I’ve just finished my second reading of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, and have been obsessively listening to a set of free online permaculture lectures given by Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton. The world outside my window has been recently blanketed by snow, and temperatures have fallen to 20 degrees F. The long winter is here, and I am feeling the need for some juicy brain-work.
Although I had dabbled in it before, I have only recently started serious exploration into permaculture. I am attracted by it’s depth. I’ve been doing and thinking ‘sustainably’ for long enough that I have fully exhausted all the classic beginner books. Permaculture seems to me to take things to the next level.
For those many of you who have only the vaguest idea what permaculture is, let me take a moment to explain. Permaculture (permanent agriculture) was coined by an Australian named Bill Mollison back in the 70s. It’s about conscious design of functional landscapes; it’s about following absolute ecological principles, but keeping human needs as the end goal.
It’s also a lot about thinking outside the box, creatively turning ‘problems’ into ‘solutions.’ (Your garden doesn’t have a slug problem, instead you have a lot of duck food in need of ducks.) Sadly permaculture has grown to a full on religion, complete with a living prophet and an actual bible, the $85 Permaculture Design Manual. It’s ironic that something intended to push us past our mental boundaries has created new mental boundaries, but– that’s humanity for you. We love a dogma.
Anyway, I’ve gotten better about looking past the dogma for the pearls. All widespread religions are based on something really good, that’s why they take off. And I just can’t resist permaculture anymore. Permaculture is all about design, and I am a designer, above all else. I am designed to design. I love to garden, and I love to read about gardening, but designing my garden has always been my favorite part of the process by a factor of 12. I have reams of designs for gardens I never even planted, I once designed a homestead for a piece of property I coveted but knew for a fact I would never own. Just for the shear joy of the brain-work.
I can’t help myself, sometimes it’s actually a problem. Because although I love the work, I love thinking about the work even more, and doesn’t that make me one of those dreaded ‘dreamers?’ But permaculture tells me it’s not so. Permaculture instructs me to spend 100 hours observing and thinking for every one hour of doing, thereby insuring my actions will be appropriate. Whether or not this is a truth for the world, it sure sounds attractive to my brain!
So, winter is coming on. The perfect time to do a lot of thinkering, and I am primed. With limited free time, you all might be thinking, ‘Damn her! She should spend those free moments writing posts for us!’ And I do hope to do a little of that as well. But there are times in one’s life for sharing, and times for learning. After several years of mama-induced intellectual stagnation, I think I am ready for some serious learning.
For the uninitiated, permaculture is an international phenomenon with accredited Permaculture Design Courses offered all over the world. There was even one in Anchorage last summer! They are a minimum of 72 hours, sometimes spread over a full year, other times done all at once as an intensive. They’re a big damn deal, and priced accordingly– starting at $1,500 and going up considerably from there! Even the online courses range from $800-$1,600.
I would LOVE to take a course, but 1. I’m poor, and 2. I live in the middle of nowhere. I started thinking about it, and realized this must be a boringly commonplace problem! Surely there are other perma-curious folks out there willing to spend the time, but not the money….
Reading books is all well and good. I read a lot. Drawing up my own plans at home over and over is great fun. A teacher would be fabulous, and I do not mean to diminish the value of a qualified mentor. But I think what I would value most out of an actual course is the commraderie and idea sharing of a group.
So, here’s my idea. We make our own online class! If we are so keen on doing everything ourselves, why not education as well? So, I’ve put together a permaculture study group prospectus, over at Homegrown. I hope to find at least two or three other folks interested in committing to 6 months of serious independent study, I’m thinking 3-4 hours/week. If that sounds like a good time to you, come on over, join up and introduce yourself!