Minimum effort, maximum reward

When I was a teenager I hated cleaning leaf lettuce freshly picked from the garden. Somehow this task was assigned to me at the time of day when the garden plants were wilting in the heat. The greens I had to deal with for the evening meal’s salad were limp. If I had picked in the morning, washed and spun the harvest for storage in the fridge until dinner, the salad would have been a wonderful thing. Sigh, growing and creating beautiful food were the last things on my mind back then.

As time marched on, I began to think of a garden with fondness. Living on the East Coast in the USA during the height of Martha Stewart meant being a person who could be creative at home was all the rage. Celebrity chefs, who often had a restaurant in New York were the new rockstars. Gardens and food were some of the cultural icons of the time. Getting on board was viewed as a cool thing to do and easy to learn due to the surge of cable television programming meant to teach us everything we had forgotten.

But, my husband and I were renters. Since we didn’t own the land, why go to the expense of installing a garden? The good thing about that time was our energy to do the work and our devotion to learning. We had several opportunities to grow on borrowed land, trying out a variety of ideas in design and execution. With each season and unique plot we learned something new. These creative solutions were key building blocks for our future projects. Each season our experience grew, (all puns intended).

When we purchased the property we felt would be a long term living situation, we went all in. Even though nobody in our neighbourhood had done it, I convinced my husband that we should go with the ‘food not lawns‘ movement. That meant doing away with a traditional front yard of clean cut grass with a couple of small flower beds. Our big cash investment was soil, brought in with 2 dump truck loads. Paving stones were donated by a neighbour who didn’t want what they had inherited in their garden. Everything else came with hard work and seasonal additions of plants and other elements.

Because we have done everything ourselves, the ideas of permaculture have been a necessity. If something seems to grow well in a certain spot, then that is where it stays. Designing nature to go where I want it to be has always seemed a bit ridiculous. Plants know where they can thrive better than I do. The problem is that little seeds can’t speak, so there is a time of testing before I understand how they want to be handled for best results. Of course, gardening books and experts can speed up that process.

I think my idea of garden bliss has always been a quest for the balance between minimum effort and maximum harvest. You will not find me out in the garden pulling every last weed. I’m a little too lazy for that. Every once in a while I’ll blitz through, although sometimes a whole season, (or two), will go by. My husband likes things much tidier, so he will bring in yards of cedar mulch to cover every bit of dirt and buy us some time with weed suppression. We agree to disagree on the seriousness of the battle with weeds. For me, the juice is not really worth the squeeze.

This gardening philosophy of minimum effort for maximum reward has not spilled over to other parts of my life, YET. Although, with these days of ‘staying at home’, due to Covid-19, I’ve had to let go of many habits and regular routines. There has been an overall wait and see approach to many aspects of life. As it turns out the only things we absolutely must do are feed ourselves and stay active to promote health and wellbeing. That is job number one and everything else we do has to be evaluated with that lens.

“Permaculture is the conscious design of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.” -Bill Mollison

When we stop to think about, what is permaculture, we can find a path forward for a healthier world for humans, not just the organic ecosystems we tend to provide our sustenance. Rethinking our human settlements in terms of how we co-operate with each other and lend support in times of need has been top of mind for most of us over the past few months of 2020. We are now being called upon to collectively design our new global culture.

We can each begin the journey toward greater self-sufficiency and resilience. Permaculture for Urban Homes and Small Spaces show how taking advantage of whatever space you have to live in is the key. The less room you have, the more creative you may have to be, but there is great reward in that effort.

Growing plants is not only about providing food to eat. The real value of urban farming is the process. Connecting with nature is a fundamental part of what it means to be human and we are less likely to protect that which we do not understand.

If you open the door to nature, she will march in and do her thing. Start by taking down the barriers and then See How Easily You Can Create an Edible Landscape. Feeding yourself can be accomplished by slowly adding or replacing non-edible plants with stuff you can eat. Maintaining a lawn of grass makes no sense when that entire area could be far more beautiful with edible plants. Imagine walking in your edible yard for a snack?

It is curious to think that it is possible to design a better future, on that is more equitable for many more people. Why permaculture ain’t just about gardening shows how the guiding principles are applicable to life in general, not just to aid in growing a garden.

Permaculture principles are worth more investigation. I think we are coming to understand that we can design a culture that is diverse, stable, and resilient which enables people to trade in a profitable marketplace. This utopia world is possible if we can remember the needs of many are more important than overcompensating a few.

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