Thursday 9 July 2020

Farm and forest get married

Little known fact: Rich has an agricultural degree. You may know that he grew up on a farm and was expected to take over the family business, but few are aware that he went to college for it. He knows a lot about soil, plants, animal husbandry, and whatever else you need to know to grow things and raise animals.  

I was studying Forestry when we met, and Rich thought he'd hit the jackpot. He couldn't believe that he had found a girl who was just as interested in nature and hunting like him! Little did he know that I was about the least suitable person you can imagine to attempt her hand at forestry, and luckily for the future of trees I dropped out shortly after meeting him. Poor guy. 
Despite toiling away at it for two years, I pretty much remember zero plant names or animal species. Youth (and the ability to easily retain information) is wasted on the young.  

Unsurprisingly, Rich is in charge of anything plant-related in our marriage. My only responsibility is to give the rubber trees a sponge bath every few weeks (they like being clean) and to nag him every day to make sure he's watered the plants. (I'm in charge of the hydration of all humans, animals and plants, and I take that responsibility very seriously.)

Rich is the buyer of plants, the sole grower of our garden, and the grower of meat. People often ask if we eat our own animals, and yes, we do! That's part of the reason we have them. We raise our own chickens and turkeys, and yesterday we slaughtered our first home-grown cow. Not one of the minis, but a normal-sized one we raised for that very reason. She was a mean cow, so it wasn't hard to say goodbye to her.  
We were talking about gardening the other day, and after Rich told me a bit about alternative ways of gardening and agriculture, I did some research. Turns out, this stuff is fascinating! Here a few different earth friendly and sustainable methods I found:

Hydroponics and aquaponics, aka soil-free growing
Image found here
Hydroponics and aquaponics both involve growing vegetables and plants without the use of soil. How cool is that?!
Hydroponics uses minerals to feed the roots, using gravel or Perlite.
Aquaponics uses water to feed the vegetables and plant roots. The water contains nutrients that come from fish waste (and the associated mineralization process). 

There are several advantages to using a hydroponics system to grow crops. According to green our planet, growing crops using hydroponics results in "up to 90% more efficient use of water". Just as importantly, "no chemical weed or pest control products are needed when operating a hydroponic system".   

Permaculture, aka self-sustaining, low-maintenance gardening
Image found here
Permaculture means producing food in a way that mimics the natural growth of plants and vegetables. It uses smart farming techniques to increase efficiency and reduce waste. Typical techniques include creating swales (=natural or man-made channels with sloping sides) to store water, holistic grazing and the use of bio-fertilizer.

Instead of tilling, sheet mulching is an interesting technique used in permaculture. A weed barrier such as wet newspaper or cardboard is applied to the soil. They act as a nutrient spot for plants, and will eventually break down, allowing both water and plant roots to enter the soil. The idea is to mimic the natural leaf coverings on the floor of the forest.    

The motivation behind permaculture is that traditional agriculture sometimes works against nature, but permaculture works with nature. The three core principles are caring for people, caring for the earth, and limiting consumption. One of the key benefits of permaculture is sustainability. 

Aeroponics, aka using air!

Image found here

Can you live of love and air alone? Apparently, yes! (Sort of.) In aeroponics, plants are hung up in a dark place and sprayed frequently with a nutrient-rich mixture. The technique used is called vertical farming, which literally means that all crops are vertically stacked. You can grow more plants in a smaller space, and control the conditions by adjusting the soil, water and light.

Agroforestry, aka farm and forest get married (which could have been Rich and me had I not quit forestry)

Image found here

Agroforestry combines growing trees along with plant crops and keeping livestock. It mimics the natural ecosystem of the forest and is also considered a permaculture practice. Agroforestry combines both agricultural and forestry practices to ensure sustainability and greatly reduces the need for pesticides and chemical fertilizers. It also increases crop yield, provides shelter for animals, and reduces energy costs by creating natural shelterbelts that protect against wind and snow. Shelterbelts prevent soil erosion and catch and distribute snow. Trees are also an extremely valuable tool to fight climate change by sequestering greenhouse gases and absorbing carbon dioxide. 

Agroforestry also increases biodiversity and offers food, a refuge against predators, and a cover for nesting and breeding.  

Agricultural machines used in large-scale agroforestry can be found at

Even though I abandoned a career in forestry, I have a deep love for and appreciation of nature. We only have one earth, and it's important to learn how to live a little bit greener and to find out more about ways to preserve our beautiful planet!  



  1. Hi M.... We have been trying to grow cauliflower here but are plagued by worms so bad they are inedible. Do you have a similar problem and if so how do you deal with it? The one in your photo looks magnificent!

    1. If they're cabbage worms I heard that thyme keeps them away because they don't like it. Plant a few thyme plants next to them and see if it helps!

      Also, if you spray the cauliflower with an organic insecticidal soap (1 liter of water mixed with 1 tsp of mild soap)on top and below the leaves it will kill the eggs and larvae.

      Good luck!


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