Monday, April 28, 2008

Quick Update

I've been doing quite a lot of work in the garden the last few days. It makes a nice change from far too much time in front of the computer or at meetings but at the end of the day it leaves me very tired.

I spent this morning taking tree's out of the Unitec food forest. There food forest at 8 years old is a good example of how quickly you can turn a field into forest using permacultural techniques but there are quite a few issues with the way they set the food forest up. Basically they planted heaps of support trees like tagasaste and wattle but not enough fruit trees. Because the soil at Unitec is awesome I think they should have put in less nitrogen fixers and coppice species and more fruit trees. As well they havnt been doing much ongoing maintainence such as pruning to allow light to fall on the fruit trees they have planted. So this morning I went round creating light wells for fruit trees and opening the canopy up so more light gets into the food forest. I will take my camera when I go there next week and get some pictures.

The other things I have been working away at are a plan to build raised bed gardens for a complex of state houses, a plan to put in a food forest at a friends lifestyle block and starting up a company for the work I am being offered. More details about all of these when I have more time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rice Shortages?

After yesterdays post one of my family members decided to buy some more rice that evening while out. The first two supermarkets were sold out of 10kg bags of cheap rice and they ended back up at the supermarket we were at that morning.

If anyone else notices shortages of staples in NZ I would be interested in hearing about it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The only survivalists in South Auckland?

After going to a bulk nursery this morning to buy some fruit trees and seedlings we stopped off at the local supermarket. We were there to buy chicken food but with cryptogon's hints to Kiwis to have a good supply of staples fresh in my mind I convinced the person I was with that 20kgs of rice was probably a good addition to the shopping cart. In the carpark we wondered whether we were the only survivalists in south Auckland as we pushed our trolley full of onions, rice, pumpkins and chook food towards the car. When we got home and I had fed the chooks I hopped on the net to read that walmart was limiting rice purchases and that many stores had run out. While I am unaware of stores running out of staples in NZ it is surely only a matter of time. I was quite surprised by my family's reaction to the story, they were on the verge of grabbing the keys and buying another 60kg on the spot. I convinced them that supermarkets were unlikely to sell out before Monday and that panic buying would only create artificial shortages. After reading about the precarious nature of our food supply for a couple of years it seems I have become dulled to the message of imminent food shortages.

Much of the rest of the day was spent in the garden mulching, weeding and planting. Here are some photos I took towards the end of the day. I am getting the hang of some of the manual functions on my camera with brighter shinier images the result.

Soil Loss

This series of videos is really good

Part four here

Final part here
A Crude Awakening

I recently received a copy of A crude awakening in the mail, I have seen quite a few peak oil films so I wasnt expecting much - an explanation of the hubbert curve, some talk about the role of oil in our society and what some of the effects of peak oil might be. A crude awakening was completly different though, I found it gripping and scary despite what I thought I knew. It is undoubtedly the best introduction to peak oil and energy descent I have seen and is well worth buying. It obviously had a decent budget and is very well put together.

Heres a clip from the movie I found on youtube

(dont worry the colours are crisp and clear on the DVD)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The politics of gardening.

The medias constant calls for us as consumers to find solutions to the worlds problems are growing louder as problems like climate change become undeniable. These calls are almost always limited to lifestlye changes such as taking the bus or turning the lights off - neither of which seems particularly appealing. The calls ring hollow because they are. Modifying you lifestyle is never going to stop companies (or for that matter this entire culture) clearfelling or trawling the planet bare. Quite simply the ongoing extraction of resources and increasing pace of destruction are a vital part of the civilisation we live in. Agriculture and the citys destroy the carrying capacity of any given area. To continue our current way of life this this culture must spread out and destroy a wider and wider area.

How does this relate to not using plastic bags? Well the roots of our way of life are unsustainable so everything above them will be as well - this culture has locked us into a way of living which is inherently unsustainable. That said though not all actions individuals can take are equal. The most heavily promoted actions like using biofuels or hydroelectric dams act only to enmesh people in this unsustainable industrial society. These "solutions" such as recycling create a more efficient system. They free up resources for other sectors of the economy and in the long run no matter how well meaning or creative the people pushing these sorts of things are probably helping this culture grow. The other type of solutions which are not being pushed are things like quitting you job or growing you own food. These solutions are far more effective because they take labour and money out of this system and lower peoples dependency on the system.

This quote from a recent Sunday star times article really highlights this for me
Scientists searching for a way to solve global warming have stumbled on the perfect solution for removing CO² from the air and locking it away in a non gaseous state. Crucially - given the scale of the problem – the device is self-replicating, self-powered and has the added benefit of preventing floods and erosion. They call it ‘the tree’

There are solutions to the problems such as emissions trading which disempower. Emissions trading is something organised by the heads of states and created in such a way that economic growth - ie the destruction of the natural world - will not be inhibited. Pushing emissions trading is repeating the story that people have no power over how the economy and this society operate. Instead of pushing this message we should be empowering people with projects such as backyard gardens which show that there are radically different ways in which we can live. Real solutions will be self replicating and uncontrollable. Permaculture for instance uses basic techniques which can be taught in a few weeks and which work on every scale - from balconys to watersheds. These techniques inevitably challenge the way this culture operates. For example permaculture teaches people to look at landscapes in a wholistic manner ignoring the abritatrary lines drawn around public and private property. As well co-operation and sharing the surplus are at the very center of permaculture. Of course these actions must be widespread to be effective - a single tree can be blown over easily by wind and dries out easily, however as individuals join togehter we will for a forest with interlocking roots and branches which is immesurably stronger than the individuals which make it up. And by increasing our autonomy and interdependence from this system we will be able to break the vicious cycles which tie us to this system.

Remember Compact Fluorescent lights are packed with lead and other hazardous chemicals, made out of oil and require strip mining and the entire industrial capatilast system. Instead of buying into their so called solutions think about how you can increase your and your communitys freedom from this system which is killing the planet.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I have been playing around with the new camera experimenting with all the manual functions, after using cameras on Auto for so long its quite nice to be able to control exactly how the images come out. Its been raining the past few days which is great for the gardenbut isnt really conducive for going outside and gardening.

The end of Industrial Agriculture

The daily reports of rising food prices and global food shortages have been playing on my mind a lot lately. I have been talking about coming food shortages for several years as a result of peak oil and climate change but hearing about them daily is still really scary and the map below really drove things home. I think what we are seeing is the beginning of the end of Industrial Agriculture and for that matter the end of Industrial society. I think the process of deindustrialisation will be faster than the process of Industrialisation but that the change won't be overnight.

Anyway I hope you all have gardens and are helping your friends, familys, neighbours and communities to prepare for the inevitable end of an unsustainable culture.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Camera and Sunday gardening.

Hey thanks to everyone who commented on the Acorn bread recipe :) The garden is beggining to feel the bite of autumn as temperatures drop and the sun gradually lowers in the sky. Despite this we havnt really had much proper rain for 4 or so months. To people in a dry climate a couple of months with little rain may not sound like much but in Auckland with an average 1200mm of rain per year it certainly seems dry.

Despite the lack of rain I decided to go ahead with tree planting in a workshop on food forests that I ran today. In the workshop I explained the theory behind tree planting and gave a brief overview of the concept of food forests - which is basically that a range of types of plants are planted together in a way which benefits everything, increases yields lowers pest problems etc. This is done by planting useful ground covers, beneficial shrubs and fruit trees together. After theory and showing people my young forest garden we went to an area of abandoned council land and the attendees drew up plans showing slope, what plants were growing, wet and dry patches, wind direction etc. After the planning we got planting.

I got my new camera yesterday so here are a couple of photos.

This is Mildred - an ex battery hen she has a very strong personality
Drawing a site plan
Clearing holes for bananasPlanting fruit trees

Next sunday will be a workshop on soils and composting

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Acorn Bread

I must apologise for my lack of posting lately I havnt felt particularly motivated to write. However we had a very successful workshop on weeds and foraging last Sunday in which we made delicious Acorn bread.

Acorns are awesome – 30% protein with heaps of good fats, there is a heap of other awesomeness about them so I would encourage you to read up on them

Its acorn season in Australasia at the moment so heres a basic guide to making acorn breat.

First find some acorn trees with heaps of Acorns on the ground, collect the good looking acorns, avoid any that are cracked or that have holes in them. Put them in a plastic bag or some other container as its awkward to hold very many.

Once you get home use a hammer to break the shell and get the kernel out, throw aside any that have black bits on or that don’t look that great. I found this was around a third of the ones I gathered. Try and get the skin like covering of the kernel off, if you cant don’t worry, you can pull it off once hey have boiled.

Next put the acorns in a pot and boil for about 15 minutes, then tip the water out and put the acorns in another pot of already boiling water. Putting it in cold water supposedly locks in the bitter water. Continue this switching perhaps 4 or so times. The water will be very dark with tannic acids at first but will gradually become lighter coloured You will know the acorns are done once they turn grey and are soft most or all of the way through. You will have to make a paste with them in the next step so I think its better to do it for too long than too short. Alternately you can leave them on a very low heat over night or leave them in a bag in a stream for a week. This step is about leaching them so I’m sure there are other ways as well.

The dark water can be used to dye clothing but will need something to fix the colour in.

Next use a mortar and pestle to mash the acorn kernels into a paste, try and remove any lumpy bits that were not boiled for long enough as they taste weird.

Then use the paste according to this recipe, there are many others on the net and I would encourage you to adapt it to whats in your pantry or backyard.

2 cups acorn flour
2 cups cattail or white flour
teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup maple syrup or sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup
soy or regular milk
3 tablespoons olive oil

Bake in pan for 30 minutes or until done at 400 degrees

Using the ingredients given above will produce a sweet, moist, nutty
bread. The ingredients can be varied to produce different types of bread or
muffins or pancakes, etc. Acorn bread is highly nutritious. It has an energy
giving combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. John Muir called dry
acorn cakes "the most compact and strength giving food" he had ever used. I use
maple syrup from the trees in my woods instead of sugar. Not only do I enjoy the
wild beauty and fiery colors of the maples and oaks that surround my farm, but I
also savor the sweet acorn bread made from their nuts and sap. What better way
is there to get to know the trees than to live under them and eat from their