When we planted our first orchard, I was of the mindset that this whole permaculture system was going to work a certain way. I was looking forward to a management system of “set it and forget it”. In other words, once we planted all this stuff it would take care of itself. After all, I watched all these miracle videos online of people doing things with little/no work involved. You know, let nature do it all.
Nature did it alright! By not following the wisdom of managing the vegetation in our orchard properly, we had an explosion in the population of mice and moles. Can you guess what these long-toothed four-legged varmints love to chew on through the winter? That’s right, our young fruit trees! By not cutting back the grasses, clover and comfrey in our orchard prior to winter, we essentially gave the mice and moles building materials to create critter castles around our trees.
We ended up replacing about 40 fruit trees costing nearly $700. Add to that the labor to pull them out, re-plant new trees and an entire year of production lost and you have one expensive lesson. I’ve often said that I don’t mind making mistakes so long as I learn from them. Frankly, this was a painful lesson but I’m glad I made it very early on in our establishment. This experience has served as a general management guide during our establishment process.
“Set it and forget it” is a great marketing slogan for an infomercial gadget. When it comes to establishing and working with natural systems however, disciplined management is a key ingredient in successfully getting the system to a stage where it can begin taking care of itself.