A gardener uses grass clippings as mulch. A farmer uses his chickens' eggs for food and manure for fertilizer. A homeowner installs a rain chain to draw rainwater away from his home as well as to harvest rainwater to irrigate the yard and garden.
Each scenario is an example of recycling. Each scenario could also be considered an example of permaculture.
Permaculture is an intense application of recycling to one's life. It is a comprehensive sustainable system run by a combination of nature, landscape, people and technology; puts minimal effort into production of materials; and uses and reuses materials so that no land or resources go to waste. A person turns his or her land or property into a design system that produces food, energy, shelter and other materials by maximizing the natural functions of plants and animals.
Heidi Heiland, with Heidi's Lifestyle Gardens, provides further explanation in the following article:
Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how to build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, and build communities.
Key Principles of Permaculture:
· Food Forests
Food Forests mimic the architecture and beneficial relationships between plants and animals found in a natural forest or other natural ecosystem. Food forests are not ‘natural’, but are designed and managed ecosystems (typically complex perennial polyculture plantings) that are very rich in biodiversity and productivity.
· Poultry and Backyard Animals
Animals (including birds and wildlife) are a critical component of any sustainable system, as without their participation and contribution the ecological balance cannot be achieved. Everything gardens in permaculture, and animals are in the leadership position. Manure is needed for soil fertility. Foraging on fallen fruit, weeds, seeds and garden pests helps with keeping things healthy. Soil cultivation is frequently a benefit, especially when keeping chickens.
· Rainwater Harvesting
In permaculture, buildings and landscapes are designed to absorb rainwater. This is not only a good idea for dry climates, but is also very important in places with plentiful moisture. Rainwater is best used when it is allowed to infiltrate the soil. There it is available to plants, it is cleansed and enters the groundwater or returns to the hydrological cycle. Rainwater harvesting is an alternative to designing our outdoor environments to get rid of water - where it rushes down hillsides, streets or roadways. This is how soil erosion begins and pollutants get washed into waterways. In some circles, there is a distinction between rainwater harvesting (meaning direction rainwater and runoff towards planted areas for infiltration); and rainwater catchment where water is actually captured from roofs or other hard surfaces and is stored in cisterns. The former is simpler and less costly, the latter allows you to have access to water during dry spells, but may be more expensive.
· Designing for Multiple Functions
Many examples can be drawn to illustrate this principle, the one that reminds us to always capitalize on the investment of work and resources. Everything should serve multiple functions by design - road channels cooling winds towards a house; water tank casts its shade to create comfortable microclimate nearby; rain gutter drains towards a fruit tree.
Heidi Heiland deploys a number of practices in support of permaculture principles, including:
· Geothermal heating system for her home
· Rain box systems to catch and use rainwater
· Permeable paver driveway system
· Smart irrigation system drawing water from her lake
· Rain gardens
· Rain chains
Permaculture institutes have been formed to promote sustainable living skills through education, networking and demonstration projects.
For more information about the Permaculture Institute for Cold Climates, visit: http://www.pricoldclimate.org/
To learn more about the Permaculture Institute, visit: http://www.permaculture.org/nm/index.php/site/index/
Cathy Rose is a local permaculture practitioner, from Montrose, MN. To learn more about her practice, called “Nature’s Farm”, visit: http://www.naturesnestfarm.com/index.htm
For more information about Heidi’s Lifestyle Gardens, visit: http://heidislifestylegardens.com/
June 19, 2012