Posted by: A Part of the Solution | December 19, 2010

Permaculture Farm

When we first visualized a farm, we imagined something small enough we could buy it outright. I spoke up for organic practices, and a CSA whereby we could share our bounty and good fortune with those who didn’t have pastoral luxury in their cards. He wanted fresh air and privacy.

We have achieved the second and third sentences. We did not go in for something compact enough that we could pay for it in full. But we’re making our ends meet, and we’re looking ahead. The more I study up on our options, the more I think permaculture may be the wave of our future.

We’re putting in orchard trees. In the medium term, I see ducks and turkeys and sheep grazing in the orchard. Those birds keep the pest insects down, the sheep keep the grass cut and help fertilize around the trees. Suddenly, the whole system is much more low maintenance, and more appealing and more diverse. I also want to get chives and garlic planted around the base of our orchard trees, since they too will drive away the unwanted fauna which might see the trees’ bark or roots as being appealing fodder.

We’re working on understanding our existing forested land. With the canopy depleted by over-timbering, we’ve already found that keeping our pigs in the woods is helping get the carbon cycle to kick back into gear. Really, thirty year old stumps stare sullenly from the woodlands–they lack the right balance of mature/up-and-coming/understory trees. But the pigs are rooting around the stumps for insects and fungi and little tuberous bits. Now those stumps are getting worn out at the bottom. Now they’re falling over and coming into full contact with the acid hummous all around them. Now they’re finally giving up the ghost and becoming one with the carbon cycle. And all because pigs need shade to keep their tender skins from burning! How’s that for interdependence at work?

Herbs fit well into the permaculture model. Many of them are perennials. Many of the annuals are aggressive self-seeders and come up in legions for many subsequent years following one intentional seeding. They don’t require rich soil. They don’t need a lot of water. Many of them prefer partial shade. What’s not to admire about plants which give so much for so little effort?

With rotation, such that the vegetable garden is occasionally pasture, even those notoriously labor intensive annuals begin to look a lot more permaculture friendly. And there are plants like asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries which fit the model of permaculture even better: they are long-term investments in eating and the design scape.

Careful planning will create a garden of low-labor and moderate yield year in and year out. This seems like a preferable method of going forward. We don’t need maximum yield–we have more land than we can cultivate by ourselves. We do, however, in the best permaculture tradition, need more people to help us get all the way from here to there. Thank goodness we have plenty of space and time alike.



  1. You go, girl! You might also include in your research “forest gardening”. Different than forest management, but a permaculture kind of approach to gardening with forest succession in mind. Edible Forest Gardens is a good site. I saw the guy speak a few months ago in town.

    • Cool. I love the idea of its being still wild, but with some input into sustaining us.

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