For my first blog post and to celebrate Earth Day, I thought I would try to answer the question, “Why permaculture?”. For those who are not familiar with permaculture, it is a design science that follows three basic tenants/ethics and 12 design principles.
The three tenants are;
1. Care for the earth.
2. Care for people.
3. Return of surplus.
Permaculture can be traced back to the primary work of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978 when the term was first coined. The movement towards permaculture was slow in building momentum for its first 30 years. With recent changes in our culture and the influence of the internet and social media, permaculture has gained explosive momentum as the best solution to the problems facing the planet’s food supply.
What it comes down to is that permaculture is working with nature rather than against it in the production of food or maintenance of our spaces. Nature is the most resilient and healing force that man has ever or will ever know. Leave a crack in a sidewalk alone and nature will put a weed there before you can blink. Walk in the woods or anywhere in nature and you will never find space where only one species of plant grows. The idea of mono-crop fields of corn or soy is not natural by design because it does not follow the design of nature.
The beauty of permaculture is that, like nature, it can be both simple and complex at the same time. Once you catch the permaculture bug it will change how you view the world. Conversations with those that don’t get it may be challenging.
Last week as I was building some of the infrastructure of our back yard system, I made the last minute decision to put in a small pond. While we had the excavator rented we dug it out. I set out to learn how to line my new pond and move water within it. I found a local business owner that had vast experience in ponds and my head began to spin as he showed me costly pumps, liners, skimmers and other pond gear.
The pond guy was very nice trying to pass on his knowledge of ponds, not simply trying to sell me a $1200 pond kit. I could tell he enjoyed his work and knew about his subject. He just didn’t get my point of view. At one point I asked, “what if I just want to go all natural without constant monitoring, additives and upkeep?” The pond guy was ready to answer, “all of our additives are all natural. Without monitoring, this delicate ecosystem will begin to have problems. Fish and plants may die, water may become cloudy or grow fungus.” I thanked the pond guy and walked away trying to apply some of his feedback to my pond plan.
I am a Permaculturist …I don’t create delicate ecosystems that produce only what I want, but sometimes gives me what I don’t want, and require lots of inputs. I know if I dig a hole in my yard and fill it with water nature is going to figure out what to do with it. Most likely, without any further thought or planning from me, I will not like what nature comes up with … a mosquito infested hole filled with stagnant water. Make no mistake nature will be managing this ecosystem with countless species of plants, fungi, insects and animals.
Through permaculture we try to set up systems that leverage what nature is trying to do while benefiting us (Care for People). We don’t follow the extraction model that conventional agriculture which depletes the health of our soil while dumping herbicides and pesticides on our food (Care for Earth). We manage the outputs of our systems, whether they be benefits or what we would consider waste, through methods like composting so we can add back to our soil (Return of Surplus).
We sheet mulch instead of tilling soil. There is life in soil that will benefit whatever you grow.
We plant everywhere we can…nature will let us know what will work. Plants like diversity.
We compost everything we can…your high quality organic produce creates high quality organic waste. Don’t send it to the landfill. Put it back in your garden.
We collect rainwater and utilize rainfall through the development of Hugelbeds.
Happy Earth Day! The ground is waking up. Go plant a tree!!!
Some additional resources I have found helpful;
www.permies.com – A great permaculture message board and the great work of Paul Wheaton
www.Geofflawton.com – Geoff Lawton is a great leader in the permaculture movement and has some great video like his video greening the dessert
A great Book to check out is,
This books lays out in simple math how permaculture can and does produce more than conventional agriculture.
And lastly, Check this out if you need some inspiration to start growing your garden.