Songs from the wood

We shall soon be turning to weightier matters here at Small Farm Future, so let us pause for breath and take a stroll around the woods of our home turf at Vallis Veg this fin(ish) morning. Here, have some musical accompaniment, and relax.  After all, it’s not as if there are any other important political events to discuss today.

It was nearly fourteen years ago when La Brassicata and I bought our little eighteen acre slice of Somerset. At the time, it comprised permanent pasture in its entirety, with just one mature tree on the site (plus a couple of hedgerows). I was very enthused by the idea of planting trees in those days, after a brush with the law (Ben Law, that is), and over the next four years we planted more than seven acres of the blighters – fruit orchards, nut orchards, short-rotation willow coppice, alder/hazel windbreaks, hawthorn and blackthorn hedges and – most of all – large blocks of mixed native deciduous trees.

A few years after that, I read some of the critiques of arboricentrism that were arising within and without the permaculture movement – Patrick Whitefield’s strictures against the carefully-curated facsimiles of ancient woodland springing up around the countryside like so many out-of-place lollipops borne aloft on ugly plastic sticks, and Simon Fairlie’s broadside against permaculturists for turning agricultural grassland capable of producing high value food into low value woodland1.

These, I think, were worthwhile critiques – people can indeed get a bit over-enthusiastic about trees, and it’s always good to ask ‘Why am I doing this?’ of any farming choice. But ultimately I have few regrets about doing what we did (well, maybe the blackthorn…) The ugly lollipop phase only lasts a few years, and nothing gives me more pleasure on our holding now than the beauty of the well-established young woodland mantling the site.

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Patrick himself admitted that the entire British countryside is a largely human fabrication, so I see no particular reason to take umbrage at the ‘artificiality’ of tree planting. Perhaps there’s more merit in Simon’s critique, but the per hectare productivity of purely grass-fed livestock isn’t that impressive. A vegetable garden with a few rows of potatoes of the kind we’ve planted here more than compensates nutritionally for the loss of productive pasture to the trees. Besides, it’s possible to stack functions as the English commoners of old did with their wood pastures – a practice I’ve mimicked here with my sheep in and around the woodland.

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The woodland we’ve planted has brought various tangible and less tangible benefits. Fruit and nuts, tree hay, wind and sun protection, privacy (which surely helped in our successful planning application for a dwelling), children’s dens, and wildlife habitat – I can’t prove anything on the latter front, but the bird and invertebrate life in our woodland does seem to me richer than that I’ve observed in the surrounding arable and pastoral fields. The woodland has also proved a hit with our campers, who like their individual tree-dappled pitches – not a venture we anticipated when we planted the woodland, but one that certainly supplements the unpromising economics of food production, and that we probably couldn’t have done without the trees.

But I guess the main economic contribution of trees is their wood. With older woodland than ours, and with the requisite skill and machinery, of course it’s possible to make construction timber – which we’ve already done in a minor, homespun way around the site. An easier use, touched on in recent debates here about sustainable energy futures, is to burn it for space or water heating, or for mechanical power.

The original idea of our planting back in 2005/6 was to cut a large part of it for fuelwood (and, perhaps, craft-wood) coppice, in time-honoured local fashion. But for various practical and aesthetic reasons we’re not so keen to coppice it now. Almost all the trees were originally planted on a 3x3m spacing, as required by the Forestry Commission contract under which we did the planting. So now the time has come to start thinning them – this past winter of 2016/17 being the first one in which I did any appreciable amount of it. The picture below shows your humble blog editor posing in front of this winter’s thinnings.

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And this one, the same wood after a few minutes’ madness with the chainsaw (I wouldn’t recommend the resting position in the picture to anyone but a seasoned woodsman like me).

Woodpile

Now then, a quick bit of home economics. Our current palatial residence comprises a prefab wooden cabin c/w woodstove, along with the static caravan that furnishes the stunning architectural backdrop to the last picture. The woodstove provides space heating in (most of) the cabin and hot water via a back boiler throughout the winter (hot water in the summer comes from solar tubes). The caravan is only used as a bedroom, which we heat in the winter with a butane stove – just a quick burn before we go to bed to stop our breath from misting too much as we dive under the bedclothes. Still, I know what you’re thinking. Butane! Plus the insulation in the caravan is almost non-existent, so it feels like all we’re really doing is adding another little bit of entropy to the universe. Ah, such are the vagaries of the British planning system and its insistence upon ‘sustainable’ development. But we only get through about one 15kg butane cylinder each winter (plus about half a dozen 19kg propane cylinders for cooking through the year – another candidate for a wood-burning solution). We’ll be building a permanent – and properly insulated – house to replace the caravan this year or next, so I suspect there’ll be another wood-burner. But how best to heat the new house with it – masonry stove, central heating, underfloor heating, or the same warm living room surrounded by chilly bedrooms that we’re used to? What’s that you say? Passive house? Yeah, OK, OK.

Anyway, I reckon the pile of wood you see in the picture should pretty much be enough for our heating and hot water needs over next winter. I’ll let you know next year whether I turn out to be right. In addition to the wood pictured, I cut a 44m row of willow coppice, displayed on the back of the tractor in the next photo (well, strictly pollard rather than coppice – deer and rabbit pressure being what it is, I generally cut the poles at 4 feet).

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I have a six year rotation of willow, comprising Salix viminalis in 6 x 44m rows (sorry about mixing imperial with metric measures…it’s only going to get worse as our confusion in Britain about which side of the Atlantic we’re on intensifies). This is the eighth year I’ve cut it (so the wood in the picture was the second cut from the second row). I cut it a bit late, at the end of March, and left it stacked outside through a pretty warm, dry spring as whole poles until last month when I finally got around to sawing it up – at which point it weighed 240kg in total. So would it be fair to guess a final air-dry weight of at least 140kg? That’d work out at about 6 tonnes per hectare of air-dry wood – quite low for short-rotation coppice where yields of up to 20 tonnes per hectare are reported. Though to be fair my willow coppice gets the full force of the strong prevailing southwesterly winds on the site (it doubles as a windbreak) and has never had any appreciable added fertiliser.

Next year, I’d imagine we’ll be cutting a lot more thinnings than the amount shown in the picture above. And I’d guess that if we had a mature coppice system established we could probably get more out still. I’m aiming to plant a bit more fuelwood coppice in my upcoming agroforestry project. Meanwhile, I experimented with cutting a micro-cant of ash pollards in the pig enclosure (pictured, first just after cutting in early March, and now in June with the regrowth).

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I’m not sure if it’ll work on that scale – it’ll be interesting to see (the light shade cast by ash will surely help…) But the point I’m moving towards here on the basis of the experiences described above is that I think a reasonably well-wooded smallholding like ours can probably grow enough wood to provide heating, hot water and cooking for a household, maybe two households. There may be a bit left over for construction and farm timber, and for providing mechanical power such as the steam engines we were discussing here a few weeks ago – but I suspect not a whole lot. So there may be a significant limitation there in terms of my self-sufficiency aims for the Peasant’s Republic of Wessex, in the absence of abiotic forms of energy capture such as photovoltaics. That, at any rate, is my proposal for debate. Britain is a densely populated country, but it has a lot of farmland – probably enough to feed the population tolerably well, as I’ve argued in my cycle of Wessex posts. The corollary, however, is that it doesn’t have much woodland – maybe enough for heating, cooking and hot water, probably not enough for construction or energy.

I reckon I probably used about 10 litres of petrol in the small chainsaw pictured above to fell, limb and then cut up all the trees pictured above (I’d probably have used a little less if I wasn’t such a laggard with the file…) Next year I’ll try to measure it properly. All the trees were hauled out by hand to the track bisecting our property and then taken up to the house by tractor, using a pretty negligible amount of diesel. I might use Spudgirl’s pony next year for some horse-logging and make him earn his keep a little more. Anyway, even with the chainsaw it felt like a lot of damned hard work (perhaps the more so now my bones are a little creakier than they once were). The thought of doing it with a bowsaw makes my hands go clammy. I know, I know, I’m not a proper populist and I’m not a proper peasant either. Still, the lesson I infer for the latter-day peasant republic in Britain is that if we want to fund even a low energy input agrarian society with renewable energy, I think we’ll need to be looking beyond biomass and towards technologies like wind and photovoltaics. These technologies are now cheap enough, and I’m not persuaded that the trapped asset argument on the radical green side of the political divide makes a whole lot more sense than the foot-dragging of the fossilheads on the right. Still, in the short-term every peasant household in Wessex gets a ration of 25 litres of petrol per annum for its chainsaw and 2-wheel tractor, and until our economic policy wonks have figured out how to develop a local import substitution industry, we’ll be prioritising trade deals with Germany and Japan so that Mr Stihl and Mr Honda can ease our aching arms.

PS. I’m going to be hunkered down somewhere well away from any internet connection over the next few days, so if you’re kind enough to comment on this post please forgive me if I don’t respond until some time next week.

Notes

  1. Whitefield, P. 2009. The Living Landscape. Permanent Publications; Fairlie, S. 2010. Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Permanent Publications.

 

32 thoughts on “Songs from the wood

  1. We trust you made it to the polls before heading for the hunkering bunker…

    And as for future trade deals of international distances… I’m persuaded that Mr. Honda has an assembly plant at Swindon – not really all that far from you. Now this is for autos so far as I’m aware, but I’m guessing a small engine plant could be supported on the island at some point. There is a Honda small engine plant here in the US (Eastern shore I believe). And Stihl might be interested in the PRoW as well – Brexit or not.

    • Nearly forgot to mention the title’s hat tip to a Jethro Tull tune and album name. And to the original Jethro as a British agrarian. Circles…

  2. “The thought of doing it with a bowsaw makes my hands go clammy. ”
    Have you tried using an axe? Early on in my chainsaw-free years I tried various kinds of hand saws, but soon discovered that an axe is quicker and easier. The trees (Corymbia maculata in my case) coppice just as well as they do if you use a saw. (Can’t chop them down at 4 feet high, though… And the stumps don’t look as neat and tidy)

    • It really is a timing issue – pollarding probably was invented because if you get your early forming work and your rotation right, there’s only need for a billhook.
      Get it wrong and you end up with conservation society people with chainsaws climbing into over-mature willows and spending an hour processing each.
      Also, faggots are easily made, transported and lit (proper Kachelofen mandatory.)

  3. Chain saws are wonderful and also rank among the most dangerous civilian tools ever made. I love mine, but always wear hearing, face and leg protection. Where are your chainsaw chaps?

    I just went through a minor ordeal with a few acres of trees I planted on marginal pasture 20 years ago in the hope that they would provide some income as saw logs. It had been expected that a forest products industry would be developed to accompany the 10,000 hectares of plantation eucalyptus that was planted nearby about the same time. The industry never materialized and some of the eucalyptus went to China as raw logs, but most of it is still looking for a market.

    I just finished working with a contractor to cut, yard and chip the trees I planted, many of which were 16-18 inches in diameter. A giant pile of chips now awaits transfer to its final resting place as heavy mulch around several dozen fruit and nut trees. I have found that here in the tropics orchard trees love being mulched with wood chips. If you don’t already have one, a PTO chipper for your tractor might be a good addition to your collection of dangerous tools.

  4. Like Robert I used a felling axe on about 100 young Ash trees one winter, each no more than 6-inches in diameter: Surprisingly calorie-hungry work. I didn’t bother tackling the larger trees having read Ben Law refer to Ash as the “widow-maker” of the lumberjack world. I would like to try out a two-man crosscut saw but have yet to realise that plaid-shirted dream. I recently succumbed to an electric chainsaw for cutting larger logs to make the ‘blanks’ from which to pole-lathe bowls – the thought of cutting them with my bow saw, well…

    As for space heating with wood through cold Continental winters (-25C being last winter’s frigid nadir) I had a hugely heavy traditional tiled stove built and haven’t regretted it. Somewhat anecdotally, it cost several times the price of a cast iron woodburner out here (1500GBP as opposed to 250GBP), weighs at least a tonne not 90kg, but uses at a guess around one-fifth of the wood most of our neighbours get through (that said, Eastern Europeans do seem to like their houses to be as hot inside in winter than they are in the height of summer, whereas we find 18-19C fine and anything above 21 a little too soporific). About a wheelbarrow load of wood a day is our average requirement from late Sep-early March). So if your foundation will take it I can recommend the masonry stoves, but have no idea if anyone is building them in the UK. The drawback is it only radiates heat mainly to the benefit of the room the stove is in and it is recommended that they be taken apart for a thorough cleaning every decade or so, then rebuilt, which is a slightly messy process (lots of clay, bits of wire, buckets of water, mortar, firebricks and tile, not to mention the soot, ash and dust etc). Various designs exist, some of which have a hot plate above the firebox, which also gives the benefit of a more immediate heat through convection and a place to make coffee, soups etc, then warm up the washing-up water. Having said all that, each winter the thought of living in a Passive house or suchlike that requires much less or even no heating beyond the presence of a dog, say, does appeal. I know I wouldn’t miss the time spent hauling wood and karate chopping it to kindling, and I’d have a lot more bowls carved by now too. But would a Passive house really handle -25C? I find it hard to believe, but Google’s images of ‘Arctic Research Station’ keep my hopes alive.

  5. There are various ‘firewood processors’ avalible that can saw & split logs. Presumably while they are costs both financial & environmental they seem safer than a chainsaw & less work

  6. … if we want to fund even a low energy input agrarian society with renewable energy, I think we’ll need to be looking beyond biomass and towards technologies like wind and photovoltaics.

    Farmstead photovoltaics add a lot of versatile electricity to the energy mix. It greatly eases the labor involved in moving water, washing clothes, preserving food, etc. But the technology of photovoltaics can only exist in a fairly sophisticated industrial civilization (however it is powered), so the only folks who will have use of it will be those that make the transition to agrarian peasantry prior to the collapse of civilization.

    If those peasants want to keep their PV systems running without having access to new gear, they will have to stock enough spares of ancillary equipment to last the lifetime of their PV modules. They will also have to have a battery available for that time unless they switch to an as-available, direct current only, system of use (easy to do for many things, but not lights). Long lived batteries are available, but expensive.

    When some essential bit of equipment fails, they will most likely lose electricity forever. It will then be back to muscle power instead of electric motors, plus a little oil or wax for illumination. The young may wish to go straight there, but we older folks will need all the assistance that electricity provides. I figure my system can be kept going for many decades, so my descendants will have some use of electricity before it is finally gone.

    • “…,so my descendants will have some use of electricity before it is finally gone.

      Can’t imagine being the guy who has to explain lightning to his descendants as Nature’s embodiment of that electricity thing mankind used to use to power all sorts of gear.

      • that electricity thing mankind used to use

        Such talk would be sacrilege. Everyone will know that lightning is only produced by Thor and also that it was humanity’s foolish attempt to gain and use such godlike powers that caused our downfall. No one will be foolish enough to try again.

        Since there is no god of radioactivity, contaminated death zones will remain impenetrable mysteries until someone invents one. Perhaps Duel Masters will let us use their god Neutron.

  7. I’ve just returned from my electricity free wilderness sojourn. Thanks for the comments. Brief responses:

    Wool – no I haven’t found a market, though I’ve given some away to local feltmakers, self-builders etc. I now hope to make use of it myself. But here in the UK, if you sell more than a few fleeces, you have to sell them to the Wool Marketing Board – astonishing that it’s survived the neoliberal onslaught. I keep thinking I should learn how to shear myself, but when I see the shearer struggling with the sheep (the Shropshires are pretty big) I generally think ‘Nah, I’ll save my back’. Wiltshire Horns are a local breed I sometimes think I should switch to – hair sheep = no shearing.

    Chainsaws – it’s tempting fate I know, but I’d venture to say that their dangers are somewhat overrated, especially short-bar ones if you’re just cross-cutting. There, I’ve said it now – but I don’t plan to get into a debate over it. I find other things more worrying – like angle grinders and circular saws, plus most things that run off a PTO…especially being the proper English gent that I am, always sporting a dangly formal tie as I work. My word, a PTO-powered chipper – now where’s the off-switch when your tie/arm gets stuck?

    Axes & stoves: thanks for the thoughts. Still have clammy hands at the thought of fuel-free felling/limbing/cutting. But fortunately some good advice on how best to warm them up…I’m not sure a passive house would do the trick…

    Electricity: we’ve circled around this issue in various posts of late, but I don’t really know how to advance it. One question is what kind of surplus a more peasantised labour process could support. One that could run a PV industry? Maybe not –
    though it’s one the peasants would doubtless wish to prioritise. Another is whether a likely lower energy society of the future could sustain a PV industry – well, maybe it depends on the speed of the energy descent, and the extent to which our present high-energy society plans ahead. And, as discussed in previous posts, the resilience of the manufacturing process to industrial simplification. I don’t feel any closer to answering those questions than before. But in the meantime it seems we’re agreed that investing in PV now is prudent.

    • Here’s a little clip describing the manufacturing process of a thin-film PV module, which is slightly easier to make than a mono or poly-crystalline module. I just don’t see how it will be possible to fabricate something like this in any other than an advanced industrial economy.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DksYJqtNcX8

  8. Reading some of the comments on this one, a question occurs to me. Some people here seem to talk in a way that implies that they think there will be a *real* collapse within their lifetimes (i.e. not merely an energy-stringent world, but one in which there is no electricity – at least for us peasants). Does anyone here actually think this?

    I do expect the world in a few decades time will be very different from what it is now (and that it’s worth preparing for ongoing increasing stringency on behalf of the future beyond our own lives), but I don’t think everything will “collapse all of a heap” in the the not-so-distant. Does anyone think think that it will?

    • I know what you mean Martin – I remember someone commenting on this blog months ago referred to the other commenters as ‘the apocalyptati’ or somesuch. I have no idea what the future might bring but am naturally drawn to a DIY approach to living that smallholding and peasantry embodies, and the host is always thought-provoking and readable. I also find I have a lot of time for articulate apocalyptati with senses of humour. But as for ‘prepping’ for a darker tomorrow, I always recall a Bosnian friend relating how, in the blackouts in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war, the one place in the neighbourhood with electric light from a solar panel/battery quickly became a meeting point of an evening. In such an event I think I’d rather join in than host.

    • Of course! But you probably noticed that I am one of the “some people already.

      I am 69 and fully expect the global market economy to collapse ‘soon’. When it will happen depends on a lot of factors, but they are all trending toward collapse.

      Though it may not happen in my lifetime, I believe that it is very possible that it could happen literally any day just from the internal contradictions of global capitalism. Throw in the possibility of war, pandemic or even coronal mass ejection and the odds that industrial civilization will manage a graceful decline in population and living standards is zero.

      Almost everyone thinks my attitude is silly, that such a thing is impossible, and that expressing fear of imminent economic collapse is ironclad evidence of “tinfoil hat” madness. But more astute observers than me have seen collapse coming for many decades for what seem to me to be perfectly valid reasons. I like to think I have good company when I pal around with Mr Second Law.

      People that have no concern with the fragility of global supply chains, have faith that confidence in fiat currencies will never end, that energy resources will never end, that capitalism can keep growing the economy indefinitely (or tolerate continuous recession) and that there are no natural “black swan” risks to our just-in-time way of life are imprudently ignoring the gathering of powerful disintegrative forces. Some day soon those forces will overcome the ties that bind our civilization together.

      Small farms are the future of humanity. The more people that can find a way to leave their urban death-trap and grow food within a mostly self sufficient community, the better. Doing so will be no guarantee of long life, but while rural peasantry may not be sufficient, it will be necessary.

      I’m sure that most people who read Chris’ posts think of small farms as a lifestyle choice rather than a matter of life and death. Whatever a person’s motivation for living on a small farm, I support the effort. If my suggestions for making a small farm as independent of the market economy as possible seem too over-the-top, just ignore them, but get thee into peasantry anyway.

      • Haven’t got time to leave a more nuanced reply – but just to clarify – I don’t this sort of opinion is “silly”, because I’m well aware of the scary fragility and complexity thing. Also there is a difference between “lifestyle choice” (trivial and obviously not what anyone here is discussing) and “serious exploration”, or “creating mental infrastructure” (demonstrating what you think in your actions).

        But I do take John Michael Greer’s point that people, and governments, *react* and I also take seriously the idea fo stairstep decline, with occasional, possibly bone-breaking, stumbles.

        I was also rather struck by this aphorism:

        “When people say ‘it can’t go on like this’, what usually happens is that is does go on like that, more extendedly and more painfully than anyone could possibly imagine”

        Yeah, I know – “until it doesn’t”.

        • However one expresses one’s inner peasant, why even draw the trivial/earnest distinction? “By their fruits you will know them,” said JC. I like to think that an earlier draft of this sermon also included the words ‘and veg’, and possibly even ‘and wine’.

        • I also take seriously the idea of stairstep decline, with occasional, possibly bone-breaking, stumbles.

          Greer is very perceptive, but even his theory of catabolic collapse has no terms involving units of time. Decline might be more gradual than a sudden and catastrophic collapse, but it would be very imprudent to count on it. Greer also noted, “Collapse now and avoid the rush”, a concept that covers a multitude of outcomes, including free-fall.

          I’m neither hoping for catastrophic collapse (well, just a little for the climate’s sake) nor absolutely certain of it, but that’s the way to bet with one’s life. I may die without seeing it happen, but soon enough my children, or someone else, will be very happy with my little peasant homestead on which they can scratch out a living. Because no matter what happens to our civilization, fertile gardens, lush pastures, prolific fruit and nut trees and a snug house will always be a welcome legacy.

          • it would be very imprudent to count on it.

            Ummm yes but … just for the record, because I don’t want to be assumed to be taking a position which I’m not taking, I’m not counting on it.

            I want to be clear that my argument isn’t an excuse to refuse any personal changes, because I’m not particularly refusing them.

            (However, one does have to take some sort of gamble about how the future might pan out. When I first read the rather splendid “collapse now and avoid the rush” my first thought was “but I never even expanded in the first place!”. Yes, ok, I know it’s all relative, and I’m only frugal by the ludicrously swollen standards now in place.)

  9. A thought occurred to me recently

    In our low tech future, how will the inhabitants of the PROW maintain F1 Brassica lines & get virus free seed potato’s ………….?

  10. Thanks for the additional comments – sorry, I have limited time to debate at the moment.

    Regarding ‘collapse’, one of the issues is defining what it means. Nowadays we talk confidently about ‘the collapse of the Roman empire’, but it didn’t necessarily seem like that at the time to everyone involved – the Byzantines were still calling themselves ‘Romans’ c.1000AD. In the 1960s we had a Conservative prime minister who said ‘You’ve never had it so good’. In 2017 we have a Conservative prime minister who said ‘There isn’t a magic money tree, you know’. So maybe that suggests we’re now living through a collapse? It does seem to be regarded as a disreputable trait to talk about a ‘collapse’ these days – shame, because even if there isn’t one I think it’s quite socially useful to talk about such scenarios. I suppose I do get a little impatient sometimes when I’m criticised for having too rosy a view of the future. Doubtless others get impatient with me for the same reason. Perhaps I’ll try to write more on this in the future. Meanwhile, I’ll do my best to welcome all shades of apocalypticism and cornucopianism on here – especially indeed if accompanied with humour and the acknowledgement that history makes fools of us all.

    On John’s point – I recall leaving 1 in 20 of my Wessex smallholdings as entirely unproductive to take account of ancillary needs such as seed breeding. We’d have to build up an appropriate economy around it, of course. Maybe Clem would like to weigh in on the pros and cons of indigenous seed-saving? My feeling is that there might be some positives to a very localised and distributed system, but also some negatives – certainly ‘progress’ would be slower than with professional breeding, but maybe ‘progress’ would also be less necessary? There is, I believe, a seed potato operation here in Somerset, so we’re good to go on that one. My granddad developed a new potato variety on his allotment in Yorkshire, which apparently the RHS were interested in – but not interested enough. So that proves…er, something.

    • apocalypticism and cornucopianism

      I know this was a nifty phrase, but I don’t see any any cornucopians commenting here. I certainly hope no-one is mistaking me for one – even though I had a brief skirmish with Joe, by average standards I’m at the darker end of the green continuum.

      (Stalks off, looking miffed).

      • Sorry Martin, I don’t want you to stalk off looking miffed and I didn’t intend to tar you with the brush of cornucopianism. I thought your question was a good one, but I don’t really have time to answer it properly now. You’re right that there aren’t many cornucopians commenting here – well, not since Graham Strouts stopped hurling insults at me and decided to ignore me instead. It would be nice to have some polite conversations with those of that persuasion, but there’s a lot of animus on both sides. I must try harder – I even seemed to have accidentally annoyed you…

        • 🙂
          [amused]

          But yes – one does have to take a punt about what will happen in the future because that will be a factor in present choices. For example, if I thought that there would be (- hmm you’re right about terminology, so let’s for now call it a – ) steep collapse within the next decade I be making very different choices right now.

          (Of course one tries to hedge one’s bets as much as possible, but … vaguely searches for metaphor about laying physical hedges, but can’t quite get one …)

          On terminology again, perhaps I should say I think things will <crumple rather than collapse. But then there are degrees of crumplement …

    • “Peasants don’t use F1 seeds.”
      Yes they do.
      “Peasants are to clumsy to even hold a test tube.”
      No they’re not.

    • Clem would love to weigh in on seed matters for the PROW. His available time for such is at a low ebb for the moment. To be quite brief right now – Brassica F1s not too terribly difficult (or technologically onerous). Virus free potato stocks also not beyond a peasant capability for the most part. Some scenarios might be conjured where phytopathological remedies could get challenging, but a good resilient planning strategy should help avoid these situations resulting in severe deprivation.

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