Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison
This is pretty much the classic textbook on permaculture. Don’t believe me? What if I told you Mr. Mollison INVENTED the word permaculture to describe the multi-tiered growing system he developed on his Australian land. Yep, that’s the guy. And although he can be credited with this amazing feat, he doesn’t waste time with jargon in his book. Instead, he gets right down to the business of how to most effectively plan land for both environmental and personal maintenance.
To describe it in brief, permaculture involves the integration of native plants and animals in a system that eliminated the need for additional inputs such as fertilizers and outputs such as yard waste. To see things from a permaculture perspective, a goat is no longer just a furry animal that makes funny noises, but rather a recycling and fertilizing machine, that, when properly utlilized, can keep an orchard pest (and pesticide) free while providing milk, companionship, and dung for the garden. So too with chickens, cows, horses, fish, even green mulches. Everything in a system must be looked at in terms of its TOTAL needs and outputs, and a balanced system can be created that makes the best use of everything available.
Of course there is a lot of plant talk here. After all, it makes perfect sense to use native flora wherever possible. And though Mr. Mollison is located far from the US of A, there is lots of good information here for any aspiring permaculturist. Especially interesting is the discussion of planting cycles which replace the traditional English planting system of crop rotation followed by fallow periods to recoup soil nutrients. He shows that by properly mixing plants with different strengths (such as leguminous nitrogen fixers and natural pesticides), you can completely eliminate fallow fields while still improving yields.
There’s a nice discussion of water management too, with ideas for ways to increase the productivity of “transition zones”, those microclimates along the edges of land and water which are traditionally the most diverse of a given area.
Now, none of this information would be very useful if it weren’t also practical. After all, you don’t want to hike five miles for water every day any more than a woman in Kenya does. Nor do you want to be flooded out every time it rains. To that end, there is a lot of discussion in the book about how to situate the various components of your permaculture system so that you have easy access to the things you need and living takes as little energy input as possible. Bravo for that reality check!
Overall, the book covers familiar ground in many areas, though it’s important to note that in actuality, as it was written in the EARLY 90s, this was the pioneering work that others have since used as inspiration. I would certainly recommend it to any gardeners, off-grid enthusiasts, botanists, or just plain nature lovers out there. Everything is nicely illustrated and purely practical. Even in reading, he keeps extra work down to a minimum.
RATING: 5 / 5 stars
LENGTH: about 200 pages of pretty easy reading
PRACTICALITY: lots of sage advice here for anyone at any stage of land development and also good theoretical discussion of the lifestyle.