感謝凱西和玉華帶領的樸門讀書會，這一天的主題是氣候與微氣候，在Earth Users' Guide to Permaculture一書中（Rosemary Morrow著），談到關於降雨、土壤、建築、植被及坡度如何影響一地微氣候的種種因素。要瞭解一地之微氣候，可以嘗試一個很好的練習，你可以選擇某一天的不同時刻，閉上眼睛在你的土地上走一圈，深入感受那裡的冷熱、濕度、風向、亮度、太陽的方向與角度，以及周遭的植被等。當你閉上眼讓人帶領繞行你的土地時（請小心腳步！），依憑著周遭的微氣候，你就能夠知道樹木在哪裡，也可以感受到地面上的濕氣。這些感受都將協助你選擇最適合種植於此的植物，也能幫助你想像這些樹木在十年後將營造怎樣的微氣候。
Thanks to Kathy and Yuhua for leading yesterday’s permaculture study group! The topic was climate and microclimates, and the book (Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, Rosemary Morrow) talked about how precipitation, soil, structures, vegetation and slope have different effects on local microclimates. When getting to know your local microclimates, a good exercise is to walk around the site at different times of the day and often close your eyes to get a good feel of coolness, moisture, wind, light, sun angle, slope and nearby vegetation. When you close your eyes and have someone lead you around the land (carefully!), you can feel where trees are just by the microclimates they produce. You can also feel the amount of moisture in the ground. This helps in designing which plants are most suitable for an area, and helps you think into the future about the microclimates produced in 10 years by trees you grow now.
Rosemary Morrow’s book mentioned a strategy for using plants to create microclimates that assist other plants to get started. I can share a recent experience of this on our yard in Taidong. When we rented the house in February, the yard was completely bare – only rocks and sand. This produced a very dry microclimate and because there was no vegetation, there was nothing to block radiation from the ground, the building, the garden walls and the sun. It was easy to feel this radiant heat from all sides, and I can only describe the feeling as “inhospitable.” The first step was to get shade and moisture in the ground and I found weeds to be the best at doing this job.
「什麼也不做」策略/A Do Nothing Strategy
Often stuck far away in Taipei, my first strategy was naturally to do nothing. The weeds very much enjoyed this strategy. They did a wonderful job at filling all spaces and providing a vegetative ground cover. This greatly cooled down the yard and reduced the sun’s glare. The weeds created a microclimate – a very beneficial microclimate. Although it may seem like a lazy thing to do, it wasn’t easy to “do nothing.” My landlord continually asked me if she could spray herbicides to fight the weeds. My friends and neighbors said it looked like a wasteland with all those unsightly weeds and said I would have lots of problems down the road if I didn’t “take care of” them now. One neighbor got so excited that she wanted to take my culling knife out of my hands and show me how to cut the weeds down! So the main problem with this strategy is socio-cultural. Apart from that, it is the best strategy I know of to accelerate succession and create a thriving edible ecosystem.
Here are some of the benefits that these weeds offered:
Food – most of the weeds were edible. This food came faster than anything I could have planted and did not require any tending.
Shading of the soil
Reduced evaporation of soil moisture
Capturing of sunlight to: reduce reflection (wasted sunlight), take carbon out of the air, put organic matter into the soil
Create habitat for predators
Create organic matter to use as mulch for starting gardens
其他策略/The Rest of My Strategy
pic: Yuzi and I extending the garden with mulch on top of cut weeds.
The weeds were an essential part of my “do nothing” strategy, because they provided so much (see above). Every time I go to Taidong, I expand the garden by a few more square meters. In spaces where I haven’t yet expanded my garden, I continue to let the weeds thrive and I greatly respect the job they are doing for me. They are turning my yard into a livable space, both above and below ground. The only weed that I pull out by the roots is JILI, which produces a painful hitchhiking seed. The only weed that I don’t let germinate is 咸豐草, which I deflower by hand once upon my arrival to Taidong, and once upon my departure. This pulling and deflowering takes about 10 minutes per month. The rest of my strategy is to gradually gather all the materials I need for expanding the garden (kitchen scraps, cardboard, mulch, transplant soil), and all at once cut down the weeds only as far as I need to expand the garden, and put down the kitchen scraps, cardboard, mulch and transplant soil (in that order). The result: an instant garden right next to a thriving ecosystem created by my weed friends. The benefits of this pre-established ecosystem are stated above. Eventually, the weeds will be replaced mostly by food plants, but there’s no need to freak out when some of them come back because they are always doing a good job for me (see above benefits) and they are easy to manage. Weeds are my friends!!!
更多關於微氣候/More on Microclimates
I think that plants are the best creators of microclimates. Plants, and especially trees, have amazing qualities to greatly alter the landscape and climate… if we let them. Above, I have shared one way that I allow weeds to create a beneficial microclimate and ecosystem for my garden. Other ways that I use microclimates in my everyday life:
Rooftop garden in Taipei: Rather than dispersing my potted plants all over the roof, I cluster them together to create shaded microclimates. These clusters are located on the non-windy side of existing water tanks, which provide wind protection, coolth, and shade. By using this strategy, coupled with large planting containers, I only have to water my plants once every 4 days, compared to some of my neighbors who water twice per day. This is extremely important for me because the only water I can use on my roof is rainwater collected in tanks.
Solar cooker: A solar cooker is an excellent example of creating a microclimate. It uses all the knowledge of microclimates to create one spot that is super-hot – hot enough to cook food! The main secret is in the colors: transparent, reflective, and black. Solar cooking simply means aligning these three colors in the correct position (transparent on top to let light in and prevent heat from escaping, reflective on the sides to direct more light to the pot, and black pot to absorb as much sunlight as possible. The same color principles can be used in the garden with ponds (reflective) or dark-leaved plants (absorb heat and cool down environment).
pic: a rooftop water tank is a useful microclimate modifier, providing coolth, shade, and wind protection.
pic:making a solar cooker requires you to create the most extreme microclimate possible – in this respect it is a very useful teaching tool.
Reflective panels on my balcony to allow more light in my house in winter. This creates a microclimate indoors that reduces energy use (lighting) and creates a warm living environment.
pics: our livingroom before and after setting up reflective panel on balcony.
pics: 2-year old tyre pond at Pingdengli; construction of tyre pond in Taidong; spider immigration one day after installing rainwater barrel.
Ponds: All of the world’s healthiest and most diverse ecosystems have some source of standing water. Water attracts many beneficial insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, all of whom can help with garden work. Water also creates significant local microclimates, providing reflected light, humidity and moderated temperatures. It is therefore very useful to include a small body of water in every garden design. My favorite quick pond is a tyre-pond, which requires a tyre as a retaining wall, and a water-proof lining. Soil can be added to the bottom and the rim of the tyre to create different levels for different water plants. I have witnessed that just one simple step of placing a container to catch rainwater triggers the beginning of a complex ecosystem. On several occasions I have found that just one day after setting out a rainwater barrel, spiders promptly arrive and begin setting up webs above the barrel. Spiders are a good indicator of life as they are on the top of the insect food chain. They are very good friends to have in the garden.
pic: suntrap geography of our land in Taidong.
Microclimate was a decisive factor in deciding on which land to purchase. For over ten years, I had been saving up enough money to purchase land. Over the years, we looked at sites and nothing stuck so readily in my mind as the piece of land we now have, it was pretty much an instant decision with 40% of its attraction being the natural microclimate provided by landforms. It is a natural suntrap. A suntrap—a parabola facing the sun—is a pattern often found in nature, especially in flowers (also like a solar cooker). Such flowers create unique and very micro microclimates to facilitate regenerative processes that take place at the focus of the parabola. Houses or other activities placed in a suntrap enjoy protection from the wind (which usually comes from the non-sun direction in winter), and collect a maximum amount of winter sun and a reduced amount of summer sun. Suntraps therefore are good at modifying local climates. This could be very useful in future years of climate instability. This was therefore one of the primary factors that led me to choose my current site, which happens to be a natural suntrap (a natural landform suntrap is not a common thing!). Of course there are other ways to produce suntraps, for example, through earthworks, structures (三合院 is a great traditional example) or tree-plantings. One thought that runs through my mind when designing any site is to explore its amenability to creating suntraps for primary activities (housing, recreation, food processing, etc).
Just to let readers know, other important factors that led me to choose this site were personal health reasons (chronic asthma in Northern and Western Taiwan), proximity to villages and access routes (economic/social livelihood), human-power friendly landscape (no hills), price, and distance from rising ocean. Personal health and social livelihood were predominant factors for choosing this site. It is important to stress here that permaculture principles and strategies can make almost any piece of land productive and livable!