Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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14 Oct 2009

Totnes Nut Trees Begin to Bear Fruit

IMG00525-20091013-1234-1The other day I had a short tour of some of the Totnes nut tree plantings with Wendy Stayte who runs the Totnes nut tree planting scheme, initiated by Transition Town Totnes 3 years ago.  Over 100 trees have now been planted, most of them having a ‘guardian’, whose job it is to keep an eye on them.  In one park, a line of 3 almond trees, it turned out, have begun to bear fruit!  Nestled on a south facing slope at the end of the park on raised ground away from the flying footballs that had damaged a couple of other trees planted there, the trees had grown well, and now here were the first actual nuts!  Well it felt like a moment of history to me.

The reason for the tour was that Wendy and I had been up in one of the other parks having a photo taken for the local paper to promote the sponsorship of the nut tree scheme by a local solicitors firm, Wills & Probate, who have offered to pay the scheme £20 towards nut trees for every will they create.  It is hopefully just the first example of local businesses getting behind the Transition process.  For the photo we planted a walnut tree (pot grown, bit early for bare-rooted).

Of course Totnes is not going to ever provide the bulk of its carbohydrates from nuts, but it could be a significant contribution.  My mission for the next couple of weeks is to work out how much of a contribution the trees already planted will make when fully grown.  It’ll be interesting to see how many more trees we need to plant!  For now though I can relax safe in the knowledge that even if TTT ceases to exist in the morning, future generations will be able to feast on almond, walnuts and chestnuts planted during the early years of the great Transition.

Categories: Food, Resilience

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James Samuel
14 Oct 7:30pm

I can feel the delight of this moment Rob. Nature is such a wonderful teacher, of patience, persistence, and nurturing. She rewards us for our efforts in ways which nourish the body and soul.

Congratulations for all the work and vision by you and and your friends. May all the energy and attention you have give to serving a benign transition, bear abundant fruits too.

15 Oct 9:20pm

Great news

Whilst waiting for the nut crops, don’t forget to harvest the seeds of Himalayan balsam, which grows in plentiful quantities along the Dart (and loads of other rivers). Nutty tasting seeds and leaves full of lawsone, aka henna – I bet you’re dyeing to try it. Oh and while you’re at it, Japanese knotweed rhizomes are loaded with resveratrol the antioxidant found in grapes that is claimed to be responsible for the so-called French paradox. Maybe that’s why the stuff is so damned hard to kill. A little cottage industry for Totnes perhaps?

michael Dunwell
18 Oct 9:47pm

Just loved that almond nut! Our sweet chestnuts planted in 2000 have been producing nuts for local grocers and Country Market for three years already. Squirrels have all the hazel nuts and the Forestry Commission man who came to give our woodlands group a workshop said we hadn’t used enough weedkiller round the walnuts, so they were not growing well. But be inspired! Mulch mulch. Nuts, Perry pears, old apple varieties are springing up all over the Forest of Dean.

Ed Straker
19 Oct 1:39am

So how do you handle distribution of these nuts? Every citizen in Totnes gets an even share? For free? This is an important missing component from my vantage point.

19 Oct 7:10am

Ed, in terms of how people get them, our sense has been of crossing that bridge when we come to it. I remember when I lived in Italy, visiting a village that was lined up its main street with sweet chestnuts, and the streets were thick with them. I don’t know who harvested them (in fact almost no-one, in that part of Italy they are considered ‘war food’), but the point was that they could have done. Will Totnesians organise themselves into neighbour nut harvesting teams, will it be done on their behalf by a nut co-op? No idea, I look forward to the discussions. For now we just want to get them in….

James Samuel
19 Oct 8:46am

And if there is any competition for the harvest of any community food source like this – an idea or concern many people have – then that tells us we need to plant more. Nature is amazingly abundant but she may need a little assistance, so grab your shovels.

John Conway
19 Oct 9:48am

don’t forget that walnuts have been fruiting [should that be “nutting”?] successfully for years – we have a bumper crop here most years!

Ed Straker
19 Oct 2:12pm

“Ed, in terms of how people get them, our sense has been of crossing that bridge when we come to it.”

I’m shocked that it’s been given so little thought. That seems counter to the goals of energy descent action planning.

Only in an era of cheap and abundant food can these issues be so casually dismissed.

For instance, in my area people see acorns only as a nuisance. If anything, they think I’m nuts for collecting them. One neighbor even solicited me to clean them off her yard. If the sort of food inflation and food shortages that peakers worry about were to come to pass, then you can bet that people will be much more possessive about their oak trees or oak trees on technically public land within their easy reach.

And this goes beyond individual hoarding. Some entrepreneurial folks might try harvesting all of these nuts before anybody can get at them, and sell them for a profit.

Need I point you to the essay of Tragedy of the Commons? You simply can not unleash people onto a free common resource without seeing that resource exploited and exhausted. Some rules and limits must be put into place. And that’s hard to do with a highly distributed resource like trees on median strips.

Considering that you helped develop that paper about carrying capacity around Totnes, you surely kno whow precarious the situation will be if the town has to survive purely on local food sources. A few rampant abusers of these trees could mean life or death.

You really don’t want these trees to do nothing but provide false sense of security in times of plenty, but to fail when you need them most.

Ed Straker
19 Oct 3:46pm

“if there is any competition for the harvest of any community food source like this – an idea or concern many people have – then that tells us we need to plant more.”

So you don’t believe in limits to growth or overshoot? There is no way a region could be hopelessly over carrying capacity post-peak even WITH fruit and nut trees? Trees just automatically save the day no matter what the population density? We don’t even have to worry about how to split up the spoils? It’s the garden of eden all over again?

I’m not saying don’t plant trees, but to have this kind of magical thinking without working out the details is foolish in the extreme.

Mark Forskitt
21 Oct 7:11am

I have been foraging sweet chestnuts from the lanes and field boundaries for a couple of weeks. Delicious. The trees I planted down the valley are a long way from fruiting. They don’t get cosseted just a ring of chicken wire to ward of the rabbits.

michael Dunwell
26 Oct 8:17pm

Isn’t planting walnuts in public places more symbolic than utilitarian?

Ed Straker
26 Oct 10:06pm

“Isn’t planting walnuts in public places more symbolic than utilitarian?”

I certainly hope not. Symbols won’t feed anyone during energy descent.

29 Oct 2:57pm

Isn’t it the objective to plan/plant together but also to harvest and process for creating local employment ?

That a local production starts related local businesses in the processing and commercialisation sectors as it used to be in the past.



michael Dunwell
29 Oct 9:36pm

Planting walnuts in public places is symbolic in the sense that people could realise the productivity of their neighbourhood and devise ways of sharing what belongs to everyone. It could be that everyone agrees that nobody picks up the walnuts except children, for instance, who decide how the proceeds are used?
“Walnut Kids Fund this year’s Music Festival”…Totnes Gazette 2020. The trees should be bearing by then.

Ed Straker
29 Oct 9:39pm

“Everyone agrees.” Nice fantasy.

michael Dunwell
1 Nov 8:05pm

Optimistic, I agree. What’s your fantasy about the fate of the walnuts?