I had heard of permaculture but had no idea what it meant until I read an article about it in Mother Earth News this summer. Turns out, I’ve been accidentally practicing permaculture for years!
Permaculture is the development of an agricultural ecosystem that uses less energy and resources and is self-sufficient and sustainable. In my mind, who wouldn’t do that? I have called it lazy, cheap, and resourceful farming/living but permaculture sounds more like you know what you are doing. Yeah, sure I planned all of this.
I collect rain water because it is free compared to the $0.08 a gallon I pay to have it delivered since we don’t have a well. However, merely collecting rainwater doesn’t make an ecosystem.
The rainwater is used to fill the duck ponds, duck water, and water the garden. The duck pond is also a substantial dog water dish (ewww), and for the puppy, the best way to drink out of it is standing in it (double eww). They have a plenty of dog dishes, but the ponds are their favorite. The pond water is used to water our Arctic cherry tree. According to the tag, it should start to producing cherries here soon. I highly doubt it, but I’m holding out hope. A grill that is no longer able to grill is now a goose-proof flower bed (tall enough the goose cannot reach to eat all of my flowers).
The garden is used to feed us and the birds, saving us money both in buying the produce and duck feed but also gas by not having to go to the grocery store. The ducks and chickens maintain the weeds and keep the mosquito populations in check – they free range when we are home. We eat the duck eggs and the drakes. We’d love to keep them all as pets, but too many males disrupt the peace in our ecosystem. The chickens are for meat this year, but we plan on overwintering a few next year with the hopes that they’ll make more chickens the following year, so we no longer have to buy chickens. The birds also provide hours of entertainment. I never get tired of watching them.
One of the ideas of permaculture that this ecosystem supplies everything one would need “including entertainment to fuel”. Trees cleared for the house were used to heat our home. Much more affordable than heating oil though we use that too since winters here are long and oh so cold plus I like my house at 70 to 80. I can’t bring myself to set the thermostat higher than 60 though (oh so cheap), so the woodstove makes the house comfortable to live in. The trees we cleared last summer to expand our garden are going to heat our home.
The excess garden gets frozen or canned. Garden tidbits like stalks, roots, and such gets fed to the birds, this year made into stock or composted. I’m an oh so lazy composter and do the slow compost method which does cause a fly issue. BUT the chickens love hanging out by the compost to eat the maggots – gross, I know but PERMACULTURE! Shane just shakes his head and walks away when I say that to farm grossness. Like the dogs licking duck shit off the pavement. PERMACULTURE!
In the garden the last two summers, I have increased the number of flowers we have since we now have honey bees. Plus I hate having to hand pollinate, so I wanted to encourage my bees to make the trek up to the house. I love the increased color and watching our bees pollinate all of my plants. We eat the tomatoes and raspberries that our bees pollinated and honey they stored away. Also, notice that I used birch trees for part of the posts to make our garden fence.
Part of permaculture is still retaining native plants and animals. Squirrels surround us in the woods. In the spring (when the cat refuses to go outside due to snow) we have bird feeders which also feed local moose (ugh). Occasionally, the neighborhood fox makes off with one of our birds, double ugh but part of living in the woods. Our bees take advantage of all the wild roses and wild raspberries. We enjoy both. Most of our lot is still heavily forested providing both shade and a buffer from the road.
Feed bags become weed control in the garden path. Dog food bags become trash bag liners. Wood crates scavenged from work became a chicken coop. An old dog run wrapped in plastic is our greenhouse. Boxes from a CSA have become drawers in our entry way. Old clothes become patches and rags. New sheets for us are old ones retired from the vacation rental. They’ll eventually become painting dropcloths or dog blankets. Old milk crates organize the back of my car, are cubby shelves in the garage, a seat for weeding in the garden, my office standing desk is made of them and old shelves, they are the perfect size for a small propane tank, and two milk crates and a 2×4 makes an excellent chicken roost. Uses for old towels are endless.
My husband calls me Half-Penny Hildebrandt [my maiden name] since I’m always looking for ways to stretch a penny or use what we have around the house. I guess my new name should be Permaculture Powers [married name].
Shane shakes his head and walks away. I triumphantly yell PERMACULTURE!