Growing up I remember this commercial…
And that was my biggest lesson of 2020.
While I connect deeply with the three permaculture ethos of:
- Earth Care
- People Care
- Fair Share
I struggle with the ‘design’ concept. I find that contrived and complicated. To me, it feels like that whole dominion thing. I don’t want to mimic Mother Nature. I want to work with her.
That concept is more in keeping with Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).
What is TEK?
the evolving knowledge acquired by indigenous and local peoples over hundreds or thousands of years through direct contact with the environment.US Fish & Wildlife Service
That sounds great. Except I live in the UK, there are no ‘indigenous’ peoples and have not been in well over a thousand years. How can I possibly apply that to what I do in Wales?
For me, it is about growing things that are native to this climate. And not putting a lot of time, effort, and money into species that do not grow well in a rainy climate with cool temperatures and short days. That is not as easy as it sounds.
Partly, this is because we, in the modern Western cultures, have been spoiled by the unnatural choices provided by agribusiness and its complex supply chain. What do I mean?
Growing up, the only pineapple I had came from a can. Back in the 70s, shipping fresh pineapple to the mainland US was not feasible. Now, I can walk into the corner store and find them. As well as tomatoes, peppers, courgette (zucchini), and dozens of other non-native foods. The problem, as we have seen during this pandemic, is that supply chain is incredibly fragile.
So, many people are attempting to ‘grow-your-own.’ And that’s wonderful. I believe 1000% (no, that was not a typo) in that idea. The problem is that we are so divorced from our indigenous roots that we don’t know how to do that. What to grow or how.
I grew up in the Southern US. Where I lived, those tomatoes, peppers, corn, and okra flourished. And admittedly that formed my culinary palate. I want my Maters as I call them. My fondest childhood memories are picking cherry tomatoes fresh from the vine and eating them warm.
But when you live in beautiful, ‘sunny,’ Swansea, Wales, that is not easily done.
Last year, I planted close to two dozen tomato plants. I bought Mason jars with visions of canning my surplus. And I harvested only a few dozen tomatoes. No maters at all. (The difference between a tomato and mater is the taste.)
While California and Australia struggled through droughts and wildfires, Wales had a rainy year. More so than usual. And that is saying something, folks.
It was so rainy that all those lovely tomato plants succumbed to blight. I was not alone. All of my friends and neighbors lost their crops, too. In fact, I did better than most. I was able to bring a half dozen of my Tumbling Toms inside and salvage enough for our salads.
Likewise my peppers and squash struggled with mildew. Though I had more courgettes and spaghetti squash than I could eat, I lost twice as many that rotted on the vine.
Am I giving up on those things? Mostly, yes. I will keep a few tomatoes in the conservatory. And I will plant out one or two varieties of squash, I will not make them a stable. I will definitely not invest that much space in my garden, my time and effort, or money into plants that do not grow well in this area.
Instead of trying to ‘design’ or fool Mother Nature, I will focus on working with her, on growing those plants that do well in this area. Peas, kale, spinach, lettuce all flourish is wet, cool areas.
Maybe that is not quite TEK, but it is in keeping with basic concept of living in harmony with your natural environment rather than trying to engineer it to be something it is not.
Oh, and if you’re curious about Traditional Ecological Knowledge, this is an excellent introduction to the concept…
So, that’s my top lesson for 2020…
Live in harmony with Mother Nature, rather than trying to fool her.
I’m sure 2021 will have other lessons to teach me and I’ll share those with you here.
Until next time, goddess bless, protect, and provide for you & yours,
From our @HomeCrazzyHome to yours.