Self-sufficiency involves different levels of commitment: towards ourselves, our family and community, and, above all, towards our planet.
That being said, permaculture is one of the most accessible and ethical ways to accomplish our goal of being 100% self-sufficient, providing our lives with what we actually need. This is even more remarkable when SHTF strikes and when access to supermarkets could be restricted by a series of circumstances that are outside of our control.
Having the chance to create your sustainable garden and orchard based on Permaculture principles is, no doubt, the best way to get a lot of benefits, as we will soon discover.
The story behind Permaculture
“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”
― Bill Mollison
Any human culture cannot face long-term survival without the fundamentals in connection with sustainable agriculture and the ethical management of the earth. We, as preppers, know very well how we totally rely on the land to provide us with what we need in times of adversity.
Moved by a brilliant intuition, Bill Mollison, an Australian researcher, author, scientist, and biologist, started to elaborate a synthesis of theories and good practices that systematizes and develops the elements of different ecological sciences. He aimed to open new horizons inside traditional agriculture.
Bill Mollison and David Holmgren introduced the word “permaculture” in the mid-1970s. By doing so, they started to describe an integrated and evolutionary system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species, useful to humans as well to fauna and flora.
“[…] It lands consciously designed to reproduce the patterns and relationships present in nature, capable of producing an abundance of food, and energy in order to provide for local needs […]” (Bill Mollison).
In this perspective, people and the way they live are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture view of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved into a permanent or sustainable culture.
What does Permaculture mean now?
“Animals are the messengers of the tree, and trees the gardens of animals. Life depends upon life. All forces, all elements, all life forms are the biomass of the tree.”
― Bill Mollison
Permaculture can now be defined as an integrated design process that results in a sustainable, balanced, and aesthetic environment. It is a successful synthesis of ecology, geography, anthropology, sociology, and design.
By applying ecological principles and strategies, the equilibrium of those systems – the basis of life – can be restored.
Permaculture is actually both the design and the conscious and ethical conservation of productive ecosystems that maintain the diversity, stability, and flexibility of natural ecosystems.
Equally, it applies to economic strategies and social structures.
Why you should start a permaculture
“Sitting at our back doorsteps, all we need to live a good life lies about us. Sun, wind, people, buildings, stones, sea, birds, and plants surround us. Cooperation with all these things brings harmony, opposition to them brings disaster and chaos.”
― Bill Mollison
Self-sufficiency, independence, resilience. All these concepts are strictly related to things you are able to do. Anytime, anywhere.
Permaculture makes no difference. As we move forward, you should know that you don’t actually need to have too many acres to start your sustainable garden. The model developed by Mollison and Holmgren can be successfully applied on very different kinds of terrains with various geographical features.
Even your current living space can be seen as the ideal dimension to start with. Making attempts, gaining results, and, obviously, learning from mistakes will allow you to refine your abilities and successfully export your Permaculture layer elsewhere.
Permaculture represents a remarkable knowledge you can always rely on from a prepping perspective, especially in a long-term bug-out situation.
Besides that, taking care of a system layered on the basis of Permaculture is quite easy and extraordinarily less costly than you may think.
What you actually need to start with permaculture
“The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy, and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves.”
― Bill Mollison
If you don’t have a garden or a field, even just a balcony can be enough to be productive and eventually help the planet. On a personal scale, it also assists you in maintaining a connection with nature.
If you don’t even have a balcony available, there is always the chance of getting some space of yours inside a common, suburban garden where you can get started.
Another possibility is to help design and maintain the garden of a friend who is not interested in gardening or horticulture.
The core of permaculture is design, as it is essentially a multidisciplinary design system.
The first step in creating a permaculture garden is to understand what it represents for you and the purposes you want to accomplish through that.
Having a defined, structured project means turning your ideas into functional reality.
Every garden designed according to the principles of permaculture is, by intrinsic definition, a permaculture garden. Permaculture, in fact, emulates the natural patterns and balances which exist in nature.
The first step is to establish the degree of adherence to the principles of permaculture within the design of your garden.
The size of the space available obviously affects the project. They can range from a vegetable garden to a bathtub on the balcony up to an entire acre covered with a food forest.
Take your considerations on which level of Permaculture you wish to integrate into the project. Whether your garden resembles a traditional vegetable garden with some permaculture design features, or whether it is a multi-level food forest project with no restrictions of any kind. It is absolutely up to you.
On soil protection (Mulches, ground covering plants, et cetera)
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community because without proper care for it, we can have no life.”
Trying to keep the garden soil “uncovered” is a practice against nature. In fact, nature tends to fill all the spaces available in order to protect the soil. In such a manner, the “pioneer” plants (plantains) act the best.
Bare soil is constantly compressed and kept compacted by rain. It degrades the soil structure and at the same time washed out the top layer.
Plowing, sowing, or constantly working the land does not actually protect it.
With that said, working and turning the soil basically destroys its structure and, simultaneously, exposes the deeper layers to UV rays and heat, which eventually kill the biocoenosis (the microflora and fauna contained in it).
The use of pallets can be of great help to keep the soil healthy as long as their size allows you to reach every part of it without never having to walk on it.
Stepping on the soil, in fact, has several cons.
- It destroys the soil structure
- It makes it even more compact
- It prevents air and water from penetrating and reaching the roots
- It affects the health of plants by their growth and productivity
On Rebuilding the soil
“Land is not merely soil, it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.”
In case your soil appears to be quite “dead” (little presence of organic matter and humus), or if it is damaged and ecologically compromised in some way, it is mandatory to heal it throughout some specific soil reconstruction activities.
Taproot plants such as fenugreek or dandelion can be useful to break up the soil. If absolutely necessary, you can resort to digging the soil to loosen it and then cover it with mulch to protect it.
Compost can be used to ensure the soil a brand new life. We can utilize through pile beds or, faster, through the mulching technique set up in layers.
By using vegetable fertilizer (for example, plants grown and then mown), we can generate a large amount of biomass which will be useful to mulch the soil. Other plants’ remains will end up creating humus.
Beans are suitable for cold climates. They are great to provide nitrogen to the soil, like all other Fabaceae (legumes).
Walking on pallets allows earthworms to dig the earth more efficiently and quickly than any man or machine could ever do.
In the next article, we will see how to put all these principles to use.
This article has been written by Kyt Lyn Walken for Prepper’s Will.
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