Letters to the editor - Dear Dave
I had to write and let you know about the wonderful Permaculture weekend I have just had at Holycombe in Whichford. I am still buzzing with the ideas that Ruth O’Brien introduced us to, and glowing from the warm, happy atmosphere we all enjoyed as we learned about gardening with nature instead of battling against it.
Permaculture has many definitions but grew from ideas begun by pioneer thinkers in Australia and Japan who observed how nature wastes nothing and that the detritus from one effect is the resource of another. A tree falls in the forest and creates a clearing. Its rotting bark gives nourishment to fungi, bugs and bacteria which remake it into soil; with the tree down, the clearing allows grass and herbs and other seedlings to catch the light and small animals graze on the new growth. Their droppings feed the soil encouraging more growth. This natural cycle is one of several that underpin the existence of the life on this planet and therefore mankind. See http://www.permaculture.org.uk/education
This can be translated into a system of gardening which our grandmothers used before the days of fertilisers and cheap fuel. The pooh from the chicken run went on the compost, along with the vegetable trimmings from a small cottage garden. The effort that went into gardening had to be balanced by what was produced, so people took only what they needed, and waste was recycled naturally to produce the following year’s crop.
This answers a simple need in all of us. (After all we hang on to things for years in case we need them!). Permaculture invites you to use everything and waste nothing, and by thoughtful observation and design, to reduce your labour and maximise your productivity. The effect of course does not stop with us, the individual. This ripples out into our attitude to our community and to the greater global community. How can we continue to take more than we need as a society knowing that we take it from others?
This is an idea that has found its time. The cost of fuel is increasing along with an awareness of how little of the earth’s surface is available for growing food for an increasing population. We need to share, we need to be more efficient and we need to detach from our oil-rich life-style and develop an alternative, or we will have to stand by and watch others fail.
Whatever you think of the timing of climate change and Peak Oil, changes are already happening. The longer we have to develop an ethical alternative to the existing system, the better, which means we should start now. The innovation and modern scientific knowledge that permaculture uses should fill us with hope, not despair.
We were a small group of 15 souls, bringing varied interests and skills. What we had in common were minds open to new ideas, a concern for the environment and a desire to do something, even on a small scale, ourselves.
Sally Birtwell had invited us to hold the two-day, introductory course at her beautiful home, Holycombe. The setting, in the folds of small hills with woodland, fields, and still and running water was perfect. Ruth made her course, stimulating, informative and great fun. We hardly noticed the hours passing and even the shyest found ourselves presenting ideas. This is the beginning. I for one can’t wait for stage two; there is more to learn!! For more information about Ruth and her courses see http://ruthobrienpermaculture.wordpress.com/
If you are interested please contact: Pat Harris firstname.lastname@example.org
For courses held at Holycombe see http://www.holycombe.com/