When we first started growing food we made compost piles, plant remains would be loaded into a wheelbarrow and transported to designated heaps, occasionally turned by hand. The rotted material would eventually be transported back to where it came from, and laboriously spread sometimes raked. We also grew the same food crops that we have become accustomed too, almost entirely annuals and grown in mini mono-crop fashion because that was the only way, until we discovered Permaculture.
Rather than techniques and recipes, Permaculture draws your attention towards natural patterns, directives are drawn from this process. For example; Wild places drop all sorts of biological material to the ground, where they feed the soil ecology which then feeds the plants. The directive here is to compost raw vegetative matter directly on the soil, cutting out labour, it also initiates a broad spectrum of ecology which in turn maintains balance. we used to suffer from slug damage until we replaced composted mulches for raw mulches. Slugs love bare soils, we used to collect buckets of slugs at night and feed them to the chickens next morning, especially when we applied composted mulches.
Annual crops have been selectively cultivated for commercial purposes, priorities include size, mild flavour and texture and more recently trans-portability. The side-effects of this process are reduced nutrition, less flavour and sensitive plants. All crops have wild ancestors thriving within a balanced community, they do not require any human intervention. They occupy a niche in there current form which works harmoniously with everything else. It is often the case that the desires of commercial purposes selectively cultivate plants that just dont fit in to any natural landscape, therefore we have become slaves to pet plants that require at best nurturing or worse sprayed repeatedly with toxic chemicals.
Luckily for us, it turns out that cottage gardens, homesteaders and subsistence farmers have grappled with the pet plant problem for some time and contributed to alternatives that are robust, nutritious and full flavoured. The priorities of a homesteader are resilient plants, low labour requirements and perhaps self seeding or perennial.
We have successfully replaced most of our diet with easy to grow perennial crops, the annual varieties must either self seed or be tough enough not to pee me off. The maintenance required is incomparable to how we used to do things, we now call it “Tending The Wild”. Potatoes grow like weeds with yields hard to believe, all sorts of onion varieties scattered here and there, tasty green leaves of watercress, sorrel and purslane to name a few.