What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

#1 AKG podcast in 2011 - Falling Leaves

rainbarrels insulated with leaf bags, solar oven in the background busy preheating dinner.

4'x4' leaf mould piles sheltering fruit trees, storing moisture, blocking view and noise from the road, and producing soil amendment.

watering the winter salad greens in the greenhouse.

Transcript from our latest contribution to the Alternative Kitchen Garden Podcast
Hello again from sunny Hickory North Carolina. We are most pleased to back with Emma on the akg podcast. After a very hot summer and a very cold, snowy autumn, we here at the sustainable living project are settling in for a cozy winter. We had a lovely Christmas, even with a malfunctioning gas heating system.  The wood stove has been delivered but we are still in the process of installing it.

We spent a lot of time at my sister's anyway, making merry, eating her food and breathing her warm air. It started to snow on Christmas day and it stuck around for over a week which gave us about 8 inches of excuse for leaving the car in the driveway. Efforts to reduce my driving have been somewhat successful.  My primary use has been to collect leaves. In fact the primary theme of my efforts in the last four months has been leaf management. There are lots of oaks, maples, gums and other deciduous trees in this town. The city gives away free recyclable plastic bags to be filled with leaves and set on the curb for pickup; if that is too much work, as it seems to be for most, citizens simply blow them with a loud, nasty fossil fueled gadget into the street where another, much larger and nastier fossil fueled gadget on a truck comes along and hoovers them up for composting.

We figure it's brown gold. Our topsoil is practically nonexistent over red clay, so why on earth would we want to get rid of all those lovely nutrients? After all, the trees have been working all year to convert what minerals and nutrients they can mine from the earth into leaves, only to drop them to nourish next year's growth. Most everybody else, aside from us and our next door neighbor, are intent on treating these nutrient rich materials as trash. Consequently, we have been competing with our neighbor to collect as much as we can, and we now have about half as much lawn as we did when we moved here.

I try to wait until just before a rain or snow to spread the leaves. This helps to mat them down and keeps them in place when its windy. We've mulched around the fruit trees, including the four new apple trees, around the raised beds to insulate them from the cold, around the bamboo and the herb bed, and under the drip line of the big maples and the dogwood. I've also created five leaf mold piles with some fencing circles built out of scavenged fencing wire. This will yield fine, loamy soil amendment in the summer, and as they are on the verge near the road they are blocking both the sound and the view of the road. That's the Permaculture reminder for this episode: stacking functions. Here's another example:

Any excess leaves we save in the bags for later use, but they are not idly stored. We've  got them stacked around and on top of our rain barrels to keep them from freezing. When the morning sun shines we uncover the black tops to soak up some solar gain, covering them again when they go into shade.

Speaking of solar gain I've built a cold frame greenhouse on our south facing porch with a number of old windows left from when we fitted double glazing. The greenhouse is about waist high with a hinging lid which I can hoist up and tie off to access the seedlings, cut and come again greens, and herbs we are growing within.

Mmmm, fresh greens in the winter, yummy!