This is the first of blogging 101’s assignments, is to write a stream of consciousness, 20 minutes straight. And publish it. Well ok then!
Unauthorised adventures in permaculture is a space for me to explore what the hell I am doing in permaculture. I’m experimenting with permaculture every day in one way or another, so why not write more about this? Partly I think, because it’s hard for me to separate what is and what is no permaculture, when permaculture is a way approaching designing, well, pretty much anything. Lots of schools of design have great ideas, fantastic practical concepts, methodologies and strategies. Permaculture also incorporates ethics. This above all, for me, makes permaculture a continual practise, a source of enquiry, with continually evolving ethical experiments, and no dogmatic final solutions. The garden, with its every present challenges, even for the most experienced gardener, is a continual source of wonder, and also of humility, a great teacher then.
To begin permies* learn about permaculture in the context of gardening; agriculture being the original example of the permaculture paradigm, illustrating the concepts, ideas, processes, and unfolding a free experimental openness to ideas. Taking control over the means of production of food, or having some connection with it is important as its a big draw of resources to feed ourselves.
Placing things we need for their optimum benefit is a key idea. So long as we’re working in the world of predictable things everything looks possible, manageable, doable. A desk here, a chook house there, windows facing the sun to passively heat a house in winter, but shaded to avoid summer sun glare and keep a house cool in summer, how comfortable! The plants we chose to grow too have basic needs. If you want to grow fruit, place trees in a sunny aspect, to give them the ability to convert the sun’s energy into sweet apples, pears, peaches.
Connecting up all the things out there, emphasising positive relationships is at the very heart of how permaculture design too. If two elements in any system are better together in producing what you want from them, then use that positive relationship to increase productivity and health in the system. If not keep them further apart, or consider another element for the job you want them to do. Common sense too right?
Animals are more difficult to work with in this regard, what do they want, need, how do they feel? Freedom from hunger, thirst, predators, to feel safe. Those are some basics. But there’s more. Joel Salatin talks joyfully about letting the pig express the ‘pigness of the pig’. On top of looking after the animals basic health and welfare, he says, know what motivates the animal, what makes it feel good. In other words know the animal, and allow it to serve your needs by doing what it wants to do. Damn clever!
So, things, which we can buy, reclaim reuse, retrofit are one level, plants, then animals, can also be bought, grown, nurtured, for the benefit of surrounding creatures along with plants, structures and other inanimate elements. But what of the biggest influence of these surroundings.
People, both individually and in groups, are indeed the most difficult subjects to apply permaculture design. Social permaculture is a term which has been given to applying permaculture design for the way we organise ourselves. We have systems which do this already, but they were invented in very different times. We’ve a legacy of governing ourselves which we need to work with and appeal to, as much as we need to develop new ways of working together. How amazing it is to be at a moment in history where we can dream up new ways of working together which are enriching, pleasurable and productive, to create a world designed for ourselves, for the earth, and for future generations.