Paul Wheaton and Jocelyn Campbell review Gaia’s Garden Chapter 7, by Toby Hemenway: Bringing in the bees, birds, and other helpful animals. Polyculture attracts a diverse home ecosystem, which makes things more resilient and healthy. Paul shares his llama poop story. Jocelyn brings up the importance of having producers, consumers, and decomposers all present to allow your ecosystem to cycle. Toby points out that without insects, there would be very little for us to eat. He says, “Without animals, a garden can’t function.”
With ecological balance, there are never bug problems. By spraying, you hurt the predator bugs and make a better environment for the pest bugs. Farmers used to use hedgerows, and be by creeks and wild places. The tidy gardens are poor habitat for predatory insects. Mulch is great, although it is possible to mulch too much. Without pollinators, humans would starve. Rove beetles are predatory insects, and Paul shares his mixed feelings about them. They ate his earthworms. He considered using diatomaceous earth, but he couldn’t justify saying he was “smarter than nature.”
Having a few pests around is better than none at all. Helpful bugs require shelter, so it is better to clean gardens in the spring rather than before winter. Paul shares story of going to his uncle’s and all the birds. Need some bird protection. Paul also suggests planting mulberries. Toby recommends a bird bath if you don’t have a body of water or stream with a shallow edge. Paul mentions snowberry, also known as buckbrush–a nitogen fixer. It is mildly toxic, but the deer will eat a little of it in the middle of winter. It gives the deer a gamey flavor, so hunters will harvest deer as early as possible.
Toby talks about winter-fruiting plants being important. They need repeated freezing and thawing to be palatable. Paul then goes into raising chickens, and how he doesn’t like chicken tractors. Toby thinks it is more efficient to feed chicken scraps to a hen than composting. Paul shares that Sepp Holzer has chicken food for only 12 days/year, and then goes into how he prefers to raise chickens. He and Jocelyn talk about poultry forage, and raising rabbits/guinea pigs and the colony approach. Toby says, “without animals, our labor is doubled and redoubled.”
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