Tuesday, March 13, 2012

462 Tree Crops and Permaculture; Reflections on Cain and Abel

Tree Crops and Permaculture; Reflections on Cain and Abel

A break from the usual politics here. These videos will keep you busy -
quality guaranteed.

(1) Tree Crops and Permaculture
(2) More Permaculture videos - Temperate, Tropical, Dryland, Urban
(3) History of the Rare Fruit Council
(4) Reflections on Cain and Abel

(1) Tree Crops and Permaculture

Peter Myers, July 17, 2011

Dust storms during droughts of the 1930s and 1940s were a great worry to
agriculturalists in America and Australia, as topsoil blew away.

In Australia, they were blamed on rabbit hordes - which ate the
vegetation bare - and on farming practices. One result was the
development of the Myxo virus and then the Calci virus, which decimated
the rabbit population.

In America, they led to a proposal that  hilly lands ploughed for annual
crops be planted to tree crops instead - "Permanent Agriculture" rather
than annual.

This was put in a keynote book called Tree Crops: A Permanent
Agriculture, by J. Russell Smith, a Professor of Economic Geography. The
back cover carries an endorsement by Bernard Baruch, the Wall Street
banker who had co-ordinated the American war effort during World War I.

Smith wrote that trees "thrust their roots deep into the earth, seeking
moisture far below the surface. They are able to survive drought better
than the annual crops that grow beside them." (p. 16)

"Trees living from year to year are a permanent institution ...
Therefore, the crop-yielding tree offers the best medium for extending
agriculture to hills, to steep places, to rocky places, and to the lands
where rainfall is deficient." (p. 16)

Even on the level plains - "empires of the plow" - he suggested
"two-story agriculture (trees above and annual crops below)", ie
intercropping of annual crops between rows of widely spaced trees.

It was a type of agriculture "actually in practice in many Mediterranean
lands. In the Spanish island of Majorca ... nine-tenths of the
cultivated land carries an annual crop growing beneath the tree crops. I
recall a typical farm planted to figs in rows about forty feet apart.
Beneath the fig trees was a regular rotation of wheat, clover, and
chick-peas ... The clover stood two years and was pastured by sheep the
second year."

Other two-story Majorca farms had, for a top crop, almonds, olives, or
oaks bearing edible acorns. The farmer did not get the maximum crop of
wheat, olives or figs, but he got a 75% crop of each, making a total of

Further, his risk was spread. Frost might kill the almonds, but not the
wheat. Drought might injure the wheat, but not the almonds.

Smith set out his vision: "When we develop an agriculture that fits this
land, it will become an almost endless vista of green, crop-yielding
trees. We will have plowed fields on the level hilltops and strip crops
on the gentle slopes. The level valleys also will be plowed, but the
steeper slopes will be productive through crop trees and will be
protected by them — a permanent form of agriculture."  (p. 18)

"This permanent agriculture is much more productive than mere pasture,
or mere forest, the only present safe uses for the hill fields." (p. 19)

These trees would provide food for humans, but also for animals -
cattle, pigs, poultry, sheep and goats free-ranging under the trees,
getting their own food - instead of them being penned and fed grains etc.

Given the present cost of grain, and the diversion of farmland to crops
for ethanol, it's time to implement Smith's proposal. The animals would
also be healthier and happier.

Smith's book features chapters on fruit and nut trees suitable for the
USA, including Walnut, Acorn, Pecan, Chestnut, Persimmon, Mulberry,
Mesquite, Honey Locust, and Carob.

He envisages cattle feeding on acorns, carob beans, honey locust beans,
mesquite beans, and persimmons.

For pigs he recommends, in addition to the above, chestnuts, mulberries,
walnuts etc.

For poultry, mulberries.

Smith's book led Bill Mollison to develop the concept of Permaculture.
Mollison lists Smith's book among the references, in Permaculture One
and in the Permaculture Designers' Manual.

Mollison argues that the amazing productivity of modern agriculture is
illusory, because of its reliance on energy inputs: "The energy now
needed to produce these crops far exceeds the calorific return from
them." (Permaculture One, p. 3)

Permaculture is a design for moving to a low-energy and benign
agriculture. It incorporates ideas from around the world.

The best introduction to it is via Permaculture videos; some of the best

Pistacchio farm in arid South Australia, also growing Jujube (Chinese

Greening the Desert (Jordan, near the Dead Sea - not far from where
Jesus was baptized):

Pigs in Snow: Sepp Holzer's permaculture in the Austrian Alps:

A citrus orchard in Japan:
The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka, narrated by Larry Korn:

Fukuoka grows rice and barley without ploughing, flooding or chemicals:
One Straw Revolution Part 1, with Larry Korn, 1981:

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mG9M5MARu2k&NR=1

Transcript of a Permaculture Design Course given by Bill Mollison:

Mollison is "green", but not necessarily "Green". He's had a running
battle with those he calls "eco-fascists".

For example, in an interview with Australian Business Monthly, of April

"On one side you have the eco-fascists who want time to stand still and
who think that everything should be preserved: on the other side you
have the extirpationists who want to kill everything; and in the middle
you have the managers," he says.
"I'm in management mode, as opposed to the chemical companies which are
in extinction mode." (p. 131).

The "eco-fascists" have branded many Permaculture trees "weeds" and
"invasive", and pressured Governments to put them on "banned" lists.
Examples are Brazilian Cherry, Coffee, Ice Cream Bean, Red Guava,
Mesquites, Loquat, Olive, Jujube, Acacia Dealbata (Silver Wattle, the
one Fukuoka grew in his orchard), Black Locust, and Honey Locust (the
tree whose seeds John the Baptist ate in the desert: the "locusts" he
ate were seeds, not insects).

A Permaculture garden is a "No Dig" garden. Low maintenance, very little
water. No chemical fertilizers are used, but one might add Lime, trace
elements, or rock dust (eg Cracker Dust). It's also an "instant" garden.

The soil is not turned over. Only the holes for individual plants are
dug, and the plants are put in immediately, even though there is grass
growing all around. When applying mulch, do not cut the grass first.
Apply over long grass, flattening it so that it cannot grow up through
the mulch. Remove any bits that get through later.

Prunings, and weeds removed from one place, can be used as mulch in
another. Permaculture does NOT use compost bins (except on a minor
scale, eg for kitchen scraps); it uses mulch, ie "sheet compost"
instead. Everything is fed to the chooks or thrown onto the garden;
nothing is wasted.

The emphasis is on productive trees rather than ornamentals, and on
perennials (eg passionfruit, pumpkin, eggplant, capsicum) rather than
annuals. Given that chokos and zucchinis are similar in flavour, a
Permaculture garden would be more likely to feature the former, if
growing conditions permit. Perennial legumes would be similarly
preferred - Pigeon Pea and Madagascar Bean in warm climates, Scarlet
Runner Bean and Tagasaste (tree lucerne) in cool climates. But one could
supplement them with annuals, eg Snake Beans and Snow Peas.

We do not live "by bread alone", so one would also grow some ornamentals
and natives - for beauty, screening, and as a bird attractant. And
Permaculture gardens mix all these kinds of plants together. Thus, one
might grow taro and pumpkin vines, roses and heliconias amid the fruit

On farms, Permaculture involves the use of machinery for earthworks, eg
to form swales (shallow v-shaped ditches along contour-lines, to hold
water), dams, terraces etc.

The farm/garden is divided into "zones" according to animal presence. In
zone 1, none; in Zone 2, small animals eg chooks, ducks, rabbits;  in
zone 3, grazing and browsing animals. Then, "sector" analysis covers the
need for windbreaks, fire-retardant plants and other means of Bushfire
Protection, etc.

(2) More Permaculture videos - Temperate, Tropical, Dryland, Urban

Bill Mollison Permaculture videos

Temperate (cold climate) Permaculture Strategies (parts 1 to 3):

Temperate Permaculture Strategies - Pt4 (Victoria, Germany):

Tropical Permaculture Strategies- Pt1 (Tyalgum, near Murwillumbah NSW,
near Qld border):

Tropical Permaculture Strategies- Pt2 (Zimbabwe):

Tropical Permaculture Strategies - Pt3 (India):

Dryland Permaculture Strategies - Part 1:

Urban Permaculture Strategies- Pt1:

(3) History of the Rare Fruit Council

The Rare Fruit Council originated in Florida, which has a subtropical
climate like south-east Queensland.

The first President was Bill Whitman (1914-2007), a commercial
orchardist who roamed the world collecting seeds and scionwood for
introduction to the United States.

His book Five Decades with Tropical Fruits tells the story of the fruits
he discovered and brought home. It's a hardback with stunning colour
photos. The later chapters were written after the early chapters, and
revise the information in them.

Whitman visited the Cairns area, and was friends with Australian RF
members Alan Carle and Don Gray.

The name "Rare Fruit Council" was suggested by Julia Morton (1912-1986),
a professor of biology at the University of Miami. She was active with
Whitman in the RFC; his book contains a portrait photo of her.

Her book Fruits of Warm Climates is the "bible" of rare fruit
cultivation. It bears a Foreword by Donald L. Plucknett of the World
Bank, who says, "This book is certain to be a constant companion of most
persons interested in tropical horticulture."

The whole book is on the internet at

The Australian branch of the RFC is called Rare Fruit Australia.

To get an idea of the sorts of fruits I and other Rare Fruit enthusiasts
plant, visit the Daleys nursery catalog, especially the subtropical and
tropical sections: http://www.daleysfruit.com.au/fruitindex.htm

(4) Reflections on Cain and Abel

Peter Myers, September 9, 2011

The Jewish and Christian ideas of Redemption are quite different. The
Christian one is based on the Fall in Genesis 2 - which, given that Adam
& Eve were NOT Jews (there were no Jews before Abraham), was the fall of
ALL mankind. Equally, redemption was for ALL mankind.

The Jewish idea IGNORES Genesis 1 & 2 (Mary Boyce says Genesis 1 has
Zoroastrian origins). Rather, Redemption means restoration of Solomon's
empire (or supposed empire). Fall means exile, victimhood, exodus etc.

Amazing - such different ideas coming out of common texts.

The Abraham of Genesis was not born a Jew, but converted.

One side issue which arises out of the above, is why Adam and Eve are of
so little interest in Judaism (given their centrality in Christian
thought). A Concordance of the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) shows very
few references to them. Yet their story could not have had a late origin
- the God of Genesis 2 is too anthropomorphic for that: he WALKS in the
Garden (3:8), and SPEAKS (calls out) to Adam and Eve (3: 9).

Consider the story of Cain and Abel. Cain, the first grower of crops,
kills Abel, the first pastoralist, in a fit of jealousy - the first murder.

But what is the reason for the jealousy? Because God prefers Abel's
offering of meat, to Cain's offering of fruit, vegetables, & grain.
Clearly, God is a meat-eater - and, in particular, enjoys barbecues
("burnt offerings").

I myself am a grower of crops - mainly fruit and nuts - on my block of
7/8 acre. It's small by farm standards, but large by urban standards. I
grow bananas, citrus, macadamia nuts, jakfruits, passionfruits etc. My
favourites are the sapote fruits from Mexico, Cuba and other parts of
Central America. Each year, more varieties will begin to bear - black
sapote, green sapote, mamey sapote, white sapote, canistel (yellow
sapote), ross sapote - all are named from the Aztec word sapotl. Look
them up on the internet.

My friend Howard Miller, on the other hand, who is on this mailing list,
is a sheep farmer in the Wagga area, around 2000km (1200 miles) further
south. He rears Wiltshire Horn sheep, a meat sheep which does not need
shearing because its wool falls off after winter is over.

Unlike Cain, I have never dreamed of killing Howard. The very thought of
it is zany. I eat my own fruits & vegetables every day, and hardly any
meat (most days, I have two eggs and one sausage). Nor do I feel
deprived because Howard has a freezer full of lamb.

Which reminds me of some people I know, who took to rearing pigs.
Free-range pigs, in effect, because they could not keep them in their
pen. Well, their freezer was full of pork. But pork was the one food
they preferred not to eat - they had so much of it.

The point I am making is God's bias towards meat-eating, and rejection
of Cain, in the Cain and Abel story, is not very logical. Even before
the first pastoralists, hunter-gatherers ate both plants and animals.
They prized both.

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