A primer to permaculture

So, I’m sure you’ve heard the term Permaculture… but what is all the hub bub about? What does it really mean in general, and specifically to you and your homestead? Is this just one of those hippie, new age, crazy things? Inquiring minds want to know! So, lets head on down the rabbit hole and see if we can learn something today. We’ll start with a definition:

“The development of horticultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.”

Permaculture is driven by a prime directive. I believe this actually speaks as a model for all of life, rather than just how we plant our gardens and landscape… but I digress. Lets stick to the topic at hand. First, the Prime Directive: Take Responsibility for the needs of ourselves and our children. To me, this speaks to the need for becoming self reliant in as many ways as possible. In pursuit of this directive, we find three driving ethics that shape our journey.

Care for the earth. I don’t want to go all exostential here, but we have one planet available for us to live on, and we are all contributing to destroying it on a daily basis. I think this ethic speaks to us, that we need to each do our part to give back, rather than take away from our home. Think about your actions and how they affect the earth. Don’t get burdened by the big picture and find yourself hopeless… rather focus on your immediate area and work outward. Do what you can on a daily basis to make the planet healthier.

  • Plant a tree. While ornamental trees can add beauty to your home and certainly contribute to biodiversity in some way, think about planting a fruit tree instead. Years down the road, when you are eating a fresh off the tree apple, pear, or whatever, you will realize the benefit.
  • Buy less stuff. Repair what you already have when feasible. With YouTube, you can find help to fix almost anything.
  • Buy second hand when possible. This keeps stuff in use instead of in a land fill.
  • When appropriate, borrow or rent something, rather than buying something that will only be used once or twice and then discarded.
  • Buy local.
  • Grow your own food. Everyone, even with the smallest amount of space can grow something. it may only be a tomato plant or a container full of herbs, but it all contributes.
  • Reduce waste in every way you can think of. Reusing/Repurposing things keeps them out of the landfill.

In the context of permaculture, focus on how you can produce your own food. Trees, a garden, herbs in your kitchen window. Its all in your grasp if you just take that first step.

Care for the people. This one is really simple in some ways, yet complex when you look deeper. Get involved with other people and sincerely help them. Share your knowledge. Lend a helping hand when you can. Say and do kind, thoughtful things. It’s the butterfly effect in action. Encourage a friend to take that first step on a journey of learning. Share your excess and the knowledge of how and why you had it. Build a community of friends and family who are good stewards of our planet and our brothers. We all need to build each other up. Set out to do just one kind act EVERY day. Share a tidbit of knowledge every day and encourage someone to act on it.

  • Have a friend who is interested in gardening but hasn’t taken the plunge? Go help them plant something and take the time to help them nurture it. This is an investment in people that you care about.
  • Have some extra radishes or tomatoes from your garden? Make sure they end up on someone’s dinner table and take the time to talk to them about nature’s bounty, about how easy it is to grow your own food and how much healthier and fresher it is. Plant the seed and help it grow.
  • Lend a helping hand. There is an opportunity every day to do something kind for someone, even something so simple as holding a door for someone. Acts of kindness are contagious… they will create a pay-it-forward chain reaction that you can’t even imagine.

Return the surplus. This is the most contentious of the ethics. This can mean different things to different interpretations. I take it, very simply to mean that anything you don’t use, return to the earth. Everything you clip, pull, or otherwise remove from the garden should go in the compost bin. At the end of the growing season the remains of those dying plants… in the compost bin… or simply let them return to the earth. Either way, they are feeding the soil that will grow in another season. Any/all biological matter that gets absorbed back into the soil makes it better.

This is in no way intended to be a comprehensive guide to PermaCulture. I’m just learning myself, so I can’t stand as a master on the subject. I can only encourage you to explore this wondrous way to emulate nature in your gardening and to begin your own journey down this road. I’ll certainly share more as I learn more. I hope this inspires you to do some research!

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