Archive for May, 2012


Designing a Forest Garden: The Seven-Story Garden

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

To continue celebrating the lead up to International Permaculture Day this Sunday, May 6th, here’s another informative excerpt from Gaia’s Garden!

Permaculture is most frequently applied in gardening and homestead-planning, and one of the essential tools in the permaculturist’s box is the concept of a forest garden. Think the Garden of Eden, the mythic birthplace of humanity in the Judeo-Christian tradition — food grew plentifully all around, and was easy to harvest. Despite our countless sins as a species, a bountiful garden full of easy treats is still possible — you just need to take a page from mama Nature’s book. And Gaia’s Garden is here to help.

The following is an excerpt from Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, Second Edition by Toby Hemenway. It has been adapted for the Web.

It’s time to look at forest garden design. A simple forest garden contains three layers: trees, shrubs, and ground plants. But for those who like to take advantage of every planting opportunity, a deluxe forest garden can contain as many as seven tiers of vegetation. As the illustration below shows, a seven-layered forest garden contains tall trees, low trees, shrubs, herbs, ground covers, vines, and root crops.

Here are these layers in more detail.

  1. The Tall-Tree Layer. This is an overstory of full-sized fruit, nut, or other useful trees, with spaces between to let plenty of light reach the lower layers. Dense, spreading species—the classic shade trees such as maple, sycamore, and beech—don’t work well in the forest garden because they cast deep shadows over a large area. Better choices are multifunctional fruit and nut trees. These include standard and semistandard apple and pear trees, European plums on standard rootstocks such as Myrobalan, and full-sized cherries. Chestnut trees, though quite large, work well, especially if pruned to an open, light-allowing shape. Chinese chestnuts, generally not as large as American types, are good candidates. Walnut trees, especially the naturally open, spreading varieties such as heartnut and buartnut, are excellent. Don’t overlook the nut-bearing stone piñon and Korean nut pines. Nitrogen-fixing trees will help build soil, and most bear blossoms that attract insects. These include black locust, mesquite, alder, and, in low-frost climates, acacia, algoroba, tagasaste, and carob.Since much of the forest garden lies in landscape zones 1 and 2, timber trees aren’t appropriate—tree felling in close quarters would be too destructive. But pruning and storm damage will generate firewood and small wood for crafts.

    The canopy trees will define the major patterns of the forest garden, so they must be chosen carefully. Plant them with careful regard to their mature size so enough light will fall between them to support other plants.

  2. The Low-Tree Layer. Here are many of the same fruits and nuts as in the canopy, but on dwarf and semidwarf rootstocks to keep them low growing. Plus, we can plant naturally small trees such as apricot, peach, nectarine, almond, medlar, and mulberry. Here also are shade-tolerant fruit trees such as persimmon and pawpaw. In a smaller forest garden, these small trees may serve as the canopy. They can easily be pruned into an open form, which will allow light to reach the other species beneath them.Other low-growing trees include flowering species, such as dogwood and mountain ash, and some nitrogen fixers, including golden-chain tree, silk tree, and mountain mahogany. Both large and small nitrogen-fixing trees grow quickly and can be pruned heavily to generate plenty of mulch and compost.
  3. The Shrub Layer. This tier includes flowering, fruiting, wildlife-attracting, and other useful shrubs. A small sampling: blueberry, rose, hazelnut, butterfly bush, bamboo, serviceberry, the nitrogen-fixing Elaeagnus species and Siberian pea shrub, and dozens of others. The broad palette of available shrubs allows the gardener’s inclinations to surface, as shrubs can be chosen to emphasize food, crafts, ornamentals, birds, insects, native plants, exotics, or just raw biodiversity.Shrubs come in all sizes, from dwarf blueberries to nearly tree-sized hazelnuts, and thus can be plugged into edges, openings, and niches of many forms. Shade-tolerant varieties can lurk beneath the trees, sun-loving types in the sunny spaces between.
  4. The Herb Layer. Here herb is used in the broad botanical sense to mean nonwoody vegetation: vegetables, flowers, culinary herbs, and cover crops, as well as mulch producers and other soil-building plants. Emphasis is on perennials, but we won’t rule out choice annuals and self-seeding species. Again, shade-lovers can peek out from beneath taller plants, while sun-worshiping species need the open spaces. At the edges, a forest garden can also hold more traditional garden beds of plants dependent on full sun.
  5. The Ground-Cover Layer. These are low, ground-hugging plants—preferably varieties that offer food or habitat—that snuggle into edges and the spaces between shrubs and herbs. Sample species include strawberries, nasturtium, clover, creeping thyme, ajuga, and the many prostrate varieties of flowers such as phlox and verbena. They play a critical role in weed prevention, occupying ground that would otherwise succumb to invaders.
  6. The Vine Layer. This layer is for climbing plants that will twine up trunks and branches, filling the unused regions of the all-important third dimension with food and habitat. Here are food plants, such as kiwifruit, grapes, hops, passionflower, and vining berries; and those for wildlife, such as honeysuckle and trumpet-flower. These can include climbing annuals such as squash, cucumbers, and melons. Some of the perennial vines can be invasive or strangling; hence, they should be used sparingly and cautiously.
  7. The Root Layer. The soil gives us yet another layer for the forest garden; the third dimension goes both up and down. Most of the plants for the root layer should be shallow rooted, such as garlic and onions, or easy-to-dig types such as potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. Deep-rooted varieties such as carrots don’t work well because the digging they require will disturb other plants. I do sprinkle a few seeds of daikon (Asian radish) in open spots because the long roots can often be pulled with one mighty tug rather than dug; and, if I don’t harvest them, the blossoms attract beneficial bugs and the fat roots add humus as they rot.

“Having a pair of ovaries should not be a pre-existing condition.” – Madeleine M. Kunin

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

From the Burlington Free Press.

MONTPELIER — Madeleine Kunin said she never dreamed that in the year 2012 she would find herself speaking out in defense of contraception and giving credit to Rush Limbaugh.

But there she was on the Statehouse steps Saturday, exhorting a crowd of about two hundred people to stand up for hard-won women’s rights that are suddenly under assault around the country.

“Progress is not a straight line,” said Kunin, former governor and author of The New Feminist Agenda, published this month. Rather, she said, it’s “like a Vermont dirt road,” filled with bumps and troughs.

The occasion was a rally under the theme, “United against the war on women,” one of more than 50 marches and demonstrations staged across the country by members of UniteWomen.org. The aim was to counter an array of legislative and political initiatives — from invasive ultrasound mandates to “personhood” bills and pay-equity repeals — that women’s-rights advocates regard as regressive.

There was the Republican effort in Congress to allow employers to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives. And of course, there was Limbaugh’s incendiary comment on his talk show (he called a student advocate of contraceptive coverage “a slut,”) that angered many people and helped mobilize the opposition, Kunin acknowledged.

“We are not going backward,” insisted Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., another speaker. “We are not returning to the day of backroom abortions.”

“We have all got to stand together.”

Erin Narey of Peacham decided to organize the event about a month ago when she realized, after going to UniteWomen.org’s Facebook page, that no one else was doing so in Vermont. She didn’t want her state to be the only state without a rally April 28.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said, but with the help of other volunteers she managed to pull together 15 speakers, including singers Neko Case, Anais Mitchell and Tammy Fletcher, who warmed the crowd up with both song and chant (“Not on our watch!”)

Narey noted that while variants of “scary legislation” — such as the decriminalization of domestic violence in Topeka, Kan. — have not been introduced here, Vermont still has a ways to go.

“Women still make less money than men,” she said, “and we still don’t have paid maternity leave, and we still don’t have statewide standards for child care.”

Lydia Lulkin, a senior at the University of Vermont and a member of the Voices for Planned Parenthood student club, showed up with fellow students to register voters and “to stand up for women across the country.”

“I’m here because I follow Neko Case on Twitter,” said Quincy Campbell of Montpelier. “I think this is a wonderful cause. I have great admiration for everyone” on the list of speakers.

“It really does feel like a war on women,” said Lorna Edmundson of New York City, who was in Vermont to attend a meeting of the Norwich University Board of Trustees but who heard about the rally and made a point of attending. A woman’s child-bearing decision “is not something the government should be controlling,” she said. “It’s very distressing.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who did not attend, issued a statement for the rally that read in part: “We must all stand up for women when we find that their most basic rights are under attack.”

Kunin said repeal of the federal health-reform law would have an adverse effect on women, because they would wind up paying differentially more for health insurance.

“Having a pair of ovaries should not be a pre-existing condition,” she said, drawing laughter.

“One of the most important things we can do is be at the table when decisions are made,” she said, observing that the political power structure is dominated by a male majority. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

“Our voices have to be raised,” she said. “Be ready to fight the fight that we began and can’t afford to lose.”

A Fine Selection of Cheese Books on Sale for National Dairy Month

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

The arrival June marks National Dairy Month, first started in the 1930s to promote dairy products during the time of year when production is at its peak. Whether you want to discover a new special type of cheddar, or learn about best-practices in your own small-scale creamery, this sale is for you!

Here at Chelsea Green we publish many of the leading reference and resource books on milk, cheese and the politics and culture of today’s dairy farming. Want to learn more about the benefits of raw milk? Are you an amateur cheesemonger always in search of a new flavor to pair with your favorite wine or beer? Fancy your hand at making your own cheese? Well, we have a book, or two, to share with you.

We especially want to highlight the recent release of Cheese and Culture by cheese lover Paul Kindstedt. Cheese and Culture is a comprehensive look at the 9,000-year history of cheese, the ways in which it has shaped civilization, and what it can tell us about the future of food.

Happy reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing.

P.S. keep an eye out for the upcoming release of Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, due out in September. Let author Gianaclis Caldwell be your mentor, guide, and cheering section as you follow the pathway to a mastery of cheesemaking.

Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and its place in Western Civilization

Cheese and culutre Cover Image
Retail Price: $24.95
Sale Price: $16.22

A comprehensive look at the 9,000-year history of cheese, the ways in which it has shaped civilization, and what it can tell us about the future of food. Cheese and Culture endeavors to advance our appreciation of cheese origins by viewing human history through the eyes of a cheese scientist. This tour through cheese history offers a useful lens through which to view our twenty-first century attitudes toward cheese that we have inherited from our past, and our attitudes about the food system more broadly. This refreshingly original book will appeal to anyone who loves history, food, and especially good cheese. You can browse and preview the full book here. READ IT HERE….

Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide for Home-Scale and Market Producers

Mastering Artisan cheesemaking Cover Image
Retail Price: $40.00
Sale Price: $26.00

Acclaimed cheesemaker Gianaclis Caldwell has written the book she wishes existed when she was starting out. Every serious home-scale artisan cheesemaker—even those just beginning to experiment—will want this book as their bible to take them from their first quick mozzarella to a French mimolette, and ultimately to designing their own unique cheeses. This comprehensive and user-friendly guide thoroughly explains the art and science that allow milk to be transformed into epicurean masterpieces.

Pre-order your copy of this irreplaceable resource and save 35%. 

Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge

Retail Price: $17.95
Sale Price: $11.67

Witty and irreverent, informative and provocative, Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge is the highly readable story of Gordon Edgar’s unlikely career as a cheesemonger at San Francisco’s worker owned Rainbow Grocery Cooperative. A memoir of life with cheese, touching on everything from the politics of dairy farming to the art of creating some of the world’s finest cheeses. A former punk-rock political activist, Edgar bluffed his way into his cheese job knowing almost nothing, but quickly discovered a whole world of amazing artisan cheeses. There he developed a deep understanding and respect for what goes into making great cheese.

You can browse and preview the full book here. READ IT HERE….

The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights

The Raw Milk Revolution Cover Image
Retail Price: $19.95
Sale Price: $12.97

From the other end of the dairy industry, David Gumpert digs into the controversy over raw milk, and the government’s strict crackdown on producers in The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights. This in-depth investigation questions the government’s rationale for banning the sale of raw milk, and the tactics regulators have used to drive the raw milk trade underground. “In this fascinating book on raw milk, journalist David Gumpert delves into the messy politics of food safety, which pits government technocrats and prosecutors against farmers, consumers and their advocates. It’s a compelling account, one that should be read by any raw milk devotee–and more importantly, by anyone concerned about the broken and arbitrary way the government regulates the food we eat.” —Samuel Fromartz, author of Organic Inc: Natural Foods and How They Grew

You can browse and preview the full book here. READ IT HERE….

Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health, and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk

Devil in the Milk Cover Image
Retail Price: $24.95 
Sale Price: $16.22

This groundbreaking work is the first internationally published book to examine the link between a protein in the milk we drink and a range of serious illnesses. Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health, and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk brings together the evidence published in more than 100 scientific papers. The evidence is compelling: We should be switching to A2 milk. This is an amazing story, one that is not just about the health issues surrounding A1 milk, but also about how scientific evidence can be molded and withheld by vested interests, and how consumer choices are influenced by the interests of corporate business.

You can browse and preview the full book here. READ IT HERE….

The Farmstead Creamery Advisor: The Complete Guide to Building and Running a Small, Farm-Based Cheese Business

The Farmstead Creamery Advisor Cover Image
Retail Price: $34.95

Sale Price: $22.72

More than ever before, the people who choose to become farmer—cheesemakers need access to the knowledge of established cheese artisans who can help them build their dream. The Farmstead Creamery Advisor brings to life the story of creating a successful cheesemaking business in a practical, organized manner. It will also appeal to the many small and hobby-farm owners who already have milking animals and who wish to improve their home dairy practices and facilities.  “Here’s a nuts-and-bolts, no-nonsense, and essential guide for anyone curious about starting a farmstead dairy. Who better to explain the intricacies and pitfalls of the cheesemaking business than a true practitioner—a woman with a lifetime of experience caring for cows and goats.” —Brad Kessler, author of Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese.

You can browse and preview the full book here. READ IT HERE….

American Farmstead Cheese: The Complete Guide to Making and Selling Artisan Cheeses

American Farmstead Cheese Cover Image
Retail Price: $40.00
Sale Price: $26.00

This comprehensive guide to farmstead cheese explains the diversity of cheeses in terms of historical animal husbandry, pastures, climate, preservation, and transport-all of which still contribute to the uniqueness of farm cheeses today. Discover the composition of milk (and its seasonal variations), starter cultures, and the chemistry of cheese. The book includes a fully illustrated guide to basic cheesemaking; discussions on the effects of calcium, pH, salt, and moisture on the process; ways to ensure safety and quality through sampling and risk reduction; and methods for analyzing the resulting composition, plus profiles of prominent cheese makers.

You can browse and preview the full book here. READ IT HERE….

The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese

The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese
Retail Price: $35.00
Sale Price: $22.75

Organized by region and state, The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese highlights more than 350 of the best small-scale cheese makers in the United States today. It provides the most complete overview of what’s to be had nationwide—shippable, attainable, delectable. Each entry describes a cheesemaker; its cheese; whether from cow, sheep, or goat milk; availability; location; and even details on cheese-making processes. The Atlas captures America’s local genius for artisan cheese: a capacity for adaptation, experimentation, and innovation, while following old-world artisanship. It is destined to become a classic resource and reference.

You can browse and preview the full book here. READ IT HERE….  

Italian Cheese: A Guide to Its Discovery and Appreciation

Italian Cheese cover image
 Retail Price: $25.00
Sale Price: $16.25

Starting with illustrated descriptions of traditional and industrial cheesemaking, Slow Food’s authors take us through the processes of buying, tasting, and storing cheeses. Dictionaries of tasting terms and the language of cheeses and cheesemaking provide essential preludes for the heart of this book—descriptions of Italy’s farmhouse cheeses, traditionally made from cow’s, ewe’s, and goat’s milk. Organized by region and accompanied by elegant color photographs, each description covers how the cheese is made and matured, along with historical and geographic nuggets. Written by people in love with farmhouse cheeses, and with everything small, local, slow, and traditional foods and food systems represent, this is an informative and hopeful book, celebrating a rich, rural European tradition. This book will make you start packing your bags for a cheese lover’s tour of Italy.

* Books on sale until June 30th*

Interplanting and Beyond, An Excerpt from Gaia’s Garden

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

This coming Sunday, May 6, is International Permaculture Day! To celebrate, this week we’ll be sharing some classic excerpts from one of our perennial bestsellers, Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway.

Permaculture is more than just a way to garden, it applies systems-thinking to every facet of our relationship to the earth and each other. The three main ethics of permaculture are care for the planet, care for people, and only keeping a fair share of the yields of your productive work (gardening and otherwise). Expanding outward from these seemingly simple statements are a plethora of intricate methods for mimicking natural systems in gardening, building, planning, and community organization. Gaia’s Garden was one of the first books published in the US to popularize permaculture techniques for the home garden, and we’re proud to share some of its wisdom with you.

So without further ado, here’s an excerpt on interplanting!

Using different veggies’ strengths and weaknesses to avoid competition and maybe even get them to help each other out is called interplanting. It’s a planting strategy that adds up to one big happy vegetable family—think of it as a square-foot salad.

The following is an excerpt from Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. It has been adapted for the Web.

Vegetable gardeners have some experience in creating plant communities. Food-growers have long attempted to avoid the drawbacks, both aesthetic and ecological, of large blocks of a single crop. Monocultures deplete the soil, provide a sumptuous feast for pests, and dull the senses. To avoid these faults, many gardeners practice interplanting, mixing different varieties together to save space and avoid solid clumps of one vegetable. Interplanting strategies, while usually limited to vegetables, illustrate some of the principles of combining varieties that work together to deter pests and aid each other in other ways. Once we’ve learned the basics of interplanting, we can broaden our spectrum and look beyond vegetables toward garden plant communities that benefit not just people but all of nature.

One simple interplanting scheme mixes onions, carrots, and lettuce in the same garden bed. These three plants have different leaf forms, light requirements, and rooting depths, which makes them compatible both physically and in terms of their resource needs. The cylindrical leaves of onions grow virtually straight up, casting little shade. Feathery carrot leaves bush out a bit but don’t create deep shadows. Lettuce, although it forms a solid mass of greenery, is short and casts its shade below the other plants. The three leaf forms fit well together, allowing ample sunlight to bathe each plant. Also, lettuce needs less sun than onions and carrots, so the slight shade cast by the latter two won’t impede lettuce’s growth. In summer, lettuce tends to bolt and taste bitter unless shaded, which is a good reason to grow it beside taller plants. And, lastly, the roots of these three plants don’t compete for space: Onions are shallow rooted, lettuce reaches to an intermediate depth, and the taproots of carrots go deep but straight down. Each searches for nutrients in a different place. These three vegetables, with their varying shapes, light requirements, and rooting patterns, can be interplanted very successfully.

Other combinations: Interplanting Brussels sprouts, parsley, spinach, and onions is effective because the spinach and onions are ready before the sprouts mature, and the parsley can tolerate some shade. Also, their root depths and nutrient needs are divergent. Radishes, lettuce, and peppers work well for similar reasons; the radishes grow fast, the lettuce doesn’t mind the shade of the young peppers, and by the time the peppers are full-grown, the other plants have been harvested.

Though interplanting saves space, it doesn’t go far enough for me. Most interplanting, as in the above examples, simply combines plants to avoid negative interactions, such as competition for space or light. This form of interplanting doesn’t blend plants into dynamic, interactive associations the way nature does. What’s more, interplanting rarely capitalizes on the mutual benefits plants can provide each other, such as deterring pests or transporting and storing nutrients.

A second technique, companion planting, takes advantage of some of these mutual benefits. For example, planting sage near carrots reputedly repels the carrot fly. Carrots themselves are thought to exude a substance that stimulates the growth of peas. Companion planting is a step in the right direction; but, unfortunately, many traditional combinations turn out, in careful trials, to provide no benefit at all. Surprisingly, some old recipes even produce detrimental effects. Robert Kourik, in his excellent book, Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape—Naturally, summarizes a wealth of research that debunks many old-time companion-plant recipes. For example, gardeners have long edged their beds with marigolds to deter pests, and Kourik notes that certain marigolds, especially Mexican marigolds (Tagetes minuta) can repel harmful soil nematodes. However, other varieties of marigold actually attract pests, and most simply don’t help at all. I’ve seen gardens randomly strewn with marigolds as a general panacea, but the research makes me wonder if the benefits extend beyond offering something nice to look at.

Hence, without supporting data I’m skeptical of planting basil alongside tomatoes in the hopes of getting bigger beefsteaks—to choose an old-time companion recipe at random. Companion planting in its highest form can create beautiful mixed beds of flowers and vegetables. In its simplest and most common mode, however, companion planting merely combines plants in what is not far from monoculture: nice orderly beds of two or perhaps three species—static, perfectly weeded, and ecologically dead. We can do better.


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