The farm we run at Posada del Valle is a certified organic farm and has been for almost 10 years. However over the last couple of years as well as maintaining organic farming practices we have also been looking at the way we operate with a permaculture perspective.
Permaculture means different things to different people. A popular concept of permaculture is a system of gardening requiring little external inputs and the essence of permaculture is to work with what is already there.
The sheep shelter we built recently reflects this line of thinking, as we tried to use materials we already had on the farm. The basic structure is stone, of which we have abundance and is the natural building material of the area. For the beams we used wood from eucalyptus trees growing on the farm. The roof was made from old pallets which we got from our local builder (who was going to burn them) and finally we did buy some black plastic to cover the roof. This contrast completely with the first stable we built 12 years ago, made from iron beams, breeze blocks and corrugated iron roof!
Another idea behind permaculture is to produce no waste, and to try and think in continual cycles. Compost is a classic example of this, making food from waste!
Kitchen waste on the compost, soon to produce food again.
An example is the eucalyptus trees we have growing on the edge of our farm. They are an invasive species which drain the soil of water and nutrients, making it difficult for other plants to grow. But rather than just cutting the trees down to burn in site we now try to cut the trees only when we have a use for them, either in construction or when we need fire wood. Rather than looking at them as a pest or waste we look at them as an asset.
Making the most of trees for fire wood
Another example is seed sowing compost. Being a horticulturist and realising the importance of seed sowing, I always like to buy some good sowing compost to sow my seeds in. The commercial sowing composts are normally peat based and not very sustainable. We now have an excellent substitute for the brought compost, from the farm; leaf mould: We have been making leaf mould on the farm for the last 2 years from all the leaves which blow around the hotel entrance. Around the hotel the leaves are seen as a mess and a waste, but we now look at them as a valuable material.
Cutting hay with a scythe for winter food for the sheep
But permaculture isn’t just a permanent (sustainable) agriculture; it has evolved to one of a permanent (sustainable) culture and to encompass all aspects of human habits.
If you are interested in permaculture you may be interested in the following books:
The Earth Care Manual by Patrick Whitefield
Permaculture, Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren