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.

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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20 Quick-Producing Perennial Fruit Trees, Vines, Bushes, and Grasses

Quick is a relative term, especially when it comes to fruit, but what we’ll generally boil down to is in this article is some form of production in three years or less. While three years is certainly longer than it takes to grow some green beans and tomatoes, in the scheme of creating a perennial food forest that will provide for years to come, it’s nothing. What’s more, with this […]

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How and Why to Rotate Your Annual Crops

Sure enough the bulk of us permies are working to establish perennial sources of food, cultivating food forests for high yields with low inputs. Nevertheless, annual food crops are often what our kitchen gardens are chiefly comprised of. It’s no big shock, really, as that has been what most of us have grown up eating, enjoy the flavor of, and thus want to grow. No doubt, we should be cultivating […]

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Building Ponds & Talking Liners

We all know that harvesting and storing rainwater is a huge part of designing a garden, and while swales are super functional and a fantastic way to hydrate a landscape, I—like many others—dream of an area replete with ponds. I want those permanent water features to attract wildlife, to swim in, and to use for irrigation if and when that’s necessary. Consequently, in daydreaming of some day soon owning a […]

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Donald Trump for One United People?

So it has come to be that Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States, yet the world has not ceased to spin and the rains—one assumes—will still fall. We still have to eat, we still need shelter, we still long to commune, and the earth is still all we’ve got to provide all these things. It would be a lie for me to say that I believe this president-elect will be a positive one for the planet.

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The US Election, Standing Rock, Before the Flood, and How It All Ties in to the Permaculture Movement

Some time ago I wrote an article about permaculture as a political act, and as an idea, it was one of the more inciting that I’ve shared on Permaculture News. Many people wish to keep permaculture out of the political sphere, to view the goings on of the world as something we each address individually, not as a movement. There seems to be a fear, as seems often the case […]

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How Plant-based Permaculture Is Possible

I get laughed at a lot. It’s frequent enough that, when I tell people of my intention to build a permaculture system without using domesticated animals, I sort of give a preemptive grin. While I believe most permies mean well in advising me, most seem pretty dead-set on the idea that a vegan permaculture garden just can’t work. In a lot of ways, I won’t lie, the proposition scares me, […]

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Gardens Aren’t Just for Plants, So What Else Is There?

Like any budding permaculturalist, I spend a lot of my design time obsessing about what plants to include, how I’ll be piecing together this guild or time-sequencing that bed. I want my crops to fix nitrogen, provide food, deter pest, create mulch, make shade, prevent erosion, and, oh, how the functions add up. Who can help it? It’s a wonderful world we live in, and wonderful task we are involved […]

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Basil: What Every Permaculturalist Should Know

In a design system in which we are looking for each element to perform multiple functions, there are few plants that can show off quite the way basil does. As a rule of thumb, things are expected to warrant their placement within our designs with at least two useful attributes, but basil performs well all over the show. It dazzles in the kitchen, the garden, the herb spiral, the food […]

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Money Is Not the Motive

What’s the use of happiness? It can’t buy you money. Henny Youngman I can’t say money doesn’t matter. A lack of it, as well as some fairly stiff standards to meet, has prevented my wife Emma and I from buying land after two years of looking. It has led us to places we’d never planned to live but where we could afford to buy property. We have currently stopped looking […]

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