Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ecoforming II

So along the road to all that stuff pertaining to the last post, here's what I'm doing and what has worked well.

Obviously, when the figure of "3 acres per person" is tossed around, that doesn't really mean cropland, per se. It probably doesn't even mean crop land at all. Not that wild lands aren't productive, of course they are--more or less acting as the liver of the planet to suck up the wastes generated elsewhere and pump it down. The problem is, of course, we need "stomachs" as well as "livers," and certainly a doctor cutting out a liver to put in a stomach will kill a patient.

So, when one expands cropland at this point of human history, it must be done in a manner that allows the natural state of the land to exist more or less undisturbed. Of course, in my area, this means any sort of clearing or removal of significant trees, alien or otherwise, is simply not a sensible or responsible option. The trees are just too valuable as carbon sinks, and weather stabilizers, and lest we end up looking like Easter Island we'd do well to be very careful on that score. All, then is left as a viable food production strategy is to intercrop amidst the trees understory plants that can be selectively removed. This is labor intensive, for certain, but certainly not as much as one might think. This kind of "Ecoforming" gardening I'm working on walks the bare edge of wildcrafting plants--you mostly want your food crops to grow in an unattended natural state in a natural habitat. And, I'm happy to report, they do so very well if one chooses these species carefully.

The chief problem with farming the rainforest areas where I live is of course the mixture of rainfall and highly impermeable lava. While taro can grow in that poorly draining much not much else can. Even the native trees have a difficult time of it, and the anerobic layer of stinky poison often to be found a foot down is as rank as any in a ruined anchorage. What is generally recommended as a treatment for this kind of site is to blast and rip with a big cat, lay cinder and soil. Obviously, due to previous concerns, this is hardly a workable or responsible plan.

In poking around in the woods it didn't take me long to find the trick to finding cravases and lava tubes. They're hardly hidden. Look for the big trees. You will find stunted small growth in areas of impermable sheets of rock, but on the edge of such you'll find enourmous trees with roots deep in the cravases living almost hydroponically on the run-off. Indeed, some of the finest. To learn from that, the mucky soil isn't toxic, it's only overwet, and if drainage can be installed, it should be quite rich.

Of course draining fields is a time honored agricultural technique of which much has been written. A well drained field survives both rain and drought better than one that is not--and locally drainage seemed to be the issue. The problem here seems to be difficult at first glance, but when one realizes that one has ready-made drains about every 60 feet or so in the form of a bottomless pit--it's simply a matter of getting the water to the hole in the ground.

The solution is simple in the extreme. Your garden, the one that most everthing has died of root rot in, will have a path through it. That path will be an expression of lay of the land, and typically nicely graded, or at least as well as anything else. You will, by now, as well, have become tired, I expect, of that muddy path, and think a little rock there might be a nice idea. As well, at the edge of that path where you quit walking, is probably a pit, and it's all but certain there's a crack there just waiting to be opened up. Solutions present themselves. Mine happened to be right in the middle of the garden. I built a little bridge over it.

At this point you dig out the path, pitch the soil from the path(s) into the garden, creating raised beds, and backfill the path with large drain rock or even SD perf pipe if you felt the need or were too lazy to drag rock around, which may be sensible. The change in the productivity of the garden site will be marked, and it will not take long at all for the previously heavy soil to start becoming much much more healthy. I'd recommend planting U'ala Piko as a cover and reclamation crop, and 4 months out the whole of the site will be transformed. Plant bananas in drain rock for soil retention when you need to cap off the end of pit, if you need to, as they'll be pretty happy drinking up all that run-off.

No comments: