PDC Day 8: Humid Cool to Cold Climates

This is our climate type, but it’s useful to understand how it is distinct from other climates, such as tropical climates and hot, dry climates, so that we can appreciate the benefits and particular challenges it presents.

Humid cool/cold climates run from the Mediterranean to the Boreal forest. They have wet winters, frosts, and heavy humus accumulation from deciduous forests, resulting in thick, lush soils. Spring melt and runoff through watersheds to the ocean must be dealt with.

Fruits and berries are small, compared with large tropical fruit. Worms aerate the soil and decompose organic matter, whereas in dry climates ants carry out these functions.

Housing has to be solid and insulated to protect from cold as well as precipitation.   Most mammals hibernate in winter, and humans need to store food and cycling the diet to adapt to the seasons. Our diet is quite diverse.

With high rains in spring and fall, and wet winters but summers that are often dry just when our crops need water, sustainable settlements need to retain and store water while preventing loss of soil through erosion.

When drainage is poor, acidity can develop in the soil. High acidity makes heavy metals soluble and restricts availability of some essential nutrients.

Rolling landscapes with lots of rounded hills and valleys are typical of these climates.

My Danish grandparents, on their Nova Scotia farm

Before the “green revolution” when everyone started using fertilizers and pesticides, a set of farming practices had developed that involved the plough, shedding livestock in winter, long crop rotations, manure on fields, silage and stored hay for the winter, growing root crops and grains – the kind of farming I associate with my Dutch and Danish immigrant grandfathers, who also had access to fertilizers and pesticides, and one of them died young as a direct result.

Our climate has required that humans be inventive and resourceful in order to survive in it. Permaculturalists are finding new ways to build thriving landscapes that mostly maintain themselves, while healing the earth in the process. It is amazing how land can be rejeuvenated in just a few years when we work with nature instead of against it.

Compacted soil can be revived with three years of keyline ploughing which allows rain to soak into the soil without actually turning the soil over. Swale systems and ponds can store and distribute water while preventing flooding and erosion. Mulch and fungi help rebuild the soil’s fertility.

Smarter home building can make life more comfortable in all seasons. Proper situating of the house in the landscape, orientation to the sun, good insulation and building materials can make a house very inexpensive to heat. Deciduous vines and trees on the sunward side of the house can reduce heat in summer.

Likewise on a community level there are many things we could do differently to reduce use of fossil fuels and make life more pleasant in our humid cool/cold climates.



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