Over the last couple of years I have become interested in learning about permaculture and hope to practice and experiment with the ideas in my own rocky meadow.
So what is permaculture? Well, I have no training in permaculture but I have done a little reading on the subject and the definition floating around in my mind was something around the idea of sustainable design for living and growing food – without damaging the environment.
The word Permaculture itself means permanent agriculture but in reality the principles of permaculture encompass a much wider ethos and set of principles than just sustainability.
From my reading so far I have learned a little about growing food forests and plant guilds but what I lack is a knowledge of what constitutes a good design on which to start basing my planting decisions. I have particular concerns about water. I worry about how the new water charges in Ireland will affect my garden and hope to design specifically to counter these problems.
But it’s not just about water. There are of course wider issues which also concern me and of which there is much more to learn. But at the moment I am juggling a heavy work load and am struggling to barely manage the garden.
Despite living here two years, my accident and subsequent mobility issues delayed my progress so although I am currently mobile I am still in the early stages of developing my garden. Sometimes I really feel overwhelmed and I know I need more support and information than I can get from books alone.
With this in mind I recently completed a one day course in permaculture. The course was run by two people, Bruce Darrell and Davie Philip from Cloughjordan – which is an Ecovillage in Tipperary.
Davie Philip also runs the Community Resilience programme at Cultivate. and is a board member of GIY Ireland.
Davie’s definition of permaculture was broader and more inspiring than the one I had been thinking about. In his article, ‘Learning From Nature,’ published online at www.cultivate.ie Davie describes permaculture as:
‘An approach that takes us beyond sustainability to a truly restorative design for creating human habitats and healthy ecosystems. It helps us to protect and enrich soil, boost biodiversity and use natural resources in a healthy way. Underpinning this is the simple idea of working with, rather than against nature.’
At the course he also talked a great deal about resilience – ‘to a world characterized by surprise and challenge.’ I found this hugely interesting. If we are to remove our blinkers and really focus on the facts of climate change, peak oil and all those other things we prefer to keep a blind eye to, then the idea of resilience has immediate appeal as well as a sense of optimism.
So how do we develop this resilience? As someone who loves growing food this is a wider challenge than simply planting. For me, developing resilience is going to start with learning. I hope to start by attending the full permaculture design course due to take place in Cloughjordan Ecovillage.
I am really looking forward to visiting this village where people have already embraced many of the principles of permaculture and who in many ways have become living examples of a better way to live.
The course doesn’t begin until spring but if you would like a glimpse of life in Cloughjordan you can visit their community farm here.