April 21, 2006

So what is this permaculture stuff, anyway?

I've written a bit about permaculture lately, and haven't explained very much about it except to point to the wikipedia entry for permaculture. It's helpful, but it's maybe a little abstract, so I'll explain a bit more here about how I see permaculture - permanent agriculture or permanent culture - fitting with my yard, with this website, and perhaps with more people and places in Dryden.

The permaculture movement started in Australia in the 1970s, but the design approach it spawned and the principles of permaculture work well everywhere, including here. The principles - as listed in Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, include:

  • Observe and Interact

  • Catch and Store Energy

  • Obtain a Yield

  • Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

  • Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

  • Produce No Waste

  • Design from Patterns to Details

  • Integrate Rather than Segregate

  • Use Small and Slow Solutions

  • Use and Value Diversity

  • Use Edges and Value the Marginal

  • Creatively Use and Respond to Change

You can apply these principles to the world as a whole - which would require major change right now - or you can apply them to smaller scale work, as small as, say, a garden. That still requires change, but on a scale that a person or two can do relatively easily.

I'm just beginning this journey. My article on soil survey maps was one start on observing, as was the map-making. I haven't been observing all that long, though, and my interactions with this land have, up until now, been pretty basic. Mow the lawn, do some weeding, fill the birdfeeders, trim things that fall over. I have a lot more observing to do.

While I've been doing other things, though, this land has been catching and storing energy - lots of it - in its trees, shrubs, soils, lawn, and more. That's why I kept everything when I had trees cut down: those trees have collected a lot of energy, and there's no reason to send that away as trash when I can have it as logs and mulch. (Especially when forests are suffering because people want fancy mulch!) You can even use paper and cardboard as part of a mulch. I'll be working on a lot more ways to catch and store energy around here.

The rest of it's in the planning stage. I'm hoping to plant things that support each other, reducing the need for extra inputs of fertilizer and other materials over time. Some inputs at the beginning will be necessary, as my soil is mediocre, but once I have the system of plants going, I hope to reduce those inputs continuously, and generate as little waste as possible.

This won't be something that happens quickly: even with the extra inputs (lime, bone meal, potash, compost) we added to the apple orchard, it'll be a long time before that's a stable and productive system. It does include a wider range of plants than grass and trees today, but there will be more to come over time, as I work to attract useful birds and insects to support the plants and protect them from problems.

I don't claim by any means to be a permaculture expert, and I've hired Joshua Dolan precisely because he understands this design approach much better than I do. (Reading Gaia's Garden is really helpful, and more practical than most of what I've found, but leaves me a long way from a complete plan.) I hope, however, that as I get further into this, documenting what I'm doing and reporting on the results here will lead other people to see that this is possible, and generate more interest in this form of gardening.

One other thing I should mention, to perhaps intrigue some traditional gardeners out there. If this works, though it will take time to establish, it should reduce the cost of gardening and make it easier as well. Small ecosystems complete with predators to eat troubling insects can help avoid the need for poisonous insecticides, and mixed plants reinforcing each other should reduce the need for weeding, as weeds won't have the bare soil and weak competition that fosters their spread. Permaculture principles and practice make sense as a way to enjoy the benefits of gardening while stepping off the treadmill of regular spraying and fertilizing.

I hope this will be good on a lot of levels: for the quality of the food I eat, for the state of my wallet, and the state of the world. We'll see how it works on all of those levels over time.

Finally, here are a few local permaculture resources:

(I'll update this article periodically as my thoughts develop further.)

Posted by simon at April 21, 2006 12:38 PM in
Note on photos


Pietje Puk said:

wordt dit geaccepteerd?

[Translation: Is this accepted? - in Dutch]

belle said:

u suk u need better information about this crap u are only copying holgren and get your own information