Permaculture and Our Environment

This week’s question from the Pagan Perspective YouTube channel is a “Choose Your Adventure”, which means going back through the topics and picking one that you haven’t covered before.

My chosen topic for the week of 9/23 is a two part question that one of the substitute hosts also addressed this week and is about permaculture.

Note: This is a very long post, and done completely on my phone, so I’m sorry if it’s a little disjointed. I would normally write out something of this size from my computer instead, but as I’m out of town that’s not a possibility right now.

Part 1 : “Are you familiar with permaculture? Does it influence your beliefs?”

As someone that, at one time, was well into academic studies and a career path in botany and horticulture, I am very familiar with permaculture. In the present, in one of my part-time jobs, I work on a farm. At that job, I work with my boss on a regular basis to strategize towards a number of the goals and principles that are a part of permaculture. I will do some layman’s explanations here in my post to help foster understanding while answering.

Definition of Permaculture – “the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient”

There are twelve principles to permaculture, and I will list them below with a short explanation, as well as how each principle is applied to my life, spirituality, and practice.

Principle 1 – Observe and Interact

In permaculture this principle deals with observing the world around you, and responding to it in a way that aligns with your goals towards a more sustainable action plan. This also includes observing not just your environment, but others within your environment and how they interact with the world around them, as well as learning from them better methods to sustainably do the same.

In my life and spirituality, this principle is much the same in that I am looking for ways in which to sustainably incorporate my environment into my spirituality, both through observation of my environment as well as through the observation of others around me that have successfully managed this balance.

Principle 2 – Catch and Store Energy

In permaculture this can incorporate anything from solar power to hydropower and any other method in which you safely (safe for yourself and for the environment) generate power and store it for later use.

In my life and spirituality, this can be as simple as growing my own food, which harnesses is the power of the sun within the food to then be transferred to myself and others when that food is eaten. This is also seen in the charging of crystals in moonlight or sunlight, the drawing in of energy from the earth to expand outwards into spellcraft, etc.

Principle 3 – Obtain a Yield

In agriculture, this is about a physical yield of crops or other resources. If you follow steps one and two, then you will have a yield as a result.

In my life and spirituality, it works the same way. When charging crystals by moonlight or sunlight, there is then a yield of energy within the stones. If growing food there is then a yield of food to feed myself and others. If drawing energy from the earth for spell work, then there will be a yield of energy to then direct outward toward the intended goals.

It is important to note, I think, that sometimes a yield is not a tangible thing. When you plant flowers, your yield is not an edible or an energy… but is in the joy and enjoyment you find in the blooms.

Principle 4 – Self-Regulate / Accept Feedback

In agriculture, this principle is about evaluating how things have gone, and searching for answers to those things that did not work as expected.

In my life and spirituality, this is the principle that deals with finding more sustainable ways of using resources and reusing rather than wasting what I have.

In both cases this principle involves not just self-evaluation, but getting feedback from outside sources on what is working, what needs to be changed, and what can be done better.

Principle 5 – Value and Use Renewables

In permaculture this deals with not having to depend on finite sources of energy such as fossil feels, but instead using renewable resources and choosing greener energy sources and consumption methods.

In my life and spirituality, this principle is about finding those cleaner energy sources and consumption methods, as well as choosing to use renewable resources instead of going for single-use consumer products.

Principle 6 – Produce No Waste

Nature does this naturally. An example of this is the recycling of death and decay within the forest by animals and other creatures who then use that death and decay as home, and other plants who use it as fertilizer.

In an agricultural setting, this can include things such as using excess crops and waste from crops as fertilizer or fuel, agricultural farms having animals on the farm and using animal waste as fertilizer, collecting rainwater for irrigation or watering animals, etc. All waste goes towards another purpose, rather than being tossed out. Sometimes this can include negotiating trades, bartering, and/or bargaining with other local businesses or farms in order to fill the needs of both parties.

In my personal life and spirituality, I am a big advocate of the reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle method. I feel that it is important to be a conscientious consumer, buy wisely, and have a plan for things you buy that goes beyond their initial purpose. Can the packaging be repurposed? Do you dump perfectly good water or coffee dregs down the drain that could be used to water plants?

If I lived somewhere that composting was an option? I would do that as well. I often bring my compostable waste to the farm where I work, as most of it can be given to the pigs or other animals, and what can’t is usually ok to add to their compost. I choose products with minimal packaging. I use reusable shopping bags. These are just a few of the many ways I incorporate this principle into my life.

Principle 7 – Design from Pattern to Detail

There are a lot of small details that work together in permaculture. This principle deals with looking at the big picture, and make sure that everything is going to work together. By looking over the big picture and how all of the small details fit together, you can create a more cohesive plan.

In my life and spirituality, sometimes I forget about this step. I find that I often get lost in the little things, or stuck in a rut. By looking at the big picture, such as I am doing in this post, I realize just how much I actually do, as well as where I can improve.

Principle 8 – Integrate

In agriculture, some plants work very well together. This is why you sometimes see the cultivation of several different types of crops being grown on one farm (or in one field, for that matter). This type of farming (called polyculture) can often help control pests, weeds, and diseases without use of chemicals. It can also assist in keeping the land nutrient rich and fertile, improve soil’s water retention, and assist in preventing erosion.

In my life and spirituality this principle has to do with cooperating with those around me to do better. This includes activities such as educating my employer and other farmers in the area about beneficial changes they could (often easily) make to their methods and modalities. Education and cooperation with the other members of my condo building to do a better job with recycling for the building as a whole would also fall under this principle.

Principle 9 – Use Small Slow Solutions

Whether in agriculture, or within my life and spirituality, this principle has to do with taking things one step at a time.

As I mentioned before, there are many, many details that come along with structuring a farm (or life) around the principles of permaculture.

Taking on too much too soon can be overwhelming. It’s better to take things one step at a time, a little at a time, and get there eventually, rather than leaping in with both feet and giving up due to feeling overwhelmed. You’d be amazed how those tiny steps add up over time.

Principle 10 – Value and Use Diversity

Ecosystems thrive on biodiversity, and permaculture is about an agricultural ecosystem that is self-sustaining. If there is not enough diversity, then the ecosystem will not thrive. Like an engine has many diverse parts that all work together to make the motor run, and ecosystem needs biodiversity in order for it to function properly and survive.

In my personal life and spirituality, I think that diversity is an extremely important quality to encourage. It is only through the diversity of ideas and an open mind to learn new things that we can grow and become better. It is only through exposure to diversity in our lives and through the lives of others that our world view is able to be broadened and we learn new and better methods and ideas that enrich our lives.

Principle 11 – Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Along with thinking outside the box (which is always a good thing), in agriculture this can also include things such as using that extra strip of land along the side of a field to grow feed for the horses, or converting an unused stall in the barn into a tack room or office. It’s about finding that space that’s going to waste, and finding a use for it.

If you are cutting off the crust of your sandwich and throwing them in the trash, then you are wasting food (and not valuing the marginal). Use the edges… value the marginal. Just because that crust is something you don’t want to eat doesn’t mean it’s useless or doesn’t have value. Maybe someone else would like to eat it… Maybe you could dry it and use it as breadcrumbs in a casserole… Maybe you could compost them and they will become fertilizer. Could you be growing food or herbs or flowers on your balcony? Do you have an unused corner of your property where you could be composting?

Principle 12 – Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Change is an inevitable part of life. Finding ways to adapt is an important part of thriving in an ever changing world.

Both in agriculture, as well as in my life and spirituality, the changing of seasons is an example of this. Farmers adapt to each season, and plan ahead for the changes in the weather and their workload. I also plan ahead for the seasons and incorporate the change of the seasons into my spiritual practice.

Many changes can be stressful and overwhelming, but sometimes when you think outside the box you can find interesting uses for them, or creative ways of adapting to them. In my experience, when you dig in your heels too hard and refuse to adapt, life moves on without you or knocks you down and drags you through the mud.

All in all (LS:Sh)? Permaculture influences my beliefs and my life because I value the planet. My belief system is earth based, and it would be ridiculous to abuse that which I love and is the foundation of my spirituality.

Now, on to the second part of the question…

Part 2: “What ecosystems and climate do you live in? How does this influence your path? How might someone incorporate their local environment into their practice?”

I live in Seattle, in the middle of the city. We have four seasons. We also have a lot more green in the city than most places because we get a great deal of rain. This means that there is a lot of growth of not just plants but also moss, mold, mushrooms, lichens, etc.

That said, for my spiritual practice, I often like to go outside of the city and into the nearby rainforests. There is a lot of water here through the inlets, canals, and eddies of the peninsula, as well as through rivers streams, lakes, and ponds. There is a lot of green here. Evergreen trees, mosses, and ferns abound in the rainforests. The soil is moist and ridged with the knobby knees and long stretch of tree roots. Hard stone monolithic cliffs, wet and slick, dot the uneven landscape, hidden by dense foliage to the point you could walk right off one without realizing it until it’s too late.

I feel a deep connection to this environment and spend a lot of time there. I do ritual and spell work there, and often bring home bits of the rainforest that are environmentally safe to take (usually when foraging for spellcrafting supplies).

If you want to incorporate your environment into your practice it is important to become in touch with your environment and what your environment can sustainably offer. To do this requires spending time in that environment, and paying attention to your surroundings. Seek out and consciously notice nature. Even in the cities, there is nature, it’s just harder to find.

Take time just to familiarize yourself with the plants, the soil, the animals, the history, and the environment as a whole. Learn the symbolism and the uses for what the environment around you has to offer. Educate yourself.

With this education under your belt, it then becomes much easier to creatively find ways to incorporate bits of that environment into your practice.

Stability

Today’s meditation was ten minutes and ten seconds long, and focused on self-soothing. That is to say, finding methods to self-soothe that work for you personally during times of stress and discomfort.

It covered a number of methods in mindfulness and meditation including breathing exercises, counting exercises, visualization, etc.

These are all methods that I’ve tried before, and most of them work for me on some level as long as I’m not overly worked up and toppling into the area of a snickers attack.

Today’s draw is the fourth card of the Major Arcana, the Emperor, which like all of the Major Arcana cards deals with “the big picture” rather than any one aspect of the human experience.

The Emperor card is a representation of authoritative energy, control, and structure. Its appearance today is a reiteration of what you have been saying over the past few days while I ride out the disorientation of my family’s new behavior.

That is to say, keep myself seated in a place of stability and strength. Enjoy the reprieve, but don’t allow it lull me into a place of vulnerability.