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.
Acorns have great potential as a staple food. This may seem like it takes a lot of processing, but compared with conventional staple food sources with similar nutritional profiles and palatability, this and many other tree crops require less energy overall to enjoy, potentially require less capital as a cost-of-entry, and have numerous co-benefits. This calls for a different culture however, as there’s a shift in where much of the energy is expended in enjoying regional nuts and trees for basic needs:
In conventional systems, energy use and negative externalities occur “Not In My Backyard“, in rural areas and in far away oil and fertilizer producing places. In systems offering greater food sovereignty, resilience, and positive externalities, energy use is brought closer to the point of consumption and after the point of sale.
Shelf stability of acorns highlights a trade-off of this shift in the point of energy use to enjoy the crop: acorns and many nuts are very shelf stable, but when they’re processed enough to be ready to eat (e.g. as acorn tortillas or roasted hazelnuts) they become less shelf stable. This is not a critical issue, as acorn flour and many value-added nut products can last for weeks dried or refrigerated and be preserved for months or maybe years frozen. This trade-off affects the culture of use and markets for local nut crops:
Tree nuts are long-lasting, resilient, more intimate staple foods which require more labor close-to-home, but
tree for basic needs also bring home closer with the source of one’s well-being and being well in ecological mutualism with that which supports oneself.
And with this in mind, I give thanks to Osker Brown and Living Web Farm for the information below about acorns for landscapes and livelihoods.
Distribution of time for tasks to enjoy acorns:
1/3 labor gathering and drying
1/3 labor cracking, leaching, processing
1/3 labor quality control, removing nuts with signs of mold
Gather & quality-control red oaks, dry, store in-shell . . . here is a very informative video series, starting specifically at part 5 which details home and community-scale acorn gathering.
Ready to prep for meals? De-shell red oak acorns using hammer, nut cracker, nut crucible…or for large home-scale (e.g. ‘5lbs batch weekly for two months’), Davebilt #43 nut mill has been found effective and robust.
Sort and quality-control, winnowing kernels from shells. Discard kernels that are not a shade of brown whether dark or cream colored, e.g. remove nut meat colored white, yellow, green, or blue), discard shells for mulch or fuel or tanning.
Leech (various methods) until astringent flavor is no longer noticeable when tasting nuts. Dry. Break down further into flour using food processor or similar methods. To begin with cut with 50:50 all-purpose flour and use as you would all-purpose flour. Acorn flour can replace all purpose flour for many recipes.
SPLASH FIGHT BITE All was alright in the world, as I was moving toward the light Looking for some food so I’d sleep well through the night And awaken another day My mouth becomes open !!! Woah I am awoken ! I spread my wings and make like a cross Then my world is tossed – tension to release; anticipation to closure; potential to kinetic So, It is written Now I make like the moss (gratitude to the roots, foundations of the Kingdom) Growing slowly through the churning fires of Time Now at the turning of the rhyme, I ask: Have I eaten or been eaten?