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Mini Book Review: Edible Forest Gardens

plant hardiness zones Edible Forest Gardens (Books 1 & 2), by Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier What is most remarkable about this exhaustive and practical course in temperate climate (zones 4-7) permaculture is that only about 40 of its over 1000 pages are about the work of planting and maintaining an “edible forest garden” (“a perennial polyculture of multipurpose [native] plants”); the rest is understanding what to plant, when, and why. The whole idea of these gardens is to enable you to harvest an abundance of varied foodstuffs with almost no maintenance. The theory takes up the whole first volume and needs every page. The challenge, you see, is that even what we might perceive as ‘wilderness’ is in fact nothing of the sort. Humans, right back to First Nations thousands of years ago, have utterly altered the vegetation that now looks so wild and ‘natural’. On top of that, climate change has, since the ice ages, been continuously changing what grows where. In order to allow nature to provide you, effortlessly year after year, a harvest of abundance, you first need to discover what naturally grew and what naturally will grow where you live. You need to study the botanical history of your home. Then, since it cannot be quickly ‘restored’ to natural, sustainable state (succession goes through many long intermediary stages and can take centuries to achieve equilibrium), you need to be smart enough to plan for a 20-30 year ‘hurry-up succession’ that will chivy the process along. You have to plant in stages, knowing that early stages are just preparing the soil, the ecosystem and the ground cover and canopy for later stages, and that some of the first things you plant won’t be around at the end of the succession at all if you’ve done your job right. This takes serious knowledge and study, a lot of patience and relearning what our ancestors learned as a matter of course. It’s in many ways a course in what Derrick Jensen has called “listening to the land”. There probably isn’t anything you could learn that would be more important, for your soul, for your community, for your resilience in the coming age of climate change and other disasters that will require us all to become much more self-sufficient than we are today. Start now, and when cascading economic, social and ecological catastrophes hit us in the 2030s and bring existing food production and other systems to their knees, you’ll be ready to gather the fruits of your labour.

Dave is now probably best known for his weblog How to Save the World, where he writes about understanding how the world really works, and how we might create better ways to live and make a living. Dave is currently VP of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, where he is responsible for research and thought leadership, and more specifically for helping the accounting profession and entrepreneurs in general become more innovative, resilient and sustainable. Prior to this he worked with Ernst & Young for 27 years in many different capacities as CKO and Global Director of Knowledge Innovation, and as Director of Entrepreneurial Services. Dave speaks and writes prolifically on knowledge management, business innovation, and sustainable entrepreneurship. His first book, Finding the Sweet Spot: A Natural Entrepreneur's Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work, has just been published by Chelsea Green. He lives on a natural wetland on the Oak Ridges Moraine northwest of Toronto.

Elselien Epema Interviews Dave About “Finding the Sweet Spot”

image of Elselien from her website; image of Dave by Bowen artist-photographer Debra Stringfellow I was delighted and flattered to learn, last year, that Elselien Epema, an instructor at the University of the Hague in Nederland, has been using my book Finding the Sweet Spot as a text in her course on entrepreneurship (thanks to Nancy White for making […] Read More..

An Economy That Works For Us

illustration from my book Finding the Sweet Spot Robert Reich, the reformed former US Labor Secretary (under Clinton), recently wrote a very short summary explaining how the globalized, corporatized so-called “free market” economy benefits only a very few. I’m reproducing it below in its entirety, to set the stage for some of my thoughts on why […] Read More..

What Is Your True Song?

The bird pictured at right  (credit Roland Jordahl) is a Swainson’s Thrush, a regular summer visitor here on Bowen Island. Like most birds, it has both “songs” and “calls”. The songs tend to be more melodious and variable — each bird’s is slightly different. The calls are simpler, standard and more abrupt. Here is the […] Read More..

Links and Tweets of the Month

PREPARING FOR CIVILIZATION’S END Our Belief Systems at a Turning Point?: Gail at the Oil Drum suggests that the Enron/Worldcomm frauds, the bailout of greedy financial corporations, and now the incompetence and deception of BP and its cohorts have finally pushed the majority of us to a turning point where we no longer believe (a) […] Read More..

Hello world!

Hello everyone. I’ll be using this blog to cross-post articles from my regular weblog, How to Save the World, that I think might be of interest to Chelsea Green readers. I’m the author of Finding the Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work, new from Chelsea Green. Read More..