Permaculture Notes #1

In a previous post, I shared a cool new thing I found, a free online permaculture class.  I’ve been watching the videos they provide and I’m even more excited about it then I was when I first clicked on the website.  Since I want to help solidify these concepts within my mind, and because I find them to be so darn awesome, I’m going to share what I learn in groovy little blog posts as I make my way through the videos.

The first two videos were introductions to permaculture, where the instructor Larry Korn, shares his story about permaculture and what it means.  When I had heard of the term permaculture in passing, I had always thought it was just a farming thing, and while that’s partially true, it’s incomplete.

Permaculture is a way of living and interacting with the planet that is more sustainable, it works with mother nature instead of against her, and allows the natural ecosystems in place to do their thing, often with better results.  Permaculture is often referred to as “eco-farming” for this reason.      Think of it as living in a way that promotes a “permanant culture”.    If we want to see this planet to be around 7 generations from now, we’re going to have to change the way we operate.  Our current systems are failing us and we’re heading in a bad direction.  People turn to ideas found in permaculture because they want to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

The goal, (paraphrased from the video) is to “provide for our current needs, bring decency and dignity to all people, assure abundance for all, repair the damage to our planet, and if we are able, reverse global warming.”  If we’re going to meet this goal, it’s going to require more from us than just changing the way we farm, we’re literally going to have to change the way we think, the way we eat, the way we live.  This is part of the reason why I put so many different topics into the permaculture category, they all relate to each other and the health of ourselves and this planet.

Inter-dependency and relationships are another big concept of permaculture.  Inter-dependency is the idea that things should not be isolated and that different systems depend on each other to work efficiently.  In and of itself it’s a subject I’ve found fascinating for many years, ever since I started studying spirituality and the relationships we have with each other and this planet.  It’s another topic I will probably write about in the future.

Permaculture is a great opportunity to see this concept of inter-dependency in a very tangible way.   Farmers and people who incorporate inter-dependency into their practices often find that they have much better crop yields and results, for much less work.  This is because they let nature do what it does best, and she rewards them for not messing up her groove.   The instructor touched on the fact that we tend to have a sort of arrogant way of interacting with this planet.  We have this false idea that we know how best to do things when often our methods are more difficult and far more damaging.

I’d like to share an example of permaculture design that was touched on briefly in the video.  It’s a good way to see how we can “roll with it” and let nature do the heavy lifting for us.  In this case we’re looking at a greenhouse that incorporates multiple systems into its design.

You would have the greenhouse divided into two sections.  On one side of the greenhouse you could grow your veggies, on the other side of the greenhouse you could raise chickens.  Aside from the obvious reasons for keeping chickens, like having a source of eggs, there are other equally useful reasons for incorporating them into a design.

The chickens are really great at processing plant material and creating manure you can use for feeding and fertilizing plants.   An added benefit to keeping chickens in your greenhouse is that with the body heat of just 6-10 chickens, you’ll be able to keep the greenhouse from dropping to freezing temperatures in colder climates.  So they also provide a source of heat for your greenhouse that doesn’t require fuel.

Another thing you could do to expand on this idea of incorporating multiple systems is aquaponics, which has worked very successfully for many people.  Aquaponics involves raising fish in the greenhouse and feeding the water from the fish tanks throughout the greenhouse to water and fertilize your plants.  The waste from the fish is rich in nitrogen and works great for feeding plants, the movement of the water through the greenhouse helps oxygenate it for the fish.

The greenhouse is also set up in such a way that you can cool it in the summer by partially shading it from the sun, and in the winter you can remove the shade and it will keep the greenhouse warm during the day.   Adding insulation between the greenhouse and the ground will keep the heat from seeping out during the day.  You can also attach a eaves trough to the greenhouse and then collect the water during storms to use in the garden.  (Keep in mind collecting rainwater is illegal in some places. :(… )

To me, permaculture is a way of doing things that just makes more sense.  I was thinking about it today and it strikes me that it’s a lot like (well it is actually) life-hacking.  Life hacking is coming up with unique uses and ideas for stuff we already have; seeing the value in the world around you.

There were a lot of other things the instructor touched on in the intro videos that I haven’t mentioned in this post, the best way to learn about them is to start watching the videos for yourself.  The website also has a forum where you can get help with any questions you might have.   I’ll keep adding posts as I make my way through the course and learn more about this subject; it covers a lot of ground. 😉




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