Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Introduction to Permaculture

The apprenticeship here at the ETC is heavily based on experiential learning. In other words: Get out there, get involved, and learn! But, a little chalk talk is necissary to make sure that our apprentices have a base of knowledge on which to build as they learn.

Cliff Davis of Spiral Ridge Permaculture took some time this week to share with our group the basic principles of permaculture, one of the philosophies we use when designing projects here on site. Permaculture, originally a mix of the words "permanent" and "agriculture" is a system of site design that seeks to intelligently mimic the way nature works. Now, most people think of the term to represent so much more, and present it as a shortened version of "permanent culture." Since its inception in the 1970's, its principles have been applied not only to agriculture, but to also help design co-ops, homesteads, villages, and even towns. There's even a subset of permaculture that focuses on financial systems.

The facet of permaculture we focus on at the ETC relates to the ecovillage or homesteader. Our gardens and buildings have been arranged by the "zone" system. In this system of design, the main house is thought of as zone 0, then zones 1 through 5 radiate out in concentric circles. Plants and buildings accessed on a daily basis are close to the ecohostel, in zones with lower numbers. For instance, we use lots of fresh herbs in our cooking (can anyone say "basil pesto pizza?" I thought you could.) So, we planted an herb spiral right next to the inn, in zone 1. No need to tromp on out to the Organic Garden across the yard for our daily dose of basil! (Or oregano, tyme, and rosemary.)

If you are interested in learning more about permaculture, Cliff reccommends Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison or Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway.

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