This post offers step-by-step instructions on adding trees to the Eastern Agroforestry Conservancy (EAC) project on iNaturalist. This same approach could be useful for other public planting projects.
The EAC is a collection of precious tree crop genetics that have been planted for observation, propagation, and respectful enjoyment by the public. This project is centered in Northampton County, PA where county parks embraced the idea, honoring and extending the work of the Hershey Tree Nursery in Downingtown, PA.
Trees in this multi-generational project are documented in 3 ways: labeled where they are planted with a unique ID, in paper records matching ID, and in a digital iNaturalist project with matching ID. Digital record-keeping of trees in iNaturalist has a few benefits. In short: it is a robust platform with a broad like-minded user base; it allows commenting and updating/adding observations to record seasonal effects; and it can be accessed by anyone, anywhere.
Observations of trees can be added to the EAC project by anyone, anywhere. The project is moderated, so that observations unsuitable for the project will be culled. The project welcomes observations of new plantings and additional observations of existing trees in the project.
Thanks first peoples for simply living so that others may simply live. Thanks Jono Neiger for sharing this 1984 paper on indigenous agroforestry to the Northeast Permaculture Listserv.
Some Ecological Aspects of Northeastern American Indian Agroforestry Practices
This paper was written in 1984 while I was a student of Professor Arthur Lieberman at Cornell University. Professor Lieberman was then Director of the Cornell Tree Crops Research Project and taught landscape ecology in the Department of Landscape Architecture. This version was submitted to the international journal Agroforestry Systems in 1988, but never published there due to its length. A somewhat condensed version was later published in the 1994 Annual Report of the Northern Nut Growers Association (Volume 85). For a broader perspective on Native Americans’ land management practices, see this online article by Doug MacCleery.
These relatives of birch, ancient and awesomely rugged, adding golden bark and kindling salvation to tree lines around the world These shrubs with long flexible bows These fruits from charming hot pink flowers that greet the spring and stay
These nuts that come in energy-dense compostable packaging, shelf-stable for years, made by arboreal solar panels These nuts that are easy to eat raw and one of the healthiest snacks I have These nuts that are even tastier roasted; simply apply fire and enjoy a sweet, earthy, ancient gastronomic ally
These branches, that have been warmth in peaceful and desperate times These branches, that have been homes in peaceful and desperate times These branches, that have been the crux of countless wooden items
These gifts, that have come from ancient hedges, woven into the fabric of lives over time These gifts, that host the humans and other kin, who enjoy them and who need them These gifts, that can make the giver better as they enrich the recipient, when given and received in good relations Ancient hazels, though we face harshly changing times, Your past and present company comforts me, knowing you have helped my ancestors through ice ages and then some And so, knowing we work together even where we are not in touch, I wish peace upon you, and I love that in that, peace may be upon me too.
The following is a response to a person who was reaching out for help in reconciling different concepts of divinity. They were facing the dissonance between different spiritual traditions being both helpful and at times harmful (on individual and societal levels). They also raised the fact that some spiritual traditions reject other traditions, and yet this person had found value in both.
Sounds like a search
I recall that a sure foundation for spirituality is shamanism, that is personal connection with the wise and sacred in all by nature and ancestry. The value of alchemy with our dark spots and neglected edges also comes to mind. Carl Jung’s guidance about one’s shadow self is a more modern/mainstream thread to follow on this. I think of it simply as shining the light of one’s humble, honest, critical awareness on that which one hates or fears. Calcinate by querying like a child, asking ‘why?’ then ‘why?’ and ‘why?’ again, with the patience of lifetimes. Any time is the right time to start. I find that the better I understand what/why I fear or hate, the less my mind is consumed by it.
On a regional permaculture listserv, someone asked the great question of what trees are strategic to grow during these challenging and chaotic times. That thread received some good answers, including a shoutout to hickories, willows, cypress, hazels, the great book Trees of Power by Akiva Silver, and more. Of course, diversity is a strategic priority in itself, as are site specific selections. Here, I’m sharing an ode to hazelnuts as one such strategic tree:
Hazels have a long history of resilience themselves, surviving climate chaos in the past and being in the birch family who extend to the edges of where hardwoods can survive. There is evidence of hazelnuts being a resilient food source for our ancient ancestors. In terms of site suitability, hazelnuts can be a good fit in both urban and rural settings.
Hazels are botanically unique in that their beautiful flowers stay open for pollination for weeks (a grower recently told me they observed one open for 8 weeks!) Those flowers can also be cold hardy down to -20F, so they are less vulnerable to climate chaos.
There’s so much more to say, but the last bit of inspiration I will share to encourage learning and engaging with hazels is this.
Of all the ways trees can provide for our basic needs in mutualism, hazels offer many gifts.
Food: can be eaten raw, can be used as a staple food in various ways, incredibly healthy, can be valuable for trade.
Fodder: can be forage for animals, good for wildlife.
Fuel: coppices provide a short-rotation source of dense firewood that does not require splitting, and the nut shells are also energy dense.
Fun: Hazels have deep roots in my ancestral culture and many others. They make lovely places for wildlife and can be used in all kinds of play. Their pink flowers softly announce the arrival of spring, and that kind of forward-looking positivity is needed with the challenges and metaphoric-winters we face.
Trees offer an abundance of gifts. Both wild and tended trees provide food, fuel, fiber, animal feed, medicines, and a range of co-benefits, including clean water and wellness. Much more has been said on this, and there is more to say. For now, I zoom in.
How can we reconnect with trees for basic needs? One way I’m drawn to is that of a sprouting organization called the Keystone Tree Crop Cooperative (KTCC). KTCC aims to gather food from existing nut trees and enable broader audiences to connect with these gifts from trees.
To catalyze the harvest of existing nut trees, gatherers will benefit from incentives (such as compensation for nuts), education on methods (including food quality standards and comfortable tools), and guidance on gathering locations (as in maps). This post is about the latter: mapping existing nut trees and identifying hotspots to efficiently harvest from, with an eye for the coming autumn 2021.
iNaturalist was homed in on as a pretty good platform for nut tree info. There are observations and observers already on iNaturalist. This site also has experts maintaining a cross-platform database of trees, which is useful to build on. While iNaturalist has some limitations discussed below, it is a good starting point – let’s take a look!
I like the last pair because they feel difficult to green wash. Take any feature that is necessary for the systems that support us, and see if it is being restored/enhanced, or if it is being degraded. Water quality. Soil fertility. Biodiversity. Alas, if there is a will there is a way, and all of these terms will be “greenwashed” to some extent, making environmentally degrading acts seem restorative.
And by what means is the greenwashing motivated and manifest? Who done it? Some words commonly attributed to the complex system in question, which degrades essential qualities while feigning friend of fundamentals:
The man The system Capitalism Neoliberalism Globalism ...
These terms too are not perfect. Each has assumptions and complexities, they lack precision and can be tricky. Then I read something which shared a term so precise, so empirical, it could not be misconstrued or exploited:
The cosmophagous world: that world which devours all other worlds to feed itself.
cosmo- From Ancient Greek κόσμος (kósmos, “universe”). -phagous From Latin -phagus, from Ancient Greek φάγος (phágos, “glutton”), from φαγεῖν (phageîn, “to eat”).
And what is the alternative to devouring other worlds? To multiply, to propagate, to support many worlds. Consider, as you go about the polarized and dissonant world, whether this dichotomy fits: some ways grow themselves by devouring other worlds, while other ways grow all by propagating many worlds.
I think of this as I visit small farms and see the countless worlds that are hosted there: the worlds of the orchard and of the pasture, the worlds of the meadow flowers and of the insect colonies which enjoy them, the worlds of the varieties of people who are part of the community affected by the small farm, and the worlds of the countless communities which have other small farms of their own.
That world catalyzation is a stark contrast to the vast monocrops, moonscapes, and mines producing homogenized ways of life, wherein one world grows larger while the others are whittled away.
May this be a high-level guideline, leading us toward Earthbound mutualism rather than parasitism.
I end with an excerpt from the text that introduced me to this concept of cosmophagy, and with a wish that you will celebrate and support the many worlds we coexist in as One.
Power is inseparable from the capacity to be affected. We find potentialities in our shared sensitivity: that sense of urgency that pushes us to seek new ways of living — to want to change this world; that feeling of belonging that pushes us to act, and likewise to risk everything. How can we unleash these potentials? The paths suggested by the existing order — call it what you will, Empire, capitalism, colonial modernity, white supremacy, the cosmophagous world — aim to capture the affects that make life worth living.
Neither sinners, nor victims: we inhabit climate change. We see that this period of disillusionment with centuries of misdirection is also one of infinite potential. Each of us have within us the remote possibility of stemming the tide of the catastrophe. By organizing pessimism, the fundamental affect of the times, and giving it a creative consistency, we can hope to bring about other worlds. But first, it is essential to make a break with this one. We did not choose to be thrown into a world that seems doomed to its own destruction, but we can decide to continue it or break free from it.
Studying Jewish folklore brings one around many old testament stories, and with that, the source of many cultural idioms and expressions: “the writing on the wall”, the value of atonement, among much else.
Something new to me is a source of wisdom on burying one’s dead. I did not realize advice about it for Jews goes back to beresheit:
After Hevel [aka Abel] was slain, he was lying in a field, his blood spattered over sticks and stones. The dog who had been guarding Hevel’s flock now also guarded Hevel’s corpse from the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky.
Adam and his mate came and sat by the corpse, weeping and mourning for him, but they did not know what to do with Hevel’s body.
A raven whose companion had just died said: I will teach Adam what to do. The raven took his dead companion, dug up the earth before the eyes of Adam and his mate, and buried him in it.
Adam said: We will do as the raven. At once he took Hevel’s corpse and buried it in the ground.
Pursuing study and projects oriented toward alchemy and ecology, I have had the privileged opportunity to start a land project at Willows Edge Agroforest. This project is intended to make space for ecological mutualism and for a mother tree nursery that can be used to start a variety of tree nurseries. There’s lots of updates I’d like to share about that, but even with the work done and the photos taken, it takes time to report out about it.
Here’s a gallery to share a big weekend at Willows Edge. This was the an eventful occasion: the weekend of my ‘golden’ birthday, my first time camping out in the workshop-cabin now referred to as the casita (Spanish for ‘little house’), the completion of finding permanent homes for the hundreds of trees I began from seed in Fall 2019, and first sight of the organic farm starting on a lease of 2/3rds of this area. A great five days with friends and allies, human and otherwise, shared with much thanks.