In his book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability (affiliate link), David Holmgren, one of the founders of permaculture, has written about 12 design principles. The eleventh permaculture principle is Use Edges and Value the Marginal. In this post I summarise this chapter and give examples from my own experience.
This principle is self-referencing!
Permaculture itself is marginal, on the edge, not mainstream, so if you're using permaculture, you're probably already in the right frame of mind to apply this principle!
|one of our dams... notice the perfect edge!|
Many different types of edges
When I think of this principle, I immediately picture the edges between a dam and pasture, or between forest and pasture, but that is a simplistic interpretation of this principle. By marginal, David means both "things on the edge" and "things that are not valued". An example in the book is wild foods, which we often forget can be useful. The idea is that things on the edge are more dynamic because of the cross-over of two systems.
Some examples of edge and marginal aspects from our farm life:
- Our farm itself was marginal (not valued) because of all the trees, but we see value as firewood, fence posts, fertility and shade
- We tend to buy secondhand (including our house!) because it creates less waste, but it also makes use of things that are not valued by others
- On our farm we do things differently to our neighbours, we use different fertilisers and don't spray herbicides, which makes us marginal :)
- I value weeds in the garden because they help create awesome compost
- I like to grow unusual vegetables to find out what grows well, even if they aren't something we would normally be able to buy from the supermarket
- Pete and I are an edge, I'm from NZ originally, and he's very Australian, we cross-over our two cultures and accents in daily life, I'm not sure if that makes us more productive, but its does make us gives an open mind and maybe we find new ideas more accessible as a result
Making use of edges
How do you use edges and value the marginal?
Find out more about Permaculture using these books (affiliate links):
And the other posts in this series: