Models and Designs of Nurturing

Chapter 8 - Part 1

Sacred-Earth Land-Nurturing, a book by Steven D Redman, has been compiled for farmers, homesteaders, land-carers, environmental educators, conservationists and more. It amalgamates the theories and ethics of Permaculture, Land Stewardship and Biodiversity Conservation practices, plus it provides useful templates to help assist with nurturing of the planet.

Each week on Permaculture News we will share with you a snippet from various chapters of the book which is available on Blurb

Todays snippet is a second extract from Chapter 8 / Part 1 – Models and Designs of Nurturing

“…Our standard for a sustainable world should be nature’s own ecosystems.”

  • Wes Jackson, Nature as Measure, page 185.

In our journey from the misty mountains to the steaming sea, we have come to the exciting point of giving intense thought to models, plans and designs for Earth-honouring. We have been thinking about models and stewardship practices throughout the book, but now I want to ponder in more detail. The purpose of these designs is to nurture amazing places of ecological harmony. This is a complex discussion because native places and the models, designs, systems, operations, community, cultures, themes, arts and sciences that evolve in those places are all interrelated and intertwined. Again, from our basecamp at the centre of the web, ideas can be drawn in from any place in the water-land. But, we must begin with respect for the native place. The land is part of the human community, not incidental or subordinate to it. The climate, soil, hydrology, landforms, ecosystems and wildlife are members of the human community, and the people, in turn, are members of the place.

I come to the field of design from nature, gardening, forestry, landscaping, land stewardship and art, not because I have a degree in landscape architecture. I am familiar with folks like Frederick Law Olmsted and Gertrude Jekyll, and I am learning of others thanks to Robert L. Thayer, Jr.’s book Life Place: Bioregional Thought and Practice. I think Olmsted was focused upon and historically linked to impressions of nature and landscapes, whereas, I am more interested in immersion into place—its forests, botany, gardens, agriculture, wilderness, wildlife, land conservation, microhabitats, biodiversity, culture and art. The scope of Sacred-Earth Land-Nurturing is not limited to designs and models for sustainable agriculture, but can be extended to and applied equally to, all manner of land uses as we have discussed (forestry, small, private parcels, permaculture, medium and large farms and ranches, urban, suburban, rural, regional, national and world planning), so as, to envision an ecologically-vibrant and paradisiacal planet Earth, and human community in harmony with this Life-sphere.

Because this chapter is such a complex mix of ideas, I would like to attempt to organise my perspectives on it by subdividing it into three broad categories and to discuss them in this sequence: 1. Models, 2. Designs and Plans, and 3. Miscellaneous-Relevant and Useful Practices. I tend to view models as being broader than designs, as in, a place and biome is a broader consideration than the layout of buildings, drives and gardens of a certain farm. And, the design of a certain farm is a broader concept than the type of buildings on it, or whether they are equipped with solar panels. The goal of this discussion, is to share with the reader, the great range of options available to us for culturing unique systems of ecologically-sensitive land-care. This is also the chapter most closely allied with the appendices in the back of the book, and I strongly encourage you to refer to them often. The discussion of models is quite involved, so I’ll also divide it into three parts: a) natural models, b) cultural models, and c) the specific purposes of Sacred-Earth Land-Nurturing models.

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Natural ecosystems or biomes are our primary models because they have proven viable, diverse and adaptable over millions of years in Earth’s Lifestory. Natural forests comprise several of Earth’s biomes and provide homes to millions of species, humans being one of them. Tropical wet and dry forests, subtropical forests, temperate, boreal, mixed and montane forests are main examples. Wooded savanna and grassland biomes played a central role in human evolution. Deserts, scrublands and Mediterranean habitats are often very high in biodiversity. Aquatic habitats, shores and edges have always been crucial to people. Edges and ecotones are key players in the human story. They are characterised by a concentration of useful resources. I believe they hold great promise in sustaining people and biodiversity. Montane subalpine, subarctic taiga and arctic muskeg habitats have concentrated resources too, but are typically more fragile than lowland or lower latitude ecotones. Not only can we preserve as much as possible of these native ecosystems to sustain the planetary ecology, but we can also culture domestic or synthetic versions of them to sustain people and biodiversity. As previously discussed, the wooded-pasture, thicket, hedgerow, greenbelt and permaculture are perfect examples of savanna and ecotone-like, synthetic habitats where harmonious relationships between people and the Earth’s ecology can be nurtured.

International, national and state wilderness areas, parks and wildlife refuges are models of responsible care for the waterland. They are models that can also be designed into the nurturing of smaller areas, that is. The purpose of these large reserves has often been to preserve specific, keystone species and to achieve maximum biodiversity conservation, even while providing citizens with large, community landscapes to share. Private, non-governmental organization (NGO) conservation efforts, such as, the conservancies and land trusts, also provide models of loving care and open space preservation. These inspire further conservation, whether at the county scale or that of the smaller parcel. The efforts of government, NGO’s, and private citizens are all needed to realise the essential goal of maximum biodiversity conservation.

We can use the example of natural forest succession, that is, of succession toward a more stable, climax or edaphic-climax habitat to guide nurturing of domestic lands. Which is to say, a domestic site can purposely be cultured toward or maintained as a middle and late seral stage complex of habitats. Small and periodic changes or disturbance of these habitats, where detrimental impacts are intentionally minimised, often create positive ecological opportunities and gradual landscape change within an overall context of a stable, edaphic-climax on a site. Restoring young, plantation woods back to native-type forest communities with later-seral-stage characteristics, is an example of such culturing. So is nurturing all actively-used (sylvicultural) forests in ecologically-sensitive ways that maintain standing forest and seral complexity. A third example might be the nurturing of an old orchard of just a few species into a more vertically-stratified permaculture by removing some of the old, less desirable cultivars and replacing them with more productive and disease resistant varieties, and by adding many new types of shrubs, canes, vines, and perennials, including native ones. The later may not mimic a mid-seral, closed-canopy forest, so much as, a mid-seral stage scrub forest. Such stable, mid-seral habitats can be optimal for people, while utilising native plants and providing homes to a diversity of native animal species.

Microhabitat preservation and nurturing is another wonderful model for Sacred-Earth Land-Nurturing. The example of the unique site by the river near the oak forest was visited earlier in the book. I also mentioned how landscape designers refer to these microhabitats as “rooms” in a garden. From groves of old forest, to a marshy spot where rare orchids grow, to a herbaceous border of native perennials; nurturing a diversity of microhabitats on a site benefits people and other beings.

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Riparian, lake shore, marine-coastal and wetland habitat-conservation-corridors, as well as, greenbelts not necessarily associated with aquatic areas, are natural models for responsible land care. They are often the focus of county and state sustainability, public recreational access, and fish and wildlife preservation efforts. Their preservation always figures prominently in Sacred-Earth Land-Nurturing. Aquatic lands are usually considered commons under the Public Trust Doctrine, and cooperative, civic stewardship seeks to honour this community wisdom.

Steven Redman

Land Keeper, Steve Redman, seeks to inspire all people in the practice and support of biodiversity conservation and ecologically sensitive land and water care. He has explored interests in gardening, landscaping, ecological philosophy, and forest ecology since his youth in northern Michigan. Steve has served as a park ranger, schoolteacher, garden centre salesperson and landscaper. He enjoys wilderness recreation with friends and family. Steve nurtures 10-acres of forest in Michigan and the 2.6-acre Wilderness Edge Garden in western Washington where he lives with his wife, daughter, and dog.

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