Temperate-climate agroforestry offers the potential for long-term ecological mutualism with humans and trees, and while it is time-tested in having sustained millennia of our ancestors, there are many hurdles to shifting lifeways toward agroforestry in 2020. In this post I introduce the main challenges I have identified, and I outline a potential approach to overcome these challenges. In short, that approach is an agroforestry worker cooperative that ‘owns’ (has rights of control, and rights to returns) land and practices stewardship so to advance tree crops and sustain itself.
I hope this clarifies opportunities that we can turn into realities, to support multi-generational stewardship of trees for basic needs in a way that is mutually beneficial to all relations involved.
The amazing abundance of trees from seed. Reforestation happens through a range of approaches, and from seed is one of the simplest, cheapest, and most time-tested of ways. It comes with pros and cons, the bad including relatively high loss and diversity of traits (such as shell thickness or fruiting time, which industrial operations seek consistency in). In such chaotic times diversity is good. This low-tech approach embraces loss en route to life. Life of the critters enjoying these trees & their seeds along the way, life that comes with the space and legacy of endings, life from letting life be as it will. Seed is a powerful source of sustenance, survival, and succession toward better local adaptation for chaotic futures.
Like the idea of trees and long-term improvement, enjoyment, environmental restoration, and if needed, sustenance? Hazelnuts are a tree you can trust to thrive easily and be enjoyable company. Measuring in at 18ft high and 15ft across, these beautiful bushes have been at the heart of our ancestors’ lives for many, many millennia. Food; some of the healthiest fats available to us. Fiber for homes and many essential crafts. Fuel as both coppice1 firewood and as-energy-dense-as-coal residues (shells and husks) for burning (is that true? nearly2).
Hazel is a gift in social resilience as well. A folk hero. How do all the gifts hazel offers sound as renewables, compared with other strategies for food, fiber, fuel, health and wellness? Fossil fuels and ‘renewable’ energy that depends on mining and toxic processing at industrial scales is degrading the foundations of life: water, soil, air, weather, ecosystems. How about a hedge of hazels instead?
How about a biocultural renewal? A deep adaptation? A relational agriculture that reciprocates and enhances nature’s gifts rather than degrading them.
Put the things together as shown in exhibit A. Remember to save squash seeds! Bake everything with oil and salt and spices. Bake squash seeds separately though, they’ll want to hang out toasty extra long but the chickpeas and Brussels only want to go in for a little while. For sauce, combine all ingredients then titrate warm water until it becomes sauce. If you are super cool and have dukka, also add that, especially with hazelnuts 👌. Enjoy (put sauce and dukka on other things and then eat it)!
If you could do one thing to make your community a better place what would you do?
via J.T. @ https://www.facebook.com/jerome516/posts/1082094282191807
This is a great question Jerome, thanks for sharing it and your thoughts. I would prioritize healthy, equitable agroforests through urban and rural landscapes. Trees that can help meet people’s basic needs (fiber, fuel, food, farmaceuticals, fun, +), in public parks and sidewalk green spaces, in yards, serving as bountiful fences, and texturing our agricultural landscapes, diets, and cultures. Acts of restoration, relinquishment, and resilience which ripple mass reforestation and good health.
Much love to the trees that have been with our northern climate ancestors who I’d hope to see in my area: hazelnuts, birches, maples, honeyberries, chestnuts, acorns, hickories, walnuts and pecans and that whole fam, elderberries, willows, spruces, and so many more.
More specifically, if it needs to be one single thing: cultivate a cooperatively-owned tree crop processing facility that can be used in the community and potentially as a regional hub, to help people meet their basic needs using trees. Areas of primary interest would be:
food (for biocultural restoration),
fuel (to heal fossil fuel addiction), and
fiber (to build resilience in the face of social environmental, and economic disturbances).
Interested in this also? Let’s talk and collaborate, let’s walk and exacerbate our own nuttiness, let’s squawck and walk the talk and elaborate on a way to initiate … do great or forsake. People ate acorns for millennia before they ate candy corns. Let’s make it happen.
Lessons from sleight of hand and spirituality: take it slow, do it smooth.
Slow gives the appearance of smooth
Smooth gives the appearance of speed
Speed gives the appearance of magic
via paraphrasing from R.I. sleight of hand magician
Slowing down thoughts is one of the most effective methods for changing negative habits of thinking. As long as the mind is working furiously, it’s not possible to stop it; it’s not even possible to make a turn. But when you are able to see thoughts going by in single file, you can recognize them and say, ‘Hey, you’re no friend!’ You can choose not even to say hello to a negative thought, and its power to agitate you will be completely lost. This is how we learn not to identify ourselves with our thoughts, which means we have the power to pick and choose which thoughts to think.
via Eknath Easwaran, from chapter 9 of “Like a Thousand Suns,” vol. 2 of “The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living
Plants are people that participate in our world in wondrous, mutualistic ways. Plants serve as the foundation of our human lives, in so many ways, grown by Solar rays of a very high Source. Plants bridge us and the Sun. How can we serve plants? A mystical practice, known as a type of theurgy, is one way to empower plants to give greater gifts as they go forth in life, using the power of human mind to imagine and visualize colors and light.
Definitions of theurgy tend to be vaguely described, as hints of it seep out from the mysticism of various traditions. Definitions often include compelling or querying supernatural beings and deities. I offer this definition based on my learnings and experiences on alchemy:
Theurgy is the mental animating of matter, so to bring out more of matter’s inherent qualities and potential capacities, without imposing a state or process on the matter that is not in harmony with its nature and natural laws of cause and effect .
There could be a lot to unpack here, but I will leave that to your own inner and outer inquiries. I raise this work to share an ecological application of it. Based in imagination, it is the use of visualization and color to enliven objects with their vital three-part nature.
A nice day planting tree seeds in a field with a dear comrade. This completes my Winter 2020 seed stratification plantings. About 80 acorns went in modular air prune beds, with probably 100 more going in a section of a field that will no longer be mowed (last mowed last summer). In adjascent sections as seen in an image below, there is an area of hybrid hazelnut and shagbark hickory seed plantings (see images & video from that planting), and an area of black walnut dispersal.
As these areas stopped getting mowed they will begin succession toward forest. With some extra help from existing plant and animal communities, these planted seeds making their way up, and ecosystem management / caring disturbance from above: may this field become a bountiful food forest.
What does productive ecosystem restoration look like to you? What about mutual benefit? I consider these questions as I watch this water and seed this field.
Photos from this workday field planting trees from seed are shown below. As I work out a system for sharing photos and videos, I appreciate feedback on viewing options! Please let me know how the gallery works for you and if you have any suggestions.