Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Permaculture and cheap dates

Belladonna was at a Farmer's Market this week and is becoming interested in where food comes from and at what cost.

I have a deep admiration for most of the principles that fall under the Permaculture umbrella.

The single, most readable book on the topic is Bill Mollison's Introduction to Permaculture. Unfortunately that book is out of print and breath-takingly expensive.

As a person with no credentials in Permaculture and as someone who never went to a seminar, Permaculture appears to be a way to rearrange your home, gardens, orchards, pastures and woods into functional ecosystems that work toward your needs rather than thwart them.

For example, in industrial farming a chicken is seen as a black box where food and water is poured into one end and poop, eggs and carcasses flow out the other.

In Permaculture a chicken is seen as a design element that can eat bugs, weeds and weed seeds, can scratch up the surface of the soil, announce predators, are capable of roosting in trees and can produce eggs, meat, fat, feathers and fertilizer.

Additionally, to the Permaculture practitioner, chickens come in many different flavors. Some are far more capable of fending for themselves (Hamburgs, American game-hens, Ameraucanas/Araucanas and non-white Mediterranean breeds) while others are more efficient at turning garden and kitchen waste into human quality food (most brown egg layers). That suggests that chickens can be fill at least two distinctly different ecological niches: semi-wild pest control with eggs and occasional stewing chickens as a high-value side product .and. domesticated animal with eggs and meat as the primary output and the reduction of food waste being the side product.

Another factor that makes Permaculture valuable is that it recognizes that human's do not have unlimited ability to manage. That limit is often the factor that bottlenecks productivity. Permaculture's solution is to break the property into "zones" based on how often then need to be attended to and order them in rational ways.

For example, the path between your door and the mail box is walked at least once every day. It is the ideal place to plant everbearing raspberries and strawberries or edible flowers. Bringing in the mail would also mean bringing in a small basket of fruit for dessert or for your morning cereal.

Conversely, "the woods" might only get visited a few times a year for gathering nuts, hunting or cutting wood for fuel and construction.

Industrial agriculture is about simple systems. Few inputs. Few outputs.

Permaculture and Sustainable Agriculture is about nurturing ecosystems. It attends to flows and connections between systems.

Questions that should always bubbling up are "How can I use the waste and byproducts of one element of my system as the inputs for another part?" .and. "Is there a system already in place that already does that, one that only needs me to validate and protect it?" and "Is there a way I can make that system more productive by substituting one or two parts like replacing a hawthorn tree with a pear tree?"

Permaculture is Sustainable because it focuses on working with the flow rather than steamrollering it with fossil fuel based inputs.


  1. This is a topic I need more education on. It may be too late in my life to be much of a difference maker but, I might be able to get the ball rolling for my daughter.

  2. Then there is the part about the "slowing of the water" capturing and containing the rainfall on the property, the permaculturalist assures better plant success against drought, a potential for aquaculture, water for animals, and the additional energy from sunlight reflected off the water. Sepp Holzer in Austria provides good examples of water control on his property, and his land is worth viewing and studying if one is interested in sustainable food production.


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