I grew up eating in the woods of Oregon and Alaska. Here is how it looked: at age six I could wander the woods around our house all day long and eat as I went along. I would eat greens, nuts, berries, and so on. I ate raw foods. When I was most impressionable the forest told me that food is free.
Most of my time was spent watching plants grow. I watched birds and squirrels and lizards and snakes. Sometimes I saw deer and bear. I never get tired of being outdoors. Another aspect is that by being outdoors and watching the same area, I got well acquainted with individual plants. When they come out of the soil, early leaves, budding, fruit and seeds, then leaf loss and die back. The first time I saw time-lapse photography I was mesmerized by the speed because I watched the slow version first. I prefer the slow version. Plants coming out of the ground at warp speed reminds me of the old movie Day of the Triffids.
Growing up in an unbroken circular economy spoiled me. I don’t resent birds or think they are stealing from me because I know they planted most of the plants that feed me too. If anything, I am the thief.
If deer nibble the oak trees and keep a lot of them short, then even a 6 year old can gather acorns and I don’t resent their dinner. If there are plenty of deer my mom might shoot one and I will eat venison all winter long. I love my freezer.
I watched insects go about their business and noticed that they endlessly take care of aerating soil which allows rain to enter and not run off. They also pick up litter and haul it into their homes or eat on site. A large oak tree hosts endless tiny creatures for millions of lifetimes. It also drops countless acorns eaten by most mammals, including us. Oak trees are a major food source. White oak acorns have less tannin and are easier to eat. Plant one and let it be spread by wildlife. If you want to sit on a garden bench and watch wildlife, oak is for you.
Birds don’t take down venison for the freezer, but they eat a lot of insects. So can we, but who knows which ones? I don’t plan to eat insects at this time.
The thing I could see but did not pay much attention to until later was that there were no plagues. Everyone was present, but no one was out of hand. Plagues are uncommon in a healthy circular economy. Plague in itself is a good sign that the system is out of balance.
As I grew older I lived in cities and saw more farmland and town gardens. I even worked hard to make some picture perfect gardens like every garden book I read told me I should.
It was hard!
By then we were living in a different part of the US that had miles of houses with tiny yards and farmland all around. Plagues of insects and even birds took my food. Now I couldn’t just plant something and have it grow, I had to dig and water and tend… for very little reward that I had to fight the insects for. This could not be right. I read everything I could get my hands on, I learned about interlibrary loan for unusual books.
I wanted to go home. Eventually I did but home had a lot more people. Remote wasn’t so remote. I dreamed of living really remote. Husband did not buy in to remote or even acreage. The inner city it was. I started gardening organically and adding local species that would feed me.
I realized that if local farmers are raising a large crop of corn then I cannot raise corn without pesticides. If corn is all there is to eat for miles… then insects that eat corn reproduce to plague proportions. I raised plums.
I realized that even though corporate farming areas have deep soil and appear to be great places to garden or create a food forest, farms create endless plagues. Hard to accept because as an organic gardener, I could easily enrich my small plot of former farmland.
Corporate monoculture and the plagues it creates also creates a chemical industry that dumps billions of pounds of poisons on us every year. Probably trillions now because that was something I learned 30 years ago. This cannot continue and our 6th Extinction reflects that.
This is the time I live in.
I practiced polyculture which is less prone to plagues, does not have rows, enriched the soil which makes stronger plants, and fed myself and my family as best I could in the city. Some years I also fed others.
My life changed: my husband is gone, our children grew up and have their own homes, and my parents died in my arms. I am alone.
Dang, more time but less energy.
So in my small way I now have 5 acres of Not Farmland to create a home to feed me and others.
Even though the neighborhood doesn’t know, my biodiversity improvement can also increase their diversity because… birds. Plant for your local birds (and you) and they will plant a 100 miles around you. Plant stuff you eat and like so they multiply the best. The best for me is also the best for bears, keep it in mind when wandering.
Now here I am on 5 acres in the mountains, with lots of neighbors, trying to encourage my woods to be a circular economy that will be strong enough to include me… a top of the pyramid eater. I also want it to enrich the surrounding area enough to support the bear that live, in part, on my acres. Include puma, bobcat, wolves, and coyotes. The nearby 500 acre wildlife preserve is a boon.
Every chance I get I collect native seed and disperse it here. Two years of rain is repopulating the understory. The circle is closing slowly slowly.
A closed circle means I don’t have to garden five acres because I have wildlife to share both work and bounty. No heavy equipment like my neighbors buy. No poisons to control plagues created by monoculture. No supplements. Fewer hospitals, doctors, nurses.
What will we all do for a living if we start closing the circle? It is well documented that polyculture is vastly more productive than monoculture. The purported downside is that it is unsuited for corporate or government control.
Lazy thing that I am, a circular economy makes me part of a different type of community. One that will feed me when the market economy will not. One that shares the work between me and wildlife.