The first memory that stands out to me when I was a child that fostered my love for planting and growing food was helping my aunt plant carrots in her small garden. I was amazed by the fact that we could take this tiny seed and put it in the dirt and in a few months have food. How miraculous is that? From that point on I loved growing things and when I became an adult and we were able to purchase our own slice of earth, I proceeded to plant like there was no tomorrow! We planted fruit trees, gardens and so on. After several years we were able to buy five acres, further fueling my love for growing things and expanding to raising chickens. I began taking classes at the University dealing with different Agricultural topics. While I did love the classes, I felt like there was a piece of the puzzle missing somehow. Each thing seemed to be so separate, like its own separate entity. It seemed to focus on killing everything off on the land with chemicals and then planting one money maker crop to feed the masses as cheap as possible. Deep down I felt like there was something intrinsically wrong, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.
I decided at that point to stop those particular classes and focus my efforts on searching myself and God about what this unrest was about. After all, who would know more about the way nature works then the creator himself! Meanwhile, I had a friend who seemed to be very interested in Permaculture, after several conversations with her I realized I didn’t have a foggy clue what that was and wanted to learn more! I began learning about Permaculture with her and a couple of other friends and it was like all of the pieces of the puzzle fell together! Yep, I had that “light bulb moment” that you’ve heard about before. Ah! God’s hand at work! Why had I not learned any of this in college? It made perfect logical sense! As I am just scratching the surface and am FAR from being an authority on the subject here are a few high points I’ve learned so far.
1. Diversity is imperative!!
Rather then trucking in compost, fertilizer and dirt why not plant nitrogen producing plants around nitrogen consuming plants to feed them? How about using the waste on your land to fertilize your plants instead of burning it off and then going and buying more?
God made living things to thrive in cycles on earth. From the water cycle to the food chain. Instead of breaking our backs to constantly go against this system, why not work with it? Makes sense to me!
2. Plan, plan and then plan some more!
One of the things I’ve been guilty of in the past is hurriedly throwing plants in the ground just to get them planted. Perhaps they didn’t thrive there, the soil was not right for that plant or various other factors working against me in my impatience. Because of that, I’ve not had successful yields in the past. Plan where each element should go and build a “system” in the correct area so each plant works to help each other and then it will help you instead of working yourself into the ground literally, for not much return!
3. Each element should have at least three uses. Some of the “elements” on your land would include: Water, plants, and people. Example: A chicken should produce eggs, produce meat, and produce manure that you will in turn use to fertilize your garden that you will eat and give scraps back to the chickens! See the cycle there? It gets more complex then that but you get the gist.
There are many more aspects I’m still learning, but if you have a passion for truly making a sustainable homestead that works for you instead of the other way around, look into Permaculture. But beware you might turn into a “permie” convert too!