Thursday, July 20, 2006

Why Biointensive Farming? And another question for thought.

Biointensive farming is a collection of methods for raising food sustainably and with minimum inputs of material technology (inputs which will not be available to Eschaton event survivors).  Methods include the use of double-dug, raised beds (rather than plowed fields), composting and crop rotation (rather than the use of factory-produced chemical fertilizer), natural pest management (rather than heavy use of pesticides), planting complementary crops together (rather than monoculture), and planting seedlings on hexagonal corners (rather than in rows or scatter-sowing). 

Excellent resources on this system include John Jeavons' books, How to Grow More Vegetables . . . (fairly technical) and The Sustainable Vegetable Garden (less technical but practical).  Ecology Action provides an online introduction to the system.  The Sustainable Vegetable Garden is definitely on my Bibliography at the End of the World.

Proponents of the biointensive method boast extremely high, sustainable yields on small plots of land, with few technological inputs.  I am unable to locate any peer-reviewed studies which confirm or deny this.  However, the method's greatest feature for survivors is the minimal technological level necessary to farm.  Animals and machinery are not necessary, as farming is accomplished with human labor.  (Animal feces and bones may, of course, be added to the compost pile.)  A "scavenging list" for biointensive farming might look like this: 

Potatoes and seeds
Small boards
Containers for seedlings and transferring soil, compost, water (buckets, scavenged plastic food containers)

Of course, you can get really fancy and have special sticks for transferring sprouted seeds to containers and little shovels for transplanting your seedlings, but I have transplanted my share of seedlings and all you really need is a flat stick.  Or your hand, if you can't find a stick.

I previously put the per-person plot space at 30 100-square-foot double-dug beds, assuming large quantities of potatoes can be located.  Double-digging refers to the process of measuring out a bed, and, starting at one end, digging a one-foot-wide, one-foot-deep trench in the soil, removing that soil, and then loosening (with a pitchfork) below that trench to a depth of another foot or so.  Then the one-foot-wide, one-foot-deep section of soil next to the removed section is moved to the top of the previously loosened soil, and the process is repeated (loosening, digging).  Question:  Mary, a barista and would-be actress, survived the collapse of Los Angeles and fled to central California, locating several hundred kilos of potatoes on the way and transporting them to her new protected location.  Terrified, half-starved, and wearing the impractical shoes she had on at the moment the catastrophe struck and she had to leave the city, how long will it take her to double-dig three thousand feet of bed space?  Bonus:  How much longer will it take her if she has asthma or diabetes?


Anonymous you know who i am. said...

i want to *learn* stuff.
don't make me come over there...

March 01, 2007 11:17 AM  
Blogger Shane said...

hmmmm...three thousand feet...a two foot deep trench...let's suppose good soil...lets suppose she has lets really stretch and suppose that mary has the knowledge and gumption for this kind of work. 3000x2x1=6000cubic feet of soil. last year I was working a job as an inspector and the contractor had to bury some cable. They brought in a Ditch Witch 100sx trencher I believe that the trench was to be 2 foot deep and just about 3000 feet long. it took us two days approx..20 hours to dig this trench. The machine is rated at 92ft/min in optimum conditions...I don't know what that means cause our soil was damn good and we were only getting about 150ft/hr or 2.5ft/min. our machine had a blade that was optimized for digging and a 11 hp motor. lets assume that mary is in phenominal shape and can reliably generate 1/4 hp for 5 hours a day and lets assume that her shovel is'nt as effective as the blade on the ditch witch(duh!) and that reduces her down to 1/8 hp. 20*8= 160 hours or a full month at 8 hours a day if she does nothing more than dig ditch all day. lets double that if she's astmatic to 320 hours. and if she's a type 2 diabetic her insulin will prolly run out before she finishes.
submitted for peer review..anybody else got anything to add?

April 02, 2008 8:09 PM  

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