Jonathon Engels

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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.

Survival in Different Terms: A Healthy Ecosystem Is Not Based on Survival of the Fittest

Caiman in Panama (Courtesy of Emma Gallagher

As I’m working my way through and around Geoff Lawton’s online PDC course, I’m pulling out all sorts of nuggets, things that spur my thoughts or twist a smile onto my face. It’s great to hear about familiar ideas in a new light and to feel inspired once more with all the possibilities permaculture presents and all the possibilities to present permaculture. Video: Geoff Lawton’s PRI Zaytuna Farm Tour Somewhere […]

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Permaculture, a Holistic Solution, Is Applicable Empowerment to World Poverty on a Local Level

Kids in Casa Guatemala Who Helped Us with a Soil Rebuildng and Erosion Prevention Project

I worked for many years with NGOs, most of which were providing English education in order to provide people with the ability to make living in industries, like tourism or international business. Generally, I volunteered in communities where impoverishment was beyond anything I’d ever seen growing up in the USA: Houses were lean-tos constructed from randomly amassed scrap materials, schools often lacked electricity and/or materials and/or books, and people suffered […]

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The Problem with Growing Tomatoes Where I Live

Homegrown Cherry Tomatoes (Courtesy of  OakleyOriginals)

Somewhere in this country people are doing it well, and truth be known, I now work at a conscientious, mindful organic farm (organizing volunteers and a farmers’ market) with vast biodiversity, animals and plants, that manages to pull enough crop to keep me in organic tomatoes. However, despite what appears to the contrary, what seemed illogical to me not so long ago, in a climate that never gets too cold […]

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Learning More on How to Think about Soil

Seedling & Soil

I don’t know why it is, but I’ve taken to waking up at about five every morning. I kiss my wife Emma on the head, creep downstairs from the loft of our apartment and spend the next hour or more watching Geoff Lawton videos from the PDC course. She knows I’m doing it. It’s nothing weird. But, for the most part, we don’t talk all that much about it. This […]

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Forgive Thyself: Self-Sufficient Homesteads Don’t Happen Overnight, And That’s Okay

New Sprouts of Malabar Spinach

Permaculture tends to attract passionate, active people who are dead-set on living more responsibly, in tune with the planet. By and large, we are an energetic, self-motivated crowd. Principally, we like the idea of self-reliance but embrace the notion of interactive, ecologically-minded communities. We are not people who sit on the sidelines, waiting for others to solve the world’s problems, but rather we are those putting our stake in the […]

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Defining the Edge in Simple Terms

Raised Terrace Edge

The edge is always an exciting topic amongst permaculturalists, but it’s also one that can sometimes feel a little abstract. Look on the permaculture forum and there will be a lot of folks waxing poetic about life at the edge, but like poetry (and life), it’s very difficult to decipher what it all means. In broad terms, the edge is the interface where two biological mediums meet, and an ecotone—a […]

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Guilds for the Small Scale Home Garden

A Mixed Bunch

Building guilds is a clever way to put gardens together. Instead of toiling over providing this or that nutrient for plants or battling with pests or relying on the success of just one crop to provide the food, a massive mixture of productive growth is but a few preparation steps away. We often talk about guilds as a grand scheme, part of growing a food forest, starting with something huge […]

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7 Perennial Shrubs and Trees with Edible Leaves

Mulberry Tree (Courtesy of Vivian Evans)

Mama always insisted I eat something green. I think a lot of moms are that way. Frankly, now, some thirty-odd years later, I’m quite thankful to her for teaching me to appreciate a variety of flavors and textures for making sure I stayed on the healthy straight and narrow. As an adult, I don’t find it difficult or disconcerting to try new foods, but in fact, it’s exciting. Eating leaves […]

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Intercropping: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and Why We Do It

Strip Intercropping (Courtesy of Oregon State University)

Get into permaculture and within no time an entire field of jargon is sprouting up around you, and while it can be exciting to have all these new ideas to ponder and play with, it can also be a bit intimidating…bewildering…intense. Well, at some point or another we’ve all felt that way, but even so, it’s time to talk about one of those mysterious terms: intercropping. In order to have […]

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How to Harvest Enough Dry Beans and Other Legumes to Feed a Family

Scarlet Runner Beans

I’ve been growing beans now for a while. They are a big part of my diet, and the nitrogen-fixing bacteria many legumes (not just beans) have are a huge factor of garden design. It’s common practice for me to simply plant a load of beans and peas as soon as a bed is made, both to chop-and-drop but also to pull a good harvest from the first planting. Something I’m […]

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My New Take on Self-Sowing Plants for Low Maintenance Gardening

Raised Bed

It happened this week, just yesterday actually, I was piddling through some old sheet mulch garden beds I’d made, beds still providing plenty, and discovered the next generation of plants coming up. There were three or four leafy outcrops of arugula sprung through the mulch. There was collection of pigeon pea saplings, about 15-20 centimeters high that were hiding amongst the weeds I was pulling. A cranberry hibiscus had dropped […]

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A Dozen or More Plants That Provide Quickly and Abundantly

Lemon Cucumbers (Courtesy of Megan Hansen)

I am for a new system of food production in which we utilize perennial plants more, slowly replacing our tendency to eat, nearly exclusively, annuals with a diet better suited to self-sustaining, soil-building, long-living agricultural ecosystems. I know these systems, in the end, will serve us better as a planet (humanity having to exist on said planet), has the potential to provide well-balanced abundance, and give us lives less reliant […]

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