Category: Permaculture

chicory Permaculture

The necessary nutrients

The chicory plants in our garden have gone mental.

Not that I love chicory, I’m not even sure I really like it that much. But a couple of years ago my local hardware store was closing, and I couldn’t resist the 50-cent plant specials sitting on the table. I knew that if I didn’t buy them on this last day, then the hardware store wouldn’t compost, or donate them, nor put them to any useful purpose. They’d just be added to a massive methane-spewing landfill, one more pollutant among many.

So I bought them thinking, a little chicory would be healthy, we don’t have enough bitter veg in our lives.

But since then, the chicory population in our garden has exploded. Through some miraculous mode of delivery, seed, spawn, alien-love, God-knows, from the back garden to the distant front, they’ve spread. Tiny seedlings soon turn into giant-rooted multi-leaved behemoths. A multitude more than we can ever eat. I keep pulling them up and potting them for any unwary passersby who expresses even the vaguest of interest.

‘What’s that weird thing crawling on that lettuce-looking plant…?’

‘That’s chicory, you want some?’

‘No not the plant, the insect. What’s that insect?’

‘I really think you should take some chicory, it’s really good for you.’

Sometimes I forget about the re-planted chicory, and they die in small pots. Or they seem to die.

Utterly brown and withered, seemingly bereft of life, the small pots sit in a saucer and it rains, and then a miracle occurs. From a dry leafless stump the chicory appears again.

So we’ve adapted.

We’ve learned to like bitter chicory, so long as we mix it up with the sweeter stalks of rainbow chard, and herbs like parsley, and the mundanity of lettuce, it’s fine. Life should be an interesting mix, shouldn’t it? How dull would it otherwise be? And how much less resilient, and less healthy would we be, if we all just ate iceberg lettuce?

That’s my theory about Nature too.

After all these years of working with her, I think that we’ve forgotten her in her pot. She’s wilted and in some places is seemingly dead, but if we give her the right ingredients, my theory is she’ll probably thrive again. Provided we haven’t polluted her beyond her tipping point.

Similarly, I have these questions about society. Could a disconnected society, when brought back to its origins, watered, fed, and reconnected with the right nutrients, thrive again?

I’d really love to know. Let’s look and see what people have done in local settings to achieve these healthier outcomes, and how we might replicate their results on a larger scale.

[An excerpt from my latest project. Do you want to keep reading? If you do, let me know. This could the start of a fabulous new adventure for us.]

Image of farm house with long grass in the foreground Permaculture

The Hutch

Finally, a taker for the hutch comes to me through Marketplace. The hutch is free, but she offers $25. I say she can have it. Maybe she didn’t read the ad. It’s free.

She asks if I can deliver, she has heart failure, and cannot come. No problem, I’m driving past anyway. Even though the hutch is large and awkward I can shift it on my own, perhaps with the help of a passerby. She calls me luv, and says to take my time. I’m guessing she’s an old lady.

The day is sweltering, and smoke from the bushfires cloaks everything, it’s hard to breathe. ‘I’ll give you $30 luv,’ says the lady on Messenger, ‘because of all this heat and this smoke luv, you shouldn’t be out in it.’ Still I only want a clear room, and she’s doing me a favour, this hutch has taken up space for 3 months.

I arrive at the house. A beaten up old cottage, lead paint flaking onto dried yellowing grass. I approach the screen door, a sign on it says visitors should inform next of kin, if there’s no response. I am taken aback.

She comes to the door, a large woman, not much older than me, face puffy and red, and skin terribly sore and peeled. She offers to help, but I ask her to wait inside.

As I drag the hutch inside I notice very little furniture. A small dog scrambles at her heels. She says thank you luv, thank you for coming in this awful smoke and heat.

She has $30 scrunched up in her swollen hand, and pushes it into mine, I push it back, ‘no that’s not necessary’, but she insists, putting both hands around mine, scrunching them with the bunched up bills. Drawing me to her, she pulls me into a big hug and tears fill my eyes.

Photo credit:
Dan Meyers