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An introductory to permaculture
by Merlyn Peter

In this site proposal one of the first things we do is OBSERVE. Some of the residents have lived here for many years but due to lack of co-ordination and group unity the garden has failed to become a social gathering place and has thus been neglected. Our first observation must be: WHO TAKES RESPONSIBILITY? Even though the coop has regular meetings, not everyone turns up. The subject of the garden came up when my petitioners were due to have a baby, and then as if maternity reawakens one’s consciousness, the garden was seen as vital towards the upbringing of the child. Especially in light of the protective nature of it. Thus POTENTIALITY tends to be the first stimulation for a RE-EVALUATION of the garden. In the past though, the stifled development of the garden has been a factor of other forms of BARRIERS, i.e. their negative aspects. This could include the work load to keep the garden operational, the lack of finances or equal commitment from the residents, or the lack of a used social space to share ideas informally. This brings up one of the key defining elements of permaculture: RESOURCES. So during my client interview with the new-to-be parents, it became apparent that their personal success was motivation enough to raise the issue of the garden in the coop meetings and reallocate part of the house fund to it.

On our first work day 4 or 5 members asserted their desire to remove much of the overgrowing vegetation from their windows and potential food growing areas. Firstly though, one must remember that the INTEGRITY held within nature is grounded in its self-reliance and resilience to withstand extremities, and so it stores NATURAL CAPITAL in the form of water, soil, seeds and biomass. This is a PATTERN for human systems to follow. Hence, all the bindweed and clippings have been allowed to die and rot in a pile. All excessive shrubs have been cut down to size or removed and then chipped to provide extra ground cover. At the same time they will be utilised to provide a weed deterrent. The disused car port has become the interface for the TRANSLOCATION of materials between the garden and the street allowing additional materials like logs and leaf litter to be systematically left by road sweepers or arboriculturalists.

Resources then make themselves available at different times of the year, and much of it is free, like cardboard, cuttings, and home-made cake. Now is the time to drink your coffee and have some of that cake, re-evaluate, wait for the WINTER and see how the vegetation naturally dies down and stores energy. Contrary to belief, Winter can be a time to spend much more time at home thinking about the garden and putting more ideas to paper. It is a time of natural dormancy after AUTUMN has shown the way of preservation for the forthcoming months. Lines and edges make themselves more apparent; roots in perennials are swollen; spent seed heads bluster in the wind; leaves keep the surface of the soil warmer and provide frost protection; pools of icy water gather in dips and natural frost pockets; the sun is lower in the sky and thus top floors get more direct sunlight during the day. There is generally more SPACE in a garden. It is an opportune time to take stock of one’s resources and make use of the fact that people like spending time at home. The home is an extension of the garden, anthropologically speaking. So use these resources and patterns to DESIGN away, as one waits for the first signs of SPRING. Know your growing areas for cultivated crops, allow for wilderness and plan for social events during the year. Start to IMPLEMENT these ideas by working out work schedules, available resources, immediate needs, future obstacles, and possible outcomes and scenarios. Come SUMMER all the hard work will feel worth it. Some people will have fallen into natural roles; others may get a glut of vegetables and want to barter outside the community, in exchange for maybe labour or other produce.

In those first years there is a lot of formative work which will go to waste unless a MAINTENANCE program is implemented. Imagine it like a fruit, maybe a plum or apricot, with a stone in the middle. The hard nut inside contains the seed or kernel for further regeneration, symbolised by the building and its occupants. The flesh around the nut is what swells and contracts during the seasons. It protects the nut and requires being nurtured before being eaten. This is the garden, our fourth skin.

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