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Permaculture – a Lesson in Patience

by Leanne Ejack (Alberta, Canada), PDC student, Jan/Feb 2014 at PRI Maungaraeeda, Sunshine Coast, Qld., Australia

I was bred, born and raised in the Western Canadian prairies, surrounded by massive cattle feedlots and kilometre-long stretches of monoculture grain crops. I always enjoyed the farming lifestyle, but I knew as a young teenager that the farming practices that I was surrounded by were inflicting long-term harm to the soil and environment. Spending a year after university working for a large agricultural company opened my eyes even further to how these large companies have spent years manipulating farmers into complete dependency upon their chemical inputs. Farmers are caught in a toxic and corrupt spiral of powerlessness. I was driven to start educating myself about a more sustainable way of food production that also placed the power back in the hands of farmers. I had heard about permaculture and, after researching it further, I knew I needed to become more immersed in it.

After completing a PDC at PRI Maungaraeeda with Tom Kendall in early 2014, I found the kind of knowledge and experience I was looking for. Beyond learning about the design principles of permaculture as well as plant, soil, and water management, I received something I didn’t really expect to: a shift in my own personal mindset and patterns of behavior.

It was kind of fitting to be learning about permaculture at this time in my life. I know there is no ‘schedule’ that we all must follow when we reach certain stages in our life, but as I head deeper into ‘real’ adulthood, I can’t help but feeling that I would like to establish myself on some path and contribute something meaningful to society. I have spent most of the past few years in a back and forth pattern of travelling and short-term contract positions. These experiences have taught me much about the world and ‘real-life’ and I do not regret any of them, but I am becoming impatient with ‘not knowing what to do with my life’. Impatience and feelings of urgency had come to dictate my life.

After two weeks of a PDC with Tom, I quickly realized that permaculture is founded upon patience. Permaculture is about working with nature and allowing time for nature to work herself out. Permaculture can be frustrating for many people, because there are no ‘quick fix’ solutions to problems. Permaculture is about setting the seeds for a permanent system (think: permanent agriculture = permaculture) that will manage and sustain itself for years to come. Our severe impatience drives us to get in with the tractor and chemicals, blast everything out to bare soil, and plant a monoculture of the desired plant we want. We want these plants to grow fast so we can begin harvesting straight away and make more profit. The more the better! This is a ‘trophy hunter’ mentality. But this type of system requires constant management and constant artificial inputs from fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and other manufactured chemicals.

Permaculture, in contrast, is about the maximum amount of output with the minimum amount of work and input. In order to create something that will last and be sustainable, the key is patience, patience, patience! But patience is such a hard quality to cultivate in us ‘instant-gratification’ humans. Therefore, incorporating the practices of permaculture requires a complete change in mindset and attitude. It is not just a method of farming, it is a belief system and lifestyle.

This is why it seemed so fitting that, while taking the PDC with Tom, the crucial value of patience in the design of a permaculture system kept coming back to me. At the risk of sounding too fanciful, I can’t help but feel that, right here, right now, the universe was really trying to hammer this lesson in to me. I am listening!

Thank you to Tom and Zaia, and the crew at PRI Maungaraeeda, for helping me cultivate a new course in my life.

Further Reading:

9 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I too suffer from the impatience of wanting everything right here right now. At times I feel that things are moving too slowly and I want to jump start my life and get ahead on the permaculture pathway. but time and again I am brought back to the realization that everything happens at the right time, and fighting these natural cycles and patterns only leads to more frustration. So many lessons to learn, so much patience needed!

  2. Same here! I keep having to say to myself ‘imagine what it will look like in 2, 5, or 10 years time. Slowdown and take time to breathe. I love our place and it is slowly coming together.

  3. Glad to see another Albertan, out abroad, and learning the ways of the permaculture Force!

    Now to transform this here Province into some super awesome!

    1. Great to hear feedback from another Albertan Kurtis! We got a lot of work on our hands here at home. Where are you in Alberta?

  4. Your definition “Permaculture is about setting the seeds for a permanent system (think: permanent agriculture = permaculture) that will manage and sustain itself for years to come.” is the most precise that I ever come upon since pemaculture became my main concern nowadays. Being 57 years old, with a life full of achitectural projects, buildings, concrete, steel, glass and lots and lots of wasted energy and time, I’m in a turning point in my life. The “time factor” is of the utmost importance and realizing it is not easy. Maybe one of these days I’ll go from Portugal to Australia to my PDC. The sooner the better.
    All the best for you Leanne

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and personal connection. All the best on your own journey chartering a new course in your life!

  5. We live in a world of instant gratification and the young of this world are chasing gratification more and more as if their world is going to implode and we must get that satifaction now before it dissapears satisfaction be fore it disapears for ever .In my youth of the 1960’s in NZ everyone had their own vegie garden growing more or less organic food and no going to the shops to get the nightly meal as they do now at the last minute our food was planed over months and seasons and if you didn’t do it you went hungry Instant food comes with instant sickness in the long run of life SLOW DOWN AND WATCH THE FLOWERS GROW ALONG WITH THE FOOD PLANTS and when you have a surplus save it what ever way you can and live a healthy life without stress. Roger

  6. Hi Leanne, your story completely resonates with me. Ironically its been whilst working for a “large agricultural company” that I first realised the impact of the products on the land and then discovered permaculture. Unfortunately I’m still working for that company and impatiently want to get out and live on a beautiful permie farm in some undisclosed pristine land- however I’m biding my time, learning a lot from the farmers I come into contact with and getting paid by “the man” until I can live my dream.
    I sure do admire those farmers who have the guts to go against the norm and incorporate organic/permaculture principles into their systems.

    1. Jessica, yes, be patient and learn what you can from the farmers. But don’t let a lack of confidence misguide you into thinking you cannot make it without working for ‘the man’. All the best to you!

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