Thursday, April 18, 2013

Growing our own food, hopefully

March 20
Just yesterday Guy and I were agreeing that what we do here is just a drop in the bucket, a tiny piece of the huge experiment underway around the globe in how humans can live on the Earth in a more sustainable way. Growing some of one’s own food means less transportation costs, a lower carbon footprint, and healthy, fresh food. Other steps in the same direction include buying locally and regionally grown food, eating mostly food that is in season, and supporting small, perhaps organic, farmers.

You probably know that one of the big issues regarding food for the billions involves certain countries (e.g. China and Saudi Arabia) buying up huge tracts of land in other continents – Africa and South America – in order to feed their own populations, at the risk of increasing famine in places such as Sudan.

Climate change exacerbates the problems. Floods, droughts, fires, and invasive pests due to warmer winters are some of the changes that affect crops both on small and large scale farms. The ability to grow a portion of one’s own food, including chickens, even in tiny yards, on roofs and in window boxes, can mean a bit more to eat, and some variety. With more space, such replacing a lawn or a parking lot, families and communities could actually grow quite a bit of food.

As far as ‘planting your own food’ goes, I don’t really expect everyone to jump on board – it’s not easy to find the space and time, as well as develop the know-how for getting real food from whatever space you have. Buying local and seasonal is already a big start because it encourages and supports farmers, including truck-farmers. It also discourages the mega-farming-industry and long-distance transportation of foods – though it will take a much greater consciousness-raising to dissuade people from having strawberries year round, and the like. Here in Brazil farmers can extend the seasons of many fruits and vegetables, with second and third harvests, so it’s less important to think strictly seasonal, but still a lot of the produce in the supermarkets comes from quite a distance – southern Brazil, Chile, Argentina. And don’t get me wrong, I believe that it’s wonderful to have a treat from far away now and then. I still remember that back in the 50’s an apple in our Christmas stocking here in Brazil was like an orange in the States.

Here in the Southern Hemisphere the Fall Equinox brings in shorter and cooler days. On our high plateau – 3300 ft - hot rainy weather crops give way to vegetables that do better with dryer and cooler days. Cooler here means 75 – 80° in the daytime and 50 – 65° at night. I know, it’s tough!

After almost six months of planting it’s time to assess what we’ve learned – what has worked well and where we can improve.

Second round of guild-planting: veggies and other plants in beds between larger well-fertilized holes for trees.

Things are looking good - a future chapter will let you know how things have gone since then.

One of the tree holes: a cashew tree sapling at lower right, surrounded by green pepper,
fennel, green bean, and tomato seedlings.

Food for the soul - from our bedroom window.

Guy repairs the roof that was damaged by strong winds.

Newborn calf in pasture just outside our fence.

A bit of arugula, okra and green pepper for lunch.

Nasturtium flowers peeking out from among squash leaves. Wait til you see the squash we got!