Frequenty Asked Questions

  • Copyright and trademark are generally the place of control, to take something and say this is mine and you are not allowed to use it without permission. And while there are circumstances in our society where ownership is required, this is not one of them, for who can truly own an idea? Perma Farms and its logo are two abstractions that are merely pointing to an idea that goes beyond the name and its symbol. This idea is what we are working on actualizing into reality and it, along with its name and logo are freely given to all. So please use this idea like a seed, plant it within you so that it could germinate and take on whatever form best suits its environment. The name may someday change, this site may someday end, but the idea is perennial. It will come back around.

  • Yes and no. Permaculture is many different things to many different people and comes with many definitions. Permaculture is most often a design approach that mimics the diversity and complexity of natural systems, trying to maximize the use of beneficial relationships. It is a big step in the right directions, one that naturally comes after the hard labor of traditional gardening. And so, if traditional gardening could be thought of as one individuated point on this great spiral, then permaculture would be one step in, a point that is moving closer to harmony and balance.

    A Perma Farm is an idea that encompasses all of these points, as a process that is moving towards a permanent farm that is less and less under human control. The process may start with a traditional garden, and then it may turn into permaculture, but there are many individuated points beyond permaculture. This is because permaculture still contains varying forms of control, often placing human needs for food and human ideas of aesthetics at the center of the equation. (Which in many cases may be a necessary compromise due to our living arrangements).

    Certainly humans have needs that must be met, and it is quite natural for humans, as well as all biological beings to go about finding ways to meet their basic needs. But the problem that Perma Farms is trying to address is when a species becomes so out of balance that it is forced to adopt a story that requires agriculture’s enormous power to convert ecosystems into food for only humans, viewing earth as simply a life support system for humans, and forgetting that what we do to our ecosystems, we eventually do to ourselves.

  • Yes and no. In looking at the spiral as a guide to what a Perma Farm is, it should be noted that it is not one-dimensional nor is it unbalanced, rather by its very structure it tries to harmonizes all of its part and in doing so shows itself to be beautiful. And so, while a mature forest is indeed a beautiful part of a Perma Farm, it will forever be an unbalanced part if humans are not included in this spiral. Our unfortunate reality is that we most often come to relate to a mature forest as some sort of nature zoo, as a natural museum that prescribes us with well-worn paths that aren’t to be deviated from.

    This view of nature appears to be a natural result of our relationship to the land, as it is no longer a place where we dwell, but rather a place that we simply exploit. When we start to enact a story that does not relate in one-dimensional ways, then natural areas start to develop all around us, many of which will turn into mature forests.

  • While most environmentalists have good intentions, it often comes from a more top-down approach based mostly on the story of control. Through our own experience we have found that things don’t really change using the rules of our ongoing story (reductionism, politics, legislation, money, control, power, recycling). But things do start to change when we start expanding our perspective, when we change our stories.

    When our perception begins to widen, our stories about the nature of reality inevitably begin to change, opening us up to a world that shows itself to be an incredibly vast complex web of interconnectedness, non-linear parts relating to wholes relating to larger wholes, nested in even larger wholes… With a growing perspective it becomes clear that we are incapable of controlling the outcomes of our well-intended efforts at fixing things. Meaning we will never fix things through Technique (For more info on Technique see The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul).

    So Perma Farms is not about trying to fix things, but is instead about tuning into the notes of this ongoing symphony that is all around us. Once you start to hear it, you start to dance, daily moving your part into harmony with what is intuitively felt and known. It’s not Technique but improvisation, it’s not the path of control, but the path of attention, it’s not legislating but rather relating – an on-going communication with a world of intelligence. The world of control, of reductionism, gives us one note, a necessary note, but a note that is alone. To expand perspective, is to start to hear more notes, and the more notes that we hear, inevitably causes us to dance to a new tune.

    So no, Perma Farms is not really another form of environmentalism, rather it is the process of learning to dance.

    "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

  • It means to cooperate more with natural processes; flowing with them, more than pushing against them. Take the Oak tree for example. It strives to establish itself by taking space, light, nutrients, and water. But it gives back ten-fold by giving gifts of medicine, food, shelter, tannins, oxygen, and humus, as well as conserving soil, water, and energy. In fact its very existence serves to stabilize all biological systems, because without trees like the Oak tree, we and everything else probably would not be here.

    Nature’s way of balancing things tends to be; receive as a free gift what you need, but always give back more. At present our human scales are out of balance, meaning that we take far more than we need, and we rarely ever think about giving back. We have become seduced by the quest for more, seeing only what it gives, and not what it is taking away. If we could step back and observe our present reality, we would find that what our quest for more takes away, is winners. When homes, families, cultures, traditions, forests, oceans, air, and the community of life are destroyed, nobody wins. We are competing in a race towards death.

    Competition by its very nature is dense, and so it naturally weighs more than cooperation. Therefore, to balance out our human scales it seems we must, like the Oak tree, give back more than we take. But how do we start doing this?

    1. Lighten the load of competition. Stop pushing against nature, and flow with it instead. Let the land escape. Do this by stepping down the regimen of control; finding ways to withdraw from the circle of exploitation - spraying, fertilizing, weeding, mowing, and seeing the land only for its usefulness in making money.

    2. Give more weight to cooperation. Do this by first learning from the patterns of nature and then mirroring these processes by finding gifts within your own life that you can send out into the world freely. Leave shoulders for future generations to stand on. Love the whole more than your individuated part.

    Cooperation over competition, or better yet, cooperation with competition is the essence of Perma Farms.

  • For seeds:
    Companion Plants - Some of the nicest and giving people you will ever meet.
    Horizon Herbs - Great site with a lots of seeds and information.

  • If our thinking could be thought of as a line, some lines move upon a closed circular path, bound by the repetition of their own thoughts and images. Other lines become liberated from the circle by spiraling upwards, ever changing and ever growing.

    In dealing with invasive biology, circular thinking believes that what is there, should be there again. This belief naturally leads to a reality of control, where we believe it is our job to manage and maintain our presumptions of what is natural, native and right for a given location. And so when something disrupts our presumptions we quite easily come to fear it, relating to it as an enemy.

    When we are unknowingly caught up in the cycles of circular thinking, it becomes an easy matter to identify an enemy, to place blame where it seems most obvious. But to get beyond the circle is much harder, because it requires that the underlying assumptions that gave rise to a perceived enemy be questioned. If plants were terrorist, circular thinking would then provide us with a simple solution; eradicate them. Such thinking forces our thoughts upon well-known paths, causing us to ignore the complex, and multiple causes of terrorism, which includes how our own behavior might actually give rise to terrorism.

    To embark on a quest to eradicate our enemies, often ends up causing more unseen harm than good. And so when dealing with invasive species, circular thinking will undoubtedly require that we go about trying to control and garden all of nature, which inevitably creates more terrorist than we started with, as herbicide manufacturers willingly step in to supply us with their glyphosate weapons. And so, the circle goes round and round. We pull, spray, and fight the invaders, nevertheless their seeds lay dormant, sleeper cells that pop up year after year, inciting more fear and more reaction. Naturally we repeat the same cycle, expending more effort, round and round we go, blinded by an unseen hubris that convinces us that what we are doing is a good thing.

    To liberate the line requires a different way of thinking that is spiraled, and spiraled thinking always begins with humility; recognizing that there is probably a lot more going on than we are currently able to understand. To think in such a way begs us to gain perspective, to withhold judgment, and to learn and grow. As a result, we will also go round and round, but with each revolution we will continue to see the perceived problem with greater perspective and with greater clarity.

    And so, with time upon this spiraled path, perhaps we may come to see invasive species as nature’s way of self-regulating her living systems, as medicine for the earth that is trying to heal depleted and toxic soil; a natural phenomenon that may be essential for biological diversity in the long run. However this long run may not work on human time, but on plant time, which may take centuries for it to create favorable condition for the continuation of life. Creating life, even in death.

    Perhaps instead of seeing invasive species as enemies, we may start to see them as signs and symptoms of a deeper malady, teachers that are saying, "How loud must we get before you hear and pay attention to the real cause of imbalance?" So in place of blindly maintaining all of our energy and resources on fighting an enemy from without, perhaps we will start to examine the enemy from within. Perhaps we will begin to examine our own assumptions and stories that compel us to continually perpetuate an imbalanced state that exists throughout all ecosystems.

    With spiraled thinking we may even come to see the futility of trying to restore this continent to a pre-European/Asiatic invasion state, and instead learn how to co-exist with these new immigrants, learning about their unique gifts, and gaining understanding about their place within a system that has never shown itself to be circular, but marvelously spiraled, ever adapting, evolving, and changing. So technically, Perma Farms does not promote invasive species, rather we promote a different way of relating to not only invasive species, but to all species.

  • The plants that we’ve included are the plants that first caught our attention, those plants that we found most beneficial, that could not only feed us, but also heal us. When we started out the world to us was unknowingly seen as simply a life support system for humans, and naturally the plants that caught our attention were classified solely by their usefulness to us.

    What we didn’t know at the time was that we had taken small steps that would start a very long journey, and those initial steps, though they were very human centric, were exactly what they needed to be. In paying attention to even a small sampling of these plants, we have started to see more clearly how each and every plant has an important part to play.

  • No one has actually asked this question directly, but we do get this question in differing forms. Some see the Perma Farm and silently think 'messy', others who have read some of this site have told us that it is a bit 'different.'

    So to answer the made up question, yes, I am aware that it is a little different, but sometimes different is needed. As we’ve been trying to live out the idea of a Perma Farm, our eyes have been opened as to how much fruit even one forgotten tree like the Mulberry tree can produce. With only one mature Mulberry tree on our property, we have been blessed with delicious and healthy fruit for the entire year – with no tilling, planting, spraying… just a little shaking.

    The reality is that our society has a sickness, and any idea that is not well-adjusted to this sickness is going to seem strange and a bit odd. But in giving life to this perennial idea, we are beginning to see more clearly a new way of thinking, living, and creating. It is a way that believes it is wiser to teach a man to fish than to sell him fish, that it is wiser to have a yard full of Nettle, Currants, Dandelions, Apios nuts, Lambs Quarter, and Mulberries than simply manicured grass, and that it is wiser, healthier, and more fulfilling to create, learn about, and gather free born food, as opposed to working for money to buy control born food, even if it is organic. This subversive act, even if it is small, is the pushing back against a world that is being remade in the image of control - of money.

    Now yes, you will still find our family at the grocery store, we still buy food. But the spiraled path means that we are buying less food every year, as we slowly learn to use more and more of the food that is all around us. It is important to understand that this whole idea is a process, a relationship that does not happen overnight (as we would probably starve), but is rather something that develops and grows the more time we spend with it. And it can start by getting to know intimately even just one plant.

  • The best advice I could give is to grow them for yourself. Buy some seeds or seedlings of a few plants and then watch them grow, spend time with them, watch them, touch them, taste them, and then you’ll never forget. Little by little keep adding new plants to watch, and over time you’ll not only start to develop knowledge of plants, but you’ll also be contributing to the development of a Perma Farm. Obviously different people learn in different ways, but this is really the best way that has worked for me, as I have always found it difficult to identify plants from field guides or pictures.

    That being said, there is also a great book called Botany in a Day by Thomas J Elpel that focuses on identifying plants through their patterns/numbers. And while this approach is great, it goes to a whole new level when you combine it with A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael S. Schneider, which is a phenomenal book about how numbers relate to reality.

  • “Plant it low, it won’t grow. Plant it high, it won’t die."

    If only some sage would have given us this advice when we started. Thankfully after consulting ‘Mr. Steve’ (who is our neighbor and local plant sage) on why many of the trees we had planted just weren’t growing, we were finally introduced to this small piece of wisdom.

    Apparently this is how it is done in nature, for if you’ve ever walked through a forest and looked at the base of almost any tree that was free born there, you will most likely find the top part of the roots protruding slightly above the ground. We have noticed by mirroring this process and planting trees high, that they indeed seem much happier.

  • The idea of a gift economy has become mostly foreign to us, and for this reason, it is usually met with skepticism, as if there is a catch, or perhaps some sort of mental illness at play.

    If you want to learn more about the gift economy, one of the best places to start is with a book by Charles Eisenstein called Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition. You can read the book for free online.

    So why do we do it? Three reason: 1. We hope to encourage the growth of more Perma Farms, without money being a factor. 2. We do it because it not only feels right to do it, but it also feels amazing. And we mean physically amazing. Giving without thought of receiving does something biologically that is hard to explain in words. It is very energizing. 3. And finally, because it is a powerful example for our children. Our way of providing them with shoulders. The hope is that as they participate in this process, they will learn the value of following their hearts and not just their wallets - even if the world thinks they are crazy.

  • We have noticed that when we read something, we tend to focus far more on who said it, as opposed to what is being said. The value of an idea is far too often attached to the life of the person that said it. Meaning that we tend to only value an idea, a quote, or a word of wisdom if it comes from someone within our cave environments, someone who we already value.

    "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

    For example the above quote is often credited to Nietzsche, and because of this promptly dismissed by many as the ramblings of a perceived mad-man. Yet as always the reality of things is much more complex, as Nietzche appears to not even be the author of this quote. And while dismissing ideas based upon their author will certainly keep us safe within our homogeneous environments, it is our hope that these ideas, quotes, and words of wisdom might first awaken something within before they have the chance to be dismissed. The same goes for Perma Farms, for if you are to judge the worthiness of this idea by its creators, then you are surely going to be disappointed.