Sunday, 23 May 2010
Permaculture. Is it all a load of manure?
When I first started growing veg forty years ago it was our neighbours in the Devon village where we lived at the time who were my main source of information. In the gardens of their council houses and tied cottages people just got on with it much as rural folk had done for generations. It was just a way of supplementing their income and some went a step further and raised pigs and poultry on rented smallholdings. They were happy to pass on their knowledge to a couple of hippy townies and I remain grateful to this day. I suppose that along with this matter of fact agricultural know how and pragmatic approach I also picked up some of the prejudices that went with it and have tended to look down my nose at anything that might be a bit "new age", "organic" or in any way "airy fairy". Permaculture for example is something that I have just not been able to get my head round. It's not helped by the fact that so many so called permaculture projects seem to be tended by Neil from the Young Ones and consist of a few tiny beds of not very happy looking crops surrounded by a sea of encroaching couch grass. It could just be that I am about to become a convert. Or at least a slightly less strident unbeliever. I have been reading Patrick Whitefield's The Living Landscape and have been incredibly impressed by the breadth of the man's knowledge and understanding of the ecological and social dynamic of our countryside. The point is that Whitefield is also one of the countries leading permaculture experts. Perhaps I'll have to take another look.