Chopaka Nut Orchard Pilarski
The bulk of what follows used to make up the "Sweets" chapter, and there was a lot more in it about how to make apple butter than about how to grow a tree. Now, as I sit down to write this new edition, I am more worried about preserving the topsoil, maintaining our atmospheric oxygen, and reducing the earth's carbon dioxide level (and risk of a disastrous "greenhouse effect") than I am in making sure you can cook apple butter. Apple butter is still here, but I've added as much as I could (not as much as I wanted) about trees. Trees are the single most important answer to those 3 most critical challenges for the future of life on earth.
The massive, semipermanent root networks of trees forestall erosion and make possible a form of long-term agriculture that can sustain humans and their livestock without the loss of topsoil and the desertification of their agricultural land, which is the great risk of annual tillage for generations. The leaves of trees both yield oxygen and remove carbon dioxide as part of their natural chemistry. And, as if that isn't good enough, you can plant entire forests, or plantations, or farm crops of trees that also provide food. Fruit, yes, of course. But not just fruit. Tree fruits are wonderful: apples, pears, peaches, and nectarines from the temperate zones, and avocado, banana, persimmon, guava, and a long list of others that grow in warmer climates. In Central Asia there are forests made up entirely of various kinds of fruiting trees, all growing wild—gardens of Eden. In the United States before 1900 there were vast wild nut forests, mainly chestnuts, which made up a third or even a half of the total tree population, and under which the pioneers' pig herds roamed untended—reproducing and flourishing until their surplus was needed for table meat. But the magnificent, towering hardwood forests of walnut and such have long since been cut down to make dressers and coffee tables. The Eastern chestnuts all died in the terrible epidemic of a new disease (some Western ones survived!)— chestnut blight—that struck the forests in the early 1900s.
There are trees that build up the soil—nitrogen fixers, exactly like beans, peas, and alfalfa in your garden and field. Mesquite is one, for exam
ple, and it also has the gift of being able to live in desert conditions. There are bread trees, bean trees, sugar trees, protein trees, chocolate trees. Some of each broader category are suitable for any major climate zone. You could feed your family and all your livestock entirely from trees (and some people do!). And, of course, the dead branches and overage trees are a practical fuel source and building material. All these possibilities exist so long as trees aren't cut down to clear land for the plow, or carelessly killed off by the burning of high-sulfur coal, which then causes the atmosphere to rain sulfuric acid down on them.
In certain areas of the Mediterranean, farmers for centuries have practiced a "2-story" agriculture. Tall trees are the upper story: carobs for stock fodder and olives for the delicacy of their fruit or cooking staple of their oil, or some other tree. Underneath the trees they may let pigs or cattle or goats roam to fatten on the tons of nourishing foodstuffs seasonally cast down from the generous tree branches above. Trees whose leaves and fruits are edible and relished by meat, milk, and egg producers are called "livestock fodder trees." These trees are important because such an agriculture is virtually permanent and totally nondestructive. The trees and the pasture beneath them stay put so there is no soil erosion from tilling multiple times each year, no bare fields of dirt to blow or wash away. And the dense tree foliage and pasture beneath maximize the contribution green stuff makes to good air, as well as to meat supply. The Mediterranean farmers have a garden space, too, but it doesn't have to be very big.
There are farmers in the United States who also do some variety of 2-story farming. They can turn swampy, marginal land into an almost effortless wealth producer by planting a forest of stock-feed dropping trees—not just accidentally this kind or that, but a carefully planned layout to provide as nearly as possible a year-round fall of fodder for the animals: one tree crop raining down its bounty early in spring, another that fruits in mid-summer, still another in fall, and another for late fall feeding. And the animals in turn nourish the trees by their manure. That's how it has to be for this ecosystem to be permanently healthy. The cycle has to be complete: plants give what animals need; animals return what plants need. Or underneath and between their trees (which are perhaps 40 feet apart), these 2-story farmers raise annual crops of grain or vegetables. Because of the partial shade of the trees, their tilled crop doesn't yield as much as it would in full sun. But the Mediterranean communities of which I spoke have been doing this for centuries, and the depth of their topsoil and its fertility is undiminished, whereas in far too many neighboring countries there is bare rock or desert now where centuries ago fertile farms provided the basis of ancient civilizations. The success of their 2-story farming is due to the trees, which hold soil in place and perpetually enrich it with their annual generosity of falling leaves and fruits. (Did you ever hear of terrible famines like those of Ethiopia and Somalia happening to people who live in the middle of a dense forest? I haven't.)
Another form of 2-story farming is described in the Tilth organization's visionary classic The Future Is Abundant ("Chopaka Nut Orchard," by Michael Pilarski, p. 106): a nut orchard with 2 heights of trees. "The upper story of the nut orchard consists of walnuts, Chinese chestnuts, heartnuts and a few Turkish tree hazels (Corylus colurna). The middle story is composed mainly of filberts, with some pears, peaches, and plums. The south side of the orchard is planted to peaches and nectarines to take advantage of the warm, sunny exposure. On the west side grapes have been trained along the high deer fence which surrounds the orchard. . . Bill [the grower] has found that spacing the walnut trees 60 feet apart and the filbert trees 25 feet apart is ideal." On the ground story of his orchard, Bill raises yet another crop, peacocks and peahens, which protect his trees from insects and also provide a cash crop from feathers that Bill collects during their molting seasons, plus sale of live birds. He also raises bees, which feed themselves from the tree blossoms, perform pollination duties, and make prime honey.
So we need to keep the trees we have. And we need to plant more. In England farmers love their pastures, and I've heard they fence them not with posts hacked from the bodies of dead trees but with ingeniously devised barriers made of closely growing and intertwined living trees called "hedgerows." Their hedgerows, made of ash, elm, heather, holly, ivy, and willow, provide some winter food for livestock, summer and winter harvests for people and animals, shelter for some wild critters, privacy, and a guaranteed role on their land for trees. For how to create one, refer to Hedgerow by Eric Thomas and John T. White (New York: Morrow, 1980).
We need to shut down or convert the high-sulfur coal-based industries and replant the forests that have been poisoned. We need to replant as much as possible of all the earth's lands that were once forested. In areas where natural rainfall supports forests, we need to make a conscious agricultural evolution from an open-field-based agriculture to a tree-based or 2-storied agriculture. That's the next great agricultural revolution.
I have an insistent vision of a wonderful earth thousands of years from now, with healthy air and water and healthy, happy, cultured, literate humans living on it. They survive and thrive in carefully maintained balance and companionship with and humble service to the plants and animals that sustain them. In those places where trees can naturally grow, I see people living contentedly under a canopy of green leaves.
I like the idea of planting trees for grandchildren—or for generations to come. As each year goes by, other people's children look more like my children to me. The older I get the more it feels like I'm related to everyone I meet and that the children and their children to come are all somehow my offspring, too. I'm understanding at last in a fully integrated way that all humans are ultimately family, and beyond them, we are connected to all animals, too, and beyond them, with all life. Yes, related to a tree. And not so distantly as we might think. Trees and people are far more closely related to each other than either is to a rock!
Choosing trees to plant can be very exciting. How about a Dawn Redwood, one of the ancient species that dates back to the Upper Cretaceous era, 100 million years ago? How about the honey locust, a wonderful drought-resistant cold-hardy tree that will grow hundreds of pounds of pig and cattle fodder each year for winter feeding and also, being a legume, enriches the soil? Plant a tree for your anniversary, or your birthday, or Arbor Day, or . . . It's actually good to mix your species. Get the right combination and you have an ideal permacul-ture.
NOTE: For easier reference, most recipes in this chapter are grouped together with a particular nut or fruit. However, preparation details are not repeated each time if they are covered in Chapter 7. If your recipe seems incomplete or vague, refer to that chapter to find the rest of the processing information.
Planting a Tree
Someone asked Martin Luther, "What should I do on the last day of earth?" Luther replied, "Plant a tree."
It's a wonderful, spiritual thing to plant a tree. Each tree is a living thing that can share the rest of your life. It will grow and give you shade, elegant beauty, food to eat, and branches for birds to nest in and children to climb in and for you to hang your hammock on and take a well-deserved nap. No matter what, plant one or more trees every year. And plant as many—or more—as what you take out. If you're planting various kinds of trees your harvesting will be staggered because they grow at different rates and you may be harvesting different sorts of products from them. You can sell Christmas trees, nuts, maple syrup, firewood, fence posts, sawlogs, and fruit. If you have livestock fodder trees, you can get rich selling pork, because pigs can more easily get a total diet from tree crops than any other animal. So plant some nut, fruit, sugar, stock forage, timber, or woodlot trees every year on your land. And if you don't have land, or have no more room, then plant them on someone else's land, doing your share to guarantee our mutual future.
networking: To network with other dedicated tree planters, contact TreePeople: 818-753-4600; fax 818-7534635; 12601 Mulholland Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210; [email protected]; www.TreePeople.org. Friends of the Trees, based in Bellingham, WA, seeks solutions to world deforestation and offers programs, seminars, and info at local, regional, national, and international levels (geocities.com/RainForest/4663/).
A Tree Quiz
Hint: All answers are shrubs or trees that bear an edible crop.
1. If you can grow oranges on your irrigated fertile bottom land, what tree will thrive on your steep, rocky, poor-soil, arid hillsides?
2. What temperate-zone fruit has an 8- to 12-inch deciduous leaf, bears a delicious 5-inch fruit, is hardy to -30°F, can grow in partial shade, can handle the competition of being in the middle of a lawn, and is virtually pest- and disease-free?
3. What tree takes 40 years to reach full maturity but then will produce a generous human-food and stock-food crop annually— even through drought and total neglect—for centuries?
4. What tree, hardy to 20°F or able to live in a container and winter in a basement, will bear 2 crops of fruit, one in June and the other in August, and (out of the South) is usually not bothered by pests or diseases?
5. What temperate to subtropical zone fruit will grow in subsoil clay where all the topsoil has washed away, or in sand; is drought-resistant once established; can grow in a lawn; can provide ripe fruit continuously from August or September to December or February; will store fruit in good condition on the tree all that time (or the fruit will keep on the ground for another month or two, even after freezes); bears fruit generously; and yields prized carving wood?
6. What plant that is not a pear, but is related to the pear, is a good choice if you have poorly drained soil. This plant can produce yellow, baseball-sized fruits in zones 5-9 despite late frosts, or drought.
7. What temperate-zone fruit tree can grow almost anywhere, can handle the competition of a lawn, heavy or poor soil and poor drainage, could get along on one deep watering a month, needs little pruning, is immune to fire blight, can produce for up to 75 years, and bears fruit you can store in your cellar 2-3 months while you get around to eating or preserving them?
Answers to quiz: 1. Carob. 2. Pawpaw. 3. Carob. 4. Fig. 5. American persimmon. 6. Quince. 7. Keiffer pear.
For more tree information, contact American Forests: PO Box 2000, Washington, DC 20013; 202-955-4500; fax 202-955-4588; [email protected]; www.american forests.org; www.treestories.org;www.historictrees.org. And The National Arbor Day Foundation; 402-474-5655; fax 402-474-0820; 211 N. 12th St., Lincoln, NE 68508; [email protected]; www.arborday.org.
Read The Theory and Practice of Agroforestry Design, by Paul A. Wojkowski (1998); Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture (1987), by J. Russell Smith; and Temperate Agroforestry Systems (1997), by Andrew M. Gordon and Steven M. Newman, eds. The Association for Temperate Agroforestry (AFTA) encourages use of permaculture know-how in temperate North America, combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock to increase and diversify farm and forest production while conserving natural resources. They publish a quarterly newsletter, The Temperate Agroforester, cosponsor a biennial conference, and supply tree crop info: 573-882-9866; fax 573-8821977; 203 ABNR Bldg., U. of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211; [email protected]; www.missouri.edu/~afta. And see "Agroforestry Overview" at www.attra.org/ attra-pub/agroforest.html or order a print copy (it's free) from 800-346-9140.
The USDAs National Agroforestry Center offers info, too (Alley Cropping; Forest Farming; Silvopasture; Windbreaks; etc.): www.uni.edu/nac/. Rodale's Agroforestry Articles <Sr Resources has an article on "Little-Known Acacias [such as A. baileyana]: Promising Agroforestry Species" at fadr.msu.ru/rodale/agsieve/txt/agrofor.html. Plants for a Future (a database of 7,000+ useful species of plants, worldwide!, with details on how to grow and uses) has a website section on "Edible Trees and Shrubs" at www.scs. leeds.ac.uk/pfaf/index.html. The Australasian Tree Crops Sourcebook is another amazing online resource, listing all sorts of nut, fruit, and timber tree crops (and plant sources of useful oils) with links to plant sources: www.aoi.com/au/ atcros/.
Continue reading here: Guerrilla Tree Planting
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