~ Quixaya, ‘Heart of The Water’ ~
Awakened Spirit’s Sacred Earth Yoga Teacher Training – this was where I first came across understanding the term and way of life that is Permaculture. Known to have many definitions, the one I prefer in the words of our mentor Shad, simply put, is building a nice place to live.
Its philosophy is based on heightening harmonious living between humans and nature… Focusing on the everlasting integration of plants and people, bringing awareness to our interconnectedness with the world around us through direct observation of the land, combined with consciously inspired design, it allows the maintenance of an agricultural ecosystem where all beings are able to completely thrive.
This view of human interaction on the planet is so important! We have somehow developed an idea that, as humans, we are bad for the Earth, when in actual fact we are not separate from nature – we are nature! And it is in our nature to be harmonious with our surroundings. We naturally collect water, build structures and develop relationships with other species. We have simply become out of sync.
Permaculture’s main values are focused on Earth Care, Fair Share and People Care (self explanatory!). The general principles themselves are not only that but life lessons; which once applied in life, in and outside of the garden, make a whole lot of sense. Take from them what you will:
~ Permaculture Principles, Atitlan Organics ~
Conscious design is important for everything to have it’s purpose; functional design is a method based on the idea that every component of a garden, or structure, should have as many different functions as possible (i.e. shelter, food, protection) to enhance it’s place in the ecosystem. An optimal design would ensure that each of these components is also supported by at least 3 other components… Creating a web of interconnection, which allows the structure to be strongly held in place should one give out, so another two are already in place to support it.
Take the garden spiral for instance – following the natural sync of Fibonacci found throughout nature, it allows optimum area usage with less space for more plants. The structure of stones also retains heat around the roots for when temperature drops at night. It maximises the natural forces of gravity, allowing dry space for the plants at the top and a more moist soil for those towards the bottom. It’s aesthetically beautiful, provides a variety of herbs and is super low maintenance, managing itself. Bam bam bam.
Forget that saying of minimizing the footprint. How about OPTIMIZE THE FOOTPRINT, MAXIMISE THE HANDPRINT. Instead of leave no trace; leave an even better space.
~ Garden Herb Spiral, somewhere in the world ~
On the YTT, we spent some days dipping into the knowledge of Permaculture Princes and getting our hands good and dirty. Over at La Granja (an incredible space created in only a year’s work, which some super epic teachers I can’t hail enough – big up Neal and Jeremy), I planted my first ever tree; such a wholesome moment. I cried some happy tears and felt like a Mother with a newborn child. We were singing to the ground and dancing around. It was such a beautiful feeling, one that I can’t quite compare, just a knowing of long-lasting creation taking place – an investment, hope and belief in times to come. I imagined returning in a few years time to sit upon Ava’s branches (as we named her, Ava the Avo tree). Whilst at the farm we also created some swails to collect water to transport to the nearby plants – the next day water all of a sudden appeared trickling down in the dead heat of dry season, flowing to where she needed to be. The miracles of nature right in front of our very eyes, from our very own hands.
One day we took a visit to IMAP (Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute) where they shared with us the approaches of a thriving life in a permaculture world. The thing I loved about this place was how everything was left to grow as it was, in all it’s natural, wild state, with no taming needed. Simply let things be and let nature run it’s course as it is, rather than too much interference. Only enough interaction to aid it along. That day, we went on to Quixaya, nothing other than the definition of a dreamland. The people living there now have reclaimed the land and returned it back to all it’s glory after years of it truly being ravaged, suffering as a sugar cane plantation. I see the land as a beautiful symbol for all that we could be after all we have been, this world we live in now. Rivers flow through the lush valley and homes are all of a natural build, fruits and veg grow in every garden, fish swim in the ponds and life is serene.
~ Avocado Tree Planting, La Granja ~
Another beautifully inspiring lesson I’ve taken along is that of MOOP. There is no such thing as waste; simply MOOP. Matter Out Of Place. Everything has a place. My all time favourite discovery with this was that of the plastic bottle Eco-brick, which in case you haven’t heard of is absolutely AWESOME and the real solution to many of our problems. Being one of those plastic-concerned people (no bag please) this was one of the best things I’ve ever seen in my entire life – super simple, super efficient. Take an empty plastic bottle, stuff all things plastic into it until densely full and voila – you have yourself a sturdy, reusable, long-lasting building block for eco projects. Four times more durable that your average brick, it also allows you to take notice of the amount of waste we produce and thus start cutting down. Recycling at it’s finest, ladies and gentlemen. I’m convinced these badboys will change the world.
~ Ecobricking finesse at Firefly Gardens ~
Speaking of MOOP, how about POOP! Something else I have completely fallen in love with is compost toilets – I’ve now seen my fair share of them and can never look at your average plummed toilet the same ever again. Flushing clean water literally down the drain is something else nonsensical we’ve managed to become accustomed to around the world (180L of water is generally wasted by one toilet in a day) – meanwhile our oceans continue to get contaminated (not that I wish to go on a telling off spree – these are general facts). Anyhoo, compost toilets! Really just beautiful things. Do your thing, cover it with some form of carbon (wood shavings, cardboard, hay, sand etc.) so that the Carbon to Nitrogen ratio is around 30:1 (preferred for optimal composting and degradation of biomass), then allow this to sit breaking down in a ventilated space, preferably covered by a black seet of tarpaulin in darkness and left in a high temperature, such as in the sun. Leave it to do it’s thing and after 6 months (though 3 will do), the composting pile is good to go. Ready to fertilise farm ground, rich in nourishing nutrients.
~ Compost toilets, Mystical Yoga Farm ~
Whilst we usually have this image of ‘Mother Earth’, this gives the idea of constantly taking and depending fully on her. In truth we should have a symbiotic relationship in which we equally interdepend on one another… And so, introducing the most wonderful concept of ‘LOVER EARTH’ . This mindset allows us to see our world for what it really is – how we should treat our surroundings as we would a lover instead; with tenderness, respect and an equal balance of needs.
Since dipping my toes in and seeing with this new vision, it baffles me as to why Permaculture isn’t a household term everywhere and it’s teachings not a part of everyday lives, as they surely should be. Permaculture, to me, means remembering our paradise. This paradise, that we have somehow forgotten we lived on. Everything is here just waiting for us to remember.
All it takes is coming back home.
Super thankful to all the teachers that have appeared on my path so far – these life changing lessons are coming with me a long long way. YOU’RE ALL SO INCREDIBLY RAD.
- Check out more of Shad’s projects & philosophy with Atitlan Organics
- Awakened Spirit Yoga bases their teachings on the values of mind, body & Earth
- Abundant Edge (La Granja, Tzununa) have a very special energy as wayshowers
- IMAP makes epic impact in communities far & wide
- Firefly Gardens is an awesome space with proactive
- Mystical Yoga Farm – Permaculture haven for fairies
- Permaculture Podcasts – Episode 1523 Ethan Hughes: Radical Simplicity
- Formidable Vegetable Sound System – fun way to get to know about Perma
- Get down with the Eco Bricks resolution! Read more about them here