When I first heard about permaculture, I didn't really have a concept of what it was. I knew that it has something to do with the garden and producing your own food, I knew it was organic and based around sustainability, it was a little alternative and out there on the edge (Principle 11: Use Edges and Value the Marginal). In the last 10 days, I have been able to take part in a Permaculture Design course and what a journey it was! I now know that there is so much more to permaculture, it is not just gardening or agriculture, it is actually a way of life and a willingness to be aware of the life we are creating.
The word Permaculture came from the concept of 'permanent' and 'agriculture' and focused around making our farming practices not only sustainable but regenerative. The code of ethics that is followed is care for the earth, care for the people and fair share. Care for the earth looks at everything from what we put into and take out of the land including all the plant and animal species and the most important thing, soil! When we talk about care for people we are thinking about the idea of everyone being treated with respect and care and love that they deserve. Fair share is in all things, if you have more food than you need, share it, if you have more money than you need, share it, if you have more land than you need, share it. You only take what you need (Principle 4: Apply self Regulation). The ethics make it clear how we can apply this to the way in which we live. They are so obvious, however, most of us don't even take these things into account on a daily basis. This 10 days took old information and changed my world for the new (Principle 10: Use and Value renewable resources).
On the course, I was set to work in a team to design a home garden for an unemployed lady living in a nearby community. The design concept for this garden focused around improving diet, reducing costs, protecting the soil and giving a potential income with successful yield. For me, it became about so much more than that. In permaculture the first principle is observe and interact. This meant that not only did we visit the site of the people we were working with, we sat and spoke with them, played with the children, shared ideas and plans (Principle 10: Use and Value Diversity).
Doing it this way means that you really care about the design that you make because of the impact that it will have on that person's life. I was so excited on the first day to be going out to the garden, I was struggling to sit still (Principle 2: Capture and Store Energy). We were faced with a number of challenges in our design, the house was on a cliff that was being eaten away by copious amounts of running water. At first, I arrived on the land and I thought, what am I doing here?
The excitement had turned into anxiety; I had been on the course for one day and I had no idea how to put this thing into practice. And then I remembered: Care for People! I started to talk to the lady and we had a connection right away and it was so positive to find out what she knew about the area, the problems that she was having, what she thought was the best way to fix things.
Then it was time to apply care for the earth. What do you do if your land is slowly but surely disappearing off of a cliff? Hours were spent pouring over designs. We took measurement, they were wrong, we took more, wrong again! And eventually, when you sit down to plan something, you realise that there are key elements not there. But in the last day, in the last hour, in the last minute, the idea all comes together (Principle 11: Creatively Use and Respond to Change).
You suddenly understand that you need to trust and follow the land, understand that it it really the master of designs. We can see so many patterns in nature, why not follow them? (Principle 7: Design from Patterns to details). We used our contours to create something that reduced water issues across the land and stopped it from eating into the cliff and in doing so, this will create beds in which to plant food. Looking at the finished product (even with it's flaws), was something that was incredibly rewarding. There on paper is every individual tree and plant, you can imagine the sound of the bees and harvesting the food to cook at dinner time. You can suddenly see, so clearly, an image of an idea that might just change someone's life.
And now is the time for fair share. I learned so much informationin the past ten days, it may take me a while to process it all, but principle number 9 tells me slow and steady solutions. So if I can have a minute of your time, come share something with me and I will share something with you (Principle 2: Obtaining a yield), because the spread of this amazing information is how we will change the world (Principle 8: Integrate rather than Segregate).