I made it back from Europe and another life changing course taught there. This blog details the journey, amazing how much these constellations of people can move you. https://treeyopermaculture.com/treeyo/previous-treeyo-courses/aug-sept-2017-2-week-pdc-sekier-slovakia/
Hurricanes and such storms are forms of disturbance in ecological terms. Disturbance sets succession back and creates new forms of habitat. They change coastlines, they knock down forests, the trees turn to soil when natural systems are at play. New coastlines become inhabited by varying creatures and plants as systems of ecology are not static, rather they are very dynamic. The edge of the coastlines and forest are altered, becoming more productive in the long term. Our psyche, our consciousness, gets stirred up by such events as we move from a state of apathy to empathy because of the people affected and the animals and other life forms. We don’t see these events as productive but in some ways they are. Why don’t we? Because we have a rational, Cartesian framework for how we see the planet. We can only see negative because our minds evaluate in terms of good and bad in a linear model rather than a holistic worldview. And why are they so damaging, why are they so costly and catastrophic, and so negative in our mindset; simply put, bad design.
Our love for coastal living and in flat low lying areas has long plagued humanity. It’s not like the people of Florida and Texas and Bangladesh (another current catastrophe is occurring in Asia as well) haven’t been suffering from such events for thousands of years. It has been happening and will continue to happen. Our insistence on using the same anti pattern of development, the same rational model that Rene Descartes brought to us that we are above nature will continue to create this feedback loop. Its called the half hydrological cycle and has grave consequences. And to further that we will mine, cut forests, suck fossil fuels, and a hierarchy of wealth
accumulation will happen from these storms to stubbornly rebuild thus further perpetuating degradation. It’s simple logic, hell Einstein said it, the genius himself, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So we will rebuild, our presidents have long said this, as they should when we have this rational worldview. Rather than humbling ourselves to the whispers of the intense winds or the surges of sea water over walls we built to keep it out, we wont listen to nature saying, grow, evolve, learn, cooperate with me rather than trying to oppress me with feudalism and slavery. These chains, these systems of structuring humanity are reflections of how we approach nature. Technology is not our lord and savior. It will not be able to pull us out of every single one of these storms. The psychological imprint left behind with these events is maybe the greatest damage, the trauma lasting long.
If we dont switch course now, we are doomed. Our species has gone down a long straight road of specialization rather than a sinuous form, as nature does, of adaptation. We have brought this onto ourselves by thinking stored sunlight, fossil fuels, was the key to our evolution. Specialization equals extinction in biological anthropology and we must learn from these extinction patterns, these waves in nature to diversify our energy addiction. So now the ocean waves maybe our own extinction. The storms intensification will eventually bankrupt our financial systems. Simply how do we keep paying for this cleanup? Who are we in debt to? Who sits on top of the pyramid? Why do we not have a circle with many interconnections in between forming a web of life? Why do we not rebuild ecovillages designed for catastrophe and resilience? We are walking towards the edge of a cliff and our worldview, the paradigm of man being separate from nature is creating our extinction even at a time when our population is bubbling out of control. The party must stop, we must stop the incessant consumption, the withdraw of natural capital out of bank accounts that were long bankrupt. In the last great depression (and at the time of the Dust Bowl) Roosevelt saw the connections and said we must build natural capital and started the Civilian Conservation Core. It built earthworks for water harvesting and soil protection, it planted forests where farms were erosive and damaging to water quality, and the program created jobs. We must invest in nature. All of us. Together. That way when a storm comes, we feel the suffering and we act with a positive response, not one that is stubborn and childish. Who says, no, i want my house on the beach where storms can swallow it again. A stubborn five year old as they should because their consciousness is still growing. Will we use these times of disturbance to grow our consciousness or simply keep on the path of extinction? We will never plant enough trees or sequester enough carbon to slow climate craziness and the half hydrological cycle if we dont evolve our consciousness.
September 30th- Treasure Fest– one day celebrating the fall season with bluegrass, pickin music, and reggae along with local foods and an ecology walk. I will be giving my ecology walk as one of the things going on at this fall festival at @Treasure Lake in Petersburg, Kentucky. Great lineup of musicians and some amazing local foods cooked up by Ryan Doan. come and enjoy on September 30th, the bluegrass state will be having some bluegrass and reggae music jams.
October 14th- Forest and Farm Tour– one morning and afternoon tour with lunch. Myself and the farmers of Dark Wood Farm, who run the market garden operation at the lake will be heading this one up.
October 21st-23rd- Weekend Food Forest Course– weekend course focused on growing food in a layered approach. Myself and another local/ international permaculture teacher will lead you through this weekend of fun with planting, learning and demonstration.
Lots of exciting educational opportunities coming up this fall and here is another, a weekend food forest course. Really great compliment to your PDC but also if you have never taken a pdc and want more insight into permaculture and this dynamic growing style. Doug Crouch and Ande Schewe, local ecologist and permaculturists will be leading at Treasure Lake in Petersburg, Kentucky just 30 minutes from the city center off of 275.
Written by Doug Crouch
Having this gem of a property in the family for now 34 years is such a wonderful gift of karma that its hard to express the magnitude of my gratitude. My grandparents stewarded the land and business for 30 years and so much honor goes to that part of my now ancestry. After rebuilding the dam at a hefty price in 2001, besides the forestry work that I have been doing over this 16 years, not much change has occurred. The main business that the property is based off of, pay fishing, is a fading industry. The bar business we have has grinded to a halt and even the campers aren’t showing up this year. But since my return from Europe and even before I arrived the place has had an evolution.
When I was back in Ohio/Kentucky last fall, I ran into my mates at Dark Wood Farm, Annie Woods and Chris Pyper, at the Northside Farmers Market in Cincinnati, Ohio. They farmed about 15 minutes from the Lake and had been our suppliers of pizza toppings for the two Pollination Festivals we were able to pull off in 2014 and ’15 here at the lake. They said they were looking for a new spot to farm and I quickly went into negotiations with them and my family to make their next spot the sandy flats behind the bar at the lake. Thus over the winter as I was mainly in Spain planting trees, creating gardens, and teaching courses, we continued negotiations and farm design. In February they began to move their operation over and started to break ground on the one acre market garden plot.
This year they have turned to a 44 member CSA with no farmers markets and selling to a cooperative that is the interface between local farmers and restaurants who want these high quality ingredients locally. The trend continues to grow which is great
because production on this sandy loam soil has been fantastic. Annie and Chris are ripping it up, working very diligently to implement this first year garden and the results are amazing! I have been contributing here and there but with other responsibilities and their more than enough capability, I am merely a moral support, a helping hand, and also working on the fertility of the farm for the future. Mulching perennials and composting are my main tasks with that and we have great talks about what is to come at the lake and the farm together. Kudos to them and the network of people that supports them including friends and family.
To breathe life into a place like we are takes courage, fortitude, and a network. I continue to work with my family to clean the place up, a legacy of neglect after the tough process of the elder generation dying out. We do our best to keep the place open, the bills paid, but with my life in Europe and their full time jobs, its hard to stay on top of everything. This place was always built around community and again my friends continue to show up and deliver. I have been spending time also in the city conjuring up energy around the place again and its proximity to the city of only 35 minutes allows my network in Cincinnati to pop over with ease.
As life evolves and new connections are born, energy also fluctuates at the place. One of those occurrences was with an old acquaintance from Pollination Fest 2015, Emily Hunt, and we, along with Alex Rydberg, launched the idea of painting a mural on the wall of the back porch patio at the bar (my Mom’s original idea). So with old high school mates, permaculture crew, and with Emily and one of her friends we smashed out a live art party that will forever be etched in my memory. Still after weeks I sit back and smile as the back porch is both my office and bedroom since Annie and Chris are renting the cabin to run the farm operation. The mural started at about 5 pm and the painting went in waves till about 1:30 in the morning. At midnight, after hours of hosting, I got up on the wall and contributed physically to the work for the first time. As I began I was infused with such an energy that the general in me, like during hands on
time in the PDC’s I teach, I was shouting in encouragement to my mates to get back up on the wall and crack on one last time for the final push. It was an epic finale to a fantastic night and since we have been cleaning it up and putting final touches on. As per request of my father, the next week we did it again, different crew and this time in the bar to get some fish on the walls to honor the essence of the place. And to add this past weekend we built community with one long time customer, Emmanuel, to host a reggae night at the bar. After all these years, like 30 years of fishing here, I never knew he was a musician till about a month ago and we got our first event worked out and implemented. It was a great time and we look forward to having more performances by their band Positive Creation in the fall!
Another community connection that continues is with one one of my dear friends here Alex Ryberg. We met several years ago and out of our connection we launched
the original idea of Pollination Fest along with a couple of others. Alex is a dedicated yoga teacher and natural healer through many modalities. I highly respect her work and with the idea of another Pollination Fest returning to the lake, we as a bigger collective decided we should morph into something else. Having worked at a yoga retreat in Spain for the vast majority of the last year and now having this practice much further integrated into my life, Alex and I decided to launch a weekend camping yoga retreat at the lake. We are combining many of the pillars of Pollination Fest together with yoga, a Permaculture/ ecology tour of the forest, local foods including Dark Wood Farm right out the back door, local music, and the art to compliment. Registration is good and we plan to continue this theme in the future as well. Alex runs retreats globally but giving access to this kind of experience locally to the Cincinnati tri-state bioregion is an important mission for both of us.
I continue my work in the forest as well, keep going back over old spots to manage regrowth of cut invasives and check in on my evolving understory. Many paw paw patches are looking great and the fruit is there for sure this year with some spots producing for the first time. Paw Paw paradise is simply my vision with this 40 acres (16 HA) of forest. There is so much work to do to further this paw paw patch fruiting mission but I am also encouraged by another native understory, the extremely beautiful redbud trees emergence as well. In many spots they were simply being taken over by the Eurasian bush honeysuckle but with quick and strong hacking back of this plant they emerge back into their native habitat role. The flowers in spring really light up this place and from this work the place really lit up this year from what I hear.
And as always, the evolution of the business plan/ permaculture design continues. My network has helped tremendously with that, great friend Grant Gibson formely with Compost Cincy and Ryan Doan, founder of Urban Greens. Both are coaching me on next steps and I am very grateful to have these two leading this advice generation along with the myriad of others. It never stops the networking, Jordan and Jen from Fab Ferments, the GoSun crew, local entrepreneurs who are doing it; making dreams come true and supporting a revolutionary new local economy. And the folks at Canopy Crew as we continue to hammer out design ideas around TreeHouse Development at the lake. The possibilities are endless, but the livestock will be here before too long, more events are coming, more courses and educational opportunities, more local foods available, more community, more networking, and more of a home for me. I think its time to pull out of Europe for now and manifest a new role in an old project. Exactly how and when, well that is the big question for now.
The patterns chapter is coming to a close in TreeYo EDU with just one more article after this one but this article starts to wrap it all up with a few more patterns we see in Nature. It does cover our own personal journeys in life as pattern application also involves the people care side of permaculture. Fun to write and thankful to have time to press publish!
Written By Doug Crouch, Temporary Resident of Portugal
While the blame for such a tragic wildfire is swirling intensely already, I first express my condolences to those who lost so much. Life, property, livelihoods, tradition, memories, and so much more. For the ecosystem its tragic as well. The long story of how we got to such a moment is long and twisting and its progression downward on this dangerous path I hope to explain below. And I state here first before that, we are all to
blame. While its easy to point the finger at the Eucalyptus mafia and sign petitions, we must point back to ourselves first. An industry such as that, along with the Pine industry, can not gain such clout to influence politicians without demand. Just as the corn industry dominates agriculture policy and land use in the states, without the demand of cheap meat and sugary beverages, they would not have it. So as I said in my last TreeYo EDU article where I mention Eucalyptus in Portugal, State of the World, even the toilet paper we use is not vegan and that is now more clearly evident than ever before. People died, and have been for many years now, because of our demand for paper and toilet paper, and most importantly, as cheap as we can get it! So as Bob Marley said, “judge not if you are not ready for judgment”. We must all swallow the hard facts that we create the demand, the industry creates the supply, the political legislation opens it up for incestous extractive practices, and the ecosystem and its inhabitants suffer. We live in the age of the consumer, no longer the supplier. So when you go to your supermarkets and buy that super cheap toilet paper, guess what, you bought monoculture Eucalyptus from Portugal.
It starts back in the Roman Empire actually. The Romans traveled to Iberia to hunt, the place was so rich with wildlife from the amazingly abundant forest they went through the long trails to find this bounty. As we know, overhunting can start a dangerous road on ecosystem alteration as often predators of the prey we were in search of also began to decline from hunting. The forests of Iberia began a long tradition of extraction from there, often for war purposes, and began the process of desertification many, many years ago.
The natural oak forests of Portugal are a wonderful creation of a layered approach to growing and creating niches for many different creatures; an inherent food forest. The natural forests have plenty of mast from the oaks, combined with chestnuts in the right microclimates, for wildlife stability. Several fruiting shrubs like Hawthron and Strawberry tree yielded fruits
as well. Vines scrambled, riparian trees stabilized rivers, acorns fed wild pigs, deer foraged on the multitude of native shrubs and trees. It was jungly in a way even with the extended dry periods. The ecosystem would have incurred fire from time to time as all drylands climates have this balance. But the intensity of fires would have been low but the suppression of fires and the altering of the ecosystem created this intense burn we saw again this year in Central Portugal. The greatest indication of that fire was once natural is the magnificent tree itself, the Cork Oak. While most people around the world have had the pleasure of experiencing cork through wine or some other industrial product, most have not walked through a cork forest. The thick, spongy bark that is extracted
for things such as wine stoppers, is in fact an evolutionary response to fire being apart of the ecosystem. Its one that allowed fire to shape the landscape but not bring it to its knees. It slows the fire and keeps it in the lower reaches of the forest rather it being a ladder fuel tree. Ladder fuel canopy trees such as Eucalyptus or pine, would have been much more spaced out in their natural habitats. While both are also adapted to experience fire in their native ecosystems, which humans even enhanced through controlled burns to create more of a savannah for hunting, planting them at this density is ludicrous especially without animal integration. While it does afford economies of scale, which is a cornerstone of modern capitalism, it doesn’t see the system holistically. Thus when fires reach the canopy of such monocultures through ladder fuel of shrubs below and the bark and branches being held up by them, the intensity of fires, the spread of them, the beast that is created is so incredibly dangerous it belongs in a Hollywood Horror movie. But it has been a reality for Portuguese for many years.
In our modern days, the dictatorship of Portugal was one major influencer on the land use. Many trees were cut, especially in inner Alentejo for the production of wheat. One of the main social repercussions of the dictatorship was massive waves of migration out of the country in the years following its collapse. While Salazar did have some great policies, he left Portugal in a tough standing because he wasn’t aligned with the western powers and their system of capitalism. So of course they were far behind when they entered and why not migrate for work to a more advanced one like France, which received many, many Portuguese in the 70’s. It continued for many years after that with high concentrations of Portuguese in Newark, NJ, USA, Chicago, USA, Toronto, Canada, London, Paris, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and spreading back into the colonies they once held. Some say that Paris is actually the second largest Portuguese city with more people from Portugal there than then Oporto.
Maybe the single greatest cause of this tragedy is this policy. If you don’t know it and are an EU resident you should learn more. This is where the lands of Portugal really changed and why many secretly despise the EU. It is a system of quotas that stripped Portugal of its cultural identity as a wine and olive producer to a forestry state. The stories are rampant throughout Iberia but heard often in Central Portugal where people were paid to take out Olive trees and vines. Their traditional livelihoods were taken away and people again fled out of the country thus creating even more abandonment. Abandonment is dangerous for lands that have been disturbed for so long because they build up un-cycled carbon resources over time. Humans and Wildlife along with microbes would have actively managed carbon resources and turned them into carbon rich soils thus building a more resilient landscape. With people and wildlife and microbes having been extracted because of the myriad of spiraling chain reactions of cause and effect, the ecosystem declines even more and is ripe for fire to cycle carbon instead.
Thus basically what the EU does is offer a subsidy for a particular crop selection and people jump on it and an industry is developed. Henceforth, when this EU policy was instituted and intensified over the years, what a great solution to no markets for traditional crops or being an absentee landlord. Simply drop some forestry trees in through signing a contract spurred by EU subsidies, wait until the forestry crops were ready years later, and receive fat royalties for doing nothing other than selling out the ecosystem. Thus the industry grew in its power and control as people could not sell land in Portugal because who wanted to move to this forgotten, economically depressed country struggling to catch up with the rest of the world. It’s not like that way now as foreigners are fleeing inwards to these regions for a self-sufficient lifestyle outside of their mainly northern European locales. But the damage was done already before they arrived. Huge swaths of land when you drive North from Lisbon are in this monoculture. As I wrote in my last article, again, monoculture produces disastrous results. We know this, we know the amount of chemicals used in monocultures of corn in the midwest of the states or wheat in Spain. And we know that in Portugal people die every single year, mainly firefighters making less than two euro an hour to fight them. Yet in this moment of tragedy, we will not point the finger back at ourselves and say wow, you know, not everyone in this world has access to toilet paper. Having done an eight month stint in Asia in 2009 I know this well. When you do defecate, or for women urinate, you don’t use toilet paper for hygiene purposes. You use water. While toilet paper is an incredible step up in hygiene, mainly because of its disposability, it does have an effect later downstream. Our instant culture is not a permaculture and we have long waived long-term foresight for short-term gains in convenience. It’s a great paradox we live in, that us wiping our ass causes wildlife to be extinguished by monoculture and in this case a severe and dramatic loss of life has occurred.
First and foremost we need to switch our thinking into a more holistic one, I have offered a model before and I offer it here again (Holistic Model). If we don’t break from our Cartesian Dualism route, the path to extinction for our species has been laid. Yes indeed please sign the petitions to let the politicians know the numbers of people in Portugal who wish to see their national heritage of a diverse landscape be brought back. Pressure politicians but also take action. We need a massive aid package that directs funds into cutting the trees that are left over from this massive fire and laying them on contour so when the rains do come the ash that is left over doesn’t simply wash away. With fires of that temperature and the high silica content laden soils of central Portugal the soils will have turned into glass essentially leaving a lasting degredatory effect on the landscape for years. The only way to prevent this is contour bunding using the trees to slow erosion, trap sediments and ash, and infiltrate water. Essentially its terraces with woody matter.
So make sure your lands are infiltrating water, that your biodiversity portfolio is being diversified, make sure you are cleaning your lands with mechanical intervention and biological means. I also wrote many years ago about how animals were being used in one particular case in Portugal. I copy and paste at the bottom of this as it comes from a longer article on the use of biological resources. So invite shepherds back into your land or become one. Enliven this tradition. We must have the nitrogen-fixing shrubs and bushes that grow under the eucalyptus cycled, making sure the shedding branches and bark of Eucalyptus are knocked to the ground where they can be fungus food and animal manures repopulate microbes in these degraded ecosystems. We desperately need livestock to have animal impact especially since the wildlife that did it before has long been extinguished. I have seen two deer in eight years in Portugal. Use companies like Ecointerventions to clean or the firemen services, but take this responsibility on strongly. Invest in green company products and services like the
aforementioned company. If you are a permaculture designer in Portugal every design should have a section on fire. Plant species that are fire-retardant and make sure edges of properties are clean and planted with succulents like agave or shrubs like New Zealand mirror plant. Cycle water and Carbon. If you are an absentee landlord work out leases with young permaculturists/ homesteaders for working your land at a cheap rate and even invest in the property so they have capital to make improvements with. Buy local and Portuguese goods and if you run a tourism project please make sure you are buying biological and local products to support this land use redevelopment. There is so much money in tourism right now and the amount of bullshit supermarket food I have had thrown at me as I travel, even in quite pricey hotels, hostels, and farm stays is astounding. Quit using toilet paper, wash not wipe, use handkerchiefs for your nose. Build community, do permablitz’s for land clearings. Pressure councils to invest in stabilizing the hydrological cycle in a given area and form watershed councils so the movements grow bigger. Plant native species and incorporate non natives in food forests. Pressure Councils to make sure that fire-retardant species are planted along exit roadways as almost all the pictures you see of where people died trying to get out, pine and Eucalyptus were planted all the way to the edge. Such near sighted planning is the cause and the effect is one of great tragedy and drama. The list goes on, but it is indeed on all of us to make sure these tragedies don’t happen again and the people lost are not lost in vain.
Referred to Excerpt on using Animals in the Landscape
Cows can also be used to accelerate the succession of the soil and turn a problem into a solution as I once witnessed at a rangeland in the North of Portugal. It was a steep terrain, classically planted out with Eucalyptus monoculture, which of course makes for a fire prone hillside, which is an extremely dangerous system to create. However, one farmer there began to raise smaller and more agile beef on these hillsides that browsed more like goats than say Angus beef. They were tractored in a sense with electric fence being moved daily or every other day in and amongst the Eucalyptus groves. Part of Eucalyptus’s fire strategy is to constantly shed its bark through its fast growth and drop branches. This adds quite considerably to the fuel load below and what most grows in the understory is a mix of nitrogen-fixing bushes. These are often quite nutritious for animals and the cows primary intake was this fire prone vegetation as well. With the cows ranging in a small pasture, they were able to knock down the branches and bark of the Eucalyptus and chip them up and other organic material with their weight and hooves which drastically cuts the fire risk. The material has a chance to break down biologically instead of oxidatively. The cow manures the hillsides reinserting biology back into the system that was lost during spray, spray, spray implementation which also speeds the breakdown of this newly chipped organic material. Then they are quickly moved on so the ground is not over compacted, the bushes are not overgrazed but the animal impact occurs. He was so successful with his rotation that neighbors allowed him to graze his cattle on their land and was able to increase his herd size and thus profit. He was hoping to phase out his day job in town because of this which would of course result in an even stronger system due to even more refined management.
To conclude Chapter 1, finally, of my online book, TreeYo EDU, I give you the State of the World article. Fitting timing after yesterday. Its a part that every Permaculture Design Course has in it and i offer a patterned based approach to the perspective. Its a pretty fun read i have to say and i hope you enjoy and leave comments on all the great projects that are going on around the world as i ask for in the last sentence. https://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/about/state-of-the-world/
There is something big happening in southern Europe that is not getting enough air time and I believe it requires our attention. Check out my presentation on desertification at Danyadara to find out more. Just add your email and you get a link the talk I did on the topic. Thanks to the folks at Danyadara for putting it into a viewable presentation. http://bit.ly/DougsTalk.
Getting one step closer to finishing the patterns chapter with this article for TreeYo EDU online PDC handbook. Its a short one but some pivotal patterns to understand and apply. Excerpt from opening line: As patterns build upon themselves and approach the fractal realm, they become increasingly complex in structure yet equate to simple forms with their subsequent dynamic energetic exchange. https://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-4-pattern-understanding/overbeck-jet-eckman-and-von-karman/