Monday, April 28, 2008
On Saturday we hosted a permaculture basics workshop, facilitated by Tracie Seedhouse of EarthChild Designs. She covered wide ground, beginning with defining what permaculture is (from the roots "permanent agriculture") and then focussing on what we can do in urban settings. She stressed that permaculture involves sustainable ecological land use, but also includes buildings, animals and all living things. All things have inherent value in a permaculture approach, which looks at the positive attributes and resources, often turning obstacles into benefits (for example, a boggy swamp which can't grow produce, is seen as a wildlife sanctuary or for growing cranberries)...
Tracie talked about urban permaculture being key, because most of us do live in urban settings and permaculture allows us to produce higher yields on less land. Permaculture is not energy, labour or resource intensive, but does involve much observation, study, information and research. Observing nature's patterns and trying to mimic this design is the beginning of permaculture. So, to begin with your own backyard, observe (and map out or photograph) where the snow melts first and last, where the sun shines hottest, where the water pools, where the first buds come up in spring, and you will learn much about the conditions of your property (slope, drainage, soil conditions, sunlight, and so on). By making lists of both resources and problems of your site, you can start to use the resources to help solve the problems. A famous permaculture saying is "the problem is the solution"...
Permaculture looks at zones, growing things like frequently used herbs closest to your kitchen door, whereas fruit trees or livestock could be several zones further from the house. Edges are valued, where two microclimates or ecosystems come together in a dynamic way to create maximum benefit and yield. The goal of permaculture gardening is to create as many edges as possible, and in a small urban setting this can be done by using "keyholes", spirals, scallops, waves or curves around gardens and ponds rather than circles or straight lines. Tracie concluded with the idea of learning to be quiet with the land and allowing it to tell you. Thanks to Tracie for this highly informative and useful workshop!
Good permaculture resource books include:
- Bill Mollison's works on permaculture
- Toby Hemingway's "Gaia's Garden"
- Rosemary Morrow "The Earth User's Guide to Permaculture"