Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Shading paths in Hawai'i

This post follows up on the concepts of my post Sun and Shade, Temperate vs Tropical, with some quick thoughts on paths. Ideally, Hawaiian paths would be shaded in the summer for protection of humans from the sun and maximum photosynthesis, but more open in the wet winters to prevent too much mud and muckiness.

Paths running east-west could have large trees planted on the north side to overhang the path enough to provide shade from the spring to fall equinox, while allowing winter sun to enter from the south.

Paths running north-south could be treated in one of a few ways:

  • Compromise plantings of hedges or trees at wide enough spacings or with relatively sparse canopies to provide incomplete summer shade and incomplete winter sun.
  • Coppiceable plantings of quick-growing trees or tall hedges, cut in the winter and allowed to grow through the summer. This would work well with N-fixers to provide mulch easily transported along the paths to desired destinations.
  • Deciduous plantings (such as kapok) providing the standard summer shade/winter sun service.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Resistance review: The Effectiveness of Sabotage

I just had a short essay published on a 1987 thesis by Captain Howard Douthit III of the US Air Force: “The Use and Effectiveness of Sabotage As a Means of Unconventional Warfare.” The thesis is a great review of the historical use of sabotage and its impressive success, especially in asymmetric conflicts. This helps validate the wisdom of the Deep Green Resistance Decisive Ecological Warfare strategy for achieving environmental and social justice. From the thesis:

The only countermeasure that stopped sabotage was the manpower-prohibitive act of exterminating the saboteurs. Committing the number of forces necessary for effective counter-sabotage also produced too much of a drain on the front line. Indeed, as this fact became known, sabotage efforts increased in a deliberate move to force the enemy to guard against sabotage in the rear area. Thus, this research indicated there were no effective countermeasures to sabotage.


[H]istory supported the thesis that sabotage is an effective means of warfare. Sabotage was used against both strategic and tactical targets. It was proven capable of being used near the front line, in the rear areas, and even in support areas out of the theater.


Sabotage can be used against both tactical and strategic targets.

Any nation, rich or poor, large or small can effect sabotage against an aggressor.

Sabotage is an economical form of warfare, requiring only a mode of transportation (possibly walking), a properly trained individual, and an applicable sabotage device.

Read my entire essay, with links to the DGR strategy and to Captain Douthit's paper, at Time Is Short: The Effectiveness of Sabotage.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Direct action land reclamation

A Deep Green Resistance supporter sent a link to a photo essay he compiled about Occupy the Farm in Albany, CA. A group of local residents, activists, and university students blockaded destruction of the last prime soil in the city, destined to be wiped out for, ironically, a Whole Foods Market.

This is a great example of direct action to preserve land from development and to spotlight the need for growing food locally in urban areas. Read the whole article: These People Faced Down Riot Cops to Grow Food: Here's How They Won.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Business As Usual: The False Solutions of Green Tech

My readers in the Portland area may be interested in attending one of the upcoming presentations by Deep Green Resistance Lower Columbia in Hood River, Albany, and Vancouver WA, on "Business As Usual: The False Solutions of Green Tech." Make it if you can; DGR has some unique and valuable insights to offer in the fight for a livable planet.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review of Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds

I wrote a review recently of the documentary Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds. I found a lot to like, but coming from permacultural and radical environmental perspectives, I ultimately felt disappointed that the film didn't take on more than it did.

The film shows beautiful time lapse sequences of seeds sprouting and shooting into new life. Even rarer, it shows people feeling very emotional about seeds, displaying extra-human connections we normally only see with domesticated pets, and hinting at the human responsibility of respectful relationship with all beings described by so many indigenous people. The movie highlights great projects from seed schools and the Seed Broadcast truck educating people on why and how to save seed, to William Woys Weaver and others within Seed Savers Exchange doing the on-the-ground work of saving varieties from extinction, to Hudson Valley Seed Library trying to create a viable business as a local organic seed company.

Unfortunately, Open Sesame has an extremely narrow focus. Though it rightly brings up the issue of staple crops, which many people ignore in their focus on vegetables, it trumpets our dependence on grains, even showing factory farmed cattle, pigs, and chickens in an uncritical light. This assumption that humans need annual crops reveals an ignorance of agriculture itself as a root cause of our converging environmental crises. Even before industrialism accelerated the destruction and oppression, civilization and its cities, fed by organic agriculture, was eroding soil, silting up waterways, turning forests into deserts, and instituting slavery and warfare. Though the diminished diversity within our food crops should indeed cause concern, the far greater biodiversity loss of mass species extinctions under organic agriculture should spark great alarm, if not outright panic.


Though the documentary chose not to tackle those big-picture issues, it still could have included perennial polycultures, groups of long-lived plants and animals living and interacting together in support of their community. For 99% of our existence, humans met our needs primarily from perennial polycultures, the only method proven to be sustainable.

Read the entire review of Open Sesame at the Deep Green Resistance News Service.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hoophouse on the Slug Moat

In fall of 2011 I built our slug moat to protect nursery pots from slugs while providing rainwater catchment and other typical aquatic benefits. A few months later, to prepare for spring and make the most of the contraption, I added a hoophouse over the nursery table to provide a warmer, protected microclimate for the plants, without interfering with the use of the pond as an irrigation source.

Duck Integration

I wanted ducks to use the pond, but knew that with unrestricted access they would trash such a tiny area, destroying all plants and fish and filling the pond with poop and stirred up muck. To exclude ducks from enough of the pond to allow sheltering of fish and growth of poop-filtering cattails, I put a fence across the middle of the pond and around the excluded perimeter. Ducks could still be allowed into the protected area periodically, under close supervision.

I constructed a little ramp to make it easier for the ducks to get in and of the water.


Using thin plastic which had wrapped our lumber deliveries, I constructed a skirting sandwiched onto the table sides and posts with lathe and hanging to the water below. I hoped this would create a lower seal preventing air from coming up into the nursery table.


Next, I built a ventable upper enclosure for the plants from clear vapor barrier plastic left over from the house project. I created the end "wall" closest to the house by rolling a piece of lathe into a short piece of plastic, clamping it closed with three strong binder clips. I secured the lower half of this plastic to the vertical posts with more lathe, and tacked a couple of nails into the posts to allow the wall to be "hung" up for closure, or unhooked from the nails to half-open that end of the hoop house.

Since I didn't have posts to work with at the far end of the table, I used a single large piece of plastic for the rest of the hoop house, supported by plastic hoops screwed to the sides of the table, and draping down as the far wall. I used more binder clips to seal the junction between the large piece of plastic and the end wall, unclipping as necessary to move the sheets for ventilation.

I secured the sides by creating a small gap between the existing pallets on top and new wood I attached to the table sides just below. Tucking the plastic into the gap and wedging in some lathe created a strong seal, while allowing easy access or ventilation of the sides by pulling out the lathe.


On the whole, it worked. It definitely created a warmer microclimate and allowed faster early spring growth of the plants. Using all scrap materials, it had a distinctly amateur look to it, but was fairly easy to use for ventilating and accessing plants. I'm especially pleased with the side attachments of wedged lathe, which worked surprisingly well.


Despite lathe sandwiching it to the posts as low as possible, the lowest part of the skirting, pushed outwards by the concrete pier blocks, tended to blow around, failing to make a reliable seal. Often the skirting got stuck on the perimeter fence, potentially negating the slug-proofing function of the slug moat. The plastic scrap I used was just barely long enough to reach the water surface; with more material to work with I could have wrapped the bottom with some weights to ensure a straight drop to the pond.

The cross fence within the pond was of very flimsy construction and even flimsier attachment. A fence could have been secured to two of the table legs and anchored against their concrete piers stacked in the water below, but the placement of the table within the pond didn't make sense for that. It would have created either too tiny a pond for the ducks to use, or too small an area for plants to grow without duck disturbance.

The perimeter fencing, secured very loosely with metal stakes salvaged from political yard signs, also failed to inspire confidence. Neither the perimeter nor the internal fence were tested long-term against inquisitive ducks, and I suspect both would have required some adjustment and fiddling.

The binder clips came loose easily from slippery plastic, both where I wrapped lathe into the plastic to create the end wall and especially where I tried to clip the two upper sheets together. Again, I was using pieces just barely long enough to meet, so any significant wind put a lot of force on the joints. Slightly longer pieces with more overlap and slack would have helped. Ultimately the system needed a better connector - perhaps snap-on grommets.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Perennial Greens Planting Plan

Zone 1, extending into zone 2. From bottom center, working counter-clockwise:
Giant sea kale, sweet cicely in seed, turkish rocket, zebra mallow in flower, perennial kale in seed, lemon balm, french sorrel in seed, borage in flower, elephant garlic in flower, sylvetta arugula in flower, and nipplewort.
Also skirret & chinese dogwood in background, with crocosmia in foreground.

Two mistakes I made in my perennial vegetable experimentations in Portland:

  1. I overplanted perennial greens, more than we could possibly eat.
  2. I planted the greens over a large area, forcing more traversal of the yard than necessary. Though walking the yard to pick greens helps keep an eye on everything, it's inefficient to go further than necessary on a nearly daily basis.

Before we sold the house, I was consolidating a core set of perennial greens into approximately 100 square feet of beds closest to the house. This brought the front yard garden into better alignment with design by zones, with a tight zone 1 producing the majority of the daily pickings for two adults (leaves & flowers, salads & cooked), and freeing up zone 2 for root crops and less frequently harvested vegetables. I still envisioned picking from zone 2, from deliberate plantings and from edible weeds, a few times a week for variety and to augment zone 1 production.

This design took advantage of the fact that, for much of the year, the house shades most of the front yard area closest to it (especially after we raised the house 3'.) Most of the perennial greens should do well in partial to full shade, whereas the root crops and annuals generally need more sun. Most herbs also want full sun, and we found we didn't need to pick them with each batch of greens, so the larger ones made more sense for us in zone 2.

Writing this up two years later, I don't remember the exact number of which plants I moved into zone 1, but I believe I've come close below. It's a good starting point; you'll need to experiment anyway with what works well in your site and what you like to eat. Regardless of the exact species composition, the end result of densely planted perennials should be a yield of greens requiring little to no work besides harvest - more or less no need to dig soil, replant, or weed. (And year-round, at least in Portland and similarly mild winter climates.)

Large Plants

Usually planted 2-3' apart. You can perhaps get away with closer spacing in a heavily harvested zone 1, but I'd be inclined to still give them full spacing.

QtyLatin nameCommon name
1Agastache foeniculumAnise hyssop
1Brassica oleracea acephalaTree collards
3Brassica oleracea acephala'Western Front' perennial kale
1Crambe cordifoliaGiant sea kale
2Crambe maritimaSea kale
1Foeniculum vulgareFennel
2Malva sylvestris mauritianaZebra mallow
1Malva moschataMusk mallow
2Melissa officinalisLemon balm
1Myrrhis odorataSweet cicely
2Rumex scutatus or R. acetosaFrench Sorrel
6 sfScorzonera hispanicaScorzonera


These can be planted under and around the large plants, to exclude weeds and provide bonus greens & flowers.

Latin nameCommon name
Barbarea vernaWintercress
Campanula portenschlagianaBellflower
Campanula poscharskyanaTrailing bellflower
Claytonia montiaMiner's lettuce
Claytonia sibericaSiberian miner's lettuce
Diplotaxis tenuifoliaSylvetta arugala
Origanum sppOregano species
Oxalis oregonaRedwood sorrel
Rumex acetosellaSheeps sorrel
Sanguisorba minorSalad burnet
Stellaria mediaChickweed
Taraxacum officianaleDandelion
Thymus sppThyme species
Viola sppViolets

Bed Edges

We used a lot of Allium greens, finding them much easier to grow than bulbing onions. These work well along the edges of beds, helping delineate the pathways.

Latin nameCommon name
Allium ampeloprasumElephant garlic / Leek
A. cepa 'proliferum'Egyptian walking onion
Allium cernuumNodding onion
Allium fistulosumBunching onion
Allium sativumGarlic
Allium schoenoprasumChives
Allium tuberosumGarlic chives

Zone 2 Greens

If you have more room available, I would experiment with these. For species already listed above, numbers given are in addition to the quantity in zone 1. These are just for greens and flowers; not considering root and seed harvests of things like yellow asphodel and good king henry.

QtyLatin nameCommon name
1Agastache foeniculumAnise hyssop
5Anthriscus sylvestrisWoodland chervile
2Aquilegia vulgarisColumbine
4Asphodeline luteaYellow asphodel
2-3Bunias orientalisTurkish rocket
4Campanula rapunculoides, C. persicifolia, and other tall speciesBellflowers
10Chenopodium bonus-henricusGood King Henry
2Crambe maritimaSea kale
1-2Foeniculum vulgareFennel
1Levisticum officinaleLovage
1Lycium barbarumWolfberry
6sfMentha spicataSpearmint
1-2Myrrhis odorataSweet cicely
3-4Oenothera biennisEvening primrose
3Rumex scutatus or R. acetosiaFrench sorrel
2Smyrnium olusatrumAlexanders
1Symphytum officinalisComfrey
10sfUrtica dioicaStinging nettles

Zone 2 Stems & Shoots

Other vegetables nice to grow for something other than greens and flowers.

Latin nameCommon name
Arctium lappa or A. minorBurdock
Asparagus officinalisAsparagus
Maianthemum racemosumFalse solomon's seal
Petasites frigidusSweet Coltsfoot
Petasites japonicusFuki
Polygonatum biflorum and P. commutatumSolomon's seal
Rheum x cultorumRhubarb

Zone 2 Weeds

Volunteers that often need to be kept in check. We generally ate these rather than weeding per se.

Latin nameCommon name
Borago officinalisBorage
Calendula officinalisCalendula
Cardamine unknownPopweed
Geum urbanumClove root
Lamium purpuruemPurple dead nettle
Lapsana communisNipplewort
Phytolacca americanaPokeweed
Solanum nigrumBlack nightshade
Taraxacum officinaleDandelion