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WORDS & CONCEPTS: Permaculture

Debra Redalia

Since I mentioned the word “permaculture” in a post about the film The Biggest Little Farm , I thought I should explain permaculture in my own words, from our lifely viewpoint, and in my own experience.

Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human environments. The principles of the system, well applied, absolutely will restore soil, produce food, and restore habitat and the principles are good to know.

Rather than make yet another page about permaculture principles, I’m going to send you to the Permaculture Design Principles website, where they have a wheel of the twelve basic principles. Click on each icon to open a page about each one.

The history of permaculture begins in Australia in the 1970s. The concept was first defined in the book Permaculture One, by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, published in 1978.

By the 1990s, permaculture had come to the USA. I was one of the co-founders of the Bay Area Permaculture Group, the first permaculture group in the San Francisco Bay Area. I don’t recall how I found out about permaculture or met others who were interested, but I did and we started the group and began to study permaculture together. While being a permaculture designer wasn’t my calling, I still today use permaculture design principles today in my garden and in my life.

My favorite permaculture design principle is “zones,” which is basically put the activities and tools you do and use most frequently close to where you often are, and put the activities and tools you use less frequently further away. So, I plant my herbs in a garden right outside my kitchen door and it’s a bit of a walk to get to my pomegranate tree. Likewise, my computer is on my desk a pen and a pad of paper is next to my bed (because I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas), and many books are in a storage locker a couple of miles away. I can get to these books if I need them, but I don’t need them every day. Even if you are not a gardener, these are principles for designing living systems, so they apply to any system of life.

My favorite nursery is run by a permaculture group at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center . I go there in the spring to purchase heirloom plant seedlings for my garden. Last year I purchased seed potatoes for the Bodega Red Potato , a local heirloom potato that was saved from extinction by our local Slow Food group. [I just ate a plate of these for lunch, after Larry dug them up from one of our potato barrels. This nursery has an abundant variety of plants suited for my local ecosystem, and the foods that come from these plants is amazing. They are also connected to other organizations that are working locally on restoration and preservation of our local ecosystem.

Permaculture is practiced around the world today and there many permaculture books are available.

Here are some good books to start with.

Welcome to Lifely!

Quite simply, this blog is about orienting ourselves and our lives to Life, instead of orienting ourselves and our lives to industrial consumerism. Here we are sharing our own journey. You come too. Read more...

Debra & Larry Redalia
lifepartners + soulmates

For more than 30 years we have been delving into the nature and activities of life together. Indeed, this has been and continues to be the very reason we are together. With delight, we research, explore, observe, and even wake each other up in the middle of the night to discuss how life functions and how we can function as life—even while living in the modern world. We each are different from the norm, but we are different in the same way, so we have been able to think outside of the ordinary together and find the extraordinary workings of life.

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Permaculture Design: A Step-by-Step Guide
A very simple and inexpensive  basic book on permaculture. A good book to start with.

Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture
This is the book to buy if you want to apply permaculture principles to your home garden. Easy to read, lots of ideas.

The Basics of Permaculture Design

One of the classic intoduction blooks on permaculture that gives the principles, design processes, and the tools needed for designing sustainable gardens, farms, and larger communities.

Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

The original permaculture design manual by founder Bill Mollison. I always think it’s a good idea to go to the source and see the original ideas, even if you read and use books written by students. But don’t read this as your first permaculture book. It’s a difficult read.

Permaculture: A Designers' Manual Second Revision

An update of the original permaculture design manual by founder Bill Mollison. Fewer pages, less expensive, I haven't seen this one. I have the original.

The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook: Fresh-from-the-Garden Recipes for Gatherings Large and Small

An amazing book about eating from the garden, written by permaculturists who are doing it every day. I bought my copy from the folks who wrote it.