Permaculture design allows us to meet human needs while increasing overall ecosystem health.
Taproot Farm and the site of the PermaPatch (our future food forest [still accepting input for clever names]) offer a set of unique challenges (READ: opportunities). The beauty of a site-specific design science like permaculture lies in the sense of empowerment gained from a humble attunement with natural processes (geological, biological, cosmological, historical, social). Limitations fuel creativity.
This area was first seized or settled (depending on who ya ask) by Europeans around 1730. Blood was spilt. Not too long before, during and after the bloodshed, the hollows were turned or burned to Agriculture, primarily the production of wheat and tobacco, according to everyone else on the internet (READ: wikipedia).
The land on which we stand here at Taproot was farmed continuously for about 250 years. Historically, our agricultural practices have been far from regenerative: you can see it in the seasonal erosion gullies --err, creeks--- and feel it in the subsoily texture of the "topsoil."
Here, as in so many places, the very Earth beneath our feet has been mined - depleted -- the life extracted, blown & washed away --- resting now as just some more sediment...somewhere downstream.
That would be damn near depressing if it weren't for our innate capacity to act as regenerative agents in the ecosystem -- not as stewards, which still implies a sense of aloofness that I'd prefer to shake off, but as part and parcel of Nature. "We are Nature working," after all. It takes a forest roundabout a century to produce an inch of topsoil, but i reckon a few humans growing with intention on a small lot could probably help that happen in a decade or so. Add to that the observable fact that the planet heals itself through an understood succession & suddenly it's clear that we didn't so much get booted out of Paradise as cut it down and paved over it.
But we humans are clever, quick & adaptable. Surely we can shift gears.
The key here, and one of the tricks to living life well i believe, is to design ourselves out of the system as much as possible. All of our gardens should be less work over time- really, it just takes some careful observation, thoughtful planning, and a willingness to work hard during the implementation phase. A gardener needs a little faith to step back and let Nature work its magic... which can be hard when, on occasion, you realize that the best laid plans have failed to take into account some complex mystery of Reality on the Ground. That's an important lesson: a good design allows for close feedback loops and a good designer isn't wed to the design as it appears on paper, but is flexible and responsive.
It's spring, kids, and the Worm Moon is waning: Stick your hands in the dirt!