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Thursday, October 03, 2013

All together now

The Permaculture site that we're following in this meandering series of posts discusses Principle Eight mostly in terms of interpersonal relationships. Anyone watching an Amish barnraising will get an inkling of the truth they're driving at here.

It's also true for plant and animal communities. I sometimes mix a batch of the smaller seeds in a spice shaker and plant on a hexagonal grid, with one-foot intervals or so. What come up, comes up. After maybe one thinning, I let the bed design itself. What we get is more insect resistant, utilizes water more efficiently, stands up to heat and cold better, and utilizes the available nutrients more -- companionably, seems to me.

The chickens and ducks roam the surrounding orchard, cleaning up fruit and pests, and are allowed to rake over the beds in winter.

I've planted firewood trees in the orchard, as well, and the chickens inspect the downed coppicings as I separate them into compost, hugelkultur pieces, beanpoles, kindling, and sawlogs.

At the farm where my son works, everybody is cheek-by-jowl all the time; it's good for them and they certainly get a lot done. I'm, from most people anyway, more isolated, perhaps by choice; it's a mixture of introversion and severe hearing impairment, partly. but I claim the company of the garden, orchard and flock. Plus the joy of handing over a dozen eggs to the occasional visitor.

I will admit to being a moderate grump here. A while back I objected that while Permaculture Principles seemed sound, images of people doing those expensive teach-ins called PDCs (Permaculture Design Courses) seemed to me to evince an attempt to revive the touchy-feely sit-in-circles-and-gush stuff that went on in the Sixties. I'm just ... not there.  With a suspicion that one shouldn't participate in anything that can lend itself to accusations of being a pyramid scheme and, to some extent, a cult of personality.

Toby Hemenway has a terrific discussion of the success of Transition, a movement that incorporates Permaculture Principles at every turn but appeals to folks more than does Permaculture as a movement. He notes that Transition uses, or appears to use, recipes where a Perma guru seems to try to make a chef of you on the spot. I would add that in Transition your town still looks familiar after the measures have been adopted, rather than being taken over by crystal gazers, spiral gardens and ferny forests -- it's more ... comforting. And somehow seems less likely to spark derisive opposition from some parts of the political spectrum. Perhaps Permaculturists should notice how integrative TT is. You must begin with the communities that are already there, I think.

Where all this fits into Buddhist principles is not so much with the Dharma wheel (Eightfold Way) which is a pattern for individual ethics, but with what are called the Three Jewels. "I take refuge in the Buddha (Gautama as teacher, Buddha-nature as teacher); I take refuge in the Dharma (the teachings); I take refuge in the Sangha (the fellowship of those who follow the teacher and the teachings)."

In the Sangha we have an ancient example of an articulated system to support the dissemination and practice of the ethical system of Gautama. It's not without its abuses, however, humans being what we are. Hierarchism, as elsewhere, may be to blame; sexism, racism and even genocide are the consequences of people holding themselves to be separate from and higher than.

Between touchy-feely and strife, hold a middle ground: work together for the good of all the waters, soils, winds, the plant and animal communities, holding every child, woman, and man to be your neighbor.

Principle 8: Integrate rather than segregate. “Many hands make light work.” By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between them and they support each other. 

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