Permaculture

Permaculture combines three key aspects:

1. An ethical framework
2. Understandings of how nature works
3. A design approach

This unique combination provides an ethical framework that is used to design regenerative systems at all scales – from home and garden to community, farm and bioregions.
The word ‘permaculture’ comes originally from ‘permanent agriculture’ and ‘permanent culture’ – it is about living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for many generations to come, in harmony with nature. Permanence is not about everything staying the same. It is about stability, about deepening soils and cleaner water, thriving communities in self-reliant regions, biodiverse agriculture, and social justice, peace and abundance.https://www.permaculture.org.uk/knowledge-base/basics

Patrick Whitefield, in his book ‘Permaculture in a nutshell’, defines Permaculture as “a design system for human habitats which work with nature rather than against it. It is modelled on natural living systems, and makes use of both traditional skills and modern science. It focuses on solutions rather than problems, and shows how we can take charge of our lives to build a better future.” A good example is a forest, which is a self sustaining cyclical eco system. It doesn’t need imports of compost, fertiliser, pesticides or water, and we are trying to adapt our human habitat to be a similiar self sustaining and balanced eco system though techniques to regenerate soil, capture and store energy from the sun, water and wind, and use renewable materials such as biomass and seeds. Permaculture uses a pattern of cyclical abundant regeneration rather than of linear growth.

Many of the techniques and ways of working we use here are a shift in attitude from conventional agriculture or gardening, for example, active observation of ecosystems and foodwebs and making minimal intervention, slow solutions such as scything meadows seasonally rather than regular mowing, harnessing the benificial properties of ‘weeds’ and at the same time reducing time spent weeding, shifting from maintenance to harvesting (grass is a harvest which is used to make compost), no dig gardening and soil/fertility building through mulching, planting of nitrogen fixers and  dynamic accumulators, polycultures instead of moncultures and so on.

It is more than just gardening as it takes in all aspects of our lifestyles such as housing, community, social equality, transport and food production. For us, as a LAND project, growing food, fuel, soil and sustainable production of resources, increasing biodiversity and habitat mosiacs, circular cycling of materials, zero waste and energy efficiency are some of the key areas of focus, but we are also involved with community projects such as Transition Black Isle Seed Swap, Grow North and the MOO FOOD community orchard. We decided to become a ScotLAND Permaculture demonstration site so we can show people practical examples of how it can be applied and learn along with us.

We are using Permaculture Ethics and Principles to guide how we live.

The three Ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share are in the centre, and the 12 principles surround them

  • Earth care is a main driver of our design, and we use organic and no dig techniques, composting and mulching for soil health, diverse types of trees, shrubs, plants, fruit, and vegetables, land stewardship and habitat creation through ecological methods, sensitive observation and minimal changes, water saving and harvesting, and regenerative growing practices.
  • People care – we are creating a healthy environment, a relaxing, calm place to live, work and stay, inviting visitors to learn, providing opportunities for volunteers, demonstrating the potential of Permaculture to the wider community and improving food and environment in area, for example Transition Black Isle seed swap (http://www.transitionblackisle.org/) and MOO Food community food project (http://moofood.org/).
  • Fair share/Future care – using local, ethical and ecological services and goods, living within sustainable limits and minimising our consumption (e.g. growing food, reducing travel and commuting, making crafts, furniture, art, and produce) offering affordable workshops, open to share knowledge and experience, putting our time, energy and resources into positive local projects.

What is a smallholding?
A smallholding is a residential site with more land than a garden, but less than a farm. The land is typically used for productive mixed crops including livestock and woodland management for fuel. Often there will be growing both for the needs of the residents (subsistence farming) and for cash crops.  The lines between garden, smallholding and farm are blurred but basically a smallholding is just a very small mixed farm – small being relative to the size of farms in that particular society. Crofts (Scotland) are smallholdings, although there is a legally-defined tenure for a croft, but not for a smallholding. Smallholdings can be comprised of families, individuals or communities, where people pool resources to hold land together.

Our design and vision is to create forest gardens, woodland and growing spaces that maximise habitat and diversity, along with a thriving and self-sustaining food-web, with multifunctional plants providing food, fuel, craft materials, income, and beauty.
We became a Permaculture ScotLAND  Learning And Network Demonstration (LAND) Centre in 2018 and are using our gardens as a space to show the possibilities of Permaculture on a domestic scale. ScotLAND Centres are excellent demonstrations of permaculture in action, with skill in applying permaculture. ScotLAND Centres have demonstrated their ability to explain their use of permaculture ethics and principles to visitors and volunteers and offer opportunities for learning.

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