The one thing that’s been at the heart of what we do since our outset is high animal welfare, ensuring our animals are kept as naturally as possible. Which, in the main I think we’ve achieved over the last 7 years.
However, as custodians of over 55 acres of land we’ve also started looking at more natural ways of producing our vegetables too. Now, as you can imagine, we’ve had home grown vegetables for as long as we’ve been here and that’s a whole load more work which, in honesty, is fast becoming a bugbear.
About 18 months ago the word Permaculture cropped up in conversation, and a few days later it came up again in a different context, and a week or so later, up it popped again. With the sure fire knowledge that it would keep coming up until I looked into it, I Googled it and started to find out more. Purely by chance about 4 months later I found an introduction to Permaculture course which was being run 5 minutes up the road from the farm. The challenge was that I found it about 7pm the night before it was due to start!!! Coming from the never say never school of thought, I pinged the course leader and managed to get on. It was a brilliant couple of days spent with wonderful people and I vowed both Graham and I would be on a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in September 2015. However that meant 2 weeks away from the farm and the cost wasn’t unsubstantial either … and so the procrastination began!
A week or so ago I saw an online PDC course which was 80% off – bingo! – and so started the Permaculture journey.
So what is Permaculture? The one thing I’ve learnt so far is, that it’s different things to different people, and there are multiple definitions which change each time you ask! Here are three that I love:
“Permaculture is an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living. It is a practical method of developing ecologically harmonious, efficient and productive systems that can be used by anyone, anywhere.”
“Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.”
“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.”
See what I mean, it’s a framework, a system and a philosophy!
It’s based on 3 basic principles: Care of the Land; Care of People; Fair Shares
All of these principles are important but for me personally, and the situation we are in with the farm, it’s definitely the care of the land that inspires me the most; the rest flows through in my mind.
In order to care for the land I’m looking at and learning why:
Why digging (or ploughing the land) and adding fertiliser to give the plants their nutrients isn’t the most productive way of managing the land even if it is done on organic farms!
Monoculture (where tranches of land are used for one specific crop) is not the most productive way of producing food and, to boot, they eliminate a lot of natural habitat for birds and insects. This is why the high stewardship farming is being rewarded with higher European subsidies. Sadly, these may well be lost through Brexit unless the UK Government believe it important enough to continue to fund. But even then the current stipulations don’t allow for ‘forest production’ which can be far more productive.
That by imitating the patterns in nature we follow the path of least resistance and make our lives a whole heap easier and this has included having to get to grips with Fibonacci! (This was another thing that came up twice in the same week, so a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!)
By encouraging birds and insects we create a habitat that self regulates e.g. if we have birds that eat slugs, we don’t need chemical slug pellets to deal with them.
By planting together species that help each other (and the soil) out we have much more productive crops.
Given the amount of damage that’s already been done, this can be pretty labour intensive up front however, the aim is to achieve a state of minimal input as time progresses. Which is brilliant ‘cos we ain’t gettin’ any younger!!!
So, if it’s okay with you, I’ll keep you posted as to our adventures in building a Permaculture haven for animals and people!
’til next week have fun, laugh and love