With your rather obsessive host, Category5.
I try to do one or two, ridiculous, over the top, excessive projects each year that make people question my sanity. This year is no different. What challenge have I presented for myself this season? I plan on building an impenetrable fence. Acres and achres of fence. My only building material? Willow Sticks. Oh, And I only have about a month and a half of the right weather to do it in. And…I will have to wait about five years to see the results. No biggy.
Why would I do this to myself? It has been an ongoing, ESSENTIAL problem to solve. A task for the Dark Green Mountain Survival Research Centre. How does one make essential fencing in a time when, post peak industrial empire, store bought, expensive, fencing is no longer available, either because of an abrupt stop to resource and energy input supplies to create such products…or… a slow hollowing out of the economy where you can no longer afford to buy such products… or… Bank Overlord debt financing to buy such items dries up or collapses… or… one day you just wake up and say to yourself, “Well, its just stupid to get into umpteen thousands of dollars in debt for something that is just going to break down anyhow, while I am spending my life at a job I don’t want to be at to pay for it all”.
Fixing fencing in the spring is an, every year, heavy duty job for any farmer. I have fence repair to do myself… in my ample free time. Snark.
I really am working my way around to talking about solving fencing issues buy growing a LIVING FENCE. Specifically, a WILLOW fence, One where the materials are free and will get stronger over time while other fences get weaker over time. A post apocalyptic WALL. “We Are Going To Build A Wall”. I am going all Trump on your ass this year without spending the gross national product, Permaculture Style. Too bad I cant make the U.S. pay for my wall.
I’m also going all Survival advice from Monty Python, this round.
So, I have an impossible job to do, armed only with a herring.
Well, a herring, loppers, clippers, a hammer and a roof rack on our disposable Honda Civic, to tie all the willow onto from ditches, far and wide (more on turning a small car into a truck another time)
(April 6th) Its spring. At least what passes for spring here. The sun has come out today. I step out of the house, survey the doomstead, take a deep breath and say….
“What a shit hole!”
With the snow gone, everything is brown as nothing is growing yet, I notice every pile of recyclable materials, indistinguishable from garbage piles, everything that didn’t get put away, every good idea that didnt quite work, everything that broke, rotted, rusted or got over grown, all the wasted effort that now needs to be fixed, moved out of the way, torn down, replaced or thrown out.
I begin to throw myself at a project, then go, “Its too fucking cold. I’m going back inside”.
I know I need to psyche myself up. I know I need to go from a winter full stop to hitting the ground running, hoping this isn’t the year I give myself a heart attack or injure myself badly.
We have gone through the snow season, are about to move into the mud season, followed by the biting bug season and then the too hot to do shit season. The fall is the only really nice season here when it would be nice to be all nature guy but that is also the busy season of harvest and the race to prepare for the next 6 months of cold.
Now, doesn’t going back to nature sound all romantic.
We have interviewed alot of people that wanted to live here. We often heard, “I just want to live a simple life, close to nature, and eat healthy food”.
We roll our eyes and think to ourselves, “Well, that would be nice. Maybe we should move to the city where that idea is appealing, go on camping trips a few times a year and have parks to walk in, while going to trendy, financially successful farmers markets that only work because of the excess wealth.”
Oh, stop being all judgy, Other C5. You had the same romanticism before Mother Nature stuck her strap on up the poop shoot of life.
I hear ya, Other C5.
(April 8th) I cut willow today. Its seems a bit early but its going to be a huge job
(April 9th) Another Day. Another Snow Storm. Good thing MrsC5 moved the car down to the road last night… and that the high, destructive winds hit further north. Its one of the reasons we are doing this. Global Warming doesn’t necessarily mean warm. It means a complete rearrangement of existing weather patterns… and fierce winds, while they do it. We are building wind breaks around the garden. Micro Climates.
So. Why willow, instead of more thorny plants to keep the ninjas out?
One word. Salicylic Acid. OK, thats two words. And Fast… and Free . FOUR. Four words… Ha, Ah Ah…
(C5 likes FREE. Nothing is free though. Its all sweat equity)
Salicylic Acid is found in Willow Bark. Preppers will know it works like aspirin. I have had to use this in the bush a few times, myself, to solve debilitating headaches. I always seem to forget something essential when heading away from civilization. But that is not why we are planting it. It also acts as a ROOTING HORMONE. This makes it quickly want to throw roots out. Some people will put an aspirin in plant cuttings to trick it into rooting. I don’t have time for that. I just want to drive them deep in the ground and walk away. The other reason, is I find willow growing in ditches everywhere. The road crews have to cut them back often. You can easily identify them, first thing in the spring, by the Pussy Willows. See the photos at the top of the page. That was a test plot I put in before going over seas. Proof it works. Later in the year, you can identify it by spear head shaped leaves.
I also put it in other areas that didn’t work. They had been out competed by other weeds. This was not a fail. It just taught me that I need to weed around it until it is firmly established. We want to do this job, first thing in the spring, while the ground is wet, So I can drive the cuttings at least two feet in the soil, so the roots have time to establish, with plenty of summer grow time. Also, because this is the time of year when it is in a race to out grow its competition. We “Stressed” the plant by cutting it, and this has put it into over drive, trying to save its own life. Sort of like Adrenalin in humans. You wont make its life easier by waiting for leaves and keeping them on before or after planting. These don’t seem to make it. They are only focusing on leaf growth at this point, not roots and wood growth.
In the years to come, we will then bend them around each other so it becomes like a chain link fence, that you just can’t push trough.
(Not mine. Stolen from alastairheseltine.com)
Clearly, you are not going to see the fence in this article. Instead, we will keep coming back to it in future articles to see how it is doing. If it fails, you get to watch it fail. Thus the Research part of Dark Green Mountain.
Now, before I lose the interest of the Manly Men out there that are getting distracted by wanting to go out and shoot bunnies, this is essential survival training for TEOTWAWKI (thats, The End Of The World As We Know It, for newbies). If you actually want to harvest anything in the garden you planted, first you need to keep the deer out. They can jump 8ft fences, so you want to go higher. The two legged garden thieves are also an issue, especially once people get hungry. This should also be a good way to HIDE a garden. Out of sight, out of mind. And hide yourself, while we are at it. You may be Rambo, but you have got to sleep sometime. If you like sleep, its best to do it in an enclosure others cant get into to catch you sleeping. At the absolute minimum, you can use these barriers to force people to come at you, from a direction you can see them coming. A visual barrier also defeats most snipers… or just Looky Lue’s.
Visual barriers like this are common in other parts of the world. See my article, Sharp and Pointy Things. https://darkgreenmountainsurvivalresearchcentre.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/survival-advice-from-south-america-part-2-sharp-and-pointy-things/
But, in the Caribbean, its common to see this, for the same purpose. Its the most common fencing material. Its sort of unsightly to north amerikans, prissy fucks that we are…but it does have the added bonus of that, if you move, you can take your fence with you. Chattel fencing.
Now, a Palisade seems like a good idea for the apocalypse. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palisade but it is a ridiculous amount of work, without having an army of people to build it, and it will rot rather fast. I had given this idea some thought but realised it was suicidal to try. Why not let your your palisade grow itself… and grow stronger over time.
Besides, Nothing invites a police raid or mental health evaluation, like building a palisade. A tactical hedge on the other hand, makes you a gardening enthusiast.
Now, for the Technical Tactical Growies out there, instead of the Tactical Tyke Shooters and looters… I mentioned Micro Climates near the top. Besides stopping heavy winds, It will also create summer shade around the edges for shade loving plants, while reducing summer evaporation. It will also make for happy pollinators and bug loving birdies to add there own squirty fertilizer to the soil. And it should trap some of the days heat on your garden into the night.
Willow is also good for bank stabilization, terrace building and stopping water erosion. The roots hold the ground together. All issues related to the new weather and rain bombs that have been showing up the last few years. If you are going to get a year of rain in 24 hrs, holding the ground in place is pretty important.
Now, buy the time you read this, its probably too late for you to take on an obsessive build like this. Besides, once it is in…its in. Instead, its not too late to just stick 3 or 4 willow stakes in the ground and just do the permaculture process of Observing. Observe what nature does. What it likes. What it doesnt. Next time you need a trellis stick, you can just walk over and cut yourself one.
(April 15. Still Waiting for the ground to thaw. Melt. Unfreeze. Gathering willow furiously, though)
I have built myself a few Hadrian’s Walls before. Nothing new to me about this build or solving this fencing issue.
5 years later, its getting close to full breakdown. I am in a race to get the willow fence going before it is completely gone. I’ll save you the photos. It looks like shit now (F.Y.I. Recycled electric wire, barbed wire and recycled clothes line tops the fence about 9 ft. I call this my garden Auschwitz)
Then I did an even more obsessive build. The historic Dead Hedge. Real heart attack inspiring job.
This is being taken back even faster and we will do a full report, “The Grateful Dead Hedge, Redux” soon. After good and heated discussions with Permies, we came to the conclusion that the dead hedge was good to use wile getting a Live Hedge going.. The Dead Hedge eventually becomes a Hugal mound that feeds and provides stored moisture for the living hedge
(April 17- Another day, another Franken-Storm. This is a storm stretching, quite literally, from Cuba to Cana’duh. It stretches a quarter of the planet. Its huge. Luckily, we are getting the rainy edge, instead of freezing sleet, further east and north. This should speed up ground thaw so I can start pounding willow stakes into the soil. But this weather gives me the opportunity to stop cutting willow today and do some writing)
I got a note from one of my relatives. It read-
I read your recent post and I have a comment concerning your pussies. For the last 5 years I’ve become very knowledgeable in bioengineering techniques including live staking which is the foundation for your live fences. I have used this method on just about every project I’ve worked on over the past 5 years for bank stabilization. I’ve also monitored the success/failure of these techniques, so I know what works and what doesn’t. You said you are going to start collecting willows in the spring. Be careful here. Willows should be harvested in their dormant stage, so you should be collecting them in late winter early spring. You will need to get those willows into the ground as soon as it thaws. I’m assuming you chose 3′ lengths because that’s how long your hole starter (rebar, dowel, stick) is and you intend to insert 3/4 to 7/8 of the length of willow into the ground. This will only leave about a few inches (minimum of 2 buds worth) of the willow sticking out of the ground. The deeper you go, the higher success as the willow tips will reach into the water table. If you know your groundwater table is shallow then you can aim for more shallow willow insertions. We typically use 2 m long willows. If you want to make sure your willows don’t develop disease, paint the top of the willow (to seal the top cut wound, if you have one) and soak the bottom of the willow in root hormone to promote rooting activity.
Thanks T. I’ll post this a little earlier than intended so that other folks have time to do some test plots. To start, one of the reasons I chose willow was the Salicylic Acid. A rooting hormone. Most sticks you put in the ground will throw leaves and seem to grow…then be dead by fall. No roots. Willow, on the otherhand, will throw roots if left in water. I saw this all the time, back when I used to build bent willow chairs. If your test plots fail, you may try to start the plants in buckets, and toss in some aspirins to speed things up. Same chemical. Willow bark can also be used to trick other plants into rooting. We don’t have long, strait willow here so I work with what I got. Longer will be better, to face weed competition. Willow seems to be very forgiving. I have accidentally planted some upside down and they still grew. But the longer the better and I am doing them as stakes so I can just hammer them into the ground… as deep as possible. Im expecting a certain fail rate. I will have to come in next year and fill in any spaces that did not take. I’ll use longer stakes any place they will face obvious competition.
We will cut this short, because you don’t need to see photos of sticks in the ground, and you may want to go out and cut some before the leaves start. Even if you are a bit late, in warmer climates, go give it a try and observe. Willow is pretty forgiving.
Now, this isn’t supposed to the authoritative post on live fences. It’s just to point you in the right direction. Now you know such a thing exists. You can type, LIVING WILLOW FENCE, into your search engine, go to IMAGES and see lots of different versions… around the world. https://www.ecosia.org/images?q=living+willow+fence There are lots of ways to do this. England and the rest of Europe have been using hedge rows and live fences forever. In fact, some parts of Hadrian’s Wall are a boarder of hawthorn because the Roman occupiers drove spikes of hawthorn into the ground to defend themselves from… everybody else who didn’t want to be occupied. Sort of like the U.S. Empire Storm Troopers today. A few of the spikes grew and spread. Hawthorn is pretty rare to root though… which is why we are starting with willow. I’ll try to trick some hawthorn into rooting, some other time.
Another version of this is “Hedge Laying”
During WWII, European hedge rows were problematic enough that they built specialized tank attachments to cut through them… since regular tanks could not get through them.
Once this latest storm breaks, its time for me to start hammering in stakes. At least I hope the ground is ready. We’ll see.
(One last afterthought before posting. Willow can also be used to help terrace junk land without rock walls…and help keep rivers or streams in place https://darkgreenmountainsurvivalresearchcentre.wordpress.com/2017/09/14/c5-on-terracing-junk-land-survival-advice-from-pre-inca-south-america-part-13-permaculturepermanent-culture/ )
This is my last, obsessive, Hadrian’s Wall, fence build. Its for all the marbles. Not just my garden. I’m putting up defensive barriers, as time and willow cuttings allow. I’ll soon be too old to build any more fences. I want to get old, watching my palisade grow.
So… get out there and build yourself a tank proof, sniper scuttling, Super Storm resistant wall. Plant like your life and your children’s lives depends on it. Because it does.
Since people have been mentioning the Canada part of DGM, why not have DJ-C5 end this with some Retro Canadiana. Nothing is more Canadian than RUSH. It leaves me thinking of a future of Climate Refugees.
O.K. Well, that was depressing, even for the Dark Green Mountain.
So, lets make this more inspirational.
Two good Holy Grail moments deserves another. Rather good, Survival advice from Monty Python.
I sure could use an anarcho syndicate commune. Or more peasants. Whatever works. I’m leaning towards peasants at the moment.
(Thanks, D.B. for the donation and kind words)