There was that light beyond all lights

By Mike Graeme

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A pollen heaven in the rhododendrons of the Channel Rock garden growing on Klahoose traditional territory. “…[T]he bees are still busy and the honey scent of the flowers on which they feast drifts in my window at dusk. Not very far away are the shaman’s cave and pictographs. Here, it seems, he practised his magic and taught it to novices. Here in this Protected Place, this Plain of Honey, this Fairyland.” -Gilean Douglas, from The Protected Place
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I remember first seeing a picture of the clam-shaped house of the permaculture educational conservancy at Channel Rock during Hannah Roessler’s guest lecture in Environment Studies 200 class and being awed by the ingenuity of such a design. Its arguable whether this might be considered an example of permaculture principle Mimicking Nature, for in truth clams have evolved their specific shape for the purposes of movement, allowing it an ideal form for rocking in back-and-forth motion. Nonetheless, the clam-like shape of the house at Channel Rock allows for the back (north) side of the house to keep cool and dank, providing an ideal location (i.e., Using Relative Location) for a root cellar and pantry, while the yawning south-facing side of the house allows light to penetrate and heat the house. In a perfect example of passive solar heating, the angle of the clam-house allows light to fully penetrate through the windows in the winter when the sun is low on the horizon, while the shade produced by the lofty summer sun provides natural cooling.

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Behind this honey suckle is the door to the root cellar on the north end of the clam house, presumably filled with jewel-coloured jars of preserves. “The prime example [of the first homestead food storages on Cortes Island] was Gilean Douglas’ root cellar at Channel Rock, which was built in the 1930s and was in use until 1993. With its brightly painted white shelves holding an array of jewel-coloured jars of preserves, and the wooden bins underneath full of root vegetables and apples, it was the very picture of abundance & self-sufficiency.
Of the total floor area in the house, the designers have ensured the floor space that falls directly behind the glass windows is in the decisive self-regulating range of 7-13% to prevent over heating in the summer. Further, the precise accuracy of the two roof angles allows only the winter sun to glare its full radiance on the back wall, where it is absorbed into the naturally sourced thermal mass of cob: a synergy of permaculture principles Catch and Store Energy and Use the Biological Resources Available.

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Steph Asbeck standing on the first level of the clam house’s living roof, performing a proper permaculture sun sector salutation with Mollison’s “Introduction to Permaculture” in hand.

The building materials for the house also include local sawdust, clay and wood. The breathable clay walls provide self-regulation of moisture as well as an inhospitable environment for bugs, while the wood, by being sourced from the property, serves the multiple functions of providing the house with a sturdy structure as well as thinning out the nearby forest, thereby protecting the place from fire hazard. Moreover, the “living roof” held up by the wood beams contributes to curtailing the recent unprecedented flooding of the garden by fostering a “slow it, spread it, sink it” function.

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Inside the house permaculture apprentices actively learn about passive solar.

In another example of catch and store energy, Mark shows us the solar panels atop the Channel Rock bluffs. He stresses that solar panels aren’t a completely sustainable solution. Indeed, they harness solar energy from the sun in a greenhouse gas-free fashion, yet they require batteries, which are toxic, and, Mark remarks, their material lifespan is a mere 20-25 years. If solar energy is relied on excessively, then the system required would be a colossal contraption cycling into the mounds of non-biological resource crap that Oliver Kellhammer and his troops of permaculture-blitz guerillas are trying to clean up from the environment—and this isn’t to mention their embodied energy (i.e., the energy that goes into producing such material technologies).

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“[And] what is waste? …nature, the nourisher and spacemaker, knows nothing of waste. A thousand seeds, a million insects too many? Too many for what or whom? only for us, on our humanherded earth.” -Gilean Douglas, from The Protected Place
One day, perhaps, biomimicry will become so correspondent to nature that it reaches a stage of Producing No Waste. One can hope a long-lasting, nontoxic solar cell of the perma-future is on the horizon. Biomimicry innovation expert Janine Benyus recounts recent studies into a leaf’s capacity for capturing energy in order to create a molecular-sized cell, a “light-sensitive “pentad” [that] mimics a photosynthetic reaction center, creating a tiny, sun-powered battery.” And, recalling the previous clam mimicry, solar power innovators are also finding inspiration in the Giant clam, which engages in a symbiotic relationship with photosynthesizing algae. Not only are carbohydrates received by clams in exchange for nitrogen-rich clam waste they return to the algae, but biomimickers have noticed that the lighting effect of the iridescent cells produced within clamshells actually enhances photosynthesis in the algae, and, therefore, emulating this quality might make a manifold increase in the catch and store potential of solar cells.

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In the front yard of Gilean Douglas’s house on Channel Rock a wooden sculpture sits in gratitude of the world’s loveliness, seashells piled at its feet. “Perhaps solitude is a shell, protecting sensitivity against the cruelty of the world…[while] all loveliness is a reflection of the life illumination and our straining towards it is an acknowledgment of the source.” -Gilean Douglas, from The Protected Place
This goes to show that nature’s solutions are rampant and are being discovered at a breakneck (or littleneck?) pace. They are found even in the subtle treasure chest of a clamshell, yet there is likely no panacea. Mark says that first and foremost we must learn to use less. The permaculture principle Use and Value Diversity points to the varying advantages of using both passive solar and solar cells as we work towards a better world that is alight with loveliness and in which we are sufficed with what we have. “Slowly, surely, [the light] will come back a little bit more each day,” wrote Gilean Douglas on the winter solstice, “As slowly and surely as it is coming to the human world, even though here and there are dark minds—as there are dark places in the forest to which light barely penetrates.”

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Hannah and Paige outside Gilean Douglas’s old homestead on Channel Rock. “Now…there are those bursts of light through billowing black clouds, showering the sea with silver sparks.” -Gilean Douglas, from The Protected Place
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“Above all, there was that light beyond all lights which seems to shine right through you when you have done your best and joyed in the doing.” -Gilean Douglas, from The Protected Place

 

A Gathering with the Grand Soil Magicians of Nature

By Mike Graeme

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Oliver Kellhammer teaches us how to stay out of the slammer while we create a sustainable world.

What fortune for us to be blessed this week with the presence of punk rock virtuoso, conceptual artist, permaculture-restorationist extraordinaire Oliver Kellhammer, who traveled all the way from New York to lift us from dismal despair into plastic-loving, perma-blitz guerillas (O.K., Oliver was already on his way to Cortes regardless, but do we ever still feel special!).

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Nash and Sammy—what a couple of Perma-blitz Gorillas.

“I like to use permaculture to fix things,” says Oliver. He views permaculture as a metaphorical “C.P.R. for the planet,” and with more and more of us drinking the Kefir Kool-Aid, learning the art of permaculture and putting the principles into practice, we can all join the passion party, the late-night drum circle before the great dawn, beating in a massive biorhythmic planetary resuscitation.

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Any other day I would have felt a paralyzing heaviness seeing this mound of garbage on Hank’s Beach Trail, Cortes Island, but being accompanied by Oliver and the other perma-blitz guerrillas, our minds and bodies howling with punk rock energy for transforming the mess of our time, an upwelling of hope pushed back against helplessness.

Now, before Oliver’s arrival we’d already received a brief introduction from Linnaea steward Jeff into the miracle of mycelium’s rehabilitative… shall we call them… superpowers? Jeff told us about the symbiotic partnership formed between Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI), Paul Stamet’s organization Fungi Perfecti, and the Linnaea Farm Stewards—you know, those self-proclaimed Linnae-aliens. Together the team had strategically placed woodchips—which had been inoculated with Gentle Giant spores—throughout the Linnaean landscape to serve as a filtrating mechanism. Linnaea Farm is located at a principal facet of the watershed connected to Gunflint Lake, which, incidentally, is undergoing an unprecedented algae bloom with one cause thought to be associated with excessive nutrient deposition. Jeff tells us that an astonishing 90% of the water entering the lake passes through Linnaea, demonstrating the potential here for mycoremiadiation of the hydraulic cycle.

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Jeff stands on the mycelial mound and gives us the saprobic low-down. Sharing the surplus, he offers each to take some inoculated woodchips home with us.

So how exactly can mushrooms “chip in”? Mycelium, especially that of the Garden Giant (Stropharia rugosoannulata) loves micronutrients and bacteria, such as nitrogen and fecal coliform (e.g., E. coli), which can find their ways into the water system due to the frequently held poo-lates classes in the pastures upstream. The mycelium creates a sort of “micro-filtration membrane” whereby its digestive exudates (the enzymatic and chemical byproducts of its growth and metabolism) break down various pollutants in the water. But that’s not all. We’re talking multiple magic fungi functions here. Through Linnae-alien handiwork these mycelial mounds have been secured in the exceedingly wet places of the farm using willow wattles (yet another Biological Resource put to use) and, Jeff tells us, the sponge-like mycelial woodchips assist the water in penetrating and being retained within the wider environment, helping to serve the “slow it, spread it, sink it” objective of permaculture, which is particularly important given recent sporadic and titanic rain events in the region. Moreover, because these upstream contaminants aren’t harmful when broken down—unlike heavy metals—the mushrooms can also serve as a nutritious addition for sumptuous stir-fries. Further still, “After three to four years, [the] chunks of wood [that make up these mycelial mounds] are totally reduced into a rich, peat-like soil, ideal for the garden.” Not least and surely not last, the Garden Giant also flourishes in woodchip-free substrate, hence Jeff’s ultimate goal of seeing the mycelium spread out to become established in the fields as well. “Ultimately fungi generate soil,” Paul Stamets said in a lecture I happened upon at Burning Man last year, “They are the grand soil magicians of nature.” In a self-regulating manner mycelium replenishes and enriches the soil, increasing its biological activity and moisture content, “[unlocking] natural nutrients, [and holding] soils together while providing aeration,” thereby enhancing crop growth and reducing the need for tillage, which can be detrimental to soil structure (and gives the designer less reclining time). Abracadabra, this mushroom magic sounds like C.P.R. for the soil at its finest.

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A photo of Dr. Paul Stamets in the Earth Guardians tent at Burning Man 2015, taken while he was speaking in of his mycoremediation efforts on Cortes Island. It was on this very island that he bought a 160-acre property and 31,000 baby trees to study mycelial soil remediation in degraded tree plantations. Through his observations and interactions, Using Nature as Guide, Dr. Stamets was able to show that not only was it ecologically beneficial for the soil to use mycorrhizal inoculations, but that it was also economically more advantageous for the logging industry to continue replenishing the soil, as the next generation of trees reached a greater girth and height in places where the wood chips were implemented. This in effect kept the wasted brush cycling back into the system and super-fertilizing the soils,  which at least is working in the direction of closing the loop. Significantly, Stamets’ revelation was able to reach the logging industry on their economic playing field, which Paul admitted he didn’t agree with, yet which still spurs them to want to look after the soil biology.

So, what about Oliver Appleseed’s planetary C.P.R. ventures? As previously mentioned, Oliver arrived in Cortes from upstate New York the day prior to our lecture and he recounted his work there, some of which incorporated a combination of sheet mulching and mycoremediation techniques to suck heavy metals, such as lead, from the city soils. The Oyster mushroom, he says, has the ability to concentrate heavy metals within its fruit, which can then be gathered and placed beneath Black Locust trees. We learn from Oliver, as well as Linnae-alien Brent, that these fast growing trees have an array of functions and properties making them superbly qualified for sequestering lead and other non-degradable contaminants. Black Locusts are long lived and don’t rot, therefore preventing release of the lead back into the environment, while what they do release is an aesthetic scent for passersby. Take a whiff of that win-win! These trees are seriously the bees knees, serving an impressive pollinator function as well. They are also nitrogen fixing and their trunks, which coppice well, make fantastic fencing material and firewood.

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The drone of bees revelling in the Black Locust pollen on Linnaea sounded like my body buzzing when Paul Stamets told us of the branching that happened on the great tree of life 650 million years ago, which sent humans and mushrooms in different evolutionary trajectories—yet here we are, humans and mushrooms, still working together like old friends.

We take up Jeff’s offer to keep the mycelial running and return to the mound to gather woodchips for our own homes. It suddenly occurs to us that we are literally carrying on the legacy of Paul Stamets’ first experimentations with mycoremediation in the late 1980s, as we collect what had in fact been a gift from Paul Stamets himself when he donated $2000 dollars worth of inoculated wood chips to Linnaea Farm in the spring of 2015. I recall sitting in the heat of the harsh and dusty desert listening to Dr. Stamets speak in the Earth Guardians tent of the goings-on in the mycelial milieu, and never could I have expected that in less than a year some Baby Soil Magicians from his experiments would be bumbling around in my own satchel. How fortunate am I to be slowly learning ways to perform planetary resuscitation with a class of such beautiful earth guardians.

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Puffballs Julia and Frédérique in the magic mound.

“Perm-eated” From My Head To-ma-toes

By Mike Graeme

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“The First Tomato” —Painting by Inanna Sokil.

The first few days of our time on Linnaea Farm are flushing like a holy shiitake log of time-honoured, experience-derived farming wisdom. One such knowledge sporing session comes from Adam Schick, a humble sage of food production on the island. Right off the bat, Adam demonstrates he is Designing for Resilience by noting that although the far corner of the garden is cooler and partly shady and thus does not host the best conditions for his tomatoes, he has still rotated the tomatoes to this location. Indeed, the decision will likely result in a decreased yield, yet the overall resilience of the garden will continue to be bolstered by Adam’s faithfulness to crop cycling, which reduces pests and disease by breaking their cycles.

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Note the seeding tray made of scrap cedar wood sitting at Adam’s feet, an example of both permaculture principles Using Biological Resources and Cycling & Recycling Energy. Repurposing the cedar allows its energy to take on another cycle of service and since it is a biological resource it will eventually return to the earth without becoming a pollutant.

Adam also consistently emphasizes the importance of paying attention to phenology, especially being that “global weirding” has made exact dates of the classic Gregorian calendar less reliable for referencing plant life histories. Using phenology requires special attention to nature (i.e., the permaculture principle Observe & Interact), as well as recording these observations year by year to document new trends and patterns in order to most appropriate apply other such permaculture principles as Creatively Use & Respond to Change [or “Weirding”]. Since 1998, Linnaea Farm has been recording various phenology events—e.g., noting bird migrations, butterfly hatchings, and the bloomings of upwards of thirty plants found on site, all of which are “among the most sensitive biological responses to climate change” and, being novel expressions of nature’s dynamic calendar, are precise indicators for when such crops as tomatoes can be most successfully planted.

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Permies Alana, Anna and Paige (left to right) checking out Linnaea’s incredible eighteen years of phenology records.

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“Just because you can start planting something in January, doesn’t mean you should start planting in January…the idea is to do the least amount of work to get the best possible plants in the healthiest situation. You know, you don’t want to push the system too far [from nature’s processes].” —Adam Schick
Adam’s advice of not planting early just because you can plant early is reminiscent of the permaculture principle Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback. One might interpret this principle as meaning we should self-regulate ourselves—our desire to start planting in January in order to get the biggest, bestest tomatoes on the block. Rather, this principle refers to the self-regulation of the farming system itself (which, when heeded, may tackle our egoistic desires too!). A reason for aspiring to facilitate self-maintaining processes in a system is that it allows us to put in the least amount of effort for the greatest return; we neither want to exert our energy or that of the system by unnecessarily increasing inputs—nor do we even want to always produce as much and as big of vegetables as we can. You might be thinking, “But isn’t permaculture about getting a surplus and sharing it?” To be sure, sharing the surplus is a way to get rid of extra when there is extra, but too much extra too often makes waste, and permaculture designs seek to Produce No Waste, including not wasting human energy. Moreover, Adam points out that giving away loads of crops can lead to a devaluing of even the toppest-drawer tomato product, as next year people might be like, “Oh my dear Aunt Ruby German Cherry! Five bucks tomatoes?!”

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“Really, what are we doing in permaculture but trying to work with natural systems, right, so it’s like trying to figure out how to do just enough to get a result, and saving that extra energy to do whatever you need to do: grow more food, make art, swim, you know, whatever you want to.” —Adam Schick

Yet another aspect of planting that plays into timing and the relational planting of crops, Adam remarks, is the timing of planting other garden crops. This means being mindful of when we grow our tomatoes so that they most ideally correspond to the maintenance of other plants in the system. By reducing the number of crops that require a farmer’s attention at the same time allows the farmer to lean back a notch or two in his or her recliner.

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Adam performing Reclining Hero Arm Lift Pose

The outdoor tomatoes Adam introduces us to are deemed determinate tomatoes, meaning they grow to a determined height, produce all of their fruit at a similar time and then die. Adam has come up with a system for transplanting these tomatoes from greenhouse to garden that is riddled with permaculture theory. First, Choosing Elements that have Multiple Functions: the cages used to uphold the Reemay cloth blanket that will keep the baby tomato plants warm in their new field will, upon later growth, then become the framework which supports the tomato plants themselves (again, working toward self-regulation). Another example of the Multiple Functions principle is that the leftover biomass of each determinate plant can then be snipped post-harvest and used as cover crop—i.e., recycled back into the system as compost, while in the interim serving as mulch for the soil until the next rotation.

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Tomato beds covered in Reemay Garden Blanket while they adapt to the outdoor temperatures. The Reemay is beginning to be removed and the cage will begin a new function as support for the tomato plants.

Speaking of mulch, multiple functions, and self-regulation, lining the paths between Adam’s plants is a cover crop known as Dutch White Clover. Beyond providing a “living mulch” that suppresses weeds and protects the soil from the heat of the sun sector, clover, Adam teaches us, also serves to “hold space”; it is a container of biomass preventing soil leaching by storing nutrients and rooting the soil in place, thus preventing erosion from wind and water sectors. Furthermore, clover adds nutrients to the soil by fixing nitrogen from the air in a symbiotic process with the microorganisms suffusing its root hairs. Seriously whoa, I’m N2 it. Adam didn’t touch on this aspect of clover, but its mere existence effectively deters pests. That is, it buffers unwanted wildlife sectors by being an attractant for ladybug beetles and green lacewings, both of which are predators to those pesky tomato phloem tissue-sucking aphids! So, straddling tomatoes with paths of clover is a prime case in point of Integrate Rather Segregate (Locating Elements for Functional Interconnection).

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Painting by Inanna Sokil: A leaf of clover straddled by two (s)whale lovers.

Intercropping, naturally, is one step on the permie-path away from monocropping, yet implementing clover helps to fulfill the Striving for Diversity on a whole ‘nother level, as it increases the richness and abundance of beneficial insects as well. As we’ve just seen, clover has a variety of benefits. Now just consider the advantages of a diversity of plant species in the garden! The length of this post indicates it should be rotated, but stay tuned for some more Linnaea allure coming to fruit soon. Don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the permaculture permeation up to my head, down to-ma-toes, and around and around the White Wonder moon.

Arriving at Linnaea Farm

By Mike Graeme

I step into my new bedroom for the week at Linnaea Farm on Cortes Island. I’ve been assigned “The Loft,” as our professor Mike Simpson recalls his old bed from when he was training here during a Garden Apprenticeship Program eight years ago. The permaculture principles already start sprouting out of the woodwork: Permaculture principle Choose & Stack Elements for Multiple Functions… Check! (I stretch out my mat and bedside table becomes yoga studio, both saving space and allowing me to pull off a Supta Virasana Anantasana Side-Reclining Hero Leg Lift Pose in Zone 0.5). What else… Aha! Principle Obtain a Yield… Check. (I stretch out my legs and begin picking the figs just outside the bedroom window). No need to even jog outside for a midnight snack (track)! Wait, something smells a bit figgy; I’m not even a designer yet, how do I already get to play the recliner? Linnaea, you’re too good to us.

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Never take roommate Grant for granted. What. A. Guy.

Alright, alright, I admit the figs aren’t quite ripe, but hey, check it out, is Choosing & Stacking Elements that have Multiple Principles a principle itself? Ok, this is getting deep. Nonetheless, an old piece of steel wool hanging above The Loft is ‘feeding two birds with one scone’: Mimicking Nature AND Cycling & Recycling Energy. The steel wool, which has long seen its dish-washing days, now hangs beside the bedroom window mimicking a beehive and effectively fending off other house wasp colonies, an occurrence found in nature by which wasp colonies keep sufficiently spaced apart. As our Permaculture textbook authors Bloom and Boehnlein write, “Electricity, money, time, steel, potatoes, and potentially love are all just different forms of energy from which we can benefit.” Forms of energy tend to be seen through our ‘norms of society’ lens, meaning that our dispensable commodity culture far underestimates the multi-lifespan of a given energy—we throw things in abandon when they’re still rendering services! (e.g., as a pesky wasp deterrer). Time to pin up that steel wool, tie up that loose end, close the loop, and keep the energy in the dance(!), and damn Linnaea seems to be a mad good dancer so far. We haven’t even stepped into the realm of Linnaea’s food production, yet I can already feel the permaculture permeating!

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Painting by Inanna Sokil

Before bed, professors Hannah and Mike lead the class through some icebreaker exercises. In one of them we have to choose two other students in the room and attempt to occupy the space directly between them­ at all times. We become like elements in a system working towards our most appropriate spots. When we finally approach equilibrium, Mike tells one of us to move position. By one slight move, everyone is directly or indirectly affected and the equalizing process begins again. Not only was this a belly-laugh of a group-building exercise, but it also alludes to the principle Bloom and Boehnlein term Locating Elements for Functional Interconnection. Everyone and every element is interconnected and therefore as “permies” we aspire to learn how to ease each element of a given system into its most functional, mutually beneficial position amongst the whole, while remembering that it is a dance: the most ideal structure of plants in a garden, or people in a room, is never set in scone.

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Permaculture 101 – Poem by Mike Graeme

Permaculture101

by Mike Graeme

 

JOIN US. Join the PermaCULT. I mean, what are you up to

over there in that spiral garden of yours?

Wanna share observations of the mc2 flows,

or the weather yo-yos,

the bloomings and croonings

of red currents and swallows—

any thoughts on harvesting their poopings?

How ’bout the bacterial-root communions

and orbiting nutrients of mycorrhizal systems,

in the bio-charred cosmic expanse of the soil…

 

Hushhhh, do you care to be quiet?

We’re worshipping the zero-mile diet!

Just razzin’, but come, join our sit spot if ya like

and revel in the story steeping deep within the silence.

Watch the plot’s succession in this particular forest setting:

the phenological foreshadowings­—Suspense!

Sneaky tropic character developments;

the resolution of external conflicts using eco-sensible arrangements.

Shall we scorn the industrial system’s limited mono-corn omniscience

and cheer on the superhero pollinating protagonists?

Rose-Hip-Hooray! And hot damn check that bio-stratagem,

that ancient epiphany of capacious resilience.

What supple, subtle mysteries,

what double, shuffled functions,

what truffled, potluck luncheons,

what a cute clover coupled with that kale bunch—

let’s stick some in our cob oven and call it munch.

 

“Hey are you trying to convert me?”

No ma’am, just to alert you:

sustainability is in sight! Did you know

you can convert your lawn into a garden paradise?

“I work three jobs, and just think of the weeds and spider mites,

I’ll never win that war, Christ, I’d get totally wiped!”

Oh but hey did you know you can convert a slug plight into a duck’s delight?

“Oh hermmm, no I hadn’t the slightest… like giving alms to wildlife instead of pesticides?”

Sure! And to the people, too, pass on the surplus! Plus, once your design’s equipped

share the tips of your slip-ups, and recline, splay your lips

under the plum trees and the nut palms,

enjoy sipping yum sweet drippings

from beneath the evening fronds.

 

 

Ringggg, ringgggg.

Scuse meh, I gotta take this one. Hello?

“Hunnyyy, where’d ya get dat compost, dat sh*ts dank yo.”

From the dumpster dear Frank,

just cranked the lid, bore the stank;

hummus be like a nitrogen bank.

“You’re a darling sonny, thanks! I’ll write you from Burbank,

I’m taking a course there on roof water catchment tanks.”

 

Sorry, that was my Great Aunt Frances. Where were we

with our permaculture prose. Did you say something?

“M, yes, so does this permi-thing have any ethics it attempts to impose?”

Well, sure, there are three, but they’re simple and close,

at least in my view, to the tastes of the human soul.

Take for instance Albert Schweitzer, who said, “Ethics is nothing else

than reverence for life”: to selflessly offer ourselves

“helpfully to all life in need of help.”

 

So here we start with Ethic One, which is “Care for the Earth,”

the planet as provider of invaluable worth.

Without her river veins, specie cells and forest lungs,

and of course her damp domains of holy decomposing dung,

life goes sour, death comes to the flowers,

and as said Gary Snyder: extinction means no birth.

 

Hey, have a pawpaw, quit your snore, are you ready for more?

“Why sure, as so far these don’t seem too much a chore.”

Precisely! So up next we have Ethic Número Dos:

This is the birch, there is the beetle, open the doors,

“Care for the People.” Shut the doors, hear them say,

“Let’s support one another in an equitable way.”

 

OK, #3, you still with me?

“Eh, mhm, yes, but I sort of have to pee.”

Oh wonderful, can I use your resources, follow me.

[…]

Now last of all is that ethic which is known as “Fair Share.”

which reminds us earth is finite—ultimately waste goes nowhere.

It’s a system that is cyclical, reciprocal, and closed.

Debunked is that degenerative ideology of “continuous growth.”

As a dendritic pattern like the ones under your skin,

the blood must ease evenly to everyone and everything

If not, and there’s a clog, or a spot that is debarred

then a finger might fall off; a landfilled landscape will get scarred.

 

And obstructing structures more invisible exist socially, as well:

colonialism; white privilege; racist frameworks; the “dominant sperm cell.”

Yet with permaculture we can transform these systemic violent underpinnings

while simultaneously strengthening our sustainability movements!

 

“Alright, wow, but how, how on (invaluable) earth,

can I put these into practice, get perma-savvy henceforth?”

I thought you’d never ask,

and by George you’re halfway there!

There’s no certain order of tasks,

but rather routes uniquely learned

through permaculture principle-based trial-and-error.

Foundational to your adventure will be the twelve-fold noble path ॐ

and there are resources by the dozens to help you keep your work on track.

But for a vastly massive boost that will simultaneously introduce

you to tools as well as kin to get super jazzed-like-mindedly juiced,

I speak by recent experience and reverently endorse

your very own enrolment in a Design Certificate Course.

 

Well what do you say, should we live on the edge?

Should we surf the ecology, carve some swales full-fledged,

sail forth to a future for our permi-to-be kids

abundant in people-planet cooperations and polycropped corn breads?

Regeneration ripples in our wake, friends, sign the permaculture pledge!

Let’s learn together the site’s moisture, via the reeds, froggies and sedge.

Let’s ground in gratitude for the ground. Why, gather thy pigs!

Let them defecate and play in it, gleying up your pond’s wapato ledge.

Let’s slow it, spread it, sink it, let’s multi-function our hedge.

 

The PermaCULT needs YOU. Or more so it is thus:

the precious world’s biophysical swirls all so pressingly need US.

We are the earth’s people. And without it we are dust.

We need it. It needs you. You need you. WE need US.

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Uncle Yam Wants You.

Artwork by Inanna Sokil

Permaculture’s Twelve Principles:

 

  1. Observing & Interacting: How often in our agricultural ventures do we impose our plans on the ecology of a place without taking the time to listen to the enchanting tale already in the process of being written? Through observance and cooperative interaction with this story, a system can emerge that both bolsters the ecological integrity of the landscape as well as suits the needs of the envisioned food system.
  2. Locating Elements for Functional Interconnection: It’s like Martin Luther King, Jr said: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” Our design elements are part of this interconnected reality. So how can we locate them to facilitate right relationships in the landscape to create most efficient, lower maintenance and mutually beneficial associations?
  3. Choosing Elements that have Multiple Functions: A good guide in designing our permaculture systems is to favour those elements with multiple characteristics that are of benefit to us and the surrounding ecosystem. For example, what about a hedge that could be wildlife habitat, keep out grazing deer, provide nectar to hummingbirds who stop to chow a few insect pests on route, while concomitantly giving us food, medicines and flowers for our loved ones!
  4. Designing for Resilience: We want to make sure that our systems are resilient in the occasion of disturbance. The most essential functions, like water and food provision should be extensively reinforced with backups, which themselves should have backups (which themselves should have back-ups!). Who’s got yo back? We got yo back.
  5. Obtaining a Yield: As ecological systems progress, their component species produce yields, such as nutritional sustenance, building materials, carbon sequestration, etc. These yields occur at different stages in the progression and therefore through awareness and crafty planning we can create systems that offer yields at all stages of development. Whoa.
  6. Looking for Small-scale Intensive Solutions: If we screw up, which as humans we are all too good at (indeed we revamp our idea-lamps through our mistakes), it’s best to do so on a small-scale. This way we can learn from our slip-ups without slipping irredeemably feet-up. Also, making the most out of an intensive area allows for creating well-organized, closely-knit bliss with minimal opportunities disused or missed.
  7. Mimicking Nature (From Patterns to Details): The forms and, most importantly, the functions found in nature are time-honoured, testified techniques presenting valuable lessons to observers (us!). Natural patterns can thus be used for guiding and deriving the details of our designs.
  8. Using Biological Resources & Producing No Waste: It’s best to use biological resources rather than pollutive, non-renewable ones. Duh. Biological resources facilitate sustainable energy cycles in our system. Just like that concept of trash to treasure so too is waste a resource for another.
  9. Striving for Diversity: Harkening back to the notion of “designing for resilience,” diversity in a landscape gives it a greater capacity to endure in the case of disturbance or upon loss of (an) element(s). Enriching biodiversity also results in increased potential yields and increased potential for functional interconnection. Diversity good. Big love for diversity. As well, cultural and social diversity allow for increased functional interrelations of ideas, perspectives, opportunities and love.
  10. Solving Problems Creatively: Within the rotten fruit of a problem is the seed of its own solution. Looking beyond the symptoms, what is the core of the problem? Is there a solution that would be less labour intensive and even solve other problems simultaneously? Diggity-Ding!
  11. Managing Edges: The space of interface, the zone of ecotone, that place where one distinct ecological system butts up with another, is one of dynamic interplay. Depending on the context, different measures can be taken to facilitate the operations of these locales in order that they align their missions with our design visions.
  12. Cycling and Recycling Energy: As Bloom and Boehnlein say, “Electricity, money, time, steel, potatoes, and potentially love are all just different forms of energy from which we can benefit.” Forms of energy tend to be seen through a norms-of-society lens, meaning that our dispensable commodity culture far underestimates the multi-lifespan of a given energy—we throw it in abandon when it’s still giving offerings! Time to tie up that loose end, close the loop, and keep the energy in the dance(!), learning to benefit from these energies as they take on new structures and purpose, new cadence and jazz.

 

 

Note: “The lists of permaculture principles found in various publications range in length from four to forty” (Bloom & Boehnlein 2015:22). Therefore these are a distillation slightly adapted from: Bloom, J., & Boehnlein, D. (2015). Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Your Community, and the Whole Earth. Portland, OR: Timber Press.