Flat Mountain Dispatches


Been slacking on the updates here the last few months.. it's a cycle of harvesting / preparing / storing and freezing.

We're looking to get an apple press this week to start making cider. Have a bucket of rosehip sherry on the go and it's already smelling like it could kill a horse.. so that's promising.

It's been a while we had to drive into town to pick anything up in the shop. Pretty much every meal now is patched together from the kitchen garden, save for staples like rice and pasta. We usually have an ample of supply of every spice on the face of the planet, which takes care of most extra needs.

We for sure let some of the zucchini grow WAY too big — it's easy to miss the bloody things in the jungle of leaves.. and they turn from too small to kaiju in a matter of minutes I swear — so there's been a lot of “Let's make zucchini sauce / pesto / bread / cake / stuffed / roasted / crispy stir-fried”, but that's cool, it's a versatile plant and gives a ton of produce.

This all means we've been getting a good baseline for how much we want to grow next year to sustain us for a longer period, and how much space we'll need to expand into to start building resiliency. We probs get through garlic and onion and chilli the fastest — and if we run out of those there's gonna be a riot up in here — while the other crops come and go at different times and it's pretty easy to adapt cooking around that.

#growing #journal

The dreaded potato blight — that rot black fungus that once spread so much misery throughout Europe — took hold of our tomatoes last week. Had to destroy around two-thirds of our crop, wiping out my dreams of an immense Arabiatta stockpile. We managed to save a decent amount of uninfected green tomatoes though, and with a little luck they'll ripen indoors. The rest of the crop was farther away in the garden and seems to have been protected.. so far.

Blight is always a risk when you're growing both potatoes and tomatoes in the same space, although its possible the fungus/microorganism is already lurking in the land even when you aren't growing potatoes. It's a common risk so it wasn't entirely unexpected.. it's especially likely when you're growing tomatoes outdoors and not in a greenhouse where it's easier to control the environment. Unfortunately Sweden often also has the perfect moist and cool conditions for the Blight to prosper and take hold.

This unfortunate event meant we had to harvest our small potato patch earlier than we intended. The rest of the growing spaces are giving an abundance of produce so losing out on the full potential of these two crops isn't so bad. This is precisely why we — colloquially, in permaculture and growing circles — talk about cultivating a mix of crops, in an effort to build in resilience through variety, in case several crops have bad years or are lost entirely.

Overall, our project for this first season in the house/on the land was to have a functional kitchen garden — or, a garden that doesn't make you self-reliant, but provides a steady stream of daily ingredients — and we've easily succeeded my expectations there. Thankfully our freezer box is now installed out in the barn, so we can start preserving things like soft-fruits, jams and sauces. A lot of vegetables. especially root veg, will keep for up to around six months in a Jordkällare (EN: earth cellar or root cellar) garlic and onions will keep for even longer.

#growing #journal

We got cherries, blueberries, red currants, wild strawberries & wild raspberries from the meadow, which means it's time for a jam sesh my man!

Apples and pears are starting to appear around the garden and the meadow now. Soon be time to kick the cider operation into gear. Holy shit yes.

#growing #journal #meadow

We've hit that sweet spot where we can harvest most of our lunches and dinners straight from the garden now, but we aren't yet overwhelmed by having too much stuff to store and preserve.

~ Today's lunch!

#growing #journal #permaculture

Updates from our first two growing spaces. In general things are looking good, with no real disappointments besides some slow developing aubergines and broad beans that didn't survive the dry spell [update: actually it turns out that half of them did survive!].

~ June

In these two spaces we've sown a mix of garlic, onion, tomatoes, mangetout, broad/runner/french & soya beans, corn, cabbage, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, turnip, artichoke, celeriac, zucchini & kohlrabi.

~ July

Elsewhere in the garden we have a potato patch, a smaller area for more beans, and about 40—50 other tomato plants, root veg, aubergine, wild garlic, peppers, chillis, asparagus and artichoke planted around amongst the wildflowers, wild strawberries and rasperberries, shrubs, fruit tree's and old ornamental garden plants.

The Swedish for this kind of practice is “Samplantering”. It gives a dense, lush forest garden vibe to the space, and it's fucking killer for biodiversity and getting your shit pollinated.

#growing #journal #permaculture

It only takes a month for the situation to turn around. After the cold and wet Winter and the late coming Spring, we've now had a couple of weeks of dry 30-degree heat. The region is on forest fire alert which is always concerning, but so far we've managed to keep everything sufficiently watered. We only have two IBC tanks for storage though and they don't last so long when you're growing as much as we already are.

The water table in the land is very low as a result of this weather, which means the well is at risk of running dry. To offset all this we've entered water scarcity mode, catching every drop we can and recycling it back around for the plants. This kinda closed-loop system is good practice anyway; we already recycle all of our urine for watering, may as well recycle stuff like pasta and rice water too.

We're also thinking to start taking a trip to the lake in the mornings to fill up extra water canisters there, since it's an abundant resource on the doorstep.

Storms HAVE been making their way across the region but they keep breaking just before they reach us. We did get one, which hit — fittingly — on the Solstice. Standing in the pouring rain has never felt so good, or had such a.. feeling of a gift to it. I don't think you feel this connection until you're relying on the rain to keep you alive — I mean okay, we still live in fucking Sweden, we can drive to a shop in town and BUY water before we dehydrate and shrivel up — but still, ya know, a huge storm breaking over a dry and cracked land, when you've been hoping and praying for it.. well it's got that Biblical feeling innit.

In general, life here in the forest, coupled with our early attempts to close loops where we can, really pushes home how much a functioning part of an ecosystem we are, despite our best contemporary efforts to disconnect ourselves. It's easy to lose sight of this simple truth.

#growing #journal #permaculture

Our first growing space is complete! We've been working at a relatively slow pace, which hasn't been a problem because of the cold weather we've had up until recently. Things are only just starting to come to life, and we have more beds on the way, so we're in good shape for the season ahead.

When we arrived this area was a dense grove of plum saplings, grown up among an impenetrable web of greenery. I don't have photo “before” we started clearing it because the thick wall of greens and browns wasn't anything noteworthy, and we hadn't yet planned to make a growing space there.

We made these beds with a one-dig method. Roughly laying out the size and shape and digging within those borders to remove any troublesome rocks — this land is characterised by its heavy geological deposits dragged in from ice-age glaciers, which historically has made it very difficult to tend and farm — and to pull up the thick plum tree roots tangling through the earth.

Once all the unwanted matter was removed, we filled the beds with organic material — mostly leaves and Bokashi compost — and covered the top back over with soil. And that's it. If you keep your beds healthy you shouldn't ever have to dig again, there's just.. no reason to disturb the topsoil and the intricate biome any further.

Aggressive soil disruption is a major problem when it comes to modern agricultural techniques. It's a process of rapidly diminishing returns that requires you to feed nutrients back into the land to replace what you've destroyed. If you're growing on a small scale your systems should largely be closed-loops which avoid this process entirely, and you shouldn't ever need to till or plow or turn over the land. Unfortunately it's these activities performed on a mass industrial scale — combined with monocrop/monocultures and over-grazing — that are causing soil erosion and land degradation globally.

There are of course a thousand other criticisms to level at the currently prevailing forms of mass agriculture: Foreign land grabs displacing local populations, which in turn increases pressure on neighbouring — and often already less secure — food systems. The loss of arable land post-agriculture forcing food scarcity refugee migration. The ongoing erasure of indigenous peoples and cultures. The global loss of biodiversity and species as a result of the wider ecological collapse caused by soil deserts and deforestation. The list is practically endless and touches on a dizzying array of socio-economic crises.

But now we're entering critical territory where my immediate actions find little purchase. So I'll focus on my growing beds for now.. I can always write a more detailed addendum later if I feel like exasperating myself.

#ecology #collapse #growing #journal #permaculture

Finally got a break in the minus degrees and snow showers, so we're turning over some new beds for extra planting space. It's been a cold Spring so far but hopefully the weather is finally breaking; we have a lot of anxious plants inside.

This is a real quick & dirty method, providing you have a good layer of healthy topsoil. All you gotta do is cut the outline for the bed, then remove squares of ground and flip them over. If you want a raised bed, you can shift the squares to the side and flip them over onto the grass.

I think of it as a “One Dig” method. Unlike the classic “No Dig” bed you don't have to lay out cardboard or add any compost. The grass itself is rich in nutrients and it'll break down quickly after flipping; if you go for the raised bed you'll get a good double-layer of this.

#growing #journal #permaculture

Felled my first tree's by hand, using a bow-saw and hatchet. Have only taken saplings so far so this was a step-up; you don't really appreciate how much weight and force there is in a tree — even a relatively small tree like birch — until you're working with them this way.

The first came down easily but the second got trapped up in the bows of the pine, so we had to lead it down from a distance using rope. Otherwise it was a fairly quick process.

We're removing these birches to free up space for the crowded pine; its lower canopy has already started to die back and we want to minimise the risk of it getting any more out-shaded. We're also planning to have a growing space adjacent, and the roots of these will take up a lot of useful water and nutrients from the soil. Birch is a very hungry tree!

#growing #journal #meadow #permaculture