What is Permaculture?
Permaculture is an ecological design system for creating sustainable human environments. Beyond organic, it creates life-supporting systems that mimic nature, incorporating elements of landscaping, home design, alternative power, animal husbandry and beyond.
Permaculture can take many forms. At Mountain Flower Farm we try to create closed, self-sustaining and common-sensical systems that mimic nature as much as possible, reducing unnecessary expenditure of time and resources, and limiting unused “waste.” For example, when we had animals at the farm, our sheep were our lawn mowers and the chicken tractors (open-bottomed moveable pens) followed. The sheep ate the grass down to a length manageable by the chickens, and the sheep manure would breed and attract insects on which the chickens loved to feed! The grass and insects would provide the food for the animals and the animals would provide the food (in the form of manure) for the grass. We also composted bedding from winter chicken coops, along with the garden/yard scraps and kitchen compost that we bring home from the café every day. We would then use the compost to top dress our no-till gardens both at the farm and at the market. In this way we make the best use out of everything we can, even utilizing our food “waste” to produce all-natural fertilizer in the form of compost. These are just two examples of the many types of closed systems at the heart of permaculture.
Edible/medicinal landscaping is a simple permaculture concept that combines beauty and function. Herbs and vegetables can be artfully arranged with flowers to create beautiful landscapes that combine function with beauty. Perennial food and herbs are also a cornerstone of permaculture, reducing the human workload and freeing time and resources. Fruit trees, berry bushes, culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, bushes and trees can come together to create a beautiful bountiful landscape. There are also many plants that can be used as trap crops, cover crops, wind barriers, forage crops, deer barriers, insect repellents etc. In permaculture everything should have three uses…and beauty can be one of them!
Permaculture also takes into consideration all of the elements of a particular site and tries maximize its strengths and work with its challenges through a variety of design methods. Working WITH what you have is an important concept in permaculture.
And you don’t need a farm to implement permaculture practices. Taking any sized plot and making it into a sustainable productive environment is a favorite function of permaculture. An ordinary house plot can be turned into a sustainable food landscape that can support a family. Whether you have 1/8 of an acre or 80 acres, or even just a few pots on your deck, you can incorporate permaculture concepts into your landscape and life.
Permaculture concepts go beyond the backyard and can lead us into discussions involving the way in which we walk on our planet and the way in which we relate to the living beings around us. Do we live in harmony with the world and with each other, creating systems that work, or do we go “against the grain” creating more work and friction in our lives. We can learn a lot by observing natural systems and this is what permaculture is all about.