Native Species, The Treasure of Appalachia, and Permaculture Design Restoring the Earth – A Message of Hope 8-28-19

Native peoples of the Cherokee identified and used over 1500 species of native plants for medicine and food in the Appalachian Range and foothills. They sustained these plants for use in a wide variety of ways. Unfortunately their medicine wasn’t effective against European diseases which invaded their peoples (as well as almost all the native peoples of this continent) and wiped out as much as 85% of them early in our (western culture) history here. With the death of so many people, they were forced to congregate into smaller areas and villages in order to survive, leaving vast acreage un-populated.

They had practiced what we in Permaculture Design now recognize as sustainable agriculture and forest agriculture by moving around a hunting ground from village site to village site in a planned progression. They would pile up organic matter to rot down, then instead of tilling or removing trees, worked with these ‘compost sites’ (my name) to grow cultivated species such as potatoes, corn, squash, and other food plants. They let the organic matter form a layer of top soil into which they poked pointed sticks, set the seeds in, and then covered them, without disturbing the soil structure of fungi and the host of other soil microbes. When these areas were depleted, they had already started other big piles which rotted down for future use.

The good news is that our world has such an abundance of sustainability built in that almost anywhere in our world, if we provide a better environment using our good tools of knowledge, we can restore this kind of abundance. But even areas that are already in bad shape, we can restore them. In areas still in good condition, with knowledge and the abundance of diverse plant and animal life, we can protect and increase that fertility and abundance.

In nature it takes 100 years to create 1” of top soil, but when this practice is used, it only takes a few years. When the Europeans came here, they saw no rows of agriculture, no fences, no houses, and assumed it was all wild and open for use. But it was a carefully tended ‘food forest’ using native and cultivated species in some areas thousands of years old. They foolishly cut down the trees and implanted their European standards of land use. When they arrived in the 1600’s, the top soil was very deep. In some areas 50 or more feet deep. Now it has been eroded down to under a foot and in some places is gone.

The USDA tells farmers now that ‘only loosing 1 to 1 ½ inches of top soil a year is good soil management’.  We worry about peak oil. I’m worried about ‘peak soil’. When we run out of the good rich top soil ‘modern’ (corporate) agriculture has to turn to chemicals to produce, which further destroys the soil’s ecological balance, killing off the vital soil microbes (which turn unavailable minerals in the soil into available minerals that plants will absorb). Without this processing by microbes it appears that we have run out of minerals and nutrients in the soil. No, what we have run out of is life in the soil. Soil is an ecology of thousands of kinds and amounts of beneficial microbes – living and acting upon the land and which produce fertility, naturally.

Using Korean Natural Farming practices and Permaculture techniques, we have means to more rapidly replace and recreate top soil much quicker, replacing soil lost to erosion or bad farming practices.

In Permaculture we view anything considered pollution is actually unused resource. Every year we toss millions of tons of garbage into the ocean where it pollutes and is killing off native ocean habitat. Or we fill valleys and ‘waste land’ with garbage. But in those vast quantities are untold amounts of organic matter that could be returned to the soil as bio-mass. I predict that one day we will be mining land sites and land fills for the metal and plastics they contain. Do you save your kitchen waste? You can directly dig it into your soil if you keep out bones and fat, limiting it to vegetable and fruit wastes, and it will add to the fertility, feed the worms, and keep millions of tons out of the land fills. If you have chickens or hogs, they can eat it, and their manure can be used to amend the soil. Nothing needs to be wasted.

Not only is modern industrial farming practice destroying the native fertility and sustainable fertility of the soil by using chemicals that kill the native soil microbes, and plowing that releases natural nitrogen, it also is causing the erosion of it. When you run heavy machinery over a field for many years, it compacts it causing a hard pan just under the top few inches which the plant’s roots can’t easily reach into. Plowing and harrowing, disking, etc. only goes down 6 to 8”. Under that it’s like a brick. And because it is lacking in sufficient organic matter to act as a sponge and absorb moisture, when heavy rains and flooding occur, it hasn’t anything to hold it from sliding off the hard pan.

Modern farmers no longer plant hedge or tree rows between fields thinking it takes too much space away from their machines. But without those barriers and their biodiversity and native insect collections, wind, rain, and invading bugs have nothing to stop them. In Permaculture Design we call that an “edge” which is the most bio-diverse harboring area the lack of which further causes erosion. When planning to use a piece of land, putting back hedges and more edge is a quick way to prevent erosion and increase bio-diversity – and thus yield.

New Orleans used to be a port on the Gulf of Mexico. At last count it’s about 70 miles inland because the topsoil has been washing off the farms in the Midwest for a hundred or so years and has piled up creating the delta, islands, etc. along the gulf. All that was the natural fertility of the great plains.

We have introduced cultivated species from Europe and have developed more over the years here to feed our ever growing population, which demand human intervention to grow. Corn started out a native people’s species and has become a top sustaining food for our culture now, but it can’t grow without harvesting, drying, removing from the cob, and planting. You can’t just leave a corn stalk with corn in a field and have it produce next year. Maybe a deer will come along, harvest a missed cob, and leave a few kernels lying about, which may grow. But in general it requires a lot of work.

Now with corporate control, it isn’t even a natural plant, having been genetically altered to allow chemical sprays to hold down the weeds. When it does manage to reproduce on its own, it spreads its genetic cancer into areas uncontrolled. But corn is a very ‘heavy feeder’ sucking more than its share of the available fertility of the soil in millions of acres. Only chemicals can keep it going now. As it leaches out vast amounts of the nutrients out of the soil, more and more chemicals are needed and as they work their devastation, it’s killing the soil.

As a result more and more land area has become desertified, and has become so infertile as to be useless to even modern agriculture. We are loosing our precious soil and growing space. This means danger to the human species. The ability of the land to sustain itself, and the ensuing droughts caused by the land’s inability to absorb rain and grow trees which then through transpiration (evaporation of moisture off leaves, creating clouds and then rain) is being wiped out incrementally.

The good news is that many new techniques have been worked out to use herds of animals to restore former habitats of elephants, herd animals, etc. as well as using sludge from petrochemical and sewage waste sprayed on sand dunes to grow native hardy plants that when left to grow fenced off from goats can restore land. Also, by bulldozing 10′ wide by 100′ long 6 to 10′ deep trenches in totally dead land, it has been found that dew, native plant seeds, and shade formed by the sides of the trench acts as a habitat producing space. Coming back a couple of years later, it has been found to contain trees, birds, small animals, and other native inhabitants without any more man interference.

A culture exists by its ‘belly’ i.e. only when it can feed itself. Archeologists will tell you how many societies in the planet’s past have disappeared when the land no longer could sustain them. The planet is littered with them. Then it takes long periods of time if ever for nature to return fertility to the land, but never in the huge numbers of people as before.

It isn’t just North America that is affected by this. Corporate control and methods have reached all parts of the world causing devastation and damage to the natural eco systems. Planet wide desertification is taking place on every continent where people live. This is well known. But people ARE looking for solutions.

In areas where Permaculture Design has been implemented, areas are being restored to health. It’s the only science of the earth that has the purpose through its ethical code (care of the earth, care of people, equitable and sustainable use of the abundance thus created) to actually turn this trend around. It isn’t the easy way but it might be the only way we’ll have a planet to live on in a hundred years if the current trend continues. The alternative is more drought, famine, pandemics (when people don’t eat well enough they are vulnerable to disease) and ultimately depopulation.

We can each start small by learning and using the principles based on natural law to our own piece of the world. Here at Hillside Gardens in NE Georgia, we have turned a top soil stripped steep piece of property of .7 acres into a hundred bed, 40 tree and bush orchard, growing over 150 kinds of herbs – with no chemicals. Using the principles any piece of land, or even an abandoned building, can be turned into a place where plants can grow, livestock can be tended, and people can gain survival out of it while restoring the earth’s health.

But in terms of the vast areas of the planet that have already been destroyed over the millennia people are working out solutions. Paul Stamets has been using his knowledge of fungi to further the process of restoration: Paul Stamets

Geoff Lawton, a founding permaculturist who was one of Bill Mollison’s first students (Bill is the founder of Permaculture Design) has been restoring deserts:, and his use of water in the deserts:

and Dr. John D Liu has been documenting and working to restore desert land using the Chinese method: He has been working with local lands and governments when they will listen, and making huge strides. See his film “Hope in a Changing Climate”.

In Jordan Dr. Liu has been working with the royal family there, with Princess Balma Bendali (sic?) who works in a huge botanical garden using native plants to restore the desert. (see above video). Overgrazing by people with goats and sheep has destroyed the fertility of the soil. But by fencing in the animals, grasses then can grow, supporting the perennial roots systems which follow, and these root system support the microorganisms which restore fertility. Trees and bushes thus growing (perennials) cut off the direct sunlight and the UV radiation on the soil which dries it out and sterilizes its biological populations.

Another benefit of having a plant cover that is healthy and perennial (from perennial native grasses, bushes, trees and entire canopy covers of the larger trees) is that the root system holds in the top soil when the rains do come. Having organic matter in the soil acts like a sponge, instead of rejecting the water drops that would allow them to just run off, carrying with it silt and other parts of the top soil. Trees dropping their leaves which decompose there, and the roots which penetrate the top layers of the sand and rock portions of the soil, allow the water to soak in and be absorbed. That then means that the water isn’t free to flow down and erode the land but is held in place, and can then penetrate deeply into the underlying rock forming natural water storage in the porous rock aquifer.

This reverses the desertification, allowing organic matter to again build up, allowing for greater diversity of plant and microbial life, wild animal populations including birds (which help the plant’s leaves to absorb nutrients from the atmosphere by their song frequencies – opening pores under the leaves letting in carbon dioxide). The land then can rebuild. When trees grow, their deep roots can absorb nutrients below the level of degraded top soil. They bring up needed minerals and natural chemicals; deposit them in the tree trunks making them strong. The nutrients go into the leaves which then fall and decompose. This whole evolutionary process supports the reversal process back to a thriving land. When trees can grow, transpiration can occur, and rain can be created in the natural flow of things. Rain water can come in to support the microbial population, the plants, animals, and if carefully managed, people. But it has to be done by learning and knowledge. Ignorance and greed destroy environments – not cars.

When we have a loss of incoming water thru run-off and flooding, it isn’t available to agriculture later when the plants need to be hydrated but has disappeared into rivers. It isn’t going into aquifers or ponds and lakes which can be tapped. As Dr. Liu says, this leads to drought and famine.

The gasses of agricultural chemicals are many times more destructive to the atmosphere and the balances of life than internal combustion devices. Politics and politicians try to gain financially and power by misguiding our attentions to control the cultural systems to their favor. There is tremendous wealth being made on agricultural chemicals and controlling food is an ever larger factor in political control. If we can’t eat we can’t vote and we can’t add to the wealth mechanisms that the powerful have set up mostly to their own benefit. It isn’t the millionaires or even the billionaires who are behind this, it’s the hidden trillionnaires who pull the strings, control the media, manipulate the political systems, and couldn’t care less about the planet or YOU. So, we have to take back responsibility for our planet and do what needs to be done, under the radar. At least for now.

Gandhi said something once that struck me strongly. He was being interviewed about his political stand against the British and their control of India’s cotton crops and industry.  It was being waylaid and sent to England’s mills to be processed and woven into cloth. This was, before the British arrived, a principle industry of India and a prime source of their economy. But then it became illegal for India’s people to keep their cotton, harvest it off the fields, to spin and weave it themselves. This is why Gandhi always was seen and interviewed wearing his home spin and woven white native clothing. It was a political statement.

When asked why he didn’t just gather vast numbers of people and do a huge demonstration against the British to fight their control. He said no, then they would waste their energies for a one shot demonstration but within a few days all would be forgotten and nothing would change. But he said if thousands of people kept their cotton, spun and wove it in small amounts all over India, (thus bypassing the system set up by the British). The British took the cotton crops, transport it to mills in England, then bring back their cotton cloth wares to sell in India, at greatly inflated prices, thus creating a profit machine for them, but leaving out the Indian people. This was a typical British ploy to reap profit from any land they subjugated. If the people would do this all over India by the thousands, they would thus not be controllable. England couldn’t possibly stop thousands of housewives from sitting in their houses quietly spinning cotton and cutting off the profits to England. It was brilliant. And a peaceful solution without violence.

Gandhi was very upfront with his protest. He was a true leader. But he always preached peaceful solutions, even though the British government didn’t have any qualms about using force on those ‘little brown bothersome people’. But in the long run he won, even though he almost died going on a hunger strike. I suppose it helped that he was a trained lawyer from Oxford, England when he want to India. We all must choose how much we are willing to risk. But anything done to rebuild the soil, keep it from being contaminated, anything we can learn or teach towards those ends will add up.

If everyone who had the means (land) and notion (willingness too) to grow some of their own food organically, preserve it, and save their heirloom seeds, or set up a small family farm, selling their goods at local farmers markets, as is happening in ever growing numbers, we take back our food, our land, and our own profits.

In this same light, by growing organically, using Permaculture Design techniques, taking on large areas of desert or degraded land, or even stop using lawn chemicals and instead growing an organic garden, creating our own food, even if it’s a percentage of what is eaten, and boycotting the GMO foods and products, this is a reversal of the process. If done by millions of people, quietly without any big show of power, peacefully, we can regain our planet.

It will of course take more than this to restore the planet or wrest out of control the powers of the trillionnaires, but with public opinion, and a growing awareness which has already begun even in populations formerly unaware of the significance of this situation, people can gain control of their own lives, health and environment.

We’re seeing a re-dawning of the small family farm, 1 to 5 acres. The little farmers markets popping up selling the produce from these growers has become a cultural phenomena. They must have a retail outlet for their goods because they can’t compete with the commodities market, the wholesale vast industrial farms. But then when people want real food they have to turn to this kind of grower. Even the big industrial ‘organic’ growers cheat, work with the modified USDA regulations and slip in things not really organic. Not all, but enough to make people now mistrust the organic foods found in Wal-Mart and Publix. They want the real deal. Food grown in small amounts carefully on good soil, without chemicals, is filled with real nutrition. Or they want to go out to their little backyard garden and pick that tomato that tastes like a real tomato, knowing it’s real food.

But depending only on cultivated varieties of edible plant crops in our shifting climate is a slippery slope because the diversity of plants we had 100 years ago has diminished by 90%. Seed companies are being bought up by the Monsanto corporate structure. Monsanto was purchased by Bayer, but the same corporate structure still exists. This means that the ‘open pollinating’ meaning heirloom and heritage varieties that loyally produce exactly the same foods season to season and have not been modified in a lab or hybridized are increasingly being eliminated from the market in favor of controllable hybrid and GMO varieties. When food is completely controlled by the trillionnaire elite and their corporations, they will have us by the short hairs. But as long as we can control our food and support ourselves outside their control, we can be free.

Now here we enter into the mix the idea of the native plants. In areas such as ours in Appalachia, we have the benefit of thousands of native plants that have medicinal properties, and edible plants that don’t require human intervention. The native people here lived off of them always. They ate what the land provided with their clever use of composting in place for agriculture, and careful husbanding of the wild animal population. They carefully moved around so they didn’t over harvest the meat providing creatures, and they used every part of what they did harvest so nothing was wasted.

They respected and revered nature and didn’t abuse it. They still sometimes starved, and their diet wasn’t something most modern people would think of as tasty, but it sustained them, and they thrived until brought down by diseases they had no immune protection from, and later land grabs that robbed them of their large tracts of land, their survival land.

Humans have a relationship with the land. What we take we must support. It can’t all be take and run away. If we expect the land to endlessly provide for us by poisoning the soil, the air, the water, the animals, and ourselves, we will have a short life span and will leave a barren dirt ball to collect star dust. If we allow the profit based industrial mechanical mental set of the ones who now mostly control farming and food production to completely run our lives, we are at their mercy, and they are not, at the top of the heap, merciful people. They worship at the alter of profit. It’s not a spiritual religion with them. This is easily deductible by their long term effects on the planet.

For now people eat, they live in houses, they drive cars, they send their kids to school, they take pharmaceutical drugs when they get sick, and it looks so lovely. But you don’t see the ocean with its islands of plastic waste bobbing in the waves, or see the fish populations eating plastic thinking it’s food, or notice the research coming out on the plastics we are ingesting causing illness. Or take into consideration the wake left of civilization on large portions of the planet, or on the less civilized places. We have to wake up to the long term effects.

Permaculture Design based on nature, says ‘design and plan into 7 generations of future’. Not next year, or the indexes of the commodities market. We need to call on wisdom, not profit as a way to look at our world. We can benefit and do well. Nobody is saying go out and eat the front lawn. But we need to expand our awareness of the world we live in.

For example: 13 years ago we moved from California, where we had a 23 year old organic garden in a subdivision. I grew enough food to feed many families on a 5000 square food lot with house, driveway, patios, walkways and concrete areas, using composting and the usual organic growing methods.  I had to adjust to a new environment. There I grew about 40 medicinal herbs, had 5 fruit trees, and a couple of very small lawn areas to make the neighbors happy. I had mastered growing in that climate. We had a two seasons and tomato plants lasted 2 or 3 years.

When we came here, we moved into a house on a steep hill where all the topsoil had been bulldozed off and sold by the developer. We had Bermuda grass that practically grows on concrete – which Georgia red clay is, almost. We had mostly weeds, and about 1/3 of the lot of .7 acres in native trees and plants. The developer had left 3 areas un-sodded. Nothing would grow there except noxious thorny weeds and bare clay. I started working the soil and created area after area of garden beds. As I had done in California, I was pulling weeds to make my garden look very neat and to cut down on competing plants for the nutrients in the soil.

I hooked up with some enlightened sustainability interested people. Our little group took an herb walk up in the Blue Ridge Mtns. with a well known herbalist. She walked us around wooded areas, wetlands, and some meadow areas pointing out native plants and their uses. To my surprise, these were the very plants I had been pulling out of my newly created garden beds. I had no idea these ‘weeds’ had any value or use. I didn’t recognize them from a seed catalog so I assumed they were just in the way.

I found out that all but one or two were highly medicinal, edible, or useful in other ways such as for fabric dye, basket making or fiber creation, habitat enhancers for the bees, butterflies, and native birds, and several other very beneficial uses. The ones that weren’t ‘useful’ from my perspective, I just haven’t realized. Because I realized that if they were growing by themselves, they had a place in nature. Just because I didn’t know what that was, that was my ignorance, not their undesirability.

So, I started the fascinating journey of identifying and researching every ‘new’ plant I found on my property. When I got to 500, I quit counting. I realized that we live in a complete treasure trove of plant diversity. That the bugs have value. That the birds are interlinked with the whole system. That not only worms are valuable in the soil, but the fungi – the vast network of their body which is composed of fine filaments of living tissue called hyphae or mycelia is critical to the health of the environment.

I researched and found the importance of ‘no till’ growing. When land is plowed this structure. which not only makes mushrooms (the fruit of fungi) but also transports important nutrients across distance and has intelligence in how that occurs. Cutting apart this mycelial structure lessens the fertility of the soil for growing crops, and broadly impacts the whole system of nature.

So, I started the practice of not pulling a plant until I knew what it was, no matter that others would call it a weed of no value. I found that I was pulling plants that make antibiotics stronger than any pharmaceutical. That I was throwing away super foods that have more nutritional value than the nicest produce in the grocery store. That I was tossing out plants that support the bee population when we desperately need to support our pollinating insects like bees, butterflies, and even wasps. It all interrelates. And in my ignorance I was breaking the chain of interdependencies without even knowing it.

I also realized after watching Dr. Liu’s video (above) further today, since I had already realized before how important native species of plants were, that using native species to restore the earth was just smart.

What exists naturally on this planet has survived every ecological disaster and stress this planet and its always changing conditions have dished out. And they survive because they have evolved to do so. We can benefit by changing a native plant to our use like Luther Burbank did in the 1930s by evolving thousands of new species of useful plants not by genetically modifying, but by breeding them slowly and carefully generation after generation. Or taking already existing plants with their qualities and properties and using them as they naturally exist to do our bidding, without changing them at all.

For example rather than spraying insecticides onto our edible crops, only to later eat the poisons in the food, by breaking up vast acreages of mono-crops by planting two or three rows of native plants every 20 or so rows of crop that attract the bugs we want to get rid of, or repel them naturally we work with nature. For one of many examples peppermint repels certain kinds of bugs and encourages the predatory spiders and wasps that eat them.

A very wise man and precursor of Bill Mollison, Masanobu Fukuokoa who wrote the book “The One Straw Revolution”, increased his crop production by 22” by relying on nature to handle pests etc., and never plowed, sprayed, or pulled a weed. In fact he also cut his need for human intervention and energy almost to only spreading seeds and harvesting. He never used machines and had no use for fuel. Agronomists came from all over the world to see how he did it, but invariably altered his process and didn’t get the same kinds of yields. But he’s had years of interns coming in studying and working under him and his work is spreading. He passed a few years ago sadly, but his methods continue.

At the base of all the cultivated plants we use in our agriculture, landscaping, and forestry for lumber, is the vast diversity of native species that have survived the test of time. They all work in harmony with all the living things in the environment. We need this bio-diversity of their great numbers of species. They work with the soil microbes, the bugs, the animals, the atmosphere, the water and rain cycles, the atmosphere, the wind and the sun. They have worked out a very stable, functional, and flexible system. When we let a species go extinct, from a species of tree down to a tiny microbe, we change that system. So, we need to treasure that system and work with it.

That’s why Permaculture is so important. It guides us to operate on the laws that govern nature. When doing a design based on those 23 precepts (laws) we are doing what nature does, and that gives us the staying power and the ability to heal that nature already has been using for thousands of years. It works on this planet. It may not work on Mars though. So of we do go up there, like Bill Mollison said, observe first before making any design or changes to the environment. Know before you go. And even using those 23 precepts, first we must observe the specific environment we are designing for, because the elements in a place vary with location and that includes the relationships of that place – between the land, the life forms, the wind and the water available.

If we are trying to restore a damaged place, we do well to discover what it used to grow there, and slowly re-introduce those things, starting with small things like grasses or succulents that absorb moisture, and build up. Native grasses, and native succulents, native pioneer species like pine trees that hold in top soil, dandelions that have roots that go down as far as 30 feet and bring up nutrients, and all the ‘weeds’ the lawn services would like to kill with sprays all are part of the restoration process. Knowing what those elements are must be the first step.

If there is pollution and contamination needing handling, new techniques have been discovered using the digestive qualities of certain fungi to break them down. Paul Stamets’s TED Talk video on how fungi can save the world talks about this:

Tradd Cotter in North Carolina has also done ground breaking research on remediation of the land as well. His book is epic.

Native species of bees, worms, insects, spiders, rodents, reptiles, and all the wild things that people think of as dangerous or disgusting now, all need our help in restoring the earth. Western culture has become so divorced from nature for so many generations they have lost the contact with our roots. We need to remedy this with education on a broad scale. At least people are working hard to introduce children to gardening in schools in some areas of the country. This is an important step.

In other cultures, the Hindus don’t kill roaming cattle, the Buddhists in Nepal won’t dig up the earth for buildings without saving the worms and life forms first, and other cultures have revered the things of nature before us, because they recognized the interrelationship they have with the co-existent life forms of our world. We need to get smart and understand this now because we are loosing our world and this is the last generation that has the affluence and abundance to be able to change our ways.

If we do it cleverly, and with science behind what we do – meaning Permaculture Design which is earth science to the core – we can retain what is good about our agriculture, our science, our architectural forms, our transportations systems, our communication, and our good life while stopping the destruction and stupid practices that kill nature.

And if we’re really smart, we will teach this to our children starting now. Put down the I phones and go out and find a worm in the soil. Smell grass and look at a flower really close up. Watch a bee gather pollen. Listen to a bird singing in the woods and see if you can hear a responding call. Then understand what is happening with those things. Because we have lost understanding and the wisdom of our ancestors when we found out we could turn a key in a car and skip the walk to go someplace so we didn’t have to pay attention to where we were walking.

We have HOAs now that forbid vegetable gardens – some won’t even let you have one in your back yard. I would never buy a house in one of those subdivisions!!! Towns forbid chickens, front yard gardens, and insist that areas be sprayed for bugs and weeds. It’s as if we can pretend we don’t live in a world foremost based on biodiversity and natural plants. We get to thinking vegetables come prepackaged in Styrofoam trays covered with plastic wrap. There was a survey done on middle school children across the country a few years ago asking ‘where does food come from’. 92% of the kids said ‘the store’. The few kids that said ‘the dirt’ were unanimously boo’ed down and made wrong. I think that’s why it’s so important to have school gardens.

Please don’t spray for dandelions. Every part of a dandelion is edible, medicinal, or useful. The flowers feed the bees in the spring. The leaves are a super food of minerals for our health. The white milk in the stem handles warts on our skin. The flower soaked in oil is a wonderful pain and inflammation remedy for sore muscles. The root makes a great coffee substitute, and when made into medicine handles some cancers. The spray however kills the soil microbes, stops the process the dandelion provides of bringing up soil nutrients from deep underground, pollutes the ground water, and leaves a residue polluting and poisoning other plants which potentially could feed us or cure disease.

Dandelions were purposefully brought over from Europe for just those benefits in the early years of the colonial period. But somehow the idea that we must have large grass lawns that provide nothing in the way of survival have been a status symbol for far too long. I think there isn’t anything as beautiful as a well tended vegetable and herb garden with flowers to draw in pollinators. To me that says “I understand and am enlightened”.

No matter where you live, urban, suburban, or rural, take a walk. Look at the plant life – trees, bushes, flowers, weeds, grasses, what is growing in ditches or vacant lots. Now imagine the hundreds of plants around you and know that every one of them benefits you somehow, and the world around you, and if left to grow and procreate, gives your children’s children down 7 generations the means to survive. Think about cutting down a bunch of trees to make a nice green lawn? Please … Don’t! If you have to cut down a tree, please find a way to plant another tree someplace. We need them to make and have rain, shade, cool air, and oxygen, capture carbon dioxide, and make leaves to build top soil. They are beneficial beings. And now science is finding they are intelligent, but their ability to communicate is limited. We just have to be patient with them. They have lessons to teach.

I guess my message to you is to expand your perceptions and awareness, and soak in the benevolence around you that is here. Learn as much about it as you can. In this cold airless universe we have this little bit of real estate that supports life. It’s getting populated in ever larger numbers every year and is sucking the benefits up without doing much to replace them. I want a future for our generations to come that can live in harmony with what nature provides, without mining out all the good stuff, using science, good sense, a sense of the spiritual about the land, and we can live in peace. Traditionally on this planet, when resources get tight, people turn to war or dictatorships or totalitarianism. Let’s live in abundance and wisdom. We have the choice but it means we must act now.

If you are inspired to learn more about Permaculture Design, there are some amazing videos that can teach you about it.

Geoff Lawton – Permaculture Design Science

Geoff Lawton – 4 years to create an oasis in the Arabian desert from bare sand wadi

the video

Good video on using Permaculture on a property – more benefit, less impact of bad, positive impact improved

The internet is loaded with good videos on this subject. Geoff Lawton’s videos are excellent and inspiring as are Paul Wheaton’s, Jack Spiro’s and Paul Stamets’s. And you can get back to me if you need a consultation or have questions.

Diann Dirks 8-26-19



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3 Responses to Native Species, The Treasure of Appalachia, and Permaculture Design Restoring the Earth – A Message of Hope 8-28-19

  1. Maggie Robertson says:

    Wow! Excellent work; deep and very informative!

    On Wed, Aug 28, 2019 at 4:04 PM The Garden Lady of Georgia wrote:

    > didirks posted: “Native peoples of the Cherokee identified and used over > 1500 species of native plants for medicine and food in the Appalachian > Range and foothills. They sustained these plants for use in a wide variety > of ways. Unfortunately their medicine wasn’t effectiv” >

  2. Justmann Jenni says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful and very informative articles. I’m starting to implement permaculture principles on new to us land in Blairsville. Weeds everywhere, right? But your approach to not pulling until you can identify it is brilliant! Can you please help me find sources to id my weeds? I continue to find things that I am unable to ID using primarily online sources. Got any books specializing in our area? Many thanks for all your thoughts!


  3. didirks says:

    I’m glad you found it helpful. Keep following for future articles. 🙂

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