Notes from Windward: #64

The Arbor Chair

      It's easy to take for granted the role that trees play in our lives, and to overlook the important contributions they can make to sustainable living. The function of the Arbor Chair would be to insure that fruit, nut and hardwood trees are effectively incorporated into Windward's long range development so that Windward can become (1) a better working model of sustainability and (2) a teaching resource that helps others understand and incorporate trees into their personal homesteads.

      Sometimes it's easiest to define something by noting what it is not. In this sense, one of the key characteristics of sustainable agriculture is that it is not fossil fuel intensive. Unlike modern farming methods which use substantial amounts of diesel fuel to till and harvest, sustainable agriculture takes full advantage of no-till methods of producing food, and foremost among these is the use of fruit and nut trees.

      Windward is located in a region famous for it's wide range of microclimates, but going beyond that, the land we steward features a wide range of growing condtions as well, ranging from areas suited to birch and willow to areas perfect for dry land trees. There's nothing that we can do to deal with the effect of cold temperatures on certain key food trees such as the olive, but many other valuable trees can be grown here just fine.

      This area was originally developed as apple orchard land, and it was only when electric powered irrigation came to the nearby Yakima valley that the highland orchards were turned into grazing pasture. Fortunately, given the gentle way that sheep have with fruit trees, there's no reason why this land can't simultaneously support both fruit trees for us to eat and orchard grass for the sheep to eat. Indeed, sheep are rapidly becoming the preferred, chemical-free way to deal with weeds in many parts of the western landscape.

      The Arbor Chair wouldn't be involved in running an orchard, but rather in demonstrating the many ways that trees can contribute to sustainable living. The direct production of fruit and nuts is obviously an important part of that, and techniques such as grafting and pollarding would play key roles in getting the most out of the land dedicated to this work, but there are many other types of trees that can provide resources supportive of a wide range of self-reliant crafts.

       While the first concern of a sustainable program is the production of the food and materials needed to support the internal economy, it's also necessary to generate cash income. Examples of trees that aren't usually thought of as profit centers but which can generate significant income are chestnut, mulberry, elderberry and holly, each of which provides a crop which can be marketed as a variety of value-added products.       Overseeing Windward's arborial development would be a long term project, and a wonderful way to create an enduring and productive legacy.  

For an example of another potential Chair, Click Here

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 64