Permaculture the Old-Fashioned Way

Reader Contribution by Toby Grotz

Permaculture has become the new buzzword in certain circles. From shirt and tie urban planners who have never planted a garden, to the LEED certified architect, a lot of money is changing hands as a common sense approach to co-existing with nature and is being promoted in the name of sustainability. The money part is good for the dirt farmers, but I wonder about the quiche aspect of a subject with so many definitions. Here’s a definition I found attributed to Gus & LaNada James:

“Permaculture combines current technology with aboriginal cultural knowledge collected over generations: to create self-contained, self-perpetuating ecological systems. This includes growing edible (& nutritious) plants, fish & animals; as well as the application of appropriate technology to create energy from solar, wind, water, & compost.”

This is a really good definition, one of the best I found, but I don’t like the word aboriginal; we’re not all anthropologists. I’d substitute “our tribal ancestors” (what we were before we succumbed to and were corrupted by empire and religions).

Steve Mann, facilitator of the Food Not Lawns Class taught at the University of Missouri of Kansas City Communiversity explains that it is an ethics based method of living described by David Holmgren based on:

Care of the Earth: The Earth is a living, breathing entity. Without ongoing care and nurturing there will be consequences too big to ignore.

Care of People We are provided with times of abundance which enables us to share with others

Fair Share: We are provided with times of abundance which enables us to share with others.

The evolution of Permaculture—like Yoga—is a study of how ancient knowledge and wisdom get turned into a marketing tool, requiring certification and a lineage to impress the uninitiated. Well, gee, we did it for 10,000 years but this isthe 21st century so if we market it we need to be able to trace credentials.

Well, enough tongue in cheek. Now that I got that off my chest, I’d like to congratulate all the hard working people that do permaculture. They do understand what the future will bring based on the current path the world is on and they are training people how to find their way back to nature.  

To all you teachers and practitioners of permaculture, when I think of you I think:

Some of us are dreamers; some of us were fools,
but we’re are making plans and thinking of the future,
we are gathering the tools,
we will need to make our journey back to nature,
with our hearts turned to each other’s hearts for refuge
in the troubled times years that come before the deluge.

From:Before the Deluge.
By Jackson Brown

Practicing Permaculture

A Farmer and his Rice Crop. Rice Paddies near the Kali River in Karnataka State, India.

When Does Planting Your Own Food Become a Revolutionary Act of Defiance?

The first time I know that it happened was after the Spanish outlawed the growth of amaranth in what is now Mexico. The Spanish attempted to eradicate amaranth. Growing it was punishable by death. But you know, it’s hard to stop some people. If the rulers say you can’t have it or grow it, they’re gonna go get some and plant it. Sound familiar? (They might even smoke it).

It happened again during WWII during the planting of the Victory Gardens.

The Victory Gardens were started during WWI in Europe so that more food could be exported to the Allied Forces in Europe. Reset, Repeat. The same thing happened during WWII, and when food rationing began and in 1942, Victory Gardens took off again. The Department of Agriculture objected to the promotion of Victory Gardens and lobbied to stop their promotion by the US Government. They were smacked down by a woman named Eleanor who planted a Victory Garden at her residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, no doubt to the delight of President Roosevelt.

People grow their own food for a variety of reasons: to save money, to avoid herbicides and pesticides, to produce the fresher taste, to get better nutrition.

Growing food also enables us to lessen our total dependence on the corporate state and the agricultural mutations that have become the franken-foods used to feed us and animals in feed lots and hog, chicken and turkey barns.

 We can Plant Victory Gardens and Grow our Own Food

In India they have practiced Permaculture for 5,000 Years.

In March, I was able to visit a village of “tribal” people living in the hills and jungle of a Bengal Tiger preserve near the Kali River in Southwest India. The local Hindus who arrived at a much later date in history call them tribals.  They have practiced permaculture, for the last 5,000 years.

The Permaculturists: Grandmothers and Daughters and Grandson

One of the village out buildings with 100% local building materials. In a back to the Future world, all our building will be LEED certified by default.

Stock Pens

After the Harvest, cows graze in the rice paddies and provide fertilizer.

Gopala is the Cow Protector. In order to get a feel for what it is like to walk in these hills amongst this this culture, listen closely to this song about the protector.

Living In A Time of Great Change

Climate, over population, resource depletion, fiat currencies, and weapons manufacturers are familiar to those who read MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Volume 1, No. 1, 44 years ago. The magazine began with these words “….a new beginning.” Where are we now?

We were looking forward to a new beginning, are we in the middle or close to the end?

It’s what you’re gonna do if you want to survive.

Tell your kids and grand kids –

 Teach Your Children Well

Graham Nash: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young