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.

Techniques for Making Your Own Biodegradable Seedling Pots

Those of us who practice permaculture take our mission seriously, and we are doing our best to minimize our use of factory production methods (and the petroleum-dependence, pollution, and inefficiencies that go along with it) and take advantage of all of the resources around us. This is commonly observed in things like repurposing pallets, compost piles, bio-digesters, and passive solar heating. In other words, any time we can find ways […]

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Beckoning the Bats: What They Do for Our Gardens and How to Attract Them There

In permaculture, we look for opportunities to expand on biodiversity, as well as take advantage of functions that can occur naturally or with minimal inputs from us. While often this takes the form of rotationally grazing domesticated animals, including them in waste cycles, and using them for pest control (a la not a slug problem but a duck shortage), we are also inclined to make the most of wild fauna […]

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Mushrooms for Foraging: 7 (or More) Ways to Get Started

Emma and I arrived in North Carolina about two months ago, right around the height of morel season, and that was the buzz. Morels are a very popular springtime mushroom around these parts and others in the US, but they have the reputation of being a bit elusive, difficult to find even for those who know what they are (and aren’t) looking for. As for us, other than eating them […]

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8 Ways of Using Old Firewood for Something New

Our keen permaculture minds are too sharp to ever believe that something so precious as firewood, past its prime or not, could be of no use. We, of course, can always simply toss it back into the forest and let it do as it would have done anyway, cycling nutrients through the ecosystem. However, after all the work of harvesting, chopping, and storing it, most of us would rather find […]

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Plant-Based Sources of Protein

Any time I mention veganism, I feel the need to precursor the discussion with the fact that in no way am I suggesting that anyone is wrong for not practicing a plant-based diet or that it is necessarily healthier than an omnivorous one. Without a doubt, circumstances of food availability are different around the world, and regardless of our whereabouts, we all have personal versions of what we will and […]

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Black Locust, How Do I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways: Hmm. At Least Seven.

In Belize, it sounds daft, but I used to find myself daydreaming about a tree called madre de cacao (Gliricidia sepium). It was a strapping type of tree: tall, quick-rooting, nitrogen-fixing. While living there, my wife Emma and I were doing a work-trade at a local cacao farm, and we discovered this specie, the “mother of cacao”, and instantly put it to work in our gardens. It made for great […]

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A Few Forays into Foraging from the Forest

Emma and I have been living as artists-in-residence at a farm — Snaggy Mountain — just north of Asheville for the last month. Snaggy Mountain isn’t necessarily a permaculture site, though there are certain shared commonalities. Jared, the owner/operator, certainly has interest in growing food, and he is no stranger perennial vegetables or the drive towards garden forestry. On our first full day here, he took us on a foraging […]

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Not Getting Burned Anymore

Sometimes I wonder if all of the modern ailments, which seem ever more numerous as the years pass, are really just the result of adopting chemicals as a regular component in nearly every part of our lives. Can it be that simple? The sudden outbreak of peanut allergies, the increase in chronic diseases, the fact that cancer now seems more the expectation than unpredictable tragedy—have we just become more aware […]

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A Mere 20 of the Roles Trees Can Play in Permaculture Design

While permaculture certainly pays mind to annual crops, by and large it is a system rooted in perennial plants and, in particular, trees. Permaculture, as the “perma” name suggests, is a movement towards permanent agricultural arrangements, ones which culturally value nutrition, systemic health, and sustainability over monetary wealth and materialism. Permaculture designs can be quite complex cycles for avoiding waste creation and maximizing productive efficiency, but they are fairly simple […]

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A Time-Sequencing Plan for Straw Bale Gardens

Something has never sat quite right with me about straw bale gardens in a place where soil is available. Like hydroponics, I can envision it for places that lack soil and ground space: rooftops, driveways, parking lots, and the like. Then, I’m not sure if it’s the purist in me, but the generally movement towards focusing on soil repair and permanence (my interpretation of what permaculture ideally does) rings much […]

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Using the Community as Part of Your Own Permaculture Design

When beginning with a permaculture design, when we get out our pencils and graph paper and start dreaming a little, we often do so with a rather insular perspective of what our systems can be. We think of how to be sustainable on our own quarter-acre. We think of how to go about doing it all by ourselves. For me, someone who rarely envisions more than a couple of acres […]

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Using Weeds to Read the Soil: Some Basic Concepts to Get Started

Weeds are becoming a more and more appreciated component of gardening. We have been reintroduced to eating the weeds, with things like dandelion leaves becoming a niche crop. Also, we are encouraging plants that, up until recently, were viewed as weeds (dynamic accumulators like comfrey and pioneering legumes) to revitalize our soils. And, many gardeners are once again celebrating weeds as a means of reading the soil. Geoff Lawton says […]

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