Our next stay was at the Bullock Brothers (Doug and Sam) Permaculture Farm on Orcas Island off of northern Washington. The Brothers and family started the farm back in the 1970s way before there were any books or local mentors on permaculture. They are Permaneers in the best sense, constantly trying this and that, planting everything and anything, teaching everything they’ve learned and building the soil as they go. Early on they rebuilt a small dam so that the marsh that had been drained for potato growing was able to re-flood and regenerate. It is now a verdant ecosystem that is one of the great birding spots on the west coast.
On our first morning there, I volunteered to go with Luke (one of the interns) to collect marsh muck for mulching a new garden bed. We took the canoe into the middle of the lake, jumped out into thigh deep water, scooped up armfuls of weed/muck and dumped it into the canoe. I was crazy happy with this job! I mean really. I'm serious. Then we wheel barrowed it back to the garden and laid it on the surface of the beds as mulch and fertlizer.
Meanwhile Tim was helping with fruit tree pruning. Later in the day, we both helped clear grasses from around newly planted forest trees which we then mulched heavily with sticks and pruned branches. The brothers are constantly planting in the woods to rebuild biodiversity in the conifer forest.
|We helped do some forest management|
In all our travels so far, the Bullocks farm was the most advanced food forest we’ve seen. The food production was incredible. Everywhere we turned, there was something delicious to eat. We were stuffed from grazing on berries, apples, plums, not to mention the prepared meals of fresh veggies and salads. Their irrigation system is No Waste. In the morning, the small pumps turn on and start pumping marsh water up to the tanks on top of the hill above the farm. The water is then gravity fed down to the irrigation system. The farm surrounds the marsh so the water in the gardens eventually seeps down and returns to it.
Desert Take Away:
Re-building biodiversity is essential.
The brothers have been planting Monkey Puzzle trees that bear a large fruit. The look of the tree and the leaf structure made Tim and I wonder if this tree might do well in the desert.
Everywhere we have been, the farms are growing comfrey. This is an important dynamic accumulator that is a very vital component for compost tea.