Permaculture expert

I mentioned a “food forest” we’re working in several posts. Here’s a bit of background and an image to explain what that is….

After reading a few permaculture books (Gaia’s Garden was the best of the bunch), we hired a local expert who lives in our town to come over and discuss specific ways to implement permaculture in our yard. One of his interns created a nifty set of drawings like this one of a food forest to provide guidance.

Not a bad investment of $250 for several hours of their time, ideas, and delivered sketches. We’re using an area in which I already had deer-proof fencing and irrigation piping.

Growing your own


Feeling good about your work to become more self-sufficient? As I am building out our food forest (photos soon), I was feeling a bit smug about it actually. Until I took the time to think through the 100 foot challenge. Yikes. We’ve got a long way to go.

But growing your own food is worthwhile, and it is radical. One of my new favorite quotes is from Jules Dervaes, the urban farmer and founder of Path to Freedom.

“Growing food in one of the most dangerous occupations on the face of this earth, because you are in danger of becoming free.”

Favorite garden tools

My favorite garden tool is easily my hori hori garden knife that you see pictured here. When I first looked at these I thought they were a bit ridiculous. They look like a giant Rambo survival knife. Useful for those frequent cases of being attacked by rabid deer, but other than that…

It turns out to be that large because the hori hori functions just like a similarly sized hand spade. It also has a handy serrated edge for slashing through small weedy vines and a forked end that pops root weeds up instantly. I love this thing. Mine did not come with a sheath and no local shops had any standalone sheaths the right size, but I found one that fits online.

Be careful you don’t accidentally treat it like a hardened steel Rambo knife, though. I was slicing through some weedy vines on a rock wall with my first hori hori and accidentally smacked the rock pretty hard. The blade snapped right off of the handle.

Other favorites include the typical hardworking wheelbarrow. I’ve used this dumping style wheelbarrow in the past (still have it), but I’m currently happy with my extra large, lightweight, two-wheeled version.

Other frequently used items include my pitchfork to turn the compost bins weekly and zip ties to quickly secure everything, from bird netting on our cherry trees, to sunflowers falling over themselves with too-big blooms. Note to fellow fans of Square Foot Gardening, when Mel said you can use raised beds that are only 6″ deep, he was probably not thinking you are going to put 10′ sunflowers in those beds. Use a zip tie to attach them to a bamboo stake.

Yes, I know zip ties are a doomed products and a complete ecological waste since they are yet another plastic made of petroleum. When I run out of my current stock, I plan to exclusively use hemp twine.

Victory Gardens 2009

Victory Gardens were the rage during the last two World Wars. 2009 is seeing a resurgence of them for various reasons. [for those who asked, here’s a collection of more hip VG posters]

Why do I specifically garden vegetables and fruit, as well as raise backyard chickens for eggs/meat? For these specific aspects:
  1. almost zero carbon footprint,
  2. beyond organic nutritional value,
  3. life lessons it teaches my children,
  4. bonding it provides as a shared hobby with my wife,
  5. barter with other neighbors doing different crops/projects (e.g. honey, soaps, skim balms)
  6. and the food security it provides, should our local grocery store begin to experience food shortages or rapidly increasing prices due to fuel surcharges. In the mean time we simply save money and eat better.

Our upper gardens are all raised beds for vegetables. Lower gardens have raised vegetable beds cut into the hillside as well as a baker’s dozen of three year old fruit trees.