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.

What Happens When One Walks in the Garden

Sitting for a Spell

I believe in gardens, not as magical fairy lands with gnomes and smoking caterpillars on toadstools (though I wouldn’t kick them out) but as places in which we should appreciate as fully as possible. We should use them to grow food, of course, and we should also use them to grow medicine. But, that’s not all. Gardens have the ability to teach us about the world, how plants, animals and […]

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A Fowl Arrangement Between Us All

The Mulch Makers

Every morning I get out of bed to the sound of turkeys and chickens parading around my cabin en route to a spot behind the outdoor kitchen scullery where scraps of food are tossed every day. It’s a beautiful permaculture set-up, feeding the fowl by merely scraping the plates over the counter. By the next morning, the birds are happy, and any evidence is gone. Occasionally, the dogs get in […]

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What It Means to and Why It Matters That We Buy Local

Fresh apples in baskets on display at a farmer's market

Buying local is quickly becoming a trend, and though some folks may not have noticed the slow change in supermarkets and the growing numbers of farmers’ markets, only occasionally visiting the US (where I was born) or the UK (where my wife was born) has really made it have an impact on us. Each time, we notice more. We are excited about the change. It’s great to go back a […]

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5 Simple Ideas for Transitioning into a Permaculture Garden

Small Space Intensive Food Garden

I meet a lot of people who are new to the idea of permaculture, or more so, they’ve heard of the term but aren’t quite certain what it entails. It’s using raise beds, right? Generally, I try to be broad in my description, including elements of sustainable housing, renewable energy, cyclical systems, small bonded communities, and the whole shebang…But, largely, people have heard about permaculture through the food movement and […]

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Making the Most of Coconuts in the Kitchen

which came first feat

Generally, caught up in the construction of a garden, I think of plants for their purposes in design. This one is nitrogen-fixing, this one deep-tapping. it’s good for chop-and-drop mulch, a bug-deterrent, a perennial version of something annual, shade-tolerance, water-resistance, or any combination thereof. Sometimes I get so lost in those elements of cultivation, that I forget the real reason much of the cultivating is done: To eat. Of course, […]

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On the Relevance of Aesthetics in Permaculture

Hiding in Natural Beauty

(With the Special Mention of Five Techniques I Often Employ to Turn Heads) Often as I contemplate how to make a garden more beautiful, thoughts I find myself having more and more, there is something within me that questions my inclination to do so. I feel like permaculture doesn’t really concern itself with beauty, at least not in a theoretical way. In reading a manual or the latest article, I […]

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Made in the Shade: Tropical Trees and Plants That Ain’t Starving for the Lime’s Light

Made in the Shade

I’m getting excited. I can’t help it. The deal is in the works, and my wife and I are but a few steps—however indefinitely long they take—to purchasing our own piece of land. We’ve decided that the tropics is the right climate for us. We couldn’t resist the year-round temperatures suitable for growing. We couldn’t resist the fantastic tropical fruits—the pineapple, mango, cashew apple, lime, coconut, jackfruit…there are so many!—and […]

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Voluntary Frugality

One of Our Homes (1)

This time, I’ve moved beyond dipping in here and there and really started to read David Holmgren’s Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, a book that goes in depth into realms of permaculture that I’ve not fully explored in my time involved with the movement. And, while I’m not yet through the book, I’ve recently been struck by a bit of terminology he’s used to describe one of his own […]

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6 Magical and Medicinal Trees to Grow in the Tropics

Jackass Bitters (Courtesy of Dick Culbert) - feat

Truth be told, my wife Emma and I believe that just about any plant we come across has some sort of mystical, medicinal power. Unfortunately, we are well aware of the fact that, whatever that power is, we more often than not do not know it or the extents to which its magic will work. So, it’s no wonder, when we learn that tree bark from such-and-such tree or leaves […]

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When the Reality Sets In and Permaculture Isn’t Paradise

Permaculture_not Paradise - feat

When I left Belize a month ago, the beginning of a garden that I (my wife and a few others) made was looking promising: Melons, pumpkins, and various types of beans were popping up everywhere, and we were nursing some tomatoes, basil, garlic, and papaya along. Malabar spinach was struggling along the fence lines, and potatoes and ginger had just been planted. Bananas, plantains, chaya, vanilla, moringa, and mulberry were […]

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Mulching with Purpose and Precision

A Mulched Garden Bed

Mulching is a top priority for a healthy garden. It does so much work that it’s hard to oversell the importance. A proper mulch maintains the integrity of the soil beneath it, protecting the earth from drying out under the sun and/or washing away when the rains come and/or blowing away in the wind. It creates water retention, mulched gardens credited with requiring as little as ten percent of the […]

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If That’s Not Permaculture, What Is?

Keyhole Hugelkultur - feat

I call myself a permaculturalist, a word that still doesn’t officially register as valid on my spell check. I read about permaculture daily, and I write about it weekly. I’ve been asked hundreds of times by strangers, friends, and family to define permaculture, and to varying degrees, I’ve done so with practiced proficiency. I often find myself listening to permaculture podcasts, enthused by unusual topics—how to grow mushrooms in the […]

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