinced we live in linear time, but reality is probably moving in exponential time.
Life moves excruciatingly fast and if you step out of the moment and see what has come before you may just find things a bit startling.
Yesterday we met neighbors for the first time who recently put up a new house in the neighborhood. The couple, in their sixties, had been living in this area their entire life. They told many stories about the massive changes that have occurred during their lifetime, many of which have been in recent memory.
“This whole area used to be pasture land not that long ago.”
Now, the areas of Southeast Louisiana are almost completely dominated by forests and it wasn’t that long ago that these forests came into being. In fact, where my homestead sits, was formally pasture for a farm. It has since been allowed to go into poorly grown, low quality timber with an understory of invasive brush. The same story can be said about the majority of the Parish and the West Florida Parishes on the Gulf Coast. What remains of the industrial harvests, are unproductive and whimpy pines, china originated “invasive” plants, and a population that doesn’t seem to know one thing or another about what is, was, or should be ecologically.
What I discovered that was a bit more shocking than this area was once a different ecosystem, but that this transition didn’t happen long ago. It seemed to have happened right in front of everyone’s eyes, little by little, over the past few decades.
“Now people are now building 300 to $500,000 houses in town. They’re building the area up into some sort of ritzy place.”
Since Katrina the Northshore has had explosive growth which does not seem to end. The traffic has gotten noticeably worse just within the last few years that I have lived here. Having formerly lived in the DC area I know traffic, and at times this “small town” has some serious traffic.
But that is apparently how it goes. The speed of change is happening so greatly that we cannot detect it today, or in our normal lives. Most of us can only look back in comparison and wonder how things could change this fast.
Having children makes this even more obvious since you can see rapid development in real time; it can be dizzying. The mistake is thinking that this level of rapid development is only relegated to children. Each of us are experiencing and adapting in our own ways to these speedy changes, however, it seems by the time that you become older you may find yourself a dinosaur completely out of place.
All the more reason to invest in a more prosperous future. This is why I plant fruit.
Disclaimer: Scientific papers can, at times, be exceptionally hard work decoding their practical value. That is why I take notes on papers for future reviewing and understanding without having to return to the original texts. These notes are provided purely as a service to others and of my community while I do studying myself. The following notes may appear to be raw (because they are), and there is no expressed warranty regarding them. Following the notes are personal thoughts at the time of the reading, provided first as a service to myself, then also as a service to others. These too may appear to be raw and unpolished (because they are).
How young trees cope with removal of whole or parts of shoots: An analysis of local and distant responses to pruning in 1-year-old apple (Malus ×domestica; Rosaceae) trees
Two types of prunings conducted on 1 year old apple trees that were then examined after 2-3 years of growth.
Each tree started as a multi-limbed tree, although no limbs had side branching
5 Tree Tests Performed. All tests used the same pruning technique in summer as they did in the following winter.
Control – No pruning at all.
After first pruning:
Side branching on limbs
After second pruning:
Some longer limbs, not as much.
Much More side branching
Occasional new “limb” produced on 1st limbs.
Heading Cut performed half way down tree
After first pruning:
The cut area produced NEW buds and grew a multi-trunked top with one ever so slightly taller
NO side branching on limbs
After second pruning
Main limbs grew longer than control
Heading Cuts performed half way (or more) down side shoots
After first pruning:
Buds near cuts grew longer in a slightly different direction
Not as long as the control or the single heading cut.
After second pruning:
Main limbs grew longer than control
Thinning Cut performed on 50% of all lateral shoots (branches)
After first pruning:
Where unpruned limbs existed, they grew longer.
Pruned areas grew back, only slightly.
NO side branching on limbs
After Second Pruning
More growth and side branching occuring on now larger limbs
Thinning Cut performed on 100% of all lateral shoots
After first pruning:
Grew back in the pruned locations but shorter in length.
NO side branching on limbs.
After second pruning
Cut growth returned by about 3/4
Earlier summer pruning likely maintains root and top growth balance, vs pruning at the end of summer.
Was shown that there was no invigorating effects seen a second year, unlike the trials conducted here. (Via winter pruning)
Competition may have been occurring between vegetative and flowering components. Floral differentiation was not occuring in autumn as was expected. Instead vegetative growth was occurring.
When thinning cuts were performed the main trunk remained a smaller diameter leading them to believe it was from new shoot formation draining resources.
Branches are not independent entities from the overall tree as seen from the growth effects stimulated by pruning far from where it occurred.
Possible that thinning cuts delay developmental processes, due to plant focusing on replenishing limbs.
Does summer prunings that are composted in place, or go through the gut of an animal produce an ecology that keeps plant decay tidy and clean, possibly taking residence where “diseases” might otherwise?
Winter pruning likely removes minimal if any life force from the tree as it is being stored in the roots. When the tree is bursting forth with new growth its sucking in the roots’ energy and sending it out the top.
Thinning cuts seem to remove the most amount of will from the plant to branch and fruit.
Heading cuts on the overall tree do not seem to impact negatively the lower branches, only forcing the creation of new shoots in the center competing for the top.
This may validate Dave Wilson’s techniques of backyard fruit culture, that really keeping the top canopy down in summer will keep a tree in check, but still allowing it to develop.
Thinning cuts appear to actually be effective at thinning out inner branches, but very ineffective for keeping height in check.
Heading cuts appear to be effective at diffusing energy from a single stem into multiple. At the right times (early summer and later summer) this likely slows down the race for size of the plant.
Note: Heading cuts are specifically cuts where any specific length of a plant is cut by at least half. The cut, really heads it back.
This diffusion of energy makes the plant more bush like.
What was Captain Davis thinking when he carried apple seeds across the south to Mississippi? During a long journey along the Piedmont from Greensboro, North Carolina to Kosciusko, Mississippi he certainly must have considered what was in his hands. It must have been an adequate enough fruit to peak his interest. Our ancestors must have had a longer view on the world if they were willing to hold onto seeds over a great journey, and then plant them one day with no guarantee of great returns.
“These seeds, will produce delicious fruit, to be savored for generations.” he might have said. Or maybe, he was just thinking “man this fruit is amazing, I’m keeping these seeds”. The stories of history rarely contain such a context. Since his discharge from the confederate army on April 26th, 1865 generations have come and gone, and yet his legacy still remains starting from the simple act of saving seeds, carrying them and putting trust in them to grow.
Did he know after his passing, ancestors would carry on his name by passing sprouts coming from roots? Or maybe that people would know his name starting from underground trading rings? It is not likely, but yet this is where the story exists today.
Nearly 200 years in the future in 2016 dozens of new descendants of the work of Captain Davis will begin their leg of the journey. Seeds from the Captain Davis apple, born in Mississippi are being sown for future generations. Will these seeds produce a delicious fresh eating apple? How about an apple for juicing and pressing into cider? The seemingly randomness of apple seeds says we may get just about anything we can imagine.
Come summer 2017 these trees will emerge and begin to grow into the fruit trees of the future. These seedlings will turn into juvenile trees across the southeast starting their journey, coming from a great legacy. So, the story of Captain Davis will live on.
In order to grow food using natural processes, it requires us to shake dogmatically held views and letting things progress as they will. Through the power of observation we derive our strategies and our philosophies.
Natural Energy Forces Are Quite Strong
If you have ever stood out in the sun in the middle of summer in the southeast for any length of time you begin to gain an appreciation of just how strong the natural energy forces are. We are not even talking about the occasional chaotic storm (hurricanes or tornadoes), just a regular clear and sunny day. Through observing, studying, and more observing of how energies flow we begin to get a deeper appreciation of what is actually at work.
Comfort Has Changed Our Ability to See
The conditions that plants must endure are completely lost by the majority of humans. Modern humans live in bubbles of shelter that remove uncomfortable conditions, conditioning us to ignore what makes that possible. This ignorance is important because until we take these things into account, we won’t take real world conditions seriously enough to realize that natural energy forces can be excessive. Nature operates in this environment 24/7 and has adapted to these conditions since the beginning of time. Seeing where and how plants germinate makes this clear.
Everything Coevolved With Something.
The complex inner-workings of nature should make us consider that everything coevolved together. Apple trees co-evolved with forest edges and forest growth as you can see the germination of apples occur along shelter edges. Observation makes this clear.
Roadsides Are Our Teachers
When we actually adopt the view that growing using nature is possible given that nature is all around us, we can actually begin to see and understand where living things should be placed.
When you go out for a drive, make sure to pay attention to the most unkempt of roadsides. Every inch where the natural environment is left to its own devices will give clues about how nature continues to thrive and grow. It is difficult to refrain from giving reasons about “why” until much observation has been done. This is what permaculture educator Geoff Lawton must mean when he talks about looking as through you are through the eyes of a child.
What you are seeing at this moment is the progression of many past events culminating into what is before you.
Trust Your Eyes and Experience Over Books
Nature takes shapes and forms that will give you ideas of how things actually work, not just written about in books. Patterns begin to emerge that you never considered before, and even if you have come across concepts such as “forest layers” the actual reality of them will start to put everything into context.
When some people in “industry” describe that “weeds” compete with trees, it is clear they are no longer looking at things from the eyes of nature, but their own frail artificial systems. Nature is far, far more robust than that.
Time Between Disturbances Is Actually Visible
One area that I am constantly comparing is the length of time (period) of disturbances of areas and watching what comes up. What is actually dominating (growing well) in those situations? Depending on the time between mowings/clearings an area can really take different shapes. It seems that the “invasive” plants that people focus on so much, are commonly found in the most frequently disturbed sites, while areas where disturbance happens over longer stretches, the more “native” plants seem to grow.
Let’s Use Our Senses a Bit More
Even though I have been trained in the sciences and think with an engineering mind, I do not let these things cloud my intuitions. We clearly have, and have had in the past, the ability to see and observe what is going on nature and use it to our advantages, long before complex abstract concepts came around. The advantage of using intuitions, especially in a try and fail scenario, is we won’t be trapped into a distinct box that our concepts will put us in.
As part of self improvement, I realize that I bottle some things up more than I should. Maybe what it is, is I feel that I need to peruse around a topic and building my understanding long enough of the actual context to REALLY say something. Well here it goes: Microgreens are NOT sustainable or regenerative. They are just wasteful.
This isn’t even a hard statement to make, just a basic analysis.
If I were to ask you “what do you think of first when you think of microgreens?” Would it be a healthy sustainable food source? How about a green food? It is hard to tell because the businesses actually engaged in producing and pushing this product always uses the word sustainable. Seniors Join Local Sustainable Movement by Operating Hydroponic Rooftop Garden for Senior Living Community This link has every amount of fluff one can imagine, note the company also sells microgreens among the many other energy to output poor products.
In reality we should be thinking more about it like an oil refinery, since everything about its production uses petroleum and other long term resources that are mined in order to produce the most temporary and frail garnishes in existence. I’m not railing against necessarily the production, just the bait and switch of calling it sustainable, green, or regenerative.
There is no debate on this. I personally will not support any movement of organized people who support the statement that microgreens are either sustainable or helping the environment. The microgreens business is sold to eager buyers (those who are thinking of making and running a business to customers, usually in microgreens called crushing it or hustling), that this business is sustainable and “green”. That’s hustling alright.
I have even seen people touting it as a regenerative act. Now that crosses the line. Nothing about microgreens, especially from anybody I have ever heard producing it, is regenerative. It neither improves earth’s mineral cycling, or captures the sun, in fact that has been removed from the equation. The production of microgreens requires significant seed resource input, artificial lighting for the entire process, disposable growing mediums, and plastic trays.
Quite simply, it is an actual case of 1984 double-speak to call this regenerative. Please stop.
While I cannot speak for all reasoning for those who are selling this idea, but they must be either unaware of the amount used or the rarity of the resources needed to produce this product or maybe it is that they are ignoring it just to make a buck? I think for most of it is a bit of both.
When you read and hear people advertise that you can reap in thousands upon thousands of dollars producing and selling microgreens, its obvious why one would want to look into it. (Isn’t that always also the classic ploy by unsustainable ventures? Just pointing it out.) Not doubting the money making ability, just the use of the word sustainable, green or regenerative.
If you buy or support the microgreens industry (the hustle), the future may be looking back at you. Its not that growing microgreens is inherently bad, its just the way it actually is grown, is. The next tree I plant, I’ll be thinking about you.
We can’t have finger pointing without a solution. A similar product with less wastes would be sprouts for example. Still heavy seed usage but can be grown in the same or with less waste materials easily and still give good mineral impact.
Even better, the real solution, is to get engaged with your food system by learning about and using the natural processes and systems for food production for yourself and others. We should ALL be growing our own green veggies. I have been posting videos regularly of what we do here at our home on this exact subject.
My Dead Simple Solution
Here is my dead simple solution. Make many rows in the ground with your finger starting in September and October. Locate these rows 6 inches apart, 1/4 to a 1/2 inch deep (doesn’t matter so don’t worry). Sprinkle plenty of kale, arugala, mustards, turnips, or radish seed into the rows. Cover it up. Water about once a week until winter rains begin, then stop doing it all together.
Let’s face it, our fruit trees are weak. The ones we choose, how we cultivate them, and our entire relationship with them encourages poor results. Why do you think spraying is a “must” now? We willed that into existence.
Our short term focus drives us rather than our long term one which is odd considering the long term benefits are actually the reason for trees themselves. Instead of planting trees that will fruit for 100+ years, we are planting ones that might last 10 or 15 years on dwarf rootstocks (laughingly called disease resistant) followed by creating a “disease” that prevents the replanting of those trees (called replant “disease”). This trading of long term stability for short term gain, is quite clearly a recipe for complete disaster.
As a potential patch to this problem of non-evolution, perhaps we should start taking the place of weeds with our fruit trees. Nature gets better and stronger by being put to the test, so naturally we should do the same with our trees.
Since “weeds” germinate when there is bare soil present, why don’t we go ahead and throw some tree seeds in there while we are at it. Not because we are interested in the fruit (that comes later), but because something was going to grow there anyways, might as well be one that we think we like. Cut those fruit tree weeds in winter if their looks are unpleasant and in a few years time, perhaps you will have a best tasting local fruit variety.
You can only win nature games with nature tactics.
One hour a day may seem like a big commitment but it is really not. Habit formation is something that is pretty well documented and isn’t a surprise to anybody. Start doing something every day for 45-60 days and it will no longer feel painful, it will feel comfortable.
Within 2 months you will have momentum on your side. I am now seeing that may be all we need to grow healthy food for our families.
What One Hour a Day To Grow Did For Me
I now have more food planted.
More food germinated.
More food growing.
And more food harvested, AND documented.
There Are No Secrets
It wasn’t from better seed, more knowledge, growing in A vs B container, it was just basic time focused.
What if we apply that to other growing efforts? That is just vegetables which require more work for what they return. But what about planting trees? Or rather harvesting from?
It isn’t the one hour that you give, but the experience that you gain. If you will challenge yourself, I recommend doing it during the first daylight hours. It will be hard to separate you from the real world to go into the manufactured one.
Social media can be a useful tool to pick your head up to the larger issues going on. If you have it tuned well you can see ample evidence of people who are getting things done and growing healthy food, seemingly easily. These can be great inspirations both big and small.
But online inspiration does not grow your family food or give you the satisfying taste of actually doing something important. It may even deepen an emptiness that can only be cured, by doing.
It really doesn’t matter where you live as everyone has their challenges. Get up, get out, and plant something worth your time and attention. One need not become a farmer with a bit of finesse and thought. A little focus here and timed “elbow grease” there will yield what you need.
The word Permaculture probably comes out of my mouth at least once a day. It has been this way for a good number of years now, but as of late it has started coming back a bit more into my vocabulary. As I have been modeling a number of businesses to determine where I can provide the biggest impact and value, Permaculture is always in the theme.
How it all Started
While this isn’t really a history lesson in Permaculture, a bit of background is in order. Permaculture is an ethics based design science that creates integrated whole systems for human lives on the earth. After having seen a number of different disciplines in my days, it is clear that permaculture really encompasses a number of different disciplines from biology, architecture to engineering. Permaculture was first coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison in Australia with his research assistant David Holmgren. Since then permaculture has passed from person to person via teachers who have received a Permaculture Design Certificate, certified from the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia.
Idea Adoption Curve
In order to understand where Permaculture is at, we really must talk about the Idea Adoption Curve also known as the Diffusion of Innovations. Boiled down, it is the rate at which an idea is adopted by a culture. First starting with the innovators who create the original idea, it is picked up by early adopters. These early adopters are individuals who see value in the idea long before anybody else by being the first consumers. In order to get to where the majority of people accept an idea, early adopters need to jump on board so the majority doesn’t look so “crazy” when they have finally adopted what others in the group already have.
Permaculture Early Adopters
Permaculture has already long had its early adopters. As old as permaculture is (going on 40 years old), those who were instrumental in working out kinks and implementing the ideas have been touting permaculture for decades. There have been many projects over the years, a few of which gained some notoriety such as the Greening the Desert series, and the Loess Plateau project in China. (Not necessarily Permaculture but using the principles of ecological restoration).
The internet has really kicked permaculture into gear, coming from word of mouth, to videos of actual sites that are changing paradigms everywhere.
Today: Early Majority
Having been around this movement going on 5 years now, it is very clear that Permaculture is into the early majority stage. By no means would I ever consider myself an early adopter, so much so that growing anything or getting involved with natural systems could not have been further from what I thought I would be getting into as I grew older. As you grow older and get exposed to different things, in my case war torn countries and real world poverty, you start to see larger patterns in life, driving me towards healthy productive systems.
In the last 5 years there have been many developments in Permaculture for me personally and a number of people. Everything from gaining its own conference, meetup groups, online design courses, and a complete explosion of online videos. It is kind of incredible seeing how quickly this movement is moving, which indicates to me that it is out of the early adoption phase and well on into early majority adoption.
In fact, looking at the most famous farmers in the world, the Salatins starts to show this. We had an event with Daniel Salatin of Polyface Farms back in December, and the number of “nods” he gave to permaculture was quite noteworthy. You can find a number of videos with ol’ pappy Joel Salatin speaking about permaculture at length as it is something that he has had to face with his growing crowds, and cannot pay homage to the freight train of permaculture. Can’t really get away from it, it would seem.
Permaculture in Southeastern Louisiana
Having moved to southeast Louisiana near Covington we very quickly started meeting people who had heard of permaculture. Just about any young farmer we came across at the farmers market had heard of permaculture on some level. Whether or not they practiced permaculture design is another story, but at least knowing that it exists is interesting. A few years later have passed now and I have met quite a number of people and know of many more who are interested in permaculture in the area, and even a few permaculture meetup groups.
The first day we started bringing trees to the farmers market we met a lady who not only was interested in permaculture, but wanted to start a local meetup group here on the Northshore. And thus, the two of us created the North Shore Permaculture Meetup Group. The group is small at the moment but all things start small and with a bit of effort grow much larger.
My wife stated recently even that more people have heard of Permaculture than southern apple tree. Such a very sad situation for southern cultivation that I am doing my part in turning around.
Permaculture even has its own large conferences now! Permaculture Voices is a conference in California that has occurred for the last 3 years in a row, bringing out big names from all over the world of permaculture and ecological restoration, from Paul Staments and Joel Salatin to survivalists like Jack Spirko. I attended the second year’s conference and man was it a great event packed with incredibly intelligent people who are dedicated towards building their own lives using permaculture ethics. I met a vast array of permaculturists from across the country and realized, “hey there is something big going on here….”
What a Permaculture Majority Will Look Like
So having said all this, what is more interesting is the question of what will it look like in a few short years time, when permaculture begins to roll out of early majority and into late majority status. What exactly will it look like? Here are some hypotheses based on how I see things continually moving forward.
More individuals, businesses, and even governments looking at improving natural systems
Development of larger and more recognized systems of permanent edible ecology
Even more out of the box thinking and design work
More hatred from the early adopters who are no longer personally served by the movement.
I feel I need to comment on the last bullet. It turns out that as ideas become more adopted, those who originally adopted them (the early adopters) start to resent what has happened to the movement. It seems to be just the way it is regardless of the idea being adopted. This can be seen in the souring of former apple fan boys who have effectively died with their leader. Recently I noticed people commenting on facebook about the marketing going on by well known permaculturists and permaculture advocates. On and on, the whining and complaints went about how things used to be purely word of mouth and other such irrelevant information. This kind of behavior is very shrug worthy and shouldn’t get anybody too bothered. In reality, the more people that begin to take on permaculture and accept the ideas of it, the better off we will be and those who were only into it because it was “hip and cool” will move onto being more “hip and cool” about something else. A population that is more attuned to fixing many of the resource issues we have is certainly ok by me.
After all it is quite clear we have drained much of the natural resources throughout the United States and are only keeping our food systems afloat via mined inputs. Not exactly sustainable, but a statement of the times of a weak determination to do the hard and right things. Time for some changes…
Conclusion: What about the Laggards
The laggards are the remaining individuals who are the most stubborn. These tend to be the older parts of the population who are stuck in their ways believing that their way is right. The older I get, the more that I see that this becomes the case, regardless of reasoning or generation. What exactly will it look like if permaculture continues on reaching eventually the oldest and most stubborn?
At first thought it is likely that the entire food system will have to look different. For the majority of individuals to know and use the word permaculture would mean that many people have consciously started to look into alternative food and resource systems. The profitability of massive agricultural companies, will be long gone if such a large number of people are on their way towards something better.
For my family personally, the amount of food we consume that comes from conventional agricultural systems is down to very very few things. The worst we may eat is rice from time to time that is produced here in Louisiana. In general if it isn’t something we produce, we can buy at the farmers market, we don’t really eat it. The exception to that is cheese because apparently the “dairy state” of Louisiana hasn’t gotten on board with making good cheese. One day….. one day.
At this point, I honestly think that the growth in permaculture has approached escape velocity.