Skills are best learned before you need them, and patience is a skill.

I tapped a maple tree this year because I wanted to practice a skill I had been reading about: how to produce homemade maple syrup.  I tapped when the book said to – late February/early March – and I got…nothing.  A week later I got a few drips.  A week after that I had a little more than a half gallon, which I cooked down but ended up with maple sugar taffy by over-cooking it.  I figured it was all a good learning experience, pulled the spile out of the tree, washed all the equipment and stored it away.

Yesterday afternoon I was walking down past that maple tree and couldn’t believe what I saw:

sap 2sap 1

The entire front of the tree is covered in sap, which is running freely out of the tap hole!  B-b-but…it’s almost April!  Sap isn’t supposed to start running now!  The books said so, and I already washed and stored all my equipment!

The skill I lacked was patience.

And real-world knowledge, as opposed to book knowledge.  Even though the sap was “supposed” to run earlier, it didn’t.  Who knows why – probably because of the extremely cold winter.  But I learned several more lessons, which I’ll share here in hopes of helping someone else avoid the same mistakes:

1. Knowing how to read conditions is vitally important when it comes to producing a yield. Nature doesn’t read books; it produces when the conditions are right, not when the time table in the book says it is supposed to.  I need to learn to read the conditions for maple sap production.

2. Patience is a skill even more than a virtue.  I wanted my sap right now, and when I didn’t get it, I wasn’t willing to wait and see what happened.  Also, I’m struck by the fact that one of my first reactions was that something might be wrong with that tree, that it might be pest-infested and that I’d better get someone out to spray it with pesticide.

Writing for Permaculture News, Leanne Ejack discusses the need for patience:

…permaculture is founded upon patience. Permaculture is about working with nature and allowing time for nature to work herself out. Permaculture can be frustrating for many people, because there are no ‘quick fix’ solutions to problems. Permaculture is about setting the seeds for a permanent system (think: permanent agriculture = permaculture) that will manage and sustain itself for years to come. Our severe impatience drives us to get in with the tractor and chemicals, blast everything out to bare soil, and plant a monoculture of the desired plant we want. We want these plants to grow fast so we can begin harvesting straight away and make more profit. The more the better! This is a ‘trophy hunter’ mentality. But this type of system requires constant management and constant artificial inputs from fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and other manufactured chemicals.

Permaculture, in contrast, is about the maximum amount of output with the minimum amount of work and input. In order to create something that will last and be sustainable, the key is patience, patience, patience! But patience is such a hard quality to cultivate in us ‘instant-gratification’ humans. Therefore, incorporating the practices of permaculture requires a complete change in mindset and attitude. It is not just a method of farming, it is a belief system and lifestyle.

The permaculture method of farming is the wheat we can extract from the chaff of their “belief system”, which tends toward pagan spirituality.

3. Skills are best learned before you have a critical need of them.  My family isn’t counting on that maple syrup for our livelihood or our survival, which makes now the perfect time to learn by trial-and-error and repeated attempts.  Maybe the food supply will never be disrupted and I’ll never “need” this skill – though it’s still a nice one to have – but if I ever do need it, I’d rather already have the skill acquired.

Writing for Molly Green Magazine, Patrice Lewis from Rural Revolution has explained the importance of learning food production skills before you desperately need them:

…it’s important to learn stuff NOW. Remember, preparedness is a three-legged stool: supplies, community, and knowledge. You might have all the supplies in the world, but without the knowledge of how to use those supplies, they’re almost useless.

…This means testing your theories, supplies, and equipment; and it means learning how to do things by alternate means. And this must be done before things hit the fan.

In the face of natural or societal disasters, you are going to be stressed, scared, desperate, panicked, and unfocused. If you think you’ll suddenly have the leisure to learn the intricacies of cooking from scratch, growing a one-acre garden, canning green beans, or plinking at targets, think again. Because make no mistake: all these skills take practice.

…you need to go through trials and errors and the initial failures at a time when those failures won’t mean the difference between life and death. Then you need to learn what works for you. For some things, like a garden, you only have one chance a year. Get it wrong and you have twelve more months to sweat and plan before the next try.

My advice to readers is to make this the year that you grow something – anything – useful, even if it is just a little backyard garden or a window box of herbs.  But in seeking to obtain a yield of the fruit of the land, let us remember together that we need first to seek the fruit of the spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

 

And as we wait patiently for our earthly yield, we also wait patiently for the return of Our Lord:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

James 5:7

 

Conservative Christians and Permaculture: separating the wheat from the chaff.

per·ma·cul·ture
ˈpərməˌkəlCHər/
noun
 the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

 

Permaculture was originally a portmanteau of “permanent agriculture” and was related to forest gardening.  It has changed over the years though, and now has both very wise gardening techniques and quite absurd new-age-y progressivist elements as well.  This is a common graphic associated with permaculturists:
There is both wheat and chaff in permaculture, and I don’t have them all separated out yet.  Here are some of the things I agree with:
1. Rather than large swaths of sterile, barren lawns, humanity would be much better served if people learned to plant beautiful herb, vegetable, and fruit gardens.
2. Planting gardens the way God made forests is sensible.  Permaculture follows a “forest garden” model:

 

Without buying into the pagan new age spirituality associated with permaculture (to read a permaculture blog is to read the word “Gaia” ad nauseum), I’m still intrigued by their ideas about what it means to labor and obtain a yield, as well as their smart gardening practices.

 

We bought a little over ten acres of woods and disrupted farmland this past fall.  The land had been let go, which means it’s becoming overrun with autumn olive bushes, which are highly invasive thorny shrub that can grow ten feet tall and spread like wildfire.  Autumn olive was originally brought to this country from Asia as a means of controlling erosion; the fruit is supposedly edible, but it isn’t a smart plant to cultivate as it will take over and choke out native plants and trees; it even changes the soil chemistry, making the land good only for autumn olive.

 

I’ve slowly started clearing it out of our forest and meadow.  Here is an area I’ve cleared:

DSC04385

Here is what an autumn olive thicket looks like up close:

DSC04387

Here is another area I’ve cleared, transitioning from our yard into the forest; previously this was a thicket of autumn olive and thorns:

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Using some of the techniques I’m learning from permaculture, I aim to transform it into this:

Image source: Starter Permaculture http://starterpermaculture.com/


 
In the fall I planted apple and peach trees with raspberry and blackberry vines under them.  I’ll add sunflowers, strawberries, herbs and other plants, following the permaculture technique for creating a “forest garden”.  Instead of recycling our cardboard waste, I am using it to mulch under the trees and plants for weed control, which saves labor (saving labor and producing no waste are both permaculture attributes).
 
As I separate the pagan chaff from the beauty- and food-producing wheat of permaculture, I will share those lessons here.  Looking at ten acres of work feels overwhelming, but the permaculture approach of implementing small, slow solutions is comforting and compatible with both my conservativism and Christian faith.
 
[This is my second post in an ongoing series, “Separating the wheat from the chaff,” in which I consider the health of our natural world and environment in the context of conservatism and Christianity.  The first post was Conservative Christians and the International Day of Forests: separating the wheat from the chaff.]

 

 

Conservative Christians and the International Day of Forests: separating the wheat from the chaff.

trees-Angel-Oak-Tree-in-Angel-Oak-Park-on-Johns-Island-Southern-Carolina

Angel Oak Tree, located in Angel Oak Park on Johns Island in South Carolina, is estimated to be up to 1400 years old.

 

Today is International Day of the Forests, which is a UN-created initiative, so we know it will be chock-full of progressive nonsense.  Yet at the same time, some truth is woven into it.  Our job as conservatives is to separate the wheat from the chaff, not to throw out the entire bushel:

“Participants stressed the broad importance of forest ecosystems and noted that forests comprise an inter-dependent web of animals, plants and microorganisms, which together provide a wide range of goods and services beyond carbon sequestration. These include biodiversity conservation, rainfall generation and products that are crucial to the livelihoods of local forest dependent and indigenous peoples as well as to the economies of many countries.

Those attending recognized the importance of building on the vast knowledge and experience that exists on sustainable forest management (SFM) and called on negotiators to consult with forest stakeholders as they develop climate policy.”

So far, mostly so good, but then:

“Include forests in climate mitigation and adaptation mechanisms and strategies

Ensure full inclusion and participation of civil society in international, regional, national and local decision-making processes

Recognize and respect the rights of women, poor people and Indigenous Peoples”

As conservatives, we can leave behind all the blah-blah about women’s rights and indigenous peoples, instead focusing on how important forests are for all of mankind’s well-being.

The problem with environmentalists is that they are nearly all leftists/liberals/progressives, and therefore, lacking in true religion, they resort to worshiping the earth (Gaia) and despising humanity as the corrupter of their god, the natural world.  Yet they have correctly identified a serious problem: Mankind is generally not behaving as good stewards of the garden that the true, living God gave us.

Conservatives rightly identify the false religion of leftist environmentalism as the paganism that it is, but instead of working on the actual problem (poor stewardship), they get stuck in reacting foolishly against environmentalists.  This is how we end up with childish idiocy like Carbon Belch Day, which occurs one week from today; here is their pledge:

Yes! I will increase my CO2 output on March 28th! I am joining people from all walks of life in taking the Carbon Belch Day Pledge! On March 28th I will do my best to increase my CO2 output and unleash a Carbon Belch on the planet. I do this with no fear or concern that I am destroying the planet, but rather to show the absurdity of the “going green” wackos who want to make something out of nothing.

Conservative Christians should not participate in this nonsense, which surely cannot please our Lord.  Rather than behaving just like environmentalists, we conservatives ought simply to point out where environmental alarmists are wrong and then move forward on fixing those areas where they are right.

So where are they right?  I believe they are right when they say that forests are of great importance to the health of our earthly garden and its inhabitants.  The reason we should care about sustaining forests (and we should) is not because we hate humanity (as environmentalists seem to) but because we love humanity and want forests to serve human flourishing.

I do not worship Gaia and I am not a climate alarmist, but I recognize my role in taking care of the true, living God’s garden.  To that end, I want to manage my own little piece of God’s garden as well as I can and I want our earthly governments to enact sane, reasonable policies that both serve mankind and manage our natural world well without giving in to hysterical, left-wing, human-hating climate alarmism.

 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Genesis 2:8-9, 15

[Note: This is the first in what will be an ongoing series called “Separating the Wheat from the Chaff”, in which I will consider the health of our natural world and environment in the context of conservatism and Christianity in an attempt to extract the wheat and discard the liberal, progressive, Gaia-worshiping chaff.  I’d be grateful for reader input on these issues.]