Reflections on Two Seasons of Permaculture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the past two years, I have participated in a monthly conversation about permaculture, hosted by Transition Longfellow and facilitated by Hennepin County Master Gardener Theresa Rooney (and me). That conversation comes to an end this month. Since I haven’t written about it before, I thought now would be a good time to take a look back at what I’ve learned from the permaculture principles and ethics, what I’ve put into practice in my garden, and how the principles have played a larger role in my life.

The thoughts expressed in the blog posts about permaculture that will follow may or may not be “from the book.” It’s my take on what I’ve learned in the discussion group, in classes at the Permaculture Research Institute for Cold Climates and at gatherings like the permaculture convergence in Harmony, Minnesota that I attended in 2013.

What Is Permaculture?

Permaculture originated from the work of David Holmgren and Bill Mollison. It is a landscape design method and it’s a philosophy. It takes its cues from natural systems, which are extraordinarily abundant. Every year nature manages to produce multiple yields for plants, animals and people. How does nature manage to do that? It’s regenerative. It’s cyclical. It uses “waste” to create anew. Permaculture is also called “regenerative design.”

Permaculture recognizes that the benefits we obtain from our environment cannot, for long, come at a cost to the natural world. Unlike a company or a country, a planet cannot run a deficit. The well simply runs dry. So permaculture principles guide human activity in a way that seeks abundant yields, that acknowledges limits,and that recognizes the need to provide inputs into the system to rebuild natural resources like the soil and water – and people. We’re part of the natural system, too.

I’ll do one post each on the ethics and the principles, which are these:

Permaculture Ethics

  1. Care for the Earth
  2. Care for People
  3. Fair Share

Permaculture Principles

  1. Observe and interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from pattern to detail
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the margins
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

This month I’ll post about each of the ethics, then beginning in January I will do one post a month about one of the principles. I welcome comments on what these ethics and principles have meant in your life and practice.

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