Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Forest Gardening - Not Just Layers

In my previous forest gardening posts, I discussed in some detail the many different layers of a forest garden, and gave lots of examples of plants that could be included in each layer. Click here to find all my forest gardening posts.  But there are other considerations, as you will read:

Not Just Layers

What makes a forest garden is not just architecture of the layers. There are other aspects that make up a forest garden. For example, vegetation patterns and density should be considered. In designing your forest garden, you will probably want to strive for a "lumpy" texture. In other words, create a lot of variation in how the plants are arranged and especially in the density of the plantings. Scientific research has shown that areas with great variation in plant density are more attractive to bird and insect species, thus increasing your forest gardens biodiversity (a very good thing). It also helps to promote a better balance between harmful and beneficial insects.

Plant diversity is also important. One of the chief differences between a traditional orchard and a forest garden is that orchards primarily feature a single species laid out in neat rows. A forest garden has a much greater diversity, and is not nearly as orderly. In designing your forest garden, you will want to pack as much diversity into your site as possible given the area you have to work with.

In addition to the physical structure of your forest garden, you will want to pay attention to its social structure. Your forest garden will be made up of the trees and other plants you intentionally include. But it will also be made up of trees and plants already present or that show up later as volunteers. Insects, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, birds, reptiles and small mammals will also take up residence. If you are lucky enough to have acres of forest garden, you might also get large mammals. All this biodiversity will interact with each other. This interaction - the food chain, pollination, decomposition, predator/prey relationships, symbiotic relationships, parasitism and so forth - is the social structure. Some thought should be given to that social structure.

For example, if you want to have a healthy population of pollinators (and you should want that), then you will need to plant a variety of flowering plants to attract them. By variety, I am talking about various sizes, shapes and colors of the blooms, as well as a variety of bloom times through the year. If all your plants bloom during only one part of the year, this will be a very inconsistent food source for the pollinators and will discourage a healthy population from forming.

You might also want to allow for some dead wood, such as dead branches and fallen tree trunks, to be a part of your forest garden. This dead wood will be used as food, nesting sites and protective cover for a variety of insects, birds and other animals, as well as fungi.

Much of the sun's energy captured by the forest garden will eventually turn to rot. This will improve the soil, but we can also capture some of this energy for our own use by growing edible and medicinal mushrooms, many of which actually prefer damp and shady conditions.

Soil structure is another aspect of your forest garden you should give a thought towards. There is a great deal more going on under your forest garden than just those tubers you planted. The roots of all trees, shrubs and plants are down there. Some are deep, some shallow; some will spread out greatly and some won't. Many fruit trees, such as apples and pears, have fairly shallow root systems. Many nut trees, such as pecans and hickories, have very deep taproots.

Within the soil, many small mammals, insects, worms, fungi and microbes live, eat and die. They too will have an effect on soil structure. Some of these organisms will decompose plant matter turning it into nutrient rich soil. Others, such as burrowing animals like moles and voles, will aerate the soil, and will carry the nutrient rich topsoil deeper into the ground.

Another aspect of the forest garden that should be taken into account is succession. The trees and other plants you include in your forest garden will grow up over time, and eventually die (I've already mentioned that it is a good idea to leave some dead wood in the forest garden). New trees and plants will take their place. You might need to prepare yourself for the dynamic and constantly changing nature of your forest garden. People like to control nature, but you cannot control your forest garden. At best, you can only hope to guide it.

It is common today for many people to look on well-manicured lawns and very neat & orderly gardens as highly desirable. But a forest is anything but well-manicured, neat and orderly. Your forest garden shouldn't be either.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Testing Prepper Gear - Two Wins and a Fail

I recently had the opportunity to field test three pieces of my prepper gear. All three pieces of gear are items I purchased and kept in my survival bag (a.k.a. bug-out bag). 

Two of the items worked very well and will remain in my survival bag. The third item proved to be a complete fail, and has been permanently removed from the bag. I also learned a couple of important lessons from this exercise. Here are the results:

Pocket Chainsaw
The Pocket Chainsaw - Worked extremely well. I was able to cut down and cut up a 9+ inch diameter cherry tree with nothing but my pocket chainsaw and my own muscle power. I did learn a few things: 1) A gas-powered chainsaw would have been much easier and faster, of course, but it and a can of gas won't fit in your bug-out  bag. This is a viable alternative. 2) You need to have a lot of strength and stamina to really use this - fitness matters. By the way, using a pocket chainsaw is a GREAT upper body workout! 3) Wear gloves (you should include a pair of work gloves in your bug-out bag anyway). 

The Laplander Folding Saw
The Laplander Folding  Saw - My folding Laplander saw was a smashing success. I used it to saw up a lot of branches between a half-inch and 3-inches thick. It cut up those branches easily. This saw is very sharp and tough!  It definitely earned a permanent spot in my survival bag.  

The Light-weight Hatchet -  Having a light-weight hatchet in your bug-out bag sounds like a good idea, but in reality it proved to be a complete fail. The sharpness of the blade wasn't really an issue - it was decently sharp. Rather, the problem was that this hatchet was simply too light-weight. Without any weight behind it, you simply cannot generate enough force to really cut anything know matter how hard you swing it.  Normal hatchets have a wedge head with the heavy hammer part of the hatchet directly behind the cutting edge, allowing the force of your swing to be multiplied by the weight of the hatchet. By taking away that heavy wedge in order to make the hatchet lighter, it destroys the effectiveness of the hatchet. A complete fail, and I have removed it from my survival bag.

This field test of my prepper gear points out why you should use all your prepper gear before the SHTF. It will both help you learn how to use your gear and help you determine what gear really works and what gear only sounds like a good idea.  So, I am adopting a new slogan - KNOW YOUR GEAR!  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Patriots' Prayers -- Last Edition

Thank you for Praying for America! 

Visit the prayer Page of my website:

Image is of the Interior of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Support Constituting America

Folks, please check out Constituting America's 2017 summer auction.  Support a worthy organization teaching American values and respect for our Constitution to America's youth. 

I cannot praise this organization and their efforts enough. If we are to restore America, we must reach our young people, and Constituting America does an excellent job of reaching that group.

Visit their website at

Follow them on Twitter: @ConstituteUS

Watch the You Tube videos:

Bid in the Summer Auction: