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recap: plant-out camp out @ mozaic farm in chicacum, wa

Posted: January 14 2021
Sunshine, sandy-loam, fresh air and trees. What more to do we need? Photos by Travis Gillett

On the weekend of October 23rd-25th, Greenhorns (in collaboration with Mozaic Farm in Chimacum, WA and HipCamp) hosted a socially-distant, workshop-based training for nut and fruit tree planting and soil building called Plant-Out Camp Out. Inspired in part by the Global Earth Repair conference held in nearby Port Townsend in 2019, this was an experimental event in “Group Work for Land Healing.”

In the midst of a global pandemic where isolation is the norm and social habits of communality are in short supply, participants of the Plant-Out Camp Out were invited to sink their hands into the soil biome, to be in direct and intimate observation of the land, to physically exert themselves while re-afforesting farmland to support bioregional food security, building skills and practices essential to a resilient future.

A bare-root tree ready to move in to its new home.

THE PLAN: The design for this project came from a permaculture plan developed by Simon Walter, with a mission to restore the recently logged land he purchased with easements funded by the U.S. Navy. The plan also takes into account a salmon-habitat restoration agenda, restoring the meander to a channelized creek, and re-afforesting the flanks of the creek. As these areas are planted, edges are devoted to a diverse planting of wild genetics of southern oak, which is thought to be shifting its range in this direction as the weather changes. This complements the edible varieties of plum, hazel, loquat, persimmon, apple, chestnut, monkey puzzle, autumn olive, etc. 

Building the skills necessary for scalable landscape restoration is a matter of natural and national security. As our climates shift and landowners seek new stewards to carry on the management of gardens, farms, and ranches, it is critical that the next generation is skilled and committed to caring for land, especially a rural land base that provides habitat for trees, shrubs, four and two-legged creatures, snakes, winged ones, and all the insects and microorganisms on whose thriving we all depend.

Southern oak planted along the edge of riparian habitats provide climate-adapted buffers as weather patterns change and seasons shift.

Importantly, perennials aid in the stabilization of soil structure, slow, spread and sink water into the land, and sequester atmospheric carbon which are critical functions of a regenerative landscape. Whatever role we each will play in shifting from a paradigm of extraction to one of regeneration depends on the skills we build and the contexts in which we learn them. The better we can learn together and organize events like this, the better we can contribute to the overall health of the land, the water, the people, and the creatures on it.

The Plant-Out Camp Out is our attempt at learning the basic logistics for a socially-distant tree planting party. We have begun documenting the set up and event experience, in hopes that this super simple format can help others to literally spring into action in 2021.

We’ve laid out the steps as we learn, simplifying as we go, remembering to focus on the essential elements that make a great event great. Some of the steps you might want to include in a Plant-Out Camp Out include:

  1. Site prep: campsites + tents, outdoor tea / wash station, signage
  2. Orchard planning: tree nursery, palletized trees, contour mapping and layout, augering holes, amendments: chicken manure, sawdust, inoculants
  3. Welcoming: eating, chatting, scheming!
  4. Planting trees: biochar lesson, mulching, newspaper / cardboard, permaculture principles, harvesting apples
  5. Celebrating: eating and joyful togetherness by the campfire.  

As simple as one, two, tree! 🌳

The Plant-Out Camp Out drew about 25 people from all over the Pacific bioregion with a shared interest in building skills necessary for the resilient stewardship of land by the next generation of farmers. According to one young participant who drove up with friends from Santa Barbara, California, "There is a growing passion for re-skilling among millennials."

All we have to do now is start planning for the spring.

Written by Eli Utne, educator & member/owner @ Learning By Hand

Photos by Travis Gillett @TravisGillett