What is it?

Now I know that I’m not the only one out there that had no idea what permaculture was, so I’ll explain.  Here’s the google result:


noun: permaculture
  1. the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.
1970s: blend of permanent and agriculture.
Permaculture is basically the idea that we can create a sustainable style of agriculture that works for nature, the land, and the people depending upon it.  Now what does that have to do with my yard?  Well, permaculture, as with many things, was a new idea with gusto and quickly spread to aspects of society outside of industrial agriculture.  People quickly started to realize that it could be applied to the landscaping of the modern home.  They also quickly realized that the only way to make it successful was to bring it to the people and have it make an impact one yard at a time.  In regards to a yard, the idea is that you can utilize the land you have around your house to produce food for your family.  You can also do it in a way that mimics nature and, as a result, is good for the environment and requires less work from you.
I would like to note that although I present this as a new idea.  It is far from a new idea.  After all, nothing is new under the sun.  Growing food in your own yard was actually the norm prior to WWII.  It wasn’t until after that point that various foods became more widely and cheaply available to communities in markets.  As the grocery store established itself as the place to get your food, people began to see their yards are more ornamental.  As that developed, the idea of a pristine, weed free, lush lawn took hold and the place for food producing plants at home disappeared.
My husband and I have always wanted fruit trees and berry bushes in our yard.  My husband grew up on a farm in Iowa and I grew up as, and still am, an avid gardener.  It just made sense to us.  Our idea had been to have a few entertainment areas, a few areas of lawn, and then fruit trees and berry bushes around the perimeter of the lot.  And this is what I meant to convey in the front yard the day we spoke to our third landscaper.  However, permaculture and the road he led me down by mentioning it has completely changed my viewpoint of the capabilities of our yard.  I now see food forests and a living ecosystem that produces all of our fruits and vegetables for the year.  It is lush, water savvy, and repels weeds and pests on its own.  As I read more and more about permaculture, the view of my yard looks closer and closer to the garden of eden.  Only I won’t hesitate to pick an apple off the tree and, if the snake is useful, it can stay.
If you’d like to learn more about permaculture, I highly recommend starting with these books (listed in the order in which I read them):


Edible Landscaping by Michael Judd