Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Permaculture course

So on the weekend I attended the introductory permaculture course in Mikkeli and it was indeed interesting. The way of thinking in permaculture, I realized, is something that relates to how I already think of the world, but I did get some tips I will try out in the garden, which was mainly why I wanted to attend the course in the first place.

So what is Permaculture?
Our course leaders defined it as (my translation from Finnish);

A method of design,which help create sustainable environments both for nature and humans.

Even if permaculture was originally created by Mollison and Holmgren as a more sustainable option compared to agriculture, permaculture can nowadays be applied to much more than just agriculture. You can use the same principles basically for designing anything by using the 12 design principles of permaculture (copied here from Wikipedia):

  1. Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time
 Different shapes in nature to observe

Basically a circular economy system are drawn from similar ideas and principles as permaculture, also transition towns try to design sustainable cities or towns for people with similar ideas in mind. The transition town idea of how to organize people is one of the ideas of permaculture as well, that you need to include the human into your design and think about designing for strong social sustainability, keeping in mind that the economic and agricultural systems we have now are not very sustainable in the long run. During the course we saw the movie Rebecca's farm which deals with the question of how will today's farms, so dependent on oil, survive in the future.

Modelling a sustainable social network during the course.

Going back from the big picture to the own garden perspective though, it is not difficult to try to apply the principles in your own garden and it is a good "small scale" place to start and experiment. We talked amount other things about creating forest gardens, plant guilds and other tips and tricks for the best edible gardens.

I hope that next summer I will be able to try out combining some plants to make a plant guild and perhaps try to landscape the part of our garden that is mostly forest to see if I can try to make it a bit more "organized" and plant some new stuff there too.

Luckily now I have the whole winter to make wild plans, plans are good, then hopefully at least some of them come true.

Garden designs during the course:

My course was only a weekend introductory course to permaculture at Otavan Opisto, but price/quality was really good, so I do recommend it (it was in Finnish though). There is every now and then Permaculture Design Certifications courses that are about 2 weeks long if you are interested in taking a longer course. A few places you can also do a PDC course online but I realised that for me the online course didn't work out. If you want to travel and combine some organic farming and learning, try out WWOOF:ing, some of these farms are permaculture farms we well as organic.

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