Permaculture in Practice
‘Permaculture’, meaning Permanent Agriculture, is a solution to the destructive methods of industrialized agriculture. The ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Future Care form the foundations of the design principles.
An example of one of the design principles is ‘capturing and storing energy’. This is one way of creating a ‘closed loop system’ (self-sustaining and regenerating system) it also allows us to mitigate against our changing climate e.g. flooding and droughts.
Permaculture’s mimicking of natural ecosystems produces food, medicine, fiber and textiles in a way that is holistic and mutually beneficial for plants, animals and humans. Permaculture creates natural cycles to reduce inputs and increase yields, leading to resilience, self-sufficiency, optimum health, abundance and bio-diversity.
All Solutions Come From Seeing the Problem as an Opportunity.
Resilience, adaptation and cooperation are essential to surviving and thriving in uncertain times.
Finding the solutions begin with a change in our perception. We become a lot more practical when we have a mind focused on creating solutions rather than dwelling on the problems. We need to get past our mind and let our heart make the choice. The mind is a terrible master but a great servant.
Our heritage is not toxic and nutritionally deficient food, whether that is genetically modified, industrially farmed, chemically grown, or vertically farmed food. Our food came from and belongs in the soil, with a symbiosis of natural chemistry and biology working together in a balance between bacteria and fungi, creating healthy and regenerative land that actually nurtures our Earth rather than exploiting it.
The balance of biology and chemistry along with optimum photosynthesis enables the soil biome to become healthy and bio-diverse, this creates the environment for disease and pest resistant plants that can fully express their optimum health.
We can create healthier food systems by connecting with our local organic and regenerative farms that have a care for the land and by growing our own food and sharing it with our community.
The solutions come from looking at the most broad view of life through the lens of biology, chemistry, ecology, and natural ecosystems. This is what is needed if we are to understand our own humanity and connection with our home-planet Earth.
Soil is ‘the mother of everything’, it has given birth to all complex life. All life on land comes from this relationship between the soil, microbiology and the sun. This evolution that has taken place over this long geological time span has created some of the most complex and productive ecosystems that exist on our planet. The ‘Soil biome’ or ‘Soil Food Web’, is as complex as our universe and as unexplored as our oceans.
It not only holds the key to growing healthy and abundant food, even for an expanding global population, it also offers us the solution to all the problems we face today and threats in our future. The soil biome or microbiome of the soil is directly connected to our gut biome. In fact this relationship is as old as humanity itself. Without this direct connection to the biology of the the soil or the ‘Soil Food Web’ our own health is compromised. In fact there is a direct link between chronic disease over the past 50 years and the introduction of industrial chemical agriculture in the 60’s. Earth Care is related to People Care very closely. One cannot exist without the other.
We are now entering a time when our consumption of resources has reached an epoch. We are mining for minerals and fossil fuels to make fertilisers, using plastic without any regard to the waste it produces, toxifying our soils and oceans with biocide run offs, that are acidifying our coastal regions.
Renewable resources work, but only when done in symphony with nature. Any materials that are extracted from the earth, exposing toxic chemical run-offs, poison the water tables, and exploit vulnerable people are degenerative and destructive. What communities need are localised and effective natural systems that can store and capture energy and use it in effective ways.
If we are to use the sun, wind, water and earth to create energy then we must do it responsibly and locally. By all means get solar panels for your home and small wind turbines for your garden or roof top. If you have a larger bit of land that has a water source you can even install micro turbines which uses the power of water to create energy.
This being said, what would happen if our planet was hit by a solar flare, like that which occurred in 1859 (Carrington Event). This would potentially take down the grid and render everyone without power that relied upon electrics, circuits would fry, power would not be able to be produced, water would not run to our homes. Anything which relied upon our current forms of producing electricity and heat would be useless. Passively heating and generating energy for our homes would be the only way we could stay warm, produce heat for cooking and create light to see in the dark. Even faraday cages may not protect your electrical equipment. That being said even if you could, you would not be able to communicate with anyone, as all satellites would become useless.
If any of you have studied the Sun and the connection between the Sun, our Earth and ourselves would know that the Sun controls all weather, our climate, extinctions, evolution and the rise and fall of civilizations.
The fallacy of human driven climate change is a narrative that has been created to control and keep us ignorant, cause fear and hysteria. However, once you learn that we cannot control our climate, you actually become empowered. The energy you would normally use to worry and feel guilty or try to campaign and lobby government would be spent on finding ways to adapt and create new ways of energy production.
Heat Production and Distribution
We can create heat to cook our own food, heat our homes and our water. Our current centralized methods of creating heat are inefficient, expensive and rely on huge energy companies to produce and distribute it. Heat can be created through convection, conduction and radiation. Rocket Stoves and Rocket Mass Heaters are two very efficient ways that can be installed in any home and use a very small amount of fuel to generate a large amount of energy. We can even produce heat and energy from compost toilets and compost piles.
My favourite, the Rocket Mass Heater, uses a very clever design to create heat, which can be used to heat a room, dry clothes, make biochar, cook and can perform or ‘stack’ many more functions. It is a unique design that uses very small pieces of wood, using a clever design to heat up a mass of usually cob, clay or brick and disperses heat over a period of time. This is the most efficient and cost effective way to heat your home.
We can also use the power of the sun to create passive heat to heat and cool your home. Lean-too greenhouses that are attached to the southern side of your home can passively heat rooms next to the greenhouse; storing and moving the energy to where and when it is needed.
Another brilliant invention is the geothermal greenhouse, which uses small fans that distribute and store energy from your home and greenhouse to pipes that are placed underground (at least 4 ft under the surface) where the temperature remains at a constant 14 degrees centigrade. So you can heat and cool your home and inside growing spaces as and when needed. This has allowed people to grow citrus fruit and other exotic fruit in places like Nebraska, where temperatures regularly hit freezing for many months of the year.
Water Harvesting and Recycling
Spread, Slow, Soak and Store. This is a fundamental function in permaculture. Water is a precious resource and as such needs to be treated with care and respect. Victor Schauberger was a renown forester, naturalist, philosopher, inventor and biomimicry experimenter. He realised that water is alive and that water can be beneficial or detrimental to health. When kept at particular temperatures and natural movements it has the ability to cleanse and heal its environment. We can all use water in a way which not only benefits our health but also in a way which is regenerative. Capturing water and using it in our growing spaces allows us to save money, help the environment and give life to our plants.
Water Butts, Grey and Black water systems, drip irrigation and many more are very simple solutions we can all use and benefit from.
Grey Water systems are a simple example of this that most people can have installed into their homes. Using water from your sink and shower this can be filtered and then used to irrigate your garden. Just like water capturing systems, so there would be far less usage of precious water resources.
Local business can thrive in these circumstances and the rewards shared with community. Regenerative ways are holistic, creative and resilient which can stand up to uncertainty of our climate and economy and our very relationships to each other.
Saving Seeds (The key to self-resilience)
Without the simple seed, where would we be? There would be no life. There is within each seed the knowledge to create another generation, ideally adapted to the environment.
Sow & Grow are launching the Seed Exchange Network. Seeds are at core of the ecosystem and a strong resilient community. Sowing a seed is both an act of self-sufficiency, saving seeds enables us to create cyclical systems that can adapt to changing circumstances. Saving seeds and sharing them builds community
Imagine creating a community which is based on trust, respect and mutual growth-wouldn’t this be many peoples version of an idyllic life.
This concept of growing our own food, saving and sharing seeds, is the first step towards self-sufficiency, localisation and regeneration. In a single seed there is the energy that can create an entire ecosystem.
Saving seeds is actually quite easy, although learning to processes can take some time. It is beneficial to our own health and that of our community, plus you get to keep the natural genetics of a species going. This way you grow with your food.
How plants work together
An example of how nature expresses the complexity of life. Companion planting is a method employed in Permaculture which enables different species or genus of plants grown together, which benefit each other in some way. This can be mutual exchange of nutrients and support, pollinators and pest controllers. These types of methods used in permaculture are there to replicate natural bio diversity that we would see in a forest or natural setting.
These are specific groups of plants that work in harmony together, each performing a specific purpose individually and as a collective.
An example of a guild is the ‘Three Sisters’. These are Corn, Squash and Beans-this has actually been practiced since the American Indians started cultivating food.
In this guild, corn is used as a support for the beans. The beans are nitrogen fixers, cow peas are very good for doing this, these can be eaten raw or cooked, and can be frozen for later use. Squash is a heavy nitrogen consumer, which is why the beans work so well. The great thing about squash, is you get a lot of food and they can be kept for up to 4/5 months, depending on the type you are growing. Winter squash keep the longest.
These three also provide layering or stacking for each other, the squash grow low and help to protect the soil from excessive heat and rain, and the beans grow tall with the corn. This is probably the most widely used guild and can utilized practically anywhere in the world.
There are also guilds, which form part of Food Forests or Forest Gardens. This can also be referred to as Agroforestry. We can partner perennials with annuals, incorporate fruit trees with herbs and grains, bring in wild edibles, all the while building biodiversity and soil health.
Life Changing Books I have Read
The New Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency-John Seymour
This book is one of the most influential and ground breaking books I have read. John Seymour, was a pioneer in the UK, that showed people how we can live a self-sufficient life, with little money but a lot of passion. In this book contains literally everything you need to start your own small holding in the UK.
Regenerative Soil-Matt Powers
As infectious as he is passionate about Permaculture and soil biology, this self made professional, has written many books, including ‘The Permaculture Student 1 & 2. His latest book is his best and most user friendly book, developed with the help of super soil biologist Dr Elaine Ingham, this book shows us all how we can bring life back to our soil and create an abundant and healthy environment, wherever we live and whatever our circumstances.
The Permaculture Student 2-Matt Powers
One of the most comprehensive and enlightening books on Permaculture available today. Whatever your climate, circumstances and budget, this book not only shows how permaculture can be applied, it also gives context to the broader view within society. Permaculture is not just a framework for regenerating our ecology, it highlights the far reaching and broad potential for applying the framework to our society and economy.
The Earth Care Manual- Patrick Whitefield
Patrick Whitefield was one of the first pioneers of Permaculture in the UK. This book explores how we can use permaculture principles and ethics in a temperate climate. Patrick was not just a keen gardener and horticulturist, he also believed in life-long learning. He practiced what he preached and spent his entre life, teaching and inspiring others. Patrick also wrote another amazing book-How to make a Forest Garden, which in itself is a book full of practical book firmly cemented in his experience over many years.
One Straw Revolution-Masanobu Fukuoka
From plant biologist to natural farmer. This man, spent 20 years turning his fathers degraded land into a Regenerative Farm without the aid of machinery, chemical fertilizers and showed Japan what could be done by having a deep connection with and respect for the natural cycles of life. His life’s work spearheaded the way forward for many natural farming practices in the East and West. His Philosophy was ‘What can I not do’ meaning rather that trying to control nature, we work alongside it in symphony and learn from it by observing the cycles and patterns. He was famous for his succession planting of cereal crops, his minimal pruning of fruit trees and his unique way of growing rice (temporary flooding of paddy fields as opposed to permanent flooding) He lived with no electricity and taught many people who came to stay on his farm.