Forest gardening is something that I have started in a small way, but hope to add to this coming spring and summer. Although I'll probably be dead before it all comes to fruition, I would like to set up a forest garden on my hundred acres of land in northern Maine. Basically, a forest garden involves planting crops that don't have to be replanted every spring and harvested in the fall. It's sort of the planned idea of being able to live off the land without farming, not that I expect to reach that stage on my land. For one thing, I also have a lot of wildlife that will be living off of my land too. As it is, I have wild berries but the bears often get to them before I do. If I had to, I suppose I could live off the bears so it's not entirely a bad thing. For my purposes, I will be using forest gardening principles in order to enrich my land, both for myself and for the wildlife that spends more time there than I do. As a child, I enjoyed being able to pick wild blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and several other kinds of berries when they were in season, and to eat several varieties of apples, pears, plums, and cherries, picked right from the tree. There were wild grapes and several trees that produced edible nuts, although I wasn't so much into nuts as a child. Some of these weren't exactly wild. Of course, everyone had apple trees, and we had a cherry tree in our yard, but many of the ones that I'd pick were from the former townsite, which had burned the same year as the Chicago Fire, leaving orchards and grape vines to grow wild. That was in 1871. A century later, these trees and grape vines were still producing fruit in the middle of what was, by then, a woods, visited only by children and maintained by no one. That's sort of what I want to create, in some manner. Other people have used forest gardening to create dense crops of edible perennials on much smaller parcels of land. There are books, films, and even coursework relating to forest gardens, also known as permaculture. Forest gardens might include fruit or nut-bearing trees, perennials, or self-sowing annuals. It's not just about food either. One book that I have mentions seven F's: food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, farmaceuticals, and fun. Of course, I know that's not how "pharmaceuticals" is spelled, but it suggests pharmaceuticals that can be grown rather than produced in a laboratory, such as plants with medicinal qualities. It involves more than simply planting things that I'd like to eat later. Of course, not everything will grow in northern Maine since we have a curious little thing that we know of as winter, and it can get cold. My land is in on the border of Hardiness Zone 3 and 4, so an unusually cold winter could kill something that is intended for Hardiness Zone 4. This doesn't mean that I would rule out anything intended for Zone 4, but I might want to be careful about where on the land I plant it, as some areas are more protected than others, and I wouldn't invest a whole lot of money in something that isn't cold hardy. Some plants grow better together, as far as providing protection from the elements, adding necessary nutrients to the soil, etc. God tends to work these things out in time, but I work in a shorter time frame than He does, so it helps to know whether the new plant I am thinking of adding will by symbiotic or a hindrance to nearby plants or trees. Of course, an edible forest isn't entirely untended. Wholly untended, everything will grow into a forest eventually. Annual and perennial weeds first colonize bare soil, but shrubs would soon shade out the weeds. Pioneer trees would move in, and eventually the shrubs would be crowded out, and you'd have a forest. In time, these first pioneer trees would succumb to longer-lived, more shade-tolerant species, and in the end you'd have a mature forests. While mature forests can provide lumber and protection from the elements, there is not a lot of food in a mature forest. That's why deer, moose, and other animals are so often seen at the edge of the forest foraging for food from newer plants. Edible forest gardens are about creating all of that, allowing for the full range of growth, and my land is perfect for that. It includes a section of mature forest, a year-round brook, and a couple of seasonal streams for water draining from the surrounding mountains, which have water during all but the hottest, driest summers. A forest garden is about putting plants together in patterns that create mutually beneficial relationships.