My first design for my diploma proces is “The seaweed potato bed”. It is a purely land based design even though the social and learning aspects of it are significant.
Use of design tools
I started out with Design Web, but I can see that it is appropriate to use SADIMET : Survey, Analysis, Design, Implement, Maintain, Evaluate, Tweak.
I will analyse the zones and the input-output.
For the design of the seaweed potato bed I have used only Design Web by Looby Macnamara. My idea was also to use SADIMET but I never got round to that for this design.
We made the decision of the potato bed back in November 2014 after a most succesfull course of sustainable economics. This course “The Magic of Money” made us realise what we already knew on a theoretical basis, that self sustaining of food is practically the alfa and omega of a sustainable future. Having all the land that we have, the only barriers are TIME and SKILLS. We would have to see if we could cope with the potato bed timewise and we would have to learn by doing and extend our skills of vegetable growing and storing as we move along.
With this decision comes an extension of the 100m2 area where we up to now grow our annual selfsustaining vegetables.
Becoming a LAND Center during summer and autumn of 2014 has also been an important part of the motivation.
Implementation of permaculture ethics
Working towards selfsustainment of food on the path to also grow food for others shows both caring for the earth, caring for people and fair share – or as I prefer to put it: the recycling of surplus.
Preparing the bed with excess cardboard, urine toilet paper from the mulching toilet, seaweed from the local beach nearby and not watering is caring for nature. Having fun as we make the beds and sow the potatoes, as we mulch with more seaweed as the potatoes grow, and as we harvest with fun, and enjoy the meals we prepare using our potato harvest is caring for people and passing on knowledge about how to do this and how easy it is, is recycling surplus.
Implementation of permaculture principles
|Observe and interact
To gradually become more observant in all fields of one`s daily life and slowly changing lifestyle into a more sustainable direction – for each design this happens more and more.
The surprising observations have been
– that we started to late – this is also a pattern: to have many ideas and to be excited and to want to execute, and finally being late and not having prepared and organised well enoough. Anyway the interaction is that next year´s potato bed is getting ready now, in the autumn and the preparation og the potato bed for next year´s crop is also happening now.
– that it was easy. Easy to sow, mulch weed and harvest. Almost no weeds. In next year´s bed we will sow the potatoes a little more closeThis year we have installed monitoring on many of the functions og daily life. To see haw the estimates match reality is going to be a highly intense learning experience over the next couple of years.
|Obtain a yield
The obtaining of a yield is obvious. We have harvested app. 75 kilograms of potatoes of a very fine quality – we have monitored the harvest. The estimate was that we use 75 kilograms in one year, but we can see that this estimate is way too low. We need to grow twice as many. The monitoring will tell us what our need actually is. The two “free style” plants that occurred ind the bed was stinging nettle and grass-leaved orache (atriplex littorali). Now, stinging nettle we harvest from many locations, we have a total abundance of stinging nettle, it is highly nutritional in value and we use it a lot in the daily kitchen routines: teas, bread, hot meals, pestoes. But grass leaved roach is out of the amaranth family, and leaves as well as seeds can be used; it is useful in salads, pestos and stews and we could have harvested and used it a lot more than we did.
|Catch and store energy
Taking the cardboard and the seaweed as a foundation and no digging is an aspect of catching and storing energy. The seaweed as mulch catches the rain and protects the surface of the soil from drying out.
|Use and value renewable resources and services
We use a thick layer of cardboard and newspaper as the base of the new bed. On top of that seaweed, which we have plentiful at our nearby beach.
|Apply self – regulation and accept feedback
Self regulation in homegrown potatoes? Well, I was aware of not buying too many potatoes until we could harvest our own. But I did buy some, I did not want to not have any potatoes at all from the time we sowed the new potatoes until the time we can start to harvest round midsummer. Next year I will grow some of the early potatoes under a cover in order to have an earlier harvest. Potatoes are in my opinion a good source of carbohydrates, it can to some extent replace rice and pasta; potatoes have a smaller organic footprint than rice – and we cannot produce rice locally. Potatoes are easier to proces than pasta, we would buy pasta and not make it ourselves.
|Creatively use and respond to change
As the total situation round food production is likely to change completely I find it productive to find ways of growing the annuals in a socially rewarding way. It is a party to fetch the seaweed, and to sow and harvest the potatoes once you are a group of people. Never do anything alone, said my ols permaculture mentor Tony Andersen, always be at least three.
|Produce no waste
By growing our own potatoes we produce no plastic bags and the likes for wrapping. The potatoes are not transported by fuel from producent to retail to detail and to us.
|Use and value edges and the marginal
We have learnt that edges are the more productive, so the edge plant of next years bed is artichoke and of next year`s potato bed is tagetes and tropaoleum. The intense production of grass round the edges is used for mulching and compost.
|Design from pattern to detail
Here is a lot to learn. We have the overall design of the Fejø Retreat LAND Center and the potato bed is one tiny detail of that. But we have no overall design of how the potato bed is going to grow into the larger picture of selfsustainment. The uncertainty about how time-consuming it will be to grow all these crops and not knowing what it takes of skills and not knowing what it takes of storing capacity makes us just take small steps into the unknown, learning as we go along. There is a lot to learn about the soil, the nutritients, mulching, weeding, slug control, harvesting, processing and storing.
|Integrate rather than segregate
In this years potato bed (2015) we only sowed potatoes. Nature added stinging nettle (just a few) and grass-leaved orache (atriplex littorali), but I realise that we could integrate more crops. For the bed of 2016 I have planned a fringe of tagetes and tropaoleum, and as I look into the world of good neighbour plants I might make a few more tryouts. I have also sown potatoes in straw on a couple of spare places in The Healing Garden, but this has not yielded. Surely by experiencing one kan integrate potatoes in many spots. At the same time a potato bed is a perfect way to expand the area where primarily annual crops are grown for the kitchen.
|Use small and slow solutions
I like this principle a lot. To move forward slowly but steadily, like a snail. Some of our friends started a larger vegetable production in 2014, but they drowned in weeds. In 2016 they are preparing a lot smaller area situated much closer to their house.
KISS: Keep it simple, sweetheart !!
|Use and value diversity
In the potato bed itself we have had 4 diffeerent kinds of potatoes, save, ditto, red raja and marabel. But apart from that the potato bed is one small part og the whole jig saw puzzle of Fejø Retreat LAND Center.
For the planning of the beds over the next years I have found this article highly useful: http://patrickwhitefield.co.uk/annual-polycultures-an-easy-way-to-permaculture-your-plot/
This is the closest-to-the-house area of our land. The green spot is the seaweed potato bed.
We have a lot of land, 8,9 ha, and pretty rich soil. Of course I want the potato bed in zone 1, so the spot is chosen close to the strawbale cabin, facing south, a place where I often come, more or less on a daily basis during the summer. Also the “markvej” gives access with a car and i trailer, when we fetch the seaweed. A storage facility for the harvested potatoes is possible nearby in the east facade of the strippable cabin, protected form the wind and pretty shady because of the barn nearby.
The micro climate zone is relatively warm and perfect for potatoes; it is also quite dry.
The soil is heavy clay; Quite a lot of wind coming from the west, the potato patch well sheltered from eastern, northern and southsern winds.well sheltered
Input – output
|Cardboard, newspaper, urine paper, seaweed, sowing potatoes (4 different varieties), time, effort, money for buying the potatoes, and for the fuel that drives the car when we fetch the seaweed,||Potatoes for selfsustainment, fun, learning, reflection, beauty, saving money for buying potatoes, packaging, fuel for the transportation of the potatoes in the different processes from production through retail to consumer, good taste, enjoyment, conversations, consciousness|
Since the potato bed is for self sustainment we place it in zone 1-2, close to The Strawbale House and close to the existing self-sustaining vegetable patch.
Basemap – I need to draw this!!!
The vision for the potato bed is a small part of the complete the realisation of the original design for Fejø Retreat LAND Center as we want to grow food for 30 families, that have some form of communal life. Well, not all the food, but vegetables, grains and seeds for oils (hemp, rape seed, linen). So, we have started a relatively small self-sustaining garden with primarily annuals.
On the shorter run the ideal potato bed supplies potatoes for Fejø Retreat LAND Center all year round. It rotates, so next year there will be another crop on this particular spot, and for at least a period of 4 years it will extend the area of self-sufficiency of vegetables at Fejø Retreat.
Cultural history of potato, cooking, the different taste and use of the different varieties, different harvesting times, the celebration of the sowing, the maintenance, and the different times for harvesting,
Circulation of beds:
Year 1: potatoes, add horse manure in autumn
Year 2: 3 sisters with an extended family: Pumpkin, squash, spinach, salads, sweet-corn, sunflower, runner beans
Year 3: Tomato
Year 4: Root crops, leeks and onion
As to abundance, I see my life so abundant in so many aspects. Lack of abundance is when it comes to order, system and overview – but I am working on that.
My motivation comes at the latest from the course “The magic of money” that we ran in Nov. 2014. I saw clearly the need for local production and selfsustainment. But, I have been wanting to do this most of my grown up life, just haven´t managed to cope with it. There is a lot of help from the international youth community of volunteers who live here during summer months. Makes it fun to do what we do, it like having a party and we hold a lot of celebration.
My inner ressources are that I just feel like doing it, the time is right. I have some knowledge on no-dig cultivation methods.
External ressources are: access to enough land, money enough for seed potatoes, car, acces to trailer, friends supply of cardboard, wwoof´ers, seaweed on the beach, tools – and time.
I see TIME as an essential limitation. Others are doubts, lazyness, difficult to keep focused, worries on age, will my body cooperate.
Lack of knowledge and lack of experience of preserving are also limiting factors; we do not yet know how to store the potatoes over winter (nor the other storage crops). This whole storage challenge is a design in itself. We need a frost free, mouse-and-rat free storage facility, and when we know more about quantities we are going to build one, definitely. Until then we can use the big plastic storage bowl for apples and the likes, insulated with straw bales and rushes.
About my self: persistence , skills of motivation, explaining, ask for help, accept of life-as-it-is.
The beauty of the garden; the joy of sowing, harvesting, cooking and eating. Knowledge of less CO2 produce and no other waste produce; the primary design of Fejø Retreat is moving towards implementation, slowly, but it is moving.
My intention is to go slowly and observe well the elements of time, quantity, succes (and failure), and to be realistic about integrating more land in the self sustain vegetable production.
My current support is Astrid and other woof´ers to come. I need to build further support on the mental level.
Until now everything has gone very smooth, once the decision was taken: Mow the grass. Cover with cardboard, collect seaweed, access to organic seed potatoes, people helping out, having fun, cover with grass cuttings.
Plan for next week (first week of the month of May): sow the rest of the potatoes, fetch 10 trails of seaweed, make appointment with Anita on horse manure.
Maybe we will need more seaweed, we will know in 6 weeks; we will cover with gras cuttings as we produce it.
Our patterns has been to buy what we need when we need it, i.e. the patters of the consumers society. No monitoring at all, not money spent, not quantity used.
I have success with growing vegetables from other periods in my life, like at Kathrinelyst, Lillevangsgården and Svanholm.
My needs are to be more self-sustaining in order to support my own values and ideals. I also need the demonstration value in relation to the LAND Center. We are starting our monday evening and summer program in order to meet the LAND Center demonstration need, and the wwoof´ers are meeting the need for self sustainment.
I want to build in quiet and rest in the potato bed by getting a parasol and some wooden pallets or the like for back rest (or maybe I could make some simple ones the tipi way) so I can do may lying-on-the-mattress-in-the-sun right there, on the spot that I love.
The beginning – the making of the beds, the preparation
April 2nd 2015.
So from middle of March till beginning of April we mowed a patch and covered it up with cardboard and newspaper stored over the winter, and supplied with one load of excess card board from the local supermarket. And added a layer of seaweed. We also made the experiment of covering up some of the grass land which we did not mow.
I bought 4 different kinds of sowing potatoes, early ones, medium and late ones. I bought early Marabel and medium Sava, Ditta and Red Raja, all sorts of potatoes that I have tried out earlier and I know they grow well, taste good and are easy to cook. I also had a small project going about making my own sowing potatoes from the potato sprouts, but I think I have only partly succeeded in this.
The sowing went on from beginning of April til midst of May. We put grass cuttings on top of the seaweed to keep the humidity in the seaweed for the potatoes to get growing.
It is so easy to hoe the potatoes, you just fetch more seaweed and apply it between the plants.
In all, we fetched 12 trailers full of seaweed.
Planning of extension:
Year 1: Potatoes, edged with angelica, lovage,
Year 2: 3 sisters – Sweet corn, runner beans and courgette, combined with sunflower and cucumber and edged with artichoke.
Year 3: Tomato, edged with artichoke, yarrow, tansy, chamomile
Year 4: Root crops like beetroot, parsnips, beet, carrots, edges of lovage, artichoke, melissa, comfrey, borage
The happiness of horseshit!
Anne Moloney, Fejø Retreat LAND Center, last updated 20.09.2013