The beautiful Ballybay Wetlands Centre provided a very suitable location for a weekend of discussions and workshops on living sustainably. The sun shone on the drumlins surrounding the Dromore River, and the birds gently tweeted as Marella Fyffe, from Omagh Co. Tyrone, led Transition Monaghan’s weekend workshop on Sustainable Living Skills / Permaculture.
Permaculture, a principle that originated in Australia, is all about careful design of systems that enables us to interact with nature and our surroundings in a positive way that can enhance our lives without having a negative impact on the environment. It can be defined as a method for building sustainable human habitats that are ecologically sound an economically viable. We can apply principles related to sustainability to enhance every aspect of our lives.
Our early discussions revolved around the importance about us as individuals being focused and not taking on too many projects. The role of ethics and values was also discussed ,and how determining these with respect of the environment in mind can lead to better decision making and long term planning. Marella introduced us to the 12 Holmgren Principles, which are key to permaculture’s holistic outlook on the design of systems, whether that be a household, a suburban garden, a small agricultural holding or a community garden or forest. These principles focus on the importance of planning, and making sure that elements of a system are in the right place and that every aspect of a system can be utilised without creating much or any waste.
One of the tasks that we were given was to arrange a layout for a permaculture small holding. This comprised a grazing area for animals, out-houses, a river, a small wind turbine, water mill, forest garden, vegetable patch, reed bed system and more. Arranging these according to permaculture principles we had to take careful consideration of the best location for each element of the system. For example, the house was placed in a south facing direction, while the herb and vegetable garden was placed near the house, so that the occupant could keep an eye on these parts of the garden that need regular maintenance. Forest gardens and agro- forestry plots would be placed further away from the house, as they did not require the same level of attention. It was commented that all these elements would be difficult for one person or family to maintain, and it would be better if a community would have access to these different resources that would help them become more self-sufficient and resilient. This is the case in the Eco Village in Co Tipperary.
While permaculture is an abbreviation for permanent agriculture it is so much more than simply about farming or growing food. The underlying message of the weekend was that we can all take aspects of permaculture’s teaching to make a difference in various areas from our personal lives, to our house and garden and to our community. If we all take small steps such as growing a small amount of our vegetable of choosing the bike over the car when possible, then these small actions collectively can be very powerful.
The Transition Town movement, which aspires to build a more resilient, low carbon world, is built on the principles of permaculture. Transition Monaghan is a voluntary initiative that applies these ideas here, and we always welcome new members, whether experienced activists or those wishing to get more involved in their community. We will soon be planning our next event, and would love to hear your ideas! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.