Planting for Pascal’s Wager

2018/03/25 deej 0

For those who don’t know, Pascal’s Wager is a philosophical thought experiment about preparing for the worst case scenario even if you don’t think it will turn out to be true. The original argument was made about religion and the existence of the Christian God (and has some fairly serious flaws), but the general idea is more widely applicable. It’s a good shorthand way of talking about risks, and about worst case scenario preparation as a rational response to a low probability but high consequence event or situation.

For example, the current global socio-political and ecological situation.

I mean, I don’t really think that civilisation is going to fall over and collapse. I don’t. But there are a lot of factors that might mean that basically, we’re in for a bad time over the next few decades. Climate change is the big one, of course, but there’s also massive, ongoing ecological damage and the Anthropocene extinction event, which are linked to the still-rising human population. We also have the potential for global conflicts over increasingly scarce essential resources; we start wars over oil and gold and iron, but what happens when we realise (as we’re starting to now) that we’re running low on available clean water, arable land, and minerals essential for agriculture (phosphorus is crucial to all agriculture, and it’s starting to run low). We’re almost certain to see disease and starvation as the climate shifts and we start getting more and more extreme weather events (commonly named “ruin storms” in science fiction which has been predicting this shit for years), and climate refugees as well as refugees from various localised (and not-so-localised) conflicts.

Not everything is doom and gloom; humans are very good at pulling last-ditch fixes out of our collective ass. We didn’t even realise we were tearing a hole in the ozone layer until it was almost too late, but we caught on and made some changes, and thirty years on it’s actually starting to heal. Because of changes we implemented (yes, to fix problems we caused, but still). The drive for resources will probably (finally!) get us into space in a useful way, to mine the moon & the asteroids. And population growth is decreasing, especially with an increase in living standards and in education for women around the world.

So I am, broadly, confident that we aren’t going to destroy the planet or crash civilisation in any irrecoverable way. But I’m also aware that if I’m wrong and we do topple civilisation (even temporarily, as in the case of a third World War), the consequences could be catastrophic. Which is why I’m using the idea of Pascal’s Wager in my planting plan for the farm – hope for the best, but prepare for the worst case scenario.

Our precursor trees are mostly edible-seeded wattles, because the seeds can be used as a staple food for humans as well as being commercially desireable as a spice or condiment, and making very good poultry forage. We also have honey locust trees, which have edible pods like carobs – and we’re planting a swathe of carobs, too. This winter I’m going to put in several Moringa oleifera trees (which provide human-edible greens that don’t need to be babied the way most green vegetables do in this climate) and start some more mulberries and hibiscus from cuttings (the young leaves of mulberries and of hibiscus are also edible to humans, by the way, although not amazingly tasty). We have lilly pilly seedlings in the gorund to provide shade and forage for the poultry, and we’ll put more in this winter – but the fruit is still useful to humans as well, and apparently high in calcium. And of course we’re going to put in a variety of nut trees (pecan, almond, pistachio, walnut, chestnut, hazel) as soon as I can get watering systems in place to keep them alive while they get established.

I’m also going to put in semi-wild type forage trees – holm oaks and cork oaks for edible acorns, stone pine for pine nuts,  and more mulberries and lilly pillies and carobs. And loads of bee forage plants like tagasaste, rosemary, cape wedding bells (Dombeya tiliacea) and so forth. I’ll plant a few jelly palms if I can get them, or get them established from seed, too.And of course there are the grand plans for the main orchard, with citrus and plums and apples and pomegranates, and the date palms (which haven’t grown much, and are going to be moved into a better, more sunny location as a result).

Anyway. I could go on at great length about the plans for the orchard. But my point is, my choices of tree and shrub are based not only on what I like to grow and what I like to eat, but also on what I think will be most useful if I ever need to rely on my garden to feed me (and my family, chosen and genetic). It’s a planning strategy that anyone can use, for any garden (large or small): think about what would be most useful to you day to day – and what would be most useful if the supermarkets closed down for the week, or the month, for whatever reason.

One year later

2018/03/11 deej 0

kittensWell, a year and a bit later actually – it would be a year if it was still January, and it’s already March. I am a bad person, a slack blogger, and – more seriously – insanely busy. On top of the day job (I moved from permanent part-time to full-time contracting again at the end of 2016, and that extra day I don’t have per week to get things like grocery shopping, cooking, writing, gardening, washing, playing with the cats, etc. really cuts into my blogging time) and the regular farm work, I’ve also been writing a novel. And trying to have and maintain a social life. And there’s the cat breeding business as well – we just had our first successful litter.

The kittens are doing really well. In fact, everything is doing well, although it still looks a bit like a desert out there.

late afternoon

Closer to the house there’s more green, because we have reticulation in for the herb garden and the roses (which are going nuts). The curry tree is slowly getting bigger, and the winter savory has self-seeded baby winter savory shrubs all over the place. The rosemary is going almost as crazy as the roses, which the bees are loving, and I have self-seeded Italian parsley everywhere as well.

Lagerfeld rose

Papa Meilland rose Pope Jean Paul II rose





Peace roseStill haven’t managed to get any real pasture established on the more broad(ish)-acre further formt he house zones, but the trees are growing and starting to provide shade, and the swales are stopping us from losing topsoil every time it rains. As it goes into autumn, we’re starting to get cool, foggy mornings again, so we’re probably going to start getting some rain soon. Although it has been a very wet summer up here anyway.

foggy morningAs we get some cooler, wetter weather, I’ll be trying to resist the temptation to plant anything more. I have some carob seedlings which might be able to go into the ground – they like some space to stretch their roots out – but any more fruit trees have to wait until we’ve run irrigation. Maybe I’ll see if we can organise a busy-bee to run irrigation to the citrus area so I can plant out some rootstocks to get established. We did a grafting workshop the other day, and I’m even keener ot try grafting my own citrus now. I can buy budwood from Aus Citrus for the varieties I can’t easily get from friends & family.

Other than the grafting workshop, it’s been a quiet few months ont he leanring new farm skills front. We’ve done a couple’ve cooking courses at Matters of Taste (which, by the way, I thoroughly reccommend), and attended an information evening about their new Great Southern Region WA food tour (which looks epic). They had some sample produce form the region, which looked fantastic, and we got to take home some sample Royal Gala apples which were absolutely amazing. I don’t normally even like Galas, and Royal Galas are just a red variant, but these were honestly some of the best apples I’ve had. Ever. Including the delicious fresh organic apples I got in London from the ‘we stock locally grown fruit’ greengrocer (which was the original impetus for me to put in an apple orchard, because you can’t buy those varieties commercially in Australia).

We’re going to try a hangi once the fire-bans are finished for the summer, so I’ll post an update on that, but otherwise.. no plans. Lots of grafting practice, since I want to learn grafting as my new skill for the year. Going ot try to get the courtyard enclosed this winter so we can think about getting a dog.

I will try to post more often. I can’t promise much, but I’ll do better than once a year. 🙂

Double Delight rose