In this time of global climate change, the end of cheap oil, and growing economic instability and inequity, we wonder: How can we begin to live differently on the earth?
At Dayspring Earth Ministry, we are exploring this question as we build an earth ministry teaching and learning center called Simple Gifts.
Two small energy efficient staff cottages, a solar greenhouse, and annual gardens have been developed. As of early 2013, the Simple Gifts Forest Garden is almost finished.
In the Simple Gifts Forest Garden we create an array of perennial plants that mirror the natural forest habitats of our bioregtion: Shady woodlands and mid-successional open savannah, old field mosaic, and mini-thicket. The garden attracts beneficial insects and birds and contains a diversity of plants that make the garden as self-maintaining as possible.
In the garden we learn how to produce food in a thriving, natural plant community that demonstrates and teaches what forest gardening and permaculture can accomplish. The garden produces a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, berries, and nuts in all seasons.
The design of the forest garden as a whole integrates the garden with the greenhouse, cistern, tool shed, mulch and compost piles, annual vegetable beds, patio and enclosed sitting area, and a vehicle access to bring in materials.
We choose the species in the garden based on their ability to fit a specific niche regardless of region of origin, although we go out of our way to incorporate underutilized eastern natives. We put in some extra work to grow apples and stone fruits, although most of our emphasis is on resilient pest-proof species. We employ an approach to pests and disease that is based primarily on natural and organic methods of control.
As people work in the garden and greenhouse, walk on the garden paths, and sit in restful 'outdoor rooms,' they experience a soulful connection with a landscape that is alive and abundant, wild and delicious.