The workshop was held just outside of Frenchtown, NJ, at Fields Without Fences, operated by Johann Rinkens & Lindsay Napolitano. This 10-acre commercial food forest project is just in their second growing year, and it’s amazing how far the site has come in that time. They have an excellent website that describes the history of the degraded land, and how they are restoring the ecology – do check it out. Fields Without Fences’ products can be purchase through a New Jersey based farm distribution service, Zone 7.
I’ll just tell the story of the workshop in photos below:
On Sunday, May 4, we’ll be hosting a gathering of members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Permaculture Guild! This free Meetup group is a great way to find out about cool events & connect with other permies. To attend, you mustjoin the Meetup group and RSVP – space is limited!
EPPG Spring Potluck!
Sunday, May 4, 1-4p
Hunter Hill Farm
901 Frost Hollow Road, Easton, PA 18040
One of our members, Kristen Jas Vietty, of Lunaria Gardens permaculture design, has graciously offered to host a potluck at Hunter Hill Farm, alongside the crew of young farmers who help things run smoothly there.
This suburban property is being reverted back to its former farmland glory, with a CSA operation, apple orchard, mushroom cultivation area, meadow & forest habitat, & the beginnings of an edible forest garden. Kristen is converting a school bus into a tiny home, and they’re adding some livestock into the mix.
Join us for some merriment & permie community!
Please bring a dish to share, your own utensils, plates, cups, etc., and park alongside either of the driveways.
Last night I gave a presentation, An Introduction to Edible Forest Gardening, at the monthly meeting of the Ladies Homestead Gathering of Central Bucks County. I mentioned a couple of my top picks for essential permaculture and edible forest gardening books.
It can sometimes be difficult to give a succinct overview of the such an all-encompassing subject as permaculture, but Toby Hemmenway does a magnificent job is his seminal book, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. In the second edition of this award-winning title, Hemmenway addresses not just the fundamental theories, but many applications, like wetland gardens, deer barriers, polyculture design, & more. There are lots of tables of useful plants for specific uses, anecdotes, and overall a friendly, non-technical introduction for anyone looking to learn more about permaculture. Order your copy to get started!
Next on my list is not one book, but a 2 volume set: Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke & Eric Toensmeier. I received these as a gift several years ago, and I still reference them all the time. Coupled with one of Eric’s weekend intensives, these books inspired a major shift in my perspectives on land use. The sheer amount of information here is astounding – Vol. I: Vision & Theory contains home forest garden case studies and a must have list of the Top 100 species, while Vol. II: Design & Practice shows us how to make our edible Eden a reality. This set may seem a little daunting for the beginner, but if you’re going to make one purchase that will stand the test of time, this is it.
Have you already read these books? What do you think? Any other titles you’d recommend to folks interested in permaculture or edible forest gardening? Leave your thoughts below in the comments!
Learn how to mimic the eastern woodland ecosystem in your garden, to provide not only diverse harvests, but also benefit soil life, watersheds, native pollinators, & wildlife. These natural, regenerative food forests can improve the value of your home while requiring relatively little maintenance over time.
The workshop will be held at Doylestown Fresh (home of Veg-E systems) on Thursday, March 27, 2014, from 6:30 to 9:00pm. The evening is open to all women, and the suggested donation is $10 general, $5 LHG members. Membership signup will be available at the meeting, and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. RSVP on Facebook!
Roundup is heavily marketed as a safe, easy-to-use solution for those pesky weeds. Never mind why we’re trying to eradicate these plants for which we’ve created habitat, the marketing & success rate of this product have been an outstanding success. Roundup product sales comprise about half of Monsanto’s profits. Alongside the use of this glyphosate herbicide is the widespread cultivation of genetically-modified “Roundup Ready” crops. Most of our staples – corn, soy, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, etc. – are grown as massive monocultures, repeatedly sprayed to decimate any plant not resistant to the herbicide. However, as is the case with these sorts of things, selection pressure has quickly bred “superweeds”, leading to the need for even stronger concentrations, leading to plants with higher resistance… and so on.
The cultivation of Roundup Ready crops has an extreme effect on ecosystems. At the smallest level, they erode topsoil, and kill most healthy soil microorganisms. The monocultures create expansive fodder for herbaceous insects to feast on host plants, prompting the need for pesticides. These chemicals also kill the predator insects that would naturally keep pest levels under control, and the pests, with their shorter life cycles, build resistance more quickly. The honeybee, which is responsible for pollinating most of the food we eat, is experiencing colony collapse disorder due to highly toxic pesticide cocktails. Industrial agriculture creates water runoff pollution, & affects frogs, birds, and has been linked to reproductive defects in humans. However, the amount of money at stake means there are few studies we can trust. On two occasions, the United States EPA has caught scientists deliberately falsifying test results at research laboratories hired by Monsanto to study glyphosate.
Lunaria Gardens helps people disengage from this dangerous, industrialized food system, & begin working with life to meet human needs while benefiting nature. I was recently emailed the following question from a grower in Bucks County, PA.
Hey Kristen, I have a dilemma that I thought you might be able to help me with… or point me in the right direction. I just moved to a farm that grows GMO corn and soy and applies roundup… I’m going to take a small portion of the field for my own garden but I’m not sure how to 1) replenish and clean the soil and 2) coexist with the farmer, buffering my crops and such. I’m not looking for an organic certification right now, but I may in the future. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
Without knowing whether you are living/ building on this property too, here’s my overall priority overview:
1. Preserve 2. Buffer 3. Optimize siting/ design 4. Work with water: slow it, sink it, spread it 5. Avoid soil compaction 6. Build organic matter 7. Plant woodies: trees & shrubs 8. Be neighborly
Preserve any snippets of healthy ecosystem you can. Don’t cut down native species to plant food. Instead, use that unmanaged ecosystem for habitat (toads & birds for integrated pest management), hunting/ foraging, inspiration, & buffer/ screening.
Allocate as much land as possible for buffering from the spraying. This is where you’ll try to recreate forested habitat.
3. Optimize siting/ design:
Check out the permaculture concept of zones of use. The areas you plan on tending most frequently should be those you walk by on a daily basis.
4. Work with water: Slow it, sink it, spread it.
Usually, optimal building siting is midway along a slope elevation, so you can capture fresh rainwater high to gravity feed for potable uses, then divert greywater further downhill for gardens. In this instance, I’m more worried about chemical runoff, so I would try to site high if possible. In any case, look into swales, rain gardens, rainwater collection to best utilize our most precious resource. Ideally, instead of lots of non-point-source pollution, the runoff is biofiltered through plants & soil flora (your preserve/ buffer). Water will help you grow your crops, but will also be providing the necessary catalyst for the bioremediation work of microorganisms.
5. Avoid soil compaction:
Soil bacteria & fungi are who to thank for neutralizing toxicity. When we talk about certain plants being good for filtration, it’s really their symbiotic relationships with microorganisms. Healthy soil has organic matter, water, inorganic matter (subsoil/ minerals), air, and living things: plants, bacteria, fungus, bugs, burrowing animals.
Air is the huge component most people overlook. After years of erosion and being driven over with heavy equipment, your soil will have very little resemblance to healthy soil, but compaction is something that isn’t easily undone. Plan your growing area to minimize soil compaction as much as possible. Plan for vehicle access, wheelbarrow access, and human access in the appropriate areas. Check out keyhole beds.
I don’t recommend tilling, as I think encouraging plants and animals to do that work will be better, and it’s far easier to dump good things on top.
6. Build organic matter:
Build up as much as possible, as soon as possible. Truck in any organic matter you can get. Luckily it’s fall leaf season. To grow immediately, lay down cardboard and dump soil on top of it to get around the compaction issue. If there’s woody debris, look up hugelkulture – basically piling wood/ branches and dumping soil on top and letting the wood soak up and store moisture, improve fungal activity.
On a larger scale, just try to encourage lots of growth, biomass, topsoil regeneration, and dynamic accumulation. You’re trying to accelerate natural succession, which is natures attempt to heal disturbed areas. So encourage what we would consider weeds, the plants with taproots that draw nutrients up from subsoil, reduce compaction, and decompose and mulch their foliage to let other plants access those nutrients. These are called dynamic accumulators. Dandelion, chicory, dock, horseradish, apiaciae (carrot family), comfrey are all good stuff for soil healing. You can plant native seed mixes, plant perennials, or just let stuff grow. You’re just trying to encourage as much natural biodiversity as possible. Start that ASAP, like this fall. Simply avoid mowing, or seed to get things off to a good start.
Integrate animals. They’ll graze all this fodder while fertilizing the fields for optimal soil activity. Pigs are nature’s rototillers, sheep the lawn mowers, goats the poison ivy eaters. Take advantage of their voracious appetites.
7. Plant woodies: trees & shrubs
Most agriculture is based on annual crops because there’s a quick return on investment. There are some issues with this mode of operation, however. It requires continuous labor inputs season after season. Annual ecosystems only occur briefly after major environmental disturbance; our native ecosystems naturally rely on a balance including far more perennials & woodies.
I don’t think your plot of land can ever really heal so long as native trees & shrubs are absent.
I’m not against growing tomatoes or basil, but I believe in planning for the joy of producing blueberries & paw paws and persimmons – some of our native foods that have a role in ecosystem health. I recommend planting some initial edible forest garden trees, and then shrubs, then herbs, groundcovers. Inoculate logs or wood chips with mushroom spawn. Try to encourage fungal growth, it’s a really crucial component of mature natural systems that scientists are just staring to figure out. These plantings can provide human uses: food, fiber, fodder, farmaceutecals; and lots of indirect uses.
8. Be neighborly:
You’re going to interact with your farmer neighbor a lot. You might as well start it off right by being non-judgemental & helpful. You probably think differently in a lot of ways, but offer to lend a hand, or share a meal, and I think you’ll learn a lot from each other and form an appreciation for each other’s expertise & resources. Interdependence is stronger than independence.
I realized after I wrote this response, that the steps outlined are the same ones I would recommend to anyone who wants to make informed decisions about interacting with the land, because the steps are based in the principles of permaculture. Readers, how have you coped with Roundup-damaged soil & GMO-growing neighbors?
Lunaria Gardens is seeking a part time garden manager for a client property in Upper Bucks County, PA.
Job type: Part time, 1-2 days (8-16 hrs) per week. Additional hours may be available depending on season or special projects. Compensation: $10-$17 per hour depending on experience Commitment: After a trial period, we’d like a commitment of 1-2 days/ week through the 2013 season (usually ending Nov or early December). We’d like to offer additional compensation depending on level of commitment for the 2014 season. Position available: Immediately Application deadline: Thursday, August 1, 9pm Contact: Kristen Jasionowski, owner, Lunaria Gardens, [email protected]
The garden manager will primarily be responsible for ongoing care of a client property in Ottsville, PA, as well as occasional assistance with other sites. Lunaria Gardens is not a typical landscaping company – there is no lawn mowing or formal hedge trimming involved. We instead design & install ecological gardens for food production & habitat. Watering, weeding, & harvesting vegetables are ongoing weekly tasks, while planting, mulching, & light construction will also make appearances on task lists.
Aside from the annual vegetable garden, the Ottsville property contains mostly woodland perennial plantings, so it’s a generally comfortable workplace. You’ll undoubtedly improve your understanding of botany, native ecology, food production, & sustainable property management by working with us.
– proximity to Upper Bucks County (much of position requires maintenance of client property in Ottsville, PA.) Occasional assistance in Easton, PA as needed.
– Reliable transportation. The only tools regularly required are some good hand pruners and a trowel.
– Basic familiarity with common plant identification, i.e. you should probably know the difference between a hosta & a hydrangea, or a dandelion & a thistle. We specialize in edibles, in addition to natives & ornamental perennials.
– Desire to enhance your ecological management & botanical knowledge.
– Plant identification skills, especially common ornamental shade perennials, “weeds”, and edibles.
– Familiarity with weeding, harvesting, planting techniques.
– Ability to lift 50 lbs (less physically able applicants will also be considered).
– Basic carpentry/ construction experience is a plus.
– Plant nursery, irrigation, earthworking, farming, or flower arranging experience is a plus.
– Have an interest in social media, e-communications, photography, writing, or teaching? We’re into Instagram & twitter (@kristenjas), and Facebook. We’re interested in expanding our blog content, and would like to host events and workshops in the coming year. This could be additional income for someone who wants to get more involved in these areas.
– The above skills would also apply to Kristen’s other music publicity work with Musette Project, Dallas Vietty, or Hot Bijouxx. If you’re interested in working with these projects, drop us a line. Or get yourself on the mailing list by using the little signup in the sidebar.
About Lunaria Gardens:
Lunaria Gardens is a custom permaculture consultation, design, maintenance, & education service, soon to be expanding nursery operations. We primarily help people grow food, as well as compost, keep livestock, provide native habitat, and generally close energy loops to reduce unnecessary energy expenditures. We currently have clients in Ottsville & Easton, PA. Owner Kristen Jasionowski has a background in visual arts, administration, & education. She transitioned from a self-taught hobbyist to a career in sustainable agriculture in 2009, and has apprenticed via the WWOOF program, co-managed a couple microfarms, and has studied with Eastern Pennsylvania Permaculture Guild & various permaculture & forest gardening professionals. Her company’s focus is on empowerment & connection via habitat creation and food production.
To be considered, please email the following:
– A resume & cover letter would be awesome, but a couple paragraphs about why you would be great for this job, and what you’re hoping to get out of it will do.
– Contact info including name, phone, address, & any web presence you’d like to share.
– How you found out about the position.
Women, people of color, and LGBT applicants are encouraged to apply. If you’d just like to get on the mailing list, you can do so in the sidebar at right.
Hunter Hill Farm is a 12-acre homestead & vegetable CSA just outside of the city limits of Easton, PA. Last year, I was a resident for the season, designing & helping to install the initial orchard phase of their edible forest garden. I decided to stick around the area, and this year we’ve been doing a little bartering of a different sort – forest gardening & poultry consultation in exchange for veggies. This week, farmers Dan Hunter & Bethany Towne came over with groundcover questions, as well as a beautiful harvest of some early greens, herbs, & radishes. I thought some readers would appreciate learning about what they do, so I suggested an interview. Below is our conversation.
Lunaria Gardens: What made you guys want to be farmers at Hunter Hill?
Dan Hunter: Maybe 7 or 8 years ago, I was watching C-Span, and Roscoe Bartlett was giving a presentation on peak oil, and that was I guess the first time I heard about the whole energy crisis thing. And at that time I was trying to be an upright bassist, which was predicated a lot on me having a wagon, and hauling a bass around. So I got interested in sustainability in general, and then the farming part seemed to be the one that most most attractive and stuck, like I tried a bunch of different things. And then I started some apprenticing work and started looking around for land with my parents, and that drug on for about 3 years. And then we finally found a place that was enough land and in our budget, and then we bought it. So, I’m gonna say, food security.
Lunaria Gardens: What is your farm mission?
Bethany Towne: I just try to grow a lot of food, and we try to make some money to get by. I like sharing it with everyone, and eating it. And learning about permaculture is really cool too, because if we can set up something really awesome, then we’ll have the experience and a lot of the resources to help people do that too.
DH: For me, I wanted a place where I could kind of make a livelihood and everything, but also be an experimental ground for different types of agriculture. If the goal was just to grow food for money, it would get old and I wouldn’t feel that I was doing much. So the idea is for it to be an educational place, or a place where people can just come out and relax. Our friend was talking about farm therapy programs in Europe, where people in different situations can come out relax for a while. So yeah, getting integrated in the community, and not just, you grow stuff and then you sell it, and that’s the extent of the interaction. The ideal is to be much more plugged in, to be a resource for the community, and have as many overlapping functions as possible. Because land is a huge thing. Land is expensive, and it’s hard to get, and hard to maintain. So many possibilities with it.
Lunaria Gardens: What do you offer at Hunter Hill?
DH: We offer a 22-week CSA (Community-supported agriculture), from the 1st week in June to the 2nd or 3rd week in October. It’s a weekly pickup of vegetables, in either a half or a full share size. And there will be other things that come in through the year, like mushrooms or fruit, that we’ll offer as add-ons, as retail items when people pick up.
We’ve also had Seventh Generation Charter School classes visit for educational field trips. Or if people have an idea for what they want to do, that’s related to, I don’t know, the growth or integration of communities, or experiments in agriculture, or whatever, that’s great, and they should talk to us.
BT: We sell to restaurants sometimes, and there are instances of being super busy and we have way too much of something, but maybe if we had better connections with particular restaurants…
DH: … or individuals, or 3rd Street Alliance, or pretty much anybody who’d be interested in coming out and picking something, we should set up a call list, or an email chain. So there’s opportunity for gleaning…
BT: … or trade.
Lunaria Gardens: What makes your CSA special?
DH: We really don’t really use any machines. What’s in the field is entirely hand worked, so we do no-till. So yeah, we just sheet mulch. And the only amendments we add are composted animal waste, or house compost. So it’s very simple. We try not to get involved with large supply chains, partly because their expensive, partly because they suck. I guess we’re still buying seeds from Johnny’s. But there’s some vague anti-corporate inclination going on. I feel like there’s not very much intention about how that gets carried out, but it gets carried out to some extent. But yeah, I feel like the special part is just the no machine thing. Just compost additives. All the stuff is hand-picked and maybe washed.
What can customers expect if they do sign up for a share?
DH: Full shares can expect 8-12 items per week. An item can be a bunch of carrots, or a quart of tomatoes, a head of lettuce. Half shares, 5-7 items per week. And it’s gonna be fresh, because we don’t have any fridge space! So even if we wanted to hold over products, we really can’t! So, expect fresh, seasonal vegetables in quantity. And shares are picked up from the farm or a drop point in North Bethlehem, near the YMCA.
Lunaria Gardens: Dan, you mentioned no machines and no-till, but I want your words for readers. What is it about no-till?
DH: Well, my limited understanding of soil science and agricultural practices leads me to believe that tilling is primarily an expedient practice. In tilling, it’s like the rain comes down, and if soil is loose, it moves; so if you break up the soil all the time, more soil and nutrients and everything are going to wash off your land. I guess that’s really the crux of the matter. And I guess when you till, you’re breaking up the soil ecology that’s trying to form all the time to help you. So we don’t till. And we don’t use machines because their expensive, and they’re part of the industrial corporatocracy, and they compact the soil most of the time. And they also have sort of an expedient element to them, that makes it easy but ends up hurting you in the end. That has been my experience of it. I guess I could expound on how they hurt the people using them, or the people making them, or the places where they’re taken, or the larger watershed or ecology, but mostly, I don’t like working with them, and they’re expensive.
Lunaria Gardens: Who else is helping behind the scenes, besides you guys?
BT: Oh, yeah, lots of people! It varies a lot year to year, and you never know, it seems like there might be quite a few people coming to stay at the farm at some point during the year. But Dan’s parent’s bought the property, and they help out a lot. Dan’s dad was just helping me build the frame for a chicken tractor last week, which is really exciting. Scotty… I don’t know, there’s tons of people!
DH: Lehigh Valley friends who have varying degrees of residency at the farm [laughs], or non-residency.
Bethany: Yeah, Joe Farnack was working for us really regularly last year, and helping with harvest, and taking home vegetables.
Lunaria Gardens: What resource would you love to come into?
Dan: One thing that was amazing, was this guy from Green Briar Equestrian Services or whatever…
Bethany: Oh yeah!
Dan: Yeah! [laughter] This guy who cleans out horse stalls, he goes out with his Bobcat loader in his dump truck, so he has to leave it at the place, and then go dump the load somewhere locally, and then go back and pick up his Bobcat – so he goes and dumps at all these farms. And he dumped 6, 7, or more dump truck loads of equestrian bedding. And that’s probably 3 solid weeks of full-time work that he just donated for free, in terms of if we had to go pick it up, and all the wear and tear on the truck. So, um…
Lunaria Gardens: So… delivered horse shit?
DH: Or just convenient sources of decent compost. The ideal is that it’s free and delivered. That would be great. Because that’s the input, besides some infrastructure, or irrigation stuff.
BT: Man, it’s really exciting thinking about like the future, like we’ve been working on growing medicinals and things like that, but even with the permaculture project, fenced portion is a small percentage of farm property, but there’s so much that you can produce on that land to share with people. And things that don’t take as much work as a vegetable plot. It’s pretty exciting.
Lunaria Gardens: Would you say you get excited about abundance?
BT: Yeah, haha.
Hunter Hill Farm 2013 CSA shares
Full share: $500 ($25/week), Half share: $300 ($15/week) Length: 20 weeks, June 6 to October 17 Pickup: Thursdays at farm (901 Frost Hollow Road, Forks Township, Easton, PA) or Bethlehem, PA Includes: A share of non-certified organic vegetables; 8-12 items (full share) or 5-7 items (half share) / additional seasonal offereings, i.e. apples or mushrooms, for purchase as available
On May 7th & 8th, I had the opportunity to attend a Forest Gardening workshop with one of my permaculture heroes, Eric Toensmeier, in West Chester, PA. There were so many awesome aspects to the weekend! To minimize driving, I took the train to Paoli, had a beautiful 10 mile bike ride to the workshop location, and met and stayed with some awesome folks through couchsurfing!
The workshop took place at the home of sustainability educators Alan Wright & Paula Kline, who had hired permaculture designer Aaron Guman to work his permie magic on their property. We spent some time discussing the clients’ needs and Aaron’s design concepts before helping to install some perennial plantings (above).
Special guest lectures included a whip-and-tongue grafting demonstration with Backyard Fruit Growers founder Chris Manning, and mushroom cultivation tutorials with Jared Urchek. Jared came out from Boulder, CO and discussed mushroom life cycles, varieties, and inoculation techniques with woodchips, straw, and logs.
We also broke off into groups to do site assessments throughout the property, later designing polyculture systems for different patches. Here are some general notes taken during the workshop:
Edible Forest Garden (EFG): Edible ecosystem modeled on the forest; perennial & low maintenance, providing ecosystem services & useful products.
By optimizing impact on land, we can work with its desire to become forest. Diverse polycultures minimize pest problems, and can achieve higher yields than annual cultures.