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.
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.
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.
Here are some photos from a fruit tree planting day at Willows Edge Agroforest. Planting was done with hand-tools forming a pit-mound forest topography for pears and apricots, planted into well-drained south-facing area in an otherwise-wet and flat field.
This post begins an exciting series in the Alchemecology project. I’m starting to post media from an agroforestry project I describe on the Willows Edge Agroforest page.
I’m exploring different image gallery options and am open to input. Please let me know suggestions or feedback in the comments below!
In those post I share photos from a workday digging small pools in Willows Edge’s wet field. Each pool was dug independently, dammed from the other pools during digging. I did this to get easy access for filling up 5gal buckets of water and to get various other benefits of small ponds in agroforest systems. Some important benefits I’m working with: soil for plantings and mounds, and improved drainage and landscape complexity for the surrounding environment. Read more to see pictures and descriptions!
The surplus of my Winter 2020 seed stratification is going toward the seed bank of this back field as it rewilds. I had planted around 80 shagbark hickories and 800 hybrid hazelnuts in air prune beds earlier this Spring. The field section being planted was mowed Summer 2019 and most of the field has been hayed for years in the past.
These seeds serve as a subtle bump toward hazels and hickories in the decades to come for this forest. The potential of these seeds will be supported by my attention and selective-removal or support for certain species as ecosystem succession brings this field through the stages of life. In adjacent sections I’ve broadcasted and planted some black walnut seeds [and later on planted acorns], and I’ll continuing building the seed bank of useful ‘provision’ trees as this area reforests. In this area, I’m aiming for low-input food forest restoration.
Photos and a video 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!