Zone 4 is our buffer between our cultivated land and the natural wilderness we will find beyond it. However, there might be a reason to cultivate just a little in zone 4. In this zone we let nature do the vast majority of the work. We still harvest things we need from this zone, but we are not going to plant our own crops. Instead, we will make use of what nature provides.
Sustainable Farming: Livestock Pasture
Our livestock area in this part of our property should not need any of our attention for upkeep. This lets us practice sustainable farming – letting the livestock forage off of the natural environment. Yes, you may need to maintain a fence, or rotate your livestock, but you should not need to mow or lay down new pasture grass to keep the area viable for livestock
Sustainable Farming: Wild Edibles
About the last thing I want to attempt to do is to catalog all of the wild edibles around the world. I will have to leave that in your hands. In our area there are hosts of plants that grow in the wild that are perfectly edible. Muscadines come to mind, along with Jerusalem Artichokes. Some plants that many people categorize as weeds are edible as well, such as Dandelions and Clovers.
While vegetation gets a lot of attention, we should not forget about the animals that are a part of our food chain as well. In our area, Crayfish (known as Crawdad’s) grow well, and are a great sustainable food resource. Nuisance animals, such as raccoon, are also edible.
Sustainable Farming: Fire Wood
It is possible to do the math and try and calculate how many cords of wood you need to heat your home through the winter, and then to calculate how much wood you can expect to get from a particular sized tree. However, that is not the point of this post. While we will take our fire wood from zone 4, we need to be sure we do it in a sustainable way. We need to be sure we do not run out. Nature need to be able to regrow. In our area, we do not feel the naturally growing varieties on our small farm will be enough to sustain us.
Because we feel there is a deficiency, we have looked into other options. We believe if we cultivate a forest of hybrid poplars we will receive enough wood for our winter comfort, and also have enough time between harvests for the trees to regrow. Nothing will go to waste, what is not used in the fireplace will be mulched for our gardens and other areas.