Flat Mountain Dispatches

🏴 En besvärjelse för att avvärja mörkret 🏴

Back in August we cleared all the moss, grass and roots away from this exposed slab of granite bedrock. I've wanted to do this since we moved here, as it's one of the few places on our land where the thick skein of the flat mountain breaks through the surface of the Earth, giving you a sense of the landscape beneath.


Feet sunk low in fallow soils of flat-plains freshly tilled


Starry-eyed beasts struggle against stony giants.


an absent reality, seeping blindly into lightless innards


horizon beset by blazing witch-fire


Concerning crop-rotation & fragile agricultural systems

Addendum to November 9th

Inadequate crop rotation is one of the many points of failure baked into contemporary industrial agriculture; an intensive farming practice that favours the monocultural production of a homogenous range of crops. Some of the distinguishing features of this model are a reduction of labour time, an increase of historical plant yields and a maximisation of profit-margins. The latter is particularly important to modern industrial infrastructures, which consider agriculture a primarily economic pursuit.

Commercial agriculture may also be considered the pinnacle of an open-loop system — meaning a system design that cannot be self-sustained — requiring a steady support of external inputs to function. For modern agriculture this means the continual use of agrochemicals and fertilisers to offset depleted soil-health, pesticides and fungicides which destroy vital microorganisms in an effort to control the build-up of diseases, and mechanical tillage to improve the take-up of applied nutrients. Heavy tillage has the side-effect of disturbing and compacting the soil, destroying complex soil-structures and — somewhat ironically — resulting in the need for further damaging tillage to break-up the now compacted land for re-planting. It's a process of ever diminishing returns.

This resource intensive approach to agriculture is currently enacted on a massively unsustainable scale, accelerating the regional degradation of land and soil-fertility. When a point of decay is reached in which the land can no longer support this industrial model, the agricultural industry must expand into new territory to continue production. In many cases this means occupying land inhabited by already marginalised — and often indigenous — communities. This exploitative process of expansion and depletion has caused widespread displacement of peoples, the loss of arable lands previously suitable for farming, and is a major contributor to increased rates of bio-diversity collapse throughout global ecosystems

Reliance on monocropping has also reduced our available range of food sources, with the four staple crops of 'soybeans, wheat, rice and corn' coming to dominate commercial outputs; never in history have so many humans subsisted on such a specialised diet of often relatively nutritionally depleted foods. More pressingly, over-specialisation has driven a sharp decline in genetic diversity among the crops themselves. Alongside climate, bio-diversity and erosion stresses, this weakens our primary crop strength, increasing industrial agriculture's susceptibility to devastation by outbreaks of disease; picture an event akin to a worldwide potato famine and you're part of the way there.

Unfortunately, our ongoing experiment with Global Capitalism oft trends towards negligent systems designs. Thus far there has been little response to the aforementioned fragilities, with world-leaders presenting themselves as unable or unwilling to adapt current systems to a changing 'nature' still broadly considered An Other. Discussions around climate-crises are still largely defined by the deterministic philosophies of the Industrial Revolution, enraptured by its call to unyielding Imperialism. From this position, 'Humans' and 'Nature' are understood to be distinct and separate entities, with 'Humans' evolved into a position of dominance over the latter. This intractable schism that lays at the cultural heart of modernity continues to dictate our relationship to 'Nature', which we have come to think of as either a resource to exploit or a sacred-space to conserve.

Disregarding your affinity for the contested merits of expansive globalism and the march of Industrialisation — and lest we forget, both remain in their infancy, as yet unproven on any meaningful time-scale — the pressures massing upon agricultural and ecological systems carry consequences that will eventually affect all of us; certainly they're already responsible for a rise in refugee crises, exacerbated by food-scarcity and desertification. These fragilities are ongoing concerns, developing on a scale that has scant regard for the arbitrary borders we imagine exist around our Individual and National identities.

Our shared futures demand responsive agricultural models; stronger systems untethered from exploitation and expansion, designed to evolve to meet ever changing environmental conditions. This lofty dream seems a long way off. It's doubtful that a global economic system whose relationship to 'nature' remains so fundamentally at odds with reality, can ever imagine or achieve such a thing.

#journal #ecology

“Winter storms cannot frighten me nor the icy north wind, whose cruel blasts rage and lash the flocks of sheep with unexpected hail. The south wind may disturb the streams with squalls of rain, but that will not stop me from entering the green glades in the empty woods. Even if everything there is in the grip of hoar-frost, I shall be able to endure it, content with a little. In Summer it will be pleasant to lie there beneath the leafy trees, amid the scent of flowers in the grass.”

~ 'The Life of Merlin', Geoffrey of Monmouth. Translated by Neil Wright, from 'The History of the Kings of Britain: An Edition and Translation of De Gestis Britonum [Historia Regum Britanniae]' (Boydell Press, 2007)


Concerning Alliums & crop-rotation

We're settling into Garlic sowing season, with around 200 cloves ready for the ground. This may sound like an awful lot of Garlic to those unfamiliar with growing-their-own; one clove today equals one bulb tomorrow. Rest assured that a 200 bulb supply soon dwindles when you're planning to use Garlic as a main-ingredient, producing sauces, pestos, dips, herb-salts and oils; not forgetting to save enough cloves to re-plant next season.

Whipping all these concoctions up to a sufficiently Garlicky level calls for more than 200 bulbs; unfortunately we lack the space to sow more within the confines of our kitchen-garden. Instead, we made a rough calculation of our annual Garlic use in meal preparation, deciding that 200 bulbs should fill that gap alone in the year ahead. If we have surplus for other produce then it'll be an unexpected surprise. We'll have expanded and prepared more growing space come Fall 2022, and thus be able to plant a much a larger crop.

Crop rotating among your growing spaces is important for maintaining soil-health and managing soil-borne diseases. To offer a gross over-simplification: individual plants are grouped into plant families, these families have their own nutritional appetites, and are each at risk of particular sets of diseases. Seasonal rotation between crops with varying needs minimises the impact and establishment of plant-specific diseases, whilst giving time for the nutrients taken up by the previously grown crops to be replenished. Different plants also have unique root-structures which impact the soil in a number of ways. Good crop rotation means that soil isn't subjected to the same patterns of root disturbance year-in-year-out, which can help control the long-term effects of soil-erosion.

Aforementioned space constraints forced us into an act of chicanery this year, which explains why we're planting today's Garlic in last season's Zucchini bed. Garlic is known as a heavy feeder, meaning that it requires a plentiful diet of nutrients to grow. Zucchini is a similarly heavy feeder, needing rich soil-fertility to bear its voluminous leaves, flowers and fruits — there are also active plants (Legumes such as beans and peas) which help replenish and rebuild the soil.

There appears to be an abundance of online misinformation about the soil-fertility requirements of Garlic and other plants in the Alluim family — notably Onions. This likely stems from the Alliums ability to grow successfully in a wide range of soils, leading some green-fingered souls to misrepresent them as neutral or light feeders with minimal needs. I suspect this observational knowledge has been passed down as a kind of common oral-tradition, as is the case with so many of our traditions. Regardless, although Garlic and other Alliums can indeed be grown almost anywhere, be sure that they require a fertile soil and a wealth of nutrients to produce to their fullest potential. They're also extremely prone to disease build-up — it's advisable to never grow Alliums in the same space without a gap of at least two years in-between.

With all this in mind, the progression of Zucchini to Garlic isn't so excellent. To attempt to off-set this unfavourable pairing, we've been adding heavy layers of organic waste and compost — something I've covered in recent journal entries — in order to replace as many of the nutrients taken up by the Zucchini as possible. This is far from the optimum approach to rotation, but as with all things on the flat mountain, we plan to have more sustainable solutions worked out in the years ahead.

#journal #growing

malevolent wonder visible through forest-paths


gallows-trees bound for sorrow