Feb 11, 2011
This just happened to be in the middle of a tough pull. Matt was at ease during his time here with the deer.
Feral Farm. My favorite. Matt is one of the very few people I’ve ever met who does exactly what he thinks is a good plan, and he is not pretentious about it, either. Matt, thank you for being who you are and doing what you do. It is people like this, all working hard without asking for any attention, who are quietly creating solutions for the planet that are practical and have the potential to work in the event that we are unable to count on the massive energy resource base we base our lives upon today.
Feral Farm is on 46 acres in the Northwest Cascade mountains, about 90 miles north of Seattle. It is in a town of 200 people. Matt is living off the grid, although he purchases some propane to cook with. The structures he builds are less than 200 square feet and are within the limit of requiring zoning regulations and such. Matt does all the work by hand, is creative, resourceful, and always attempts to find salvaged and second-hand materials whenever possible.
Concerning vegetation, Matt is a perennial plant expert, and is working in what I think to be one of the most healthy and realistic ways to find solutions for growing food on his site. Matt is not asking what he wants to eat, then going ahead and buying seeds for the stock, annual organic vegetables we all know and love. Instead, Matt takes a much more realistic and long-term approach to this problem. He first asks questions like “what is my soil-type?” and then does experiments with very large numbers of species that will be potential survivors on his land. Then, after planting, he lets the plants fight for life on their own, instead of babying them. He is in this way letting nature be the decider, to see what will be able to compete and do well with the conditions on his land. This helps him quickly weed out the species that are not productive or well-suited to his site. He can then focus on the winners and the highly productive species instead. Another reason that Matt is so focused on perennial species instead of the highly domesticated annual varieties, is that those more wild plants have more nutrition, and are less susceptible to disease, in addition to not needing to be replanted each year and having to laboriously save their seeds. Perennials rock. They also build soil nutrition, as in the case of the numerous woody nitrogen-fixing shrubs he has all over the property.
Most people of Matt’s age want to earn more money to impress people and buy new things. One of the only things Matt seems to buy a lot of are books. One of his 192 square foot buildings is the library. He has hundreds upon hundreds of books, all of which are useful texts on subjects ranging from herbal health to fermented foods, nut tree propogation, Native American botanical references, natural building and even fungus identification books.
Instead of being a world-traveler, which I know conflicts with how I’ve been living, Matt instead has been spending his life investing in his local community and the land base in which he lives. He has now developed an ongoing relationship with the land, where he knows the wild growing plants and their uses, he understands how the natives used to work with the area, and of course has relationships with locals, too. On Christmas, we had a number of people over for a potluck meal which included fiddle playing, a raccoon stew, venison chili, and other country-style fun like the fact that the party ended around eight o’clock because Matt uses oil lamps and we started at 2pm. Oh, and Matt retrofitted an old, found, fish-breeding tank into a wood-fired hot tub, which you can see in the photos above.
I love Feral Farm, and sincerely hope to go back for another stay.
By the way, Matt wrote a zine titled “Beyond agriculture” a few years ago. I transcribed it completely, so if anyone out there wants a copy, I can hook you up. Just ask.