Woman in an unplanted garden at springtime

Power to the Permies!

Permie-paralysis – it’s deep and it’s real. It’s the state of having acquired from your permaculture design course (PDC) so much useful information, with so many applications and possibilities, that you are completely overwhelmed.

I felt that way for a long time after finishing my PDC (with Verge Permaculture) until, recently, I decided on a plan. It’s not the grand permaculture garden plan I envisaged, but it’s a plan.

What was the grand permaculture garden plan I had in mind, you ask? Well, I’d convert our entire 56 by 32 foot vegetable garden into a food forest containing all seven plant layers, from ground cover to canopy. 

The problem is, I don’t feel as though I have had enough time to observe the garden and surrounding areas. We moved to BC in September and haven’t experienced a spring yet at Big Calm. How am I supposed to confidently plant a permaculture garden/food forest?

And, despite my plans to have complete permaculture garden design ready-to-go for spring, life got in the way. We’ve simply been too busy developing Big Calm and the Shangri-loft to also plan a permaculture garden.

And so arose the revised, more reasonable plan: plant only annuals this year, saving any permanent decisions until next year, when I have observed the garden through the growing season and have had time to think about what I want to include in my permaculture garden/food forest. 

But, that doesn’t mean I can’t still incorporate permaculture design. This year will be an experiment with annual cover crops (crimson clover) and pest control species (alyssum) grown among vegetables. I highly recommend the West Coast Seeds catalog, which has all of the information one needs to decide on which cultivars to choose.

This approach does take some pressure off, because in this case, I think it’s the right one. Plus, it will give me time to work on other things for Big Calm, like (warning: shameless plug) these awesome permaculture-inspired Big Calm t-shirts available to purchase.  

Blue t-shirt that says Save the Swales on a clothes hanger Blue t-shirt that says Chop and Drop It Like It's Hot on a clothes hanger Blue t-shirt that says But First Compost on a clothes hanger

Power to the permies!

White t-shirt that says Power to the Permies on a clothes hanger

drawing a permaculture design blueprint

Start Where You Are, Do What You Can, Use What You Have

I have been interested in permaculture for some time, recognizing its nature-guided, systemic approach to sustainable living as a set of principles I’d like to adopt.

Last month, I was thrilled to start Verge Permaculture’s online design course, where I first heard the maxim that serves as the title of this post (which, I should note, is unsolicited).

I am loving this course so far. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information, but I appreciate the simplicity, obviousness even, of the permaculture approach: let nature guide the design and development of a resilient, and ideally, regenerative system.

As one Verge instructor said: nature has been “designing itself” for more than four billion years. Who are we to assume to know better? We are fortunate that nature is antifragile, but it can only tolerate so much devastation.

It has become clear to me that humankind, generally speaking, has lost its respect for nature, to its own detriment. We have been focused on extracting from the earth as much as we can to sustain our unsustainable lifestyles, and we haven’t been giving back. And, it’s not just an error of omission – our extravagances have increasingly been wreaking havoc on the planet.

Climate change, pandemics, and politics aside, surely everyone knows that you can’t grow food in dirt. You need soil, a living ecosystem all its own, which the earth is losing at alarming rates. Take care of the earth, or count your numbered days.

This post was not intended to be doom and gloom, rather, hopeful in nature (pun intended). The Verge team, as well as its 300+ students, have given me hope. Permaculture can easily be practiced by anyone who is patient enough to observe and design based on natural ecosystems. When we take care of nature, we take care of ourselves.

When I get overwhelmed by how to design the perfect permaculture guild or rainwater harvesting system, I remember that permaculture is an iterative process, and to just start where I am, do what I can and use what I have.