The sun was shining on Fairfield yesterday as our class departed from campus into town to discover and observe various residences where permaculture principles were being demonstrated. These 3 “living sites” that we visited were all unique and diverse in their degree of complexity, design, and plant selection. The first site we visited was an old 3-story home on the corner close to the downtown square; this site was a seasoned permacultural haven with little to no lawn left in any part of the property. The front and side yards were literally covered with edible bushes, shrubs, herbs and fruit trees – we noticed examples of plant stacking using trellaces and fences to grow vertically, while the “forest understory” edge/micro-climate was utilized in plant selection throughout the yard, which showed as a thriving span of edibles and medicinals. The back yard was organized chaos with boxed garden beds and a south-facing greenhouse, including compost piles and rain catchment systems; the backyard was an example of how man-made structures can be utilized to design spaces to capitalize on the natural resources moving through a given location. Next we visited a site near and dear to our assistant professor -Brian’s home. This was an example of a less extreme application of permaculture design, with young guilds being established in the front yard and neat garden beds maintained in the back; we learned how various functions (grey-water system, food production, social space) can be designed in a way that maintains the aesthetic and physical value of having open, low-maintenence yard space. This second living site was an example of how permaculture principles can be applied without requiring a total redesign of lot space. The third site on our bike tour was possible the most remarkable; this site provided an example of how masterful ornamental gardening can be integrated into permacultural design. This living site maintained active vegetable garden beds, fruit trees, nearly an acre of neatly edged shrubs, flowers and hostas, and a hand-built sauna made on-site from local wood sources. I was amazed by the natural beauty that had been designed and maintained over the 25 years of this family’s life there. We saw endless possibilities to replace ornamentals with perennial edibles and medicinals, but we were instructed to appreciate the value of a such a successful example of natural design despite the relatively undeveloped permacultural/food producing potential.
Overall, the diversity of the three living sites served us well and showed us how permaculture can be applied and demonstrated in different ways and to varying degrees. I was also reminded of the glorious value of the Sun’s warmth, since the air got quite nippy after the cloud cover arrived. It is the sun, after all, who powers this whole playground; and our emerging permaculture paradise on Earth relies upon the Sun’s energy for its functioning. Indeed, whether permaculture or petro-culture we owe our lives to the Sun.
So Thanks to You, Ra. I know you’re still there behind those clouds! And even though I feel cold, tired, and hungry sometimes, I Love You!
Here are some pictures from site #3 (and the Sun!):