My Journey with Permaculture - and Some Books Along the Way

As I was reviewing reference tables on edible plants in the wee hours of the morning, I started thinking that my relationship with permaculture has been like a love affair.  (I've been reading "Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator" by Spring Gillard, and in one chapter, the author writes about art and love in the garden.)

I first encountered permaculture in a garden in Northern California in 2002.  I was excited to learn about sheet mulching and guilds, and my curiosity was piqued.  Back then, I thought that permaculture was about gardening and I didn't realise that it would be more than a side interest for me.

Then I took an introduction with Brock Dolman.  On our first evening, he showed us a diagram on visible (physical, land-based) and invisible (social, personal) structures in permaculture - and right there and then, I fell in love with permaculture.  I started reading "Introduction to Permaculture" by Bill Mollison.

I took my design course through Oakland Permaculture Institute and Urban Permaculture Guild.  I read "Gaia's Garden" by Toby Hemenway, and perused "Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability" by David Holmgren. 

In this period, I remember being very surprised to hear something like "I can't practice permaculture because I don't have a big piece of land."  By then, I understood that permaculture is a design approach that can be applied to (almost) anything!  I was passionate about applying permaculture principles to people - especially to ourselves (zone 0).  I wanted to extend this edge - growing beyond land-based applications into more social applications.  I got more deeply involved.  I was a guest presenter in several of Christopher Shein's classes at Merritt College.

In the next few years, I continued to experiment with permaculture.  I used permaculture to design my lifestyle and life choices.  I brought permaculture principles into my workshops with groups, integrating it with movement and Nonviolent Communication.  I began bringing the principles into my work with coaching clients.  Noteable books along the way: "Earth User's Guide to Permaculture" by Rosemary Morrow; "Permaculture in a Nutshell" by Patrick Whitefield; "Future Scenarios" by David Holmgren; "The Earth Path" by Starhawk; "The Transition Handbook" by Rob Hopkins; and "The Earth Care Manual" by Patrick Whitefield.  Other delightful references: "Perennial Vegetables" by Eric Toensmeier; and "Edible Wild Plants" by Lee Allen Peterson.

Sometime in this period, I'd say that my passion leveled out.  I continued on steadily and didn't feel quite as jazzed as I did in the beginning.

After moving to Perth, Ontario in 2008, we were surprised to find (to the best of our knowledge) that there were no permaculture design courses offered in Eastern Ontario and very few permaculture teachers who lived in Ontario.  Here was a niche, just waiting for us!

In 2010, Sebastien and I were sent to Haiti by a non-governmental organisation and gave workshops on composting, keyhole gardens and swales in two camps in Port-au-Prince.  We connected with other permaculture practitioners and teachers in Haiti.  In February of this year, I plan to return to Haiti and volunteer with a couple of grassroots non-profits.  Part of my work with one organisation will be to teach staff and local community leaders to give 1-day trainings in permaculture. 

Yes, my passion has been sparked again :)  This time, I've gotten into the reference and teaching books: "Permaculture: A Designer's Manual" by Bill Mollison; "Permaculture Teachers' Guide" edited by Andrew Goldring; and "Edible Forest Gardens" volumes 1 and 2 by Dave Jacke.

I was up past 1 am reading the appendices of Edible Forest Gardens last night.  When I got up this morning, Edible Forest Gardens was the first thing I reached for.  It seems that the love affair continues...

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