Christian Permaculture

Permaculture tour at the Bullock Homestead

Posted in Christian Permaculture, Farming on September 1st, 2010 by Nathan – Comments Off

On Tuesday, August 17th, the 4 kids and I joined several others in my Permaculture Design Class to tour the Bullock’s homestead on Orcas Island.  We left early to catch the ferry from Anacortes and came home late, but there were enough “rests” during the day that it all came at a reasonable pace.  (What else can you do when waiting at the ferry dock but pick blackberries and take a snooze?)

The Bullock homestead & nursery has been there for 30 years, and it is an excellent example of a “mature” permaculture system.  The main area of the homestead is densely packed as a perennial “food forest”.   The 3 hour tour started at 1 PM, and I could tell that we were just getting a taste of the thought, detail and purpose that was behind everything there. 

Everything is carefully laid out, with all the details around fertility, water and waste flows thoroughly worked through.  read more »

Chickens & Cows on the Pasture

Posted in Chickens, Christian Permaculture, Cows, Eggs, Farming, Pastured Poultry on August 18th, 2010 by Nathan – Comments Off

A chicken hard at work scratching up compacted bedding

A cow pie is money, and I like to get it back in the soil “bank” as soon as possible.  Of course, I’d rather not spend my time following around the cow with a rake to spread the manure out as soon as it hits the ground.  I’ve got chickens lined up to do that job for me. 

It’s the permaculture principle of putting things where they ought to go, but I think of it as having the animals doing their own work. 

We’ve moved our chicken tractors into the pasture areas, and we let them roam around during the day to forage in the grass.  They are learning that there are bugs living in the older cow pies.   It doesn’t take long for a chicken to scratch a load of manure up and spread it over the grass–that’s one of the things they do best.  

A freshly deposited cow pie

This is a concept Joel Salatin has championed at Polyface farms in Virginia, and which is getting more popular elsewhere.   For egg farmers, the idea is sometimes called an “eggmobile” because the chicken pen is mobile and comes into the pasture a few days after the cows have left.  (See Natures Harmony Farm  for an example)  Since I only have a couple acres, and a small pasture, the chickens get to be mobile and the pen stays put. read more »

Permaculture & Christianity, part 3 – “Native vs. Exotic Plants”

Posted in Christian Permaculture, Farming, Soil on June 17th, 2010 by Nathan – Comments Off

Tansy Ragwort is poisonous to most ruminant animals

My permaculture class had a great discussion over the weekend about exotic, invasive plants.  These noxious weeds are thriving in the conditions where they are most needed.  The conditions where they grow are the very places where the land has been disturbed.  They are the ones working hardest to heal the land, and are building the soil up to support the next stage of species progression.

I illustrated the class discussion with how burdock is breaking up the compacted clay soil around my driveway, and how scotch broom is adding nitrogen to some of my worst areas of sterile fill dirt.  Others pointed out beetles are attacking mature Grand Fir trees but ignoring the young trees, as nature’s way of saying the soil & forest needed the decaying wood it was deprived of from successive lumber harvests.  English ivy is a problem because it pulls down trees, but by doing so, it destroys it’s own shady habitat so another species can progress.

It was a good discussion and it got everyone thinking about invasive plants in a new level of awareness.  There were also thoughts about how to include these hard working plants into permaculture holistic designs.  The solution to the “problem” of invasive plants is not to eliminate the plants, but rather change the conditions that favor them.

On my way home I made a connection between the concept of conditions & processes with Christianity.  The condition is man’s separation from God, and it results in a destructive cluelessness for everyone affected.   Since we don’t know how things in life work together, we aren’t able to make things work–remember the saying that life doesn’t come with a users’ manual?  We wear down our bodies with poor diet, lack of sleep, and destructive behavior.  If that isn’t bad enough, we share our poor performance with those around us and end up with flawed relationships.   There is a technical term for this process: “sin”.   I am thoroughly convinced that the logic of Romans 6:23 is biconditional: 1. Sin brings Death.  2. Death indicates Sin.  If something you are doing is destructive, then it is sinful.

Let me illustrate my point this way:  This past week has been a very busy one for me and I’ve cut back on my sleep hours in order to get other work done.  Sleeping 5 hours/night will eventually rob my health and kill me.  So why do I do it?  Because my situation makes this destructive behavior flourish.  I’m a slave to my sinful condition.  Not getting enough sleep shows that I am sinful.

The question is now: “How do we get rid of noxious weeds and invasive, exotic plants”?  My answer to this is to listen to what the plants tell you, and you put things where they go.  Ivy says the ground needs sunshine & organic matter.  Scotch broom says the soil needs a source of nitrogen.  Tansy ragwort screams out “don’t graze me” because it comes when the pasture is being managed wrong.   Use appropriate tools to help these deficiencies.

The real question is now: “How do we get rid of noxious sin, and invasive, exotic death?”  Failing health says everyone will eventually die–everyone is mired in sin.  My failures tell a lot about me.  Use Gods appropriate solutions to fix the condition and get free from the cause of death.

Permaculture Design Principles:
1. Save the People
2. Save the Planet
3. Recycle the Surplus

God is the ultimate “permaculturist”.  He was using the permaculture design principles before Bill Mollison ever wrote them down.

Permaculture is all about original sin.

Permaculture & Christianity, part 2 – “Replenish”

Posted in Christian Permaculture on May 20th, 2010 by Nathan – Comments Off

Here we are replenishing the pasture with compost

Because I farm, I am keenly aware of the seasons.  I see the grass start to wake up in February and I know it brings the first eggs from the geese.  In May, I watch flowers in yards, and along the road and wonder whether my bees can work them. I love rain in July, when it wets down the ground, because it means more plant growth before the “summer slump”.  September frosts come and nip away the bitterness of the alder leaves making them better fodder for the goats.  Winter is a time for rest and brewing plans for the coming year. 

This is what permaculture really embraces–the continuous cycle.  The end result of one system feeds into the next–there is no waste, only a progression.  Minerals and water move from the soil, into plants and then to the animals and people, and back to the soil again.  Permaculture describes how this cycle flows with visible features such as plants, gardens, & water and also with invisible things like communities, cultures, and seasons.  Isn’t this the definition of replenishment? 

Genesis 1 records God telling Adam to replenish the earth:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

So if God just finished creation, and said it was all “very good”, what was missing that Adam should “replenish”?  It’s all in your perspective of its meaning.

God told Adam to use the cycle of the seasons, and to help the earth replenish itself as the year progressed.  He was to use the animals he was studying (he was naming them wasn’t he?) to cycle through the produce of the garden he tended.  What better way to tend the garden but to replenish the plants with manure, compost, & humus?

God already built the ball; Adam’s job was to keep the ball rolling!

Permaculture & Genesis, part 1 — “Dominion”

Posted in Christian Permaculture on May 12th, 2010 by Nathan – Comments Off

I’m taking a permaculture design course right now, and it’s got some excellent principles and methods for growing food and building communities.   However, there are some permaculture topics where Christians have better solutions.  Here is the first of several:

Dominion
One of the observations the permaculture movement has made points out how agriculture has been destructive for all of history.   The logical conclusion to this observation is that the best and most productive use of the land can only come in it’s wild state.  (i.e. if agriculture is bad, then no agriculture must be good.)  My instructor says Christianity is one of those religions which says God made the world for humans, gave “dominion” over the world to humans, and so humans  exploit and destroy the natural world with the church’s justification.

Here is the quote from Genesis he refers to:

   27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

   28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Genesis 1:26-28

My view 
The natural world is very much a system that is “in the NOW”–plants and animals mostly just respond to their surroundings.  God gave people the natural capacity to plan, design, and manage the world.   It is our role to plan, manage and adjust the natural world so nature’s wealth can be channeled, directed and increased.  Adam was given a ROLE to fill.  It is up to mankind to tend, direct, and increase nature’s bounty so the earth produces it’s fullness to support plants, animals, and people.

As a farmer, I’ve seen how a living soil supports growing plants, how healthy plants are the best food for livestock, and how properly managed animals enrich the soil.  It is a closed loop, and my role as farmer is to manage this cycle.  I have the ability to see how these systems flow, and so it is my responsibility to act on what I see.  This is the same job God assigned to Adam.  It is the sovereign role of leadership and of dominion.

In answer to permaculture’s observation about agriculture’s history of destruction, I add one detail:  Man has been sinful for all of history.  Because of sin, the founders of agriculture (Adam, Cain, & Abel) were isolated from God, and so their farming was also sinful, ignorant and destructive.   This was not the way God created it.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good
Genesis 1:31

Man was included when God declared it “very good”, and so the highest, best, and most productive use of the earth includes people.  I look forward to the day when sin is removed and “the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Is 55:12)