In Permaculture, the main goal of the movement is to prepare for a global low energy future. The focus is on our present communities (locally and globally) for long term survival and thrival. In order to achieve the goal, homesteads are the first priority. “Homestead” implies self sustaining livelihoods; growing own food, capture and using own energy supply, creating own goods and services.
The main way to achieve self reliance and community empowerment is to capture and store energy. To apply energy usage in a balanced lifestyle (in order to prevent too much work or waste) a system of positive feedback and negative feedback reactions need to be set. In current economics, the system can be correlated with checks and balances. Unlike, economics there is not enough direct feedback of the impact our actions or habits have an affect on the environment.
The next step to a global shift starts with the utilization of developed goods and services for the betterment of the wider community. Bartering, or solely giving away, makes life easier for each member of the community. The dispersion of roles can be seen in past villages where there were fishers, butchers, carpenters, blacksmiths, etc. To create a naturally functioning and maintained larger system we must apply tactics of homesteading to the greater whole; feedback, self maintenance, maximum energy usage, allocation and usage of resources.
Self reliance comes in many forms for me. I am placing responsibility on myself to create my own home, my own food, and my own supplies. Self reliance is a form of activism, switching from the waste and mindless consumer to the educated, thoughtful producer. Most of all self reliance is freedom for me to have minimal ties to corporations or the government, providing my own security and happiness.
Storage of Energy
Homesteading is the symbolic, grounded declaration of my self reliance. My passion holds strong, but there are a few techniques to be learned first. The main sustenance for a homesteading person is the storage of energy. The ability to capture and store ensues security and abundance for multiple seasons, years, and ultimately, generations. So what is energy? Energy on a land that can be captured starts with the sun. Every part of life on Earth is created and propelled by solar capture and use. Solar gain is transmitted into four key energy storages; water, living soil, trees, and seeds.
Each is fundamental and strategically chosen to be self maintaining, low depreciating in value, and resistant to theft or monopolization.
One of the key principles of permaculture is “Observe and Interact”. Observing each renewable source on a plot of land (or community), we can utilize the best practices of catching a storage of energy. Water interacts with the land ideally through rainfall, aquifers, rivers, and basins. Water can then be captured as reservoirs, dams, swales, tanks, cisterns, ponds, and swamps. The energy can be stored and transmuted into natural capital as vegetation, forests, and soils or can be used as immediate energy for irrigation and mechanical energy (watermills).
Living soil, another energy storage, is a critical element of healthy ecosystem. The essential chemical break down is carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen. When there is a large presence of humus on the ground, the soil metabolizes and stores these necessary nutrients. Humus comes from the rotting of plant life and then acts as a sponge absorbing water, carbon, and minerals. The minerals determine the alkalinity of the soil. They include calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Ideal PH level of the soil is 6.5. With the use of nitrogen fixing plants, herding of animals, and mycology we are able to remediate abused lands. Living soil that is abundant in humus, minerals, water, carbon, and nitrogen needs to be highly valued as a resource of homesteading.
As the third energy resource, trees contribute to the ecosystem immensely. Contributing to foliage on the ground to break down into humus, acting as a cover for other plants and animals, and large carbon stores; trees are a wealth to be had! Because most trees are resilient after a few years, they become self maintaining, a keystone to the local ecology. Trees are able to reproduce without the need for felling and can easily be translated into material wealth of wood and fruits. Conjointly, the forest provides a habitat for animals, bees, herbs, fungi, and seeds which all have the capability to be valuable stores of energy.
The reproduction of plants, seeds, have unlimited capabilities making them one of the biggest investments of energy storage. Usually small in size, most seeds are easily stored for years on end. They are resistant to most environments and each seed has the capacity to produce futures seeds by the ten fold.
When we value the abundant resources from nature for its true worth, we can gain much more from it. The key to harnessing this energy is to observe these stores of energy in nature, understand the true value, and recreate this occurrence on a homesteading plot. The measurement of wealth can be attributed to how the energy is stored, how it can be transmuted into different forms, and how long the energy is thriving in storage. Wealth that is valued in this way can further our livelihoods in terms of bartering or monetary gain and secure our future. Talk about preparing for retirement!