Have you heard of Permaculture? I’ve only known about permaculture for less than three years and it resonates very much with Form School feng shui. As I have often written, feng shui is living in harmony with nature, following nature’s patterns. Master Hsu teaches us that when we rise with sun and rest at sundown, we are following nature’s patterns which promotes health and well-being. This is how we are supposed to live. But because of our modern conveniences, many of us stay up late into the night and wake up way past sunrise. It is no wonder that our mind and bodies become out of sync with nature. I think permaculture is the feng shui of cultivation design. Wikipedia defines it as “a philosophy that follows nature to create an ecological design which attempts to develop sustainable human settlements and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems”.
Several years ago, my husband decided he wanted to grow vegetables in our back yard. As everyone in our family is a foodie, what could be better than home grown herbs and vegetables, right? Well, thanks to the internet and many, many books, the project got underway and he was out in the yard, digging away. The first year, Seattle had an unusual cold spell and everyone’s veggie patch was a disappointment, including his. The tomatoes remained green and we all felt bad that there wasn’t much to show for his hard work. However, the positive result to all this was his realization that he truly enjoyed gardening!
Last year, he experimented with various seeds and our dinner table was blessed with a variety of tomatoes, kale, eggplants, green beans, cabbage, several types of potatoes, squash, cucumbers, Chinese leafy vegetables including, bok choy, and an assortment of herbs. There was more than we could consume, so many of our friends also enjoyed the fruits of his labor. While continuing to read and learn more about growing vegetables, he came across permaculture.
In the mid-1970s, two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, developed an agricultural design approach that incorporates the landscape, weather patterns, and environment to build a whole self-contained ecosystem. The word “permaculture” comes from “permanent” and ”agriculture” and focuses on long term interactions between plants, soil and climate. This is not easy for me to explain, so here’s a simple and rough example:
We are all familiar with the sight of an orchard, rows of the same trees standing like soldiers with either grass or bare earth underneath. This is a monoculture where the farmer uses pesticide and fertilizers to maximize the production. In contrast, a permaculture orchard would mix not only different types of productive trees but also trees that provided other functions such as soil development, insect attraction, etc. Furthermore, instead of a bare understory, there would be fruit bushes and plants that attract insects to prey on the pests that might affect the trees and also provide forage for the bees that are needed to pollinate the trees. The end result is a true polyculture with no pesticide, no fertilizer, and over time a lot less work, albeit one that is usually harder to harvest by mechanical means.
Therefore, permaculture is a designed ecosystem that utilizes the land to produce vegetation and animals in the most economical way by following nature’s patterns of weather, land formation, conditions, climate and soil quality to its greatest benefit. In a similar way, good feng shui is living in an environment that is best suited for the people and function of those that reside there. Good feng shui design also assesses the natural environment such as land formation, climate, weather patterns, and conditions to understand the qi energy of the space. Following permaculture and feng shui results in an economical system with high productivity, just how nature intended!