Jonathon Engels

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The financially unfortunate combination of travel enthusiast, freelance writer, and vegan gardener, Jonathon Engels whittled and whistled himself into a life that gives him cause to continually scribble about it. He has lived as an expat for over a decade, worked in nearly a dozen countries, and visited dozens of others in the meantime, subjecting the planet to a fiery mix of permaculture, music, and plant-based cooking. More of his work can be found at Jonathon Engels: A Life About.

Gardens Aren’t Just for Plants, So What Else Is There?

Garden Patio

Like any budding permaculturalist, I spend a lot of my design time obsessing about what plants to include, how I’ll be piecing together this guild or time-sequencing that bed. I want my crops to fix nitrogen, provide food, deter pest, create mulch, make shade, prevent erosion, and, oh, how the functions add up. Who can help it? It’s a wonderful world we live in, and wonderful task we are involved […]

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Basil: What Every Permaculturalist Should Know

Thai Basil

In a design system in which we are looking for each element to perform multiple functions, there are few plants that can show off quite the way basil does. As a rule of thumb, things are expected to warrant their placement within our designs with at least two useful attributes, but basil performs well all over the show. It dazzles in the kitchen, the garden, the herb spiral, the food […]

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Money Is Not the Motive

Money Is Not the Motive

What’s the use of happiness? It can’t buy you money. Henny Youngman I can’t say money doesn’t matter. A lack of it, as well as some fairly stiff standards to meet, has prevented my wife Emma and I from buying land after two years of looking. It has led us to places we’d never planned to live but where we could afford to buy property. We have currently stopped looking […]

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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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