In these days of economic contraction more and more people are getting together in a growing number of communities to provide for themselves. At the most basic level, this has to include feeding and clothing members of the community. Keeping warm is also vital in some climates, but probably the most important requirement for most people is food. If a town or city community has very limited financial resources and they live far from any farm, they have only their gardens in which to grow food. But that is more potential than many people initially realize. There is a method which enables people to grow more food than one might expect in a group of home gardens.
Permaculture combines three key aspects:
- An ethical framework, which includes sharing the surplus
- Understandings of how nature works, and
- An ecological and environmentally friendly design approach
These three things can result in an environmentally friendly system and surprisingly efficient food production. Altogether it can mean partially redesigning your home. The trees provide shelter from the elements and also make a very pleasant and natural living environment. In many places, this redesign entails adapting our neighborhoods or towns, but in some cases people decide that it makes more sense to start from scratch. Both ways offer interesting challenges and opportunities.
The word permaculture is derived from permanent agriculture and permanent culture – it is based upon the idea of living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can continue our activities for many generations to come, in harmony with nature. Permanence does not mean everything staying the same. Rather it refers to the idea of sustainability, creating stability, about improving and deepening soils and making cleaner water. It is all about self reliant community building across local areas, diverse agriculture in cohesive communities, but most importantly peace and abundant food. A natural ecosystem such as a forest does not need artificial chemical fertilizers because all the nutrients from the soil eventually find their way back into the soil. This may be in the way of leaves falling to the ground, decomposing and becoming part of the soil. It may be in the way of plants being eaten by animals and then being excreted so that they also become part of the soil. Ultimately those animals die, and their bodies become part of the soil. This is why permaculture includes a system of returning as many nutrients back into the soil as possible. Compost is a fundamental part of the system. A forest has a complicated ecosystem in which nutrients are cycled and plants, and animals use each other for each others benefit. Animal manure is good for the soil, good soil produces good plant growth and lots of plants result in lots of animals eating and recycling nutrients. Permaculture can become an integrated part of your home and your everyday life. The trees only have to be planted once and perhaps trimmed or pruned once a year. Some vegetables have to be replanted each year, and so keeping seeds or cuttings for each following year is another part of it.
A Garden Home
Making your garden a big or important part of your home can keep you busy and happy. Just as members of a family can help each other and benefit from each others presence, so the parts of a garden ecosystem do likewise. And you do not need a very large garden to grow some food. It is possible to grow food in pots and to have plants growing up trellises, especially beans. Why not extend your home outside the brick walls and into the garden? If you are growing fruits and vegetables in your garden, why not enjoy eating some of them there? A vegetable garden can be partly integrated into a kitchen, or vice versa. Wicker, wooden or bamboo furniture can make a delightful part of a home when under a fruit tree and surrounded by edible plants or food that is still growing. These days it is fashionable to be green. If you are struggling financially as so many are, and contemplating a change of location, think about choosing a green location where people are looking after themselves by looking after the planet. Leave your expensive lifestyle behind.