Thursday, October 18, 2018

Permaculture’s Invisible Structures: in the Economic Dimension, the Problem is the Solution.

Picture of a homeless person sleeping in a doorway

Global Economic Crisis

You could say that I probably got into Permaculture through the economical doorway. I was working in real estate when the 2007–2009 global economic crisis hit and although it didn’t (immediately) pose a financial problem to me (I had earned well in the rise up to the crisis), it sure did leave a foul taste in my mouth on the social side of things. I had to fire people on the sales team, work the very few leads out there still double as hard, withstand lies told to customers by colleagues of other real estate agencies down the road as we were all after the same few “fish” in the sea,… it sure felt like it was a war zone out there, where everyone was competing for their share of the sinking cheesecake. This is the moment when

I stepped out of the branch and went looking for a Change.

​Right now, house Sales have gone up again here on the Balearic Islands and tourism never stopped growing due to other areas in the Mediterranean Sea Basin like Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and even Greece still being somewhat uncertain holiday destinations due to terrorist acts and refugees from Syria. Unemployment is down, spending is up once more and the papers talk about yet another record hitting season this 2018. We are out of the dark hole they say…

The global economic crisis of some ten years ago might seem over when you read through this little list, but it surely still is fresh on my mind, and I am actually even weary about a next one being right around the corner.

House sales are up to foreign buyers only.

Tourism is putting an extreme strain on the island’s resources, starting with water and on a par: long term residential rental properties are almost impossible to pay now.

​Jobs are aplenty yes but wages haven’t gone up, so spending power is lower for locals and the doctors have had a ball writing sick notes last summer 2017 due to burnout.

Picture of a protest sign- carbon plus money equals a burning earth
​Growth is something very natural. In nature, things don’t keep on growing forever though. Plants grow, people grow… and then… they die. It’s the cycle of life. An old growth forest is a system that is made up of many elements, some are in their growth phase, others are in their decline phase. Between them all, they keep the system going.

This stage of collaboration and accepting that there necessarily are phases of decline or cycles (the plants in decline become the soil and nutrition for the new plants) is something we humans have not yet understood as a species. If we want to avoid the decline of the entire system (our planet) we better hurry up to get to that stage of understanding.

Just as with the Social or Political Invisible Structures, we need to know exactly what it is we are working with when talking about the Economic Systems so that we can make a hypothesis as to why things are out of whack, to then start working on our design to get back on track (Permaculture Principle “Observe & Interact” at work).

​As I got more familiar with the principle “The Problem is the Solution”, I got more and more interested in the Economy and how our current capitalist model is pushing us beyond the limits of our ecosystem. I wanted to be able to design our way out of the mess and therefore had to start with … observation and analyzing. I personally learnt an enormous amount about the economy of today through taking the Integral Permaculture Academy’s mini-course on “Eco-Economy”.

I have recently finished a 6 month stretch of working on a module for a spectacular Online Permaculture Design Course that I co-facilitate together with 40 other female Permaculture Women’s Guild Designers from all over the world. It sure was spectacular on the Invisible Structures side of things, which is what my module focuses on, together with the Design for our Inner Landscape. In the course I talk about all of those Invisible Structures, but as a colleague goes into much more detail about the Economic Systems in her module, I brought my thoughts on those systems into this Medium post.

Let’s look at some of the most important concepts we need to understand before we can start any design involving the Economic Invisible Structures.

Picture of multiple stacks of coins

When we think about the economy, often we think about money. What is money? Money as such is definitely not a bad thing. It is one form of energy that circulates through our system. It is a store of value that we collectively assigned to it, and it is based on confidence.

It was designed to make connections possible between humans over larger distances.
What history tells us is that when our horizons expanded and direct bartering on the road got too hard (it isn’t always easy to find the person who has exactly what you want and you have exactly what she wants when you are traveling), some items got introduced that were recognized to have value elsewhere too. So “money” came into being.

Today’s money however has little to do with that original trust in a seashell or a block of salt that goes back 5000 years. These days we might do good in not placing too much of our confidence in money, as any Argentinian person can probably tell you (the peso suffered massive inflation in 1990 and has been unstable for a while).

Why not? Money these days is made up out of thin air and it is not the government printing our notes as some people believe. It is the bank that types in some numbers on a screen and as by magic you have money in your account.

​For the privilege of them giving you something they actually don’t have themselves, they also charge you interest, and you are saddled with a debt. In the latest crisis many people lost their homes to the banks. So the banks end up winning always: they either get money in return for the thin air they created your loan from, or they get a property! To top it off, when they then fly too high and burn their wings, our (tax payers’) money (borrowed from them with interest and/or worked very hard for) is then used to bail them out of trouble.
Picture of a protest sign that reads
​Whenever I tell this story or write it down, I feel that this currently is the biggest story we need to share, and make people aware of. Debt is not natural, therefore it is not sustainable.

Why is this not front page news everywhere?

Apart from many invested interests (pun intended) I believe it is because we lack new, positive stories. We need success stories, examples of good practices, a practical design to do it better. Something achievable to work towards.

We maybe feel that getting out of this mess is too big a task for us, and that we are firmly held in the grips of our debt. But there are many examples out there of complementary and local currencies in operation.

Picture of a city
Small steps may take us a long way (small and slow solutions are the way to go!). Going back to our basic needs (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs), we must be able to make the distinction between them and our wants, as Max-Neef points out, and particularly realize the impact elsewhere in the system of our ways of satisfying our “needs”. The comparison between Maslow’s and Max-Neef’s needs becomes necessary in today’s economic system, and you can read about it in this other Medium Article by Neha Khandelwal.

​I mostly graphically represent this by drawing two apples on the board. One of them is the Apple-logo. The younger students I work with tend to immediately recognize that one. The other apple, the one that you can eat, is always second… and no I don’t think that has to do with my drawing skills. Which of those apples is a basic need and which represents a “want”?
Picture of a hand holding an apple in an orchard
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that “wants” are all bad. Of course I want to stay in touch with people, work from home, record my photographs and speak to my family in Belgium. I can do all that on any brand of computer though, or if I really do value the apple logo enough to pay the higher price for it, then I maybe don’t have to change the model for a new one every time one comes out…

Apples aside, it’s known that the capitalist system we live in purchases growth. Therefore “they” must sell more. Marketing helps them to achieve that. The system plays on our “wants”, and we are led to believe that we can satisfy our needs with items such as an iPhone or food packaged in colorful boxes.

The more “wants” we have, and we will — because our needs are often not satisfied, the more we have to recur to interest based loans, or in other words, we are spending money we don’t have whilst at the same time sending money up the chain (of those bankers and the already wealthy corporate world that sells us such items).

Maybe we should re-educate ourselves, and understand that capitalism is a polarizing system. Ever more money is flowing up that chain to the top, it surely isn’t trickling down as what they want us to believe. The divide is getting bigger. More and more people end up underneath the poverty line. Being in debt becomes a social epidemic with a lot of consequences (think Big Pharma, junk food chains causing loss of our soil as well as loss of our health, crime…)

But enough of the doomsday information overload. Permaculture is about solutions. Here I’d like to present you some very simple steps to boost your confidence in taking control over the Economic Invisible Structures in your design.

Solutions: Sustainable Economy
Picture of a stencil on the side of a building that reads
When looking at your personal economy, it’s good to have a base understanding of the following concepts.

Invest in & like Ecosystems

Invest in Ecosystems: buy livestock, trees, plants, seeds, buy land and steward it, buy local produce from your farmer, study local flora and get really good at foraging (there is so much free food all around!)…

The point being: you won’t be able to eat those classic motorbikes or those tons of designer handbags when the going gets tough and nobody around you has any cash to buy them off you.

Invest like Ecosystems: Diversify! Use the principle of redundancy and diversity, which create stability and resilience, have different income streams, your skill base might be a good start or you might want to check out the 8 forms of Capital by Ethan Roland. Sign up for your local LET group or Time Bank*. Up the faith and jump out of your comfort zone.

Also look at where your passion lies, and see if you could make it into an income stream. Design your Right Livelihood. It’s good to be using several economic systems and currencies at the same time, so you will not depend on any one system alone. Capitalism is not going to go away any time soon, but on its own, it’s too fragile a society we’d be living in, not resilient at all.

Live within your limits

Know what you have (your resource base — and don’t forget foraging, free food!) and don’t cross your limits. It’s exactly what we have to do on the planetary level, so we might as well start with ourselves. Another solution lies in how you act as a consumer. How about giving yourself enough time to think it through before you make a purchase.

There is a set of questions you could run through before actually buying anything, which could go something like this: Do I need this (basic needs!)? Do I maybe already own something like it (know your resource base!)? Can I borrow this from someone I know? Can I source this from a second hand store? Can I actually afford it? Etc.

If you have already crossed your limits, look at designing your way back up to the black numbers rather than stay in the red. It might be daunting but there is professional help out there too. As before, don’t hesitate to ask for help. It is not worth suffering over it for any longer than need be.

As we have crossed our limits as a society a while back (currently we are using 3.6 planets’ worth of resources as a species), the only option for those of us in the developed world is Degrowth. It is not going to be a choice anymore any time soon, so we best get used to it now already.


Would you be involved in arms or drugs trafficking? Would you invest in deforestation or petroleum companies that chop big chunks of the amazon down? Would you support big pharmaceutical companies that are under the suspicion of actually wanting to keep us sick as a society, and now even are one and the same as the big agro companies that destroy the livelihoods of our local farmers? I am guessing your answer to there questions is no.

You then need to know that your bank might be involved in them and that this is probably where your money is being used, because those are the investments that give most returns.

So if you don’t want to invest in those activities, di-vest your money out of your bank. It’s a job and a half yes, but it is doable and it is very much worth it. Being honest here, I have not yet been able to move my own mortgage to another bank.

​Check out your area for ethical banks through this link if you are in Europe.
Picture of leggo figures. Two police on each side of a man at a desk.
​Also vote with your money. Try to buy local products as much as you can. Steer away from big corporations that are known to play a huge part in destroying our environment, our social networks or our public health and don’t invest anymore in the likes of Coca Cola, Monsanto, Nestlé and many other brands that are often one and the same as can be seen on some chart images that float around the web.

Share your surplus

Don’t charge interest on any personal loan you may give a friend or family member, your abundance now is reinvested in a cycle that will cultivate social capital and it wíll return to you!

Don’t have a massive savings account: Debt is unnatural, so is hoarding. Even a hamster self-regulates and stops eating so much (and therefore hiding food) when the warmth of spring returns. You can have a saving accounts or a piggy bank by all means, it is a sign of a good Design for Catastrophe/Resilience, but anything more than that is based on fear and is not helping the local economy. Money is a flow of energy, and like anything stagnant, it stops working. One note of 10€ in your bank account is just that… 10€. If you spend 10€ in your local economy, it jumps up in value to 100€ just by passing through the hands of 10 people. Remember the principle of cycling energy.

Don’t charge for any spaces you might have available to share, or charge only a fair price to share in the costs: On this note, I can tell you about how our association PermaMed’s demo sites are on property that has been donated to us, or assigned to us to steward if you will, and there is even a “Land-bank” here on the island of Mallorca, where property that cannot be tended to by the owners is offered to people who are looking for a piece of “dirt” to grow food on, mostly just charging the cost of the water or agreeing on a part of the harvest to go to the owner.

Share your crop: you have loads of almonds, apricots, tomatoes, leeks, corn cobs… at the same time? Are you seriously going to can them all? Why not share what you can’t eat, and get some diversity in return. And as the saying goes: where 2 eat, 3 can eat too. Never hesitate to invite someone to your table and share a meal.

On the other hand, don’t stretch yourself to share what you actually really can’t (again, I am a good example of doing just that), because as one Permaculture Design Course teacher of mine likes to say: “You can’t be green, if you are in the red”, so it would be a priority to not be in the red. Guard your limits. Just as with your physical and emotional boundaries for your Inner Landscape Design, these limits are important for the longevity of your projects.

More detailed information on the Economic Systems in the mark of the Permaculture Invisible Structures can be found in Lucie Bardos’ latest Medium article. She is one of my 40 international & expert co-facilitators in the Permaculture Women’s Guild Online Permaculture Design Course which has just opened for early bird enrollment.

​I myself take you on a journey through the Inner Landscape and we look at the Invisible Structures in general, explore what they area within the social, economic and political dimensions, and how we can design for them in our projects. Wanna join us on this tremendous learning experience? Click on this link for the complete information.
Picture of the Permaculture Women's Guild logo
Extra Resources:

Dana Meadows was hugely important to the birth of Permaculture, by co-authoring the “Limits to Growth” Report of the Club of Rome in 1972. Together with the looming oil crisis of 1973, this stimulated Bill Mollison and David Holmgren to get designing for a permanent agriculture. This is her take on Sustainable Economies.

Helena Norbert-Hodge is a very inspirational lady as is the film she made in Ladakh: The Economics of Happiness.

Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economy
 works with boundaries and basic human needs. Fantastic! She also offers loads of economic history and poses some neat questions.

Ellen McArthur’s Circular Economy 
was presented to me at the R.I.E. gathering in 2015 (Iberian Ecovillage Reunion) in Navarra, Spain. Based on the principles of cycling energy and producing no waste.

​Hazel Henderson states that our economy is based on a big invisible layer that she calls the “Love Economy”. Riane Eisler builds on this in her Tedx talk on The Caring Economy. They both refer back to the backbone of our society being… the women… Caring & Loving… invisible in the GDP.
  • The link on the Time Bank concept goes to an article by Stephanie Rearick. She is the one who taught me most about time banking during a weekend on Economy, Energy and Ecology I helped host here on Mallorca in 2015. I assisted Christer Söderberg and Stephen Hinton with logistics for setting up The Sacred Valley Dialogues’ weekend on E-E-E (Economy, Energy and Ecology), , with some of the guest speakers being Elisabeth SahtourisPolly HigginsStephanie Rearick & Sybille Saint Giron
  • The two people who have up till now influenced me most on this topic are my first PDC teacher Richard Perkins and my Diploma mentor Stefania Stregafrom the Integral Permaculture Academy. 
#invisiblestructures #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #socialjustice #socialpermaculture
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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Finding Home: microclimate and a sense of place

I feel very lucky and grateful to have been invited to write a module on microclimates for a new online Permaculture design course. What I wasn’t expecting was the richness and enjoyment this extra awareness of microclimates has given me.

​Imagine yourself on a scorchingly hot summer’s day, in an urban environment.
How are you moving through this landscape?
Which side of the road do you walk on?
Do you walk near trees or avoid them.

Scenario 2: a wet, cold, stormy winter’s day.
​Now how do you move through the landscape?
Picture of a park with cooling trees and a fountain
Cooling trees and fountains
Quite naturally most of us will unconsciously seek shade both from the sun, wind and the rain, to avoid their extremes. But in permaculture we make this a conscious process, refine this observation skill by fine-tuning our awareness for spotting differences in light, temperature, moisture and wind in the landscape: the microclimate.

​This awareness allows us to make deliberate observations about a site so that we can use the microclimates and niches that become available to optimum effect. We can then make choices about adapting our environment through making modifications, like planting trees to help cool hot spots or temper the wind.

I’ve noticed that through conscious awareness of these factors, I naturally and consciously make choices about how to optimise my use of microclimates. I relate to new places more quickly, get to know them through their local climate, and make other observations such as what grows naturally, what other things could be positioned where, like where would be a good spot for a particular fruit tree to thrive.

​As hunter gatherers we relied on sharp senses to provide extensive data about our environment as we moved through it. For example using sight, hearing and touch to make observations and mental notes of wind speed and directions. This information informs how the wind affects the shape of animal tracks and therefore the decision on when the track was made and thus how far away the animal might be. Our lives would depend on our ability to interpret this information, both for obtaining food and protection from predators.
Picture of bird feet imprints on sand with some rocks
When we consciously practice noticing these different microclimate factors through our senses, we reawaken our bodies’ original design, fine-tuning our awareness of our environment and what it tells us. This allows us to relate directly to it and feel much more connected wherever we are. It directly links us to the landscape through our senses. In this way it becomes easy to feel at home more quickly wherever we are.

​Similarly, when we know where the sun is and the time of day, it helps us to orientate ourselves in the landscape. As well as showing us the microclimate, it allows us to feel even more connected and related to place, more comfortable and therefore more at home.
Picture of an ad for the permaculture design course offered by permaculture women
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #microclimates
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Friday, October 5, 2018

So you want to plant a pollinator garden…here’s how!

Pollinators — the special group of animals that assist plants in reproduction by moving pollen from the male part of the plant to the female part of the plant, are in decline around the world. Non-insect pollinators, such as some birds and fruit-eating bats, are declining alarmingly. Many species of insect pollinators, including bees, butterflies, beetles, wasps, and flies, are also in decline (or in the case of managed bees, declining health) although the data is incomplete. Recent studies on insects as a group, point to serious declines.
Picture A pollinator on a flower
However the news is not completely grim. There is a growing body of evidence that engaging in pollinator gardening can help to increase the diversity and abundance of insect pollinators in localized areas. You can help to boost the population of insects pollinators in your neighbourhood and region. I like to think of it as bee-centred gardening, since wild and managed bees are some of the best pollinators in the animal kingdom.

The basics of bee-centred gardening

Plant a wide diversity of plants. Bees need a polyculture not the monoculture of endless fields of corn or lawns of grass. I am in favour of reverting as much lawn to gardens as possible. I use the sheet-mulch method to create a new garden bed and recommend seeding white clover into the lawn you can’t convert to garden. Try to mimic how plants grow in the wild. Often species grow in a patches together.
Picture A lawn that has been turned into a garden.
Plant flowers that bloom in all seasons (well, not winter in the Northern hemisphere).
Spring and fall are the times in which bees are especially in need of good sources of nectar and pollen. Surprisingly there can also be nectar dearths in the summer. Try to make sure you have blooming flowers in spring, early summer, late summer, and fall.
Picture A garden with flowers blooming
Plant native plants. 
​Native plants have co-evolved with wild bees, many (but not all) who are specialists,, preferring the nectar and pollen of specific groups of plants. Many native plants are perennials and, once established, can flourish almost on their own. Native plants have also been used for thousands of years by people and many are edible or medicinal. Buy the plants species not the cultivar. For example, you can buy Echinacea purpurea or you can buy a variety of cultivars of E. Purpurea that have been bred for specific characteristics (double blooms, different colours, etc). When you have a choice buy the species.

Protect trees. 
The first food for many species of bees in the spring is the pollen of trees. Many trees are crucial larval hosts for butterflies. Be very reluctant to ever cut down a tree and raise a stink when trees are cut down in your neighbourhood.

Create habitat for wild bees. 
Wild bees nest in pithy or hollow stems and the ground. Leave patches of bare ground and don’t cut the dead stems of perennials until mid-spring. You should do a lazy fall garden clean-up, leaving dead standing stems and lightly mulching garden beds with dried leaves. Bee hotels and nesting boxes are great but it’s even better to give them a habitat in which they can make their own nest.

​Leave a source of water. 
​All animals need water to live, insects included. Leave saucers with rocks throughout your garden and fill it daily with water. It will not attract mosquitoes because it is too shallow and the water evaporates quickly.
Picture Bees feeding
Do not use pesticides. 
​‘Pesticide’ is a catchall term that includes insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Completely stop using them and be careful before using organic insecticides. My best defense against “pests” is biodiversity, particularly wasps and toads. My best defense against weeds are my own two hands. Buy organic seeds and plants whenever possible.
Picture A pollinator on a flower
Make peace with wasps and ‘weeds’. 
​Many weeds are medicinal and edible. My favourite way to get rid of them is to eat them. Wasps are an extremely important group of insects that do a little pollinating but work to keep the populations of other insects in check. Social wasps like yellow jackets can be aggressive when you go near their nest and at certain times of the year (late August) as they prepare for winter. Be respectful of them. Solitary wasps, on the other hand, are very gentle and beautiful.
Picture A bee pollinates a flower
My favourite native plants for bees

This is specific to North-Eastern North America, especially Southern Ontario, Michigan, etc.

​Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis
Picture Flowers in a garden
​Wild Strawberry, Fragaria virginiana
Prairie Smoke, Geum triflorum

​Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium maculatum (and others)
Picture A bee on pink flowers
​ Goldenrod, Solidago spp (this means multiple species within the genus)Please note: goldenrod is NOT responsible for hay fever. Wind-pollinated plants cause seasonal allergies, goldenrod is animal pollinated. A couple of species of goldenrod are opportunistic but many others are well-behaved.

Please note: I still plant opportunist native plants, it is not a moral judgement on the plant, merely a description of their behaviour.

Milkweed, Asclepias spp. Common milkweed is opportunistic but other species such as butterfly milkweed are well-behaved.
Picture A butterfly on flowers
Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis. Delicious for bees and people and the stems make great nesting spots for solitary bees.

Raspberry, Rubus idaeus, see elderberry

​Asters, Symphyotrichum spp.
Picture A bee pollinates a flower
​Rose, Rosa spp. There are multiple native rose species. I like smooth rose (Rosa blanda).

​Hyssops, Agastache spp. Anise hyssop makes a lovely tea.
Picture A bee flies by flowers
Coneflowers, Echinacea spp. Remember, with this group of flowers, buy the species not the cultivar. There are many different species of coneflower but don’t be fooled by the hybrids/cultivars in nurseries.
Picture A bee on a flower
Sunflowers, and sunflower-like plants such as Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum), False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoide), etc. Sunflowers have been heavily bred by people as a culinary food so it may be hard to find the native species (Helianthus Annuus).

​Planting a cultivar is just fine, in my opinion, but you may want to seek out similar native flowers that have the added bonus of being perennials. Jerusalem Artichoke is also edible as it is a delicious root vegetable. Many species of bees absolutely love these types of flower.
Picture A bee ona flower
My favourite non-native plants for bees

These plants are ideal for planting in your vegetable garden to increase pollination and most have multiple functions.

​Catnip and/or cat mint. I am very confused about whether these are the same plant. I think they are different species of plants within the same genus. Regardless, bees love them, cats love them, and they make a calming tea for people. I regularly see native bees on my catnip.
Picture A bee on a flower
Borage. Borage is loved by bumble bees and the flowers are edible (they taste like cucumbers).
Picture A bee on a flower
Mullein or Lambs’ Ear. Bees like the flowers but one species of bee, Anthidium manicatum, or the Wool Carder Bee likes to use the soft leaves for their nest. This bee, interestingly, is not native to North America but it has naturalized. Mullein has been used for centuries (maybe millennia) to treat bronchial infections.

Lovage. Lovage tastes like very strong celery and is loved by pollinators.

Valerian. Loved by bees, butterflies, and other insects. Has been used medicinally as a calming herb.

Picture A bee on a flower
Sweet Cicely, Spring flower, loved by pollinators with a sweet anise taste in the leaves, flowers, and seeds.

So go forth and be an enemy of lawns and spread organic flowers where ever you go (I am only slightly joking). Leave out water for insects of all kinds and engage in lazy fall gardening so native bees and butterflies can find spots to overwinter. Support small-scale, organic farmers especially those that also treat their human workers with respect. The most important aspect of being a bee-centred gardener is to consider yourself in relationship with bees.

I don’t mean this in some sort of deep spiritual sense (although that is good as well). We are embedded in an entangled relationship with bees. One of the biggest tricks of capitalism is that it hides the relationships that we are in with each other in every single aspect of our lives. These relationships include non-human animals. Bees work hard to pollinate our food and they co-habitat and co-create ‘our’ landscapes. If you are spraying pesticides and only have grass in your backyard, you are in a harmful relationship with bees. However, you can move towards a mutually beneficial relationship with bees and the amazing thing is that it is as easy as planting a patch of flowers and leaving out a saucer of water.

​Happy gardening!

Picture The author's garden, ready to bloom soon
​My garden, which is about to erupt in a riot of colour!

Originally published at on June 30, 2018.


I am a permaculture educator and anti-racist, feminist activist in London, ON, Canada. I am currently a PhD candidate in Geography at Western University, where I study the relationship between people and bees in cities. My M.A. in Anthropology, also at Western University, focused on gentrification and belonging in a community garden in Toronto. I live in a suburban permaculture sanctuary with my family, two dogs, three cats, two bunnies, and thousands of gorgeous, busy bees. I maintain the blog Permaculture for the People.

​Want to know more?

I am so excited to be teaching urban permaculture as part of the first online Permaculture Design Certificate taught exclusively by women. If you would like to know more or would like to have me as your permaculture design reviewer, please check out my blog and get in touch with me at
#permaculture #freepermaculture #foodnotlawns #bee garden
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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Design the regenerative city: using zones and sectors in an urban permaculture design

Picture of a garden in an urban setting
When people discuss permaculture design, one of the first aspects mentioned are zones, followed by sectors (or vice versa). In some books, articles and PDCs, zones and sectors are written about in ways that are most relevant to rural settings. When we think about applying permaculture to the city, we need to adjust the concept of zones and sectors to fit the scale, and realities of vibrant urban living. When I first discovered permaculture and for several years after I attended my Permaculture Design Course with Earth Activist Training, I continued to live in rented spaces in cities, with little or no access to my own space. I found it challenging to figure out how to design a permaculture life without owning a large tract of land. This article is about how to think differently, on a city scale, about zones and sectors so that you can plan for a season of amazing urban permaculture design and practice whether it be in a small-space, no space, or community space!

The use of zones in permaculture is a useful way to organize our space and our lives so we can begin to design it regeneratively. It seeks to describe the intensity and frequency of use of varying spaces and is typically outlines as:
  • zone 0 — the home (sometimes described as oneself, with the other zones changed for scale)
  • zone 1 — home garden
  • zone 2 — Orchards (also where small animals might live)
  • zone 3 — pastures, larger livestock
  • zone 4 — managed forests and wetlands
  • zone 5 — the wild

People play with the zones to make useful for different scales but you can see this classic template, modified from David Holmgren in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, is not so useful for those of us in cities.

Permaculture Activist magazine (now Permaculture Design) suggested urban zones be based on the use of fossil fuels in transportation. I find this useful as movement around cities, particularly large cities, affects the frequency and intensity of use of spaces.

Here is an outline of their vision (from the very useful article Zones and Sectors in the city):
  • Zone 0: Home.
  • Zone 1: Walking distance (“pedosphere”).
  • Zone 2: Bicycling distance (“cyclosphere”).
  • Zone 3: Reachable by public transportation or by a short drive.
  • Zone 4: Driving distance.
  • Zone 5: Reachable only by plane or other long-distance transport

I like this conception of urban zones and think it is useful, although it does not speak to everyone’s experience of city living or the methods of transportation to which they may have access. Living in a small city vs. large city can drastically change this use of zones, as can living in a city centre vs a suburb.

Also, what if someone cannot walk or bike? Or doesn’t own a car? I do aim to only drive in zone 4 (3, if it is outside the city) so I think it is a very useful and important way to think about regenerative design in this way.

Having said that, I conceive of zones slightly differently but still along the lines of frequency and intensity of use. I think it is very important to leave zone 5 as the wild and to also incorporate places in the world you will never visit but that impact you and, especially if you are North American, YOU impact. I also think it is interesting to ponder how the use of the internet and social media affect zones, especially the “community” and “people” zones.

Here is my proposal for zones in the city:
  • Zone 0 — you and your home, chosen family (this includes kids, partners, close friends, lovers, etc)
  • Zone 1 — Spaces used everyday (your yard, garden, possibly a park, maybe you go to a cafe or library everyday)
  • Zone 2 — Spaces used 3–5 times a week (a community garden or community food forest, a coffeeshop, your workplace, perhaps your local library); often easily walkable, within reasonable cycling distance or on a direct transit route
  • Zone 3 — Spaces visited about once a week (a farmer’s market, your CSA, a art studio where you take classes, maybe a park where you spend your weekend, a place where you volunteer, etc)
  • Zone 4 — Spaces that you visit about once a month and/or that are important to your life but not a frequent part of it (a local permaculture or organic farm, out of town friends or family, a managed park or conservation area, community organization mtgs). Also if you happen to regularly visit another city or country (even annually), I would include it here not in zone 5
  • Zone 5 — The wild as well as parts of the world you may never visit but impact or are impacted by. I think it is crucially important to think about zone 5 to consider how our actions affect wild areas AND affect people throughout the world that who we may never meet in places we may never visit.

This can be played with to make it work for you. Once you have a sense of your zones, write them out using five concentric circles with zone 0 in the middle. I recommend making a diagram about your present life and a diagram about how you hope to redesign your life/spaces. You can divide the diagram into different sections such as food, outdoor spaces, community, and people.
  • Generally in permaculture the most intensively and frequently used spaces as the ones that you develop first with your design plans. However, this doesn’t mean that you can or should only focus on yourself and your home. Many urban dwellers interact with our neighbourhood gathering spots every single day, so we need to give those areas our attention, time, and energy.
A hand drawn chart of the permaculture zones
Sectors are a design tool that helps you think about the different energies, sometimes thought of as ‘wild’ or uncontrollable energies, that make their way through your spaces. I recommend doing a sector analysis on zones 0, 1, and 2, if possible (you may have little control over some of the zones).

Energies typically mentioned in permaculture guides:
  • sun
  • wind
  • rain/water
  • wild animals
  • fire in some places

I also add human-created sectors:
  • family members (including children)
  • neighbours (including children)
  • friends
  • domesticated animals (yours or ones in the neighbourhood)
  • city bylaws and staff
  • community/activist organizations
  • community ‘helpers’ (teachers, librarians, bus drivers, etc)
  • businesses
  • corporations
  • ‘the public’ (the people in your city)
  • OPPRESSION (how does racism, sexism, colonialism, class bigotry affect the energy of our spaces)

It is important to think of how these different energies, not directly controlled by you (even your children, let’s be honest), affect and use your spaces. They need to be considered when designing space. You need to know where the sun shines and at what time of day before planting gardens but you also need to know where your children like to play. These categories are not bound and they all interact with one another. In a city two crucially important and entangled sectors are city bylaws and neighbours.

It’s important to think about the flows of these energies not only the natural ones (wind, water, etc) but the human-created ones (children, domesticated animals). What energies flow in and out of your spaces and how can you design for and with them? Personally, I try to mostly think about how to work with these energies not to stop them. We might think we can block a meddling neighbour with a fence, but that is partly an illusion and might also block the flow of other energies (wild animals, for example).

Flexible, dynamic design
People can be rigid with how they use permaculture tools and practices. Thinking through zones and sectors is an important design tool, helping you to uncover patterns and assisting in the visioning process that is so crucial to any good design. Use it in ways that help you and make sense for your life. Redo your zones and sectors regularly and think about what has changed and what has stayed the same (and WHY).

In my heart I am still a high school dropout who dislikes authority and rules so I need to state that these are guidelines not rules. Use zones and sectors in flexible ways to help create vibrant, regenerative urban spaces!

If you want to share, I would love to see your zone diagrams and I’m sure others will find it valuable. Post them in the comments or email me.

Originally published at on January 14, 2018.

I am a permaculture educator and social activist in London, ON, Canada. I am currently a PhD candidate in Geography at Western University, where I study the relationship between people and bees in cities. My M.A. in Anthropology, also at Western University, focused on gentrification and belonging in a community garden in Toronto. I live in a suburban permaculture sanctuary with my family, two dogs, three cats, two bunnies, and thousands of gorgeous, busy bees. I maintain the blog Permaculture for the People.

Want to know more?
I am so excited to be teaching urban permaculture as part of the first online Permaculture Design Certificate taught exclusively by women. If you would like to know more or would like to have me as your permaculture design reviewer, please check out my blog and get in touch with me at
#permaculturezonesandsectors #urbanpermaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen
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Permaculture in the ‘Burbs

How I learned to bloom where I was planted (or, rather, where I planted myself).
Picture of a backyard garden
My backyard in the summer
I am not the type of person who lives in the suburbs. I love big cities: the vibrancy, the art, the festivals, the diversity, even the chaos of city centres. I love walking and cycling wherever I need to go and I especially love frequenting public spaces like parks, libraries, community centres, and public pools. I love practicing urban permaculture in the collective spaces of dynamic cities (I am the urban permaculture teacher in the Permaculture Women’s PDC).

​But something happened in 2011: I feel in love with someone who owned a house in a suburban area of my city. At the time, I rented a house in a central neighbourhood that was nice, but expensive (for me) with a teeny tiny backyard. In order to pay rent I had to work two jobs. In May of 2013 my two kids, dog, two cats, and I moved to the ‘burbs.
Picture of a suburban backyard with a pool and garden.
Suburban stereotype. Pools, loved by children, death traps for critters!
Things changed immediately. I started driving a lot, something that made me unhappy. I felt isolated and lonely, even in a big blended family of six. My city is relatively small (350 000 people) but I couldn’t stroll or easily bike to the places in which I liked to spend time. I didn’t see my friends as often and felt disconnected. Worse, I felt out of place, unable to truly be myself.

Eventually, I convinced my partner that I had to move back to the centre of the city to be happy. But two things disrupted my plan. One, my daughter had made some great friends at her neighbourhood school and moving would mean pulling her out of that school. I had already majorly disrupted my kids lives a couple times and didn’t relish the idea of doing it again. Two, my backyard had become a permaculture ecosystem — full of wildlife, perennial plants of all kinds, and a growing medicinal food forest, still in its baby stage. I knew that next person who moved into our house would likely destroy most of it.

Permaculture is about creating relationships in which everyone flourishes. I started to think critically about the lopsided power parents yield over kids’ lives — we can turn their whole live upside down with one decision. I also started to think about the responsibility I have to the trees and perennials I planted and to the animals for whom I created habitat. Don’t get me wrong, mamas need to flourish as well — I don’t think women should sacrifice our own happiness for our partners or children. But I realized that there are special ways that I also flourish in this space.
Picture of a backyard garden.
Yes, some of my neighbours — I’m sure — worry that my forest garden and hippy ways are going to bring down their property values. But, other neighbours use my Little Free Library with enthusiasm, attended the art & eco festival my partner and I put on for four years, and, most recently, voted for my idea for an experiential pollinator garden during my city’s Neighbourhood Decision-making Process.
Picture of tents set up outside for an arts festival.
Long live Mantis Arts & Eco Festival (we had to take a break when I started my PhD)
The bike ride to the university is almost an hour long, but this hour is spent almost entirely along the river. During the long bike ride to and from the university I pass five playgrounds, two community gardens, a dog park, one quirky amusement park, two murals, and get to witness dozens of people enjoying public green space. I spend close to an hour smiling at people as they connect with each other and non-human nature. During my bike ride, I get to admire old willow trees and bad-ass geese who stand their ground, and sometimes catch a glimpse of a bald eagle, skunk, deer, or possum. Plus I have really muscular calves.
Picture of art on a building with grass in front of it.
I have also discovered that hidden in my neighbourhood are many kindred spirits, also yearning for a better, shared world for all. And so, we’re staying and I am learning that you can create a permaculture sanctuary in the suburbs, and more than that, you can create a sense of community — and can flourish — in unlikely places.
Picture of a sign in a neighborhood in French, English and Arabic that reads
I am a permaculture educator and anti-racist, feminist activist in London, ON, Canada. I am currently a PhD candidate in Geography at Western University, where I study the relationship between people and bees in cities. My M.A. in Anthropology, also at Western University, focused on gentrification and belonging in a community garden in Toronto. I live in a suburban permaculture sanctuary with my family, two dogs, three cats, two bunnies, and thousands of gorgeous, busy bees. I maintain the blog Permaculture for the People.

Want to know more?
I am so excited to be teaching urban permaculture as part of the first online Permaculture Design Certificate taught exclusively by women. If you would like to know more or would like to have me as your permaculture design reviewer, please check out my blog and get in touch with me at

​#suburbs #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #foodnotlawns #suburbanpermaculture

Via Permaculture Women's Guild - free permaculture

Monday, September 24, 2018

Growing Gorgeous Garlic

stiffneck garlic
by Heather Jo Flores

From ancient Egypt to modern Manhattan, garlic is one of those plants that you can find in almost every garden. It is one of the oldest cultivated crops, and all around the world people still rank garlic among their favorite foods. And it's not just food —it's medicine, too. Garlic is used as an antibiotic, antiviral, heavy metal detox, and to fight colds, high blood pressure, Alzheimers, diabetes and cancer. It even wards off vampires and evil spirits, or so they say.

Here are a few tips on how to succeed at growing garlic.

Start with Quality Seed Garlic
Sure, you can plant that nice organic garlic you got at the Co-op or the farmers market. It was delicious, right? And it will probably grow just fine. But keep in mind that plants that were grown specifically for the purpose of being seed stock have been monitored for traits such as disease resistance, drought tolerance and uniformity, among many other things. And, by purchasing seed stock from a reputable grower, you are connecting to a lineage that is building long-term food security.

As for varieties, you will never run out of options, but here are some reliable ones to start with.

Softneck varieties, with a milder flavor, good for braiding and long-term storage:

Nootka Rose, for proven reliability in temperate climates, available from Garlicana in Southern Oregon. Check out their free PDF Catalog for an education on the history and genetics of garlic.

Transylvanian (because who could resist?) from Great Northern Garlic in central Washington State.

Chinese Pink, because it matures extra early. From Territorial Seed Company in the Willamette Valley, Oregon.

Stiffneck varieties, with a stronger flavor and edible scapes, great for roasting and pickling:

Turkish Giant, famous for giant, easy to peel cloves, also from Territorial (above).
Music, bred for large size, strong flavor and disease resistance. Available through High Mowing Seeds. Their online catalog features a cool comparison feature that lists several types of garlic.

Chesnok, a red Siberian variety known for hardiness and flavor, also from High Mowing.

Where to Plant Garlic
Garlic likes full sun, but it will still do OK in a spot that gets some shade. Garlic and roses are classic garden companions, and it stands to reason that garlic will also do well among other members of the rose family.

Try planting patches of garlic around your plums, peaches, apples, raspberries, blackberries and cherries. Or just clear a sunny area in your garden that you don't mind devoting to garlic until next June (or so).

How to Plant Garlic

Here's a fun tip:
Use a small longneck bottle to make the holes in your freshly weeded and raked garden bed. A small hot-sauce bottle from a brand like Cholula works great for making the holes the perfect depth. Make each hole 6 inches apart, in a pattern that makes the best use of the space in your bed.

Now, break up the heads of your seed garlic and pull the outer papers off of each clove. Plant each clove individually, with the flat side down, pointy side up. Fill the holes with rich, organic compost.

Make sure to mulch!
Garlic is drought-resistant, to a point. A thick mulch can make a huge difference in whether your plants die of thirst or not. When you've just planted the cloves and filled the holes with compost, spread a thin layer of manure over the beds. Top that with 2 inches of straw mulch and saturate the whole area with water. Add another inch of straw and forget about it for the winter. If there is a very dry Autumn, water the patch a couple of times. But it will probably be just fine on its own as long as we get some rain by January.

Weed, fertilize, and mulch again.
Garlic is a "heavy feeder" and will do much better without a lot of competition. In the early spring, the stringy green tops of your garlic crop will be pushing out of the straw mulch, and so will a bunch of random weeds. Go through, pull out the weeds, and remove that overwintered straw mulch as you go. Now use a small rake to scratch in some organic fertilizer (anything that's recommended for roses will work just fine).

Toss the old mulch on your compost pile and spread a fresh layer on your garlic patch. This helps prevent mold and mildew from gaining ground while your bulbs mature. 
Water well after this weeding-fertilizing-mulching adventure and then you don't need to do much else until it's time to harvest. 

Eat the Garlic Scapes!
If you planted stiffneck varieties, you're in for a treat. The flower stalks, called "garlic scapes," are delicious when pan-fried or flame-grilled. The stalks will shoot straight up, crowned by a point head-bud, which will plump out and then curl around the stalk in a spiral pattern. Snap that off and fry it up! Removing the scapes also helps the heads grow bigger.

If you want to try and save the seedlets from the later-mature flower stalk, don't cut the scape. Wait until the hard little seedlets are completely dry, and then harvest and replant them. Either way, once scapes have curled, it's time to cut off any irrigation and let the garlic dry down a bit before harvesting.

With softneck garlic, it is best to remove the straw mulch a couple of weeks before harvest, to help avoid mold. Plants that have mold on them will not store well, and they will infect the storage area with mold spores. If you spot moldy patches early, you can remove them with a clean knife. Keep the patch weeded and don't overwater. When the heads seem to be starting to beef up (and the tops seem to be dying back a little) then rake all of the mulch off the area and cut the water.

It's time to harvest when all of the tops are at least 60 percent brown. The night before, give the whole patch a good watering to soften up the ground for digging. Harvest gently, with a D-handled digging fork, working slowly and attentively to avoid slicing into the heads. Don't yank on the tops and don't cut them off. Garlic is delicate when first harvested! And don't dig up the whole patch at once. Dig up a few heads and see if they are mature. Have the bulbs rounded out, or are they still elongated? There is no sense it waiting nine months for your crop and then harvesting it a week too early. Be patient!

Curing and Storage
After harvesting, your bulbs need to cure for optimum flavor and storability. Leave the tops on and either braid them together or gather them into bunches for curing. Hang in a cool, dark, dry space for at least a month. This will cause the bulbs to harden and tighten. Now you can hang up the braids in the kitchen, and/or cut off the tops and store the heads, sell them, eat them, pickle them or give them to the neighborhood kids for Halloween!
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Eat the Weeds! 12 delicious and nutritious edible weeds and how to include them in your diet.

by Heather Jo Flores

Take a moment to ponder your relationship with the wild plants in your garden. Chickweed, thistle, pigweed, plantain. Cleavers, lemon balm, nettle. These not only provide forage for insects, birds, and animals, they also provide food for you.

Most of the common vegetables we enjoy in our salads, such as lettuce, carrots, parsley and mustard, were once considered weeds.

So why not let their wild kin act as volunteer herbs and vegetables?

Edible weeds taste great in a variety of recipes, and are known to be more nutritious than domesticated plants. You probably already know about a few of these, and perhaps you've even tried dandelion greens or purslane in your salad.

Here I offer a rundown of my favorite weeds to eat and ways I like to prepare them, organized by season.

Early Spring
Fresh Eating. You can make a delicious salad with the very early leaves of just about any of the plants listed in this article, but my favorites are dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), chickweed (Stellaria media), sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Chop them all together with lettuce, sunflower seeds and a light vinaigrette.

Late Spring
Weedy Smoothies. When the weeds are still young but starting to taste bitter when eaten raw, try putting them in smoothies. I love a smoothie with avocado, kiwi, peeled cucumber, hemp seeds, lamb's quarter (Chenopodium album), sheep sorrel and purslane.

Baked Weeds. Use weeds like spinach to make lasagna, enchiladas or spanikopita. Try it with lamb's quarter, pigweed (Amaranthus palmeri), burdock (Articum lappa) and/or chickweed (Stellaria media).

Yum-Yum. Collect the large, bitter leaves of late-season dandelion, burdock and broad-leaf plantain (Plantago major). Add some long branches of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and pigweed. Hang them in bundles in a warm, dry space for a couple of weeks, to let them dehydrate. When dry, shuck the leaves off the stems and crumble them together with sea salt, powdered cumin and dried seaweed. Use this to sprinkle in soups, salads, salsa and everything else, to boost nutrition and aid digestion.

Weed Pesto. Collect the earliest shoots of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), cleavers (Galium aparine) and miner's lettuce. Put them in a blender with olive oil, garlic, asiago and a handful of seeds from the milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Spread on fresh bread or tortillas.

Proper identification. Some plants are quite poisonous, and I have included the botanical names in this article in hopes that you will be careful to correctly identify any plant you eat. With any new food, it is wise to always try just a little bit first, then wait a day or two to see if your have an allergic reaction. Chances are, everything will be fine, but better safe than sorry!

#foodnotlawns #DIY

#foodforest #edible weeds

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Best Permaculture Books Written by Women

Shining the spotlight on writing by women in permaculture.

by M. Kramer
food not lawns book
Women have a high rate of participation throughout permaculture, but aren't proportionally represented in leadership roles. The spotlight often goes towards men while women who are organizing and farming get overlooked. This can make it more difficult to find the work out there that women have done. In researching this article I was surprised to find that any combination of words I could think to type in around women writers in permaculture found few, or oftentimes no results.

So, to make it easier for everyone to find these excellent resources, I've compiled a list of books written by women, some in the permaculture movement, some who may not identify as permaculture designers, but who still wrote important books for self-sufficiency and gardening. I also included some information on the authors.

Listed in alphabetical order, by author's last name:

Jenni Blackmore: Permaculture For the Rest of Us: Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre
A very readable, personal account of her twenty years of trial and error farming in Nova Scotia. A great read for anyone who can’t afford a large farm in a sunny climate.
In addition to being a micro-farmer Jenni is also a painter and certified Permaculture Design Consultant. She lives on Quakadoodle Farm.

Jessi Bloom: Creating Sanctuary 

Focusing on how to grow and use healing plants. She is also the author of Free Range Chicken Gardens and co-author of Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Your Community, and the Whole Earth. She owns N.W. Bloom EcoLogical Landscapes, based near Seattle, which is known as an innovator in sustainable landscape design. 

Catherine Bukowski: The Community Food Forests Handbook
Focusing on how to build and maintain a food forest project when working with a community of people. Focuses on the social aspects of a project and changes that occur in a group from the beginning to the end of a project. More info here.

Novella Carpenter: Farm City
An urban farming memoir set in Oakland that has contains many stories of her raising animals. In 2011 she was told by the city that she would need to close the farm but instead she was eventually able to get a Minor Conditional Use Permit. This allowed her to keep her more than 40 animals and inner city garden. She is currently an adjunct professor of Environmental Studies at the University of San Francisco. Here's her blog.

Rosalind Creasy: Edible Landscaping
While this is not technically a permaculture book it does address designing your outdoor landscape with edible plants instead of being only decorative and was highly influential when it was first published in 1982. Her work goes as far back as 1970. She has written several other books and appeared in many publications. Her website is a fantastic resource for edible landscaping tips.

Carol Deppe: The Resilient Gardener 
Presents gardening techniques in disaster design, whether the disasters are financial or climate change related. A relevant book for our times. She has two other books, The Tao of Vegetable Gardening and Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties. You can access many of her essays and articles on her website.

Heather Jo Flores: Food Not Lawns 
There are more than 50 Food Not Lawns chapters worldwide, mostly due to inspiration from this book. Here there is connection placed between activism, community building, and gardening. A great book for the urban dweller as well as country living. Heather is currently growing a food forest in southern Spain. She also runs this blog and the Permaculture Women’s Guild, which offers an online permaculture design certificate course taught by 40 women. She also offers her own series of online classes in the areas of emotional permaculture and practices for women authors.

Maddy Harland: Fertile Edges: Regenerating Land, Culture and Hope
Discusses the potential of use of permaculture principles in society alongside current events. She demonstrates those principles in contrast to the way things are usually done. She is also the editor of Permaculture Magazine.

Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume: Urban Homesteading
Focused on their own hands-on personal experience in an urban environment, this 2011 hands-on exploration connects to an ever-evolving blog, here.

Looby Macnamara: People and Permaculture
This has been a very influential book because it was an early arrival in the discussion of social permaculture, taking permaculture ethics and principals and applying them to our interactions with each other, ourselves, our families and society. It also contains many useful activities. Looby also wrote 7 Ways to Think Differently and is currently working on her next book Activating Cultural Emergence. She also runs Applewood, a 20 acre demonstration and education center.

Rosemary Morrow: Earth Users Guide To Permaculture
This book can be found on most lists for best permaculture books. It is a practical permaculture design guide good for use on whatever sized plot of land you are working with. Contains information on water use, managing pests and wildlife, and much more. Published in 1993 it is older than most books on this list. Rosemary began teaching permaculture in the 1980s and is still travelling all around the world teaching it today.

Trina Moyles: Women Who Dig
Features the stories of women from many different countries and their experiences with farming. Tackles climate change, economics, gender roles and much more. The secondary title is Farming, Feminism and the Fight to Feed the World. She also writes fiction and poetry and her non-fiction works have been published in several magazines. You can find more on her here.

Tao Orion: Beyond the War on Invasive Species.
Concerns over invasive species destroying ecosystems and choking out native plants has lead to a war where the use of herbicides and other destructive practices is viewed as necessary. This book contains a broader view by taking into account that we need to understand why invasive species are existing in an ecosystem to make more ecological decisions that address the root of the problem. Tao Orion is a permaculture designer living in Oregon. She does consulting through Resilience Permaculture DesignShe teaches at Oregon State University and at at Aprovecho, a 40-acre nonprofit sustainable-living educational organization.

Crystal Stevens: Grow, Create, Inspire
This book contains practical step-by-step ways to build the skills to become more self sufficient. Crystal is also the author of Worms At Work. She is an herbalist, a teacher and a regenerative farmer. She is published in many magazines and speaks at conferences.
She lives on a 10 acre farm in Missouri with her husband and two children.

Ruth Stout: No Work Garden Book
Again, not technically a permaculture book but groundbreaking in the organic world. Loved by many, the title says it all. She uses thick mulch to, as she puts it, garden from her couch. You know you want to read this book. She went on to write several more books and magazine columns. She lived from 1884-1980.

Amy Stross: The Suburban Micro Farm
Teaches how to farm effectively with limited land and free time. Her own tenth of an acre micro-farm is a real life example of her writings. You can stay caught up with her micro- farming adventures at


Not only are these amazing books by women in permaculture, they are amazing books, period. Let's work together to bring more support and recognition for these pioneering writers, gardeners, and designers! Share this article, read these books, and also check out these other resources, by and for permaculture women:

Facebook group
Free resources
Permaculture design course
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