Friday, November 19, 2010

I wanna learn permaculture

My chickens are doing wonderfully! They're digging on their coop, scratching up a storm in the run, and practically killing each other every time I pull up a dying kale plant to toss in for them. (OMG, they are seriously hilarious.) I must be in some kind of chicken nirvana, and we're not even getting any eggs yet. (And we won't until spring, so don't ask.)

But this whole chicken thing, paired with an article in the most recent "Urban Farmer" magazine, has pushed me again to want to investigate permaculture. I'd love to give you a brief discussion of the highlights of permaculture, or a quick glossing of its main points, but the simple truth is, I don't know. I do know that it has something to do with creating systems in your environment that reinforce each other, and I remember a nifty drawing I saw once of a permaculture garden where you could practically feed a family of four from the 30' diameter circle surrounding your family apple tree, but otherwise.... I know that I know nothing.

But my chickens are making me think. Chickens are fertilizer machines. Chickens love to eat grubs, bugs, and all manner of other things that I do not want in my garden. Chickens scratch and aerate soils. These things are good.

However, chickens also decimate crops. Chickens scratch up seedlings. Chickens eat an entire year's crop of lettuce. Chickens roost on my neighbor's car. These things are bad.

There must be a practical way to capitalize on the good, while at least minimizing the bad. I have heard and read stories of people with chicken-bearing gardens who only suffer minor heartaches, but I'm not sure how to make this happen here in my own backyard.


I think permaculture might provide a key. A principled method for integrating the two in a way that neither destroys my crops, nor pisses off my neighbors. (Currently my neighbors are either quite happy that I have chickens, or quite blissfully ignorant--I'd like to maintain the status quo in this instance.)

So it's off to the library website to reserve a copy of Gaia's Garden. Other suggestions?