Waffle Gardens

Historic Zuni waffle gardens, circa 1919. (Photo courtesy of Kirk Bemis)

For the past 64 years, Jim Enote has planted a waffle garden, sunken garden beds enclosed by clay-heavy walls that he learned to build from his grandmother. This year, he planted onions and chiles, which he waters from a nearby stream. It’s an Indigenous farming tradition suited for the semi-arid, high-altitude desert of the Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico, where waffle gardens have long flourished and Enote has farmed since childhood.

“They are the inverse of raised beds, and for an area where it is more arid, they’re actually very efficient at conserving water,” said Enote, who leads the Colorado Plateau Foundation to protect Indigenous land, traditions, and water. Each interior cell of the waffle covers about a square foot of land, just below ground-level, and the raised, mounded earthen walls are designed to help keep moisture in the soil.

Read more: The Resurgence of Waffle Gardens Is Helping Indigenous Farmers Grow Food with Less Water, Greta Moran, Civil Eats, October 2021.

Serpentine Fruit Wall in Scotland

Dear Kris,

I thought that you might be interested in the two photos that I attach and which were inspired by your 2015 article on Fruit walls.

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A “Dacha” for Everyone? Community Gardens and Food Security in Russia

Russia’s large-scale peri-urban community agriculture has proven to be a very resilient food system. In this guest post, Arthur Grimonpont investigates the phenomenon and wonders if it could be reproduced in other industrial nations, for example in France.

Image: Dacha settlement, Kursk Oblast, by Petr Magera (CC BY 2.0).

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“Diseconomies of Scale”: High-tech Versus Low-tech Supply of Eggs

Summarized from [paywall]: Trainer, T., A. Malik, and M. Lenzen. “A Comparison Between the Monetary, Resource and Energy Costs of the Conventional Industrial Supply Path and the “Simpler Way” Path for the Supply of Eggs.” Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality 4.3 (2019): 9.

Traditional housing for chickens in Zembe, Mozambique. By Ton Rulkens – Traditional housing 2, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Global sustainability requires large-scale reductions in rich world per capita resource use rates. Globalised, industrialised and commercialised supply paths involve high resource, energy, dollar and other costs. However, “The Simpler Way” involving small-scale integrated localised settlements and economies can enable enormous reductions in these costs. This study uses input–output analysis of one product, eggs, to illustrate how big the difference between the two paths can be. [Read more…]

Pigeon Towers: A Low-tech Alternative to Synthetic Fertilizers

pigeon-towers-iranPhoto credit: Bekleyen, A. (2009). The dovecotes of Diyarbakır: the surviving examples of a fading tradition. The Journal of Architecture, 14(4), 451-464..

Many societies, ancient and contemporary, have innovated ways of supplying their fields with fixed nitrogen and phosphorus—two crucial ingredients for crop productivity. One is crop rotation, which alternates nitrogen-fixing and nitrogen-exhausting crops. Farmers around the world make use of chickens, ducks, and geese to add “fresh” guano to their fields. Cattle manure is another useful alternative—although it often lacks in phosphorus. Much more labor intensive than simply adding fossil-fuel derived synthetic fertilizer, these practices tend to build up soil, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and lead to less run-off into rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Persian pigeon towers are one of the more elegant solutions to the nitrogen-phosphorus problem. These are essentially castles built for thousands of wild pigeons, strategically placed in the middle of the fields. Their droppings were shoveled up once a year and sold to nearby farmers. While most pigeon towers existing today are in disrepair, the oldest still standing are dated to the 16th century (but they are assumed to have existed over 1,000 years ago) and helped fuel the cultivation of Persia’s legendary orchards, melons, and wheat production.[1] [Read more…]

Enough with the Vertical Farming

dicksondespommier“In their efforts to develop a system that sustainably supplies cities with a large share of their food, theorists and practitioners of vertical farming face insurmountable obstacles.”

“These include the limited range of crop species that can be grown; the tiny proportion of our population’s total food needs that indoor crops could supply; the elite market being targeted; and the irrelevance of indoor agriculture to the lives and diets of people living in economically stressed rural regions where the bulk of our food is grown.”

“Meanwhile, looming largest among the many factors that will restrict the growth of vertical gardening (a term I believe is more apt than “vertical farming,” given the potential scale and the types of food that can be produced) are its extraordinary energy requirements and heavy climate impact.”

Read more: Enough with the vertical farming fantasies: there are still too many unanswered questions about the trendy practice. Via The Urban Vertical Project.