Permaculture is the conscious design of human systems that work with, rather than against, the power of the natural world, to increase abundance for all living things. This definition comes from the Black Oaks Renewable Living Sustainability Lab in Pembroke, Illinois; it is here that I learn about permaculture and environmental resilience from my mentor Fred Carter, a certified permaculture instructor. It is also known as permanent agriculture because it facilitates integration of perennial plants (or crops) and sustainability. Permaculture has been largely related to vegetable gardening, off-grid living, and homesteading. But it can be applied to life outside of gardening and farming. This is one thing I have discovered being a student of permaculture as I apply it in my home, my workspace, and maintenance of my health. This conscious design of human systems working with the natural world not only helps in my garden practices, it helps to increase abundance for all things in my life. This article is a brief summary of permaculture.
Permaculture and Its Principles
There are 12 principles of permaculture. These principles have been articulated by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren who are two Australians that popularized the word permaculture acknowledging that it is permanent agriculture. Bill Mollison is considered “ the father of permaculture” because he introduced permaculture design to the general public; David Holmgren is known for showing how the principles are used as thinking tools for design. The principles are:
- Observe and interact
- Catch and store energy
- Obtain a yield
- Apply self-regulation and feedback
- Use and value renewable resources and services
- Produce no waste
- Design from patterns to details
- Integrate rather than segregate
- Use small slow solutions
- Use and value diversity
- Use edges and value the marginal
- Creatively use and respond to change
The principles are guides that help to design permaculture systems.
There are ethics of permaculture that are the basis of permaculture design. They are earth care, people care and fair share. Earth care speaks to how to co-steward with nature not dominate it when designing. People care is about incorporating care for self and others in a permaculture design. Fair share emphasizes how to take what is needed and share what is not needed. The ethics and principles reveal the use of resources and develops goals of putting less inputs in designs over time so they are sustainable as well as efficient for the future. This is the basis of permaculture design.
How Permaculture Has Helped My Life
Permaculture has helped me become a better steward. My stewardship with the earth has improved since I began my studies in the 2017 Permaculture Lifeboat Series at Black Oaks Center; my instructors Fred Carter, his wife Jifunza Wright-Carter and Dr. Pancho McFarland share invaluable knowledge in this course. It confirms that, in essence, I currently practice permaculture in my sustainable gardening through no till gardening and companion planting of my annual garden crops. In addition, I have been sustaining myself through indigenous permaculture land practices that yield perennial medicinal herbs, leafy greens and root vegetables. These yields potentially last long after the growing season. The course is an asset to my sustainable lifestyle of homesteading making me more self-sufficient. For example, I incorporate my backyard chickens into my permaculture design by using them as compost/fertilizer through their waste, land cultivators as they scratch and a source of food as they lay eggs.
Along with my earth stewardship, I am intentional about using permaculture in my home and work space. I follow the principle of no waste in my kitchen when giving chopped vegetable remnants as food for my backyard chickens. The principle of use and value diversity is used when creating multi-functional purposes in my office work space for organization. I have become reliant on permaculture and I observe that it is working for the greater good. I am more self-reliant in areas of my life, therefore less stressors, distractions and chaos are in my world. As a result, it benefits those who are involved in my life-my parents, my mate, my students, my friends and business associates. Intentional use of permaculture not only improves my earth stewardship it also improves other critical areas of my life.
Permaculture is the conscious design of human systems that work with, rather than against, the power of the natural world, to increase abundance for all living things. It can be applied to things outside of gardening and farming. This practice has improved my earth stewardship as a gardener and my relationships as a person. It allows for a win-win-win situation for all.