This book in two volumes, like its primary author, defies easy categorization. Is it a gardening book? An ecology text for teachers and students? A visionary testament? A manual for hard core eco-designers and back-to-the-landers? A manifesto for the next two centuries of agroforestry research and breeding work? It is all those and more. I know all too well the benefits and drawbacks of wide skills and interests, broad knowledge, and integrative, cross-discipline thinking. While such attributes can be exciting, illuminating, holistic, and even healing, pulling it all together and trying to take it somewhere useful can get maddening at times.
When Eric and I began this journey in 1997, we thought we would put together a relatively brief explication of forest gardening in a North American context for the “educated suburban gardener.” He would do the Plant Species Matrix and related appendices, and I would write the prose. While that division of labor remained basically intact, I found it impossible to write the 150-page manual I originally envisioned. As any author knows, there is often a great paradox in the craft of writing: at the same time that the writer is in complete control of the environment he creates with the written word, every writing project has a life of its own, which the author ignores at his peril.
Every time I sat to compose chapter 3 (now chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 of volume I) I found myself stuck. I couldn’t do the subject justice in a short span. I didn’t want to regurgitate permaculture cofounder Bill Mollison, as so many others have—had I done that I would not have been able to live with myself. I needed to go back to ground in scientific ecology to see what people had learned since I was in college and first got involved with permaculture in the late 1970s. Despite the value and genius embedded within permaculture, to which I owe great debt, I wanted even more solid footing for an integration of vision, ecology, design, and practice the likes of which I have strived for all my life, and which I felt the world still lacked. So, Eric had to listen over the phone to 1,000 pages of manuscript in the ensuing effort. It has been a grueling seven years, and the most difficult thing I have ever chosen to do. I am glad the process now moves into its outward phase. It will be interesting to see what bounces back onto the radar screen from this big “ping” that is now going out into the world.
This book would not have been possible without many people, a large number of them absolutely key to our success in this endeavor. My gratitude must first go to Eric, with whom I have traveled, labored, laughed, and grappled for lo these many years. Thanks for sticking with me through thick and thin, for committing and surrendering, for going away and always coming back, for being who you are, and for your good humor and your enthusiasm. Appreciations also go to numerous and nameless other friends and acquaintances, my parents, my siblings, and perfect strangers, too, who gave moral support. To our editor, Ben Watson, thanks for opening and holding the space for this book at Chelsea Green, and for enlarging that space as the book became what it is. My humble apologies and love to Emily, Eric, Ben, and any others who suffered as a result of my book mania.
Money makes the world go round, it seems, and many people invested their faith in us through their generosity. This project was funded entirely by private donations and personal resources. Donors shall remain nameless, but you know who you are—a huge kiss to you all. Thanks to the brave souls (almost two hundred!) who bought book subscriptions through our “Community Supported Authoring” (CSA) program when this project began, and as it continued. Your graciousness and patience have been marvelous, and the cash flow helped greatly. Gratitude is also due Judy Gillan and the New England Small Farm Institute of Belchertown, Massachusetts, who made much of the research possible. Invaluable is the only word to describe their assistance.
Professional and “lay” readers added tremendously to the process. My appreciation goes to forest ecologist Dr. David Perry; landscape architect, permaculturist, and LSU Professor Emeritus Dan Earle; garden writer Miranda Smith; the amazing Linda Scott (you helped me over the big humps); Lisa Stocking and her partner Joel; Peter Buhl; other friends, cohorts, random contacts, and the members of the CSA review group. Your feedback really fed us, and the thinking and writing here is much better for your critiques. I am also grateful to researchers, writers, and professionals to whom I have spoken or whose work fed my quest for knowledge: Dr. David Perry; Dr. Paul Colinvaux; Dr. Elaine Ingham; Ted St. John; J. Philip Grime; John Weaver; Bill Mollison; David Holmgren; Steward Pickett and Mark McDonnell; Christopher Alexander and associates; Roget and his heirs; and oh-so-many others. I’m glad I have such good shoulders to stand on. Of course, none of these people hold responsibility for any mistakes, inaccuracies, or scandalous statements in this work. That responsibility is entirely mine.
Finally, I give my Self and my gratitude to my teacher, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, for the great blessings she has offered to me and to the world. The inner spark burns more brightly because of you.
May this book—in both its volumes—and its ideas serve you, dear reader, and your highest purposes on this planet, not to mention the planet itself. Thank you for accepting the invitation. Now get out there and start gardening!
October 1, 2004
In 1989, fresh out of high school, I read Mollison and Holmgren’s Permaculture One. Since then my drive to learn about the elegant, perennial, integrated ecosystems for human food production it describes has never ceased. Though permaculture broadened its range to cover energy, shelter, and a wide range of food production issues in the following years, my fascination with its original focus has never wavered. My work in writing this book has been my best effort to provide information to help exploration of this (originally temperate Australian) model, here in my own home, the eastern forest region of North America.
I am immensely grateful to Dave Jacke for the opportunity to take on this task, which has shaped my life these last seven years. Thanks to Dave for taking the extra time in writing, despite all the pain and frustration it caused us both. The result is a new permaculture testament reflecting the latest in science’s understanding of eastern forest ecology. Dave’s persistence has made this book a serious contribution to the future of ecological food production. Thanks also to Dave for an intellectual comradeship like no other in my life. Our minds continually challenge and build on each other’s ideas, and our work on these books has been made so much stronger because of our collaboration. Thanks to Dave for his strong friendship, and for his drive and determination.
Thanks to my family for their belief in me. Their support was essential at every stage of writing. Thanks especially to my mother for assisting me through several “crunch” phases of writing, as she has since elementary school, and to my father for teaching me his love of plants and gardening in the forest.
Thanks to our editor Ben Watson, and our publisher Chelsea Green, for their patience and tolerance. They stood by us as the book stretched years beyond schedule and many times longer than projected. The results are well worth it! Also, my sincere gratitude to Ben and Chelsea Green for their commitment to works on permaculture.
A special thank you to the generous people whose financial support made this work possible. Without you the project could have never gotten off the ground. I also want to recognize the New England Small Farm Institute. In addition to their fiscal sponsorship, their library has been a critical research resource. In my “day job” working for NESFI, I have learned much of what I know about writing, designing tables and worksheets, and especially editing.
Thanks to those who have taught and inspired me. My summer apprenticeship with Jerome Osentowski of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute was a chance to live and learn in a site that demonstrated the principles of permaculture as well or better than anywhere I have seen. It has been my great privilege to work for and count as my friend Steve Breyer of Tripple Brook Farm. He has generously shared his time and amazing collection of plants with me since I first worked for him in 1994. Our visits with Robert Hart, Patrick Whitefield, Joe Hollis, and Charlie Headington were extremely helpful. I would like to give special appreciation to Ken Fern and the crew from Plants for a Future. Their online database has been an incredibly valuable tool, and our visit to their plant collection gave me an opportunity to sample many interesting new species. Our visit to Martin Crawford, who took a whole day out of his very busy schedule, was to me the most important of all our visits. Martin’s garden is a remarkable achievement, and his numerous publications have been one of the most important foundations on which we have written this book. Other writers and thinkers who have been important for my research are J. Russell Smith, Robert Kourik, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, Stephen Facciola, the researchers of the Land Institute (notably Wes Jackson, Judith Soule, and Jon Piper), Paul Stamets, Carol Deppe, and Alan Kapuler. A special thanks to David Theodoropoulos, whose bold, challenging ideas came at a critical time in the development of this work.
A special thanks to my friend, housemate, and gardening partner Jonathan Bates. The case study in the design section of Volume II is a design we developed together and are implementing in our garden. His patience, reliability, hard work, and enthusiasm are the reason I have a forest garden today. Special thanks to him for all his hard work in the final hours as we raced to rework the design chapters into a workbook and finalize our design using the newly developed process.
Thanks to all my friends who have supported me along the way: Michelle Wiggins, Kaycie D’Auria, Arthur Lerner and Emily Kellert, the whole Rodriguez-Ross clan, Craig Hepworth, Erin Royster, Walter Hergt, and Rob Fetter. Miranda Smith has been a great friend and an important helper in teaching me about the world of garden writing and editing. Thanks to my alma mater, the Institute for Social Ecology, for the opportunity to teach and for setting aside part of their farm for an experimental super-hardy forest garden. Appreciations to my co-counselors Betsy Feick, Susan Munkres, and Jennie Sheeks, for helping me keep my life together during the last seven years. To those I have forgotten to mention, my gratitude and apologies. Despite the best efforts of the people listed above, I have doubtless made many mistakes. These are mine alone.
Finally, thank you to the forest gardeners (present and future), the plant geeks, the backyard breeders, the adventurous seed companies and nurseries, and all the people who give of their time to make the world greener and more interesting. For my part I dedicate this book to you.
October 1, 2004