SmartDwelling I - The Kitchen Garden

SmartDwelling I's kitchen garden, with the tilapia tank in the center of raised beds, and a green wall behind

   The Kitchen Garden is the one part of SmartDwelling I that a few people look at and say “you can’t be serious!” For them, buying food at the grocery store is simply too ingrained in their version of modern life to ever consider raising any appreciable portion of their own food. And make no mistake about it... the areas devoted to food in SmartDwelling I would likely provide most, if not all, of the food needed by a family of three or four for an entire year, assuming you used the space efficiently.

   How is this possible? Doesn’t the American agricultural system require an acre or two of land (depending on where you are and how long the growing season is) to provide food for just one person? And haven’t we always known that the American agricultural system is the most efficient on earth?

   Here’s the problem. America’s industrial food system is the most efficient on earth, so long as you’re measuring the man-hour efficiency of the guys on the tractors. One person on a mega-tractor as tall as a two-story house can probably work a thousand acres or more in a single day. Meanwhile, one person growing food in bio-intensive fashion has a hard time tending more than a single acre. But that guy on the mega-tractor is only a tiny part of the supply chain. Getting food to market requires truck drivers to take it to the processing plant, workers in those processing plants that break it down into its food-chain parts (high fructose corn syrup, etc.) more truck drivers to take it to assembly plants where more workers turn it into soda, Chicken McNuggets or whatever, more truck drivers to take it to the distributors who hire even more truck drivers to take it to the grocery stores. Is this starting to sound like more oil than food? It is. According to Michael Pollan, delivering a single calorie of highly-processed food (most of the stuff America eats) requires 70 to 90 calories of gasoline! And this doesn’t even take into account all the people working for the processors and the people working for the food manufacturers... who also must, by the way, buy even more gas to get to work in their corporate office parks. So the efficiency of the guy on the tractor (which can cost a million dollars or more, and must be manufactured by lots of employees at John Deere, etc.) is completely an illusion.

   The bio-intensive farmer, on the other hand, while tending only an acre, can take their produce to a nearby farmers’ market or sell it to local restaurants, reducing the food chain to just one person in a truck. And the food chain, rather than stretching across national boundaries, can be as short as 20-30 miles or less.

   So while the man-hour efficiency of the industrial food chain is a complete illusion, the acre efficiency of bio-intensive gardening is completely real. Remember that one person working hard to tend one acre? Well, they’re not just feeding one person (or less) on that one acre like the industrial food system would do. Rather, depending on growing season and local conditions, that one acre can easily feed twenty people or more... and that’s without going to some of the extremes (like Green Walls and Melon Cradles) that SmartDwelling I includes. That’s real efficiency... one person feeding twenty people or more... and with only a tiny fraction of the appetite for gasoline that we find in the entire industrial food chain.

   So beyond the fact that it’s highly acre-efficient, what’s so cool about the Kitchen Garden in SmartDwelling I? Lots of things. See the pool in the center? That’s a Tilapia Pool. Tilapia thrive in incredibly tight quarters... there can be more tilapia than water in a pool and they’ll do just fine. So you can think of it as a water feature, or as a big protein machine... take your pick. You’ll also notice a few chickens running around. Those are the hens that inhabit the henhouse under the stairs to the apartment/guest room/kids’ room/office/studio/workshop/whatever over the garage. You only need a few hens to eat garden pests, provide a continuous supply of fertilizer... and also a continuous supply of eggs for even more protein.

   You’ve probably noticed that the vegetables grow in raised beds. Rather than single rows of plants 2-3 feet apart like industrial tractor farming requires for most crops, raised beds grow vegetables much more compactly. They’re limited only by the reach of the person tending the beds... a three-foot bed allows you to easily work the middle of the bed from any edge without bending over much, if at all.

   You likely also noticed the Green Walls all around the garden. Actually, this drawing hides the near Green Wall so you can see the entire garden. but in any case, the entire garden is surrounded with Green Walls, which are highly efficient for reasons I blogged about earlier.

   But this isn’t just a place to work. See the two little structures with tools handing on the lattice walls, and seats inside? The one on the right is the Morning Pavilion. That’s where you go and sit and watch the mist rising off the garden in the early mornings, maybe with a cup of coffee... and with the morning sun streaming in over your shoulder. The one on the left is the Evening Pavilion. You can sit there at the end of a day of gardening, admiring your hard-won handiwork, with the evening sun streaming in over your shoulder again, just as it did in the mists of morning.

~ Steve Mouzon

Legacy Comments:

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 09:09 PM


You forget the combined outdoor dining option, so you can  impress your visitors as you  enjoy the cool leaves & pool when the garden is at its height in summer, and most importantly, by letting your guests pick their own tomato for dinner. (Envy & desire can be  good catalysts in the green movement.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 06:46 AM

Steve Mouzon

Exactly, Izzy! Thanks for that!


© Stephen A. Mouzon 2018