Is your permaculture site a junkyard? It shouldn't be.
A permaculture designer should know the difference between "resources" and "waste."
That’s all fine and good, but if those piles are disorganized, out in the weather for months (or years) on end, or otherwise not actively being pulled into use in a system you have intentionally, and thoroughly designed, then sorry: that ain’t permaculture.
Permaculture is not hoarding, and it isn’t “prepping,” either. There are lots of "preppers" in the permaculture community, but know that they are not synonymous in any way.
There are merits to creating strategic, carefully stored caches to help ensure future survival; but if those resources are deteriorating in storage, and/or if there are other people/plants/permaculture systems nearby who could benefit from those resources, then you aren’t “collecting resources”--you’re hoarding. Hoarding causes ecological, social, emotional, and functional damage to the system, but if you maintain a clean, organized site, with a reasonable, realistic stash of materials and an open, functional flow of resources, your whole system will thrive.
5 Reasons to Tidy Up Your Permaculture Site
Unused surplus is waste. Seeds, plants, food, tools, vehicles, musical instruments, and many/most building materials will deteriorate in storage, often to the point of uselessness. But if they are shared as a surplus, then they invigorate the system and generate abundance.
Remember we are working with three ethics: care for people and planet, PLUS being mindful about closing the loop, paying it forward, and sharing what we create. If you look around the piles and storage spots and eddies in your flow of onsite resources, and think about tidying up as an act of service to your communities, human and otherwise, it becomes a joyful, deliberate part of the design process instead of just another list of clean-up chores.
For an example of an ecologically designed permaculture community that makes use of surplus resources and is kept absolutely clean, check out Village Homes in Davis, California. Even with so many different types of families living in such close proximity, they manage to keep everything flowing and organized. Gorgeous!
This is a big one. Especially if you live in an urban or suburban neighborhood, chances are folks can see into your site, and they do not want to look at a bunch of blue tarps and broken tools! You might even end up with a citation from your city or HOA, if you take it too far. And, while it can be really annoying when cities don’t allow people to grow food out front, it makes sense that folks wouldn’t want to live next door to a junkyard.
Building happy relationships with neighbors is about more than just not being antagonistic, though. It’s also about building a thriving system, together, and if you want to introduce your neighbors to permaculture as a way of life, you’ll convince them much more quickly if they are totally amazed when they walk into your site, rather than being startled by spiders and afraid they’ll get Tetanus from your outhouse!
You might even be able to get your neighbors to help you clean the place up! Here’s an article about neighbors using Permablitzes to help each other grow food.
And here’s a quick list, from our own blog, of rules for growing food out front.system.
Paths, roads, storage, greenhouses, garden beds...everything is easier to get to when there isn’t a bunch of unused crap in the way.
Reason #4: Health, for people, plants, and animals.
Stagnated piles of junk and organic matter create habitat for all sorts of molds, fungi, bacteria, insects, rodents, and pathogenic creatures and critters. Clean spaces give you the ability to control problems and make it easier to identify where a particular problem might be coming from. This could probably extend to the gardener’s mental health and cognitive abilities as well--too much clutter can feel chaotic and unsettling, and can lead to unclear and misinformed design decisions. Additionally, if dangerous and/or toxic materials are left scattered about, children and animals could face real dangers.
(“Junkyard Playgrounds” are a thing, btw! But they seem kinda sketchy to me)
A clean, open space invites ideas. When it comes to permaculture landscape design, there really is no such thing as a “blank slate,” but clearing all the random chaos out of the way can really help you to recognize flows and patterns, identify edges and microclimates, and determine where you might to place components, in relationships with each other. This is so much better of an approach than having to design around a bunch of stagnant components that truly, need to go.
Also, depending on what type of character you are, maintaining spaces, even within your completed projects, that are meant to be open and empty, can help with your peace of mind and sense of tranquility. They don’t call it a “Zen garden” for nothing!
Beauty has a purpose. And beautiful spaces help make people happy. Why work so hard to create a functional whole-system design, and then not take it all the way to FAB?!?
Here’s an example of a “junkyard zone” that walks the line between “useful resource cache” and “junk zone needs to be cleaned up.”
He seems to have clear intent for most of these materials, and some of them are stored in a way that helps to preserve them, so that’s all good. But I wonder if he has friends and neighbors who could put some of that junk to use more quickly, and then that creates space in his resource collection zone to save even MORE stuff from the local landfill! You can see from the background in the video that this is a large site full of plants and natural beauty, and one can’t help but wonder what percentage of his land is consumed by the junkyard zone.
Check it out:
Ok so...if I get rid of the surplus, where is it all supposed to go?
- Donate it to charity shops/thrift stores/homeless shelters.
- Sell it via FB buy/sell groups, Craigslist, yard sales, flea markets, etc.
- Give it to your neighbors! Invite them to tour your “free yard sale” and let them take what they want.
- Compost or burn biodegradable stuff, or use it to build a hügelkultur!
- Make it into art!