Jonathon Engels

In 2005, after earning a master's degree in creative writing from the University of Memphis, I pitched my tent abroad and began one of the few careers appropriate for people with humanities training: teaching English to foreign kids. Through the years, I've managed to keep the old writing dream alive, usually in the form of course guides and ESL exercise booklets, but from April 2010 to April 2011, I created a monthly newsletter for a Guatemalan-based NGO, Las Manos de Christine, as well as wrote much of the organization's website content. Inspired by the success, in late 2011, I decided to explore freelance writing. After having some success on the travel writing scene, which is to say a few websites bought articles from me, published them, and made good on the payments, I felt content and inspired to try my hand at other topics. I'm a serious vegan and into activism, so I applied for a job at great website called One Green Planet. Somehow, they found it in their hearts to give me a shot, and we've been collaborating weekly ever since. As well, during my latest travel venture, a trip from Guatemala to Patagonia, volunteering the whole way down, I fell for permaculture and began writing about it as well. And so here we are, voyeur (of sorts) and voyager. To learn more about Jonathon please visit his website here.

Gardening What Grows: Using Nature’s Choices a Year Later

Cranberry Hibiscus

About a year or more ago, after eighteen months of traveling, my wife Emma and I returned to the closest thing we have to a home: an eco-lodge in Guatemala, in a small village outside the tourist hub of Antigua. Earth Lodge has been the place we go when we run out of steam. It has been a haven and space for personal growth, and it comes with the benefit […]

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Home Cooking with DIY Kitchen Equipment

Cooking by Fire (Courtesy of Josh Larios)

I’m a huge fan of home-cooking and, even as a teenager, learned to prepare meals from scratch for myself, which was pretty miraculous in the 90s but even more so these days. Whatever the case, cooking at home with real food is a huge part of the permaculture lifestyle. After all, we have to do something with all the fruit and veggies we are growing. Having a decent grasp on […]

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The Casa Guatemala Permaculture Project: Phase One

A Starting Point

It had been several months of being in touch with Heather, the director of Casa Guatemala, before my wife Emma and I finally visited the once orphanage turned school, a sort of haven for children from impoverished families in which parents can’t afford to support them. Otherwise, daytime students commute from surrounding villages to take advantage of the better quality education on offer, as well as a free meal and […]

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8 Common Plants to Grow for Their Medicinal Benefits (All Great for Indoor Container Gardens)

Oregano (Courtesy of cyclonbill)

Just about the same time I started getting into permaculture, I began developing an interest in the power of food as a preventative medicine. Permaculture appealed to me because it seemed obvious that the way we were cultivating our food with an overabundance of chemicals was destructive to the planet and to our own health. When it came to farming, doing what came naturally seemed, well, the natural solution. Letting […]

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What Fair Share Can Mean in the Permaculture Community

More Than We Can Eat

The quiet third permaculture ethic, “fair share”, gets much less press than the two headliners. With a grand mission that includes sustainable energy, conservation, ethical practices with animals and agriculture, and a steady rebuilding of the damage humanity has already caused the planet, earth care is something with many easily identified branches and movements to adopt. And, with its movement towards fair trade business models, safe working conditions, and personal […]

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10 Edible Perennial Vines for Vertical Gardening

Courtesy of Deborah Austin

Vertical gardening is a concept that is well promoted these days, especially when considering urban and suburban gardens in confined spaces. A quick search on any server will reveal a great collection of reused plastic bottles or PVC pipes suspended alongside walls and fences, little bunches of salad greens poking up periodically. Everything from old pants pockets to upcycled dressers to old pallets are used to grow food beyond just […]

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A Site Specific Nuts and Bolts of Zone 1 Gardening in Rio Dulce: Tropical Wet/Dry Climate

feat Sweet Potato, Chaya, Habenero, Okra, Cuban Oregano, and More - Copy

Recently, I put together an article outlining the (or my) basic theory of Zone 1 gardening, both for a specific NGO project I’m working on as well as in the hopes that it might be helpful for others in similar situations. For it, I wanted to present broad, accessible ideas that could apply across the spectrum of climates and, in the case of charity projects, cultural practices. Ultimately, though, we […]

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A Basic Introduction to Zone One Garden Theory

What Isn’t Path Is Growing Food (Emma Gallagher) Feat

Recently, my wife Emma and I were asked to introduce zone one permaculture to women in about 15 or so indigenous villages around Rio Dulce, in southeastern Guatemala. Seeing as we had only a couple of weeks to get the project completed, my initial reaction was one of panic. Suddenly, the DRAs (daily recommended allowances) of these women’s families were on our shoulders, and somehow we were supposed to visit […]

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Perennial Vegetables and The Other Reasons You Should Consider Them for Your Garden

Turkish Rocket (Courtesy of Eric Toensmeier)

Luckily for me, my mother was the sort who insisted that I taste something before deciding I didn’t like it. The habit has served me well in later life. As a traveler, I’ve been able to shift my palate from one country’s cuisine to the next, enjoying whatever ingredients seem common to the local fare. As a vegan, those versatile taste buds have kept the doors open to many more […]

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Why It’s Better to Use the Slow Approach to Charitable Permaculture Projects

An abundant expanse of food—flax, chia, beans, corn, quinoa, mustard, etc.—growing at Project Somos in Guatemala. It feeds at-risk families every day.

I began working with international nonprofits about eight years ago, first as an English teacher in Palestine and Guatemala. Having elected to retire early (at about 35) from the teaching game, I’m now regularly approached by organizations interested in including permaculture projects in their game plan. For me, this switch has been very exciting. I am able to continue to work towards a better future for and with others, while […]

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10 Ways to Use Palm Fronds in the Home and Garden

palm fronds

For those who read the pages of Permaculture News regularly, you may have stumbled upon an article or two by me, and if that were anytime recently, then more than likely there will have been some part of that article devoted to my newfound fascination and appreciation for palm fronds, specifically those of the cohune palm, which is native to my current, likely permanent, location of Central America. But, the […]

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It’s the Time of the Season and the Moon is Bright: Time-Stacking, Planting by the Moon and Other Marvels Tic Toc-ing Along

Time-Stacked Garden Bed

To be completely honest, the time element of permaculture is something that hasn’t gotten its due attention from me, but coming to this realization, it’s also an idea that I’m spending more and more moments pondering. No doubt, timing can make a huge difference when planting, creating guilds, pruning, harvesting, and countless other –ing activities. The cycles of the moon, the change of the seasons, the rate at which things […]

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