“Don’t just do something, stand there!”

I’m right at the beginning of transitioning (is that a word?) from reading books and watching endless Youtube videos about Permaculture and Permaculture Design, to getting down and dirty with my field and doing something to take me towards what I think I want to do with it.

All the books tell me to slow down and, if I can, observe the site for an entire season, a whole year. Definitely a case of “Don’t just do something, stand there!” Well, I was in Donegal last week … oh, I’ve already told you about the drop of 28 feet. It wouldn’t stand scientific scrutiny, but for now it tells me I can grow quite large trees down there (up to 30 feet) and not intrude upon the view across the site from the house, which is fantastic … the view, that is! Slieve League and Teelin Harbour. This is good information.

So, what DO I want to do with it? Well, at its simplest, I want to use the field. It has lain idle pretty- well the entire time I’ve owned it and that’s just not right going forward. So my starting plan is to grow food using the practices and disciplines of permaculture. These say that I should

  • aim to produce increasing harvests with decreasing inputs over time.
  • optimise the use of local resources and energies and
  • minimise the amount of inputs I take in from outside the local area.
  • mimic what nature does in wild woodlands.

This will be good for my local area, for the air we breathe, for my family and good for the animals and plants that will live with us in and around the property.

The energies concept is interesting. Every site has them, energies or inherent resources: wind, rain and sunlight in different degrees. My site also has a strong slope and a stream down the side and across (in a pipe) at the low point. it has a really big rock (about 6 feet tall), under a neighbour’s overhanging tree, on its south edge and it had (perish the thought) an old (and probably inefficient) septic tank that the government will soon be coming to inspect. When they do, I’ll replace it with a modern efficient system. but until they come, I’m doing nothing, because they’ll probably want me to change whatever I put in now anyway. For now, I’ll wait and make sure I only have to do the job once! I need to capture these energies / resources and make sure I get the best use from them before they leave my site and my control.

How? Perhaps a wind turbine will work to power any pumps I may need, a kettle for a cuppa, a light to read / work by, power for chain-saw or shredder. I’ll see can I redirect the stream/drain, so that I give myself a trickling, aerating stream flowing into a small pond for perhaps some ducks at some point. A pond is good for frogs, birds and other friendly pest predators. Ducks will eat copious amounts of slugs and creepy crawlies and give me a harvest of eggs as well and, of course, manure. The rock will be a thermal mass to capture and then reflect heat out onto a bed, giving a warm micro-climate for tender plants. The sun will ‘feed’ trees, bushes and plants of different heights, with the tallest to the north side, smallest to the south and west, minimising shadow. I’ll have to block some of those prevailing SW winds with a hedge or fence of some kind, to allow shelter for the plants and fruit trees/bushes. I also want some nice sitting areas for afternoon tea, or an evening glass of wine and to allow my wife sit and paint and enjoy the view.

I am also thinking of putting in a container or old caravan as a shed and protected sitting / work space with the makings of a cup of tea out of the rain. it would also provide shelter/ climbing structure for a fruit tree, or a vine of some kind and perhaps a water harvest off the roof to irrigate a vegetable bed on the sunny side. Lots of possibilities.

This nicely demonstrates another principle of permaculture: one element providing multiple functions, and each function provided by multiple elements. This gives a resilient system, where if one element (crop) fails one year, I’m not left hungry. When Ireland’s major staple, the potato, failed in the 1840’s, the country collapsed into a disastrous famine. Diversity prevents this type of occurrance.

First job: start to cut back the old willow hedge on the north side. This runs most of the length so it will be a big job, not to be rushed … not with my back! Therefore I will start slowly, cutting with my loppers, bushman saw, or perhaps a small electric chainsaw on the thicker boughs. I’ll provide myself with a substantial amount of firewood (once it’s seasoned), I’ll get a heck of a lot of fresh air and exercise, I’ll get to see the field for long periods of time, some days early, some days late, through several seasons. Multiple harvests! It will give me something to be doing while I observe the site over time. While this is going on, of course, I can also develop a modest veggie patch at the top of the site, where it’s easy to get to from the house and easy to pick from.

That’s enough for today, don’t you think?

By the way. I’m adding a contact for if you’ld like to get in touch.

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