Putting it to Bed — elevated gardening

This week I am staring up a journal on home gardening as a keep track of my garden.
Some thing’s I’ll will be tracking are the health of an elevated bed, and irrigating it efficiently.
the following is from a homework assignment for a Class I took in Permaculture Design:

Beginners Permaculture and experimental Raised Bed

This spring and summer, I ventured out on several projects, two of which, interrelated, were small scale work on growing vegetables and fruit. One project was in my back yard, I wanted to,see if I could revitalize a small area of land that did not appear to have much growth. The other project was a Permaculture design workshop on building raised beds. Although my initial work in my backyard project started the previous Summer, I was enthusiastic to apply what I learned in the early summer permaculture Workshop.

Early Experience with Permaculture

I first came across the permaculture design concept 5 years ago… I was looking to find a niche for my future, one that was would be meaningful. I investigated avenues such as college for agricultural engineering programs. I was intrigued by the rather non industrial approach, to growing that I found in Bill Mollison’s “Permaculture: A Designers Manual” . I would follow that reading up with Dave Holmgren’s “ Permaculture: Principles & Pathways beyond Sustainability”. Both books will be cite more in this presentation.

Permaculture design, applied to growing vegetation, aims to achieve two primary goals:

  • revitalization of poor growing conditions
  • long term self sustainable growth and good growing conditions. They are what

Designer–– Ben Faulk alludes to as “resiliency and regeneration” in his designer manual  “The Resilient Farm and Home Stead”. In method, permaculture design contrasts the typical engineering and industrial age thinking. Industrial thinking tends toward reductive and universal process orientation, Permaculture focus on whole systems, each site treated as unique. Permaculture approaches each project from establishment to sustainability as wholly integrated and contextual. Ben Faulk has criticized modern approaches to agriculture for only being concerned with yields of biomass. In his design opinion, yield should include both biomass out of a system and biodiversity within a system.

Approaches like this have been used in other fields. For example, Humanistic psychologist Carl Roger’s created his “client-centered therapy”–– treatment with the intent of focusing on the unique conditions of each client. This contrasts the main stream psychoanalytical theory at the time, which rested on a broad set of universal theories pertaining to clinical psychology. My personal interest in Humanistic psychology’s holistic and contextual insight had also peaked my curiosity in Permaculture Design.

My Back Yard Project

https://echopen.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/dig-dig.jpg

Trench Work

Beginning in early fall, I started to work on revitalizing an area of land between two fences, 60 ft from the house, 5 feet wide, about 80 feet long parallel to the house. I had not taken PDC class yet, so there was some “winging” it and experimentation. The localized approach of permaculture is implicit in Dave Holmgren’s statement “the landscape is the textbook” ––a slogan he relates to “Observe and interact” . Whereas, reductive and industrial thinking is concern with universal processes, Permaculture is concerned with observation of details in a specified system, and of all details as they interact over time. While its understood that growth in soil follows the universal processes stated in Biology and Physics, time was spent by me observing the amount of sunlight, wind and water flow over a period of months; the squirrels who used the system to bury their acorns; the insects; the ground temperature ; the pet cats , rabbits and skunks wandering through the area. I considered what tools, water, fertilizers, and soil.
I would need to establish the area as a food garden, what maintenance I would have to do. Following a few rules of science cannot cover the complexities of a unique system, I needed to know what parts are in the system and what flows in and out of the system. The essential skill to be practised is observation. Another sub-slogan of Holmgren’s principle of “Observe and Interact “is “Top-down thinking, bottom up action”. Observation is a passive action. (more accurately interaction, since the designer is considered part of the system he is designing.) This means patient, prolong, non judgemental study of detail (the metaphorical bottom) while being mindful of the totality of the system (the Top.) Any “thing” or “happening” in the system, including the establishment of the system, and sustainability of the system ; is a component of the system. With this said. It became apparent to me that developing experience is very important in permaculture design.

My backyard project was experimental, non essential and  distant from the house. It is a zone 4 project of the entire property. My hope is that it will become a zone 3: supporting the household with some extra tomatoes, cucumbers, leeks, and anything else I can grow. The extra fence on the perimeter was removed except for vertical 4x4s. Refuse scraped from a barbecue grill, left over potting soil, food waste were scattered over th soil. Red Crimson Maple leaves and twigs that fell and dried during Autumn were used as a mulch. Nature worked the decomposition with snow and rain over the winter.

https://echopen.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/fork-elevated-bed-pennsyvania-echoes.jpg

Elevated Garden

The Elevated Bed Workshop–– Early Summer of 2014, I participated in a gardening workshop on installing intensive raised garden beds… The monetary price was cheap, since we participants paid mostly in labor into building of the beds. In return we gained both experiential know-how and the hands on teaching of experienced certified permaculture designers. This is typical of the holistic and localized permaculture approach in a broad sense, from my observation.. The price of services: whether labor, learning or teaching are decided by what each individual participant thinks its worth. Prices and worth of services are subjective This kind is bartering- of services parallels free markets.

I am also reminded of of a basic ethical question of working together: “What does this person, or land, have to give if I cooperate with them “ postulated by Bill Mollison in his book “Permaculture Designer Manual”. A great ethical consideration for individualists like myself.

The class participants numbered around 20 people who gathered on this property in Pennsylvania –– An ideal location of the beds that we were to work on, had already been decided. This was part of a bigger project that included the dwelling and entire property. we informed that the overall project included the concerns of neighbors, such as their rainwater run-off intake… implicitly the whole system included the bordering neighbors. Grass was already killed off the bedding area by cardboard coverage. I have used this method of grass kill myself in other small projects. After tape is removed from the cardboard, the sheets are layered over the ground in overlapping fashion and is usually covered with mulch. The cardboard itself, eventually breaks down and becomes part of the soil. This method was already completed for us.

The process of building the elevated beds were as followed

  • Marking off three to four foot rows across the soil.
  • Using a 19 inch broad forks, the top soil was loosened. In some projects the broad forks are used to go deeper and break up the clay under the top soil.
  • The 19 inch broadfork, was specially designed by a permaculture designer to replace “double digging”, a method that uses far more manpower.
  • Double digging and the broadfork methods are used instead of tilling. This is because tiling can turn over the clay beneath the top soil. This can disrupt the natural microbes in the soil and make the bed less sustainable over a long period of time.
  • The top soil of every other row, previously marked off, was shoveled carefully on top of the next row. The result are trenches, soon to be made into a walk way, beside and a tall top soil mounds, soon to be molded into elevated bed.
  • The trenches would be filled in with wood chip. We used wheel barrels and raked the whole thing was a teamwork effort. Once the trenches were filled with three inches high of chip, they were stable enough to be the pathways for walking and working around each bed.
  • The mounds of top soil would be shaped into elevated beds by hand by the workshop instructor
  • I would find this part difficult later when I mimicked it in my backyard project.
  • Straw was raked carefully over the beds as mulch.
  • The end result was an ergonomically useful bed to plant a salad garden, mint garden, spinach, mustard cale, peppers, onions, etc., .

Raised beds also useful because it is easier to control water flow through the soil since the pathways are also trenches, waste biomass can be used as fertilizer under the woodchip. The instructor recommended planting plants so that the leaves barely touch to form a canopy. The canopy and the bed design it’ self together are called “intensive gardening”, a method to make the most out of a given space.  The work of about 20 participants over 2500 square feet (that is an estimate) was completed in three and a half hours. That time does not include full transplanting of crops, which was done at a later time. The tools included three broad forks, a dozen or so shovels, a dozen or so mulch rakes, two wheel barrels.

My own raised beds.

Back in my experimental system I installed three raised beds. I simply mimicked what I learned at the workshop. I planted leeks, cherry tomatoes two varieties of larger tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell peppers and green peppers, a hybrid oregano transplant and apple mint. The bed is not terribly self sufficient with the fruit and vegetables I planted and I have to carry water a long distance. The only sustainable transplant was an apple mint that is growing very tall. Since mint self seeds very efficiently I may regret planting it there next year.
Maybe I use the area to grow only mints leeks and onions.

My tomatoes and cucumbers have had a modest yield, this I believe is do to insufficient sunlight. They will be rotated to another location next year. I have no complaints on the quality of the tomatoes or other produce that I grew in these beds.
Ultimately, my first permaculture experiment has had mixed results so far. Do to lack of experience and knowledge, it is not in anyway self sustaining yet. However I was able to yield a lot of produce this year from what was only patchy grass and dry soil two years ago. If there is one thing I have enjoyed learning about gardening, its to expect the unexpected.

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Wetland Photos-Summer2015 Egrets and Herons

Photos of Blue Herons and Egrets I have taken recently.
both Egrets and Herons (including Great Blue, Blue and Green Herons) are common in Pennsylvania year round.

More information on Blue Herons: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Blue_Heron/id
More on Egrets: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Egret/id
Both links from the Cornell-lab of Ornithologist.

Similar Wetland photos on Pennsylvania Echoes follow the:

Have a great summer!

Zone Mapping with Gestalt Perspective

I was on my way to a gardening class this weekend, when I got to thinking about “Zone Maps”.
Zone Mapping is a graphical method in permaculture design that is used to organize and compare systems (most often ecosystems, landscaping, sustainable gardens, and conservatory area regeneration,etc).
After intensive observation of a system, One drafts a zone map with concentric circles. The simplest zone map would start with something like this
Zone 0 – basic necessities of people and dwelling areas.
Zone 1 – areas of ecosystem designated as support of basic necessities
Zone 2 – semi-wild. this is areas with lots of edges.. where system meet (i.e Ecotone)
Zone 3 – the wild. untamed or unknown areas or areas not of use.

Zone maps can be applied to more than just landscape or conservatory projects. A designer can use them to graphically map out communities, business models and just about anythings. This is an application to aid the study and comparison of things and concepts as systems.

Which lead me to thinking about the Gestalt perspective, which includes the study and comparison of “wholes
So I experimented with some zone-mapping with Gestalt:

Permaculture

Gestalt Contact Awareness

o basic necessities basic needs
basic responsibilities
esteem
meaning
1  support of  basic necessities “nourishment”
cultivation of skills
growth, learning
2  semi-wild
edges
interaction of systems
contact
new interpersonal activity
interacting with environment
3 wild
unused or unknown
Withdraw
expulsion  ideas and activity
that is either “toxic” or
“no longer fits”
letting go

 

This is what a ‘zone map on gestalt perspective’ might look like:

Gestalt-Awareness-Zone-Mapping.png
 
My zone map is a comparison and between: a simplified organization of a ecological design ;
and an organization of developing awareness from Gestalt therapy perspective. Note these are just my conjectures just for zone mapping practice.
I am starting to learn how to use zone maps, so this one is rough… missing a few components.
I hope to post improved experiments later as I learn.

Swimming between Systems

swans-near-ice1
 
Today I learned a new word: Ecotone.
An Ecotone is an area where two ecological systems or communities meet, transition and integrate.
That to say: Enough differences between meeting systems or communities to observe a boundary , however resources are constantly exchange enough to to describe any “boundary” as permeable. A simple example would be beach and sea, where minerals and small life are constantly be deposited or eroded.

I cannot help, but to think of my new word “Ecotone”, learned in my permaculture class and compare it withthe word “Contact” from Gestalt Therapy. Contact is the meeting of differences, where resources are exchange between. And so is an Ecotone.

It does not surprise me (anymore, that is) to find similar, if not synonymous terms in both Gestalt and Permaculture. Both approaches merge science and holism. Gestalt therapy places weight on one’s awareness of his/her real-time experience ; Permaculture places heavy emphasis on one’s observation and interaction with ecological systems.
What first peaked my interest about permaculture as an approach, is that permaculture may be far better suited to empirically support holism.
Permaculture design is anchored, concretely, in observing ecology.

I have other ambitions and curiosities with permaculture. Besides I am only beginning my course. None the less, I welcome any personal synthesis between the gestalt theory, permaculture, science and holism , as I continue to learn.

On a completely unrelated topic: It’s still cold here in Pennsylvania, It was sleeting when I left my class for home. I feel like I am swimming between seasons, much like the Swans in the picture above.

Wetland photos 2

I had another good thanksgiving day. I have notice the hype that Turkeys this time of year. But I thought I’d share some pictures other fowl, waterfowl Herons and kingfishers… plus some of there turtles friends hanging out together on a man made pond — a well kept overflow and runoff reservoir.
 
click on any image to start the  gallery:
 
 


 

I visited this marshy area quite a bit over summer, and I am surprised that turtles sit so comfortably next to the birds. Equally interesting is that the two Herons (A blue heron and a white egret) did not show any confrontational or territorial ill feelings toward each other… in fact the birds fished together, sometimes only a couple feet away from each other. They moved spot to spot in the pond usually with the geese and ducks.. perhaps this communal friendliness was for safety, or perhaps better fishing opportunities… or perhaps both.
It should be pointed out that all these critters were benefiting from a man made run of reservoir, even man can get along with turtle and wild birds.

… as long as the bird ain’t a turkey.

My Zen and Empiricism

Zen, originally Ch’an , is a practice within the frame work of Buddhism and ancient Chinese-Asian philosophies. Zen practice includes meditation, experiential learning and academically deconstructing language (if it is assumed that language is a vehicle of truth). Thus with Zen, the importance of doctrine and texts falls below the former in priority.

The Buddhist presence in Zen is found Zen’s strategy objectives:

  • to let go bad ideas and attachments;
  • to be with the true nature of things; events; happenings… or “Buddha-Nature” ;
  • to end or reduce angst and suffering.

Inferred from ancient Asian influences, of early Taoist philosophy: the best way for one to experience the nature of things, is to focus on the present moment at hand.– the here and now.

Kill the Buddha

Embrace nothing:
If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha.
If you meet your father, kill your father.
Only live your life as it is,
Not bound to anything

-attribute to Gautama Buddha.

The allegory’s rhetorical purpose is to encourage one not to rely on the teachings of others. If one conceptualizes “the Buddha” or Dharma in the teachings of one text, one teacher or one master, then one should destroy that picture. One practices to become , or to find his or her own “Buddha”. More accurately, One strives to be with his or her own true nature, or “Buddha-nature” with meditation and experience. Experience includes interpersonal activity (that may include listening or working with others), Zen as is largely a personal study and practice, first.

Depreciating dogma and grand teachings, Zen, or at least my Zen, takes on an agnostic nature.
Outside the social order of Buddhism as religion, many Zen Buddhist or Zennist practice a personal Zen that is often combined with other studies.

My Zen practice is secular in nature. my Zen is combined with Natural Science and Humanistic Psychology

Zen, Rogers and the Rest..

Humanistic psychologist and philanthropist Carl Rogers often cited early Taoism (*), the Ancient Chinese philosophy that influenced Ch’an. Fritz Perls co-founder of Gestalt Therapy studied Zen in Japan (although not entirely impressed with zen (*)) as much as he conversed in European coffee houses. . Writer/lecturer Allan Watts, shared his ideas from Zen Buddhism, Ancient Taoism and psychology, as they applied to contemporary living. Twentieth Century writers in the studies of both Eastern and Western philosophies and psychology drew from Zen Buddhism, Taoism, the works of Danish thinker Kierkegaard amongst others.

The experiential nature of Zen is an easy synthesis with the methods of Humanistic Psychology, where both clients and enthusiasts are encouraged to understand how they experience their environment. Zen and H.P agree on the concept of organism and field connectivity… I would say both are the study of being. To use big words of academic philosophy Zen practice and Humanistic Psychologies use methods of Ontological Empiricism or “phenomenology“. All this really means is that when one is practising or applying these awkwardly termed approaches , one seeks to understand his own nature, in real time as it happens. Zen is personal in method.

Zen and Scientific Investigations

Empirical-world.jpgI believe that as studies, Natural Science, in particular Physics, and Zen have similar aims. Both theorize that the way the universe happens has a structure… a constant and common underlying nature to everything and nothing. Natural Law, Tao, or Buddha Nature pick your words, Nature is illusive. Both Science and Zen aim to investigate the nature of the happening universe by Empirical means. Science uses rigorous testing while all the time remaining as objective as possible, zen is a more personal introspection. Humanistic psychology with its “phenomenological approach” also uses personal investigations, all the while “bracketing” or reducing bias and judgement that obscure ones own interpretation of Reality .’

A Not So Perfect Synthesis

The true nature of things, even with bracketed personal experience, meditation and scientific evidence can be incredibly hard to pin at times. Even with all the evidence of this constancy it still requires a bit of Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith. What this means, for me is, I don’t treat all circumstances and all people the same. If this sounds contradictory, hear me out:
Its impossible to use a single strategy or approach for every circumstance, every interpersonal gestalt…. I suspect: too many variables and people are too different. So I am, at times, a pluralist, in the William James vein when I am problem-solving. For Example, Conversing between peers in mental health management We often say “What works for one person may not work for the next:. Its the best I can do. I’ll save my pragmatic and localized problem-solving approach for another post,

What happens, Now

So I usually describe myself accurately as an “agnostic”, for those who find labels important and for those who ask, but that never seems satisfying. Being Agnostic? that really applies to the limitation of knowledge, a knowledge that fundamentally rested upon what humans can experience. (We can’t even be sure if anything known can be described outside the bracket of human experience -IMO)

Tongue Firmly in cheek… I will now introduce l myself as an “Empiricist” when prompted.
and we’ll see what happens. :)

Burke, Balanced Anarchy and the Internet

 
A segment of James Burke’s TV show “The Day the Universe Changed“.
Here, from the mid 1980’s Burke predicts the Internet. It is a profound importance of the  Internet that it remains a communication medium where no privileged view should dominate, a communication of heterogeneous voices. – a global pluralistic  intersubjective forum that remains defiant of  the tyranny of any one way of thought.

Starting in my earliest teens,  I love science. My father loved History.  Growing up, together  we watched James Burke’s TV shows like Connections and The Day the Universe Changed  — The former a fun look at the history of science; the latter the history of knowledge.  I am still mad I missed meeting James Burke when we gave a lecture at a near by University.  I was in High School at the time of his visit to my hometown.

  • There are and have been, many ways of thinking and problem solving;
  • politics and culture  coerce world-views;
  • no one paradigm fits all circumstances;
  • systems of thought maybe, at times, means of control, and at other times maybe a means of freedom. freedom that leads to gained autonomy.

This I have learned and I credit James Burke, in part, to this education.

In 1992, On a college mate’s   computer , I saw the World wide Web and Internet for the first time.  I was blown away.  I started by playing a video game.  It was  downloaded to my friends Amiga in Pennsylvania from a server in England… in minutes.  Silly, but the potential was obvious.  I think a few young people take the Internet for granted.  To me, It was of the most important developments I ever witnessed.

What has the the Internet has come to be?  a  means of  communicating disinformation as much as it is  communicating “truth”  from any personal perspective.  But that too is  lesson in freedom and intersubjectivity.  An  individual has a choice what to believe or reject, without being told so by authority. An individual must seek out his own means of verification in   a sea of   data, and his own means of deciding what is meaningful, unimportant or outright bullshit.
I still welcome the chatter of many ideas.  I welcome the freedom  of discovery and ignorance without being told what to think.

The Internet is important.
And so is James Burke  :)