Today we went up into the mountains surrounding San Miguel to Cabras, where our friend Luc and his family are constructing their own commune based on the permaculture and biodiversity practices, land restoration and organic and biodynamic agriculture. The goal of the community is to live harmoniously with the environment, use little energy and create an interdependent landscape where the resources are recycled and used sustainably to support the living components in the environment. Biodynamics is an approach to agriculture that was pioneered by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, in the 1920’s. Steiner founded a philosophy called Anthroposophy.
|Anthroposophy is a human oriented spiritual philosophy that reflects and speaks to the basic deep spiritual questions of humanity, to our basic artistic needs, to the need to relate to the world out of a scientific attitude of mind, and to the need to develop a relation to the world in complete freedom and based on completely individual judgments and decisions.|
Based upon this philosophy he believed that a farm should be its own self-sustained entity with its own individuality. In the early 1920’s a group of practicing farmers, concerned with the decline of the soil, asked Steiner for advice. He responded through a series of lectures and conversations held at Koberwitz, Germany, in June 1924, there emerged the fundamental principles of biodynamic farming and gardening, a unified approach to agriculture that relates the ecology of the earth-organism to that of the entire cosmos. This approach has been under development in many parts of the world ever since. Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, who worked with Dr. Steiner during the formative period, brought biodynamic concepts to the United States in the 1930s.
more on biodynamics…
Lucs grandfather was a pioneer of biodynamics in France. Luc and his father grew up on a 200 acre biodynamic farm school and training center in France.
A circular house was already built when they bought the land and will be used as a community house when the commune is finished. The main house contains one big open room with a kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom with a shower. The house also has an exterior drainage system that allows rainfall to drip off the roof into drains that empty into an underground cistern an is the used for irrigating food crops.
In order to prolong the availability of the crops grown on the organic farm that will be developed on the land, Luc and his dad decided to construct a root cellar. A root cellar is a structure built underground (or partially underground) that is used to keep vegetables, fruits and other foods from spoiling for a long a amount of time. Because of it’s location underground, the root cellar sustains a constant low temperature and high humidity (of about 50% to 98% depending on the food). This keeps the fruits and vegetables moist and prevents them from shriveling up. This root cellar will have compartments with different humidities to maximize the variety of what the root cellar can store. The root cellar is ventilated to provide constant air flow so the foods do not spoil. Back before fresh produce was constantly made available in grocery stores, almost every home had a root cellar to preserve foods.
APPROXIMATE STORAGE TIMES:
Brussels Sprouts…..3-5 weeks
Jerusalem Artichokes..1-2 months
Chinese Cabbage…1-2 months
Locally mined rock is a very sustainable material. This rock is from the area and costs about $90 usd per truck load. That is extremely inexpensive and since it is naturally occurring it does not require fossil fuels to make. Because a root cellar is a sub-terrestrial structure, one must use cement as the mortar rather than an earthen based substance. The amount of cement is small as is the environmental cost when you consider the sustainable and economic function of the root cellar.
The root cellar will have different levels in order to store all types of foods that require different temperatures and humidity levels to keep from spoiling for a long period of time.
In order to catch and store rain during the monsoon season, Luc and his dad expanded an already existing pond into a larger, terraced pond in order to collect more rain water. This pond will not only catch rain water, it will also support a microclimate and synergistic ecosystem developed through permaculture and aquaculture principles. Aquaculture increases biodiversity in the land by keeping the land fertile in order to grow plants and produce food, while attracting microorganisms, collecting water to be reused for irrigation and energy. Water is not utilized sustainably in our modern society, but rather exploited and polluted. 80 percent of the rivers on our planet no longer support life!
The pond will be surrounded by trees that will keep humidity and also be irrigated by the water. The pond will also contain fish and water plants. It will be terraced so that when the water level goes down in the dry season, the microorganisms and fish will survive in the lowest level of water.
It is interesting to notice the difference in color between the top soil and sub soil. The top soil is black and almost looks like asphalt. The sub soil is the lighter brown beneath. The top soil that has been dug up will be placed create a nutrient rich boarder around the pond for the fruit trees to grow.
Another amazing thing about the project being done on Luc’s land is that all the dirt, clay and silt that is being excavated from the land will be reused to make the additional earthen based houses on the land. We tested the soil using the jar method and it is about 15 percent clay with very little silt, and coarse sand particles. Perfect for cob!
The houses will also be made out of earth blocks, like the ones explained in the last blog. They have also started to build up compost piles containing cow and goat manure along with hay to prepare for constructing the organic garden that will allow them to sustain the community.
A local man provided these mesquite chips. The wood begin to grow beneficial fungi like mycelium, that will aid in the decompositional process of the compost. “Mycelium is the neurological network of nature can expand to thousands of acres in size in cellular mats achieving the greatest mass of any individual organism on this planet”. This Book Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, by Paul Stamets, provides great information on this magical part of biology.
Manure provides Nitrogen to the compost. The two most common things that go wrong with home composting is not enough nitrogen and not enough water. In an arid climate like central Mexico watering compost is a necessary practice.
For compost manure is a good nitrogen source. Dried plant matter like corn, straw and leaves provide carbon. Vegetable scraps are well balanced and contain a good carbon/nitrogen ratio. Next blog we will explore the wonders, ease and philosophy of composting humanure, a practice we all can and should be doing!
Well that’s all for today, community living! Isn’t it awesome and totally worth it??
This developing site is a great example of the potential for synergy and symbiosis between people and their environment. It includes some new and innovative technology, but mostly this type of existence depends on restoring our natural connection and relationship with the earth that has existed for as long as humans. Our civilization has lost this connection and awareness, not fully, but to a level that has seriously damaged and degraded the planet that sustains us. We need to reconnect, reintegrate and regain our ability to be harmoniously self sustaining within our environment, our collective future depends on it 🙂