We came to a land that was let go wild in 1970. Flowers were returning and colonizing what were once mown hay fields of a dairy farm; native trees grew along old stone walls. Everywhere we looked we spotted different microclimates, from shady and moist woods to sunny and dry meadows, all rich with communities of wild animal and plant species.
This was a place we could call home and accomplish our goals:
- Conserve this ecosystem with its extraordinary diversity
- row herbs in their preferred conditions
- Use sustainable and holistic farming practices to reach the first two goals
Our road has taken us to permaculture systems, old and wise farming traditions, bio-intensive practices and beyond-organic methods. Pesticides, herbicides, and even fertilizers, even those defined "safe" by the Organics sector aren’t used. In this environment, plants are protected by beneficial insects, amphibians, and soil microorganisms.
You can find good definition of permaculture here. I use the Hugelkultur system of raised beds and swales, implemented by visionary permaculturist Sepp Holzer, A hugel is a berm built over buried tree trunks and other organic material. This is a long-term system that builds soil and heats the berm naturally, by the internal decomposition of organic matter. The swale catches precipitation and water runoff, minimizing irrigation. Decomposing wood takes up water like a sponge and retains it for plant roots.
For us, living sustainably means using the resources on hand: soil, water, stone, wood, plants and animals that share the land with us. Instead of tilling, we take care of the soil that nourishes all life. We cultivate only open-pollinated and heirloom plants that have proven their effectiveness over generations, quickly adapting them to the local climate by starting them from seed. Plants are grown in communities of different species that contribute to each other and increase health. From sowing to harvesting to processing, all activities are done by hand. In our view, machines just don’t have the ability to discern quality.
Many herbs are responsibly wildcrafted. We’re also bringing back native herbs and other great plants that grew here but for one reason or another vanished from the landscape.
In all we do our guiding light is enrich rather than deplete, restore rather than destroy, to create a natural landscape that is beautiful, curative, and useful.