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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Below standard

Seems my 'living in a forest-garden' piece was not of interest to the Standard authors, either that or it went missing in the ether. No matter, here's what I wrote. Probably too flippant.Or maybe I'm too impatient. I can be impatient.

Dave Kennedy’s very good post on the politics of food in Southland provoked a stream of largely supportive comments and a chance for me to give an insider’s view of a particular brand of food production; forest gardening and an opportunity to show that Southland isn’t some insignificant southern promontory populated by thick-pelted sea mammals stretched out on cold, sub-Antarctic rocks under a pale sun, yearning en masse to relocate to Auckland, Centre of the Known Universe. Oh no, the seals and we Southlanders do not! I’m not wanting to start a regional flame-war here; I’m certain there will be regions as just as delightful as Southland but this is the soil and climate I know best and it suits forest gardening down to the ground. Our garden, situated on a gentle northerly slope formed of deep loamy soil and watered with clean rain straight from the southern ocean, is an old food-forest, by food-forest standards. There are some ancient ones scattered about the globe, mostly tropical in location and nature but most are in their infancy, begun with the recent slew of youtube clips, radio interviews and magazine articles lauding the food-forest and those who create them. Ours then, is well established, at 25+ years old, and producing like a cool climate Horn of Plenty. Our garden oozes berries, drips plums and beats visitors around the head with apples. It’s stacked, in the manner of the best permaculture orchards, like a trifle; a canopy of bird-friendly, perch-perfect taller trees, sub-canopy of pear, apple, plum, nectarine and peach trees, all bearing up under the weight of their fruit at this early-summer period, bushes of fungi and grub-free berries and currants, a Southern speciality and a herbal layer that features everything that can be added to a salad or used to cure an ill. At ground level, bulbs, creepers, carpeters and …you get the picture; abundance with a touch of abandon. It’s easy-manage gardening. We don’t mow lawns, we eschew them. No petrol-motor sounds here, what work is carried out is handy-work. Birds flock here for the peace and quiet. Or perhaps it’s the berries. It is the berries. And the fruits. We favour perennial vegetables; cardoons, sea-beet, asparagus and so on, along with colonisers like yams and potatoes that can replicate themselves and provide an easy-care harvest year after year. People visit. Aucklanders too. They seem to find it both refreshing and stimulating. We wander the self-formed paths (I let pre-schoolers on visits pick their own paths through the undergrowth then we adults use those meandering, natural trails thereafter) and swap ideas - one of our most vigorous crops. It’s biodiversity writ large and causes me some angst when I’m sitting around the polished boardroom table at Environment Southland, when the issue of dairy farming comes up, and that’s every sitting day, when I want to shake my fellow councillors and shout “What about biodiversity! How about we require a standard of naturalness on those too-simplistic-to-be-healthy farms!!!” But I hold my tongue. I’ll a peaced-out kinda guy. If, in my dotage, I look about me and find that forest-gardens have spread like a beneficial contagion, I’ll fade away a happy man, knowing that finally, we’ve got it right and have settled with the planet. My sincere belief is that forest gardens, food-forests, permaculture farms, call them what you will, are the panacea for the hack-job we humans have done on our home-planet so far and that once we all have one to recreate in, or at least a shared-space that fits the description, we’ll come right as a species.


Philip Todd said...

Liked the story about living of the land (or forest) without all the need for supermarkets and the like. But studying the photo looking for any free tips I caught sight of a Sky dish. Are you really connected to the modern world?
Good to see the times doing some stories on real people doing real things and not driven by money.
We need you to lead the southern Eden project where we develop sustainable living and farming practices. It would be a huge tourism attraction as people reconnect with the land.

robertguyton said...

Damn that dish! It's not Sky, never had it, and it's not functioning - no television to link to it. I keep saying, "must unbolt that thing" but haven't done it...til today! I thought the same thing when I saw the photo, but by then, it was too late. Hope your year is going well, Philip.

Philip Todd said...

I did think you would be a stand on the hill with two flags type of bloke Robert rather than the wait for the signal to come.
Year is coming good after a dumb accident left me in plaster for six weeks staring at walls in early Nov. I think it was karma for working on a Sunday but more like just something deserved for taking my mind off the job.
But good people at Kew have me back to almost normal if it could ever be said the I was ever normal

robertguyton said...

Broke-bone! Oh no! Six weeks incapacitated would be hard to take, Philip, I'm sorry for your accident and hope you're chipper again and not walking with a limp or writing cack-handed.