Sunday, November 7, 2010

Intro to Small Scale Permaculture: Thinking in Systems

I promised sometime back to write more about permaculture principles over the winter. A lovely post today -- ostensibly not about permaculture -- brought me back to that idea.

What is permaculture? Is it just another eco fad? A kind of organic gardening? Something about back to the land?

My personal definition is that permaculture is a systems theory for living which integrates agriculture and human culture. Permaculture is to gardening what urban planning is to architecture: a way of thinking about the elements of a design in a larger, more integrated context which allows for the creation of synergies and minimizes waste. Any time we allow for more sustainable systems within a design -- by digging swales to retain water, for example, or planing more perennials or integrating small scale livestock to eat garden pests -- we are increasing overall yields while at the same time minimizing the need for the gardener's intervention and future work. We are, as the businessmen like to say, working smarter not harder.

So, back to that example I mentioned. Over at Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op it's Batch Baking Day:

On the day when I need to make bread, every 5 days or so, I also bake one or two pizzas, a main dinner dish ... and often a cake or some cookies, too. I slip in odds and ends, too, like the stray potatoes that I keep finding in the garden after we harvested the main crop, or the hot peppers that I'm drying out before grinding them to make chili powder.

I bake in a batch to conserve electricity . . . But I also like this system because grouping all my baking in a batch is a more economical use of my time.

Yes, yes, yes! That's it in a nutshell. Planning and design ultimately allow us to get more nomnoms with less effort. Yes, that might mean a lot of effort all at once -- I am not sure I want to be doing the dishes on Baking Batch Day! But ultimately all that effort pays off in a week full of lazy days and delicious food. That's a systems theory I can really chew on!

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