By Monica V Gallardo
“Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems”
We are about to embark in a two-week intensive residential Permaculture class at Prospect Rock. From July 17th until the 29th we will be staying at the Willow Crossing Farm in Johnson, VT, attending daily lectures, participating on field trips, creating real life studies for local farms, designing a personal project and immersing in nature by camping, hiking, boating or just observing.
With this class we are hoping to gain a better understanding of the relationships between the built environment, food security, energy, and water; and how to appropriately integrate applied mycology as a response to the confluent crises of the 21st century.
As an additional goal, I am planning to create a post a day, so we can share this exciting experience with you all. Stay tuned and check this page often :)
Day 1: Set up and Introductions
As I’m creating this post at 10 pm, on my phone, I realized that these daily entries may not have the best formating and/or will contain more than one misspelling or grammatical error. So please bear with me for the sake of “real time” blogging.
Day 2: Dived right into Permaculture principles
I came to this class with an open mind and hoping to take some practical knowledge that could be applied to our mushroom installations and farming practices. How relieved I was to learn that Prospect Rock approach is a very realistic and no drum-circle-Kumbaya-signing at all. In the next couple of days, we will explore the ways we can design systems that meet human needs (food, energy, water, shelter, waste management) while restoring or increasing ecological health.
Permaculture is based on the following ethical concepts: Earth caring, people caring and fair share. With that in mind, there are many principals that could be applied and modified as required, but my favorite are:
- Repetition and Redundance
- The problem is the solution
- Cooperation is better than competition
- Relative location and zones as a way to maximize work flows and conserve energy
As we learn about this philosophy that can really make an impact of how we live our lives, we are being nourished by an amazing chef: Candace Taylor from Healin’ Irie, who makes us three meals a day in the same schedule. Candace has a strong background in social justice and found in food a common denominator that can improve everybody’s health, mood, energy and in general, the way we interact with the world and other people. She sources locally grown ingredients and can easily make a spectacular vegan dish as well as one where the base is bacon lard.
Hiked a small portion of the Long Trail to Prospect Rock, for an aerial view of the farm. We had a wonderful conversation about “invasive” vs “opportunistic” and how the whole ecosystem is not a static, localized structure, but a globalized, ever changing and evolving one.
Day 3: Water
It is not a new concept that water is one of the most essential resources for our survival. We also know that about 70 % of the Earth’s surface is covered in water. But did you know that oceans hold about 96.5 of that water? This means that only 3.5 % of all the water in the planet is fresh water. Wait, there is more: From that 3.5%, over 68 % is found in icecaps and glaciers, and just over 30% is found in ground water. From that 30%, only about 0.3 % is accessible to humans… scary, right?
Water management in Permaculture is based in 3 actions:
- Slow it (run offs cause erosion, fast moving water causes floods and destruction)
- Spread it (water should be used for many purposes)
- Sink it (otherwise underground water flows don’t get replenished)
Unfortunately what our current water management systems are designed to do is to pipe, pump and pollute. We are all up on arms against factories and farms contaminating our lakes and rivers but, one of the craziest things that we all do, every single day, without thinking about it, is to put our biological waste into water bodies. This not only breaks the natural cycle (yes, poop is meant to go back into the soil) but contaminates our fresh water supply. You have heard the “if it’s yellow let it mellow” or have seen the super cool toilet that has a small flush for number ones and one with more “oomph” for number twos. But the real problem is not the water consumption for flushing a toilet but where that waste goes when is out sight and out of mind.
I know this is going to sound Kumbayaish to many of you, and I understand how hard is to break patterns we have accepted and followed for centuries as a society, but let me tell you: composting toilet is not as crazy and radical as it sounds. Yes, I drank the Kool-aid and I am going to implement two composting toilets at my home: a 3-season outhouse in the backyard and one to replace the one in my second floor bathroom. A little background, that toilet currently can’t be used for pooping because there is an issue with the plumbing and it always gets clogged. We have been thinking about fixing it since we bought the house 8 years ago, but instead of doing that, now I am going to cap the plumbing, remove the toilet and put a sawdust composting toilet. Don’t worry, friends and family, we will still have the the powder room toilet with running water for your use, but you will have to hear the rant of why you shouldn’t. I am hoping to implement one at our new commercial facility as well.
If you are even a little curious about this topic, check out the Humanure Handbook by Joseph C Jenkins.
An example of outdoor composting toilet with bucket and sawdust.
The afternoon was spent with Kori Gelinas learning about bonatics and the healing arts. When she started the class, sunlight was beaming all around her, talk about mystical! She taught us about teas, tinctures and essential oils. We visited her herbal garden which is also a 7-Circuit Labyrinth. Next to it, the future farm apothecary AKA “the she-shed”.
Tentcity. One of my classmates exclaimed “Tentcity is great, we have running water”
Full moon. I don’t need no stinking head lamp!