I soon discovered that this book was far from a beginners guide! Its taken me a long time to start reading it properly, but I was lucky to have a few helpful comments on my blog by some people who know more about permaculture than I do and those comments finally put the book in perspective (even though they didn't know I was trying to read it).
What is permaculture?
The word itself it derived from "permanent" "agriculture" and "culture".
Some descriptions of permaculture from the interwebs:
- Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. ( http://permaculture.org.au/what-is-permaculture/)
- Permaculture is a design system based on ethics and design principles which can be used to guide efforts made by individuals, households and communities towards a sustainable future. (http://permacultureprinciples.com/)
- Permaculture is a practical concept applicable from the balcony to the farm, from the city to the wilderness. It enables people to establish productive environments providing for food, energy, shelter, material and non-material needs, as well as the social and economic infrastructures which support them. Permaculture means thinking carefully about our environment, our use of resources and how we supply our needs. It aims to create systems that will sustain not only for the present, but for future generations. definition from Permaculture International Journal (http://www.seedinternational.com.au/pc.html)
- Another good introduction article here. My definition - permaculture is about designing a way of living within our means (natural and financial) so that we are prepared if/when we can no longer rely on the supply chain to provide our needs. This means building resilient communities as well as considering how food, energy, fibre and shelter needs can be produced sustainably and locally in the long term.
Who's who in permaculture
For someone who wasn't involved in permaculture from the start, it can be difficult to figure out all the different characters and ideas that have participated since the concepts were first developed. Fortunately I found a very detailed explanation, which did help me to understand how permaculture was developed and how it has changed from the original ideas.
My understanding is that permaculture was first proposed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, and first discussed publicly in 1976, as a result of the turmoil of the 60s and 70s and worries of resource and energy scarcity. The first book "Permaculture One" was published in 1978 by both originators, however since then they have worked separately, and many other teachers, practitioners and authors have joined them, both in Australia and overseas.
Bill Mollison and David Holmgren
A completely un-politically correct interview with Bill Mollison, if you can put up with early life without cars in a Tasmanian village, he does have some good points.....
Two aspects to permaculture
Catch and Store Energy
Setting up long-term storage of energy, including water and soil fertility. This is about planning ahead and making larger investments of time/effort/money to prepare for the future.
Obtain a Yield
Producing something useful in the short-term. Thinking about how to gain some benefit immediately so that you can keep working towards the longer term plan, especially using succession. For example growing smaller shrubs and veges in an orchard while the fruit trees are growing to maturity.
Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
Considering what we really need and what we could do differently. This can be a gradually process of change as the possibilities for producing more and consuming less become more obvious.
Use and Value Renewable Resources
Taking advantage of all that free-energy from the sun in the form of passive solar energy and biomass. It may take a few changes, but once you realise the benefits of free resources, you will find ways to use them!
Produce no Waste
This principle seems easy, but the challenge is NO waste, not just more recycling, this can result in some very creative thinking.
Design from Patterns to Details
Thinking about arranging your life and your property in a broader sense and then working towards the details. I still find this principle difficult to explain.
Integrate, Rather than Segregate
Separate areas of your production can work together, for example, we harvest veges from the garden, the scraps go to the worm farm, the worm wee fertilises the garden, the worms are fed to the chickens, we eat the chicken eggs, this means we don't have to buy veges, fertiliser or eggs. Also, our use of chicken tractors to move the chickens over the pasture means that their manure is spread out and we don't have to clean our chicken coops.
Use Small and Slow Solutions
Big and fast solutions are expensive in money and energy and can have adverse effects. Think about using human-power and nature to slowly change things, and you are less likely to disrupt a system entirely.
Use and Value Diversity
I think this is my favourite principle! Pete and I think about this a lot, and we try to create diversity in many areas of our life, this means planning to have many different ways to satisfy our needs as well as each different thing we do serving many purposes. For example we produce protien on our farm in the form of beef, chicken and eggs. And from the beef we also get tallow for soap making, hides for rugs and bones for the dogs.
Use Edges and Value the Marginal
The edges have much potential, and often the marginal is just not valued by others, but can still be useful. Our property was on the market for 2 years before we bought it because it had too many trees, but that is something that we value.
Creatively Use and Respond to Change
Anticipating and working with change, generating change for positive results and adapting to change that we can't control.
A far more lucid discussion from David Holmgren about a transition to a future with less energy....
Adapting to an uncertain future
Permaculture Design Courses (PDC)
The best part about permaculture is that its all common-sense, you just need to do a bit of reading and thinking and suddenly you find yourself using it all the time without even realising, its not difficult, it just requires a change of mind-set. You need to stop consuming and start producing!
In that post I included some youtube vidoes and some book suggestions to get you started. Then I went quiet oon permaculture for a while as I did some more reading myself.
Any suggestions of good books or courses? Any corrections or additions to my beginners' assessment of permaculture?