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How to be an urban fruit forager

How to be an urban fruit forager

Helena Martin co-founded the foraging platform, RipeNearMe. A Singapore native, her travels led her to Malaysia, Sydney, and ultimately Adelaide, South Australia. Here, Helena — a lifelong forager — shares tips to help other urbanites begin their own foresting journeys. 

My love affair with fruit goes back a long way. Our property had many fruit trees and I climbed almost all of them in spite of insect bites and other hazards. As kids, we were the best neighbourhood foragers although our fearlessness often landed us in trouble.

Neighbours were receptive to us kids, although I have now knocked on many doors and offered to pay for fruit and have been told to help myself. People tell me they would rather see the food eaten than rot on the ground as they don’t know what to do with the surplus.

Our modus operandi was, and still is, to scour the neighbourhood for anything edible and keep a record of what’s around. (I no longer climb fences so I can’t always see what is grown in the back, although I do ask). We had been warned about what fruit was edible and, if in doubt, to leave well alone. We sussed out the friendly neighbours and gave the unfriendly ones a wide berth.

Nowadays I drive and can go further but my MO remains the same. In the 10 km radius of where I live I can source 80% of my favourite fruit, mostly for free, for a token sum, or in exchange for my own homegrown produce. There are also fruit trees in community gardens and public areas. Today we feasted on sweet public mulberries, picked off the trees and straight into our mouths. Life doesn’t get better than this.

Everyone can get in on the foraging action.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Water Worries and Drought Tolerant Plants

Water Worries and Drought Tolerant Plants

A Summer Update from Shipka

This summer has been incredibly hot and dry, and even some of the older and more established trees have looked under strain. With increasing periods of hot and dry weather and pressure on both the mains water supply and our perennial source from the river, designing our gardens to be as resilient as possible seems the best way forward. During this post, we’ll be looking at the challenges we’ve faced this season with our usual water supply and take a look at some useful drought tolerant plants that have faired well in dry and hot conditions.

Our project is located in the town of Shipka on the foothills of the Balkan mountains in central Bulgaria. As such our gardens have a gradient that means we can benefit from a gravity-fed perennial water source, a local mountain stream.  The stream water can be diverted into purpose-built cement channels that run down the sides of many of the streets and under roads, making this water accessible for many households. It can also be diverted into the fields. It’s an incredible system although somewhat neglected. All of our gardens were designed to take advantage of this resource.  In the image below you can see the main path of the stream through the mountain, and then the diversion created. The highlighted plot here is one of our gardens, Phronesis. There is approximately a 3m drop from the north to the south of the plot and the slope is more or less even from east to west.
Image by author
The mountain stream can be diverted into the site from the north
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Food – are we facing a Crisis or an Opportunity?

Food – are we facing a Crisis or an Opportunity?

This post shares four things. The one that takes up the most space is about those two little words “food crisis” that are starting to make headlines. There’s a reason they’re making headlines, and it might not be the reason you think. 

The other items in this post are two tips for ethical buying/browsing choices, and a little piece of wisdom about the language we use. 

Ethical internet searching

Ecosia.org is an internet search engine (like Google) that plants trees (unlike Google).

Planting
Image by Rommel Diaz from Pixabay

They do a lot of other things unlike Google, too. In their words:

We dedicate all our profits to the regeneration of the planet. We even signed a legal contract binding us to our not-for-profit purpose forever. Ecosia can’t be sold … and we can’t take money out of the company.”

Also in their words:

“… if everyone switched from Google to Ecosia, we could plant 300 billion trees — every year.”

Google offers so many free tools in addition to its search engine that it’s hard to go past them for sheer convenience. That’s one of the reasons they’re so influential and powerful.

What might a company like Ecosia achieve in the next 10, the next 20, 30 years… if enough people supported them to enable them to start offering other services the same way Google did?

You can read their manifesto here.

Ethical undies

Do you wear socks or undies? Me too. And the other day I finally found a socks ‘n’ jocks company that I feel good about buying from. I was so excited, my kids rolled their eyes. What’s Mum on about now.

socks
Image by jerabkovamartina from Pixabay

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Butterfly Polyculture and Planting a Productive Hedge

A Butterfly Polyculture and Planting a Productive Hedge

Week 19 – ESC Project – The Polyculture Project

As part of our ESC project we are maintaining and developing community spaces. The centre of our town, Shipka, was fairly recently developed to include a main plaza with a stage where numerous events take place throughout the year, particularly in the summer months.  Surrounding this area is a green space with several beautiful mature deciduous and evergreen trees, such as Horse chestnut – Aesculus hippocastanum, Linden – Tillia sp-  and Fir – Abies sp. Recent renovations to the park have included making pathways, planting more trees and installing new play equipment for children. It has a relaxed yet formal feel to it. We had an idea to design a polyculture for the park that will attract a range of butterflies, add a splash of colour to the area and appeal to children.

Type of Polyculture: Perennial – Amenity
Main Function: To attract butterflies in the central community garden near a child’s playground
Secondary Function: To be aesthetically pleasing
The plants we selected were; Buddleia davidii – Butterfly bushPhlomis russeliana – Turkish Sage, Lavandula angastafolia – LavenderOriganum vulgare – Oregano and Echinacea purpurea – Echinacea. In a small design exercise, one of the ESC team, Ruxandra, was to illustrate the design and consider the following criteria when thinking about plant selection and placement:
  • The main function  – to attract butterflies throughout the summer months, so we’re looking for overlapping and extended bloom times to maximize the butterflies’ visits to the polyculture.
  • Hardy to zone 6 or lower
  • Drought tolerant
  • Low maintenance
  • Predominantly sun-loving plants
The ESC crew have played an active role in supporting the community by weeding and watering the existing plants in this area, a task that is usually carried out weekly by the local mayor’s team…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Thinking about Establishing a Home Permaculture Garden in 2022? 6 Key Benefits You Shouldn’t Overlook

Thinking about Establishing a Home Permaculture Garden in 2022? 6 Key Benefits You Shouldn’t Overlook

Have you ever wondered why humans have to invest so much time and energy into growing plants that grow all by themselves in nature? Permaculture gardening may be the answer. Permaculture is a style of agriculture that aims to work with nature rather than against it. The result is self-sufficient, sustainable crops and plants.

Though it may seem intimidating or complicated, permaculture is just about using what’s available to you in your immediate surroundings. That means that if you’ve ever dreamed of growing your own garden full of food and herbs, you can jot it down on your New Year’s resolution list as an easy, attainable goal for 2022.

How to start a permaculture garden 

wheel barrow
Photo by Ēriks Irmejs on Unsplash

Like any good project, you’ll need a few things before you can get your hands dirty playing in your new garden. First and foremost, you should familiarise yourself with your surroundings and resources. For example, how much space do you have? Are you planting in your backyard or on a balcony? Is there a community garden or rentable plot where you can start your garden?

Next, you’ll want to consider the ecosystem where you live. What are the native plants and insects? Which vegetables and fruits are native to the area, and what are their seasons? The goal is to work with nature as much as possible, so you’ll want to consider what occurs in your area naturally before planting non-native species.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s How to Make a Food Forest This Winter

Here’s How to Make a Food Forest This Winter

Believe it or not, the best time to start a food forest is in the winter. You may be wondering how that could be. Aren’t you going to double your work? Actually, it’s the complete opposite.

Food forests are becoming more common as edible landscaping and neighbourhood community gardens have gained popularity. While standard gardens require continuous labour and care — turning over the soil every spring, weeding, and fertilising — food forests that are layered correctly can cut back on much of that hard work.

What Is a Food Forest?

If you can imagine walking in a forest of edible canopies and bushes that you could pull fruit or vegetables off, that’s precisely what food forests set out to do.

Food forests are a sustainable method of producing plant-based food while mimicking natural forests with a wide variety of trees, herbs, shrubs, and other types of plants.

Also known as “forest gardens,” food forests don’t require tilling, fertilisation, or pest control. It’s essentially a manufactured ecosystem designed to care for itself — or, at least, requires very little human care.

As part of the permaculture movement, food forestry can yield edible plants without depleting vital soil nutrients, allowing natural resources like rainfall and sunlight to promote year-round plant growth.

How to Build a Food Forest in the Winter

But why build a food forest in the winter?

Many edible plants, trees, and herbs can be bought in their “bare root” form and planted while dormant. In this form, plants can more easily adapt to colder temperatures and withstand winter weather. When temperatures rise to the mid-40s again in the springtime, plants can begin growing.

1. Choose Your Plants

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

7 Ways To Make Your Home Sustainable And Eco-Friendly

7 Ways To Make Your Home Sustainable And Eco-Friendly

Introduction

As a homeowner, you might think that there is not enough that you can do to contribute to environmental sustainability. You are wrong!  By implementing small everyday steps, every individual or homeowner can make a large contribution towards reversing the dangers of Climate Change and Global Warming.

Being sustainable and adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle can help you in multiple ways-

● Firstly, it allows you to contribute to the care of the environment in a positive fashion.

● Secondly, you can save money by opting for energy-efficient systems in your home.

● Thirdly, being eco-friendly helps you create healthier living conditions for your family.

In this resource article, we are going to look at seven credible ways that homeowners can make their homes sustainable and eco-friendly. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about making your home eco-friendlier, this article should help you.

List of 7 Ways to Make Your Home Sustainable and Eco-Friendly

1. Invest in energy-efficient devices

The past few years have seen several advancements in energy saving technologies. In this regard, homeowners should look to invest in an energy storage system, smart meters, efficient lighting solutions, and more.  At no point are you compromising on the utility of your energy requirements. What you are doing is accessing the same in a more smart, efficient, and responsible manner.

2. Opt for solar panel installations on your rooftop

Thermal sources of energy are dependent on fossil fuels like coal. This damages the environment, as well as leads to high energy bills. By shifting to renewable sources of energy like the sun, you can reduce your bills, generate electricity for your home, and contribute to the environment responsibly. This is an easy process that can be carried out over the weekend.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ginger in a RealFood Garden

Ginger in a RealFood Garden

Ginger has thrived at our place since I learned to think about what it gives and what it needs in terms of its connections to the other plants around it, to me as the ginger-grower, and to me and my family as the ginger-users.  

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a super useful plant. But no matter how potentially useful a plant is, its usefulness is only actualized when you learn to use it consistently. The more consistently you use a plant the more useful it becomes, and the more you come to rely on it, the better care you take of it.

I’ve been keen on ginger for a long time, but I’ve neglected and lost a lot of ginger plants because I kept putting them in places where I’d forget to take care of them and use them.

Ginger connections…

Plants that thrive in what I call “a RealFood garden”* are plants with connectionsi. The more the better. Here are some of the connections I think about when I think of ginger.

*Can be linked to the other post I’ve sent with this one, “Connections in a RealFood Garden.”

… to the kitchen

I use ginger in salad dressings and its also a key ingredient in my sauerkraut. I’m not very good (yet) at using it in other culinary ways, but there’s always hope. (If you have easy tips for adding fresh ginger to meals that don’t involve taking classes in Asian Cookery, please share in the comments down the bottom!)

We make ginger tea regularly. Cooled ginger tea quenches thirst much more effectively than water.

And a cup of ginger tea before a meal helps digestion and may provide a raft of other benefits from reduced inflammation to helping keep cholesterol levels balanced. Which leads us to the next kind of connection.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

An environmental sociologist explains how permaculture offers a path to climate justice

An environmental sociologist explains how permaculture offers a path to climate justice

Big farming is both a victim of climate change and a contributor. Droughts, floods and soil degradation threaten crop yields. But agriculture produces nearly one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.

A potential antidote to harmful monocultures is a form of community farming invented back in the 1970s: permaculture. Permaculture is not just about farming; it incorporates economic and social principles.

I am an environmental sociologist, and I have witnessed permaculture working in two urban farming communities. I study ways that environmental justice, global development and social equity affect climate change.

Permaculture’s three main tenets – caring for the Earth, caring for the people and sharing the surplus – offer a potential path toward climate justice, which is a response to well-researched phenomena that climate change disproportionately harms underprivileged groups in economic, public health and other ways, and solutions to climate change should include adaptation strategies designed specifically for underprivileged groups.

I spent time at two communities in the Pacific Northwest and in Cuba during the fieldwork for my book “Surviving Collapse.” I witnessed how the communities worked to cut emissions and adapt to climate change in two ways: with egalitarian social organization and regenerative farming techniques.

Permaculture was born in Australia

In the 1970s, two Australian naturalists, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, invented permaculture, a method of growing that considers the natural ecosystem and the community. They wanted to change agriculture’s unsustainable practices, like the heavy use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

5 gardening tips to keep your plants healthy

5 gardening tips to keep your plants healthy

Sometimes, it may be difficult to know the best ways to keep your plants healthy, especially if you’re not a gardener by profession. We aim to have a highly productive garden that fulfils our needs, natures needs, is energy efficient and low maintenance. If you’re struggling to maintain the health of your plants, don’t worry – this guide can help get your plants flourishing in no time at all, expanding nature for both its beauty and eco-friendly benefits. Read on for more discussion!

Water

Telling you to water your plants may seem very obvious, but you should never underestimate the significance that water has in a plant’s growing cycle. Making up a high percentage of an entire plant’s weight, water is crucial for delivering nutrients from the soil to the plant’s cells, keeping them healthy and strong. It can be a challenge sometimes to know how much water to give your plants, so you need to consider the conditions. Thinking about the climate and soil type can help you with this. It is important to get the balance right since too little water causes plants to stop growing and die, whilst too much water can create soggy roots, resulting in the plant becoming oxygen-starved. A good estimate for most gardens is supplying your plants with around one inch of water a week, whilst gardens in hot climates may need two inches of water per week due to the loss of moisture. Water aids plants in their critical life processes, including photosynthesis, nutrient distribution, and transpiration. Therefore, one healthy soak a week should be enough to keep your plants alive and healthy, helping your garden to blossom with minimal effort!

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

2 Ways to Preserve Leafy Greens From Your Veggie Garden

2 Ways to Preserve Leafy Greens From Your Veggie Garden

In my experience, leafy greens are among the easiest kinds of veggies to grow. But they don’t keep for very long and after you’ve given basketfuls of them to your friends and eaten stir-fried leafy greens, leafy greens in soups, in stews, and added to salads, and they’re still coming, what do you do with them next?

Below is a basket of produce from our modular veggie garden. I’ve lost count of how many of these I’ve brought to the kitchen or given as return gifts to friends in exchange for music lessons, fruit, preserves, and general good-will.

Image by author

But lately I’m finding that I even have more green leaves than I can reasonably give away. Here are two ideas for preserving leafy greens when this happens to you. The first is a bit of an experiment. The second is a tried and true favourite in my kitchen.

The experiment: can you make sauerkraut with green cabbages that haven’t formed heads?

Image by author

There are quite a number of cabbages like this one in the garden that haven’t had time to form heads yet and are starting to get a bit chewed by caterpillars. We’ve been eating the outer leaves from them for a while but yesterday I decided to harvest some whole cabbages and use them to make ‘kraut, even though they haven’t headed yet.

Because:

  • I’m not certain they will head at all; our hot, dry weather is approaching and they may not have time to form heads before they think about going to seed.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

No land, no problem: How a lady farmer converts an idle backyard into a productive urban vegetable garden

No land, no problem: How a lady farmer converts an idle backyard into a productive urban vegetable garden

Since 2019 Abi has been growing an abundance of fresh and chemical-free veggies in what used to be an idle backyard of her elderly neighbour.

“I’ve always been passionate about the land,” said Abi.

For most of her time, Abi has been involved in pursuing regenerative land management. She event went into broadacre and permaculture practice.

“I always see myself living on the land at a later stage in my life,” she said.

But the confluence of circumstances made Abi stay in the city instead of the farm, though this didn’t stop her from her being involved in farming and food production.

“Start where you are and do what you can is the motto that I have adopted to ease my need to grow. I became a horticulturist and permaculture consultant and bush regenerator, as I don’t have my own garden, I’m so happy to tend other peoples’ gardens,” she said.

However, the farmer in her must still be crying out to be expressed. She tells everyone who will listen that she’d rather be tending a tiny farm and producing fresh healthy food to share in her community.

“A food garden is my happy place,” Abi says.

When a retired neighbour listened to her dream of growing food and about urban permaculture and offered his idle backyard to be tended back to life, Abi grabbed the opportunity.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why You Should Add More Native Species to Your Garden

Why You Should Add More Native Species to Your Garden

Gardening is a popular pastime for people of all ages and living conditions. Gardeners put in hours of work to provide food for their families, beautify their backyards and help the environment.

Even though many of the plants in your garden may look beautiful, they’re not always the best for you or the environment. Garden centres may sell invasive plants or non-native species, which prevent other plants from growing or require a lot of maintenance. Often, people purchase these not knowing the harm they can do to the environment.

If you’ve been struggling to maintain your garden or put more effort into it than you would like, you should consider adding native species. These are plants that have naturally evolved and adapted to a region without human interference. Here’s why you should add more native species to your garden.

1. They Create a Wildlife Habitat

Native plants attract wildlife, leading to a more biodiverse environment. When they can thrive in their environment, like your garden or backyard, it benefits the environment and your other plants. Pollinators, like birds and bees, will frequent your property when native species are growing. They’ll help pollinate your vegetables and fruit trees for a high yield. Plus, these plants offer a home for small animals and organisms in the soil.

2. They’re Healthier for the Planet

Unlike invasive species, which often require fertilizers and pesticides to thrive, native species can thrive on their own without chemicals, making them a healthier choice for the environment. Native plants also strengthen the soil structure, which prevents erosion and water runoff. Besides that, they can store excess carbon dioxide, making for cleaner air around your home.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Seeing through the seductions of science and technology

Seeing through the seductions of science and technology

The history books in our schools tell us that scientific and technological advancement have freed us from boredom, ignorance and oppression; from drudgery and repetition; from dirt, disease and malnutrition.

Let’s briefly examine these assumptions about what “progress” has achieved, and consider where we go from here.

Freedom from boredom, ignorance, and oppression

To be free from boredom, ignorance and oppression, first we condemn our children to approximately two decades of mind-numbing “education” during what should be the free-est years of their lives. (Education, depending on how it’s conducted, can either be liberating or it can restrict children’s thinking and experimentation to such an extent that most of them forget how to think for themselvesi.)

“So long as our kids get the 3R’s and plenty of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) drummed into them,” we might think, “they won’t be disadvantaged.”

Next, we enshrine a screen in every home; even in every room of every home; even in the car! (Because, now that we have all this leisure time thanks to technology, we need something to fill it with.)

Numbed by popular media, programmed for consumption to support a never-ending-growth economy, we adults send our kids to good schools and exhort them to work hard and earn good grades so they’ll get good jobs, while we keep our own noses to the grindstone and our feet on the treadmill.

We’re sure that once the mortgage is paid off and the cars and screens are upgraded, THEN we can start having fun.

Freedom from drudgery and repetition

School prepares children for their working lives.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Five of Our Favourite Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects

Five of Our Favourite Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects

All organisms are beneficial, and at the very least all organisms past, present and future decompose to nourish something else, but when we speak of beneficial organisms we are speaking of those organisms that provide clear and present benefits, specifically to our polyculture activity. Beneficial organisms, or Borgs as we like to call them, provide benefits to our activity of growing the stuff we need. They seem to be happy to carry out these duties providing we supply (or at the very least don’t destroy) suitable living conditions for them, i.e, habitat. The benefits these organisms offer come mainly in the form of increasing the productivity of our crops via pollination support, protecting our crops from pests via pest predation and providing fertility to our crops via their roles in decomposing organic matter and supplying nutrients, fertility provision.

In this post, we’re identifying some of the plants whose flowers are total Borg magnets. All the plants mentioned in this post with the exception of one are in the Umbelliferous or Apiaceae family, whose flower heads readily attract large numbers of Borgs and appear to drive them into something of a frenzy! Some of these flower heads are edible to humans, and others deadly poisonous, but all are shaped like an umbrella. The curved flower stems and flower buds are essentially clustered in yet another small umbrella, and this structure allows Borgs easy access to forage.  It’s not just this that pulls in the punters though – insects looking for a mate find love in the umbels, and predators take advantage of this busy meeting space.

Fennel – Foeniculum vulgare

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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