Shining the spotlight on women writing about permaculture.
Women have a high rate of participation throughout permaculture, but aren't proportionally represented in leadership roles. The spotlight often goes towards men while women who are organizing and farming get overlooked. This can make it more difficult to find the work out there that women have done. In researching this article I was surprised to find that any combination of words I could think to type in around women writers in permaculture found few, or oftentimes no results.
So, to make it easier for everyone to find these excellent resources, I've compiled a list of female authors and their books, some in the permaculture movement, some who may not identify as permaculture designers, but who still wrote important books for self-sufficiency and gardening.
Listed in alphabetical order, by author's last name:
Jenni Blackmore: Permaculture For the Rest of Us: Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre
A very readable, personal account of her twenty years of trial and error farming in Nova Scotia. A great read for anyone who can’t afford a large farm in a sunny climate.
In addition to being a micro-farmer Jenni is also a painter and certified Permaculture Design Consultant. She lives on Quakadoodle Farm.
Catherine Bukowski: The Community Food Forests Handbook
Focusing on how to build and maintain a food forest project when working with a community of people. Focuses on the social aspects of a project and changes that occur in a group from the beginning to the end of a project. More info here.
Novella Carpenter: Farm City
An urban farming memoir set in Oakland that has contains many stories of her raising animals. In 2011 she was told by the city that she would need to close the farm but instead she was eventually able to get a Minor Conditional Use Permit. This allowed her to keep her more than 40 animals and inner city garden. She is currently an adjunct professor of Environmental Studies at the University of San Francisco. Here's her blog.
Robin Clayfield: You Can Have Your Permaculture and Eat it Too
Robin has been teaching permaculture and in particular, the social aspects of permaculture, for more than 20 years. Her playful style complements a serious body of revolutionary work, well respected by fellow permies around the world. Her extensive website is here.
Rosalind Creasy: Edible Landscaping
While this is not technically a permaculture book it does address designing your outdoor landscape with edible plants instead of being only decorative and was highly influential when it was first published in 1982. Her work goes as far back as 1970. She has written several other books and appeared in many publications. Her website is a fantastic resource for edible landscaping tips.
Carol Deppe: The Resilient Gardener
Presents gardening techniques in disaster design, whether the disasters are financial or climate change related. A relevant book for our times. She has two other books, The Tao of Vegetable Gardening and Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties. You can access many of her essays and articles on her website.
Heather Jo Flores: Food Not Lawns
There are more than 50 Food Not Lawns chapters worldwide, mostly due to inspiration from this book. Heather makes the connection between gardening, activism, and community building, as tools for sustainabilty. Food Not Lawns is a great book for the urban dweller as well as country living. Heather also runs this blog and the Permaculture Women’s Guild, which offers an online permaculture design certificate course taught by 40 women. She's a trained teacher and professional writer and offers a series of online classes for women writers who want to use their stories to change culture.
Jackie French: Backyard Self-Sufficiency
Jackie is a self-described "Australian author, ecologist, historian, dyslexic, honourary wombat." She loves writing as much as she loves gardening, and she has written a bunch of books. Learn more here.
Vera Greutink: Edible Paradise
Vera lives on a 1/4 acre plot of land in the Netherlands where she has created her own edible paradise. In this book she shares her no dig permaculture techniques she has used for 15 years. Learn to grow a landscape of herbs, flowers, and vegetables as well as building compost. Also contains a monthly garden job guide.
Maddy Harland: Fertile Edges: Regenerating Land, Culture and Hope
Discusses the potential of use of permaculture principles in society alongside current events. She demonstrates those principles in contrast to the way things are usually done. She is also the editor of Permaculture Magazine.
Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume: Urban Homesteading
Focused on their own hands-on personal experience in an urban environment, this 2011 hands-on exploration connects to an ever-evolving blog, here.
Juliet Kemp: Permaculture in Pots: How to Grow Food in Small Urban Spaces
An excellent reference for anyone who doesn't have good access to land, this book also provides ideas for making best use of vertical space and microclimates. Written in almanac format with a month-by-month list of suggestions. Juliet also writes fiction.
Looby Macnamara: People and Permaculture
This has been a very influential book because it was an early arrival in the discussion of social permaculture, taking permaculture ethics and principals and applying them to our interactions with each other, ourselves, our families and society. It also contains many useful activities. Looby also wrote 7 Ways to Think Differently and is currently working on her next book Activating Cultural Emergence. She also runs Applewood, a 20 acre demonstration and education center.
Rosemary Morrow: Earth Users Guide To Permaculture
This book can be found on most lists for best permaculture books. It is a practical permaculture design guide good for use on whatever sized plot of land you are working with. Contains information on water use, managing pests and wildlife, and much more. Published in 1993 it is older than most books on this list. Rosemary began teaching permaculture in the 1980s and is still travelling all around the world teaching it today.
Trina Moyles: Women Who Dig
Features the stories of women from many different countries and their experiences with farming. Tackles climate change, economics, gender roles and much more. The secondary title is Farming, Feminism and the Fight to Feed the World. She also writes fiction and poetry and her non-fiction works have been published in several magazines. You can find more on her here.
Jenny Nazak: Deep Green
The subtitle of this one is "minimize your footprint, maximize your time, wealth, and happiness." Need I say more? Jenny is a long-time permaculture activist, writer, and educator. Find her on FB, here.
Starhawk: The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups
Starhawk has written a ton of excellent books, both fiction and non-fiction, about living in greater harmony with nature. This one is all about social permaculture, and how to navigate the all-too-often debilitating challenges of working with groups. She also teaches permaculture courses that emphasize an earth-based spiritual approach to activism.
Crystal Stevens: Grow, Create, Inspire
This book contains practical step-by-step ways to build the skills to become more self sufficient. Crystal is also the author of Worms At Work. She is an herbalist, a teacher and a regenerative farmer. She is published in many magazines and speaks at conferences.
She lives on a 10 acre farm in Missouri with her husband and two children.
Ruth Stout: No Work Garden Book
Again, not technically a permaculture book but groundbreaking in the organic world. Loved by many, the title says it all. She uses thick mulch to, as she puts it, garden from her couch. You know you want to read this book. She went on to write several more books and magazine columns. She lived from 1884-1980.
Amy Stross: The Suburban Micro Farm
Teaches how to farm effectively with limited land and free time. Her own tenth of an acre micro-farm is a real life example of her writings. You can stay caught up with her micro- farming adventures at TenthAcreFarm.com.
Linda Woodrow: the Permaculture Home Garden
One of the few permaculture gardening books that focuses on sub-tropical climates. Linda Woodrow's "Witches Garden" blog is awesome, and she writes about way more than just permaculture.
Let's work together to bring more support and recognition for these pioneering writers, gardeners, and designers! Share this article, read these books, and also check out these other resources, by and for permaculture women:
#womenwriters #permaculturewomen #freepermaculture #permaculturebookswrittenbywomen
An easy, circular permaculture design process for gardens, community projects, creative work, and so much more.
by Heather Jo Flores
(excerpted and fully revised from by 2006 book, Food Not Lawns, How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community.)
Whether we realize it or not, all of us are designers; for good or ill, much of what we do is design work. And all design is ecological design in that it either hurts or helps nature, whether it was intended to or not. As gardeners, whether forging paths, building beds, or pruning trees, we are always designing.
Every choice we make affects the whole, and when we become conscious of that fact, we can engage in the process in ways that make our gardens more beautiful, easier to maintain, more abundant, and, ultimately, better connected to the larger ecosystem in which we live.
A permaculture design process clarifies our goals and ideas, gets them on paper, and provides a road map for implementation. A carefully thought-out ,written design saves time and money, prevents mistakes, and helps communicate ideas to others. It is much easier to correct mistakes on paper than on land. Of course, your long-term needs and goals will change, and a good design leaves plenty of room for those changes.
The GOBRADIME Permaculture Design Process
This is an acronym for Goals, Observation, Boundaries, Resources, Analysis, Design, Implementation–Maintenance/Monitoring, and Evaluate/Enjoy. Since 1999, I have spent a lot of time studying and practicing permaculture. Defined as “a design system for sustainable living.” A detailed overview of permaculture is more than we have space for in this column, but it was through these experiences that I developed GOBRADIME, which is a concise, step-by-step process for making a clear, tangible plan for your garden. And while I could easily write an entire book on GOBRADIME, I can also offer you this quick introduction, with confidence that it will help you make leaps and bounds through that “what do I do now” feeling that so many of us experience at the beginning of the garden season.
So take some time on one of these rainy days to work through it. Whether you choose to grow just a few small beds of annual vegetables or turn your entire site into a perennial food forest, this will help. Work through the first half of the steps on paper and in your mind, then, when you get to Implementation, you’ll have a clear, deliberate action plan ready to go.
Goals. The first step in any design is to identify personal and collective goals. What do you want to accomplish and why? Write down a list of goals and prioritize them by going down the list and rating each goal on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing the highest priority. Then sort the list so that the things you want to accomplish first are at the top. This will help you develop a timeline later on.
Observation. This is the heart of ecological design, and the key to finding and cooperating with nature’s patterns and cycles. Learn to read the land. Watch where the water drains, and where it collects. Notice subtle changes in your soil, see where the shade falls, where the moss grows, where the mushrooms come. Learn the names of all of your weeds, and learn what they do for the soil. Lie down on the ground and look up at the world around you. What do you see? How do you want to change it? What is the most effective and most ecological way to proceed? Take your time, make educated choices, try to avoid irreparable errors, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to experiment or make little mistakes. That’s how you learn!
Boundaries. Find and establish boundaries. Draw a base map of the site. Pace or measure each distance on the ground and do your best to develop a map that is to scale. Note the following things on the map: buildings, irrigation, doors, decks, patios, driveways, fences, hedges, trees, gardens, and any other physical objects. Add in permanent and temporary paths, and make note of any objects that may be temporarily missing, such as parked cars or seasonal motor-home storage.
Now document the flows of water and of humans and animals through the site, using dashed lines and arrows. This will establish the main paths through your design. Moving a well-trodden path is rarely a good idea; it is much easier to adapt the design to behavior patterns, rather than the opposite, so go with the flow. Other types of boundaries might include legal or social issues such as land-use laws or potential problems with the neighbors.
Try to foresee any barriers. Also, define and document your own personal boundaries. What exactly do you want to grow? How many hours a week do you want to garden? How much money will you spend? All of these factors should affect how you design your garden. You wouldn’t design a huge garden if you only have an hour a week to maintain it. Be realistic. Make clear, deliberate choices.
Resources. Go back through your observations and start making lists of the resources available. Types of resources might include money, plants, labor, garden supplies, building materials, access to facilities, and information from experts. Make an overlay or copy of your base map and note every potential resource, such as water, sun, compost, manure, wood piles, and neighbors who might like to volunteer.
What do you have? What do you need? What do you need to acquire and what can you do without? As you assemble lists of what you have and what you need, it will become apparent that you don’t need everything all at once. Rather, there will be a flow of resources in and out of the project, the nature of which will change and evolve over time. And before you go out and spend your hard earned money on resources you think you need, try to innovate something that will fulfill the same function. Your imagination is renewable, easy to find, and free.
Analysis. Now for the fun part! Analysis helps define weaknesses and brings random ideas together to form a cohesive plan. Go back through your notes and re-read everything. Envision how you can use the boundaries and resources you have available to meet the goals you have in mind.
As you start to hone your plan, here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:
Don’t overlook the value of intuition, aesthetics, and random assembly as design tools. Sometimes just putting a plant where you think it looks nice, or where you happened to set it down first, works better than anything else. If you get stuck, try using a process of elimination: ask, “Where shouldn’t this go?” and see where that takes you.
I’d love to get in deeper with the massive range of strategies for analyzing goals, observations, boundaries and resources, but for now I’ll just say that you simply MUST go on the internet and look up “permaculture zones and sectors” for a major geek-out and irreplaceable tool.
Design & Documentation.
Make a bunch of photocopies of your base map and do a handful of completely different designs to warm up your imagination. Now go through everything again and write a list of actions that will bring your visions into reality. Prioritize these actions by sorting them according to goals, budgets, seasons, etc.
Write down how many labor-hours you estimate for each step. Think in terms of phases, and make realistic plans according to your boundaries. which goal they help to meet and how important that goal is to you. From here you should be able to develop a timeline that makes sense, attached to visual maps of what your garden will look like in a month, three months, six months, two years, and as far out as you want.
Implementation. This is the time to stop writing and start actually moving stuff around. Get busy! Continue to jot down notes as you develop new ideas or make changes to the original design — this will save time later when you evaluate your work. But also, pace yourself so you stay sane and are able to follow through with the rest of the plan.
Don’t burn yourself out. Take your time and focus on doing less right, rather than more wrong. And be sure to take plenty of time to step back, rest, and reflect on your progress.
Maintenance and Monitoring. All gardens need maintenance. When clients tell me they want a “no-maintenance” garden design, I tell them to plant gravel. But it’s true that some gardens need less care than others, and it’s the space between that provides us with information and opportunity for improvement. That’s why maintenance and monitoring are interconnected, inseparable steps. Ideally, in a home system you will be living in and interacting with the design as it comes about.
Pay attention to the ways in which your life improves or becomes more difficult through these changes. Some people develop detailed forms to document the data generated by their projects, such as growth rates, yields and potential yields, and climatic patterns. Others might keep a more simple garden journal, or maybe just take photos and mental notes. However much detail you choose, the point of monitoring your progress is to find and record successes and problems (including potential problems) with the design, so you can either repeat effective patterns or go back and redesign failed ones.
Evaluate and Enjoy! Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. Attach these notes to the maps and journals. As you evaluate, you will discover new goals, new ideas, and new ways to improve the efficiency and ecological integrity of your design. When you are ready, start again at the beginning, establish new goals, and spiral around to the next phase of your project. But first, hit the hammock! Rest, read, relax and enjoy your bountiful, beautiful garden! You earned it!
Finally, remember that your project, if it involves people and especially if it involves plants, is an organism rather than a mechanism. The GOBRADIME design system, like any other, is most effective when coupled with a good degree of common sense and natural intuition. Trust your instincts and use the formula to help you refine them. But be careful not to become obsessed with controlling every aspect of the design. Mistakes are tools for learning! Take notes, laugh often, and use GOBRADIME as a circular pattern, rather than a linear process.
We use the GOBRADIME process in my online course, Design Your Daily Practice, and we use it as the basis for our entire double-certificate online permaculture design course as well.
Have fun with it! And let me know how it works for you.
#gobradime #foodnotlawns #designprocess #permaculturewomen #freepermaculture #permaculturedesignprocess
Subscribe to this blog via email and get fresh articles every week! This does not add you to other lists, but you can opt into those below.
You're good to go!
FREE yearlong permaculture course
Tiny classes delivered to your inbox every week for a year to guide you step by step through designing your ecological life and landscape.
Join the #freepermaculture public discussion group
Writers! Let's Crosspollinate!
We'd love to feature your article here and/or swap guest posts with you.
FREE Permaculture Coloring Book!
FREE Permaculture coloring book when you subscribe to our (monthly) email list.
We'll send you the info.