Join the Permaculture group for a potluck and an introduction to permaculture Thursday April 13 at 6pm in the GLC office at 104 Courthouse Street. Want more information and a chance for hands-on learning? Join them again Saturday April 15 from 10am to noon at the Permaculture garden at Church of the Good Shepherd on HWY 58 in Baywood to learn more about Hugelculture, an age-old soil-building technique and how you can use the principles in your own garden.
RSVP to Cynthia@graysonlandcare.org for more information for either or both events.
If you missed the great article in the paper, here’s a wonderful introduction to Permaculture by Jean Roznik.
So, What Exactly is Permaculture?
“Must not be a gardener,” I thought as I watched the medical assistant angle her long scarlet nails over the keyboard in order to type my blood pressure and heart rate into the computer. After entering my vitals, she turned toward me and ran through the usual questions: Current issues? Medications? Exercise?As I answered, the assistant click-clacked the information into the computer. On finishing, she smiled kindly, told me the doctor would be in shortly and left the room.
Sitting on the edge of the examination table, legs a-dangling, I thought of a question I would add to the screening questionnaire: ‘Do you like to work in your yard?’ We are inundated with medical advice these days. It comes at us from every direction—doctors, TV shows, TikTok…. Watch what you eat. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Lower your stress level. The To-Do List is enough to raise your stress level.
I’m here to tell you that puttering in your yard (or with your planter on your balcony, or the indoor plants on your window sill) is a secret weapon when it comes to your health. Gardening combines cardio vascular and strengthening exercise plus it gets you outside soaking up Vitamin D. (Just remember your sun screen.) The exertion will have you drinking more water and inhaling deeply, and the sight of your seedlings coming up will bring a smile to your face.
If I’m being totally honest, you will also sigh some—over your tomatoes that caught early blight or late blight or any of the other afflictions that come between us and the plump juicy fruit we work hard to cultivate. But that’s another unsung benefit of gardening: Life lessons. We start out each spring ambitious, starry-eyed, and full of horticultural hope. By mid-summer reality has hit in the form of deer and other critters, too much rain or not enough, plagues and pestilences and mysterious failures to thrive. To garden is to know heartbreak and disappointment; Like I said—free life lessons come courtesy of your yard and vegetable patch.
I write like I know a thing or two about gardening but mostly it’s a front. I potter about every summer but I’m no expert. In recent years I’ve been working to cultivate my knowledge along with my soil and that’s how I came across the Grayson Permaculture Group. Started by Cynthia and Rick Taylor, the Permaculture Group is a part of Grayson Landcare and is open to anyone interested in learning about landscaping and gardening in harmony with nature. Permaculture was defined by one of its advocates, Bill Mollison, as “a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.” In other words, Permaculture suggests we study the lay of our land and consider what will work long term before we pick up a shovel. That means observing the interplay of sun and shade, how water collects or runs off, the local flora and fauna and the health of the soil. The idea is then to choose plants that will thrive in those conditions rather than introducing guests that are high maintenance and finicky. In addition, permaculture doesn’t see our yards and gardens as personal islands separated from the rest of the world. Rather it suggests that along with caring for our land, we care for the people around us and for the community in which we live, thereby integrating all aspects of our lives.
If all this sounds a little woo-woo or hippie-dippy I invite you to stop by the garden created by the permaculture group on the grounds of the Church of the Good Shepherd, at 9441 Grayson Parkway, Galax. During the summer, the group hosts a couple of Open Houses where members guide guests through the garden explaining the principles of permaculture. Each year I am astounded by the vitality of the garden. In the midst of large hayfields, it is a buzzing, vibrating, colorful oasis that attracts birds, bees, butterflies and all other manner of pollinators. In the past couple of years, the apple and peach trees have started producing fruit. A vegetable patch was added in 2021. Over 2 years, the patch produced 300 pounds of sweet potatoes and 100 pounds of tomatoes which were donated to the Food Bank in Independence.
Even though the garden was designed using permaculture principles it still requires the sweat of volunteer brows to keep plantings in balance, grass at bay and to work on new areas. During the growing season the group works on the garden a couple of times a month and hosts regular potluck gatherings. There is usually much talk and laughter along with laments that weeding is right up there with death and taxes. At the moment, the earth is quickening and gardening minds are turning to thoughts of soil and seeds. We invite anyone interested in learning more about permaculture to come join us. You will find fellowship, good food and guidance on how to work with nature. Plus, there are all those health benefits I mentioned earlier. Maybe your manicure will take a beating but a little dirt under the nails can be a good look too!
For more information on the group’s future events:
Or join our Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/graysonpermaculture/