Sustainable WNC

The Gateway to Sustainability in Western North Carolina

Archive for October, 2007

Taking a Break

Friday, October 26th, 2007

Things are changing. Reckon they always have, Sometimes for awhile, sometimes forever. One way to look at this is “Taking a break”. When a child misbehaves it is told to take “Time out”. Rather than punitive physical punishment. The student has to go away from the action and spend some time in reflection. Whatever fevered frenzy that the kid has gotten himself into is stopped and the ramification is temporary banishment and isolation. Not to mention the humbling humiliation of his power being stripped. Ideally the cycle has been broken and order has been restored. The acting out of one or a few individuals has been extinguished and the power has been reclaimed by the teacher*.

No doubt you have noticed some drastic changes in the weather. Most noticeably last winter’s abnormally warm temperatures followed by “The Easter Freeze” that killed most of this summer’s fruit, and much of the tender foliage that had been coaxed out by the unseasonable 80 degree temperatures the week before. Strike three is the worst drought in anyone’s memory. Little good can be spoken of these events, but I will. I see opportunity all over the place. These events, a shot across the bow.

In the Edible Park the trees were densely planted and have created such a thick canopy that there was little sun or air to stimulate fruit buds and fungus was rampant. We cleared out a lot of material and opened the park up, yet many of the trees remain afflicted with brown rot and black knot and scab. All moisture loving diseases. The brown rot, particularly devastating to the stone fruit like plums , peaches and cherries, is wintered over in the mummied fruits on the ground. This year with the drought there has been a break in the cycle of the spreading of pathogens by rain and moisture. Secondly, with the freeze, there was no fruit what so ever, thus no mummies to overwinter the pathogen spores. In our garden our tomatoes never got blight and the slugs were nominal. I wish I could say the same about the mosquitoes but their’s is a story of the cycle not being broken by the lack of cold winter temperatures. In my pear orchard in West Virginia I have been battling the repugnant fire blight disease for 5 years now by cutting out large disease afflicted limbs in my trees like diabetes amputees. Fire blight’s primary entry into my trees is through the blooms. Since my trees were in full bloom during last spring’s Easter frost they were 100% killed and though I didn’t have any pears to take to market this Fall, there was a reduction of fire blight in my orchard by 95%!

Absence does make the heart fonder, and my pears will taste even better next year. As does drought. Very few people complain these days that it rained during their day off. Gratitude for what we do have is essential to a joyful life. Sometimes we need a little “time out “ to find it. We have a choice to focus on what we don’t have or we can be empowered and get innovative and come up with creative systems that make our supply lines more resilient bringing in more golden eggs without killing our beloved goose. Diversify! Redundancy is a basic permaculture commandment. Have more than one system suppling your basic needs. What if you only have one friend and when you need help moving, and they are out of town? That is why a well connected community will thrive when a fragmented one will perish. Buy local produce and cultivate small farmers in your area. Don’t put all your celery in one desert. What if they cant bring you celery from Arizona anymore when gas prices soar, the deserts salinate and the Colorado river dries up?

I think of our region of the southeast in a devastating drought with the forecast of below average rain this winter and unusually warm temperatures. Atlanta’s reservoir are at a critical level. What will they do? There is already so much information on water conservation measures in the house and outside (and I’m sure you all are following them stringently), but something you can do and a resource more people are tapping into is catching rain off their roofs. (We have six 350 gallon tanks on the corners of our house.) They say clean water will be what people will fight over most in the future. Heck, New Mexico and a couple of other dry western states have made it illegal to collect rain water off your roof! That’s how valuable it is! Simple systems like a rain barrel on the corner of your house or a beautiful rain garden in your yard to catch the flush of a rainstorm and slowly seep it into your soil will help your yard immensely, reduce storm water surges, keep our waterways cleaner, and if we water our gardens with it reduce the stress on our municipal water reserves. That’s pretty good. At least five great benefits came from one small simple action.

My brother has air conditioning on his house in Florida with a constant flow of water draining out. He could easily pipe that overflow to a spot in his yard and plant the grapefruit tree his wife wants there, and not have to water it by using up the precarious Florida aquifers that are being filled in with encroaching seawater as they are drained for human consumption. Folks, what I’m trying to say here is be creative and resourceful. Do it now when we still have all this abundance because the Earth is not an infinite resource. Are you the 1st little pig or will you follow the way of the 3rd little pig. Making your house strong and resilient . Be creative and dare to think outside the (TV) box**. Work WITH what we have (our natural systems) don’t drain them. Use this abundance we have to create systems that will sustain us with the minimal amount of effort in the future. Like ….. hmmm… Urban agriculture for example.

*For those metaphor challenged folks out there-We are the kids, the fevered frenzy is our insatiable self consumption, the teacher will be nature, and the choice is ours

** Is it appropriate to anyone else that TVs themselves are becoming shallower in depth?