What is permaculture??

The definition from Wikipedia is given below - we would encourage you to go there and read some more. We believe that the methods described in permaculture are key to living a sustainable, essentially carbon neutral, lifestyle.

Peter Bane, permaculture teacher, writer and activist, publishes a magazine and web site - The Permaculture Activist - that is a fund of good information on the permaculture discipline. Keith Johnson's blogspot, http://kjpermaculture.blogspot.com/ has a tremendous list of permaculture blogs and websites; scroll down the right hand sidebar to view these.

Wikipedia's definition: Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and perennial agricultural systems that mimics the relationships found in natural ecologies. It was first developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications. The word permaculture is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture, as well as permanent culture.

The intent is that, by rapidly training individuals in a core set of design principles, those individuals can design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient human settlements — ones that reduce society's reliance on industrial systems of production and distribution that Mollison identified as fundamentally and systematically destroying Earth's ecosystems.


Core values

Permaculture on an organic farm on the Swabian Mountains in Germany.

Permaculture is a broad-based and holistic approach that has many applications to all aspects of life. At the heart of permaculture design and practice is a fundamental set of ‘core values’ or ethics which remain constant whatever a person's situation, whether they are creating systems for town planning or trade; whether the land they care for is only a windowbox or an entire forest. These 'ethics' are often summarised as;

  • Earthcare – recognising that Earth is the source of all life (and is possibly itself a living entity — see Gaia theory), that Earth is our valuable home, and that we are a part of Earth, not apart from it.
  • Peoplecare – supporting and helping each other to change to ways of living that do not harm ourselves or the planet, and to develop healthy societies.
  • Fairshare (or placing limits on consumption) - ensuring that Earth's limited resources are used in ways that are equitable and wise.

Modern thought about permaculture began with the issue of sustainable food production. It started with the belief that for people to feed themselves sustainably, they need to move away from reliance on industrialised agriculture. Where industrial farms use technology powered by fossil fuels (such as gasoline, diesel and natural gas), and each farm specialises in producing high yields of a single crop, permaculture stresses the value of low inputs and diverse crops. The model for this was an abundance of small-scale market and home gardens for food production.

 Here is a youtube video on permaculture, taken at Old 99 Farm in 2009., www.youtube.com/watch

And another one, from Chris Francis in Australia, showing a unique way to build a garden, keep chickens, in a rotation. Some differences would need to be adopted given the Canadian climate, but there are still some good ideas.

And if you want a template sample of an urban permaculture plan, download this document. (It is a 8mb file, so be patient.) It is a 187 page detailed description of the make-over of Gatewood Homestead, on a 700 sq m lot in a working class area of Oklahoma City. You will find numerous ideas you can transfer to your own urban dwelling, both inside and outside the home.

In 2008 the Dundas Sustainable Lifestyles Project organized an urban permaculture workshop. The course was led by Peter Bane and Keith Johnson, of Bloomington IN. Course handouts totalling 25 pages are available here. The list of contents is as follows. but note, these were scanned from originals and assembled into a pdf file so a couple of the pages are out of order. You have to download the whole file to view.

  1. Holmgren's Permaculture Principles
  2. Design Principles
  3. The Home System: elements, siting, fire protection, orchards,
  4. Modifying a Microclimate: making warmer or cooler, increasing/decreasing wind, humidity
  5. Tree placement
  6. Gardening (5 pages, 1 & 2 out of order)
    • integrate pest managment
    • planning year round food supply
    • food preservation
    • composting
    • companion planting
    • pg 1 why garden?, layout, creating beds, plant propagation, saving seed
  7. Sheet mulching the Pc way (pg 17)
  8. Examples of Pc plants
  9. Vegetable light requirements
  10. Edibles for shady areas
  11. Season extension, year round eating and storage
  12. Waste treatment