Karl Treen

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since Nov 22, 2014
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Karl Treen is an avid perennial food gardener and a 2014 PDC graduate of Geoff Lawton's online PDC course.
Since that time, Karl has taught adults and children about Permaculture and has developed an educational card game based on Permaculture Principles. It is called Food Forest and can be found here:
Instagram: @FoodForestCardGame
Providence, RI, USA
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Recent posts by Karl Treen

20% off for you and your friends!

It's giving season again, and we are all looking for great gifts. So, to celebrate the END of 2020, I have created a special 20% discount, good through December 6, 2020, just for Permies visitors! Here's the deal: I am losing my day job at the end of the year. I would love to be able to focus on Permaculture (and these games), but can't yet support myself on this stuff! So I need your help! Please share a picture of the card game on social media with a link to FoodForestCardGame.com. In return, please feel free to use the discount code below as many times as you like before December 6. With your help, I can create more fun projects that delight and educate!

You can find images to share (and follow me) on Instagram (@foodforestcardgame) or Facebook, or simply copy the card game pic from below.

The discount code is GIFT2020. Here's a link that should apply it directly. If you have trouble with the link, just go to FoodForestCardGame.com and make sure to use the GIFT2020 coupon code before you pay!

And please, please, please... don't forget to share!

Thank you!

2 weeks ago
Great article! I enjoyed reading it and am very glad to have found your blog.

One of my good friends once said that "food forestry is gardening like a forest, not in the forest". He went on to explain that he was talking about the forest edge, not the deep forest, since the forest edge (especially the southern edge, since we're in the Northern Hemisphere) was often the most accessible and productive part of the forest. In temperate zones, we are often trying to mimic the sunniest forest edge more than the deep forest. Therefore, stacked edges can be very useful as a design strategy, with the lowest growth on the south and the tallest on the north (and the reverse in the Southern Hemisphere).

If one looks at a sunny forest edge, bushes are key nutrient and sunlight collectors. They are often the most prominent plants along these edges. There are many reasons for this, but the upshot is that bushes can provide lots of fruit, at an accessible height, while often being relatively disease-resistant (at least in my humble experience). They provide habitat and forage for beneficial insects and animals, and take advantage of sunlight between other layers.

Thanks for drawing our attention to this valuable asset. We tend to associate the forest so much with the canopy that sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself!)


Connect with me on Instagram: [url=https://www.instagram.com/foodforestcardgame/]@foodforestcardgame.com
5 months ago

Permaculture is all about the connections between animals, plants, people, and structures. If you understand how they connect, and how they function together, you’re way ahead of the game!

Just like nature, the Food Forest cards are all about connections. The introductory games teach you companion planting. Advanced games teach you Permaculture zones and sun requirements. After you learn the games, making similar connections in your own food forest becomes second nature!

Insidiously educational!

What did your favorite games teach you? How to conquer a continent? How to raise the rent on Park Place? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played, and enjoyed, all kinds of games, but the lessons they teach aren’t always positive or practical.

Food Forest was designed to be different. The games are fun, but the strategies are real, the information is factual, and the purpose is positive! The decks have been played by thousands of people around the world, in classrooms, PDC courses, and by Permaculture designers who are looking for a new perspective on their landscape designs. While the plants are most relevant in temperate climates, the message they teach is universal: things in the garden don't have to compete; they can often work together.

One deck, many games!

So this isn’t just one game! The Food Forest deck is versatile enough to be used for many games. We’ve developed several, which are available on the www.foodforestcardgame.com website, and you are always more than welcome to develop your own!

Now here’s what you’re ordering…

One (1) printable PDF download, English language, Northern Hemisphere version of the Food Forest cards.* This special, discounted edition contains everything in the standard deck. The only difference is the reverse side of the cards, where I have added some contact and website information.

This PDF is available by special arrangement with Permies.com at a 20% discount off the usual $10 price. To get the discount, you must pay the discounted price here and then use the resulting coupon code for the Permies edition of the cards .
After purchasing the game, you will need to download the PDF to your PC or laptop and print the cards on your home printer. You may want to first confirm that your home printer can handle 110 lb. card stock. You may also want to borrow a paper cutter.

Your special hyperlink will appear here after you have purchased, or otherwise been granted access to, the PDF.

* The game is also available from our website as an actual, printed deck. There are more PDF versions there, too, including a Southern Hemisphere PDF (same plants with sun and shade reversed) and several translations. Currently, the cards are translated into Italian, German, and Dutch. There is also a French translation in the works. Since our translators are volunteers, and all profits go to Reforestation charities, we take what we can get!

5 months ago

paul wheaton wrote:

Karl Treen wrote:
The first step is to put it in the digital market.

Can't do that right now. It will take some revision of my existing PDF, and I'm away for the weekend. Let's coordinate Monday or Tuesday on that.


5 months ago
Hey Paul, the Food Forest card game is in! - PDF English language edition! Let me know if you don't get my email describing my offering. My first attempt at sending the reply last night got returned to me!
5 months ago

Artie Scott wrote:
When making these sorts of decisions, I tend to look at worst case and try to figure out how to mitigate risks from there...

I'm with Artie,

You are asking good questions here. Don't get carried away with the dream, because it's going to be hard. Maybe heart-breakingly hard. Make sure that VA pension is in place before making any decisions, also make sure you understand the ins and outs of the social services system in Indiana. Maybe your family can help sort that out? Finally, make sure that your marriage is strong enough to endure some serious, serious stress. My own wife's parents went "back to the land" in the early '70s. After their (uninsured) barn burned down, things went downhill fast and they ended up getting divorced. In her family, the phrase "after the barn burned down" has come to symbolize hard times and failure.

My recommendation would be to put your finances down on paper and do some worst-case scenario calculations. If you have experience with farming and raising animals, and a government stipend you can conceivably live off of, this could be a viable move. If you have no agricultural experience, and lots of kids, you are conceivably putting everyone in a very difficult position and may end up regretting it.

Also, I'm assuming you know where everyone would sleep, and that you have a little money in the bank... If the answers are "I don't know" and "not much" I would say you aren't ready for this.

Finally, when one of the kids steps on a nail or falls off a ladder, will you be able to pay the medical costs? With 7 kids, it's not a matter of "if" it's a matter of "when". Can you get free (or affordable) healthcare in Indiana?

You've got so many variables here that I suggest spending a year just putting together a business plan. Visit again and treat it like a business trip: Talk with local farmers. Talk with your family members about the hardest questions. Make sure they are as excited about this as you are - not just by what they say but by the look in their eyes when you say you are seriously considering it. What does your gut say during these discussions? Are they being honest or just trying to make you happy? Fill in all of the blanks in your business plan. Once you have that, you should have your answer. As Bill Mollison liked to say, "if you don't know what to do, don't do anything". In this case, I would say: "don't do anything until you know exactly what you are going to do." If there is no rush to make this decision, you should use that luxury of time because, once you pull that trigger, you'll have 9 mouths to feed and there won't be any time to think.

I am glad you are seeking people who are actually doing this. That said, you may find that most people who are actually supporting a large family on farming are too busy to be posting on these forums very often. ;)

5 months ago

Thanks for the heads up! I live in RI and often visit coastal MA. I had no idea!

Have you had any luck locating your seeds? If not, I'll keep my eyes open for you.

As for my own brassicas, I have been very excited about perennial varieties over the past couple of years. I have been growing sea kale (Crambe maritima) since 2015, and am attempting to establish cold-hardy perennial kale/collard varieties in my zone 6b garden. I have several promising plants, so this next winter will be an interesting one!

Be well!
5 months ago

Skandi Rogers wrote:In my experience constant hilling is counter productive, we have a short season and blight is a when not an if, so anything that delays the harvest like burying all the food creating leaves is a dumb idea.

William Whitson wrote:Those are all pretty strongly supported.  Figure there have been something like 10,000 years of potato cultivation in the Andes and no evidence that they developed extreme hilling or towers or other crazy schemes to get more yield.  Hill enough to keep the leaves in the sunlight and the tubers out of it.

Thanks to both of you for the helpful comments. Maybe the boring (but effective) way just doesn't get enough clicks to rise to the top of the search results. ;)
5 months ago
Interesting ideas!

While I agree 100% with Marco Banks, especially with respect to perennial food systems, it may be helpful to add that earthworms and compost worms provide different functions: earthworms dig more deeply, aerating the soil and eating small scraps of plant matter and microorganisms. Compost worms live closer to the surface, eating leaf litter and larger pieces of food. Both provide increased fertility: Compost worms are especially useful for processing kitchen waste and leaf litter on a small scale, while earthworms are probably more what you need in your large-scale system. Depending on your climate, you may have both occurring naturally, but with wood chip mulch, you may not have as many compost worms joining the system to begin with. Also, compost worms won't occur naturally or overwinter outdoors if your winters are too cold. Sorry if I am mansplaining here. I'm pretty sure that this was what Marco was getting at, but I thought a little extra detail might be helpful

Because they don't dig very deeply, compost worms are a challenge to raise for larger systems. Doing this on a large scale requires lots of surface area. You can't do it in deep containers. If you do, other volunteers (like earthworms and black soldier fly larvae) may join your worm colony to work the lower levels - which isn't always a terrible thing, but not the system you were trying to create. So, scaling up your compost worm production depends on how much contained surface area you have to raise compost worms.

Making properly aerated worm tea is time and energy intensive. In order to get the most good from that time and energy, it should be used quickly, not be left to sit in warm temperatures for very long. Refrigerated it might last for 5 days, but the quality will be diminished with every passing day. In a pond, you may create algae blooms and low oxygen levels. Think of all the problems caused by nitrogen run-off in ponds. That's basically what we're talking about.

Honestly, I don't think I would bother with large totes of compost tea for your food forest. You have a large system. You would have to spend lots of time and money on large, flat boxes, aeration equipment, and electricity. If I were you, I would, instead, keep doing what you're doing. Sometimes simple solutions are better than complex ones.

In my small system, I don't bother aerating "worm tea" at all. I've tried and I can't stand the constant buzzing of the pump and the thought of all that electricity being used for what is, otherwise, a completely natural product. I simply dissolve my worm castings in water, filter out the seeds and stuff, dilute it and apply it directly to the kitchen garden. I can't vouch for the comparative efficacy of my method versus an aeration system, but it works for me.

5 months ago