Welcome to the second part in our series of Permaculture basics. Chelsea and I are constantly learning more about permaculture and trying to figure out how to fit it into our homestead plans.
In today’s post I’m going to start discussing some of the design tools for permaculture. Specifically, I’ll be talking about David Holmgren’s 12 permaculture design principles. His design principles are kinda like a toolbox to use when designing your permaculture system.
Holmgren’s 12 design principles are:
Observe and interact: By observing and interacting with nature’s ecosystems, we can apply what we learn to our own system. This is a very important step in the design process as it can show us how best to set up our permaculture system based on the local ecosystem. When we observe our local ecosystem, we can see what will work well in our area, and use that when we select what plants to plant and where to plant them.
Catch and store energy: If our systems can store energy (and for that matter, resources like water) when it is abundant to be used when it is scarce, our system will require less inputs from us. Less inputs into our system is definitely something that we want to strive for, since the less we have to put into growing our food, the more self-reliant we can be.
Obtain a yield: Make sure that we get something useful from the system that we set up. This one is pretty straight forward- we want to be able to produce a yield from our set up, as that is the main reason for growing our own food.
Apply self regulation and accept feedback: The system should be set up in such a way that it can self regulate problems. For example, if we are having a problem with certain insects destroying one of our crops, it would be advantageous to grow some plants which attract predators for that pest insect. This way the system is essentially looking after itself, with our initial help.
Use and value renewable resources and services: We should try to use solutions that nature has already implemented when possible, to reduce our reliance on outside inputs. To me, this principle ties very closely with my interpretation of principle number 2, catch and store energy.
Produce no waste: We should try to use “waste” from the system as an input elsewhere. This is emulating nature, where in a forest, for example, leaves and branches that fall from trees act as a mulch or compost.
Design from patterns to details: Observe natural patterns and try to implement them into the design of the system, filling in details to achieve the pattern.
Integrate rather than segregate: Plants and animals should be put together in strategic combinations, rather than segregated. By placing things together that complement each other, we can reduce the required inputs. An example of this may be using chickens around some of your plants to take care of some pests and provide fertilizer.
Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow solutions are easier to set up and maintain than larger systems.
Use and value diversity: Having diversity in your crops will help to mitigate any pests or diseases that affect only a specific plant.
Use edges and value the marginal: The edges between different habitats in nature provide a separate, unique habitat. For example, the edge between a forest and plains provides a place for plants and animals to live that wouldn’t be able to thrive in either of the two habitats alone.
Creatively use and respond to change: The system will change over time, and if we carefully observe and interact with the changes, we can use them to our advantage or cause the changes to occur in a way with will benefit us.
These principles should help Chelsea and I create our permaculture system for our homestead.
I figured that my first post here should cover some of the basics of Permaculture, since Chelsea and I are planning on setting up our homestead following its principles. As we’re learning about permaculture, we’ll share the information we find in this series of posts about permaculture basics. This will give everyone a chance to learn along with us, and provide a location where all of the knowledge we gain will be recorded.
So what is permaculture?
Permaculture was created in the 1970s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, and is a set of design principles based on relationships and connections found in nature. The word permaculture was originally defined as meaning “permanent agriculture”, but has more recently been changed to mean “permanent culture” as the principles can be applied to all parts of life.
Permaculture is based off of a Prime Directive and three core ethics. The Prime Directive of permaculture is “The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.” I believe that it is our responsibility to provide at least some of our own food, water, and energy, and not completely rely on someone else to provide it for us. This is a big reason why permaculture appeals to me and why we want to base our homestead around its cornerstones.
The three core ethics of permaculture are:
Care of the Earth- Allow for the continuing of all living systems.
Care of People- The resources produced should be accessible to be used by people.
Return of Surplus- The excess produced should be returned to the community and/or system to continue these principles.
These are pretty simple guidelines that can be applied to the design of anything, really. I like the ideas of permaculture design since they will create systems that are sustainable, hardy, and productive. I feel like setting up our homestead following these principles will give us a long lasting, robust way to provide for our needs.