There is a reason that my kale used to always grow slowly and get its best bits chewed on by aphids or caterpillars. Sure, it was in part because I don’t spray a single chemical on it to enhance its growth rate. I’d rather have holes from caterpillars than poison on my food, so I don’t fog it out to protect it from pests. That being said, these days I firmly believe that there were even more reasons for its slow growth.
I used to plant kale in straight rows all by its lonesome. I stripped it of its protective layer of ground cover when I weeded down to bare soil. I didn’t know to give it a support team of friends who all had a function to serve my kale. I didn’t know how much my annual plants would like to be nestled between established perennials, elders who hold the soil firm and strong around them while they establish their young roots. Plants like to be on contour so they can soak up all the water they desire. They need a system that is designed for them to survive and thrive… and not suffer or get sick. They need community and support too… just like we humans do.
I was a slow learner. I didn’t take a permaculture class until my fourth summer of learning to be the farmer. Even after that, it took a couple years to sink in. I just kept weeding. I kept sowing my kale all in the same straight rows. I didn’t give it any functional friends or an option of self-care. Though they say kale is so easy to grow… mine was always stunted, sad, and covered in bugs.
No more! I learned my lesson. I love you kale. I aspire to be a permaculture farmer. So, I won’t weed to bare soil again. I get it. I’ll keep all the weeds that are helping you and slowly work in the ground covers, diggers, nitrogen fixers, and pest control friends you need. I can just about swear to all things holy I won’t forget again, now that I’ve got a visual example of just how poorly things grow all on their own and with no protection or support.
Watch the video below from Eight Owls Farmstead about breaking weeding habits!
I see some commonalities between all of us humans and the kale. I see that we all got sown in the same straight, chemical sprayed row, and separated from each other by deep furrows. (See… how I always manage to relate like every single thing, back to food, permaculture, or organics? I love that.)
In this farmer’s opinion, we are all facing an interesting and challenging time. I look around and see a lot of environmental issues popping up on our planet. I see a lot of problems in the way we’ve been taught to eat and to handle our health care. I see that the focus is often placed on making more money than we actually need and not on making more of a difference. I see a lack of access to affordable organic food for people of all sorts, and a lack of knowledge on how to grow and cook it well. I see communities of people clashing against each other because they are different.
Yet, me being me, I also see humans’ amazing potential to come together and grow…companion planting style. I see how using permaculture techniques can make such big change in our lives and communities. It’s a design system that allows us to exist within nature and our communities in a very different way. I see how much our planet needs us to embrace those techniques, even if we were taught very differently. I see how much can be done in small, marginal, or neglected spaces by people that are excited to grow. I see farmers and foragers, like the two owners of my educational farm, that are willing to share knowledge without wrecking impassioned student’s already thin wallets.
A very un-permacultured system tried to bury me in GMO food and plant me behind a television screen, but it didn’t know I was a seed. And while I may have had a long stratification time, I finally germinated. For this lady that so needed to sprout, I found freezing wasn’t the only way for me to stratify. Being unhappy and overweight can go a long way with pushing that seed to grow…leaner, stronger, and more confident too.
If the lady I was can germinate and grow, I believe anyone can. There is a system that tries to bury us all, but that system doesn’t know we are all seeds. What amount of unrest, injustice, unhappiness, and unhealthiness will it take for us to stand up and sprout? Can we come together, right now, and live in a different way. I firmly believe that we can do anything that we are passionate about and willing to work for. And for me, it sure does feel like the time is just right for that to occur.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
About The Author: Rain Parker is the co-owner of Eight Owls Farmstead, a women owned homestead that focuses on sharing our story about what organic and wild food means to us, now that we are a collective 225 pounds lighter than we were when we started! The homestead was established in 2012 and does three things. We share information on growing, raising, and foraging your own food, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and host educational events and workshops. We grow, forage and sell no spray and non-GMO produce and food. And in our massive amount of downtime on the farm since it is so calm around here, we also make and sell wild crafted art supplies and functional art.