Permaculture shows why we must not duck nature
Letting the environment go about its business can benefit us all
Published 10/05/2011 | 05:00
In the early 1970s, Bill Mollison developed a system of farming in Australia called permaculture.
It's all about sustainable land use where plants and animals have multiple functions -- and by growing them in a mixed and natural environment, they benefit each other and, of course, the farmer as well. It is a well-proven concept and is something many of us, especially those with woodland, practise without perhaps fully realising why.
Throughout the world, the more advanced of our recent ancestors farmed in this manner and a basic principle is that society must, as a condition of use, replace an equal or greater resource than that used. Careful crop rotations and the use of animal manures ensured that the land was always kept fertile and rich in organic matter.
I was reminded of permaculture recently when watching my three Khaki Cambell duck foraging in the garden for slugs. Multifunctionality is one of the keystones of good permaculture design and duck must be one of the best examples of providing multiple benefits while just carrying on with what they do naturally.
They keep the population of slugs and other pests under control and convert them into tasty and nutritious eggs and meat while providing large quantities of manure to boost plant growth.
All they require in return is a safe house at night to protect them from foxes, some water to bathe in and a handful of grain in the evenings.
Permaculturalists take this a stage further and, like the monks in medieval times, they site their duck houses partially over ponds where carp are growing. The droppings from the duck help increase the growth of grasses in the pond, which the carp then eat and so you get fatter fish -- and all thanks to a bit of joined up thinking.