Socrates & R.R. Book - PERMACULTURE, and methods for gathering food and water > PERMACULTURE

Hopi desert homesteading

(1/5) > >>

R.R. Book:
Ice Age Farmer interviewed a Hopi elder and Ph.D. ag student, Michael Kotutwa, in an effort to learn how the Hopi have managed to farm the desert successfully for millennia. 

The one crop most focused upon in the discussion was corn.  Some highlights  (including material from other sources as well):

*Crops are often planted in alluvial soil beneath mesas, receiving their rain runoff.

*A stick is used to see how far down the moisture line is below the soil surface, and crops planted there, rather than at the much more shallow depths that are recommended for each kind of seed.  A foot deep is common.

*Instead of sowing one or two seeds in each planting hole, they sow a dozen, and then thin the corn down to clumps of a half dozen plants per thatch.

*Rather than 14" spacing between single stalks, the clumps are spaced several feet apart, with rows also several feet apart. 

*Last year's remains are left rooted in the ground to decompose and enrich the soil slowly.  The subsequent year's crop is planted between the old rows.  Therefore, the older rows are fallow for two years.

*Nothing is ever harvested without giving something back to the earth in return (soil stewardship)

*The ears are not harvested as long as there is any green left on the plants.  When they turn brown and fall over, it is time to harvest.  This conserves every drop of moisture within the soil.

*No machinery is used, as it is too destructive to the soil.  Instead, farm sizes are limited to between 1 and 9 acres, which extended family groups work together to tend by hand. 

*The whole allotment of seed is never risked at one time.  Plantings are staggered every two weeks from April through June, ensuring that something survives to bring seed forward into the future.

*If growing conditions appear unfavorable, large celebrations are postponed until a more abundant harvest is possible, and less food is eaten that way.

*Traditionally, the Hopi farmed only plants, and there was no place for domesticated animals in their farm scheme, so techniques such as manure composting are not part of their methodology.

*Before ever beginning to farm a new field, they allow three years to clear it of old roots, rocks, weeds, etc., so that the planted crops have no competition.

*The Hopi engage in every stage of their farming with singing and praying.  The women are especially valued for their ability to bring Spirit to the earth.

*The men present the finished ears of corn to the women, who are then responsible for selection of the ones with the best traits for next year's seed.  Instead of removing the kernels to save, the entire ears - whether saved for seed or to use in recipes - are wrapped, baked and dehydrated and then stacked together in piles.

*DNA tests have demonstrated that Hopi corn landraces are both unique and uncontaminated.

*A typical Hopi farm day:

In the field @ 5 a.m.
Back out in the field for an hour after breakfast
Remainder of morning and afternoon to rest, socialize and study
Back out in the field in the evening

More here:

Such teachers the Hopi are.  Thanks for posting such useful information.  Some of it is reminiscent of what is written in Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden.  One tidbit from that book always sits in the back of my mind:  the women were up early and worked in the garden till 10 AM, then on to other chores.  Finishing garden work completely by 10AM would be fine--it just never seems to happen here, maybe due to poor planning.

The Hopi have their "stuff" together!

R.R. wow what incredible info!

R.R. Book:
Ilinda, Thank you so much for mentioning Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden!  I found this free online copy, which may be abridged, to share.  If you're using Google in Firefox, there will be a "Reader View" button in the search bar at the top of the page, which looks like a tiny sheet of paper with lines, that you can click for a more readable format. Mine is located on the right side of the search bar, unlike the image below:

R.R. Book:
Excerpts on the sunflower crop (images not from the book):

--- Quote ---The first seed that we planted in the spring was sunflower seed. Ice breaks on the Missouri about the first week in April; and we planted sunflower seed as soon after as the soil could be worked.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---Although our sunflower seed was the first crop to be planted in the spring. it was the last to be harvested in the fall.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---Sunflower harvest came after we had threshed our corn; and corn threshing was in the first part of October.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---Our sunflowers were ready for harvesting when the little petals that covered the seeds fell off, exposing the ripe seeds beneath. Also, the back of the head turned yellow; earlier in the season it would be green.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---To harvest the larger heads, I put a basket on my back, and knife in hand, passed from plant to plant, cutting off each large head close to the stem; the severed heads I tossed into my basket. These heads I did not let dry on the stalk, as birds would devour the seeds.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---The sunflower heads were dried face downward, that the sun falling on the back of the head might dry and shrink the fiber, thus loosening the seeds.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---When the heads had dried about four days, the seeds were threshed out; and I would fetch in from the garden another supply of heads to dry and thresh.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---To thresh the heads, a skin was spread and the heads laid on it face downward, and beaten with a stick.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote --- Because they were gathered later, the seeds of baby sunflowers were looked upon as a kind of second crop; and as I have said, they were kept apart from the earlier harvest, because seed for planting was selected from the larger and earlier gathered heads. Gathered thus late, this second crop was nearly always touched by the frost, even before the seeds were threshed from the stalks.

This frosting of the seeds had an effect upon them that we rather esteemed. We made a kind of oily meal from sunflower seed, by pounding them in a corn mortar; but meal made from seed that had been frosted, seemed more oily than that from seed gathered before frost fell. The freezing of the seeds seemed to bring the oil out of the crushed kernels.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---The oiliness brought out by the frosting was more apparent in the seeds of baby sunflowers than in seeds of the larger heads. Seeds of the latter seemed never to have as much oil in them as seeds of the baby sunflowers.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---To make sunflower meal the seeds were first roasted, or parched. This was done in a clay pot...
--- End quote ---

Four vegetables were parched (roasted til dry) and made into a nutritious winter storage ration powder/flour: corn, beans, squash and sunflower seeds.  This was called four-vegetables-mixed.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version