Mar. 23, 2018

Permaculture at my house

Permaculture makes so much sense to me, prioritizing the simple necessities of life, clean air, clean water and sustainable soils. Chemicals make our soils more productive in the short-term, but cause imbalances in ecosystems. Industrial ranching may increase protein production, but these methods are inhumane and cause a cascade of health issues up the food chain. The idea of long-term versus short-term thinking is central to permaculture. Nature is subtle and so many of nature’s processes are slow. Think of watching grass grow or compost decomposing into rich soil, that kind of slow.

I love the idea of waste not want not in permaculture. I am constantly thinking about waste (why put the fruit and vegetable peelings in the trash instead of my compost pile?) and ways of using and reusing materials on our property. Our fences, porches and gazebo are all constructed of recycled wood. I noticed we were losing ground along the stream bank that is the back line of our property so I started piling my yard litter there to slow down the erosion. We had a pile of limestone blocks leftover from another project and I piled them along the top of the bank. I observed how the water ran during a big rain and built berms to control how the water flowed toward the creek.

We lost a sweetgum tree last spring, it just fell over. It gave us good shade, but I sure disliked stepping on those pointy sweetgum balls in the yard. Anyway, we replaced it with a pecan tree. Doesn’t it make sense to plant trees that are productive in terms of food? Right now my peach tree has over 30 baby peaches and the fig tree is making buds. These are in my front yard because it gets the needed south light. We are trying out strawberries in the garden this year along with the usual tomatoes, peppers and herbs. I’m going to try a mini rainwater reclamation system for the garden this year, letting water from the porch roof keep the garden moist. My neighbors have blueberries and grapevines. We all share the fruit of our bounty when the time comes.  

We also share our space with wildlife. I keep part of the yard wild and share it with a myriad of creatures, birds, squirrels, raccoons, possums, armadillos, deer etc. The berry brambles in the wild lot behind me are flowering and will give us huge, juicy berries in a month or so. I have lived in this place for a long time and I know how it moves through the seasons. Place is an aspect of permaculture that is also important: belonging to a human and ecological community and coming to know and respect the members of your community.

The one area I struggle with is sustainable energy. We had a solar guy come out to give us ideas about solar panels on our roof. My neighbors trees block our south sun so solar panels on our roof are not viable. I can't ask my neighbors to cut down their trees, so sustainable energy will have to wait until I can find other options. 

Permaculture focuses on:

  • Recycling, renewing and repairing resources/materials in order to limit waste
  • Replenishing soil content
  • Holding water on a landscape to help with hydration and cut down on water use
  • Maintaining diversity of species
  • Creating resiliency so a system can withstand changes in the environment
  • And adapting to change

Some of the issues associated with conventional agriculture include:

  • depleted topsoil
  • drought
  • contamination of ground water 
  • endangerment of plant and animal species
  • deforestation
  • increased pesticide resistance
  • poor social/economic conditions in certain parts of the world that are impacted
  • and growing concerns over climate change and global warming

Permaculture differs from conventional agriculture in many ways. First, the goal of permaculture is sustainability and regeneration. A permaculturalist focuses on the long game: building a system that produces small sustainable yields with benefits that unfold over time. It is driven by nature with future generations in mind. The goal of conventional or industrial agriculture is maximizing production. Conventional farming or agriculture is neither sustainable nor respectful of the planet and its diversity. Permaculture is viewed as an inclusive, holistic solution to this problem, since it both benefits the environment while helping to maintain valuable, and often scarce, resources. Striving for efficiency destroys the health of the soil and reduces biodiversity. It requires the use of a myriad of chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides and also very large amounts of water. Controlling nature rather than flowing with nature is the way of conventional agriculture.