A visit to two permaculture projects
Today the Self Reliant Community visited permaculture projects in our area. Billy and I attended the first two, both created under the supervision of Sepp Holzer during his visits here. Permaculture means permanent agriculture and is a system of agriculture that is designed to work in harmony with nature. Permaculturists design their projects taking into consideration the prevailing winds, the path of the sun during the various parts of a growing season, the use of soil and rocks to hold heat and many other considerations that are specific for each project. The idea is to use the resources that are at hand without depleting the resources.
Sepp Holzer recommends that permaculturists in our area create what he calls huegelbeds that are berms of earth squiggling roughly east and west. In the middle of the beds are branches and logs whose decomposition supply the nutrients and hold a reservoir of water for the plants growing above. Subsoil and top soil are the final layers of the huegel beds. The idea is that while the Pacific Northwest doesn’t typically get any rain for the whole summer, these beds should be able to retain enough moisture to support food producing plants through that time without additional water.
Does it work? After our tour of these two projects, we came to the conclusion that in order to grow enough food to be able to store food through the winter that additional water is needed. Both these projects are fairly new. This is the second growing season for Matilda’s Permadise project and Mary’s first growing season. However we didn’t see a profusion of root vegetables such as potaotes, turnips, beets etc. And we saw no squash, whatsoever. Squash and root vegetables are traditionally foods that supply important calories and store well in our Pacific Northwest situation. Both projects did have jerusalem artichokes, an important root food and both projects did have some grains growing, but probably not enough to support the families working on the projects.
Matilda has a wonderful root cellar dug into the side of a hill, facing north and supported by timber taken from her property. She also has the framework for a huge greenhouse dug into a hill. Metal tubes will support plastic sheeting for the cold part of the year. The greenhouse has huegelbeds in the bottom, and a waterline. Generous use of rocks will provide solar mass, and it is sited to collect the low sun in the winter.
Matilda also has a pond that was created using vibrated clay as a liner. The pond is a reservoir for thermal mass and the reflection of the sun on the water gives plants growing on the south slope of the pond additional sunlight.
Here are some pictures of our great tour!: