by Robert Bradford
(SW MO USA)
ALL AREAS, TEMPERATE examples
The best example of permaculture I can think of is an old growth forest. It has a perfect mix of species, both flora and fauna. It is sustainable. Without human intervention it will be much the same a hundred or a thousand years from now. This kind of sustainability should be the goal for our homesteads.
We want most of the plants (as do hardwood nut trees) and animals to provide our food, shelter, livestock feed, animal habitat, heating, soil and water retention and fertilizer. Some plants and animals can provide several of these needs. Our Northern Red Oak Quercus Ruba and Hickory Carya give us edible nuts, compostable leaves, shade, fuel, building material and habitat for many small animals. Nature abhors monoculture. Too much of any one species encourages disease and predators.
There are very few natural examples of one plant or animal controlling all of a large area. If/when we learn to work with our land, eliminating invasives, planting perennial and self seeding annual food crops, minimizing erosion, and balancing the species we will have a perpetual garden. My wife calls it Eden. Most of our landscapes already produce enough edibles to feed us better than agribusiness is doing. Our ancestors knew these plants. Eating natural is more labor intensive unless you count your day job that feeds your grocer. Some free food (acorn, walnut) takes a lot of time to harvest, prepare and store. Others (onion, apple, berries) can be picked and eaten on the run.
After being corrupted by our “civilized” diet we may find it hard at first to gather and process enough calories, protein and fats to thrive. If we provide habitat, food, shelter and protection for animals (birds, deer, cattle, fish) they will provide all of our protein, calorie and fat needs. Where do we start? What natives are already growing on your land that fulfill the above requirements? Encourage them. Some combinations are harmful. Swine thrive on acorns and bovines die if they eat too many. Eliminate some of the competition of the desired plants and animals (chickens and raccoons do not mix).
Find other native combinations that will thrive in your area. Remember that some will live, some will die but some will thrive and multiply. Think, study, plan, learn from your mistakes. As soon as we start using the muscle between our ears instead of following the crowd, we can begin creating our Eden.