When people ask “what is permaculture?”, it is tempting to regurgitate the beautiful and deep definitions of so many big thinkers. Yet, I have the feeling that such depth brings with it the idea that permaculture—and sustainability, while we’re at it—has to be something large, a 100% perfect solution to our environmental and food problems. Well, it isn’t. And, chances are, you have been doing all sort of permaculture things unawares! Just like this winter hack…
I’ll try to keep it short and simple: the idea of permaculture design I’m focusing on is to survey your needs or problems, as well as your resources, and come up with implementable solutions. Preferably re-using elements to reduce unnecessary system input or waste. Hm. Did I manage to lose you yet? Let’s just look at the “problems” and forget about all this theory.
For reasons beyond the scope of this post, I prepare my morning hot beverage way before I manage to drink it. It’s alright, I actually like over-steeped tea—or coffee. But right now I’m really into the hot part of the deal, which is difficult to achieve without an extra thermos. This is “problem” #1 in this mini-survey.
I also get very cold feet. Which again, I usually don’t mind. Except when I’m working indoors, sitting on the floor for most of the day. That leads, in this time of the year, to a sometimes painful swelling of my toes that can stay put for weeks. Just putting thick woollies—how we call woollen socks around here—on only seems to keep the cold in. So, by the time I want them on, some three or four hours into the morning, my feet might already be icy. This is “problem” #2.
Was there an Eureka moment? Not really, it all happened as a progression of clothing items. But let’s pretend it happened like this—it could have! One day, back from breakfast harvest, with icy feet from the frost outside, socks probably taking up space on the kitchen table, I hesitate to pour hot water into the glass cafetiére thinking it will again be cold by the time I get to drink the coffee. At the same time thinking that wool is such good insulator and that it’s pointless to put the woollies on… [This is your standard in-the-brain-whiteboard permaculture survey]
“Wait a minute… ” [this is the design part]
Feet smile, not yet able to wiggle frozen toes, and send message to brain: “We wouldn’t mind some warm woollies by then!” [and this is your happy client’s feedback].
And all the elements come together [also known as the implementation].
Well, it didn’t happen like that. I’ve been doning my teapot with a woolly cap since the beginning of autumn—not for the first year. And the space in between cap and pot soon became the place to warm my mittens up. This is just a lazy way to get a tea-cosy, I know [also known as “using least resources” in permacultish]. But I’ve used tea-cosies as hats before, so why not this way around?
So, again, what is permacultury about this? It’s a solution to a set of problems, using the available resources in a way that allows multiple functions for a particular element. No extra resource inputs, no waste. It even took care of me not knowing where I had left the socks!
Multiple functions is a key element of permaculture, and probably my favourite. In this case, the wool keeps the heat in the cafetiére amazingly long—it’s not piping hot, but nicely hot after almost four hours today! When I drink the coffee—or tea, which is the usual thing, actually—I check with my feet: do you need some nicely warm woollies? Bam! Double warmth.
And the third, you may ask? I believe that fuzzy warm feeling is smugness.