Bios

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The future, as Gwynn and Bob picture it, will see their urban property in central British Columbia developed as a demonstration of practical small scale permaculture.

Our goal is to harmonize our indoor and outdoor environment to use sun, wind, and water to protect the natural environment, to produce food, and to reduce dependence on public utilities. In the process, we may someday be able to share what we learn in a consulting or teaching role.

Bob’s Bio

With a background in Surveying and Architectural Design, Bob has a well rounded skill set easily applied to the rigours of Permaculture Design.  A longtime interest in energy conservation and alternative energy is easy to incorporate within the focus on renewable resources mandated by the basic ethics of permaculture design.  Bob owes his skills as a communicator to a university education in Religion and Psychology, and years of experience as a church leader. A “jack-of-all-trades,” he is equally at home building cabinets, fabricating metal, wiring a boat, or rebuilding an engine.

 We were conservationists long before anyone began to talk about ecology and before green became a synonym for energy efficient. We read about modern homesteaders in “Mother Earth News” and “Harrowsmith,” and that was the stuff of our dreams. The idea of homemade wind chargers and passive solar homes appealed to my scientific curiosity and the waste not-want not mentality we were raised with. At work, for the Yukon Government, I conducted energy analyses of government buildings, planned energy upgrades forYukon schools, and pushed for heat recovery systems on generating sets at remote highway maintenance camps.

Even in the area of family recreation, there were no snowmobiles, motor boats, or motorhomes.  We tented, canoed, sailed, and cycled, and still do. We have taken our kids on foot over the Chilcoot Pass, and by canoe through the Bowron Lakes, and sailed the Gulf Islands and Strait of Georgia.

When something broke we fixed it. We didn’t throw it away, and most often, we fixed it ourselves rather than pay someone to do it for us.

Gwynn and I are now living in a small bungalow on our 60’ by 130’ city corner lot inCentral British Columbia.  Bit by bit, we intend to turn our property into a permaculture oasis in the city. Come back here for updates on what we are learning, and news of our progress.

Gwynn

Gardening is my therapy.  There is something about digging in the soil, planting seeds, watering them and watching them grow and then harvesting the food that ministers to my soul.  It nourishes my mind as well as my body and keeps me in touch with my roots.

As a young girl, growing up inSaskatchewan, we didn’t have a lot of money.  Gardening was a way of life both at home and on my grandparents’ farm.  We depended on that garden for food.  Most summers, all water had to be carried to the garden, by the bucket from the town well or pulled by horses on the stone boat from the dugout.  Early childhood experience taught me what a precious resource water is.  From my parents and grandparents I learned that wastefulness is wrong.  From them I learned how to take something old and no longer used and make it into something new and beautiful.  From them I learned that whatever we have is a gift from God to be thankful for.  Nothing should be wasted or mistreated but used and cared for, respectfully, to benefit ourselves and others.

Generations before they became the current buzz words, reusing and recycling were a way of life in my family.  Raising our children in the 70’s during the “back to the land movement” was simply a continuation of my childhood.  Part of it is about survival.  We deliberately chose to be a one car family, to have a smaller home and non-motorized sports equipment.  We chose to not have a television.  We chose to use lunch kits rather than paper or plastic bags for school and work lunches.  We chose vacations and other activities that got us in touch with nature.

In choosing this kind of lifestyle, we discovered that when faced with unexpected power outages or being stuck in the woods, our ability to adapt and make do helped us get through situations that others found impossible to cope in.  Choosing to grow your own food, harness other energy sources, make use of rain water are things we can do so we become a little more independent, even within an urban environment.

Permaculture is just a continuation of my heritage, a further expansion of my roots.

 

 

Permaculture Design Principles

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Core principles condensed from Toby Hemenway.*:

  1. Observe. Thoughtful observation of all the elements in all seasons with consideration of the specific site, client, and culture should precede any action.
  2. Connect. Place design elements to create useful relationships and as many beneficial connections as possible for a healthy, diverse ecosystem.
  3. Catch and store energy and materials.Opportunity for yield is enhanced by collecting and storing resources.
  4. Each element performs multiple functions. Stack elements in space and time to add function and beneficial connections.
  5. Each function is supported by multiple elements. Apply multiple methods to important functions.
  6. Make the least change for the greatest effect.  Understand where your efforts will achieve maximum benefits—“leverage.”
  7. Use small-scale intensive systems.  Start with the smallest system that will do the job. Repeating a small system that works, with variations, is called “chunking.”
  8. Optimize edge. Diversity at the intersection of two environments encourages energy and materials to accumulate.
  9. Collaborate with succession. Accept the trend for systems to grow from immaturity to maturity and work with it.  Mature ecosystems are most productive.
  10. Use biological and renewable resources. Renewable resources reproduce and grow.  Favour them over non-renewable resources.
  11. Turn problems into solutions. Look for the seeds of solutions in the problems themselves and use the opportunity for innovation.
  12. Get a yield. Design for immediate and long-term returns.
  13. Be creative. The limits of diversity and productivity are often found in the designer’s limited imagination and skill.
  14. Mistakes are tools for learning. There are few penalties in mistakes you learn from.

 

*Toby Hemenway, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, pp. 6-7.