I wanted to post another update from my garden and update from our Permaculture Meetup, which blogged about some time ago (Here’s our meetup group site: Oakland County Permaculture Meetup). Recently, I hosted what we call a “permablitz” or a work day where people come to help and learn. We have 10-15 permablitzes per year, and they are always a great way to meet people, learn, and help our community with various projects.
Resiliency and Community-Building through Permablitzes
Its an incredible thing, seeing people come together to work hard. I talked about this a bit with my barn raising post a while ago. We live in such an individualistic culture; the idea of community aid and community projects are still new to me, and to most of us, and thus they are always special. And truthfully, I can’t stress enough the importance of community in sustainability work. One person can build something small, but several people together seem to get much more than three individuals’ work done. We became a team, a tribe, a group of individuals working towards one goal. Its a powerful and magical thing.
There is another side to bringing people together to engage in good work–resiliency. Resiliency is a term used within permaculture design and, according to Peter Bane, refers to the degree that one “takes responsibility for one’s own household needs as part of a resilient local economy” (3). Permablitzes, community building, barn-raisings and the like can lead us to more resilient communities, where we are working together for common goals and becoming more responsible in providing for ourselves and our community. Those that came here didn’t just work–they learned something about fall garden bed prep, how to use tools, how to plant cover crops, how to sheet mulch, and so forth. They learned something about soil ecology and worked with others to enact change. The more we are able to come together and help each other, the more we are all able to learn, grow, and accomplish. This is the big picture of our meetup group, our sustainability work, and our permablitzes.
We had 9 people out to work on the fall garden as well as remove some more of my lawn in the front and replace it with a “medicine wheel” bed. We started with harvesting beans and squash and beans from my main garden and cutting back sunflowers as more people arrived.
After that, we finished up out 3 of my 20′ x 4′ beds plus three of my friend’s 3′ x 15′ beds. With this work, we cut out old vegetable plants (keeping their root systems in the soil to not disturb the soil biology) and added all other parts of the plants to the compost pile. We weeded out grass and ground ivy, added finished compost to the beds, and finally, added cover crops of red clover or winter rye. Both cover crops help retain nutrients in the soil and prevent runoff (we have sandy soil, so this is a particular concern for the winter months and “empty” beds). The clover also adds nitrogen; the rye is a fabulous winter food for my chickens. The rye stays green all through the winter and provides them nutrients, even in January and February! Here are some photos of our work:
This was the conclusion of the “vegetable/annual” garden project. We decided also to tackle removing a bit more of my front yard and put in a “medicine wheel” inspired garden for perennials and herbs. To do this, we started by moving a bunch of wood to our fire pit (I had two dying spruce trees cut down last month that were in danger of falling on my house).
Then we began pulling out the grass, tilling, and building the bed. Looking back on it, we should have just sheet mulched it, but we went for it the hard way. Lesson learned, lol. Here we are in some of the final stages of the bed….
The process you see us doing here to establish the walkways is to put down a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard (at least 1/4″ thick to supress weeds) then add the wood mulch on top. The mulch comes from the trees I had cut down. The compost I purchased finished from a local company who recycles yard “waste”; all of the compost I made myself ended up in my garden and I was in need of more!
We gathered up the stones from the front of my property to make a stone edge around the beds. Here we are setting the last of the stones….
And…in a few short hours, another 50 or so feet of lawn gone and an amazing and sacred place for me to plant culinary, magical, or medicinal herbs. The weekend after this, a friend (who had been at the permablitz) came back and we expanded the bed using sheet mulching form a circular pathway around this central medicine wheel garden. I’m going to probably put a thick layer of leaves over these beds to help keep them from eroding or compacting too much in the winter months–then plant in the spring!
We also enjoyed each other’s company, and had a bunch of good food!
After the permablitz ended, four of us went on a fall leaf run (we got about 40 bags of leaves for my chickens and gardens) and another two of us went foraging for hickory nuts and pears. All and all, it was an incredible day and incredible experience, and I am so thankful to have everyone’s help. This work would have taken me probably till the middle or end of November…now I can work on some other projects and go to other permablitzes this month :).
For those of you who are feeling isolated or overwhelmed with what you want to accomplish–please remember that there are others out there looking to lend a helping hand. The amount that we can accomplish together, rather than divided, is amazing!