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 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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Increasing My Edible Acumen (and the Double Identities of Some of My Favorite Tropical Plants)

Photo: Healing noni and it equally medicinal leaves One of the many things I’ve learned thus far gardening in Central and South America is just how many plants are edible and medicinal, most of which people generally don’t use, that we in fact never even think to harvest. Of course, many of us who frequent a site such as Permaculture News have soft spot for multiple-purpose plants, especially those with […]

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Sparkling Green with DIY Household Cleaners

Photo: Cleaning Shouldn’t Require Protective Gear A while back, my wife Emma and I made the switch to DIY hygiene products. We were trying to avoid toxic stuff like fluoride, formaldehyde, and many a varied assortment of unsavory uglies found in toothpastes, deodorants, shampoos, and so on. We started this because we didn’t want to damage our health by taking a shower or brushing our teeth. The move also made […]

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A Personal Evolution: Tales of Permaculture via Greennovate Clips

Author: Jonathon Engels Like many, my introduction to permaculture came in the form of food production. It changed the way I viewed farming, shifting my practice from being one of waging war with nature—constantly tilling, weeding and wasting—to one that teamed up with the plants, soil and even buildings around me. I was already an advocate for organic practices, but this was something altogether different.

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Experimenting with Overflowing Circles and Slow-Flow Swales (Panama)

The jungle garden I am not Bill Mollison or Geoff Lawton, they will both happily report; rather, I am but a humble novice when it comes to permaculture, experimenting my way through ideas, mimicking when I can, improvising when research falls short. And, it was somewhere in between mimicry and improvisation that I came up with what I’m calling overflowing circles and slow-flow swales. I wanted to catch water, of […]

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