We’ve had a good, if quiet, winter here at Lodestar Gardens. Planning meets execution — we’ve published our web site, built the chicken coop, and had the greenhouse frame built and painted. Now comes the real deal: organizing our garden planting. We’ve already planted one bed of lettuce in our hoop house, and half a bed of spinach which is coming in nicely.
Our starts we got from the plant-start CSA run by Kim Howell-Costion of Snowflake (email AshkolaGardens.com for more information); the lettuce in the hoop house, and two outside beds of onions and leeks. The strawberries overwintered, and there are some promising signs of budding on the blueberry bushes that were chewed back by visiting elk during the winter.
We got the tip to put a thick layer of straw around the base of our fruit trees, to keep the earth from warming up the roots too early. With our epic Spring winds, early buds are triggered by the warm soil, but then are taken by the wind, branches stripped bare! So the more windy days that pass before the fruit blossoms open, the better the chances of outlasting the windy season. Hope springs eternal.
We’re getting more inquiries from WWOOFers, and have had some recent WWOOFers helping with early planting and transplanting, and maintaining the garden beds with broadfork and fresh boards for the old warped rotting ones. (No reference to Wall Street was originally meant to be implied by the last phrase of the previous sentence. Maybe, however, bringing “fresh boards” to them is in order as well. Broadforks? Hm, I dunno. Mirrors the pitchforks imagery pretty well though.)
Among our winter adentures in reading, we all loved Richard Heinberg’s latest blog post, Life After Growth. Heinberg presents a sane discussion of the implications of our energy budget; the fact that we have been living on Mother Earth’s Trust Fund of Energy (petroleum reserves) to create a temporary world in which growth of everything is presupposed. There is a limit to the life that the Earth can sustain; and we will be approaching that limit with increasingly immediate clarity in the coming years. Letting go of our addictions to oil will be painful and difficult to the extent that we fail to live within the allowance of energy that is given to us on a moment-by-moment basis. Ironically, while we view the petroleum-driven orgy of production that we view as the basis for civilization’s increasing rate of progress, the fact is that we are living in the past, off of our predecessors’ savings. The trust fund will run dry; by that time, hopefully we will have long been working on the problem of stability with improvement, but without growth in capacity: sustainable life. We will have no choice but to learn to use the renewable sources of energy in our immediate environment — to live within our energy budget by finding the most practical, immediate, and efficient solutions.
Whatever happens between now and the emergence of Homo Ecologicus, that species which is capable of sustained existence on the planet it inhabits and evolves from the penny-wise, pound-foolish pillager of the earth’s non-renewable resources that we have in Homo Sapiens, the ultimate survivors will be those and only those whose desires are matched by the availability of resources, whose appetites are honed for locally, naturally, efficiently grown and processed foodstuffs, whose reliance on travel does not exceed the capacity for harvesting energy from the immediate environment. We will go once more to being villagers rather than pillagers.
Mr. Heinberg has addressed some of these solutions and provided a plan for implementing them, or beginning to implement them, in a longer document on the website of the Post Carbon Institute. The (PDF) document is entitled “The Food and Farming Transition: Toward a Post Carbon Food System.” We highly recommend these materials for their plain speaking, sound reasoning, and pragmatic approach to the sustainability crisis we are entering.
As an example of practical change, we would like to make the proposal that, instead of the modest proposal of taxing our children to pay for our binging on their savings, and subsidizing unhealthy foods for them as well, the more excellent proposal of making our governmental subsidies to agriculture reflect exactly the structure of the USDA nutritional guidelines, rather than this travesty: