Permaculture in a Nutshell

Long time, no post, eh? My effort to stick to a monthly schedule with this blog hasn't exactly panned out. August saw us fulfilling our work commitment at the farm from which we get our CSA; we dug up potatoes, picked beans and tomatoes, and peeled onions and garlic. Harvests in our home vegetable garden have not been so abundant, which has prompted me to consider moving everything to a strip along the south garden and converting the backyard to more of a woodland habitat. Nonetheless, we have had a steady supply of snap beans and black beans for dry use. I've harvested plenty of tomatoes to augment the offerings from our CSA, and the last 3 weeks or so has been abundant with raspberries.

This morning I finished a book checked out from the Crossroads Infoshop (where I've been volunteering for the past 2 months) called Permaculture in a Nutshell, by Patrick Whitefield. Permaculture is design system that is compatible with organic, sustainable gardening, but goes well beyond such techniques by modeling itself after natural ecosystems. The clearest example of this would be a forest garden built with trees and multiple layers of undergrowth. Most of the plants would be perennial and multiple use. Layers of mulch would replace plowing.

Without going into ornate detail, Whitefield describes the basic principles of permaculture design and offers examples where it has been implemented. I was especially interested to learn that permaculture goes well beyond garden plots, addressing our food systems and use of land and resources, both in the country and the city. For instance, permaculture also promotes the LETS system, where goods are exchanged for services; unlike bartering, one can accrue credits. Community Supported Agriculture is another system permaculture supports.

If you'd like to learn what permaculture is and how it works, this is an informative, easy read.

I was enthused enough that, when I finished, I decided to research local permaculture resources. It would seem that most permaculture design resources are scarce and fairly scattered, especially in this region. The Permaculture Institute is probably the leading world resource for the permaculture system. There is also the Midwest Permaculture group, based out of Illinois. And a man named Deny Henke is blogging about his permaculture homestead in southeastern Missouri. Vajra Farm in Kansas also follows permaculture design practices.

As far as implementing the practices in my own garden, I'd love to introduce some more perennial and self-seeding edible natives into the garden, especially in the shady woodland garden I plan to build. But it's going to require more research into native plants. Another thing permaculture recommends is keeping a garden where you can easily see it. While the new location won't be as convenient from my back deck, I will be able to see everything from my dining room and kitchen, which is where I first look out every morning. I plan on keeping my boxes, since that system works well enough for me, but I will certainly be using permaculture as a means to think about my garden and lifestyle in general. According to Whitefield's recommendations, I'm already halfway there!