Once again, Mother Earth News is sponsoring an event in September, 2013, to help people learn about homesteading. They are hoping to generate a flurry of activities across the country. If you have a skill or interest, find our more at their web page, International Homesteading Education Month.
Why permaculture? Once upon a time I worked in plant pathology research and learned about things like male sterile corn and the mayhem that monoculture can cause, the damage from overuse of chemicals in the form of pesticides and fertilizer, damage to soil tilth caused by too much plowing--we pay a big price for our factory farms, too big. With my background in ecology and biology, I am a big believer that Mother Nature has done a pretty good job of working out the details of what constitutes a healthy environment and that we would do well to learn as much from her as we can. Permaculture uses methods that are closer to nature and that is why I’ve chosen that route--I believe it is healthier for my environment and for my family.
As defined on Wikipedia (my favorite encyclopedia), permaculture is "a branch of ecological design and ecological engineering which develops sustainable human settlements and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems". It embodies the principles of caring for the earth as well as the people and setting limits as needed to sustain both. We have a finite amount of planet to work with here folks and it is getting pushed beyond its point of being able to sustain us. We need to start paying attention.
I heard a recent discussion between some of our city moguls here, that by 2050 at our current rate of growth, we would have to start shipping water in to keep the community growing. I see all kinds of problems with that, especially given that fresh water is going to be one of the limiting factors for the world in the near future (Learn more at the Stockholm International Water Institute). Perhaps we should be looking at controlled growth and living within our means rather than uncontrolled growth and scrambling for resources that might not be available. We need to have everyone living on this planet more responsibly, not just a few of us.
Title: Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains, 3rd ed
Author: Lisa Rayner
Illustrator: Zackery Zdinak
Paperback: 113 plus appendices, 128 pages total
Price: approximately $12.95
As a newbie to permaculture and mountain gardening, this book has become my go-to source in my quest to turn our rocky mountain in southern New Mexico into a small homestead. We have 5 acres, most of it tilted, with dense clay soil and an acre of gravel right around the house. Good for a fire break,which we need, but ugly and pretty sterile. I have a big collection of books for gardening in the south, but they just don’t work here. However, when I found this little book, Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains, I started in an entirely new direction with gardening.
The author, Lisa Rayner, gardens in Flagstaff, which is a climate very similar to ours. That is what prompted me to buy the book in the first place-it was for a niche that I could certainly identify with. The book is written specifically for gardening above 6,500 feet in Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Colorado, and Southern Utah, using permaculture techniques. This region is challenging for a variety of reasons--soils low in organic matter, semi-arid dry land with 25 inches or less of rainfall, strong sunlight, large day-night temperature changes, frequent high winds, and a collection of garden devouring varmints like you would not believe. I think they must be ravenous for succulent greens because it is so dry, with humidity often less than 10%. We had deer and rabbits in Texas, but they never descended on my garden like these four-legged swarms of locusts. We also have a real monsoon season, which you have to make the best of because the rest of the year can be pretty dry and water is precious.
I think Lisa does a good job of addressing specific issues like high altitude sunlight, planting time tables, cold climate gardening, water conservation, building healthy soil and sheltering from wind. The appendices includes a glossary of lesser known food crops and a comprehensive list of resources for southwestern gardeners and for permaculture. Other permaculture books give much more detail about homestead permaculture methods, but do not address the specific challenges of gardening above 6,500 feet. I like this book because it addresses my particular niche very specifically. Well worth the money if you live in the mountains of the southwest, in my humble opinion.
I have no connection to the editor or the publisher and was not paid in any way for this review. It is my personal opinion, good, bad or indifferent.
I am a maker--crafts, DIY, garden, upcycling, instructional design--I am always designing and making something, be it a new recipe, new knitting pattern, a class for compliance training or landscaping a flower bed.
I am also a collector and curator of vast amounts of information that interests or inspires me. I have a growing collection of DIY, crafts, and recipes on Pinterest.
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