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The Resilient Farm Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach

The Resilient Farm Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach

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An excerpt from Chapter 4: Fertility Harvesting and Cycling
An excerpt from Chapter 4: Fertility Harvesting and Cycling

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Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing on May 02, 2014
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06/08/2014

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 Fertility Harvesting and Cycling 
 󰀱􀀰󰀷
What if it so happened that urine was toxic to plants󰀬 or that it simply didn’t contain nutrients plants need? Of course󰀬 just the opposite is true󰀻 all our excess bodily nitrogen goes into our urine—the same nitrogen that is often the limiting factor to plant growth󰀮 Coincidence? Doubtfully󰀬 but either way󰀬 the imperative is simple󰀺 Cycle value in the system—transform a waste from one element into food for another󰀬 always󰀮 Urine is one of the most valuable resources gener-ated on the homestead󰀬 and no human habitat firing on all of his cylinders would waste much of it󰀮 We have found it relatively easy to use urine during the growing season but hard to make optimal use of it during the long dormant season󰀮 When plants are growing—gen-erally from about April to October—I urinate either directly on the base or near the base of trees and shrubs that need more fertility󰀮 I look out for the plants that are growing the slowest and fertilize those as a prior-ity󰀮 I aim to grow twelve to twenty-four inches of new shoot per year on most fruit trees󰀬 a lot less on new nut trees󰀬 slightly more on older nut trees󰀬 and maybe six to twelve inches on most shrubs󰀬 aside from elderberry󰀬 which is super vigorous and can grow two feet per year easily for the first few years󰀮 Not surprisingly󰀬 these are found more often the far-ther I walk from my zone 󰀱 (kitchen󰀬 office󰀬 workshop󰀬 bedroom)󰀮 When you find a plant in need of nitrogen󰀬 urinate at the base of it—the younger the plant󰀬 the closer to the base the better󰀬 because of its limited root development󰀮 As plants get older I like to fertilize them farther out from the base󰀮 Avoid depositing urine in the same spot over and over again or repeating use on the same plant󰀮 When you do fertilize with urine󰀬 get the liquid gold in deep󰀬 where the plant roots can access it󰀮 During or before a real rainstorm󰀬 you can spread more broadly on the surface󰀮 Using human urine on plants entails walking around the landscape to a larger extent than we might other-wise󰀮 And while it’s easy to cycle your fertility back into the landscape during the growing season󰀬 the dormant season presents another challenge entirely󰀮 In my cold climate󰀬 for six to seven months of the year󰀬 storing urine presents several challenges󰀮 First󰀬 although sterile when it leaves your body󰀬 urine becomes highly active sun does give the added advantage of being able to grow in the piles themselves󰀬 utilizing the nutrients  just sitting there in half-finished piles󰀮 Instead of sun󰀯shade criteria󰀬 however󰀬 we locate the piles for complete ease of access and for consideration of what we want to fertilize downhill from the pile󰀬 as runoff is unavoidable unless you compost inside a shed or similar location󰀮
U󰁲󰁩󰁮󰁥
Human urine is a near-perfect plant food󰀬 and a hydrated󰀬 healthy human being urinates a half dozen times a day or more󰀮 That’s hundreds of easy opportunities each season to feed back into the sys-tem that feeds you󰀮 Using urine as fertilizer on the homestead can only seem strange in a relationship between people and plants with incomplete cycles and distance󰀬 rather than connection󰀮 Raising plants without offering them back your excess nutrients is like being given a gift by someone repeatedly without returning the favor󰀮 Because of failing septic systems and especially urban waste treatment systems󰀬 industrial humans are literally “pissing on” fish in the rivers downstream from their sewage treatment plants and the creatures of the sea into which that river flows󰀮 This is not proper nutrient cycling—animals don’t benefit from human urine󰀬
 plants
 do󰀮 Concentrating human feces and urine into massive centralized systems not only deprives the land of the fertility from which these nutrients were derived󰀬 it loads the oceans with excess nutrients and toxins󰀮 This lineal flow is the opposite of the arrangement between land and sea that living communities rely on󰀮 Fortunately󰀬 if you live in a rural area󰀬 placing yourself in beneficial relationship with the living world around you is as easy as growing food plants󰀬 composting󰀬 and walking around the site to simultaneously water and feed the plants most in need of nutrients󰀮 It is said that each human being excretes enough plant nutrients to grow enough plants to sustain him- or herself󰀮 This cyclic concept should not be surprising󰀬 as humans and plants have evolved with relationships between each other for millennia󰀮 Think of the synergy󰀺

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