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Wild, Recombinant Fruit & Nut Forests of the Lower Clearwater River, Idaho

I paid my first visit to the lower Clearwater canyon on September 5-7, 2016.  I was so excited by what I saw I am writing this report the day of departure.

The lower Clearwater canyon (the bit that I saw) is one of the best examples of a wild food forest that I have ever seen. One of the North American counterparts to the wild fruit and nut forests of Kyrgyzstan.

David Holmgren describes recombinant ecosystems as a mix of non-native and native species co-existing on the edges of human settlements.  The Clearwater food forests are good examples of this concept.  Here are some of the main fruit and nut species involved.

Of the non-native component, apples figure prominently as the old homestead trees have been raided often by bears and their seeds distributed across the landscape. Plum thickets are also common.  The same goes for pears, and sundry other fruit to a much lesser extent.  Himalayan-type blackberries are common.  Naturalized, domestic cherry trees are more abundant here than anywhere I’ve seen. I notice Lycium barbarum in some places, which is close relative of the goji berry.  The only nut tree obviously naturalizing (that I saw) was the black walnut.  I did not notice English walnut trees, but suspect there would be some of that happening.  The walnuts and cherries are mostly spread by birds. 

The strong, native fruit component includes serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), blue elderberry, hawthorn, chokecherry, currants, gooseberries, cascara (Rhamnus purshiana), sumac and hackberry (Celtis occidentalis).  This wild food component was no doubt managed by the Nez Perce population prior to white settlement and the addition of the naturalized fruit/nut component. 

The result of the intermingling is a large fruit production in the environment.  This feeds wild animals and birds, the chain of life and to a small extent, wildcrafting humans.  Some people wildcraft to a small extent for family use, but the sustainable production of this resource is barely being touched.

The object of my visit was to teach a wildcrafting workshop at Vedrica community, which is located along Lolo Creek.  In 2015 one of the big, wildfires in the Clearwater burned through the property and torched most of the buildings and forests. The whole property was blackened and many trees died.  In 2016 the ground is covered by a profusion of native and weedy non-native ground covers.  The resident recombinant fruit forest I which was particularly strong at this property) was partially killed but many of the trees are recovering. Blue elderberry is resprouting heavily and there is plethora of new seedlings which have sprung up in the wake of the fire.  The elderberry harvest is going to be huge in the years ahead.  The community has openings for new members if anyone is inspired to be part of a land-based community inspired by Anastasia of the Ringing Cedars of Russia book series. If interested contact me for details.

The lower Clearwater canyon is just one of many recombinant fruit forests I have seen in my travels around the Interior Pacific Northwest.

Some other examples of recombinant food forests are:

The Columbia River valley in Stevens County (northeast Washington).

The Colockum Creek drainage outside of Wenatchee Washington has a strong component of black walnut in the riparian stream corridor.

One section along Lake Chelan had an old nut orchard and the vicinity has strong groves of English and black walnut.

The Loomis/Palmer Lake area of northwest Okanogan County (north-central Washington) has many naturalized apricot and mulberry trees.

Part of the Omak grade coming down from Loup Loup pass has English and Black walnut as part of a mixed recombinant forest. 

All of these Washington examples have strong native fruit components of the aforementioned species.

All of these examples and the Clearwater canyon are set in semi-arid, mountainous, landscapes with many similarities to the habitats and species of the fruit and nut forests in Central Asia.

Here are some references to the wild fruit and nut forests of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan (which I first read about over 30 years ago). 

The Fruit Forests of Kyrgyzstan: Introduction


Gary Paul Nabhan’s visit to Kazakhstan,


Saving Ancient Walnut Forests In the Valleys of Central Asia


Bibliography on the walnut-fruit forests of southern Kyrgyzstan


Reclamation and development of walnut and fruit forests in southern Kirghizia. (Vosstanovlenie i razvitie orekhovo-plodovykh...

1968, by A. F. Zarubin - out of print.


"The main thing is the networking"

Hello permaculturists,
As I prepare for the  2016 Northwest Permaculture Convergence I ponder the words of Penny Livingston, who was passing through my new home-town of Port Townsend yesterday.  She said “I’m so over the talking heads conferences, listening to one speaker after the other. The main thing is the networking.”
The NWPCC will be a BIG networking opportunity. There will be hundreds of permaculturists and hundreds of allies from other sustainable movements.  This means thousands of reunion contacts and thousands of new contacts. People will get a chance to meet at mealtimes, breaks, at workshops, at the skillshare, and in small and large groups. We are accepting proposals for round-table discussions and “working groups” up to the conference and we will have an ad hoc scheduling board at the conference.
So far a number of NWPCC 2016 Tracks have emerged.
Fruit & Nut Track
International Development & Permaculture Track
Natural Health Track
Permaculture Pioneers Reunion Track
Decolonizing Permaculture and Anti-Oppression Track
Artisanal skills as found at the Skillshare Village
We are looking for people to present workshops or group sessions on all of these tracks (and more). If you know someone who would be appropriate please let them know, or send me their contact info.
Thanks, and I hope to see many of you there.
Michael Pilarski, [email protected]
There are lots of good reasons to get together - sharing information, friendships, networking, marketing, synergy and fun.



Two book reviews and some politics

Miraculous Abundance: One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World.
Perinne and Charles Herve-Gruyer. 2016. Chelsea Green Publishing. 253 pages. $24.95 retail.
Wow! What a great book.  Very clear writing on how we could feed the world’s people on small-holdings. We don’t need industrial agriculture! Perinne and Charles show how.  Quite a feat to make a living on farming a quarter acre (and with employees). Their system is based on permaculture, forest gardening, hand labor, biointensive microagriculture and such-like.  Great example and an inspiration to anyone who aspires to make a living on a micro-farm.   
Swidden-Fallow Agroforestry in the Peruvian Amazon
William M. Denevan and Christine Padock, Editors. 1988. Advances in Economic Botany, Volume 5. 107 pages.
Another seminal book in pointing out the extent and values of indigenous forest farming systems. In this case the Peruvian Amazon, but the authors also draw some world-wide conclusions.  Worth reading for the person interested in subtropical indigenous forest farming systems, agroforestry and highly relevant to permaculturists. The cataloging of indigenous agroforestry (and agricultural) systems are being recorded at the same time as they are disappearing. There are more and more studies like this that us contemporary forest farmers can learn from. 
I just looked on Amazon and they are currently selling from $212 to $1367, so keep your eyes open for a cheap copy (I found one) and in the meantime go to the public library system.
We all remember the saying that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned”.  We could possibly say that about the current crop of US politicians. “The politicians fiddled while the US burned”.  But it would be more appropriate to say that most politicians are aiding and abetting the looting of Earth’s resources and public purses by the 1%. “The politicians get paid off to fan the flames of the US burning”. The level of complacency and compliance in the United States is still huge, but gradually shrinking. Grow your gardens and work for social change.  Time will tell where the story goes.
I was just doing research into the voting choices on my Washington August 2 Primary Election
In researching Sam Wright (on the ballot for US Senator) who prefers the Human Rights Party. I found this info. Sounds like a good start to me, though it could also link up with Nature’s Rights and stick up for them, since without a healthy planet none of us will be alive to seek pursuit of happiness. 
The Human Rights Party
The Basic Principles for the Human Rights Party are as follows:
  1. All forms of offensive warfare, including preemptive actions, must be eliminated.
  2. All types of discrimination, in any form, must be eliminated.
  3. All individuals must have access to quality health care.
  4. All individuals must have access to decent personal housing alternatives.
  5. All individuals must have access to quality educational opportunities.
  6. All individuals must have access to viable employment opportunities.
  7. All disabled individuals must have adequate resources to insure their pursuit of happiness.
  8. All retired individuals must have adequate resources to insure their pursuit of happiness.
  9. Revenues from all forms of taxation must be adequate to fully fund all of the above.
PS,  I was also glad to see my friend James Robert Deal on the ballot for Governor and I earlier blogged about checking out his campaign ideas.