People complain about cubicle farms, but there's so much we can do to train workers to be productive in them, if we start them young enough.
Do IT workers really need legs?
Think about that for a second -- your garage is housing the equivalent of 120 horses. How much "labor" is that?
Now, we don't really notice that when everything is working well and the gasoline keeps flowing. There are calculations that figure a gallon of oil has something like two weeks of 8-hour/day manual labor embedded in it, energy-wise (using the cute term "energy slaves"). Synthentic fertilizer is basically spending a crap-ton of energy to fix nitrogen -- google "haber bosch energy".
Especially with the covid supply chain disruptions going on now, though, I've been rethinking what "scale" means or if it's even the right metric to be going for. Permaculture has been really interesting to me last few weeks because it doesn't try to go for "scale" per se (though there are claims that properly done it's more productive per acre), but rather it tries to cycle as many energy flows as possible.
So if your yardstick is "how many bushels of corn per acre can I grow?" then yeah, permaculture doesn't 'scale'. But if your yardstick is "how do I get the most output while minimizing energy inputs" and accept that outputs aren't necessarily a monocrop but can be complementary outputs (corn + legumes + animals + fertilizer), then it starts to get really interesting.
I'm a developer not a farmer, but the systems-level thinking I've seen in the permaculture community is extremely fascinating. There's 'labor' embedded everywhere, the question is are you counting it.
That said, I think there is a lot of interesting stuff in permaculture design. But in a lot of cases it is a bit of a pyramid scheme / agile consultancy feel going on.
Definitely, Sepp Holzer is sadly a prominent example of this as well. There was a case of a new project, where a naive women, a true believer of permaculture, invested all her money in a permaculture school project under the guidance of Holzer, where all the ordinary farmers could learn how much more efficient permaculture is. And it failed spectacular and ended in court. [german wikipedia for more, english version is very small]
Not it is not. A horse needs food, also if it is idle. A car does not.
And labour does not equal energy. The advancement of humanity did happen, because we found other energy sources and apply them, so machines can do the hard labour.
(now it is a struggle to adjust that system, but I believe globally the sun is excessively shining to provide all the energy we need)
"I'm a developer not a farmer, but the systems-level thinking I've seen in the permaculture community is extremely fascinating"
And to this I agree very much, but I would still rather bet on more traditional ways of feeding the world.
No one who does this thinks it's efficient. It's just a fun hobby.
Erm ... clearly you have not met true believers of the movement ..
He has a book Restoration Agriculture you can find on Amazon, etc.
Permaculture is nice and I would like to see more of it adopted, but I don't see at all, how we could feed the current world population with it. With general ecologocal farming, yes.
Grapes - grow very well outside, lots of tasty fruit, sensitive to mildew
Figs - grow well outside, fast, but not much fruit yet
Citrus (lemon, lime and kafir lime) - Any frost is damaging, can only grow in pots and bring in during winter. Grows slowly and doesn't produce much fruit
Olives - grow very well outside, don't produce much fruit
Stauntonia - grow very well outside, no fruit so far
Hardy kiwi - grows well outside, produces some fruit
Normal kiwi - grow very slowly, no fruit, sensitive to frost
I would like to try pomegranates, I've seen some people grow them in London
The best croppers in my garden by far are non-tropical fruit - cherry and apple trees.
I think polytunnels (maybe with some kind of light transmitting insulation) and geothermal heating would be the way to go these days in northern climates if trying to grow cold sensitive fruit in larger amounts.
...and leaving those heat sources on continually... well... that's very energy inefficient, to say the least.
This is often done on north-facing walls in greenhouses. In winter when the sun is low, the thermal mass gets a lot of light and absorbs it as heat. Then at night it releases it to balance out nighttime lows. In summer when the sun is high up, because it's a wall there's less surface area that absorbs the radiation, so it's self-regulating to a degree.
Same idea is even used for seasonal thermal storage. Look up "earth batteries" on youtube, usually it's permaculture folks. Basically, put air circulation pipes a couple feet below a greenhouse. In the summer, you flush your (too hot) hot air through it, the ground absorbs the heat, and you cool off your greenhouse. In the winter, the same process absorbs some of the heat out of the ground. Some numbers I've heard is a greenhouse can stay at 50 degrees when it's -20 outside. Basically same idea as a geothermal heat pump, but much simpler because all you need is a blower fan and some pvc.
And a lot of land area.
That last part tends to be the problem.
But: we need to build low energy housing to manage climate change. That means there is very little waste energy available. Last house we built was 230m2, family of 5, had a total energy consumption, including everything from heating to water to home electricity, sitting at 8000kWh/y. That's in southern Sweden (N58deg).
There is no relevant amount of waste energy available.
This is the kind of housing we'll need to meet future energy targets.
Though not inappropriate for the climate, when I lived in Ohio, I grew tomatoes, corn, and pumpkins in containers on my balcony. The pumpkin vines grew into the adjacent tree, and in the fall, there were small orange pumpkins hanging from the tree limbs, like fruit.
In Texas, I grew all kinds of citrus trees in containers on my balcony, as well as watermelons. The trick with watermelons is to hang the fruit inside panty hose so they don't get damaged. It made them wonderfully round.
Again, not a climatic challenge, since they say, "You can plant a broomstick and grow brooms in Houston."
The Hanging Gardens were given their name because of the trees growing above the ground ("hanging").
What was considered a wonder of the world is now something you can just do for fun.
Lime and kafir lime are very tender. If lemons do not work, I would suggest you to choose hardy rootstocks (Poncirus can stand -40C for a short time) and try Yuzu instead. They are seedy, spiny (as lemons or limes), and less interesting as fruit but more hardy. Tangerine is also a relatively hardy citrus.
Olives and Pomegranates, forget about it. Will grow but bearing fruit is a different thing.
Stauntonia looks promising. Can you tell us more about your experience with it?
Have you tried Artic kiwi?
London figs will bear better in pots, probably
Stauntonia - it's an evergreen vine, with fleshy leaves, originally from Myanmar/Korea/Japan. In Japan I think they eat both young shoots and the sausage shaped fruit. It hasn't born fruit yet in 3 years - I think I might need another one for cross-pollination - but grows like crazy and has lots of very fragrant jasmine type flowers in the summer.
Tangerines are a good idea, will try!
When things open up again, you might consider visiting the are of Tenterden just to the south of you, which due partially to a warming climate, is now growing wine grapes for French winemakers (it used to grow primarily hops), as some grape growing areas of France have apparently gotten too warm.
Also, I'm wondering if the citrus grown in Russia ended up ripening in fall rather than in winter or whether they had to harvest the fruit in the middle of the winter. Also, I'm not sure how citrus would work being dug up every winter. Did these trees ripen in the spring? This is all fascinating and something I'd love to try in the US. I'd bet the premium on locally grown foods isn't enough to sustain a northern citrus farm, but it could be a good hobby.
Edit: I found this guy's store page. This is what they say about size:
"Greenhouse in the Snow kits are priced by the lineal foot and are available in 6' increments beginning at 30'. The greenhouses are 17' wide. Most kits we sell are 78' to 102' long. Greenhouses less than 60' long are less cost effective than bigger greenhouses."
I imagine smaller greenhouses like this are still possible though.
Food has more to do with capital and commerce than anything else. The inefficiencies of consolidated global scale distribution require squeezing every penny on the production side.
Refusing protectionist trade policy became popular among the people who make these decisions, a trend which accelerated after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We're in the middle of a crisis which brought to stark light the lack of resilience created by this relentless focus on efficiency and productivity at any cost.
But this is policy, not immutable law. Markets do predictable things in the absence of trade protection, subsidy, and state investment, true; but they do predictable things in the presence of them also.
Today you have buyer cartels purchasing in bulk and fixing prices. They demand quantities and pricing that shut the market to most players.
I can’t buy lettuce in NY at retail because the supply chain from Arizona and California is fubar. Farmers in NY will be harvesting lettuce from high tunnels soon, but they don’t have access to markets and can’t scale.
The truth is that it makes horrible sense to ship crops to the US from anywhere outside of the US.
US agriculture policy is broken fundamentally. It is corn, soy, wheat. It is what is used as the feed stock for industrial food production. Basically, all the pseudo-food that lines your grocery store shelves. In the US, your tax dollars are used to subsidize the production of this "food" so that it is artificially cheap.
We grow a lot of food in hothouses in Canada...
Outside of Alberta, most of Canada's electrical generation is very low carbon (nuclear and hydro) per electricitymap.org.
Slowly developing insulated indoor aquacultures, led lighting, robotic harvesting, perfect climate control, gas mixture, mineral and nutrients.
With near future robotics we'll see near zero carbon footprint production with near zero human work load for a fairly wide range of healthy foods.
Might work in other places though.
They use a similar method in that thermal mass is used to store energy, but instead of trapping the heat with soil/straw for a season the daily heat is stored in masonry, stone, or water. On sunny winter days it can be -20°F outside while the greenhouse is 80°F, though a string of dark days can mean that supplemental heating is needed.
I'm not sure if it would work out cheaper. Certainly not for a business. But even for a hobbyist possibly not. I'm not sure it's even interesting as a display garden.
The bio-hacking (breeding) of plants is cool though.
The most tropical fruit that can be grown in cold climates in North America is the Paw Paw. (Survives -30 degrees)
"It belongs to the genus Asimina in the same plant family (the Annonaceae) as the custard-apple, cherimoya, sweetsop, ylang-ylang and soursop."
The fruits are non culinary, but is an excelent rootstock
In any case the "lemon" of cold places is Chaenomeles (and not all are able to bear fruit).
For example, despite having a copy of one of Holzer's books next to my bed, I downvoted your "Sepp [heart]" comment. It's just not the right comment for HN: no context, and emoticons are really frowned on. If instead you'd written a few sentences explaining why you admire him, so that people who don't know who he is could understand, you'd probably have gotten a bunch of upvotes.
I'm sorry if it feels like people are attacking you. It's really not, instead it's really about trying to keep the site as good as it currently is. Almost all comment heavy sites of this age have declined to be unusable by now, but because of the different moderation approach, HN manages to (at least occasionally) still have quality discussion.
Also given that megadroughts, floods, and hurricanes are likely to be the new normal, sufficient capacities of solar-powered desalination will be important to sustain food production levels. My main immediate concern with climate change is that greater numbers of and more intense storms will destroy infrastructure and food production, leading to wars and/or pan migration.
This is interesting, as massive greenhouse are seen in fiction as the only way to grow crop in hostile environments: Mars, the Moon, Space.
Who knew we would be making our own planet a hostile environment.
Growing part of your own food is a good idea. We should all plant some potatoes this year – a not so laborious way of producing nutritious food.
I'm sure my garden is nowhere near as efficient as a real farmer could make it, but that's hardly the point. And a few rows of potatoes (even with my inefficient management), are a much more productive use of the land than a typical suburban lawn.
The scale would be much smaller, and the cost higher of course.
With modern crisper I bet you could
Make some amazing frui trees.
But some plants are very tricky and costly.
I remember making my first transgenetic GMO in an afternoon back in the day.