the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.
Permaculture was originally a portmanteau of “permanent agriculture” and was related to forest gardening. It has changed over the years though, and now has both very wise gardening techniques and quite absurd new-age-y progressivist elements as well. This is a common graphic associated with permaculturists:
There is both wheat and chaff in permaculture, and I don’t have them all separated out yet. Here are some of the things I agree with:
1. Rather than large swaths of sterile, barren lawns, humanity would be much better served if people learned to plant beautiful herb, vegetable, and fruit gardens.
2. Planting gardens the way God made forests is sensible. Permaculture follows a “forest garden” model:
Without buying into the pagan new age spirituality associated with permaculture (to read a permaculture blog is to read the word “Gaia” ad nauseum), I’m still intrigued by their ideas about what it means to labor and obtain a yield, as well as their smart gardening practices.
We bought a little over ten acres of woods and disrupted farmland this past fall. The land had been let go, which means it’s becoming overrun with autumn olive bushes, which are highly invasive thorny shrub that can grow ten feet tall and spread like wildfire. Autumn olive was originally brought to this country from Asia as a means of controlling erosion; the fruit is supposedly edible, but it isn’t a smart plant to cultivate as it will take over and choke out native plants and trees; it even changes the soil chemistry, making the land good only for autumn olive.
I’ve slowly started clearing it out of our forest and meadow. Here is an area I’ve cleared:
Here is what an autumn olive thicket looks like up close:
Here is another area I’ve cleared, transitioning from our yard into the forest; previously this was a thicket of autumn olive and thorns:
Using some of the techniques I’m learning from permaculture, I aim to transform it into this:
In the fall I planted apple and peach trees with raspberry and blackberry vines under them. I’ll add sunflowers, strawberries, herbs and other plants, following the permaculture technique for creating a “forest garden”. Instead of recycling our cardboard waste, I am using it to mulch under the trees and plants for weed control, which saves labor (saving labor and producing no waste are both permaculture attributes).
As I separate the pagan chaff from the beauty- and food-producing wheat of permaculture, I will share those lessons here. Looking at ten acres of work feels overwhelming, but the permaculture approach of implementing small, slow solutions is comforting and compatible with both my conservativism and Christian faith.