The course I took in Northampton showed me how social change (or stasis) is interwoven with my personal/ecological choices. It also showed me how a lot of my choices already reflect that concept, how I just didn't notice the connection. I'm happiest when sharing skills with my community: learning how to grow, cook, ferment, can, and pickle food, and then gather with others to teach each other or pass on our surplus. For my birthday last year, there was a "grubbing bee." Soon, there'll be a grain mill
to share around. And of course, there are other examples, like throwing massage parties, which aren't about how we relate to food, but how we relate to our bodies and each other.
Now, what does permaculture matter to you
? More than you might imagine, actually. There's a good chance you're recycling resources back into your community, like at a clothing swap, or sharing them, as in a group household. Pooling childcare. Attending bodywork & energy shares. Group art. Passing along sourdough starter. Teaching someone to knit. Selling each other local eggs and meat. Really, whatever things we do to put ourselves into our connections with other people and our surroundings, instead of handing a credit card to a faceless corporate fictional entity.
Yes, permaculture can get vastly more esoteric, simultaneously back-to-basics and cutting-edge. Yes, I'm excited about the idea of taking raw land and starting an edible forest garden, which might be years or forever away. Yes, I want a graywater system and a pond with fish and a root cellar (and a pony). I'll settle, though, for all the new perennial plantings (which, I didn't mention, will involve sledgehammering concrete to install), the rain barrels, a clothesline Carl's been building, remaking the compost pile for optimal performance, digging up and rebuilding our first depleted raised bed with a bunch of permacultural ideas, and designing a solar greenhouse for use next year. Well, okay, maybe I'll settle for a lot less, given all the annual crops to play with too. And, y'know, the vagaries of the universe.
My favorite example of permaculture-at-work in my life, right now, is the results of the cold frame, this first year of use. It has outperformed my wildest hopes. We had claytonia and mache, little salad greens, until February, of this
winter. Then they sprang back in March, as did some of the winter lettuce that died off in December. Sylvana has been nibbling them like a bunny, and I've handed off large bags of greens to friends. Surplus to share in April.
Meanwhile, the overwintered kale and scorzonera are thriving, getting a huge head start on the seeds planted in March/April. And next year, I expect we'll be doing a lot more winter harvesting, now that I know what's possible.
I'll leave this with a couple of recommendations, if your interest has been piqued. Gaia's garden
is awesome as a means of understanding and applying permaculture at a small, even urban level. It's beautifully written and accessible, and I'm happy to loan mine around.
And if you'd like a taste of the overarching, holistically-different thinking that the course was trying to inspire in us, here's Andrew Faust
, my favorite guest speaker. He spoke without notes for a couple of hours, tying ideas together in rapid-fire succession, so none of the clips available is going to do him justice, but they'll at least demonstrate how different a paradigm permaculture advocates, and what a shift in thinking it can require.