Permaculture Principle 8: Integrate Rather than Segregate

There are two ways I could go when talking about this principle.

The first way is to talk about how to design a resilient system. It has to do with a “functional analysis of elements” and starts by defining the desirable functions one needs to accomplish in a space, listing all the elements, inputs and outputs, identifying multiple ways functions can be accomplished and where outputs of one system can become inputs of another.

I’m just not very motivated to talk about that kind of complexity today. I’d rather tell a story about weeding my garden with a friend from Africa.

She had a farm in West Africa, where she grew a lot of papaya, and maybe some other things. I thought she would enjoy helping in my garden because of her background and because here in America she lives in a place where she cannot get her hands in the dirt.

So we were weeding one hot afternoon and she was “humphing.”

Pull a weed, slouch her shoulders, “humph.”

Pull a weed, drop her head, “humph.”

I said, “What is it? Surely you weed your plants at home, too!”

She said, “Yes, of course, but not like this. This is awful.”

I couldn’t think of what she would mean by this. How can one pull a weed any differently?

“What do you mean, not like this?” I asked.

“We would never do it this way at home. When we weed a garden there are four women who pull weeds and four women who drum and sing and four women who cook. We do all of the farm and then the next day we go to someone else’s farm and you do something different, so now you sing or you cook,” she said.

Ah, of course. In Minnesota, with our strong WORK ethic, we do everything the hardest way possible. If there is a way to have fun with something, we’re SURE not going to do it. Why is that? And how can we stop doing that? How can we integrate friends, happiness and enjoyment into the “work” part of gardening?

Rebuilding a Social Network

Group pickling event meant we could all share our supplies - no waste!

Group pickling event meant we could all share our supplies – no waste!

The proverb that goes with this principle is “Many hands make light work.”

Quite a few people in the Transition network grow and process their own food. Unfortunately, this means long hours in a hot kitchen during the hottest time of year. Everyone I know wishes they had the summer kitchen of old – where work was done away from the house where you sleep. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A little waiting but no wasted energy

A little waiting but no wasted energy

Some of us in Transition Longfellow brainstormed a way to share the work and minimize the heat. We asked to use the kitchen at a nearby church, got the kettles going, and then one by one people processed their vegetables in the same hot water bath. We couldn’t save time, but it did save money and energy. We didn’t have six large canners of hot water heating, just one that was used by six people. And we could hang around and talk while waiting.

We haven’t done that since but I think I’ll suggest it for this year.

More often, what’s happened is that different people meet up in their home kitchens to do some work together – usually making jelly or pressure canning stews. The work gets done faster, the kitchen is left cleaner and everyone’s pantry gets filled.

I think this is my favorite principle.

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