Permaculture design can be complicated. Perhaps that’s why Master Gardener Roberta Kato brought her Rhode Island Red chicken, Peanut, to help explain.
While Kato went over the 12 principles of the eco-friendly design philosophy at the Aug. 26 Permaculture Workshop at Mary Molina Garden, Peanut demonstrated some of the tenets by scratching for grubs in the compost pile, nesting in people’s laps, and clucking in approval as she surveyed the community garden.
Chickens, Kato reminded attendees, are key to living a permaculture dream. “I’m not saying everyone has to have chickens,” she said, “But it’s something that’s helpful to have.”
Chickens are high yield and serve multiple purposes. They produce a steady supply of eggs for breakfast, baking, or bartering. Their meat can be consumed. And they even turn the compost pile.
Poultry can help you follow the permaculture principle of producing no waste. They eat insects that prey on produce, as well as plant trimmings and refuse. And of course they contribute plenty of manure to fertilize crops.
Kato said she initially bought feed for her 20 chickens, when a co-worker from Nepal reminded her that chickens can find food on their own. Back in Nepal, the co-worker said, villagers tied identifying colored thread to their chickens’ legs and let them forage on their own all day.
If you’re interested in living the permaculture dream, Kato suggests you begin by observing your environment. Divide your living environment into zones: those you use every day, every other day, or a couple of times a week; and those you visit weekly or monthly. Think about the light, wind, and moisture conditions in those zones.
Swales can be used to collect water, walls can be painted white to reflect light, and concrete can absorb heat from the sun. In addition, arbors use patterns from nature, and shade plants can live within tree driplines.
“Permaculture ideas can be applied anywhere,” said Kato, who also has bees, bunnies, ducks, dogs, and cats.
The 12 principles of permaculture are:
The Aug. 26 permaculture workshop was one in a series of ongoing Long Beach Organic events on gardening topics.
- Margo McCall