firmly rooted in mother earth

When I planted my fruit trees I did not pay heed to the conventional gardening advice.  I did not use any compost in the planting holes, I did not stake them or use tree guards.  I left these activities un-done as part of my approach of doing the minimum in the garden; I like to see what happens as a result!

A number of years have now passed and what has happened is that they have grown healthy, strong and stable.  So stable that they were able to stand firm even in the midst of Storm Francis that hit us last week and whipped the garden for two days.  It looks like the wind would whip the leaves from the branches, but the branches themselves are so still!  At the height of the storm I took a couple of videos that I have uploaded to Youtube (this blog only allows me to upload photos).

If you look closely you can see that the small fruit trees (apple sunset, apple Trwyn Mochyn and plum Denbigh) are standing firm even in such a fierce wind whilst the bushes, shrubs and herbaceous plants are blown this way and that.

And I think there is a metaphorical truth to this as well as practical learning – if we as forest gardeners learn to root ourselves deeply into the soil and the ecosystem of which we are part, we will over time develop sufficient depth of insight and trust that even when there are extreme weather events and conditions not experienced before we will be able to hold fast and find appropriate ways to respond and to move forward.

Principle 11: Polyculture learning is slow learning.

 

Posted in a forest garden is gardened differently, Borderland Garden, forest garden development, Forest Gardening, Fruit trees, Principles of forest gardening | 3 Comments

re-blogged from the food forest project – the reintroduction of the Eurasian beaver

Here is some very welcome good news from the food forest project blog – not about forest gardening / food forests, but about the welfare of the wider ecosystems which we are all ultimately  and inextricably linked with.

https://www.thefoodforestproject.org/blog/reintroduction-of-the-eurasian-beaver

 

Posted in Relationship with nature, rewilding | Leave a comment

15 August 2020 – a brief snapshot

I took the pictures below yesterday in response to a Facebook request by someone who wanted examples to show other people.  They show one part of the garden just as it was and these plants are visible (or invisible) within it.

  • trees: apples, plum, gage, pear, medlar
  • bushes: honeyberry, jostaberry, chuckleberry, blackcurrant, gooseberry
  • perennial vegetables: skirret, Welsh onion, oca, tree onion, perennial leek, Jerusalem artichoke, Taunton Deane kale
  • annual vegetables: peas, runner beans, potatoes, burdock, salsify
  • other fruits: strawberry, rubus tricolour
  • herbs: parsley, fennel, wild marjoram, mint, chives, salad burnet
  • other flowers: rose, mixed summer annuals

Principle: forest gardening is based upon the structure, composition and functioning of a natural woodland including the resultant ecosystem and its emergent properties. In a forest garden biodiversity means health; a living soil and increasing biomass mean increasing fertility, and together health and fertility mean abundance.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Borderland Garden, ecosystem, forest garden development, Forest Gardening, Fruit, Polycultures, Principles of forest gardening, the garden of equal delights | 1 Comment

hope, expectation, trust

We plant and sow our forest gardens in hope – hope of achieving our various goals, be they biodiversity, abundance, beauty and more.  Nevertheless experience guides our expectations and we understand the likelihood of all manner variability and vulnerability.  And yet, in walking the path of the forest gardener integrating ourselves within the ecosystem of the garden we gain a new sense of trust in nature.

Over time we grow and mature as forest gardeners; bearing our own fruit of understanding, insight, care and compassion which in turn nourish and support increasing sensitivity.  Through sensitivity we experience an ever deepening bond with the garden and all of nature beyond its bounds, and we make more appropriate responses to the variability and vulnerability that time and nature bring …. all of which deepens trust ……

principle: polyculture learning is slow learning.

Posted in a different gardener, Borderland Garden, forest garden development, Forest Gardening, Principles of forest gardening, Relationship with nature, the garden of equal delights | Leave a comment

appreciating abundance

For the whole of July we have eaten fresh fruit every day – berries and currants of every kind and cooked fruit some days.  The cupboards are stacked with blackcurrant, jostaberry and cherry jam, with redcurrant and whitecurrant jelly, and also with my concoction of cherry-redcurrant jam-elly.  I made fruit leathers for the first time this year from white, red and blackcurrants and from jostaberries.  But because I got a bit bored with the drying process and they didn’t entirely dry out I have frozen them to keep them until needed.  There are gooseberries in the freezer too.

In line with the principle of forest gardening, “whether in abundance or not, harvest only enough”, I leave plenty for the birds and other creatures that like to eat fruit………and still the fruit keeps on coming; with the promise of yet more at summer’s end when the tree fruits ripen.

But in this ecological relationship between forest garden and forest gardener should we hold ourselves to do anything in addition to the support we gave to the garden to bear this abundance?  Does the reciprocity embedded in the relationship need or imply anything else?  Do we just take and that is it?  What is an appropriate response?  Can we demonstrate appreciation in any other ways?

Posted in ecosystem, Forest Gardening, Fruit, Principles of forest gardening, Relationship with nature, the garden of equal delights | Leave a comment

e-books and kindle version

Update on 19 August:  This morning The Hive has my book in stock for the first time in weeks – I think they have just been selling what they have had in direct to previous orders.  But even so there are now only a few left!
Update on 20 August – sold out again!

I only realised belatedly that there was no kindle version of ‘the garden of equal delights’ on Amazon; but on making enquiries I found out that it was delayed due to the current covid situation.

However the delay has clearly been overcome and it has just become available as a kindle download on Amazon.  It has always been available from the publisher Triarchy Press as either a pdf or an ePub.  For the uninitiated – like me –  they explain “pdf text retains the printed book’s format and pagination but cannot be edited, printed or copied; and ePub text reflows to suit your digital device, losing the printed book’s format and pagination”.

The full price from Triarchy is £10.50, but you can apply the ‘tpdirect’ code for a 20% discount making it £8.40.  The kindle version is £9.99.

Note: Amazon are now selling the paperback at the cover price of £12.50, but claiming this is a discounted price – I don’t know how that is allowed.  The Hive still have the best price for the paperback £9.79.  Their website says it is still out of stock, although you can order nevertheless and it will be delivered despite the apparent lack of stock (my friend did this).  

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foundations for fruitfulness

Over the last two weeks or  so we have had persistent, relentless rain or battering winds or, at times, both!  However one evening recently there was a short, warm, sunny interlude and I went out to spend time in the garden.  It felt full.  It felt abundant and it was beautiful.  Mercifully the air was still and as well as my own feelings of tranquillity and joy it seemed to me that the garden herself was feeling the same.  Perhaps it was a hint of the (yet to come) autumnal feeling of mellow fruitfulness, of being surrounded by a deep peace, and the sense of worthwhile accomplishment, things well done and of deep satisfaction.

Of course, none of this is my doing.  As an ecosystem the garden of equal delights is her own ‘being’ and I am but one part of that greater whole.  It is the garden that brings forth the abundance.  I assist in setting up and supporting conditions that will help, but that is all, the real ‘work’ is done entirely by others.

In a forest garden biodiversity means health; a living soil and increasing biomass mean increasing fertility, and together health and fertility mean abundance .”
I think of this as the foundational principle because it holds within it just about everything needful to know; that is to say that everything in the forest garden and the forest gardener’s experience relates directly to this principle.”

This then is the principle of forest gardening that encapsulates the entirety of possibilities that may ensue.  How that works out in practice is explored and explained further in my book ‘the garden of equal delights‘.

Every year since the currant bushes began to bear fruit there has been huge amounts of fruit on them.

juicy blackcurrants bursting with flavour

Last year I pruned one blackcurrant bush back to the branches that I thought would be able to hold the weight of future heavy crops, but the bush is once again so full that many branches are close to lying on the ground.

left hand side of a blackcurrant bush, branches supporting themselves on the fence and leaning to the floor

central part of the same blackcurrant bush, some branches are upright and my partner is picking currants

right hand side of the same bush, laden branches leaning to the ground

I swear these blackcurrants must be the tastiest on the planet, they are simply superb!  I made jam with one kilo of fruit and we have had some more fruit either raw or cooked, but my estimate is that we have taken off less than a quarter of the fruit from this bush and hardly touched several other bushes.  It is never my intention to take everything.

Redcurrants, whitecurrants, gooseberries and jostaberries are also heavily laden and bending downwards.  There are lots of these bushes all over the garden where I put cuttings in the early years.  I have made some jam and jelly from jostaberries and whitecurrants and plan some gooseberry jam and redcurrant jelly, but once again the vast majority of these fruits will feed the birds.

redcurrants

whitecurrants

gooseberry, Hinomaki red

jostaberries ripening

This is the first year that strawberries have done well and for a few weeks we had a bowl of them each evening with our meal.  I left about half the fruit for the mice and birds.  It is also the first year that the amelanchier bushes have borne fruit.  I tasted them cautiously at first, and soon found out they are very pleasant, if a bit seedy!  The colours are magnificent as they ripen through a range of reds and purples.  I have gathered a small bowlful most days since they began to ripen, and the majority will be eaten by the birds.  At first I thought the birds may not be interested in them as some over ripe berries were falling to the floor; but then I saw a blackbird balancing on a swaying branch in the wind and getting his fill before hopping across to the cherry tree for his next course!

Amelanchier (Juneberry) berries

This is also the first year that the cherry trees have had more than a few fruit.  The two sweet varieties – Stella and Cariad – lost a lot of their fruit during the very dry time we had before this very wet time, but the Morello cherry has held on to hers and they are utterly beautiful.

Morello cherry

Morello cherries

I have a bowlful to make some jam later on today, and once again, the rest will be for the birds.

 

 

Posted in Borderland Garden, forest garden development, Forest Gardening, Fruit, Fruit trees, Principles of forest gardening, Relationship with nature, the garden of equal delights | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

a word about pricing – and full marks for The Hive independent bookseller

It has just come to my attention that Amazon are selling my book – the garden of equal delights – at above the cost price.  I am not sure how they get away with that – and I think it is equally likely that the extra will go to them and not me!  Their price is £13.78, but you can get free delivery even without their prime deal.  Otherwise the postage is £2.99 making £16.77 altogether.
Note on 1 July the price has been reduced by 4p
Note on 8 July the price is down to the cover price of £12.50
Note on 26 August price is reduced price to £9.77.  I think this is all strategy by Amazon – if it is selling price it higher, if it isn’t selling on Amazon (hopefully because people are buying it elsewhere) reduce the price.  

Triarchy the publisher has a 20% discount on the cost price of £12.50, making it £10 plus £2.50 for UK delivery.  Being the publisher Triarchy always have the book in stock.

And the best deal – a place I consistently buy books – is The Hive (an online independent bookseller) who is selling for £9.79 with no postage costs.

  • Later note on 8 July – The Hive sold out quickly after I put this post on and have just got the book back in stock again today, the price remains the same and if by chance they sell out again, you can still order and they send it once it is back in stock.
  • And later again note on 9 July – The Hive has sold out again, but as above please order anyway.  
  • Back in stock on 10 July! But sold out in the afternoon!
  • Update on 19 August:  This morning The Hive has my book in stock for the first time in weeks – I think they have just been selling what they have had in direct to previous orders.  But even so there are now only a few left!
  • 20 August – sold out again!
  • 24 August – back in stock.

Waterstones have the cost price of £12.50 but a two week wait.

Posted in the garden of equal delights | 3 Comments

today is publication day!

It is nearly four years from when I first conceived of the possibility of unearthing some principles underlying forest gardening; there have been many hours, days, weeks, months of writing, re-writing, re-re-writing and editing, who knows how much watching and waiting, thinking, reading, considering and reframing …. such an enormous amount of work goes into writing a book.  But having said that, it is now done and ‘the garden of equal delights‘ is published today.

It is just as well that I am pleased with the result!   Not only because it is an achievement, but more particularly because I think this book unfolds and explains a different perspective on the relationship between a gardener and their garden (forest garden or otherwise).  This is a change of perspective that puts the garden and the natural world at the heart of everything, it effectively demotes the gardener from controller at the apex of a hierarchical pyramid looking down on their dominion, to a much more humble place alongside the many other members of the garden community.  To find this more lowly place there is so much to learn and also much to un-learn.  It is my greatest hope that every reader finds much more within the pages than they were expecting and that they then go on to find and live out a very different and deeper relationship both with their own garden and also with the wider world beyond.

And this is how today finds the actual garden of equal delights in the gentle sunshine and a little less gentle breeze up here on our hill in the Welsh borderlands.  I have just walked round and taken a few very quick photos to illustrate a few of the principles of forest gardening.

peering through a small part of a complex, interconnected ecology – from an apple tree across fruit bushes and perennial vegetables, herbs and flowers to another apple tree in the background

 

polyfloral flowers (phacelia)

 

more polyfloral flowers (thyme)

 

edible abundance ripening, and I will harvest ‘only enough’

 

and more edible abundance on the way for the birds (and me)

 

welcome the wild

 

life cycle gardening

 

and always continue to welcome the wild

Posted in a different garden, a different gardener, a forest garden is gardened differently, Borderland Garden, Principles of forest gardening, Relationship with nature, the garden of equal delights | 4 Comments

now is the unfolding of forever

My labour of love writing ‘ the garden of equal delights‘  has now come to fruition and I have gathered a few quotes together to give you a flavour of what you will find within:

a forest garden

“A forest garden is like no other garden. As well as food harvests and many tangible benefits for the land and local ecology, forest gardening presents the gardener with an opportunity to find a new relationship with the natural world, to see, feel and think differently; even to live differently.  

A forest garden is a beautiful, fertile, healthy and abundant edible landscape. It is first conceived in the gardener’s imagination, it gestates in our planning and planting and then one day it is ready to grow. But we don’t plant a forest garden and then garden it just as if it was a ‘normal’ horticultural garden. We garden it differently because it is a different garden.”

 

giving up control

“ ….. in becoming forest gardeners we are stepping away from everything being about what we – as individuals or as a race – want. Becoming a forest gardener is no small thing, but it does require us to become smaller, shrinking to occupy a more fitting and appropriate ecological niche than the place we formerly occupied. Thus we start to learn that this is not about imposing our will on the garden, but paradoxically neither is it about letting nature get on with it alone. Rather this is about effectively pressing the pause button on human intervention and entering into an interaction or a dialogue with the natural processes at play in the garden. Although the concept of giving up control is a simple one this is a profound and challenging change of direction.

 

watching and waiting

“At a time in history when all our former certainties about how the world is or should be or will be are gradually (or not so gradually) abandoning us, now is the time to come to terms with flexibility and uncertainty, to learn to dance with life, experiment, wait and see, be patient, do things differently. Here then is a precious opportunity that is almost always overlooked. Pausing is the prerequisite – abstaining from action and then, in that pause, hand-in-hand come the twin sisters of watching and waiting, or if you prefer, waiting and watching. Neither precludes nor precedes the other – they come together or they don’t come at all.”

 

 

relationship

“Planning and planting a forest garden is just the very beginning of the relationship and this co-creativity begins immediately after planting and continues ever after. First, there is the everyday level of interacting with the forest garden to support it in creating and sustaining an ecosystem that will become healthy, fertile and abundant. But there is a deeper level as well which is about how we habitually relate to the natural world. This is the story of the remaking of our human perceptions from a perspective of assumed and rightful dominance and control of nature to a place of humble, appreciative, thoughtful and sensitive integration with it. Therein are significant treasures that are not at all obvious from the outset.”

 

paradigm change

“Participating with nature in the growth and development of the forest garden is not an easy transition to make; it is challenging, uncomfortable and can bring out all sorts of insecurities and fears. Leaving behind the attitudes and beliefs that we have all been immersed in all our lives is at once very simple and very difficult. It is simple to understand and in the context of forest garden theory it makes perfect sense. But it is harder to put into practice because it is the antithesis of how we humans see our place and function in the world. We believe that we are here to dominate and to control, not to stand aside and watch nature take over. But stand aside the forest gardener must. The changes engendered on the journey of becoming a forest gardener so fundamentally alter the relationship between the gardener and the natural world that they are significant enough to be described as a new paradigm.”

 

wildness and healing

“When the wild knocks at the boundaries of your garden asking to be allowed in, it will be life itself looking for a way in, seeking a crack or an opportunity through which to enter. And therefore all you need to do is to be open to that opportunity and see where it takes you. It will be the whole seeking its disparate parts, trying to breach the void, reunite and reintegrate them. Life is the gardener, and the forest gardener recognises that it is calling us to pay attention. This is a call to heal the land, heal the people and heal the rift between us.”

 

now is the unfolding of forever

“Continuity and renewal are the context for everything in the forest garden and for me. Now is the unfolding of forever and as all the trees and plants in the forest garden live out their own life cycles, generation upon generation, life itself cycles through the garden. This is never-ending. The forest garden has a future continuing into time unknown. Thus it becomes a bridge across time and space as energy and matter cycle repeatedly through all life. The forest garden is a localised part of great global cycles – cycles of carbon, nitrogen, water and more. There are cycles within cycles, all interconnected, melting from one to another in the endlessly productive dance of life. This is a paradox of constant change within continuity, and within it there is a magical element of unpredictability. The challenge is to learn to live with this, to live with energy and matter – the ultimate constituents of every life – transforming themselves endlessly in repeating dance. The forest gardener is a dancer too. My place is in that circle of life – alongside you and all life. It always was.”

 

principles of forest gardening

In writing this book my intention has been to set out straightforward principles that can provide guidance to forest gardeners, or ordinary gardeners, who seek to integrate themselves into the ecosystem of their garden. Each place is unique and each gardener is unique and it is the combination of place, person, purpose, perception and decisions that will create each unique forest garden. By pinning down what it means in each garden to do only the minimum, to plant polyfloral polycultures, to support nature’s transformational magic and to harvest only enough… each forest gardener will discover for themselves what is and is not appropriate in their own patch. Thus my explanation of my inter-activity with my own garden is entirely personal and just one small example of what a forest garden can be. The scope for other outcomes, when different people and places interact with their own local ecologies, is infinite.”

the garden of equal delights was published on 22nd June 2020 and is available from Triarchy Press and all good booksellers.

Posted in a different garden, a different gardener, a forest garden is gardened differently, Forest Gardening, Principles of forest gardening, Relationship with nature, the garden of equal delights | 13 Comments