Forget Pippa Middleton...Pippa Purdy, one of our 4 bright and hardworking farm interns, also a graduate student at Teachers College at Columbia in the Nutrition Education program, reflects on her experiences starting our permaculture edible forest garden a few weeks ago.
What better way to spend Earth day a few weeks ago than immersed in planting trees, digging holes, playing with worms and getting to know some plants? The four of us interns arrived at the micro-farm at 10am ready to go! We started by prepping the plants and digging some holes (and becoming well acquainted as to why Rockland County is called Rockland County!) None of us had heard of or knew much about Permaculture prior to meeting Pam and Charlie. Even after our first experience, it is hard to put into words exactly what it is. The biggest impression I came away from this first experience with was that it is an entire ritual of planting that involves much more than nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, sun and water. Not only is it a brilliant system that utilizes the symbiosis of nature, it is a reminder to step back and consider plants and what they provide as well as the complexities and beauty of nature. An example of the complexities was illustrated through learning about plants that act as dynamic accumulators. We planted comfrey and yarrow, as well as several other types of plants, at the base of the fruit trees. The plants’ purposes are to act as nitrogen fixers and enhance the ability of the roots to take up nutrients from the soil. They increase the nutrients in the soil and enhance the formation of mycelia which in turn allow the plant to absorb more nutrients. We actually saw the mycelia, which appear as white, tiny thread like branches, in the woodchip mulch that we used. It was pretty cool. Yarrow is also beneficial because it attracts particular pollinators, like ladybugs and bees. Another tidbit – if you are out in the forest and get a cut, yarrow can help to heal your wound!
We also had an opening and a closing circle in which we had a chance to say what we are grateful for and what we learned throughout the day. It was so inspiring to hear everyone’s thoughts and experiences at the end of all the hard work. It was the perfect way to sum up a great day of learning, digging, and working hard to create this amazing new system that will grow and evolve for decades to come! As we learn more about permaculture in the months to come we welcome your questions and look forward to sharing this experience.