“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
~ Dwight Eisenhower
Principles that can be applied in all situations and places are used when designing permaculture activities and projects. There are variations of permaculture principles, based on two models: those of Bill Mollison and those of David Holmgren (the co-founders of permaculture). Bill Mollison’s are very useful strategies for practical designing, and David Holmgren’s -below- cover a more ethical/philosophical approach, and reflect how permaculture has evolved.
To become familiar with permaculture principles, a simple exercise is for each principle, think of examples of how you: have applied it in your life; could apply it in your life in the future; have observed it applied by others.
- Observe and interact
Applied in your life: Vegetable garden site. Before siting the vegetable garden plot we scoped the available sites within our property, settling on the flattest area, south-west corner of the backyard exposed to the east to north course of the morning sun, warmed by neighbour’s adjacent corrugated iron shed but protected from westerly & southerly winds and hot afternoon sun by the shed and a mature jacaranda. We also observed the local habitat and opted to cage the garden in wire netting to keep out large birds, possums, bandicoots and our dog.
Could apply in your life: Groundwater catchment. Our property slopes downwards at the front, north and east side. Currently during heavy rain excess ground water drains naturally from the site or is directed away from the house and neighbouring properties via ag-drains.
Observed it applied in other: Bugs for Bugs. While monitoring the health of the citrus trees in our Tafe production horticulture orchard we observed a proliferation of scale, and as part of an Integrated Pest Management strategy released beneficial predator Aphytis wasps.
- Catch and store energy
Applied in your life: Wood heating. We harvest windfall timber from a nearby family member’s property for woodfire heating our home in winter.
Could apply in your life: Seed bank. Leaving a portion of crops to go to seed, with the purpose of harvesting for future crop plantings, and sale of excess.
Observed it applied in other: Apiary. Local beekeepers obtain harvest of honey, honeycomb and wax, as well as promote pollination of plants.
- Obtain a yield
Applied in your life: Water waste not. We reuse as much water as we safely and practically can: toilet, bathroom sink and shower waste water is directed into a standard septic tank, pit and rubble drain system; an occasionally-used bathtub runs into the front garden, washing machine water is hooked up with a hose and sprinkler to the front yard; kitchen sink water is diverted into two 20 litre containers used daily to hand water the vegetable and herb garden.
Could apply in your life: Cash crops. Create and apply permaculture design and practices to our residential property to increase production of herbs, vegetables, plants and seeds surplus to household needs to sell or swap at local markets.
Observed it applied in other: Preserving tradition. Extended family members and friends get together at tomato harvest time to process homegrown tomatoes in bulk into bottles of passata to be shared between the families.
- Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
Applied in your life: Plastic not fantastic. When I was developing a practice of reducing the amount of single-use plastics in our household, a friend gave me some suggestions and a set of beeswax wraps she had handmade from recycled fabric to use instead of plastic-wrap which prompted further behaviour modification, and we’ve now considerably reduced the amount of single plastic turnover.
Could apply in your life: Soil health. Our tomato plants in their current raised bed location developed fungal blight therefore will need to be planted in different locations for several future seasons.
Observed it applied in other: Pay it forward. Intensive horticulture strips nutrients from the soil; therefore, after we harvested our production horticulture garlic crop grown at Tafe, the plot was rotated and sown with a green manure crop including nitrogen fixing legumes.
- Use and value renewable resources and services
Applied in your life: Top soil. To avoid buying growing media for our vegetable garden raised beds we created our own onsite by combining earth dug up from the neighbouring vacant field with composted organic material from our chicken coop, plus layers of straw and newspaper.
Could apply in your life: Hot compost. We have a bay for cold compost production but the next step is to assemble correct amount and ratio of brown and green / carbon and nitrogen materials and follow the proper construction, methodology and processing time to kill weed seeds and pathogens and create a rich, dark, fine substance high in nutrients and organic materials boost our soil.
Observed it applied in other: Beef it up. Neighbouring farmer with a small herd of cattle he breeds for household milk and dairy products, manure for vegetable garden, household meat and for sale of progeny.
- Produce no waste
Applied in your life: Love leftovers. All our household food is either eaten, stored as leftovers and eaten later, fed to chickens or dog, or nutrient cycled via compost or Bokashi.
Could apply in your life: Grow again. The grain we feed our chickens comes packaged in woven sacks which are able to be upcycled into garden bags.
Observed it applied in other: Bulk it up. Horticultural materials such as soil, sand, potting media, mulch we used at Tafe were sourced locally, delivered in bulk and stored in bays rather than purchased as bagged products.
“We do not consider our principles as dogmas contained in books
that are said to come from heaven. We derive our inspiration,
not from heaven, or from an unseen world, but directly from life.”
~ Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Your thoughts? Comments welcome.
Between now and July 2020 I’m studying Certificate IV Permaculture via Tafe NSW and the National Environment Centre flexible online learning. Studying online, I discovered, involves a lot of writing. This year of study, I think, might lend itself to some blog posts… follow along if you are interested in learning what I learn during my permaculture journey.