During our homesteading adventures, I came across a thing called “Permaculture.” I have to say, Everything about it makes sense! I’m excited to use these permaculture principles and techniques on our homestead. So excited that I took an “Intro to Permaculture” class this summer. I’m signed up for the complete Permaculture Design Course through Oregon State University in September.
What is Permaculture?
So what is permaculture? Well, glad you asked! According to Wikipedia, Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles. They center around simulating or using the patterns and features found in nature. The term permaculture was developed and coined by David Holmgren, then a graduate student, and his professor, Bill Mollison, in 1978. The word permaculture is short for “permanent agriculture.” It also means “permanent culture”, to reflect the importance of community involvement for sustainable systems.
Mollison has said: “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.”
The Ethical Foundation of Permaculture is three-fold; Care for the Earth, Care for People, and Limiting Consumption. The third ethic has also been labeled “Return the Surplus,” “Fair Share,” “Live within Limits” and others. Permaculture News has a great article explaining the chameleon-like third ethic.
The Twelve Permaculture Principles
- Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder.”
By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
- Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines.”
By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
- Obtain a yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach.”
Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.
- Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation.”
We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.
- Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course.”
Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
- Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine.”
By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
- Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees.”
By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
- Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work.”
By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
- Use Small and Slow Solutions – “Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
- Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
- Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path.”
The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
- Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.”
We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.
Permaculture Principles Explained
Here is an excellent video explaining these basic permaculture principles by Andrew Millison who teaches the OSU Permaculture Design Course, which I HIGHLY recommend. The quality of PDC courses vary, and this is an excellent course offered through Oregon State University. Their Permaculture certificate is issued through the Permaculture Institute in New Mexico.