‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’
There is no such thing as a monoculture in nature. Nowhere on earth, except in places where man has intervened, will you find a single species which is independent of others. Therefore, my choice for the quote on this one would be, instead: “No man is an island.”
My most recent immersion experience in permaculture is the best example I can possibly think of to illustrate this concept, in terms of human interactions, a class with Dave Jacke, Cliff Davis, and thirty or so permaculturists from, literally, around the world. These are the kinds of experiences leading to the levels of bonding required to create real change, both inner and outer landscape. Human connection is essential—this is where many efforts get it wrong. Not only is connection essential, so is diversity—and the more, the better. The entire philosophy of permaculture is based around the idea that natural systems do not produce mono-crops, and that lack of diversity can and does lead to weakness and ultimately disease of the system and its components.
So, I ask you—if you were a plant, what kind would you be? There are dynamic accumulators, nitrogen fixers, mycelium, and nectaries. There are overstory and understory, climbers and ground cover. Consider carefully, think of what others may or may not have to say about you, in all of your dealings with others…would you be considered a ‘weed’, or ‘invasive’? Alleleopathic even, carbon sequestering, or are you a pioneer species? Do you encourage connections, help create diversity in your surroundings, or discourage them? Are you highly critical of others, or helpful and supportive? Do you take responsibility for your own welfare and that of others, or do you expect someone else to do ‘the dirty work’?
Read the following, consider the design of a food forest type of garden–take a few moments to really think about it—identify with not just what you want to be, but what history would show, from an impersonal, ego-free perspective. Please comment, and let me know what part of your social ‘guild’ you feel best suited for.
How to maximize omega diversity in your forest garden.
You may find yourself torn in several directions while selecting species. On the one hand, it is desirable to maximize compositional diversity at the omega level. On the other hand, certain important uses and functions are limited to certain families. Nitrogen fixation is mostly limited to the legumes (Fabales) and certain orders within the rose (Rosales) and beech (Fagales) orders . Specialist nectary plants are generally limited to the Apiaceae, Araliaceae, Saxifragaceae, and portions of the Asteraceae. The great majority of fruit and nut species that can grow in cold climates are in the rose order (Rosales) – in fact, almost a quarter of all species in the Plant Species Matrix are in that order! Thus there is little avoiding the fact that your garden is likely to have heavy representation from these groups of plants.
Beyond this limitation, however, you can make an effort to include as wide a sampling of diversity as possible. Groundcovers, dynamic accumulators, and shelter and nectary plants come from a great diversity of families, and you will find a remarkable range of edibles to choose from as well. When selecting species from the Plant Species Matrix, look up their families in the table below. Keep track of the families, orders, and superorders you are including. Wherever possible, make decisions that maximize diversity. Try to avoid over-dependence on the Rose family in particular, perhaps by substituting persimmons for apples, or one of the edible honeysuckle species for juneberries. We have made an effort to provide you with a diverse assemblage of species to choose from. (Eric Toensmeier, Maximizing Omega-Level Diversity, 2012) [“Omegalevel diversity looks at an ecosystem’s diversity at higher levels, measuring a deeper diversity. This ‘deep’ diversity is likely to be the most important contributor of the benefits of compositional diversity. Gardening for omega level diversity (‘kinship gardening’) was developed by Alan Kapular and Olafur Brentmar, and carried forward by David Theodoropoulos.”]
We had lots of Mycelium in my class—I consider myself one of those—“humacelium” I like to say. But am I, really? Sometimes the mere effort to create connections with people seems to lead to the dissolution of an entire system, after all.
I thought I was encouraging diversity in the random assemblage of persons in my ‘eCo-house’, Casa Seranita. The important lesson taken from the current outcome, which leads to a dramatic re-design, is that agreement must be established first, along with an understanding of what role each person chooses or brings in by nature. The inputs do not need to be the same, indeed they can be dramatically different—one person, for instance, may wish to provide only financial support, while others would prefer labor or caretaking.
The important component is that the understanding is there first. The community cannot thrive or even survive if the components do not have both a full understanding and acceptance of each ones’ expected inputs and impacts on the system as a whole. There are no islands in people systems—at least, not in sustainable, functional societies.
Rather than continuing to dance around the subject, speaking in vague generalities and using botanical metaphors—here’s what happened:
- One man, one cat.
- Two men, one cat.
- Unknown quantities of undefined genders and one cat.
- Cat herding.
- Feral cat herding.
- Code Violations (one woman).
- One Cat.
“Casa Seranita is an eCo-housing permaculture demonstration site, now seeking residents (permaculture experience preferred).”
Read the Series:
- Observe and Interact
- Catch and Store Energy
- Obtain a Yield
- Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
- Use and value renewable resources and services
- Produce no waste
- Design from patterns to details
- Integrate rather than segregate
- Use small and slow solutions
- Use and value diversity
- Use edges and value the marginal
- Creatively use and respond to change
© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here
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