Earth Care, People Care, Fair Shares
Permaculture is a term that I’ve been hearing for the last couple of years but it’s something I never truly understood or looked into. I thought it was a trend in gardening that had something to do with using permanent and perennial plantings. I also suspected that it was an element of an alternative lifestyle that I might not want to follow or fit in to.
This view seemed to be confirmed when someone posted a video on the 2012 pole-reversal/end of the world scenario in a Permaculture Facebook group earlier this year. I’d seen the video before so waited to see what the comments coming back would be like. What I did not expect was one of the first being “What’s this rubbish got to do with Permaculture?”. After that my interest in the system grew, and I decided to sign up to an introductory course.
I mention my initial experience and feelings not because I have anything against people with different lifestyles or beliefs but because I know that there are others out there who have probably dismissed Permaculture based on the same assumptions I had.What I found out in the short course is that it is in fact a living design system that will be attractive to anyone interested in ecology, natural living, gardening, sustainability, renewable energy and the simplicity movement.
It is not a cult and by integrating Permaculture into your life you aren’t subscribing to balancing your Chakra, talking to Angels or dancing naked under the full moon. Though no doubt there are people out there who do all that in addition to practicing Permaculture.
The class began by getting straight to the point and defining what Permaculture is. The word sounds rather technical at first but it simply represents the idea of ‘Permanent Culture’ and ‘Permanent Agriculture’. It is a way of living and gardening that address crucial modern issues that threaten the future of people and the planet.
These issues include but are not limited to over-population, over-consumption, pollution and the unsustainability of modern food and energy production. I also learned that it’s a system practiced by people from all walks of life which even include rather well known individuals such as Monty Don, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Pippa Greenwood. In fact you could be practicing Permaculture yourself and not even know it.
Permaculture has three core values which are ‘Care of the Earth’, ‘Care of People’ and ‘Fair Shares’. These values are expressed by the use of integrated natural and man-made designs that are sensitive to the environment, ensure the health and well-being of people and emphasise the idea of not using more than you need.
Intrinsically linked to these ideas are twelve design principles which are introduced in one of the below images. My understanding is that through these values and principles Permaculture tries to teach us that you and every person out there is a part of nature and not set apart from the planet or from each other.
In practical terms Permaculture offers the opportunity to live, work and garden in more natural, productive and less time-intensive ways. We can achieve these goals by making both small and large changes such as switching to energy efficient lightbulbs or going so far as to create a Forest-Garden.
Ultimately all of these strategies culminate in or rely on cutting costs and reducing personal debt. If you can achieve both of these then you’re free to live and design your own life.
Though there are many facets to Permaculture one of the main ways to achieving its goals is to grow your own food. Industrial scale agri-business uses up vast quantities of water and destroys the soil through systematic use of fertilisers and pesticides and by engaging in farming practices that lead to large scale erosion.
By starting a garden and learning to grow food in a more ecologically sensitive manner you can save money as well as opt out of a system that is unsustainable.
Gardening the Permaculture way is making sure you’re planting in harmony with your soil and situation and to allow both wild and domestic creatures to be a part of it. Mulches, manure, bi-cropping, forest gardens and the use of fruit and nut trees are all tools that are used to increase your yields and to minimise your effort. I’m keen to learn more of the specifics and try applying them to my own garden and allotment in the near future.
This small introduction of my own does not do Permaculture justice but I hope to share more as I learn and experience it myself. But after two days of seeing it put to practice in both the classroom and at people’s homes I feel as if I have a good basic understanding that I can then expand upon with further research and experimentation.
I’m inspired by the ways that its methods can free up some of my time and make gardening more efficient and produtive. I’m also intrigued by the ways that different integrated systems can maximise your potential outputs. For example, raising pigs for meat but also to help till and fertilise the soil. Or growing garden crops alongside wild plants and trees which can help protect and maximise their harvests. I feel as if a whole new world has been laid out before me.