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Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Although I use the word homesteading a lot, what we're trying to do is create a permaculture (synergistic permanent agriculture).

My fascination with permaculture began with books like, THE GOOD LIFE ~ Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living, LIVING ON A FEW ACRES, and one of my favorites, A LITTLE LAND - A LOT OF LIVING.

These books began my education on sustainable and synergistic living. I'll touch on individual topics in more detail on later posts, but this one is about permaculture as a whole.

I've always been fascinated by early village life, from the Mayans to the first settlers in the New World. I liked that everything they did complemented other facets of their existence. Nothing went to waste.

For example: Chickens

One of the easiest and most reliable yard livestock to keep. Chickens can be free-ranged, ridding you of some very destructive pests. They're almost as good as pigs when you're in need of a living garbage disposal. I've fed them broken eggs, kitchen scraps, and the occasional small snake. (I've also fed them larger snakes that I already killed.)

Their manure is good fertilizer, once you've aged it for a year. Their meat and eggs, of course are food for man and beast. Their feathers and bones can be thrown into the compost heap--or the family pig.

Everything in this animal is used and recycled. Nothing goes to waste.

And speaking of waste, I once bagged up some grass clippings, but forgot about it in a weedy patch that we left to grow. That next spring when I let the chickens out they headed straight for that (now) torn bag and ate the fermented remains of the grass clippings like it was candy. I learned a new word that day: tankage. Not only was it good for the chickens, they preferred it to fresh grass.

Permaculture is a lifestyle that provides for you and yours not only by your labor, but by creating a logical and self-sustaining circuit of animals, plants and power. We're still a long way from achieving the ideal, but I hope we can come close someday.

Permaculture is unique to the individual. For example, we can't keep bees (even though I'm highly interested) because Greg is allergic to bee stings. There's no sense in inviting trouble.

Fortunately, there are enough pollinators in our area to suffice, so it's not an issue.

In the next five years, we hope our permaculture will have: Livestock: chickens, rabbits, goats, pigs, earthworms, and fish. Crops: fruit trees and vines, herbs, vegetables, and livestock fodder such as corn or sorghum and pasture. Power: Windmill, solar panels, and a woodlot.

Will it provide everything we need? Nope. There are some things we'll always have to buy, but I hope our lifelong project will provide us with all the best things in life, fresh food, honest work and the great outdoors.

This isn't an easy lifestyle but it's incredibly rewarding. It fills me with a profound connection to flesh and blood history as well as to the future of this planet. With a little land, even as small as a backyard, you can do a lot to reduce waste, save money, and eat better.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini --