There’s a lot of talk out there about renewable energy, living off-grid, tiny homes, passive solar, underground greenhouses, and other ways of fixing more of our resources closer to the homestead. If there was a way to do much of this, using very simple even throw-away or recycled materials, we’d hear about it right? Well, if you’ve heard about EarthShips, you’re lucky. If you haven’t yet, you’re in luck. Talk about the sustainability rubber meeting the road, it couldn’t get more perfect. Of course they’re hard to code, zone, and establish – because they fly in the face of all the dominant trends in building that have been written and dominated by a Dupont-dominated building industry and reinforced by a culture that will demean you for wanting to “live in a hole” because they just don’t understand yet that natural or Earth-based building is the wave of a future that we can actually afford to turn the lights on in. But don’t take my word for it, take a look at some of these videos from Taos, NM (Earthship capital of the Earth right now) and other places where people are innovating these unique structures. Also please keep in mind, that even if zoning or coding will not allow you to build one of these to live in primarily on your land, you can still construct an outlying “shop” or “greenhouse” that use these techniques, and even pipe the warm air it creates into a “proper” house – just to make the system happy. As innovations like this become more popular, hopefully culture will shift toward adopting concepts like this – building renewable sustainable homes with recycled materials – and move away from the toxic stick-houses that are hurting the Earth and easy to destroy by climate-assisted super-storms.
The Smartest Cities are Going Green – Literally – Improving Image and Health, and Curing the Pollution Problem at its Source
Most of us would agree that cities are a huge source of pollution. Generally, most of the junk in the air, waters, and land comes from urban areas, where the greatest concentrations of humans are gathered. This leads some to believe that the best way to “get sustainable” is to move to the country, where things aren’t so crowded and the potential and space exists to do projects that nurture the Earth and grow food. In reality, if there was a mass exodus of people from the cities currently, the countryside would be destroyed by urban sprawl in no time. This process of people leaving the gray city slate for the forested green of the country could explain how urban sprawl actually occurs. Rather than entertain potentially destructive notions in the hope of making a dent in the problem, turn the problem to its source for solutions. Cities are hubs of communication, the home to millions who want to see green where they live; they don’t want to have to leave to have their cake and eat it too. They want to green their cities, and why shouldn’t they? Introducing the movement to improve the ecology in the most ecologically destitute places on Earth, turning some of the world’s biggest cities into resplendent emerald attractions that bring even more residents, commerce, and tourists.
Do you have plants to water? Do you grow food in a dry region? Don’t throw out those recyclable containers! Jars, bottles, and cartons of all kinds can be used to literally pull water out of the air, and keep it from flying away. Water is a polar molecule – it attracts to itself magnetically. Also, it makes a great heat sink, cooling down your plants in the hot dry summer. If you have taken a look at plants in the morning dew, you will notice that moisture tends to stick around established plants – why? Part of it has to do with the moisture in the plant fixing more moisture from the air. Have you ever seen the water droplets on the side of a cold bottle of water form before anyone has opened it? That’s moisture in the air that’s forming on the bottle due to the cold, and a little bit due to the electromagnetic bonds all water molecules feel to each other. “Plant” jars and bottles at the base of your plants to help pull moisture out of the air, keeping them alive and well – and to help keep water from evaporating out of your soil. On a grand scale, think of the effect this could have to help fix liquid fresh water in areas that are being desertified, or where we need to reforest, but it’s hard to get liquid water out to every tree in the rehabilitation zone. Passive condensation tech like this could be part of a toolkit for survival in the parched 21st century, especially with drought from climate change. Just fill any water-tight container with a fitting lid to the brim and bury it 3/4 in the Earth. Compare the results between plants with passive moisturizing or without. Let us know!
In the community where we live, we are employing many awesome ways of doing food gardens. Since we’re right on the edge of the wilderness pretty much, most of our gardening is done in huge areas fenced in from deer. We are using recycled goods from the local recycled place Around Again to make much of this. The choice for what kind of garden you are planting (if you have to choose only one of them and not all of the above) depends on the resources you have available, and how you will be able to use them efficiently to get the most out of your time during the season. We’ve decided to play with all sorts of methods so we can discover by-and-by what works here in the long run.
In our newest garden, before we have a fence on it (still don’t as of this writing) I laid hugulkultur-inspired “lasagna beds” of layered stick, leaves and straw, manure, sand, dirt, clay, and made a point not to mix them. The experiment was to see if this layering effect would lead to more sub-surface habitat and a range of food items, not to mention the spaces in the litter, where invertebrates like rolly-pollies and earthworms can live, eat and move around. Many gardeners will agree that invertebrate droppings, including but not limited to the legendary castings of earthworms, make the best food for plants of all kinds. With this in mind, these experimental beds a year or two in feature copious earthworms per cubic foot of soil, and lots of potatoes harvested. (We planted potatoes here because the deer tried them and got sick – nightshade – then never tried them again.)
The harvest for veggies available this time of year is not terribly varied, but still abundant – because we overwintered our lettuce and kale starts, letting them germinate in the cold. The result is an already-abundant crop of red/green lettuce and russian kale leaves and raab, with more to come! For now check out these pics of our off-grid fresh harvest. Check us out Saturdays at the Port Angeles Farmer’s Market, come and talk sustainability with us and taste some of the fruits of this effort so far.
Where are we?
We are located in the mountains above Port Angeles, WA, on a 120-acre Christmas tree farm. The property has been managed as a sustainable stewardship forest for almost 20 years; the owner built his own house here 30 years ago when he and his partner bought most of the current land in order to preserve the habitat from development.
Protecting and improving the health of the forest.
Much of the land here has old growth forest still, with no plans to harvest most of it. We protect habitat for cougars, coyotes, deer, ermine, owls, hawks, ravens, and countless amphibians. Since starting their impromptu wildlife preserve-of-sorts, there have been added ponds and water retention to the land that simply wasn’t there before – and threatened species like red-legged frogs, mudpuppies and rough-skinned newts thrive in the waterways. It’s our goal that whatever we harvest from the forest or land we return at least five-fold, planting berry bushes and other wild edibles for the birds and animals.
Note: as of 9/21/2016 we are no longer in this location. Brendan and family live in an apartment where they are re-grouping and saving up for a land lease-to-own. This article is now a historical document.
Although there are things about it that leave something to be desired, tilling a garden’s soil every year is still the old standby for creating a garden literally from the ground up. Tilling aerates the soil, and “green compost” or old cover crop and other plant material can be chopped up into the soil to return carbon, nitrogen and other nutrients for further growth. In combination with a no-till method, tilling can be a great way to get a garden going at least – to transform the surface of the land once, in order to set up mulching and compost-injection systems that keep up the no-till permaculture design in the long run. Generally speaking, however, no-till gardening is easier, more effective, healthier for the environment and better at keeping nutrients and water in the soil. It’s also closer to the natural systems that uphold the balance of nature in forests and fields as it is.
Where we live in the Pacific Northwest, it’s hard to imagine a diet that includes things like avocados, bananas, and coffee without going to the store to get these things. Generally the climate here doesn’t favor growing high-temperature species – hats off to you in more moderate climes, we just can’t do it up here! Unless you have a hothouse, or climate-stable insulated biodome that is.
The concepts of hothouses and even geodesic domes are not new ones, their efficacy and structural integrity have been proven. People use both of these technologies around the world even today to produce an amazing variety of food year round.. and have an awesome piece of space age architecture to boot!