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.

The Importance of Trees in the Garden

In permaculture, forest gardening is high on our list of priorities. While the production value of certain trees, specifically fruit and nut species, is an obvious positive, there are many more reasons trees should be featured often and prominently in our designs. When considering them carefully, we can find a bounty of benefits to enjoy. Trees play a vital role in eco-systems, in the planet’s atmosphere, in our water systems, […]

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Attracting Bees to the Garden and Keeping Them There without a Hive

People are in the fight for the rights of bees these days. After a couple of award-winning documentaries (Vanishing of the Bees, Colony) and some real worry in the headlines, the masses have shown up, at least in spirit. The kings of agrochemicals are being badgered, outlawed, and lampooned around every turnover of borders, all in the name of bees. Now, we mustn’t pretend like there are no other voices […]

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Volunteering for Volunteers: A Slow Evolution of Hosting Free Labor

Recently, I’ve been working with volunteers in two capacities. I oversee the daily, walk-in volunteer program at Caoba Farms, which is currently undergoing a massive organizational overhaul, an effort to make it more predictable and attentive. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m now working weekly as a volunteer for Garden of Hope, helping to physically implement a permaculture design that I’ve been voluntarily developing for the roughly one-acre […]

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5 Designs for Growing Food Vertically

Permaculture changes the way we look at space. For some of us, it opens up pathways to making the most of every inch we’re given. For others, it allows us to relax our demands on the land and ourselves, to put thoughtful design in place and let it play out as nature then sees fit. Whatever way we are moved, without a doubt, verticality becomes a part of how we […]

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The Low-Down on Double-Dig Gardens

I hear and read many people who are completely against double-digging, and to state this upfront, for those most part, I’m in complete agreement with their assessment. I am a believer in no-dig gardens. Even more so, I think being patient with our soil situations—planting what will grow and piling organic matter atop the soil to replenish the nutrient cycle—works. I’ve seen it work in dry situations, in clay situations, […]

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Building Pallet Furniture – A New Passion from an Old Flame

I am not a carpenter, which is to be summed up by saying I have no official training and only have any knowledge of how to work with wood through a combination of 1. handing my father nails as he hammered our barn together when I was about twelve or thirteen and 2. offering to help Drew, now one of my best friends, as he continually tackled projects around Earth […]

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Designing a Lifestyle, Not Just a Garden

Implementing a permaculture design is much more than building a garden. It’s also more than a house that utilizes passive solar energy or barrels to catch rooftop runoff. While these things often are incorporated into permaculture plans, the practice itself is getting at something much deeper. It’s redesigning the way we live. Growing at least some of our own food is a step in a different direction from the mass […]

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Simple Ways to Conserve Water When Design Hasn’t Done It

Managing water on a property is often at the forefront of permaculture design. Not only is there major focus on utilizing the landscape to make the most of weather and landscape supplied water, but also sustainable design dictates that we utilize gray water and minimize black “waste” water, which causes contamination, resource depletion, and health problems. In a perfect world, where all of our homes were designed thoughtfully with environment […]

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Remembering Bill Mollison, the Man I Never Knew

I first encountered Bill Mollison in Nicaragua through Permaculture One, without even really stopping to notice his name, setting aside that book in order to read something from another friend I’ve never met, John Seymour, whose book The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency: The Class Guide of Realists and Dreamers captured me for the next month (It is also a fantastic book). By the time I’d finished it that December, […]

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Another Yule Log

My wife Emma is a bit of a holiday junkie, her already notably high energy level rising even higher as the calendar ticks nearer to year’s end. We have certain rules, like No Christmas movies before December, to try to curb the enthusiasm until (what I have insisted is) an appropriate time. While she has obliged my assessment, it has only meant that her engine is fully revved by the […]

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Reducing Your Footprint When You Haven’t Built a Permaculture Site from the Ground Up

In the ideal world of most budding permaculture enthusiasts, which I still consider myself, we would have pieces of land sizeable enough to begin the adventure of a lifetime. We would be designing our own energy-efficient homes with passive solar heating in the winter and deciduous vines clambering around to keep the sun off in the summer. We would have the space for luscious gardens and food forests to grow […]

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Learning What the Dendritic Pattern Is (It Looks Like a Tree) and Applying It to Design

Recently, I’ve been working my way through Geoff Lawton’s new online course, in particular chapter four, which concentrates on Pattern Understanding, as found in Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual. It’s a topic that I do enjoy, though it sometimes feels a bit steeped in jargon, words formerly unfamiliar to me—tessellation and dendritic—appearing again and again. However, it’s the later, the dendritic pattern, that has recently captivated me, and I […]

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