Samstag, 17. Mai 2008

Permaculture Course in New Mexico

After getting my hands dirty on the farm in Arizona, I set out to take the Permaculture Design class on Wind River Ranch, near Las Vegas, New Mexico, taught by Scott Pittman, founder of the Permaculture Institute in the US. www.permaculture.orgI started out full of anticipation and great expectations to gain important knowledge and a useful tool-kit that I'll be able to apply in future. Looking back at it, I came away with all that and much more: an immense sense of realistic optimism about the world in general and my life in particular; a deep love for all people, even the ones with profoundly different ideas and opinions; and a respect for nature, culture, and everything that is part of God's patterns of working existence.

I really wish I could offer more concrete information about the last four weeks. I could talk about the freezing nights in my tent! It's a piece of gear I know I'll get to appreciate once I'm closer to tropical latitudes, but not exactly perfect for the mountains of New Mexico. Or I could go into detail about shared cooking / cleaning chores, as well as design groups that helped us form this community of about thirty people. We started out as individuals from various walks of life, and ended up as one large family. I know, I've developed a deep affection for each one of us, and sitting here in the Flagstaff library, thinking back at the last weeks, I can't help but feel nostalgic.
As far as the course itself... we did learn a lot of important things. Most of the nitty gritty detail, such as suggestions on grey-water treatment or building food forests, can be found in the book Permaculture - A Designers' Manual by Bill Mollison, for those who are interested. To give you an idea of it, think of a greenhouse in your home, that would take care of your water from your shower, sink, washing machine, toilet, etc, while providing heat your home along with delicious food you can't grow outside. In addition you can harvest the rainwater from your roof, which can go into your sink, toilet, washing machine, etc. This setup is just a small example of all the possibilities all around us. We covered all the theory. As far as hands-on practice goes, we designed and built a forage garden around the chicken coop, and a sheet mulched veggie garden in a corner that had been more or less abandoned.What is most important, however, are the principles: care for the earth, care for people, and returning all excess to make use of them in some way. The idea is to redirect everything back into a loop to slow down entropy as far as possible. And how can we do that? By observing patterns in the world, working with, rather than against nature and each other, and making use of existing things by creating a working system according to their qualities. And in that case it really doesn't matter who you are, or what you want. In some way everything can cooperate so that we all benefit from it.

It seems like this is where I will leave this post for now. As I said, I am going to observe, work with, and learn from sites and people who are using permaculture design on their farm, with their technology, or which ever way they incorporate it into their lives. As I go along, I will post concrete examples, and where to find out more about them.

For those of you who are interested, here is the wiki site of our permie group. Obviously, it's more interesting for insiders, but there may (no, SHOULD!) be more pictures too.

To all of you, I'm sending my most sincere best wishes, and my deepest love.