How to Make Better "Native Plant Gardens" with Permaculture

(This post is accompanied by this morning’s pictures of some charasmatic native flowers at Lillie House)  Hovering from flower to flower, the bumble bee embraces her partner and begins to sing. This is a new song, not the regular hum of flight, but a deliberate and intricate buzzing sung aloud for another living being. This is called “buzz pollination.” She knows exactly the notes and frequencies that will make the flower release its pollen, a living demonstration of how sound, song, and music can move something inside of us, too.  I learned this, and many other beautiful things, by watching … Continue reading How to Make Better "Native Plant Gardens" with Permaculture

Growing a Better Life

This morning I ate handfuls of raspberries, mulberries, strawberries and Nanking cherries on my daily walk around the garden. I also stopped to nibble a few bites of mint, some cilantro flowers, and hyssop. This ancient culinary herb seems to change flavor significantly through the seasons, something our ancestors would have been familiar with as they used it to flavor their meals.  Since we use good Permaculture design and strategies like heavy mulching, polycultures and self-organizing plant communities, our garden doesn’t require much of us, but it gives back a great deal: beauty, diverse nutritionally dense foods, fuel wood, craft … Continue reading Growing a Better Life

Living with a Forest Garden

Our scholars are learning that forest gardening has been nearly universal amoung human cultures, “the oldest human land use,” it’s being called. It’s certain that some form of “Agriforest gardening” system has been a large part of the way that most humans who have ever lived have met most of their needs, right up until very, very recent history.  Becoming forest gardeners, we re-take our rightful place as the gentle, kind “keystone species” of our ecosystems, learning to work with nature, as a part of it, rather than against it as an outsider.  How to start? You already know. We … Continue reading Living with a Forest Garden

Stir-Fried Food Forest

With a home forest garden, our meals usually start with a quick trip out the front door. And when we’re busy, “Stir-Fried Food Forest” is often on the menu. Today’s perennial or self-sown veggies all came from within 50 feet of our front door. In about 5 minutes of work, with no required yearly digging or planting, I found perennialized garlic, perennial spring onions, self-sown carrots, sorrel, lovage, turkish rocket “broccoli,” asparagus and a few herbs to spice things up.  A quick chop and a light stir-fry meant dinner went from “farm to table” in about 15 minutes.  You want … Continue reading Stir-Fried Food Forest

How Much Work is a Permaculture Garden?

“Boy, that garden must take a lot of work!”  “I see you out here working on this all the time!”  “I wish I had time for a garden like that!” We get comments like this all the time from people, and they never seem to believe me when I tell them that our garden actually saves us time. Sure, people see us out in our garden a lot, especially compared to how often you see people out “enjoying” their lawns, but that’s because our garden is one of our favorite places to be and we enjoy spending time there. How … Continue reading How Much Work is a Permaculture Garden?

What is Permaculture?

For all of our evolutionary history, feast or famine has mostly been the “luck of the draw.” While one family found themselves well-fed and wealthy in the environment of an oasis, the next had to make due in the desert. One valley was green and fertile while the next was a barrens and we human inhabitants simply accepted our lot. Or we fought to take someone else’s.  The primary insight of Permaculture is that this does not have to be so. We can design our human habitats to meet our needs by emulating and working with nature instead of wasting … Continue reading What is Permaculture?

Designing a Permaculture Hedgerow

Last night, I had the opportunity to join in a permaculture discussion where hedgerows came up, and people who know me know that I’m crazy about hedges. As modern agricultural research turns towards perennial crops, and polyculture plantings, the hedgerow stands out as a traditional and uniquely adapted system for utilizing both. Better still, these woody perennial polyculture systems can do extra work by providing building and craft materials, ample carbonaceous material for composting, providing windbreaks, wildlife shelter, fences for wildlife, create fire and erosion barriers, provide forage, protect livestock or humans, and greatly increase the biodiversity that has a … Continue reading Designing a Permaculture Hedgerow

Gee, that’s Swale! Resources for Permaculture Swales in Michigan

“Swales” are one of the most common water-harvesting devices used by Permaculturists.  Like most Permaculture techniques, the use of swales is extremely site-specific, so I’d like to give a few tips and thoughts about using them in my biome, the Great Lakes region. If you aren’t already familar with swales, here’s a great “basic” introdcution from PRI: (Water-harvesting micro-swale/ditch system at Lillie House) ———————- The impact of swales can be nearly miraculous, especially in dry, wet tropical or Mediterranean climates where rain comes infrequently in large events and run-off is a big problem. But, as respected Permaculture teacher Patrick Whitefield points … Continue reading Gee, that’s Swale! Resources for Permaculture Swales in Michigan

Alternative Paths to Wealth

Bill Mollison, one of the founders of Permaculture, famously said that seeing houses well stocked with fuel wood was a better measure of the real wealth of an area than GDP.  How true.  Lately, I’ve been studying “wealth,” what it means to different people, and the paths they use to get it. It’s certainly an idea that a lot of folks find motivating, and accumulating it’s even a core principle for many people’s lives. In fact, the pursuit of wealth is one of the key organizing factors in our society, that defines the “right” American way of life and forms … Continue reading Alternative Paths to Wealth