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.

How to Grow a Seedling into a Plant

Star fruit started from seed in a yogurt pot It’s as natural as natural can be: Plants, from trees to chives, start small and get bigger. We can’t really escape that fact. The trick for those of us looking to cultivate, to instigate food forests and healthy polycultural gardens, is somehow getting from our seedlings to something that will provide us with food, or timber, or chop-and-drop mulch, or windbreaks, […]

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A Little Sauce on the Side: Your Guide to DIY Condiments

Homemade Condiment Collection For all of the growing and eating of fresh produce most of us do, or aspire to do, condiments often survive our purging of processed and problematic foods. Ironically, many of us are growing the exact ingredients we need to make our own homespun condiments, free of food industry chemicals and additives but stocked with real nutritional value and flavor. Plus, once the basics are in motion, […]

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Household Waste and Its Place in the Garden

Seedlings in an Old Plastic Container Flat-out, no arguments, the debate over, we as a society are producing far too much waste, and we’ve been doing it for far too long. It’s not sustainable. The earth is suffering, the environment giving way to the age of rubbish, to swirling masses of garbage in the ocean and oceans of garbage on the land. And, while there is much blame to be […]

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How to Make Cider, Cider Vinegar, and Why You Should Be Doing It

Apple Cider from Above I ran into a funny story in a Michael Pollan book not long ago: The American pioneer legend, Johnny Appleseed, used to stay two or three hops west of the colonial expansion in the USA, buying up large swaths of riverside land and planting apple trees. In most historical accounts (the Disney version), he is depicted as an angel of virtue, making sure that everyone got […]

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How to Make a Productive Patio

It would be great if we all had an acre or two, the time, and inclination to grow our own food, but the realities of the day are that the majority of people have moved into more confined, urban and suburban settings in order to be closer to jobs, entertainment, school districts, conveniences, and whatever else tickles our fancies. It’s the world as it is: Over half of us live […]

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The Magic and Mystery of Constructing a Herb Spiral and Why Every Suburban Lawn Should Have One

Herb Spiral (Panama) One of the first permaculture projects I did was building an herb spiral, and to be honest, the design has never ceased to delight me. Undoubtedly, that one and the few spirals that followed are amongst the most beautiful garden beds I’ve made. More importantly, they are also amazingly productive and a great way of getting into the mindset choosing the right spot to plant stuff, both […]

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Planting in Pots and Other Ways of Playing with Permaculture in the Big City

Growing your own food doesn’t require expanses of acreage. It doesn’t require a tractor. It doesn’t require complete self-sufficiency. As we all well know by now, it doesn’t require chemicals, either. It doesn’t even require a garden, at least not in the way we’ve come to picture one. In some instance, it doesn’t even require soil. There are so many things they are not necessary for anyone to start growing […]

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How to Grow a Medicine Cabinet

Chamomile Bunches It has crept up on us slowly, perhaps without the initial intentions of what we are now left with: prescription medicine. Medicine, for all of the valuable attributes it provides, has been an equally destructive force. Like the chemical fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture, the onslaught of fix-it-all antibiotics and a pills-over-health mentality has put us in more need of more and stronger medicines to combat the highly […]

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Two Hands Are Better Than One (and Other Reasons to Buy Secondhand) and Why It All Pertains to Permaculture

Shopping secondhand starts off for most as an act of frugality. We notice that buying a car, a computer, a TV, furniture, guitar, sweater … anything! … is so much cheaper if it’s been used for a year or two prior, maybe even shows a bit of wear, that unsightly scar on the paint job or the stain from an errant cup of coffee. We take joy in finding stuff […]

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Transitioning from Groceries to Garden

In Memory of Anna, Forever My Sweet Potato Last year, about this time, my wife and Emma and I agreed to take up a project in Panama. We were given six months, a small budget to feed volunteers, and a good plot of land—roughly an acre—to grow on. There were lots of things either already in place: mangoes, limes, plantains, water apples, and a papaya tree shooting through the greenhouse […]

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Left All Alone: A Tale of Permaculture’s Prowess

This became a favorite spot for our daily hike, after a morning’s work, lunch settling in our bellies as we scuttled across the rocks of the Rio Chico under the afternoon sun. I’ve always liked the idea that, once a permaculture system is in place, the largely perennial garden will not merely survive but actually thrive without you. My wife and I have started this year volunteering on farms in […]

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Big Inspiration in Little Old England: Plant Life Abounds

Pond at New Shoots It was an unexpected phone call that sent my wife Emma and me from Colombia to England this past October. We’d not been in Bogota for a full day when we learned that her father was ill, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for us to visit sooner rather than later. In the following twenty-four hours, we managed to cancel two volunteer posts at permaculture […]

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