Further Reading..

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When we first started growing food we made compost piles, plant remains would be loaded onto a wheelbarrow and transported to designated heaps, occasionally turned by hand. The rotted material would eventually be transported back to where it came from, and laboriously spread sometimes raked. We also grew the same food crops that we have become accustomed too, almost entirely annuals and grown  in mini mono-crop fashion as we new no better, until we discovered Permaculture.

Rather than techniques and recipes, Permaculture draws your attention towards natural patterns, directives are formed from this process. It is applicable to every aspect of human culture, and not just a tool to transform how to obtain clean easy food, For example; Wild places drop all sorts of biological material to the ground, where it feeds the soil ecology which intern feed the plants. The directive here is to apply raw vegetative matter directly to the soil called a Mulch, cutting out labour, it also initiates a broad spectrum of ecology which in turn maintains balance.

mulch soils pic

Our site used to suffer from slug damage until we replaced compost mulches for raw mulches and adopted perennial plants . Slugs love bare soils as it provides easy soil access, sanctuary and great breeding possibilities without many predators that require a mulch layer as habitat.  Further progress can be made by  selecting alternative crops, or growing things using different methods, we have successfully naturalised potatoes by using foraging directives. Potatoes are harvested and planted at the same time, and crop rotation become unnecessary as we established natural order.  Every plant species that we trial, is subject to a process of elimination called “Rewilding”, which determines a plants ability to survive under general conditions.  Beginning with allowing the plant to express itself with minimal human intervention, some deaths can occur during this stage, which is equally informative, as is when a plant thrives. Learning a plants capabilities is an essential process to create new ways to manage the growing environment in a given area, our priorities are to establish absolute minimal intervention. Simplicity involves an energy audit, Energy Return Of Energy Invested, EROEI for short, is applied to every design process, its importance is underrated in this high energy time. To safeguard yields and to study thriving plants also, I recommend conducting experimental approaches in parallel with main crops grown in reliable ways.

This type of methodology of “observe and interact” is the opposite to every gardening book ever written, which administers techniques to cover all possible scenarios, causing overly complex actions and diminishes understanding.  Rather than the pursuit of instruction or gathering of information,  the greatest skill of all is to minimise effort by getting everything to cooperate with you, “a man who rows a boat uses effort, but one who puts up a sail uses magic” A.W.

Annual crops that have been selectively bred are generally more work intensive and can reduce community resilience.  Nearly all historical famines have occurred by becoming overly dependant upon too few annual crops. Commercial preferences have equally compounded problems by selecting  and prioritising tolerances to portability,  perishability, size,  flavour and texture.  The side-effects of this selective process can compromise nutrition and flavour,  and lead to sensitive plants that may require intensive cultivation.  An example of reduced nutrition is with Alpha-Linolenic Acid or better known as Omega 3 fatty acids, which is essential for healthy bodily development and maintenance.  The problem with these acids is that high levels reduce shelf life of vegetables, we have been unwittingly selecting and breeding vegetables that will store well, but contain less essential fatty acids. Wild Purslane contains 4 times the Omega-3 as cultivated spinach, and higher concentrations of flavonoids and antioxidants. Wilder plants are also more resistant to disease and generally better adapted to survive than cultivated ones. All modern crops have a wild ancestor still thriving somewhere within a balanced community, they do not require  human intervention.  Our research has shown that by selecting self seeding, perennial crops or older heirloom strains that consistently naturalise we can move beyond typical agricultural methods and create self sustaining polycultures that allow gentle foraging and low to no cultivation methods.

Industrial Agriculture  is the most destructive single element of our civilisation, and now covers half of all the Earths habitable land mass.  All existing farm land required the removal of a ecological system and replaced with vast single crops.   Natures response to such activities is to restore balance with diversification, by introducing volunteer plants, fungi and insects. This is an excellent  repair strategy for natural systems which can operate greater efficiency and resilience through interconnectivity and species stacking.   The modern farmer fights natural strategies with warfare, with the use of synthetic or organic chemicals to kill off undesirable plants, fungi and insects,  and control intentionally or as collateral, birds, reptiles and mammals.  To be solely dependent upon industrial Agriculture is a grim reality to bear,  add also concerns of consuming food that is contaminated and low in nutrition even before processing.  Also Industrial  methods of production requires 10 calories of fossil fuel energy  to produce a single calorie of food and the industry is promising that higher technology or GMO will be the fix.  We are suffering  from  overuse of fossil fuel technologies and a directive based on oversimplification of natural systems.

We have also become overly dependant  on money and forgotten how to live comfortably with less, the current economic paradigm rewards greed and envy, therefore draws the most inappropriate individuals to occupy the most important and influential  positions that govern us.  We have  become increasingly deprived how to live our own lives, and instead are ruled, fed, clothed and educated as a social unit.  As a consequence we have lost the ability to think and act responsibly, and will defend ourselves as dependent victims, by supporting and protecting the continuation of the systems that enslave us.

There has never been an easier time to create abundant living environments, by selecting appropriate information to pursue a life that builds resilience, connection and adventure, is liberating which vanishes effort.  We can replace lawns with food forests, build humble houses that heat & cool naturally,  every aspect of life can benefit from harmonious design as we return to our human niche as ecological engineers.  Recreate the World you desire, rather than fight or support the failure, Permaculture is peaceful sedition, no other action that I know of has greater effect.

If you wish to see our demonstrations of Permaculture, please find the tours and courses page to visit Permaculture Island family site.

The Isle Of Wight has the potential to create a more diverse and accessible Permaculture Island site for visitors and Island residents. Our current family site has received a great increase of interest,  we are convinced its time to prepare for a much larger site,  to include a multitude of services including visitors centre, educational complex, demonstrations of permaculture,  green waste recycling, family play areas, natural burial….  we look forward to establishing a appropriate team and suitable site. Gavin Roberts

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