Forest Gardening, Edible Landscapes, and Urban Permaculture

Up here in Maine, Memorial Day is under four weeks away, so pretty soon the official planting season will begin! But last week the forsythia popped, so everybody is making ready; flats of pansies and petunias have appeared at the hardware store; and (cool weather; nights are in the forties) vegetables like kale and onions are in at the farmer’s market. Last week I stopped wearing my winter parka. Spring is quite a relief from what all agree was an unusually long and bitterly stressful winter, even if (as has been the case for several years now) all the really bad weather passed by us in areas to the far South, like Boston.

So, herewith a video in three parts on really getting your hands dirty again and at last. All three parts are good, but I was especially interested in the third part, Urban Permaculture, because I find permaculture hard to imagine, in Bangkok, say; or London, or Manhattan. So I’ll cover the first two parts only briefly. As usual, I’m going to pull out the passages I find particularly discussion-worthy, and so but you’ll have to watch the video to garner tips and ideas.

[00:00] Part 1: Forest Gardening, with Robert Hart.
[15:40] Part II: Plants for a Future, with Ken Fern (site).
[31:56] Part III: Urban Permaculture, with Mike and Julia Guerra

Part 1: Forest Gardening

Part I is just über-geeky. Plenty of shots of compost, and a discussion of foliar sprays. I like the part where Hart grows runner beans up a rowan tree; I think I’m going to try that. Also too Hart’s wildly British sweater.

Here is Hart on layering, and on how to start your own food forest:

[0:40] Success depends on understanding that useful plants can be grown in a succession of layers which imitate nature.

HART: The natural forest is regarded as having seven stories, as they say, the top story being tall, light-demanding trees, the second story is short, shade tolerant trees, the third story is the shrubs level, the fourth the herbaceous, the fifth comprises plants that spread horizontally, the sixth is the rhizosphere, or root area, and the seventh is the vertical layer, comprising climbers and creepers [like runner beans!].

[13:56] HART: The advice I give to anyone who asks me how to start a forest garden from scratch is to plant an orchard of standard fruit trees at recommended intervals, that is about twenty feet each way. Then plant dwarf trees midway between the standard trees. Plant fruit bushes (currants and gooseberries) in between the trees, and plant herbs and perennial vegetables on the ground level.

Notice the layering in the above design.

Part II: Plants for a Future
Ken Fern is a former bus driver who bought a 25-acre farm in Cornwall next to the ocean, where 50 mph winds are quite normal. Fern’s sweater is correspondingly magnificent.

[28:00] So where did [Hart] gain his encyclopedic knowledge of plants?

FERN: By making lots of mistakes. Once I decided I wanted to grown them, I spent a lot of time reading books, going to botanic gardens and other gardens to see the plants growing there, and to see how they grew, how I’d want to grow them, and what I thought about what they were doing, but basically, it’s just by making mistakes, and learning from them.

Can you tell me about your database, and about your list that you’ve compiled now?

FERN: Yeah, the database started in a very small way about ten years ago, when I had a little card system, and it was just a few hundred species that I personally liked. But the more I visited libaries, and the I knew about plants, the more I wanted to make it comprehensive. It’s come now to a stage where we’ve got about 7,000 species in the database, there’s a lot of information about how to grow them, where they grow in the wild, how to use them, the different uses we’ve got of them, and make that available to whoever wants it. We’re in the process of getting a user-friendly interface, so we can send a complete package out to people…

A garden you can eat, a garden you can wear, a garden you can use as your medicines, a garden you can use as your fuel and to build your houses, yeah, and a garden for all purposes. And a garden you can enjoy as well, you can sit in, and a garden that doesn’t take up all your time. You can actually, for a few hours of work each week, produce the things that you need.

Doesn’t sound like a bad life, as long as the Internet holds up.

Part III: Urban Permaculture

I should caveat that in the permaculture videos I’ve seen so far (there are rather a lot of them) the use of the word “urban” seems a little flexible — meaning, mostly, what we’d call suburban: Detached homes with lawns, reached by car. So the possibilities for “urban” permaculture will vary according to the land-use patterns of the given city. The garden that Mike and Julia Guerra designed and built would be easy to find space for in Detroit; reasonably easy in Los Angeles or Berlin; possible in Bangkok; not easy in London; probably impossible in much of Manhattan (at least Twentieth Century Manhattan).* Of course, were land values in Manhattan to drop to the level where, say, a Garment District made sense again, more possibilities might open up.

MIKE GUERRA: I was thirty years old before I knew how to grow food. I saw the [???] with Bill Mollison on Channel 4, and all of a sudden it was illumination. It seemed to so easy. He was just walking around, eating from his garden. There was no supermarket in between. There was no heavy lorries. There was no intensive use of poison. It was just there. It was in his garden. He was just walking around eating it.

There was an opportunity of turning a two-dimensional landscape into a three-dimensional food-producing place. … Everything has to be close together to work together.

JULIA GUERRA: When we first moved in to this ground-floor maisonette, the back garden was completely paved, there was nothing there at all. And we had a side area of garden that was just lawn, with a very invasive conifer tree, and the front garden was just purely lawn as well. So we decided we would start with the back garden, as that was the most unobtrusive, and we could really have an experiment with that, and find out what we wanted to do. …

JULIA GUERRA: We actually had to import a lot of the soil mix … because unfortunately with a lot of these new built houses there is no layer of soil underneath, it was just sand and builders rubble, and it was impossible to dig into or do anything with it.

MIKE GUERRA: If you go in the garden now, and put your hands inside, you’ll find there’s a definite sponge structure, and it’s there due to worms. We do no digging, we do no weeding, we do mulching on the surface, we let the worms do the work.

MIKE GUERRA: Permaculture and forest gardening are two different things, to us at least. Permaculture is basically a design methodology, a philosophy, an ethic, a way of designing your landscape, whereas forest gardening is basically a technique, it’s a method or technique of designing a multi-layered food producing or putput producing structure, whether it be food or medicinal plants or whatever. … Permaculture is not about techdniques, it’s about strategy, about design.

MIKE GUERRA: We produce on our 75 meters squared about four to five hundred pounds … of food a year for the kitchen. That works sort of out to about 15 tons an acre, which is better than agriculture land. We do this with only two hours work in the garden a week [after system setup, surely!! — lambert] We do not do any digging, we don’t do any weeding, we basically sow, maintain, and eat. We wanted to show that people could have a real life, but not be completely sort of tired and exhausted by producing food.

JULIA GUERRA: On average, we manage to have produce for ourselves from the middle of May all the way through to October.

About 90% of our produce we usually eat right away.

So I suppose if Mike and Julia worked harder, they could feed themselves year round — they’re not preserving anything!

Personally, I think cities are a wonderful achievement — civilization, and all that — and I’d hate to see them go dark if (when) Big Food’s supply chain collapses, whether from fuel costs, or disintegrating infrastructure, some sort of superbug that gets into supermarket coolers, or general revulsion at the production methods (especially of meat). So developing capabilities for urban permaculture seems like a reasonable hedging strategy, personally and socially. More importantly, and more interestingly, if yield like the Guerra’s are getting is representative, then we might transition from the age of agriculture to the age of horticulture. Is it an urban legend that when the Soviet Union, and with it, collective farms, collapsed, that the Russian people were saved from starvation by home gardens? Apparently not.

NOTE * Except for oligarchs, who could put nifty little gardens in their penthouses. But that’s hardly the point.

NOTE Here’s a much shorter video from Geoff Lawton on permaculture in a “high density suburban” environment. Beautiful design, but I’d still like to know yield, to match that against the Guerra’s experience. That said, I can produce two months (monotonous) winter eating on the eighth-acre patch I work, and I’m not really working it intensively; sitting in the garden is almost as pleasurable to me as eating food.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Stephanie

    The thing that I find objectionable about the permaculture stuff (as it currently is enacted) is the implication that the answer is more or less a technical one, and that household production is where ‘more sustainability’ starts and stops. You will find this again and again among permaculture people and it’s one of the reasons I’ve moved away from it since I first discovered it in 1995 (that and the whole elevation and celebration of guru-type people, most often men, which I find irritating, to say the least).
    In relation to the individualized nature of it….you get more of a survivalist thing going on, which I think is unrealistic in the event of collapse. My own plan is to build the productive capacity of my household, but at the same time to become more engaged in my community, and to build the productive capacity of the community, which is a *social project* through and through. Things like community gardens and orchards, for example. The material production of those kinds of elements of the system are important, of course, but the social outcomes, I’d suggest, are even more important. For urban permaculture to work, it has to be informed by urban values….i.e. the *urban* part of it has to come through more strongly. How do urban and rural permaculture systems differ? How do the social dynamics differ?

    1. Stephanie

      Put more succinctly, one little garden, no matter how well-designed and integrated into household functions, does not a ‘sustainable system’ make. You increase both sustainability and resiliency by improving redundancy, and that, of course, is enabled via strong social relationships.

      1. Raymond Robitaille

        Permaculture has a lot of great ideas on how to grow food in a sustainable way. It also has great principles despite the shortcomings noted by Stephanie.
        In agroecology, another movement that is being developed mainly outside the English-speaking world and in developing countries by large peasant organizations such as the Brazilian MST landless peasant movement, the social dimension is more important. The two approaches are different but also share share a lot.
        In the Americas, Cuba is the country where agroecology has been developed the most because of historical circumstances. You might recall that in the early 1990s, Cuba lost its supply of oil products when the Soviet Union collapsed. The country was forced to produce its own food without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and using less motor vehicles.
        There are today about 40 agroecology schools set up throughout the world by organizations such as the MST that are part of the La Via Campesina movement (

        You can also check out SOCLA, the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology

      2. Pat

        Unfortunately teaching permaculture seems to be the new Amway in some cases.

        Learn about it and do it, forget the expensive courses that are usually taught in many cases by the same kind of folks that latch onto nebulous sprituality and or try to make a living as “life coaches”.

        Talk versus action is usually the measure to determine skills. Don’t talk about it, show me your garden.

        Stephanie, sorry you’re so insecure in your sex. Permaculture was invented by a man, Mollison, furthered by another man, Hemengway and has been implemented by hundreds of old guys in their gardens over the last 30 years. In addition, other guys like Art Ludwig, the inventor of most of the greywater techniques used out there is a man.

        I notice most of the popular media publicity goes however to the ladies such as the Guerrila Greywater Girls in the San Francisco Bay Area or various street level activists who belatedly have discovered permaculture and are out there talking it up while doing little. Throw a few poison doses of feminism into your gardening and you’ll produce a harvest of bitterness.

        Start small,make friends, male and female, trade information and material. That seems to be the best entryway into food production.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I take great exception to your false claim that permaculture is sexist (“hundreds of old [ageist, much?] guys in their gardens”). For your convenience I reproduce my response elsewhere on this thread:

          1. Sexism. I was introduced to permaculture by two women. They in turn were trained by a husband and wife couple. The Portland ME permaculture meetup is the largest in the world. It’s led by a woman, Lisa Fernandes.

          As for the courses, obviously one should evaluate them as one would any other. Fortunately, there is always the ground truth of the practitioners garden to look at. As you point out! (which is not the case with Amway…)

    2. from Mexico


      That’s an excellent critique.

      In at least some of the permaculture movement, I too have noticed the same defining element that distinguishes libertarianism: radical individualism.

      This should come as no surprise, as the two movements have similar philosophical roots. They are both descendents of what Jacques called “the new German philosphy.”

      It all began with Kant, but as the philosophy ran its course through Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, etc., it became increasingly speculative (and dogmatic) and decreasingly emprirical. And even though it gave one the exhilerating sense of liberation, it nevertheless made its departure from this-wordly human experience and common sense.

      In the United States, German Idealism blossomed into the radical individualism of the transcendetnalists, also known as the Brahmas: Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman. Walden and “the imperialist self” is reborn in the permaculture movement. The new philosophy was so very romantic, but also higly unrealistic. And as you so aptly conclude: “In relation to the individualized nature of it….you get more of a survivalist thing going on, which I think is unrealistic in the event of collapse.”

      1. from Mexico

        I think the confrontation of traditional values with Modern capitalistic values is far more interesting than anything that has to do with the simplistic nostrums of radical individualism. Radical individualism doesn’t have much going for it other than its highly seductive and ficticious mythology, so it’s not terribly interesting, other than from a historical persepctive.

        Far more intriguing is the battle between the green revolution and traditional agriculture that is now playing out in Africa (It’s already played out in most of the world over the last 500 years, which is what I believe makes what’s going on in Africa even more interesting). BBC did an outstanding documentary on the embroglio, which reports on the land rush by the industrial agriculture giants in Africa:

        Stealing Africa

        Here we see local community pitted agaisnt national and even more transnational community. But, as is noted in another of the Why Poverty series, this is not a contest where it is easy to pick sides, as this passage makes clarion:

        That process of moving from a community form of agriculture, where a whole village participated in the process and defined themselves almost as an agricultureal collective, to one in which you have essentially capitalistic land holding and individual farms, you can view it either as a land grab by the rich, or a process of creating a greater and more efficient system. It was both.

        As well as this one:

        In the 50s and 60s, all the…international efforts to develop better varieties of cereals which could grow particularly in Asia really increased the productivity of the land. And so the Green Revolution really took hundreds of millions of people out from the brink of starvation…in a country that didn’t have enough food to a country that exports food.

        I have one critique of Stealing Africa. Although it does a good job of revealing the faults of the trickle-down economic ideology that informs and lends moral legitimacy to large-scale industrial farming, in nevertheless does not expose the soft underbelly of the green revolution. Since industrialized mega-farming is highly dependent on oil and natural gas for fertilizers and to power machines, is it sustainable? BBC holds out the green revolution as a sure-fire solution to the food crisis if the political details can get worked out, without ever exposing the fact that the green revolution may not be sustainable.

        1. JGordon

          Mexico, I am in fact a radical individualist by temperament, and I do in fact find efforts by others to stick their noses into my economic and personal business to be incredibly offensive and threatening. However by permaculture training I am a community-minded and socially engaged individual.

          In other words, I am telling you all things that any other permaculture designer you happen to run into would tell you.

          But on a personal note I’d like to say that you all need to give up on the idea that you can micromanage what other people are allowed to own and how they’re allowed to conduct their economic activity. In the real world dictates and prohibitions that can’t be enforced only engender contempt of official authority and healthy black markets.

      2. JGordon

        No, that was not an excellent critique. It was a critique that made cringe with its appalling inaccuracies. Permaculture is extremely pro-community. The only communities that permaculturists have an issue with are those that are destined for collapse, since, as a general rule, permaculturists prefer things that are sustainable and built to last. I think that you have mistaken permaculturists acknowledgement that the current system will collapse (it’s an acknowledgement of reality, not a pro-anarchy ideological opinion) with dislike for systems in general.

        1. Stephanie

          Hmmmm. It’s not inaccurate. I’ve watched the permaculture ‘movement’ for many years now, and I’ve seen it ‘in action’ in many places. It works best when there’s a community ethos there, and I understand that one dimension of permaculture is people. However, when you say something like, “The only communities that permaculturists have an issue with are those that are destined for collapse, since, as a general rule, permaculturists prefer things that are sustainable and built to last,” you reveal the problem. “Community” is not discrete, not isolated. We rise and fall together. Furthermore, if permaculture really wants to ‘go urban’ it needs to be practiced in urban ways. It will not do for everyone to have their own little permaculture garden and be good to go.

          1. JGordon

            “it will not do for everyone to have their own little permaculture garden”

            Anyone who has actually studied urban permaculture will be amazed at the incredible amount of ignorance revealed by that statement. I am not saying that to make you feel bad, but as a way of informing you that your opinion is dramatically out of sync with reality and that therefore you should stop having and sharing that opinion.

            As for your assertion that we all rise and fall as a community, you are fallaciously conflating support for the current doomed system with support for the people in it. Frankly the way our economy is organized is ruining the planet and needs to end as soon as possible. Helping people survive and thrive through that transition is a big part of what permaculture is.

          2. from Mexico

            @ Stephanie

            I find JGordon’s response puzzling, because if there is a poster child for radical individualism and the “survivalist thing,” it is JGordon. This is easily verified by an examination of JGordon’s past comments on this thread (or, as you zeroed in on, the passage from one of his comments on this thread).

            But instead of making a stand for radical individualism and the “survivalist thing,” JGordon instead embarks upon an entirely different rhetorical strategy. He denies the existence of radical individualism and the “survialist thing” withinin the permaculture movement.

            This is tantamount to the Marxist faithful saying that Stalin and Chariman Mao weren’t true Marxists or the capitalist faithful saying that Mussolini, Franco and Pinochet were not true captitalists, either that or denying that the forementioned operated in highly authoritarian and violent ways.

          3. Lambert Strether Post author

            @stephanie “…. practiced in urban ways. It will not do for everyone to have their own little permaculture garden and be good to go.”

            The post includes on part specifically on “urban” permaculture. I also speculate on the difficulty that implementing permaculture would face based on different pattents of land use. Then in the NOTE I give a second example of “urban” permaculture.

            So, what do you mean, operationally, by “practiced in urban ways,” and how does the actual practice as demonstrated in the post differ from your definition?

            NOTE I find “their own little permaculture garden,” to use your word, “objectionable” because dismissive. If an acre yields 15 tons, better than agriculture, it may be small, but it’s certainly not little.

          4. Lambert Strether Post author

            @from Mexico

            This is starting to look like “any stick to beat a dog” behavior. Your comment is very heavy on past threads, and very light both on linky goodness and on the extensive material provided in the post.

            Let me reformat your argument as a syllogism (assuming, arguendo, that all you claim is true):

            1. JGordon is a hyper-individualist

            2. JGordon is a permaculturist

            3. THEREFORE, permaculture is hyper-individualist.

            Alrighty then.

            * * *

            And that’s before we get to the sample size of one (1)….

          5. JGordon

            Lambert and Mexico–as I have previously said, I have a somewhat schizoid personality, and that does cause my thinking and views to be unique. Not unique in a bad way, but unique in that I can completely dispense with emotional considerations and follow lines of thinking to their logical conclusion without a lot of baggage interfering. You, as a fellow INTJ (if not schizoid), should have some idea of what I’m talking about there.

            And if my logic leads me to the conclusion that forming personal relationships and building community, as I am working on now, is in the best interest of humanity (and that is ultimately what I’m aiming for), then there is nothing inconsistent with me advocating for that even as a “radical” individualist.

          6. Lambert Strether Post author

            @From Mexico: Good. A source (Harper) that brings new value to the thread in the form of a critique. It’s late, and I have a lot of work to do, so I will respond only briefly.

            First, as to Stephanie’s evidence. As I indicate point by point, her experience is radically different from mine. Commenter Mikkel suggests that’s because we encountered permaculture (or possibly permaculturalists) about a decade apart. I think that’s a reasonable theory. As to Diane, I just reviewed her comments on this thread; so far as I can see, they are views of permaculture, but not evidence in the sense that she has worked with permaculturalists, as Stephanie, JGordon, and I have, and not evidence in the sense that the videos are.

            To the Harper critique. To begin, I’m sure you noticed that in the introduction to his article, Harper states that the original of the article was written in the late 90s — that is, more toward the time that Stephanie encountered it, than the time that I and other commenters on this thread did. Movements aren’t static, as I’m sure you know. In fact, I began where Harper ends. His postscript:

            As I write today, the third wave of interest in Permaculture has arrived. Mostly, I’m glad that permaculture is around to intrigue a new audience. Permaculture will continue to be a worthwhile intellectual hook, one that captivates and lures mainly cerebral types [INTJs!!] into the fuzzy logic of the garden. Permaculture is like a beneficial fungus in your brain, which attaches to your brain cells but eventually roots into the duff and soil. Once a person is gardening and getting really dirty, the dictates of the permacultural religion fall away like layers of a moulting caterpillar.

            I’m third wave. I’ve never experienced any “dictates” of “the permacultural religion” whatever, aspects that Harper attributes to earlier phases. Granted, permaculture is a design philosophy and not a science, so I’m not sure that “Founding texts taken as postulates for testing” that Harper puts in the “Smart” column is fair. However, as nobody says, permaculture is about lots and lots of observation; “ideas and assumptions” are always tested, but for good or ill a garden is not a laboratory. In particular, this (from the “Smart” column) seems to describe current practice where I live very well: “No universal design principles but an evolving
            collection of specialist sets; emphasis on experience and common sense” (a design philosphy does not necessarily include universal design principles).

            Finally, I’m just going to skip over the “cult” stuff — readers whose minds are not already made up can look read the transcripts and watch the videos and see if there’s a cult-like aura. Perhaps the sweaters? And at this point I pause to remind readers again of the success of household plots in providing food to Russians after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Clearly, there’s something useful to be found in small-scale, horticultural production if practiced on a society-wide basis. Frankly, I don’t understand the hostility that this prospect seems to engender.

            Shorter: Cult permaculture is bad. Smart permaculture is good. Stephanie seems to have experienced a cultish flavor. That is bad. I, JGordon, and the practitioners in the videos seem to have experienced smart permaculture. That is good. Smart permaculture should be encouraged to thrive, and become smarter. One way to do that is by posting on it and discussing practice. Is there really anything very controversial here?

          7. from Mexico

            Lambert Strether said:

            I, JGordon, and the practitioners in the videos seem to have experienced smart permaculture.

            The fact that two of the “heroes” of “cult” permaculture that Harper identifies — Hart and Mollison — either narrate a video or are referenced in your post, gives reason to doubt that.

            And I notice that yet another female witnesss, Pat, has appeared on this thread and testifies to the existence of sexism in the permaculture movement. And you dismiss her with the same arbitrariness that you did the other two women who testified the permaculturalist movement is sexist, proclaiming her experience to be a “false claim.”

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        I’d like some on-point linky goodness on “radical individualism.” The post includes a 45 minute movie with three practitioners, and partial transcripts. Can you back up your claim using the evidence before you?

        1. from Mexico

          So let me see. We can only use the evidence provided by you, and not for instance the testimony provided by Stephanie?

          That certainly makes for a fair hearing.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Deflect much? There’s material right in front of you. If you can’t investigate it and use my own evidence against the post that could show (a) that you can’t back up your claims, since (b) you introduce no evidence of your own (having none?), or (c) you don’t know how to actually engage in point-counterpoint discussion. Can you think of an option (d)? I’m going with (a).

            Adding… I asked for “on point linky goodness.” You offer none. I can only assume that’s because you have none. Game, set, match.

          2. from Mexico

            ~ Lambert Strether says:

            Deflect much? There’s material right in front of you.

            Well you’re certainly right about that. There are Stephanie’s comments. There are diane’s comments. And then of course there is JGordon. But it seems like according to Lambert’s rules of evidence, your motions to strike any evidence which counters your position are final, closed to debate.

            ~ Lambert Strether says:

            If you can’t investigate it and use my own evidence against the post that could show (a) that you can’t back up your claims, since (b) you introduce no evidence of your own (having none?), or (c) you don’t know how to actually engage in point-counterpoint discussion.

            You assert that I should be able to use “my own evidence” (meaning evidence furnished by you) against the post, but I think it is unrealistic to expect you to supply evidence that counters your own argument. And why do I have to introduce evidence of my own when there is the testimony of Stephanie and diane? Oh, but I remember now, you’ve already arbitrarily stricken that evidence from the record, so it counts for nothing due to your decree.

            ~ Lambert Strether says:

            Adding… I asked for “on point linky goodness.” You offer none. I can only assume that’s because you have none. Game, set, match.

            Well, I was sorta still waiting for you to give a good reason why the evidence and testimony of Stephanie and diane counted for nothing and had been sumarily stricken. But since you don’t seem to be able to provide any valid reasons, and you want “linky goodness,” here goes.

            Apparently those who wrap themselves in the garb of “permaculturalist” are a highly diverse lot. For instance, Peter Harper, a veteran permaculturalist himself, identifies what he calls the Smart Permaculturists who engage in

            a scientifically literate, error-correcting, holistic approach to sustainability which develops many of the features of classical permaculture, and dumps – or at least demotes – the bullshit. It would aim at typical urban lifestyles and bourgeois aspirations: it does not require or even recommend rural self-sufficiency or living in benders. (emphaisis mine)


            But in addition to the “Smart Permacultualists” he identifies another large and growing contingent of what he calls “cult” permaculturalists. For them, permaculture isn’t about producing the highest yield of food in a sustainable way, it’s all about finding political and/or religious redemption. As he goes on to explain:

            Most self-confessed permaculturists I meet exude a certain cultural odour which I find disturbing; quite involuntarily I find myself mentally adding handfuls of salt to everything they say. Nice ideas, yes; but an amazing ragbag of old wine in new bottles, speculative notions that do not accord with my experience or my scientific intuition, and the occasional nugget of genuine insight. All mixed up in an exasperating and indiscriminate brew.

            But Harper is hardly finished with his indictment of the “bull shit” that has come to dominate the permaculture movement. He continues by noting that:

            Most of what passes for Permaculture has no more relevance to the real problems than French provincial cooking or playing the euphonium: no more than charming cultural graces. Or else it’s the ideological equivalent of plastic flowers or costume jewellery: the beginner’s down-market version of sustainability which you go for if you can’t manage anything better. We have to be tougher, more analytical, more willing to enter alien cultural territory and test our ideas to destruction.

            Deep breath.

            Here is my first attempt to clean out the stables. I shall not mince my words or pull my punches. I expect to receive hate mail and abusive phone calls. But somebody’s got to do it.

            Harper goes on to set out the characteristics of “cult” permaculture, which include:

            ~ Not defined precisely: a collection of implicit meanings which cannot be stated simply

            ~ Basic ideas derived from founding texts, with additions based on popular ecology and ‘voluntary simplicity’

            ~ Assumes basic assumptions and ideas are correct; there is no need to test them

            ~ Values resonance. Not bothered by contradictions or imprecision;

            ~ “Smorgasbord” of unclassified ideas

            ~ Intuitive tenor

            ~ Bohemian style; attractive to those with more time than money, often younger people

            ~ Emphasis on rural self-sufficiency; links with modern economy downplayed

            ~ Central role for horticulture

            ~ Stress on ‘natural’, ‘extensive’ systems of land use

            ~ Special universal set of design principles, easily applied in different spheres

            ~ A complete philosophy

            ~ More like a religious or political cult

            ~ Heroes: Mollison, Fukuoka, Hart

    3. JGordon

      Your exposition there is based on multiple mistaken assumption. In a recent permaculture design course that I took for example, it was pounded into us that the best way to survive the coming collapse was to build local community and network with people around us. To that end, we were introduced to people actively involved in community gardening, outreach programs, local currencies and the like, and were encouraged to participate in them.

      So I am not sure where you studied permaculture, but I think you got an unsatisfactory education in it, wherever it was.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I agree very strongly.

        * * *

        I think that people end up on the margins up here in Maine because land is cheap. They are initially isolated, because heck, there’s a lot of land, and not many people! But so far as I can tell, the quote-unquote survivalists are very strong on sharing knowledge, cuttings, manure, contacts, etc.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        @Cupcake Apparently (to at least degree) Stephanie’s (“good”).

        * * *

        There are lots of things I disagree with JGordon on, but I hope I’m capable of adopting good ideas, no matter who brings them to my attention.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      Based on my own experience, I disagree on almost every level.

      1. Sexism. I was introduced to permaculture by two women. They in turn were trained by a husband and wife couple. The Portland ME permaculture meetup is the largest in the world. It’s led by a woman, Lisa Fernandes.

      2. Guru-type people. To me, “guru” connotes a fraudulent spiritual practice. Fortunately, the outcome of gardening practice has a “ground truth” people can check for themselves. Either the stacking functions are there, or they are not. Either the yield is there or it is not.*

      3. Survivalism. First, Portland ME isn’t Manhattan, but it’s hardly the Unorganized Territories where survivalist types go and buy land; I suggest you pick another stigma. Second, permaculture is a strategy, a design practice. Personally, if some guy risks everything to grow food up in the woods, I’d be looking carefully at the strategy they adopted, because I’d bet it’s robust. If the survivalists decided that solar power was the best way to power their houses, would you reject it, just because they chose it? Third, what technology would you prefer they choose? Oil and poison? Finally, I welcome any opportunity to converse with people along the political spectrum, and I’ve found many professed libertarians who are extremely sound on gardening. I argued one of them into single payer a few weeks ago, on the grounds that rentiers were evil, and backend bill processing was something that a small state should do (not to distract from the thread…) Now, I dnt know of the conversion took, but trust me, they weren’t agreeing just to be nice!

      4. Individualism. In my experience, there’s a tremendous amount of sharing that goes on among permanculturists, and a world-wide network of education and training.

      5. Household production. Did you check the link to the Soviet Union? Household gardens there were a buffer against collapse. If our sclerotic decaying imperial security state collapses on this continent, household gardens — if there are enough of them — could play the same role here.

      NOTE * It is true that permaculture propagates via something similar to apostolic succession, and that the two founders of permaculture were male. But so far as I can tell, the ground truth of permaculture is out in the garden, and has nothing to do with Sky Fathers and such like. See point 1 for evidence that as permaculture propagates out, the apostolic succession will include more laying on of hands for women (and by women).

      1. subgenius

        Good points… I find there IS a trendy side to permaculture – one that revolves around individual egos, and does disservice to the greater field, but this is derived from the excellent material mollison, holmgren, holzer etc popularised. It isn’t a critique of the material… Just of our society and how it behaves.

      2. Pat

        What really bothers some people is that permaculture and plain old serious gardening brings together people of all different political philosophies and ages. You don’t discuss politics and religion at the dinner table, nor should you in the garden.

        Some people are threatened by the possiblity of those in their inner circle being “contaminated” by “those kind of people” they might contact in some gardening club.

      3. Stephanie

        I’m just getting back to this and see I have a lot of reading to do to catch up, but I don’t know when that will happen.

        That you are in Maine, Lambert, speaks a lot to your permaculture experience. As far as I can tell, there’s a strong food sovereignty movement there, and I wonder that your experience differs because permaculture is embedded in that larger movement. I saw somewhere that someone said gardening shouldn’t be political; in turn, I say, it’s one of the most political acts you can do these days. When I speak of ‘doing it in urban ways,’ I think it *must* happen politically. (what about code, for example? what about neighbors who object to growing food in the front yard? what about access to resources and land, which is highly contested in urban environments)

        I was at a recent conference about food justice. There were two presenters there who spoke on doing permaculture in Lansing. They showed us slides of people doing permaculture on huge tracts of land. For them, permaculture was technique; they ended the session by encouraging us to permaculture our houses, and to hire them to come permaculture our houses on our behalf. Besides using permaculture as a verb (ugh), for them, there was nothing about process. If someone comes to install a permaculture garden at your house, is that really permaculture? I’d argue that it isn’t. For them, the focus was on technique, individual production (and selling a product).

        One thing that I noticed in this thread is that people have very different ideas about what it is and have also had different experiences. I hope that yours and JGordon’s are becoming more representative.

        The sexist comment was sort of a throwaway…when I came to permaculture, the biggies (men) in the field were arguing about who could use the term ‘permaculture,’ if it should have a small or large ‘p.’ There were battles of egos and falling outs…but maybe all of that is behind us, now.

        Also, the term ‘little’ was not meant to be dismissive. It was actually meant to draw attention to the limited space in urban environments, and to the idea that I think that in urban environments you can’t have those small gardens and practice them in isolated ways. I think that if they are happening in urban environments, there’s a need to look out how they can be integrated with the urban ecology. How, for example, do you access and use urban resources, such as food waste from restaurants and hotels? How can better nutrient cycling of the city be leveraged towards food production. What open space can be used in what ways? How do you reclaim the commons and protect it from predator capitalists? Permaculture is about being integrated into the ecology and using ecological principles. Urban ecologies have different ‘natural’ resources, and are circumscribed by different social and political variables. How can they be better accomodated/confronted/used? This is what I mean. It doesn’t stop at your backyard gate.

        I’m interested to come back and read everything that has been written. I thought I had been careful to qualify my remarks and not to disparage the inherent value of permaculture. Guess not.

        1. from Mexico

          Stephanie says:

          I saw somewhere that someone said gardening shouldn’t be political; in turn, I say, it’s one of the most political acts you can do these days. When I speak of ‘doing it in urban ways,’ I think it *must* happen politically. (what about code, for example? what about neighbors who object to growing food in the front yard? what about access to resources and land, which is highly contested in urban environments)

          I agree wholeheartedly. This is why it is so important to understand the history of land ownership, control and use over the past 500 years, a story which I believe the two films from the Why Poverty series do a quite credible job of telling.

          Which gives rise to the even more complicated question: Can the politics dealing with the use of land be separated from class, gender, national, sectarian and race politics?

    5. diane


      Thank you, so very much, for the Sanity and Humanity. Sanity and Humanity is so hard to find these days.

      Stay strong.

      1. diane

        (it is certainly an indicator of the $urvivali$t/Capitali$t nature of some of the loude$t Permaculture Voice$ (yes, generally all male and white, despite their stunning lack of basic knowledge of gardening, despite the fact that those of a duskier hue generally have more knowledge of planting to survive), still have the fund$ to $urvive, when those who spent countless unpaid hours learning how to grow food that would sustain a person are no longer able to even buy $eed$.)

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          The sexism accusation is covered by point 1 in my initial response to Stephanie. The classism argument is there and real. You’ve got to have land to garden. Paul Tioxin describes some solutions.

          1. diane

            I may have a highly deadly cancer, and be near thoroughly broke[n], but I can still think straight, ….and connect the dots.

    6. Aussie F

      Here in the UK the permaculture scene’s a little different. Many people practice something they call ‘permaculture’ without growing a thing: Food co-ops, urban squats, land occupations, time banks, local exchange trading schemes, environmental solidarity networks, etc. They can all operate under the rubric of ‘permaculture’ without much in the way of a technical emphasis. Instead it’s more about ethics, social justice and collective action.
      Permaculture’s a broad enough vision to embrace a multitude of approaches. The ethical strain is as significant as the design, or is is if people want it to be.
      Earth care, people care, and fair shares are more important than keyhole beds and swales.

      1. diane

        can you be 100% percent clearer on what your exact “point” was, in that “post” …??????

        1. diane

          (as millions in the U$, despite the common fable, are not inhumane, or stupid, either. They have, from day one of the U$, been under the boot of The Europeans.)

          1. diane

            (The Europeans, and their, weaker than most, Aussie lackies – THOSE who would love nothing more than being paid for being prison guards, just hoping they can stay alive at the end of the day – unlike so many billions of aboriginees (close enough).)

          2. diane

            (and, …those millions, encompass every single color imaginable – … and, unimaginable …. – peel back the flesh and those who are life sustaining are an unimaginable multitude of hues.)

          3. Lambert Strether Post author

            Oh dear. This is ad hominem, and I shouldn’t leave it in, but I needed a laugh, so I’m leaving it in. Anyhow, I have days like that myself, so I will pretend it is addressed to me.

    7. mikkel

      I respect your experiences and have seen a shade of it myself. That said, it has nothing to do with permaculture, which at its core is pro community and egalitarian (although there is a lot of interesting research about how “egalitarian” frameworks that don’t actively focus on gender equality often revert to women doing most of the work).

      I believe it is more of a reflection of the maturity of permaculture as an ideology. Generally the practical innovators of any radical system will be obsessively independent and/or egomaniacal, because that’s what’s needed for them to actually get their ass in gear instead of working towards incremental change. Men suffer from these afflictions at a greater rate, so then they bring in a male dominated mindset to a paradigm regardless of intentions.

      They will then attract people that are completely psychically lost and therefore prone to excessive veneration regardless of whether the innovator demands it or not.

      I believe this is what you experienced, and was acute particularly in the mid 90s, for I have talked to many people that heard about permaculture then and had extremely similar feelings to the point that they stopped using the word even as they used its principles.

      For something like permaculture, there are also several pioneers that are just really connected to nature and so practice it in a calm isolationist way, freely offering advice when asked but not looking to spread the ideas a ton.

      In any case, I think things have changed drastically, like Lambert described and assuming he only got interested recently (like I have) then your experiences seem completely alien. Now there seems to be a massive amount of people that do want to do things on the community level and not become isolationist, with a bit of difficulty since so much of the permaculture How-Tos assume that you have a large block of your own land.

      It is my intent to focus on interacting with the traditional group for ideas and then translate that into ones that the newer group can use, particularly through Transition Town social structures. Thus far I’ve gotten a lot of excitement about this aim.

        1. Pat

          On 6,000 square feet of garden on a hill:

          90 lbs apples last year, 14 quarts cape gooseberries, 23 lbs Asian Pears, 3 lbs European pears, first Jujubes, tasted awful though. 5 lbs of mixed citrus…you only need one lemon tree…still waiting for the asparagus to come up. Let the arugula go to seed to replace the old supply of seeds.

          Constantly replanting new potatoes to spread their range rather than eating them. The apricots flowered last month and are covered with thumb sized fruit, as are the plums.

          We live in Marin County, just south of Luther Burbank’s
          “paradise on earth to grow fruit”. More ocean air here and less frost.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Oh man. I’m just a dabbler! Potatoes scare me, because here we get blight. I swear it actually blows down from Aroostock County! What were some of your challenges doing that?

      1. Stephanie

        Thanks very much for that perspective, mikkel. It rings true for my experience, and gives me the idea that what I experience (and continue to experience from time to time) is just evidence of an immature (though not value-less) movement.

  2. McKillop

    Hmm: wouldn’t ya know it. I spent time planting, or sowing a response to the post but clicked the wrong something: everything lost before the harvest!
    Like any dedicated farmer I’ll plant again.
    England’s a whole lot warmer than where I live. So’s Maine. Here we get threats of frost until late May and winter delivers treekilling temperatures of -40C/F (no diff.) Up until two weeks ago there had been no nights with the temperature above freezing. The birds have only begun to wake me up before first light with their song. (‘course, I wouldn’t be too inclined to sing, either, in the cold. The snow on the northfacing sites is still considerable and the ground is too cold for any new plants.
    Lupine are growing. I’ve dug up a few whose leaves were about 1/2 a thumb’s size and are now doubled. My thumbs and the other digits are mudstained and I refuse to scrub, the dirt cheering me. Other signs of re-birth are ramping and we’ll have the lovely greenery to tempt us to be hopeful.
    I pick fiddleheads every year. They are the only crop on my bit of land that I’m able to count upon and brag about. And all I do is pick them. I eat, as does my family, these blessings until I’ve had enough (too much before enough!) and freeze what’s not eaten. I once fed the population of a ‘youth correctional institute (100 or so kids)’ where I taught with the harvest from my land.
    I’ve other fine memories given me by the fiddleheads and their sharing.
    So permaculture won’t cut it in the case of collapse. I have my doubts that much of what is discussed will have a positive effect in the case of collapse. Just as permaculture isn’t the answer I’d think no one thing is.
    As far as the ‘male guru’ bit goes, anyone, male or female, who is striving to succeed at farming or gardening outside of the mechanistic mass production we’ve got on offer is going to be fitted with at least 1/2 the label. Simplicity, harmony, humility and other “guruish” virtues (or freakishness if you’re not into gurus) seem to be necessary just to get people started. The rarity of actually growing food accounts, perhaps, for another attribute.
    And I’d also argue that community comes about best when people are working together to produce something valued.Not money, not profit -just the work itself helps create the value.
    Food creates strong social relationships and the ideal of community gardening or farming has to be re-invented, re-established, re-considered before people can develop community to replace what’s not here now.
    Call permaculture gardening a dream -one dream of many- whose realization is important to some of us. Any option to mammon should be praised or nurtured.

  3. HotFlash

    Here in Toronto in we have allotment gardens on city land that are available for a small fee. When I lived in a high-rise for a couple of years, my roommate and I had a 20 x 30 foot plot in a nearby park and it was amazing. We had fresh radishes and greens from early May to November, and during the high summer we just ate out of the garden.

    When we had more than we could use right away we swapped with neighboring gardeners, gave away or preserved (I don’t can much, seems too much like work, but I do pickle and freeze).

    When winter came we hoicked a few herbs into pots for the windowsill and plopped a half-dozen celery plants into a fruit basket which sat on a friend’s balcony all winter providing tasty fronds for soups and salads and finally the roots were eaten. That was a great year for squash, which we both love, We had a huge pile of them in a corner of the living room and finally ate the last one the following May.

    I think that Stephanie is quite correct, community is the single most important resource to develop. We cannot do this alone, for no other reason than we don’t really know what ‘this’ is going to be, so cannot plan for it, let alone acquire the necessary skills. We just need to hang together with trusty friends and neighbours and hope we can deal with whatever happens by putting our heads together and our backs, too. I am getting old and can see how important it will be in another 10 yrs or so to have some strong young friends ;).

    Toronto is a great place to be, we have lots of energy going into transitions and a jillion interesting projects. It feels like approaching critical mass. Here are some of the projects going on here:

    Not Far from the Tree — collect fruit from trees in the city,

    City of Toronto Allotment Gardens,

    Toronto Community Garden Network Check out the rooftop garden

    Green Neighbours 21 are having a presentation on Mon about a really exciting project, basic info and check out the video, its a knock-out.

    But we can do it ourselves, no need to wait for a government-sponsored plan or a leader. And lambert, I gotta say, Memorial Day is way to late to start planting, you should be harvesting by now ;)

    1. Stephanie

      I think those ‘transition’ movements are really interesting and promising. They’re so process focused, and highly variable according to the diversity/character of the places in which they happen.

    2. p78

      1. Did you encounter any instance of theft from your garden in Toronto? How easy was the access to your land plot?

      2. I watched the urban permaculture segment in Lambert’ post – this would not work when living in a high-rise in London, Manhattan or a soviet-style high-rise in any east European capital. One can’t have compost and worms living happily 3 inches away from one’s window, in a 4 foot x 12 foot balcony.

      1. HotFlash

        My dear p78 (and anyone else who is interested)

        Well, perhaps one can. You don’t have to grow all of your food on your windowsill, that is the function of a society. Some people do this, some do that, and voila! everything gets done! I believe the present-day term for that is ‘multi-tasking.

        1. Re theft, yes we did have some. Not a lot b.c there were dozens of other gardeners in the plots at most all hours and they knew who did and didn’t belong. IOW, community. But when it happened, we assumed it was either people hungrier than us or kids who didn’t yet understand where food came from. Or raccoons, who don’t understand private property, and who not only are hungrier than we are but were here first. In any case, the bounty of the garden was a gift to feed us all, not just us. The most powerful enemy was Bad Weather. And that, as we all know, is an act of Goddess. And presumably, is doing good for someone else, somewhere else. We were at peace.

        2. Re compost and worms, well, maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Not a big issue, if you have community. I had a nice little backyard garden until my neighbours put in their (illegal!!!) second-story deck, which left my back yard in shadow. I was grumbling at my first IRBE lecture ( with Bernard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne about my yard being so dark and only suitable for mushrooms. Jacob the Guerilla Gardener said oh, well, this is PY, she does mushrooms. She got back to me by email and we are now set up to get me into ‘shrooms, *and* it turns out she needs hardwood chips for ‘shrooms and OMG *we are woodworkers*!!! We have lots of hardwood chips that we basically have to sneak out in our garden waste bags. And there are people who need them! So, what I am saying is *community rules*. Get some!

        And finally, there is this:

        What will save us is our neighbours and our stories.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        1. Big issue, I’d like to hear more about that. Human nature being what it is.

        2. No, of course not. Permaculture is very site-specific, and land use patterns differ by city, as the post points out.

        1. HotFlash

          Lambert, you still there? Of *course* you will get ripped off! You not getting ripped off now? My take is that I would rather ben ripped off by people who need to eat (and who may have redeeming social importance) than by the 1%. Ymmv.

          1. HotFlash

            OK, how about this? Deer convert plant protein into high-quality animal protein. On the vast scale of things, this is a bonus! Me, I’ll go veggie rather than kill something (this is city-me talking, I may change my mind if suffic hungry) but still, it’s the circle o’ life. I have heard that garlic works pretty well, although I have never tested.

            Here in downtown Toronto (Parkdale, to be specific) raccoons are a much bigger problem than human theft but either way, what can I say? Everyone has to eat.

            PS LA

  4. sleepy

    I can’t say enough good things about gardening.

    I live in northern Iowa and I had my front yard all tilled up last week ready to sow it with native prairie grass seed, got my potatoes planted–too early yet for the tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, herbs–even saw a few shoots of asparagus coming out.

    Then ….. a 12 inch snowfall a few days ago. Oh, well, as the snow melts I do notice that the grass underneath is all green. Signs of spring.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Tilling sounds like work. I prefer sheet mulch (the permaculture gateway drug). Today, I had to step on my soil (I always try to avoid that) and boy, was it soft….

      Sheet mulch: No tilling, no watering, no weeding. Once you start thinking about soil as a living network, instead of a substance, things change.

      1. DavidP

        not to be to forceful but if tilling is verboten then you are rejecting Eliot Colman a Farmer/Gardner of your home state who uses that method at least to break new ground and in the first few years to incorporate compost to get the land up to an arriable state. Have been reading one of his guides and he is very much a sustainable agro person with many good ideas and practices. It may be that I’m partial to some of his methods for I have been using French gardening practices for better than 40 years. It was once known as French Intensive horticulture back in the day, companion planting,small but thickly planted( plants support each other and many other practices. Gardening/Farming of any scale does require work.

        1. Claudius

          FI method requires you to dig down 18 inches or so deep to improve the existing soil. Most shovels are 9 inches, so you have to “double dig” and place one layer in one spot and the lower layer in another and then you work your way down digging trenches, finally filling in these extra deep trenches. That’s a Herculean effort every spring. Good exercise though.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          I’ll have an opportunity to prove it (at least on my site) this year. I did indeed break the soil in my first year; in fact, I ripped up the sod! (After that, never again.) That really left that areas of the garden less fertile until I amended it. However, this year I’ve expanded to a previously sodded area and I’m not going to break it up at all, but add a compost layer. Hopefully worms will do the rest, at least going by what other people in the area say. Now, I’m on a clay-ey river bluff. It may be that other soil is different. I have to say, though, that I really do think of soil as a network and I don’t like the image of taking a shovel to a network.

      2. sleepy

        Tilling is work, but my front yard was fescue, bluegrass, and all the other non-native grasses that infest most of the upper Midwest, all of which came with the house I bought. You can’t just sow grass seed on top of a lawn.

        To plant prairie grass seed–you have to remove the existing grass, which is done by tilling down far enough to kill its roots until you have a good 4 inches deep of well-cultivated bare soil. You then rake up any sod clods of the old grass.

        Then you sow the prairie grass seed on the bare soil, stomp it down a bit, water for a few weeks, and voila–bluestem, grama grass, tons of prairie flowering plants, and so on.

        1. HotFlash

          Well, yes, and who might Eliot Colman be, and why should anyone care? If he wants to till, let him till. Was a snark tag missing?

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          That’s just what I was thinking. I don’t have to cope with tough grasses, so my situation is not yours.

          It does sound like I over-stated; my bad. However, at least where I am, the tendency is to think that the first step is to get out the roto-tiller. Heck, it was my tendency! So perhaps I react to strongly against that tendency.

          1. HotFlash

            My dear Lambert,

            If roto-tilling seems the way to go in your circs and you want to do it, *GO CRAZY*. You have my permission (snark & LOL) but you totally do not need it. Every person’s situation is diferent, and every person’s frontier is depends on where they are. We do what is in our favour, as we perceive it, and proceed according to what we learn. Why are we berating one onther? I worry, it seems to me to be dangerous.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              In my circs, rototilling is rarely the way to go. I can see why it might be on the prairie. That said, it sounds like work. I don’t like work. I think if the worms can till my soil, they should till my soil. It makes them a lot happier than it makes me!

  5. diptherio

    Agreed that the hyper-individualist aspects of the permaculture movement are a negative, but the techniques themselves seem very useful. The difference between those gardens/food forests and the backyard garden my uncle Ray made himself after he finally had to sell the family farm are huge. Ray, being a traditional farmer, made four long, perfectly straight mounds and planted about four different things in them. Compared to that (and the traditional gardening I’ve done) the permaculture/food forest techniques are pretty exciting.

    But I totally agree that pursuing sustainable lifestyles must include pursuing sustainable communities as well. Here in my little burg, some folks are trying to bridge the gap between private and community space in local food production:

    1000 New Gardens

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      See my comment about; I don’t see the hyperindvidualist aspects that you mention. Of course, I am an INTJ’s INTJ, so perhaps I wouldn’t.

      Then again, two of the three movies are about couples, and the third includes Hart working with his friend. Did you watch it?

      * * *

      My patch is so small it doesn’t need two, and I garden much more for sheer pleasure and happiness than out of necessity. That said — and I want to slap myself whenever I write a phrase like “natural balance” — permaculture seems to have a natural balance between working alone and perhaps with one other, moving out into the world, and the collective, and then back.

      1. HotFlash

        It’s OK, lambert, and no need to slap. Well, not very hard, it is a bit hackneyed, but hey, the reason a path gets worn is b/c it goes from/to useful places.

        About the gurus. Yeah, I have seen this. Some people like to be gurus, some people like to have them. Other people want a book, or a certificate, or a method with a name or x number of years history, or Chinese ancient wisdom. Whatever. Me, I prefer to learn ad hoc from experimentation and especially from neighbours and of course, the world’s biggest back fence is the Internet. But whatever method anyone wants is fine with me, so long as they don’t get murderously competitive. There are many routes, we can each take the path we like, and if mine dead-ends, I hope that your or someone’s method of learning ‘gets the goods’ and you or they will share and we can all survive. Well, that’s really more optimistic than I am, but maybe some nice, cooperative people can continue on.

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Yes, thank you, Lambert.

      Planted a plum tree on my small and mostly shaded lot after reading an earlier article. The first year was disappointing, but I have many more blossoms on the tree in this second year, so I’m hopeful.

      Planted a small vegetable garden this year, too. I know it’s not much, but what’s that old saying about a journey?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Not everything I plant turns out to be a success… Meaning it’s a good thing that I am in a relatively low risk environment (that is, if the crops fail, I don’t die).

        Surviving the winter and growing new leaves seems to show a modest level of happiness on the part of the tree. And you are doing one thing really right that I did wrong; I started with vegetables (annuals) and only later got a few trees (perennials). However, if I had started with some trees four or five years ago, I might be eating from them today (even if not much).

  6. Paul Tioxon

    I’m surprised the Rodale Press and the vanguard of organic gardening hasn’t been mentioned here more in relation to permaculture. I hope this doesn’t start another quibbling contest over distinctions. I’m invoking appropriate technology as my shield. If you can’t swing the permaculture, find something appropriate for you. With a lot of others if you choose or all by yourself or small family. Whatever. Diversity is not a template.

    Since alternative institutions has been a strategy in co-evolution with participatory democracy and plebian ballot activity as well, let’s call that a simple 3 dimensional chess game, I can tell you that sustainable food production is important wherever you call home. If you are working in conjunction with a large group of people in a major American city, I can share earnest and successful examples of scaling up sustainable food production for urbanites.

    One of the long standing community based food coops in West Philadelphia, since the 1970s, got its own larger store front open in the past year. It also has worked in conjunction with a larger wholesale food enterprise. Pennsylvania is a very large and primarily rural state with extensive livestock and other foodstuff. Hershey candy is surrounded by dairy farms leading up to its factories that directly supply the milk in their milk chocolates. But the fertile areas within a reasonable drive from Philadelphia right off the nearest PA Turnpike exits are also a source of much local produce making its way into city farmer’s markets, newly opening food coops and widespread restaurant culture businesses as well as rapidly expanding food truck operators. And this is not counting food production within the city in yards,community gardens and abandoned industrial sites.

    While this might not be permaculture, millions of people who need food are finding reasonable, sustainable and not back breaking means of getting nutrtion without the idiocy or rural life, you know, god, guns and the cult literature of yr choice. The Gardens of Findhorn may not be making a large scale revival here in N. America, I wish those that follow that path all of the best.

    Here is some up to date news from the food coop movement and Philadelphia’s latest wave of alternative institutions. I also wish them all the best.

    ” Common Market is a mission-driven food distributor that delivers local, sustainably grown food to larger institutions like schools, hospitals and workspaces. This allows farmers to sell products to a wider clientele, and because Common Market aggregates the food in its warehouse, customers have more product options than they might if they purchased directly from individual producers.

    Now Common Market wants to take this model a step further and share their new Erie Ave home with other local food enterprises and entrepreneurs. To do so, Common Market is launching Philly Good Food Lab, which will lease flexible warehouse and office space to like-minded food businesses.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      This is really cool stuff, and I should have mentioned Philly in my list of examples (the Northeast Corridor has been almost as horribly damaged by the neo-liberal dispensation fo the last thirty year as Detroit, as a glance out the windows of the Acela will show).

      I think the key distinction is that permaculture is a strategy or design practice, as opposed to something like forest gardening, which is a technique (as the video argues).

      * * *

      What is “plebian ballot activity”?

      1. Paul Tioxon

        Wardleaders control cities to a greater extent than NYC and DC talking heads talk about. Getting out the vote is a sophisticated operation, much of it similar to and even improved from USPS management and transferred out into the streets, house by house, block by block, district by district, ward by ward. Our Mayor used to be a Wardleader. I am sure you’d see many examples in the boroughs outside of Manhattan. BOSS, a cable TV show is very close to THE WIRE in displaying local political power networks. We also elect judges in this city. The Good Government reform types would like to change that, of course. One of the first places we learn to decision makers over critical areas of our lives is at the ballot box in selecting local officials.

        Plebian power for most of us, ends at the incorporated boundaries, and the big leagues in DC, is a completely different scale and type of power. While we try to bend the ears of people who make decisions for the nation as a whole here on this blog, it is frustrating. That’s why it is important for me to communicate the areas where we can exercise ballot control of a governing body and see a competent effort to ameliorate the worst of the heartless forces of the market. It may be on a smaller scale now, but as time goes on, the more practiced people become locally, in cities of a million or towns of a few thousands, the more we will be able to assume command and control over our lives in the absence of failing institutions on a national scale.

        Practical experience in the building and operation of alternative institutions now, such as food coops, will enable the social order to become more flexible and adaptive to the coming changes in the economy, the natural environment etc. Votes may be seen as a commodity, but voting as a political process is still not market based. In coops, decision making for general policies is voted upon, not dictated. This is a second arena of decision making using a ballot where we become socialized as competent and adequate decision makers over critical areas of our lives, in addition to voting for elected officials in our localities.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Thanks. I remember a recent comment (was it you?) that power networks at the Federal, state, and local levels were different in kind as well as in scope, and that local power networks were all about land use. Putting gardening front and center in a lot of ways….

          1. Paul Tioxon

            The game of chess is control of the board. In this case, control over the land use.


            The Law Center and its partner organizations are thrilled to announce that City Councilman Brian O’Neill will amend Bill 120917 to restore community gardens and market or community supported farms in CMX-2 and 2.5 as a matter of right, as was originally allowed in the new zoning code.

            The Campaign is extremely grateful for the individuals and organizations that made their concerns known and to all of the councilmembers and staff who took the time out of busy schedules to meet with and listen to their constituents. We ask that all take a moment to thank your district council member and the at-large members for their support in obtaining this crucial amendment. And, we invite you all to attend City Council Chambers at 10 a.m. on January 24 to support this amendment.

  7. Lambert Strether Post author

    Adding, I find the old codgers wearing their sweaters and sharing knowledge in Part I very encouraging. No shuffleboard and golf carts for these guys!

  8. vlade

    Don’t know about SU collapse, but during WW2 most of Soviet cities were dug out/planted/gardened much more than UK ever was.

  9. Nobody

    Did you know today is International Permaculture Day, Lambert?

    The hyper-individualist critique expounded here is bogus. Anyone who has actually studied permaculture and read Mollison’s designer’s manual knows that he advocated communities of humans and all life. He has a whole chapter in his Designer’s Manual on organizing human communities.

    When the PTB go out of their way to degrade communities and treat people as if they are nothing more than self-maximizing units, it leads to hyper-individualism. These “critiques” seem to be ignoring the hyper-individualistic bias that already exists in this country and are, perhaps, projecting it on to permaculture.

    If you cannot see the collapse coming, then you are blind, frankly. We are methodically destroying the foundation of our civilization, which is healthy, productive, living soils and ecosystems. Permaculture is a method of reversing this and at the same time strengthening communities by providing them a large measure of self-sufficiency and stability. The problem is the individualism and obliviousness that already exists, not permaculture.

    from the Designer’s Manual (the “bible” of permaculture):

    “A person of courage today is a person of peace. The courage we need is to refuse authority and to accept only personally responsible decisions. Like war, growth at any cost is an outmoded and discredited concept. It is our lives which are being laid to waste. What is worse, it is our children’s world which is being destroyed. It is therefore our only possible decision to withhold all support for destructive systems, and to cease to invest our lives in our own annihilation.

    The Prime Directive of Permaculture:
    The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.

    The present great shift in emphasis is on how the parts interact, how they work together with each other, how dissonance or harmony in life systems or society is achieved. Life is cooperative rather than competitive, and life forms of very different qualities may interact beneficially with one another and with their physical environment. Even ‘the bacteria… live by collaboration, accommodation, exchange and barter’

    Principle of Cooperation: Cooperation, not competition, is the very basis of existing life systems and of future survival.”

    Note the use of the word responsibility. If you think abdicating your responsibility for your life to “TPTB” or the “system” or the “government” is okay, well, you will probably get what you deserve.

    Go to a relatively undisturbed natural area. OBSERVE.

    (Apologize for the poor formatting, but my HTML is rusty and I don’t have the time now to “oil” it.)

    1. diane

      The hyper-individualist critique expounded here is bogus.

      okee dokee, well than, can you ,Nobody, please explain why the experts of growing food in the most hideous of conditions (those who had to live through that), are never asked what their thoughts are?

      Lambert is clearly a novice, as concerns growing food (let alone, pretty flowers), in the bleakest of circumstances.

      1. diane

        Can you truly explain why so many of those true, life long, gardeners, are now ‘dying,’ or physically ‘dead’ already….. ?

        although, they will never be forgotten, …..nor unloved …. for an eternity.

          1. diane

            you must really be kidding? you’re going to throw up one woman in may face? as proof?

            And as to all those permaculture assholes, you never heard of the “Dust Bowl” … and those Oakies … I guess?

            Apparantly you live in $ome $till “verdant” area?

          2. diane

            My answer is stuck in the spam filter, hopefully it will show up, as it was certainly tame and humane.

            Interesting, as a child, I was familiar with an elder R. Stout, in PA, who was quite wealthy and protected from what befalls others whose land has been too decimated to grow squat to eat, let alone ducking that daily shell fire.

          3. diane

            For your info, Rodale emanated out of PA (Pennnsylvania) also, just like the word Penal [as in System] did .. and ?

          4. diane

            (I actually still have a hardcopy of Rodale’s vegetable gardening book, though I certainly don’t think, it would work anywhere but where where the Rodales lived …and too bad that “family name” sold out to that stunningly glitzy and creepy magazine which I I still have a promo copy of.)

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Of course I’m a novice! That’s why I seek to bring forward experts to learn from them! (The forest gardener had been doing that work for 40 years; it’s doubtful I’ll be able to do that…)

      3. Nobody

        I am afraid I do not understand the question. I was not trying to be confrontational, I just wanted to attempt to clear up some misconceptions and put out there what Bill Mollison actually wrote/thought.

        Gardeners are not a problem, although there is “better” gardening and “worse” gardening. One of the most common answers to a practical question about permaculture is “It depends.” There are no set-in-stone ways to “do” permaculture. It deals with human culture, after all, and I hope we would all agree that there is no one culture that the world should be emulating.

        Permaculture is a design science/system guided by ethics. The ethics are nothing new, Aldo Leopold’s “Land Ethic” from A Sand County Almanac meshes well with permaculture ethics. It is a method to design the life systems around you in a way that benefits you, your neighbors and nature. It is informed by observation of natural systems. Lots and lots of observation. I think that is one of the major stumbling blocks for most Americans as most of us are way too busy with the “rat-race” to slow down and simply sit still and observe natural systems.

        When I talk about destroying the foundations, I am talking about the bad forestry, bad water management and bad agriculture that is degrading ecosystems countrywide and worldwide. A civilization that does not respect and understand its soil and ecosystems is bound to fail. History is littered with examples. This is not some new concept – see Dale and Carter’s “Topsoil and Civilization” written in 1955 (you should be able to track it down free online).

        IMO, I think what we are collectively doing to the biosphere through our disruption and abuse is a worse problem than anthropogenic global warming or whatever you want to call it (I am NOT a “denier”). The soil is a net carbon sink – when it is healthy. Hundreds of years of tilling, plowing, compacting, and mining the soil of its nutrients (conventional ag), as well as cutting down forests, has left it with a lot less organic matter (carbon), a lot less resilience, a lot less life and a lot less fertility overall. Flooding gets worse and drought gets worse because the soil cannot store water as it once could from lack of organic matter. Poor earthworks (roads, levees, etc.) disrupt the hydrologic cycles as well, causing more problems. I have read reports from soil scientists that have seen these results over time (e.g. flooding with less precipitation, more precipitation required to prevent drought conditions, disappearing streams, etc.).

        I don’t want to imply that we are doomed. It all can be turned around quite well with collective effort. However, there is currently no real collective effort to turn things around (collectively, we cannot even see the problem) and if we keep going the direction we are headed, our civilization is bound to fail. Permaculture is a viable solution. I’m not sure it is the only solution available to us, but it is mature, flexible and it works. Why not use it?

        RE: the male predominance. I have no answer to that except to say there are thousands of women practicing permaculture today. Yes, the “giants” (Bill Mollison, Geoff Lawton, Sepp Holzer, Allan Savory) are all men. Why this is I cannot say. Why it might be a problem is something I cannot grasp. I am a male and highly egalitarian no matter how you care to divide humanity (race, sex, creed, whatever) and I am also an unapologetic pragmatist.

  10. from Mexico

    @ Lambert Strether

    In your haste to defend permaculture from any and all criticism, you managed to take the definition of syllogism and turn it on its head.

    syl·lo·gism (sl-jzm)
    1. Logic A form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion; for example, All humans are mortal, the major premise, I am a human, the minor premise, therefore, I am mortal, the conclusion.
    2. Reasoning from the general to the specific; deduction.

    An example of what actually constitutes a syllogism is as follows:

    1. All permaculturists are saviors of the planet (major premise).

    2. JGordon is a permaculturalist (minor premise).

    3. Therefore, JGordon is a savior of the planet. (conclusion)

    If we take a look at your example, it doesn’t seem to fit the definition of any type of logic, syllogistic or otherwise. Here’s your example:

    1. JGordon is a hyper-individualist (minor premise)

    2. JGordon is a permaculturist (minor premise)

    3. THEREFORE, permaculture is hyper-individualist. (conclusion)

    What you seem to be trying to accuse me of is Platonic realism, of the formulation of universals. Platonic realism is a philosophical term usually used to refer to the idea of the existence of universals. A universal is anything that can be predicated of the particulars.

    An example of the formulation of a universal is as follows:

    1. JGordon is a permaculturist and a hyper-individualist.

    2. Every particular permaculturalist I have ever observed is a hyper-individualist.

    3. All permaculturalists are hyper-individualists.

    If one looks back over my comments on this thread, however, it is quite obvious that I formulated no universals. In fact, what I have done is to debunk universals. All permaculturalists are not community-minded. Some are hyper-individualists and get into “the survivalist thing.”

    1. diane

      as has been said, “know you’re right” …, there are those moments in time when one realizes that they are reflecting certain truths, …and to be told there is no truism, whatsoever, in what those persons are expressing (most particularly, when it does not provide any economic benefit to those persons, whatsoever, to express the thought) is profoundly disturbing ….

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      @From Mexico: You begin with a statement that you cannot prove and which is false: I wrote in “haste” because I wanted to get out on a beautiful Sunday and put strawberries in the ground. You continue with a statement that’s provably false: “Any and all criticism.” If readers will scan the thread they’ll see I express concerns about permaculture for classism and also for its system of “apostolic succcession.” I also express concern that permaculture isn’t appropriate for all cities based on land use. In addition, the post makes fun of permaculturist sweaters. Pro tip: If you’re going to make false statements about what a commenter says, don’t do it on the thread where the commenter says it; it’s too easy to check.

      Cutting to the chase on the syllogism: I’m glad that we are all now agreed that because JGordon is (could be) a hyperindividualist that does not mean that permaculture itself is hyperindividualist. What a relief.

      UPDATE Adding, I read this as a claim of universality:

      This is tantamount to the Marxist faithful saying that Stalin and Chariman Mao weren’t true Marxists or the capitalist faithful saying that Mussolini, Franco and Pinochet were not true captitalists, either that or denying that the forementioned operated in highly authoritarian and violent ways.

      That is, in the same way that the Marxist faithful deny the real nature of Stalin and Mao, so JGordon denies the true nature of permaculture. In fact, therefore, just as Stalin (the communist) was a true Marxist, so JGordon (the hyperindividualist) is a “true permaculturist.”

      1. skippy

        I believe the issue revolves around apples and a barrel thingy, although change is “Ever Present Past”.

        Linky goodness…

        Cultural dimensions and social behavior correlates:
        Individualism-Collectivism and Power Distance

        skippy… when ones olfactory whiff “Survival of the Fittest” is it a bad thing to observe[?] even if it brings cake?

      2. from Mexico

        But again, Lambert, it is you who is aggressively engaged in the formulation or defense of pet universals.

        Universals are abstract in that they do not exist in nature and are merely constructs of the human mind. They can come fairly close to reflecting empirical reality or be completely divorced from empirical reality.

        For example, let’s take the universal negatives of the Marxist faithful:

        No Marxist is violent.
        No Marxist is authoritarian.
        No Marxist uses his power for any purpose other than to realize the workers’ paradise.

        Next comes the syllogistic logic:

        Stalin and Mao were violent.
        Stalin and Mao were authoritarian.
        Stalin and Mao used their power for purposes other than the realization of the workers’ paradise.
        THEREFORE, Stalin and Mao were not Marxists.

        In order to keep their universal negative alive, the Marxist faithful must either employ the above syllogism or be in denial of the empirical evidence that Stalin and Mao were violent, authoritarian and self-serving.

        Another example would be the universals of the anti-Marxist faithful, the following universal positives:

        All Marxists are violent.
        All Marxists are authoritarian.
        All Marxists use their power for purposes other than to realize the workers’ paradise.

        And we can see around us everyday the anti-Marxist faithful using the same sort of leaps of syllogistic logic and contortions of empirical reality the Marxist faithful use to keep their universals alive. Keeping the universals alive is the alpha and the omega which trumps all else for the true believer.

        So let’s look at the universals which it appears you, from looking at this thread, are trying to keep alive:

        No permaculturalist is sexist.
        No permaculturalist is radically individualist.
        No permaculturalist is survivalist.

        Stephanie, diane and Pat have all testified they have experienced permaculturalists who are sexists. Your solution, so as to keep your universal alive? Brand their experiences as “false claims.”

        With JGordon it’s a little bit more ambiguous. JGordon sort of threw you a lifeline when he said that “I am in fact a radical individualist by temperament… However by permaculture training I am a community-minded and socially engaged individual.”

        Well I suppose JGordon could be a tiger who can change his spots at will. I think there is ample evidence, however, such as the following NC thread, which indicates otherwise:

        To wit, JGordon intones the following:

        I have a prediction to make: things will keep getting worse for people in America, and one by one, as their respective situations become unbearable, they’ll either find alternative ways of doing things or disappear. That’s all. There will be no reform, no great savior. No one will come along to fix much of anything at all–and even hoping for things to be fixed is somewhat braindead since the system isn’t even worth or fixing anyway (I learned that thanks to the wonderful permaculture links you provided that got me started on that path. Thanks a lot).

        Instead, try growing some fruit trees and get some chickens. Make friends with your neighbors and volunteer to plant fruit trees in their yards too. Stock up on ammo and solar panels. Start learning new skills–like guitar playing, marksmanship and emergency first aid for example. Now THOSE are things you can do that will actually have some positive impact on your future situation. But caring about politics and complaining about all the rampant corruption everywhere? Well that won’t do anything useful, even if it does make for entertaining reading.

        But that’s just the opening volley. One needs to go read the entire thread, including Yves’ responses, who like me believes that JGordon’s comments like this one are just “Friggin’ insane.” Ah, but not Lambert Strether. Here’s Lambert’s response:

        Obviously, these solutions aren’t for everyone. However, they are clearly solutions for some, me, in particular; and last I checked, Portland, ME (chicken keeping permit in PDF) was a city.
        I guess I’m not getting the vehemence here. From 30,000 feet, it looks to me like there’s major collapse on the horizon, from any number of causes often discussed here. If JGordon wants to do some “bold, persistent experimentation,” then have at it, say I. If the worst happens, apartment dwellers are going to glad alternative systems are in place. If the worst does not, where’s the harm?

        The harm is this, Lambert: These radical individualist and survivalist ideologies are an impediment to people urging and and organizing collective political action. As Hannah Arendt so eloquently put it:

        On a more sophisticated level, we may consider the disappearance of the ‘taste for political freedom’ as the withdrawal of the individual into an ‘inward domain of consciousness’ where it finds the only ‘appropriate region of human liberty’; from this region, as though from a crumbling fortress, the individual, having got the better of the citizen, will then defend himself against a society which in its turn gets ‘the better of the individuality.

        –HANNAH ARENDT, On Revolution

        1. Glenn Condell

          I was wondering when Hannah Arendt might make an appearance in this pointless food fight.

          Lots of angels on the head of this pin.

  11. Jennifer Hill

    Lambert your version of spring reads like a Lowes commercial. Those of us from the farming/garden culture states like Kansas actually know how to grow stuff. You can’t depend on permaculture but a combo of organic gardening and coops in the outer rings can provide us with some of the veggies we need. Rural poverty used to mean that folks knew enough to grow and raise some food that would last through the year. We’ve lost that culture, and told the poor folks to get out of the way, assuming they are incompetent at everything including growing some food to eat. But lots of us are banding together in ex-urbia coops, local and personal organic gardens, and we plan to continue and expand regardless of the externalities. I get it and support the first forages into self sufficiency.
    All this means nothing if you believe in a dystopian end to all that is. But that is not the pattern of system break down, it will take years to become completely broke, Rome wasn’t made in a day, it didn’t collapse in a year.
    The primary conern for most of us is climate change. Our skills will be worthless in the face of extreme weather destined to destroy flora, fauna and humans.

    1. diane

      I beg your pardon, but our primary concern is removing those who are running everything, worth living for, into the ground.

      Not only climate changes, but those whose lives that are, and historically have been, being decimated before that weather becomes unbearable to all living beings.

      That would certainly take care of things ….

      My gut instinct is that you sound like a good cop, bad cop “play” …. attacking other humans for degrading the environment, when you, in fact, are presumeably human, yourself.

      1. diane

        And, most certainly, you (Jennifer Hill) won’t be facing that meeting in ‘Samara’ any easier than anyone else, no matter what you ‘post’ …. perhaps you’re young and rather inexperienced, or a bot.

        straining your thoughts through a sieve, humans are destroying the climate, though you are a human, and I will bet my life that aren’t willing to die tomorrow for all of the oxygen you are sucking up. How many “rare earth” techie gadgets have you bought, for just one instance.

    2. diane

      In other words, is that you Al Gore, with that lawn mower larger than most ‘folks’ one bedroom apartments, to make all those properties you own, look pleasing to you when you jet into those airports once every few months to barbecue, when the weather is tolerable, after you get through those highly limportant DARPA conferences?

      I voted for you Al, I hope at some point in my life on this planet, I can undo that mistake ……

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Er, I don’t shop at Lowes. And the state of Maine knows how to grow stuff; we pioneered organic farming and gardening, and MOFGA is the largest organic farmers and gardeners organization in the country, despite our small population. So I don’t know what your point is, although the rest of your commment seems to fit in with what the post says.

    1. diane

      and, in the mean, time I am delighting in listening to (for the thousandth plus time) my ‘boozy’ male, human, ‘mick’ bro, van morrison, sing: into the mystic ….


  12. HotFlash

    I will just chuck this into the mix, and the people who want to go ballistic no doubt will. The rest of you may find something of interest and/or use and that is the best I can hope for. I must say, it is exchanges like this that make me wonder if our species can or should survive.

    A cute little story about what my city might be like in 15 years. If you don’t like cute, then don’t click, OK?

    1. diane

      well, honey :0), do, indeed, have to admit (unless you truly want to be considered hopeless), you certainly are not the only only one on ‘this thread’ feeling the need to ‘chuck’ somthing ‘up’ …

      and yeah, those “hot flashes” really do leave one with sleepless nights …..

      1. HotFlash

        “My dear” (‘scuse me, that is a little informal, but you started it), your vitriol is as interesting as it is undeserved. Did something touch a nerve? If so,I am sorry for your pain. But really, I cannot see how a vegetable can threaten you, even if they bunch up. Could you please explain why you re so angry?

  13. diane

    not trying to be an asshole, but I do believe one of the points is that those who have been historically abused have not been been able to plant trees … for centuries, and, so then, to make a big deal of planting (on the creepy inter tubes) something, when one really isn’t hardly experienced at it (to those who have not been able to, yet know how to (were taught to at birth)) is truly rather insulting: to those who know how to do that, if only they could.

  14. Stephanie

    @ Lambert, if you are still reading, I thought this article was relevant to this discussion. Urban gardening is (or can be) a completely different beast than home gardening. Similarly, urban permaculture will be a different beast than rural permaculture. It is not enough to farm right on your own piece of land. Urban permaculture (and permaculturists) should consider how permaculture (in creating more *permanent cultures*) reclaims the city (Lefebvre’s Right to the City). For permaculture to be “urban,” and to enact the principles of permaculture in *urban ways,* it needs to involve itself in the city in this way. Perhaps it does. Anyhoo, for your reading, if interested:

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      @Stephanie Yes, I have to return for some cleanup later. Thanks fot the source. I agree it’s got to be different in the city, since/if local politics are all about land use. There is another post (too hard to find w tablet) that raises these issues powerfully for a food forest in Seattle, by a woman btw. And no doubt techniques differnt too, as they must be if site specific. I look for yt vids because they show rather than describe the garden and look spexifically or urban, see title, but yt search funtion is notoriously poor…

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