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Floodplain Pawpaws, part 2

Seedling pawpaws are said to be of a lesser quality/less productive than named, grafted varieties. I was hoping to plant seedlings from orchard seed because they have good potential for good genetics. I half assumed these might be from someone’s named trees in a yard, garden, or orchard somewhere. I was taken aback a bit when I found they came from along the Clinton River floodplain and were probably native survivors.

Driving home from Patrick and Stacy’s with my little pawpaws in the passenger seat, my brain began to race. I started to feel a bit misty eyed. I know what some of you may be thinking…here comes the airy fairy bs. Well, it was deep to me. You see, I grew up in Clinton Twp which is right near the Clinton River. My family were some of the first European settlers in what is today known as macomb county, right in the heart of the Clinton river watershed. In our culture there is so little connecting us to our ancestry and our past, that the thought of pawpaws from the Clinton River has some deeper connection for me. When my family members arrived to this region there would have been towering American chestnuts. There would have been an understory or forest edge of hazels and all types of native fruits. And the floodplains would have pawpaws and groundnuts and other foods. One could walk through the forest and find lots to eat. Most of these plants are gone now. There seems to be correlation between the settlements and the diminishing diversity of edible species in the ‘wild’. Some schools of thought within the ethnobotanist and anthropology communities believe that the earlier settlers (native americans) in this land favored species that produced an abundance of food in a some archaic but incredibly abundant form of edible forest gardening. While it may never fully happen in my lifetime, I want to see forests around me return to this state. The American chestnut has been decimated by blight, but crosses with other chestnut species has produced blight resistant hybrids. Last fall I found 7 such trees in walking distance of my house. While hunting for morels in Rouge Park last week I came across a small stand of hazels. Nearby there was a large patch of nettles and what looked like jerusalem artichokes. Many of the pieces are there, all we need to do is put them together. I hope to start mini nurseries for this effort now. I hope to plant as many of these plants as I can. We’ll be re-introducing groundnuts, ramps, and fiddleheads this spring.

Yesterday was a crazy day of work and being locked out of our house. Going down to the river to plant the little pawpaws last night turned into a family affair because there wasn’t really anywhere to go. We walked past the sugar maples our neighbors tapped early this year. Past the mayapples and patches of wild ginger. And to the rivers edge amongst the hackberries, black walnuts, and sycamore trees. I explained to zackery and the baby in Jess’ womb that one day there might not be grocery stores to feed us, but if we act now, the forest will feed us. We said a little blessing for the trees and asked that the Creator’s hands would be upon them. I woke this morning to the sound of rain. I smiled and was grateful that the new little pawpaws were in good hands.

20120415-082149.jpg wild ginger


Floodplain Pawpaws, part 1

A couple weeks ago I was directed to Patrick Crouch’s blog Little House on the Urban Prairie by our friend and intern Vicki. She said he was giving away pawpaw seedlings. I had read his early posts about the paw paw seedlings, so I was quite excited about maybe using them for our forest garden. As of right now we have several named and grafted varieties to be planted in a couple weeks in the forest garden. A few seedlings would be cool too. As other people responded to the post it became clear that the goal wasn’t really to distribute seedlings so more people could grow the fruit in their gardens, but to re-introduce them into their native flood plain areas. This was exciting because I have similar dreams.

Brightmoor, the neighborhood we call home, is a flood plain area. The forest garden sits on a plataeu of sorts looking right into the floodplain. I’ve never seen so much water come and go from an area so quickly. I suspect that the stormwater drains and outlets from impervious surfaces throughout the watershed make these water charges even more intense and violent. I often wonder what the land looked like before deforesting for farms and before the supremacy of the automobile, and it’s companions asphalt and concrete.

Zack playing in an old van on the floodplain

One of my personality quirks/flaws is that I think too much and act too little. For over a year I’ve had fantasies about planting seedling pawpaws on the floodplain. The seeds that I ordered last year got moldy when I tried to stratify them in the fridge and I haven’t planted the new ones yet. Patrick’s initiative was just the kick in the butt I needed to get this vision started and I’m mighty grateful. After seeing all his little seedling pawpaws, hazels, and chestnuts I feel new inspiration to make it happen.

I don’t want to get too long winded so I will continue with a part 2

Dryad’s Saddle, Polyporus squamosus, is one of the dominant fungal species on the floodplain and doesn’t taste too bad when young

Not so silent spring

April is a big month over at Wild Earth. Preparing for our first big market day of the year on May 5th. We lost 400 lettuce seedlings in a cold frame on one of those 86 degree days a few weeks back. Quite disappointing, but we press on and plant salad, arugula and a variety of radishes.

The songbirds have returned to us with their morning chorus quite early this year, as have the spring peepers. Fruit trees went in bloom 4-6 weeks early and it was 86 in march. Yesterday it snowed. Global weirding in full effect!

The Brightmoor Forest Garden will be planted April 29th (arbor day weekend) and we would love to have help making that happen. Trees should start coming soon, some of the ground cover seeds have already been planted, and most of the other supplies have already arrived! I will post the project description soon. Happy spring!



Spring in the Midwest

Monday, March 12, 2012.  Week two of Wild Earth Internship.  Very mild temperature- even for March. Rain in the morning: tea and muffins started the day with a discussion about …Permaculture of course.  Rain cleared up in the afternoon- just as the weather forecasts suggested.  (how odd!)  Time to hit the garden.  The robins are back in town- their songs are such a delight to hear after the winter.   Blue jays squawking very loudly… and other sounds of the city not far. Didn’t see the hawk today, but noticed deep prints from a deer walking through the garden.  Welcome to Detroit!   Shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows the tools of the day.   This old body will get a work out in the dirt.  What a delight to be walking on and working with the earth.  VM

New Blog

Welcome to Wild Earth Permaculture Blog.  We will be documenting our experiments and experiences with Urban Permaculture in Detroit.  Hope you enjoy!