Episode-1313- Ben Falk on Cold Climate Living

The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk

The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk

Ben developed Whole Systems Design, LLC as a land-based response to biological and cultural extinction and the increasing separation between people and elemental things.

Life as a designer, builder, ecologist, tree-tender, and back country traveler continually informs Ben’s integrative approach to developing landscapes and buildings.

His home landscape and the WSD studio site in Vermont’s Mad River Valley serve as a proving ground for the regenerative land developments featured in the projects of Whole Systems Design.

Ben has studied architecture and landscape architecture at the graduate level and holds a master’s degree in land-use planning and design. He has conducted nearly 200 site development consultations across New England and facilitated dozens of courses on permaculture design, property selection, microclimate design, and design for climate change. For more, see Ben’s recent TEDx talk.

Today Ben Joins Jack Cold weather home building and design:

  •  Heating a home on few cords or less, including hot water
  • Making a home that is fully functional when the grid is down
  • Buidling-site integration to optimize  a permaculture home
  • Wood processing and burning, effectively and efficiently
  • The many myths around drying and heating with wood
  • How important is passive solar depending on climate type
  • What are the most important features of Ben’s home
  • Gravity fed water sources if you don’t have a high spring or pond
  • The most common mistakes made when heating with wood
  • The biggest lessons Ben’s learned learned living for 10 years in USDA zone 4

Resources for today’s show…

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66 Responses to Episode-1313- Ben Falk on Cold Climate Living

  1. Anxious to hear this one. I’m signed up for Ben’s Advanced Farm and Homestead design workshop in Iowa this summer (http://www.versaland.com/workshops/advanced-farmstead-design/). Like so many, I’m trying to figure out how to alter the trajectory of my career towards permaculture while also using the principles to improve a piece of land to live on and grow food.

  2. While I was there for the first week of September last year, they had their first frost. When I got home a few days later it was the nice 85 degrees I had gotten used to. -15 degrees…. sheesh. That’s why I live in Southern Louisiana haha.

  3. Brent Eamer

    Can’t get the book in Canada

  4. Brent Eamer

    I in zone 6a in Prince Edward Island. I have a Regency F2400. My heating is wood. Black Spruce and Birch. 2 cords of spruce and 1 cord of birch. Properly dried spruce, does not create creosote, wet wood creates creosote. I’ve been burning for ten years and clean my flue and only about a cup comes out. I burn ugly, ghoul, pin cherry, aspen, you name it. I live in a 1100 square foot log home (8″ eastern white cedar), the R value is pretty good. I heat my hot water on the stove surface for dishes.
    I also cook with cast iron on the stove as well. I have a moisture meter and I like it at about 15% moisture

    • Brent Eamer

      Just ordered the book, this is very appropriate for where I live

      • Chris De Joe

        It will not tell you much you probably do not already know.

        I hate to say it and Ben is probably a great guy and a talented designer and all. But….

        Too many times in the book he says and in the next version of the book. I will put this information in the book.

        It is too general, but possibly good for people completely unfamiliar with homesteading or permaculture.

        Also there is a part in the book where Ben talks about his livestock guardian dogs but refuses to name the breed saying he doesn’t want a bunch of breeders to bring down the value of the breed.

        Well for the price of the book I sure as crap should have got that much out of it. Because honestly it was a waste of time.

        In his first interview about the book with Jack he said more than I got out of the book. It has nothing to do with climate differences just presentation of material.

        The bit about rice was the best and most informative for me because I am ignorant concerning growing rice.

        There is good information but not worth the cost. You can get more from these podcasts the forums and an internet search and save yourself nearly half a saw buck.

        What sold me to buy the book despite the reviews on amazon was last year when Ben was saying he was not afraid to list his mistakes and go in depth on subjects. He said what went wrong but honestly birds breaking branches well…. It can happen. Perhaps the birds were too big and the branches too small. But who knows.

        It felt less like a journal about what he has learned than an infomercial.

        Keep in mind. I am not saying he does not have a working farm or is a poor permacultrist or a bad person. It is just his book sucked for the price and information inside of it.

        I had a similar issue with Restoration Agriculture. Hey i get it depends and all but telling me what you are doing, how you did it, why, what worked and why, what did not work so well and why you think is much better than a general treatise on why such agriculture methods are great.

        Because those techniques I happen to like but for what forty or fifty bucks the book was advertised as a book on how to not about why to. He is essentially preaching to the choir and giving very little general information.

        And to answer Mark Sheppard why no one has bred a seed to fruit trees that are true is because the time, resources and cost when compared to cuttings is huge.

        I agreed with the premise of the book as I did with Ben Falk but I did appreciate paying so much for general information that led to little on how to’s and why’s.

        Sorry I do not mean to snipe or be negative. But it is important that it is understood that you will get more from Square Foot Gardening than Falk’s book and i think permaculture is a better method.

        The best part of Ben’s book was looking up and learning the history of the land.

      • Brent Eamer

        I think I would be ok with the book being a story or log. And yes, I probably know most of the information already. I just hope it is written well. One could almost say the same out the Nearing’s first book, more of a story and little on how to

      • Chris De Joe

        Brent I found Paradise Lot to be informative and it advertises it as a book about two guys’ journey buying a duplex and making a permaculture lot out of it.

        I learned far more about plants from that book that was about two men’s experience than ben’s book which advertises a book in the first sentence on the back of the book:

        “The Resilient Farm and Homestead is a COMPREHENSIVE HOW-TO MANUAL that will help you select, design, develop and manage land for self-reliance and regeneration and presents a thriving model for productive, durable homesteads and farms in cold climates and beyond.”

        That book sure as hell could have used an editor. Had I taken a moment to read that, I would have been holy run-on sentences batman.

        I hate being harsh but $40 still has more value than what truly is a work in progress. Maybe one day the book will be more whole. But that time is not now.

        If Ben wanted to raise some cash and share some ideas this would have been better as a blog or say a low costing ebook.

        What the book has going for it are the pictures and diagrams. That is it.

        • Modern Survival

          Chris I completely disagree with your assessment. But you have a right to your opinion.

        • Chris,

          I too hate to be harsh, but this commentary is deceptively so. You quote a publisher hyperbole, “The Resilient Farm and Homestead is a COMPREHENSIVE HOW-TO MANUAL that will help you select, design, develop and manage land for self-reliance and regeneration and presents a thriving model for productive, durable homesteads and farms in cold climates and beyond.” No book could live up to this in the realm of permaculture which will take a large library to even approach, “a COMPREHENSIVE HOW-TO MANUAL…”

          The value to Ben’s book is contained in the phrase and web-site name, “Whole Systems Design.” This is how the entirety of your homestead design fits for better or worse with permaculture principles. That’s the prime focus of the book. If you want to just know how to grow a rutabaga it’s not the book for you. Stick to your two guys with a big garden for that, or better yet read the works of the cold climate growing genius, Elliot Coleman.

          Ben Falk is a practicing “whole systems” designer with the training and experience to back it up. For an example just remember these two suggestions from the podcast that could save a cold, humid climate homesteader from untold grief over time, “Don’t try and mix human and productive plant habitat in the same structure and build with other than wood for season extending plant habitat.” Plants need humidity, wood as structure doesn’t and rots.

        • Modern Survival

          Well put Ron, nice to agree with you fully on something.

        • Jack,

          Tipping my hat to you. It is nice!

      • I really don’t understand the criticism of Ben’s work. As a researcher and engineer, I find Ben’s approach to be very sound. For one, he acknowledges that design is important, but also limited. It’s observation and adaptation that is key. Second, I enjoy his writing style more than most similar efforts I have read. His thought process and methods of conveying info are unique, but very instructive in my opinion. To those that think it isn’t a value…I say, then put out something better. I think you’d be hard pressed to condense 10 years of observation and interaction into a better text and format. I can’t wait to meet Ben this summer and Thank him for his work.

        • Modern Survival

          I think Chris has a bee in his butt or something due to the “technical editing” considering he is picking on things like run on sentences. I have little time to worry about such things. As I said I consider Ben’s book one of the best ever produced. Chris also seems pretty wound up on the cost, perhaps he should look at printing costs for a book with as much full color photography as Ben’s has.

      • Chris, I’m sorry you feel ripped off. One thing I always do before buying a book is I check it out from the library, read it for a couple of weeks and then make my decision.

        I didn’t mind paying the $40. I also don’t mind paying 25% more for the Whole Systems Design PDC. The value is there for me but to each his own.

        Another thing to consider is that Chelsea Green books tend to run high. The Resilient Gardener was $30 but only had colored photos in a 16 page section in the middle of the book. Ben’s book contained beautiful photos throughout and many colored charts and graphs. I find that I’m more likely to enjoy a book with lots of visual aids so I didn’t mind paying the higher premium.

  5. Jack,

    I’m glad you that you took pains to point out how good Ben’s book is. Here’s the review I wrote on Amazon:

    Surprisingly Literate and Perceptive from One so Young., October 19, 2013
    By Ron Shook (Chicago, IL)

    I was introduced to Ben Falk from a Jack Spirko interview. Intrigued by the interview, little did I know that reading this book would take me to worlds that the interview didn’t touch on. I checked it out of the library which is fine for most books. I’ll have to purchase this book for the reams and realms of detail that I’ll never remember. This isn’t a “how to” book as much as it is bible for designing for and restoring beat up, degraded land in a cold temperate climate although the design principles are applicable anywhere. It is also a book about a life worth living that adapts to the terrain and space that you live in and fits into, even enhances that space. It all happens through the interconnectedness of a natural world eons in the making, through permaculture, from permanent culture.

    It is a story of the laws and reality of nature on a ten acre patch of used up land in hilly Vermont, utilizing the designs of men and women who can, if they do so with care and knowledge, make these laws work better than nature left to its own devices, delivering abundance to both human animals and rescuing biodiverse nature. Sounds intimate and near impossible, doesn’t it? But it’s working. Woven throughout this superb book is a big picture understanding that just is, and is little filtered through the ideology, politics and economics that divide us today. Ben Falk is the real deal, a startling 30 something blend of Wendell Berry, Bill Mollison and Joel Salatin.

    You don’t have to be looking to or be dreaming about farming or homesteading to gain from reading and studying this book. Coming out of and brutalized by an intense period of exploitation without care of human, animal, vegetation and watery/soily nature, just the hope alone is worth the read. Things to exploit are winding down and kicking back. It’s time for something different!

  6. Funny that this podcast came out today. I signed up for Ben’s PDC early this morning! Woo Hoo! So excited!

    And guess what! I’m a suburban soccer mom who drives an SUV… or I was… sold the house last week… homestead here we come!

  7. Awesome show! I’m a Minnesotan planning on homesteading in the near future. I loved hearing a fellow zone 4er talk permaculture. Bought his book immediately after the show. Thanks to Ben and Jack!

  8. Enjoyed the book and the podcast… look forward to his Ben’s PDC this summer.

    Jack, I am interning at a permaculture orchard near montreal this summer. You should consider bringing the owner on as a guest. He bought a conventional orchard and transitioned it to a permaculture principled orchard over time.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3riW_yiCN5E

  9. Richard Hauser

    Great interview, but since they talked so much about wood heat, I would have liked to hear Ben’s opinion on Rocket Mass Heaters or other wood stove types.

  10. I still need to listen to this episode, but I would like to hear more about growing rice which seems uncommon in these parts.

    My camp in Maine is pretty much zone 4 as well. Passive solar seems interesting, but seems not typical for too many homes or not so easy to just add on to an existing house.

    My dad’s family is all from Vermont. I have relatives there, but I hardly ever get up there because I bought land in Maine and it’s all I can do to drive the 200 miles back and forth to my camp. At a family reunion a friend of the families said I was a traitor for buying land in Maine and my dad always really loved Vermont and seemed to heavily identify with that state.

    One thing I like about Maine is I like longboard surfing on the coast, but since I bought the camp I don’t do as much of that as I’d like either.

  11. I bought Ben’s book in September ’13 and I’m only about 1/2 way through it. I can only read 3-5 pages at a time. So far I have no complaints about the value of the book ($27.00 on amazon).
    One thing I really like about Ben whether in the book or in interviews is that he tells you how it really is not just regurgitating permaculture theory.
    Even in Geoff Lawton’s online pdc Geoff taught some permculture theory that Ben debunks.
    If the cards ever fall were I get the money and time I will be taking courses from Ben

    • toptec wrote, “Even in Geoff Lawton’s online pdc Geoff taught some permculture theory that Ben debunks.”

      That has me really curious. You gonna leave it at that?

    • Modern Survival

      See my other comment, debunks is the wrong word.

  12. Ben mentioned two in this interview
    - a function of chickens is that they will clean up your fallen fruit, his didn’t.
    - in cold climate you attach your greenhouse to the south of your house, you don’t unless you want to deal with mold and rot from the humidity.
    I am pretty sure that Geoff mentioned both in the pdc though is has been almost a year since I watched his vids.
    Don’t get me wrong I think Geoff was a great teacher and a great permaculturist but I don’t think humid cold climate is his specialty.

    • Modern Survival

      “Don’t get me wrong I think Geoff was a great teacher and a great permaculturist but I don’t think humid cold climate is his specialty.”

      Geoff is my greatest mentor, the guy that guides my teaching and my design more than anyone and I still agree with this. I will also say “it depends”. Ben’s chickens didn’t clean fallen fruit for him but Ben’s design is far more like a permaculture orchard then a permaculture forest. This does matter, in Ben’s system birds are pulsed though with electro netting, Paul Wheaton would approve. But I found it to be a pain in the ass myself. They are put on the inter planting pasture along with sheep. This works well but it is not likely to ever result in breaking pest cycles in fruits.

      Could I develop a system that would in Ben’s climate? Likely. Would I? Probably not, for a property of this size (10 acres), in Ben’s climate, with Ben’s goals, with the slope of his property, his system is about perfect.

      As for a green house on a south facing wall rotting a home. Well, what is the home made of? How is the green house interacting with the home, is there a buffer between the humid house and the main house? Could I design a system that would work well and function the way described in the PDM in Ben’s climate, I think so, it would however not involve a timber frame home with a directly attached glass house.

      Then you have to get into how humid is humid, how cold is cold and how cloudy is winter?

      What we as both teachers and students need to understand is all techniques are adaptable. This is why a PDC focuses far less on techniques then design process and thinking.

      Frankly I feel Geoff is just beginning to truly understand hugulkulture as he still feels it works in cool temperate only. I wonder if he realizes that a banana circle is in many ways, hugulkulture.

    • I’m really surprised that Ben was opposed to putting a greenhouse on the southern exposure of a house. Humidity is something many people need during the winter if they’re heating with wood.

      I personally don’t have a need for humidity despite heating only with wood because my house is well insulated (R38 on 6 sides). I am considering a greenhouse attached to my southern wall but more for a double entry which Geoff Lawton mentioned in his PDC.

  13. Thanks for the great input all.
    I have not built rocket mass heaters so can’t speak directly about them but have the following reasons for not building them here:
    -they need to be tended much more often than a wood stove
    -i haven’t been convinced (seen enough examples) of them heating water, cooking on them, baking in them AND space heating all in one package to build one. My woodstove does all that.
    The mass-based heat and combustion is awesome, don’t get me wrong. You will get more bang out of your (btu per pound of wood burned) with a mass heater burned well, than a wood stove. But, we get more overall function, I think, than we could with a RMH. This is a great example of efficiency and effectiveness not always being the same thing.

    As for folks who feel like my book is expensive, know this: I see 12% of net profits per book the publisher gets. I have not gotten a check yet for the book but when I do it’ll be something like less than 2.50 per book at best, from Amazon. If I wanted to make money it wouldn’t be through trying to sell a book on permaculture. As far as editing – Chelsea Green does a great job of that, actually. The book is full color throughout with something like 200+ drawings and images – you won’t find a book illustrated like this in color for less than the cost, I don’t think. Heck, if you’re counting dollars – the woodstove hot water design in the book will save you lots of money and/or time by simply showing you a proven system. You could search on the net too for designs people haven’t actually tried or mess up on making one just once and waste 50 bucks of copper pipe, easily. I would have happily paid 100 bucks for the woodstove hot water system design page alone if it had existed and I knew it would have worked so well. That systems saves us hundreds of dollars are year in heating costs.

    • Modern Survival

      Ben I learned long ago not to apologize for your price, you have no need to. Honestly Chris is the only person I have seen bitch about the editing. Some people are anal with the written word, they are obsessed with the technical accuracy of language. I suggest said people get a career teaching English, by the way NOT LITERATURE just English Composition.

      When one gets into Literature you learn that different writers have different styles and some of the best threw the manual out the window on technicals. For instance Robert Frost said “writing free verse is like playing tennis without a net”, yet turned around and wrote some pretty amazing free verse. Really I have at times noticed some bad typos in a book but have and never would criticize a book for a fricken run on sentence.

      Oh and by the way, since Ben is paid no matter what his books sell for on Amazon let me point out right now it is cheap for some reason there. http://www.amazon.com/The-Resilient-Farm-Homestead-Permaculture/dp/1603584447

      23.20 on prime with free shipping! I gave my copy sent to me by the publisher to Josiah as a gift, so I just ordered a second copy again with free shipping on prime.

  14. I think there is more to the human affect on climate change than just the amount of CO2 produced by humans. I think when they discuss human activity that contributes to climate change it also encompasses the deforestation, the destruction of reefs in the ocean the pollution of the ocean and the erosion of arable lands. I’m sure there are other human activities I have not mentioned but I think the human affect on climate change goes beyond the amount of CO2 humans contribute to the atmosphere annually. These activities can change a systems that once stored CO2 to a systems that now releases CO2. These activities can destroy a system that once processed CO2 and created oxygen or change a system into one that now stores oxygen. In other words human activities that affect the CO2 levels in atmosphere beyond the CO2 that humans contribute could very well be driving climate change.

    • Modern Survival

      Actually when THEY discuss humans and our impact on climate the ONLY THING THEY talk about is CO2. We do not effect the global climate by ANY MEASURABLE AMOUNT, we absolutely do effect regional climate conditions and it isn’t CO2 doing that. The answer by the way is debatable to the percentage we contribute, it ranges from a low of under 1% to a high of just over 5%, both of those are by people with agendas though. Most scientists including those telling us CO2 is the end of the world say the number is about 3-3.5%. Why do you never hear that number when we are told to cut carbon emissions, etc. The earth is producing 97%+ of all annual CO2 emissions on its own and would continue to do so if all human life disappeared tomorrow.

  15. I think you may have fallen for some sleight of hand when it comes to the relative impact of human carbon emissions.

    This figure, as I’ve seen it presented before, points to natural “sources” of carbon which aren’t really sources, but rather stations in the massive carbon cycle, such as trees (which store and then release it as they rot). It’s kind of like suggesting that the Amazon river is a source of water which will raise the oceans, all the while forgetting that this water *came* from the oceans. The natural “sources” of carbon aren’t really net sources of carbon, and thus aren’t something we should be comparing our fossil carbon emissions with.

    The problem isn’t that we emit carbon with our activities when we become part of the carbon cycle through burning wood or exhaling, but that we’re bringing *additional carbon* into the biosphere by digging up the carbon which has been sequestered in our geological strata over millenia. It’s not a coincidence that the timing of the rise in atmospheric CO2 perfectly matches humanity’s utilization of fossil fuels.

    BTW — thanks for the podcast — I’ve been enjoying Ben’s book and enjoyed the interview!

    • Modern Survival

      Yes because our carbon is different from other carbon it isn’t like it is the same molecule or anything. @@ Again I really feel this BELIEF is AGW via CO2 is a religion.

  16. Carbon which is actively circulating within the biosphere (whether that’s the atmosphere, or a tree or a blade of grass) is in fact quite different from carbon stored under thousands of feet of rock. One has the ability to trap heat (when it’s in the atmosphere anyway), and one doesn’t. Nature doesn’t return fossil carbon to the atmosphere at a very quick rate; we do. Therein lies the problem.

    • Modern Survival

      Ah using the truth to sell a lie! The question was about the TOTAL CO2 released into the atmosphere on an annual basis, not how much carbon exists. Again this is a BELIEF and therefor a religion it isn’t science and that is SAD that it is sold as science.

      • Citing total carbon released into the atmosphere is misleading, because there’s always a large amount being released into the atmosphere — just as there’s an equal amount being removed from the atmosphere via biological processes (i.e. forest growth). These two processes have been in equilibrium, more or less, for 99.9% of the time that humans have walked the planet. When we open the fossil fuel spigots, we’re adding to the release side of the equation, and a small percentage can and does make a big difference.

        • Modern Survival

          Says the guy that parrots the manta of the AGWites.

          Facts are a stubborn bitch,

          For instance you say, “These two processes have been in equilibrium, more or less, for 99.9% of the time that humans have walked the planet.”

          To whit I say

          Atmospheric carbon at various times in Earth history

          Cambrian Period 4500 ppm
          Carboniferous Period 800 ppm
          Permian Period 900 ppm
          Early Triassic 1750 ppm
          Pre-industrial 280 ppm
          Today 395 ppm

          People claim things like equilibrium but have no clue what the word means. The greatest period of biodiversity ever in earth’s history occurred during Cambrian.

          What do you think the earth was wrong for 99.8% of its existence and we should consider the .2% part we humans have been around for as “normal”? Again this is about belief not facts, not science.

  17. Jack, I thought of another major that might appeal to future permaculturists: Wildlife management. You’ll learn how to manage terrain for deer, elk, pheasant; how to judge habitat and sustainable harvesting. All which would transfer well to permaculture, especially larger sites (and it might keep your chickens from eating your fruit).

  18. Bear with me; I have an example I’d like you to read.

    Say I own a stadium that seats 1,000 people. In any given hour, a thousand people enter the stadium, and a thousand people leave. The people that leave simply walk around to the back door and re-enter, keeping the stadium’s population in equillibrium.

    You have a crowd of a thousand people next door that you’d like to clear out. You say “Hey there’s a thousand people entering that stadium every hour” I can sneak one of my people into there (that’s only .1%!) and nobody will notice.

    After a thousand hours, your crowd is gone, and the stadium next door has 2,000 people in it, right? Did it make any difference that the people already there were entering and leaving the stadium? No. How is it then that you doubled the stadium population by contributing only .1% to their popluation?

    To me, that’s equivalent to your suggestion that our fossil fuel emissions are insignificant because they’re a small percentage of the natural emissions (i.e. the people entering the stadium). It just doesn’t make any difference.

    • Modern Survival

      Except this stadium you speak of has room for about 500 billion and you are talking about 1/3rd of 1 percent of the same, like the percent that CO2 represents of the total atmosphere. I am done here, head this crap way to many times at this point. Go buy carbon credits and pray to the God of Al Gore.

  19. Now, on to your second argument that historical carbon levels have far exceeded our current levels…

    I’m obviously not going to dispute that. But I will point out the fact that humans (or any large mammal, for that matter) did not exist during these periods, and would likely not survive in the conditions they offered. The oceans during this period were largely devoid of oxygen (and life, at least below the level of a few meters in depth), and burped large volumes of hydrogen sulfide, which likely lead to the extinction events that ended the permian (carboniferous) period. You’re suggesting we should experiment with a return to this?

  20. I’ve obviously struck a nerve by pointing out the holes in your reasoning. Maybe it’s not polite for me to poke at something you find comforting.

    • Modern Survival

      No I have just done this for 6 years now, round and round same shit over and over and my time is limited to how frequently I can go line by line though the same shit. I also know a believer in AGW is like a believer in any faith, the belief doesn’t allow for facts to truly be considered.

  21. Has it ever occured to you that permaculture requires a stable climate? Trees don’t survive where the climate changes quickly.

  22. I’m not quite sure how that works, as trees require a decade or more to mature and don’t move well when the climate conditions change (many around my homestead in Michigan are now dying as a result), but I think permaculture is worth learning nevertheless.

    You’re obviously a bright guy, and there’s much we agree on doing even if our motivations may differ; I suppose people on both sides of any issue typically pick their side first and then select the facts to support it rather than the other way around (though I like to think I’m special in that I first gather all facts before making a decision) 8^).

    Thanks for putting up the podcast, as well as being willing to mix it up with me on climate change.

    • Modern Survival

      Most of what is dying in your area is ash from the ash borer, it has little to do with climate change it has to do with the fact that people planted ash to the exclusion of many other trees destroying diversity.

  23. There is plenty of dead ash as well, but the trees I’m referring to are primarily red pines (though I also saw some red maple on their way out after our 2012 summer). I’m a former forester, so trees are something I know and understand better than most.

    • Modern Survival

      So what is killing your pines, pine borers? Like pine beetles which are killing them with blue fungus. This is also a residential mono-crop issue largely. It is also out artificial life extension of short lived pioneer trees like softwood pines reaching an end. It is a natural response, trees die, they are consumed by fungus, if there is an unbalance of things and the trees won’t come to the fungus well nature will fill the void and send the fungus to the trees. As a forester you likely well understand succession, just not this enlightened view of it.

  24. These were planted in the mid ’50s as a mixed stand, which is primarily hardwoods (black oak, red maple, red elm, hickory, etc). I certainly wouldn’t characterize it as an symptom of monocropping.

    Dead and dying pines almost always show signs of beetle damage (and these are no exception), but beetles rarely bring down a forest in good health. Insects and fungal attacks are usually secondary to the primary cause of drought — which weakens the trees and reduces their ability to repel the attack with pitch. I think drought was the primary cause in this case (the vast majority kicked the bucket after our drought in 2012).

  25. P.S. Red pines should easily reach 200 years of age or more, so this isn’t a matter of a dying pioneer species.

  26. If someone or something has been sneaking into my woods to fertilize these trees, I’d be a bit surprised. I think increasing fertility is more of a risk to pines on a large scale than it is to an individual, as it doesn’t harm them so much as it reduces their competitive advantage with hardwood species.

    • Modern Survival

      I didn’t say that is why your trees died, I am pointing out only that trees die for many reasons. You say trees don’t get wiped out in a healthy forest from beetles but I can show you in Colorado where thousands of acres of forest are doing just that from beetles on land that hasn’t been messed with by humans in 100 years as it was protected as national park land.

      Look this is the problem with the AGW religion, followers want to blame everything on one thing. It is warmer so it must be AGW, then it gets colder and global warming is supposedly causing global cooling. We get a hurricane and AGW is blamed. Your pine tree dies and global warming is blamed.

      I will tell you this about the pines in your yard, they sure as hell are not part of a healthy forest and they are not part of a permaculture system either.

      Those that believe in the religion of global warming/shifting/weirdness and the next word of the day when it doesn’t do what they last term said, should do the following.

      Go find out how many actual toxins are created when we burn one ton of coal. Leave CO2 off the list, just find out how much mercury is released, etc. Make that list, be ruthless and find out how bad it really is.

      Now look at your list and compare it to how much carbon burning one ton of coal releases, consider that you release carbon on ever exhalation.

      Then ask yourself since you have a real list of real toxins, why the only thing we are told to worry about today is CO2 when we burn coal.

      If you also make a list of pollution caused by mining coal like sulfur released into ground water which causes sulfur oxide and kills all life in streams and “black deserts” that result from “coal slush” and the most toxic ash known to man coming out of co-generation plants, you may start to ask the right questions.

      AGW is marketed as the problem because it is useful for social engineering. If these people were actually concerned about real threats to our planet, at lease SOME LIP SERVICE would be paid to the two lists I am asking you to make.

      Since nothing is said about all of that, I ask you WHY? Why do you think that is the case, even if you are right about AGW?

  27. I’d be willing to guess that 1 of two situations occurred in the forest you’re referring to in CO. Either a recent drought (much of Colorado is currently in one) or excessive fire suppression (which is the case throughout most of the west) in an environment which has come to rely upon fire. Chances are that both have enabled the beetle outbreak.

    We’re in complete agreement on coal burning. EPA says 20% of kids in the US now have mercury levels high enough to impair brain development. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out what that means, or where that mercury comes from.

    I’d agree that much of the emphasis on CO2 emissions has diverted the spotlight of public oversight from equally important issues, but for me I don’t care exactly what tools are used to kill the beast, just so long as we kill it before it takes us out. Ending coal use (and other fossil sources) accomplishes both goals.

    Fracking for “clean burning” natural gas is currently sacrificing large areas of the country which now have (or will soon) have permanently contaminated groundwater. Oil development in the gulf has all but destroyed that part of the ocean. Acidification of the oceans (which is a purely CO2 issue) is now destroying shellfish farms on the west coast. Lots of problems, one cause.

    • Modern Survival

      “I’d agree that much of the emphasis on CO2 emissions has diverted the spotlight of public oversight from equally important issues, but for me I don’t care exactly what tools are used to kill the beast, just so long as we kill it before it takes us out. ”

      And there is the problem! We won’t kill the beast as you say if we worry about CO2. Companies will just purchase a license to pollute and competition will be pushed out.

      People are easily led by ideology, you are being led by it right now. You are trusting that the people who caused the problems and profit from them want to solve them.

  28. I think they already have that license!

  29. Ben,

    You’re the real-deal man. Good to hear somebody telling it like it is. Like why some permaculture techniques may be a bit optimistic when applied to different scenarios.

    I have to laugh when I read online “one cow can live on one acre, a year”. Well maybe in a magical unicorn farting skittles land. We have pretty awesome soil up here in the Northern VT penninsulla, and it takes about 3-4 acres rotationally grazed to feed one cow from April through November.

    AWESOME BOOK by the way.
    I read the book straight through in about 3 days, now I have to go back and “READ” the book. I’m one of the “simple” people, who think “if I don’t see pics, it didn’t happen”. So thanks for all the great pictures.

    Tony
    Renegade Farms

  30. Jack Spirko asked Ben Falk for what to study at a big university while still advancing your knowledge towards permaculture. Ben struggeled with that question, and I did too. But why not ask those in Academia who’s talks have shown them to be permaculture friendly. So Jack, why not ask dr Fred Prevanza (BEHAVE program), dr Elaine Ingham (your co speaker at Permaculture Voices) or dr Jill Clapperton. Maybe the son of Gabe Brown will give some valuable suggestions too.