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What Is Permaculture? A Short Intro

What Is Permaculture? A Short Intro

If you’ve poked around in the homesteading corner of the world, chances are you’ve heard about permaculture. It’s an awesome set of principles and way of life that tries to imitate nature as much as possible. Anyone interested in homesteading, landscaping, gardening, and becoming more eco-friendly will benefit greatly from learning more about it.

This is meant to be a very brief introduction into the idea of permaculture. There is no way we could cover a significant amount of information on the technicalities of permaculture in such a short article. After all, there are entire books, online courses, and even college degrees on the subject!

We will touch on what permaculture is, why it’s beneficial, and why you might want to pursue it.

So – what actually is permaculture? Let’s dive in.

The Definition(s) of Permaculture

Permaculture encapsulates activities, methods, techniques, principles, and practices that all harness and mimick the process of the natural world, but that also benefit humans. These deal with matters such as: self-sufficiency, resource conservation, resilience, yield, and restorative ecology.

Permaculture is so flexible in its interpretation that it almost certainly means something different to everyone. This is wondrous in that permaculture allows for someone to manifest the subject in their own unique way, but problematic in that it’s impossible to formulate an unequivocal definition.

Here is one definition, taken from Practical Permaculture by Jessi Bloom & Dave Boehnlein: “meeting human needs through ecological and regenerative design.” Concise and simple to understand.

Another definition comes from Ben Falk in his book The Resilient Farm and Homestead: “

“In essence, permaculture as a land use approach is a system of ecological regeneration in which the production of products for human livelihoods is also a key component – a marriage of ecological restoration and gardening, if you will.”

As you can see, formative definitions for the permaculture body of thought have been developed by many.

We have developed our own meaning here at Modern Day Self Reliance: an integration of ecological components and processes into human-directed applications that solve wants and needs sustainably, creating a richer, more productive environment as a result. You can create your own interpretation, but this is how we have come to understand and embody it.

Permaculture is a relatively new term, purportedly coined less than 50 years ago. But, it is only the word that is new, as the concept is much older.

People have been harnessing and mimicking the processes of the natural world in beneficial ways for a long time. Over millennia, in fact. In modern context, permaculture has developed beyond activities into an encompassing set of principles and practices.

Vegetable garden designed with permaculture principles in mind.

The Twelve Principles of Permaculture

David Holmgren, one of the original architects of the “permaculture” term as it is now used, created the following 12 permaculture principles and accompanying phrases to help put permaculture into practice.

These principles are seen as universal, although the methods used to express them will vary greatly according to the place and situation. They can apply to our lives personally, economically, socially, and politically.

We will publish a more in-depth look at these principles soon, but for now, here is a quick look, as written by Holmgren:

1. Observe and interact.
2. Catch and store energy.
3. Obtain a yield.
4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback.
5. Use and value renewable resources and services.
6. Produce no waste.
7. Design from patterns to details.
8. Integrate rather than segregate.
9. Use small and slow solutions.
10. Use and value diversity.
11. Use edges and value the marginal.
12. Creatively use and respond to change.

Reasons To Pursue Permaculture

There are many reasons people follow permaculture principles and lifestyle.

Some use it as a means to counteract or reduce the effects of anthropogenically-induced issues. This may involve building a resilient property in the face of drastically changing climatic conditions. Or maybe conserving and/or regenerating natural resources that have been eliminated or adversely affected by human activity.

Others pursue permaculture as a means to derive sustenance for the body, mind, and spirit through an entwined ecological coexistence. These people may be looking to grow wholesome food and create pleasant, functional natural spaces that help them heal, reflect, and be happier. Permaculture is a pliable framework that you can use to achieve your specific preferences.

For us, permaculture is so many things. It’s a mindset, application, therapy, reprieve from a misguided world, and a commitment to an ideal that is wholesomely good. It’s a gift that benefits every living element involved.

Permaculture to us is about biodiversity, personal enlightenment, natural solutions, self-reliance, and a desire to give back to the Earth.

Now that we have gone over a little bit about what permaculture is and what it means to us, we’re going to give tangible examples of what we want to accomplish with permaculture. Your ideas of permaculture may include some or none of the points below.

Through permaculture, we want to:

  • Create a rich, ecologically-productive property through restorative practices that support and enhance conditions for a vibrant array of both flora and fauna diversity
  • Produce wholesome, organic food in a way that is integrated with the land, in contrast to conventional, disruptive manners of food production that cause harm or degradation to the environment and the life residing within it
  • Preserve naturally-occurring food sources on the property. Make these existing stocks more prolific by enriching the microclimates around the areas that are producing berries, nuts, and mushrooms
  • Capture and put to good use the water resources that would normally be lost or unusable in the form of runoff from impervious surfaces
  • Slow, spread, and sink water that moves across the surface of the property in order to maintain and recharge the groundwater supply below
  • Sustainably cultivate and harvest fuel for my wood-burning heating source
  • Create a permanent water fixture on the property in the form of a small pond that is filled and perpetuated through natural processes that will provide aesthetics, wildlife habitat, and a source of additional water for various needs and projects that may arise
Several different vegetable plants growing near each other.

What is it that you want to accomplish with permaculture? We’re hoping we can help you figure that out. By reading our ongoing permaculture series, you will hopefully develop your own idea of what permaculture is and possibly get inspired to do things you had never envisioned before. This series will cover:

  • Site analysis and assessment
  • Design theory
  • Goal formulation
  • Development of action lists to accomplish goals
  • Project implementation
  • Continuous reassessment and experimentation to create new value
  • Lots of pictures and videos to follow what is going on!

We are certainly no expert in any facet of permaculture, but we have an exceeding passion for it and have been voraciously poring over resources regarding the subject. We hope we have sparked some interest in the topic and that you’ll come along for a journey into permaculture! 

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