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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Permaculture resource hierarchies


Let's consider two Permaculture Principles at once, as they are difficult to consider separately, in my mind.

We have all heard of "reduce, reuse, recycle": the waste hierarchy. This is where the idea fits into Permaculture, as principles number five and six. It also fits under Right Awareness in the Eightfold Way, as wastefulness is thought to be a prime indicator of an unenlightened life, showing disrespect for the universe and its inhabitants.

There is a story of three Zen monks seeing a succulent vegetable leaf drifting down a stream, and they discuss among themselves the likely heedlessness of whomever tossed it away. Then along the riverbank comes another monk, running with a hooked stick to retrieve it!

When designing a "permaculture" system, we are designing an "awareness" way of life, with efficiencies built in. 

At Stony Run, we compost everything we can right on the garden, as part of the sheet mulch. But because chicken and duck manure should not be put on the beds during the growing and harvest times, we also maintain compost heaps. To these we add whatever food "waste" we can, plus grass clippings, plus leaves, and even the leaves and twigs left over from firewooding and pruning. Sticks may be woven into "wreaths" that encircle fruit trees; sawdust is collected as we make firewood and brought to the berry beds. Longer sticks provide for trellising, after which they may become kindling or be buried in the beds where they stood, as Hugelkultur smallwood. Comfrey grows at the feet of fruit trees, bringing up minerals for the tree roots and serving as a drought indicator, then is cut for the poultry until they don't want any more, the rest being added to the sheet mulch or steeped with willow bark to make growth tea for young plants and cuttings.

I use a stock pot of well water on the wood stove to soften pumpkins for the chickens, then use it for water bath canning, then pour off the hot water into a tub in the kitchen sink to pre-wash the canning dishes, then pour the triple-used water into a bucket that holds coffee grounds, food scraps, vegetable trimmings and the like, which I carry out to the compost heap.

Maybe I overdo it, hey? But it's not like I was doing anything more important at the moment. And if we think about this, a lot of our ideas about "more important" come down to "self-important," i.e. not really important after all. Might as well be carrying the water from the stove to the kitchen, then.

Do without. What you cannot do without, find ready to hand; what you cannot find ready to hand, make; what you cannot make, borrow; what you cannot borrow, rent; what you cannot rent, buy used; what you cannot buy used, buy local from an artisan, what you cannot buy local from an artisan, buy highest quality, cooperatively, and share. Maintain with care, and dispose of carefully. If possible, so manage your project that there is no waste stream at all leaving the premises.

Whatever has been dug from the earth is difficult to return to the earth in an adequately respectful manner; so it is both good Permacultural and good Buddhist principle to always distinguish use from abuse, touching the world sparingly.


Principle 5: Use & value renewable resources & services. “Let nature take its course.” Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources. http://permacultureprinciples.com/principles/_5/


Principle 6: Produce no waste. “A stitch in time saves nine.” “Waste not, want not.” By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste. 

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