Thursday, September 1, 2011

Permaculture on the Homestead

Permaculture is a...well, I guess to my way of thinking it's a philosophy of stewardship of resources, a way of designing a homestead, and a gardening guide all rolled into one. Permaculture is, I think, much more popular in Europe and Australia than it is here in the United States. That is unfortunate as I think it makes a great deal of sense both in the small scale of one home/farm and in the larger scale of a town or community. I first read about permaculture through two books by Bill Mollison, an Australian, and so I tend to be a bit of a Mollison groupie. There are certainly others -- one interesting dude using permaculture in the Alps or some such place where his garden beds are terraced on the side of a mountain of all places. But, he manages to produce an amazing amount of food--and attention from others in the movement.

Trying to apply the gardening aspects of Mollison's books to my situation is a bit complexicated by the fact that he speaks in terms of plants and trees familiar to Australia but not so familiar to us. But, I grasp for the concepts that seem to translate reasonably well to my situation and figure that if I can do even that much, I'm doing fairly well.

So, what are some of the concepts I hope to implement here on my homestead? Let's see:
  1. Each element should perform multiple functions. (example: chickens provide eggs, meat, manure, and bug control)
  2. Each important function should be met by multiple elements. (example: water supply from well/city and rain catchment and pond)
  3. Efficient energy planning -- zoning..put those things requiring the most attention closest to you
  4. cycling of energy, nutrients, and resources (example, composting)
  5. small-scale intensive systems
  6. diversity, including guilds (no monoculture...mix the plantings)
  7. edge effects (the most benefit comes at the edges...)
  8. work with nature not against's not about wiping out all pests but keeping the system in balance
  9. make the least change for the greatest benefit
Numbers 1 and 2 is probably the easiest to understand and figure out. That doesn't mean it won't take time to implement fully but the ideas are easier to come by and figure out. Number 3 is easy in concept to get. Obviously, it makes sense to put the chickens closer to the house since you have to visit the coop twice a day. But, easy theory in this case doesn't necessarily mean easy in design. I struggle with this one when I try to put it into an actual design plan for the homestead. The most aesthetic location for the coop isn't necessarily as close to the house as the zone plan would put it. This is definitely going to be a challenging part and one I need to work out soon as I will be forming beds and locating where various elements should soon. argh

Chickens here...rabbits there...tomatoes over there...wait, no...tomatoes over here, chickens, that's not right...I think I need more of my son's pear butter to fuel my thought processes....