During the summer of 2021 I completed a Permaculture Design Course, led by Helen Pitel and Emily Howgate. Permaculture is an approach to designing human systems, originated by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s, but deeply informed by sustainable practices throughout history, and crucially, evolved by observing and honouring nature. It often is applied to growing food, but it speaks to all aspects of designing human life - community, travel, buildings, education, energy - and the relationships between them, and with the community of other species we share the world with.
The entry point for me was food growing, when we moved to a house with a little bit of land, and wanting to develop a deeper relationship with the land, the species and communities we share it with, and to begin exploring how to more sustainably meet our needs as a family and at the same time nourish and take care of the earth.
Permaculture design begins with observation - meeting what is. In terms of our garden, this has meant spending time watching, watching the light, how water moves through the space, what species are present, observing the soil - and often just sitting and marvelling at what is here - discovering moths and beetles I'd not seen before, watching bees and hoverflies pollinating flowers, seeing what plants emerge as the seasons progress.
In terms of our engagement with this little ecosystem, the first thing I've given attention to is preparing a composting area. I'm inclined to call it a shrine rather than a heap, because what compost is, is miraculous - the natural decomposition of food scraps and garden cuttings and cardboard by an extraordinary community of worms and insects and bacteria and fungi, creating a substance that enriches the soil. The next step for me in this process of delight is something likely to create a slight discomfort in some folks - how to compost our own 'humanure'.