Feb 072011

Doctor Sustainability

I get inspiration from seeing what people can do in tiny spaces and with little resources using ingenuity and hard work to get the job done. If we ever get into survival mode these folk will be the real leaders in our communities. I strongly suspect that it won’t be long before knowledgeable gardeners and permaculturists will be our most important community assets.

I’ve blogged before about the dachniks in Russia and the Dervaes family¬† in Pasadena. In the San Juans we have the example of S and S Homestead Farm on Lopez Island and the Bullock Brothers¬† on Orcas Island. On my garden blog you can follow the activities of my niece and nephew who get everything one possibly can out of a small urban space in NE Portland using the permaculture model. They keep bees and help themselves to some honey and raise chickens.

Yesterday I finally had a chance to visit a friend’s garden in Honolulu. He and his wife rent a small house which sits on the grounds of the Korean temple high on a hillside overlooking the city. There is a small strip of land around the house that is being turned into a permaculture garden with mango, breadfruit, coconut, papaya, banana, manioc,taro,¬† amaranth, beans, tomatoes and all kinds of green veggies.

Jeramai uses sheet composting and his chickens to create garden soil. He collects kitchen waste from food banks and has a large worm composting operation. He collects rainwater in drums he obtains at a local bakery. The rainwater feeds his clothes washer and the outflow keeps the worms moist. Grey water from the house, along with rain water is fed to the garden and the composting areas which border the property. More rainwater is dripped into drums that have been sliced in half to grow food hydroponically in a medium of rich volcanic gravel. He trains the chickens to eat the heinous nut grass and moves them about in a small chicken tractor to clear areas and fertilize planting areas. He makes compost tea from the worm castings and sprays fifteen gallons of this mixture onto his trees and plants every Saturday. There is also an ingenious mosquito trap, half a barrel filled with water and water lilies and guppies netted from a local stream. Mosquitoes are attracted to the water where they lay their larvae and the guppies gobble them up.

Jeramai is a permaculture teacher who has to make a living at the same time he turns his tiny spaces into a tropical food forest. What we saw he’d accomplished in just eight months. He did this with mostly found material: manures from ranches, food scraps from food banks, sawdust and chips from mills, used barrels from a bakery. It helps that he is a solar technician and an expert with pumps and irrigation. There is, of course, an advantage to gardening in the tropics where the growing season is twelve months and where one can expect copious amounts of water and sunlight. But to coax huge amounts of food from such a tiny space is quite an amazing achievement and should be an inspiration to everyone.

When all this matures he and his wife will be able to feed themselves from a few square feet of land and earns Jerimai a doctorate in sustainability.

Here are a few photos of the garden.


  2 Responses to “Doctor Sustainability”

  1. Yes, and check out the micro-eco farm movement for sustainable living in the small. http://www.microecofarming.com/

  2. This is a wonderful story – thank you for sharing.

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