Permaculture Defined

Permaculture – the term combines the words permanent, agriculture and culture. I’ve only recently begun reading on this topic, but based on what we have created at Sleepy Dog Farm over the past 5 years, it would seem I share many of the same concerns with the folks who have deliberately followed permaculture principles.

Permaculture is as much a philosophy – a way of living that promotes sustainability, caring for our ailing planet, and encouraging and restoring a balance between humans and the rest of the natural world – as a collection of techniques.  I’m not an engineer and in the past, when I’ve tried to read books on permaculture, I’ve become discouraged with the focus on techniques, as well as with the sheer volume of changes that seemed to be required.  Once again I have to tout Colette O’Neill’s blog, Bealtaine Cottage, as a game changer for me.  She made the permaculture way seem eminently do-able for someone not trained as a landscape designer or engineer.  Her focus on simply planting trees, shrubs, and perennials and rebuilding the health of the soil through composting and organic growing is exactly what I have been trying to do here (although Bealtaine looks so much better).

crab apple

The primary precepts of permaculture fit in perfectly with the concept of wildlife gardening (in case you were wondering how I was going to link the two).  The precepts are:

  • Caring for the planet – taking action to maintain and encourage biodiversity, restore damaged and mistreated land, and use natural resources in an ethical and responsible fashion; and
  • Caring for people – the system must also meet the needs of people, including using the least amount of space to grow a surplus of food.  The fact that a landscape designed in a permaculture fashion can be aesthetically pleasing as well certainly doesn’t hurt.
As I head into my 5th gardening season here in North Country, I want to re-think some of my methods.  Certain permaculture techniques have already been adopted, including gardening organically, composting as much as possible, creating wildlife friendly environs, and no-till gardening (at least in the potager).  But I feel I can do more.  I’m looking into having rain gutters installed so I can capture rain water in barrels to use in the gardens.  In addition, even though we have 130 acres of forest in our backyard, I want to continue to plant more trees and shrubs near the house (within zones 1 and 2 in permaculture speak), and to plant in a more “condensed” manner to grow even more food.  I want an agricultural system that is more in sync with the land and nature.
potager

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