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Wild foraging - reconnecting to our ethnobotanical heritage, Oct 08
Its always difficult when I come home from walking wildland in other countries. There is the inevitable slump during which I try to recapture my enthusiasm amongst British landscapes, seeking out those little areas of wildness that give me hope. I know that many object to my comparisons, but how will we learn about wildland if we don't see the lessons from other countries where they have a greater claim to its existence? A significant aspect this time of my weeks spent in America, was learning more about the Native American culture and its relationship to the land, and seeing for myself the plants in abundance in wildland that native peoples relied on. This ethnobotanical heritage is much studied now, and Permaculturists in America are keen to learn the lessons of how native landscapes can be sustaining. Wild food foraging in Britain is a legacy that just about connects us with our aboriginal ancestors, but our landscapes heavily impoverished by agriculture leave us no great extent for this. Is there a way to reconnect with our ethnobotanical heritage in Britain? Can the forest gardens of British Permaculturists be scaled up and sit well within an extended wild and native landscape?
When we talk to trees, do they listen? Jun 08
I came across a discussion from last year about the place of geomancy in Permaculture. The discussion ranged on to the scientific method, with some advocating that as the basis for Permaculture. As an ex-scientist, I would back a scientific approach in Permaculture, but not necessarily the rigors of the scientific method, which I think is different. What do other supposedly rational movements believe, such as organic farming? Do they take an evidence-based approach, or is their philosophy a compromise with commercial expedience? Do conservation professionals ever consider the unintended consequences of their action? What approach tells you what is rational and what is expedient?
Are humans a natural disturbance?, Dec 2007
I was challenged recently over my why I consider human interference with the landscape so much more unnatural than animal interference, suggesting that since we are animals as well, then there was nothing unnatural about our actions. There are a number of ways I could have to answered this, but in the end the best way - and the one I followed here - was to examine what are the non-human (natural?) forces and then decide whether human disturbance (mangement, dominant use etc.) has any commonality. This is important not just in our approach to nature conservation, but more fundamentally in how we farm these natural resources for our own use. Permaculture, in seeking to emulate natural processes in the cultivated ecology of its approach to sustain living, has much to offer as a recent article on the future of farming in Britain has indicated. Permaculture can bring about a reinstalling of wild and natural processes as a force in our landscapes.
White Mountain National Forest - lessons in landscape, October 2005
A walking holiday in a New Hampshire forest turned out to be a more profound experience than just the immense joy of seeing the autumnal colours. The White Mountain National Forest has some core wilderness areas and when we hiked into one of them - the Sandwich Ridge Wilderness - we were  impressed with how little difference there was between the woodland either side of the wilderness boundary. We learnt much about the forest management practice as we walked the National Forest and it is clear that natural systems are as important in the managed areas of the National Forest as they are in the non-managed wilderness areas. The wilderness areas, the management of the woodland, and the clearings in the forest, provide a remarkable example in practice of the different intensities or zones of land use that characterize Permaculture Design.
Trees in the landscape, June 2005
In the temperate climate and soils of Britain, woodland represents the predominant climax ecology of our landscapes if they are allowed to rewild. Trees in the landscape are not just about re-creation of wildland though - they have many other productive purposes that served us as the woodland people we used to be many thousands of years ago. Permaculturists have the instinctive feel of a woodland people as their zonal approach to land use leads them to encourage ecological succession whereby significant elements of wildland are regenerated and maintained as a part of a continuum of land use. The Permaculture Association are to mark the importance of trees in the landscape by co-ordinating a series of educational, link-building and working activities for 2006 in the program of events for its Year of the Tree.
The Permacultural approach to woodland, December 2004
Its been an interesting year for discussion within the Permacultural community about its approach to woodland. A successful first woodland gathering was held, which was followed-up by a workshop at the annual convergence. In the background to this was a consultation from the organic movement on its standards for woodland. In helpful spirit, the consultation was circulated amongst the Permaculture community, but few could offer much useful comment when the philosophy behind the standards seemed to offer little empathy with what Permaculturists set out to do. Permaculturists start from a different point and, over this next year, the initial markers set out in this article will contribute to the Permacultural community developing their own approach to woodland.
A Permaculture parish, June 2004
Government hopes to re-engage its citizens with local democracy. The use of postal voting in the North was meant to help that, but more than ever people are finding it difficult to believe in a system based on party politics dominated by the national scene, and which covers such large areas. Parish councils cover much smaller electorates and mostly dispense with party politics. The modern parish council has everything to offer those who want to live in a place, and with the people, they can have a commitment to.
Progress and the Public Realm - what progress are we looking for?, March 2004
Will Hutton is a great observer of the state of British Society. His observation of the 30-30-40 society in the mid-nineties led me to believe that our society could have been ripe for schism into new communities. It didn't happen. Hutton still impresses with his take on contemporary society. His recent plea for progress on the back of science, supported within a strong public realm, got me to thinking about new communities again, but planned and agreed, and recognised in the public realm as probably necessary for our progress.
Our Costliest Expenditure is Time, Jan 2004
Nature thrills me with its scented blossoms in the depths of winter. I have waited nearly 10 years for a wintersweet to flower well. How much time do I have left to do something with my life if the good things need such a patient timeline? At 50 years old, what should be my priority?
Land care and Permaculture, Aug 2003
If someone tells you that England is overcrowded, then don't believe anything they say. Discussion of land use and land ownership is dogged by that falsehood, and we ought to get it out in the open to see just how land-deprived the ordinary person is. Could Permaculture allow better use of the land?
Rites of Passage, Apr 2003
Following a passion or an interest is much like growing a tree from seed. Perseverance against what might seem to be adverse odds, sometimes comes to fruition (or in the case of the tree, begins to flower) and it feels like a significant event has occurred.
Natural Gardening - The Many Perspectives, Oct 2002
Natural is an often used word in gardening. But what does it really mean?
Plant Communities and Natural Pest Control, Jun 2002
Controlling pests is something that happens naturally. To take advantage of it, we have to recreate the plant communities that exist in nature. From simple companion planting with its origins in cottage gardens, to the complex guilds of Permaculture, all seek to attract in wild nature so that a natural balance exists between pests and their predators.
Stealing the Clothes Off Our Backs, Jun 2002
Imitation is not flattering when it doesn't give due credit. Permaculture is a minority interest at present, but it is beginning to make its mark. People who should know better are appropriating its ideas in a process of revisionism that is unconvincing.
Reconstituting rurality, May 2002
Rural planning is a contested process, not just by those turned down by it, but also by those who fervently wish to preserve what they have. Unfortunately, real reform of rural planning - that which will act as a change mechanism for rural land use and ownership - is unlikely to happen. We should, however, look at the issues.
Not Seeing the Woods from the Trees, Jan 2002
Greg Williams launched a scathing attack on Permaculture while reviewing a book for Whole Earth Review. Permaculture is an easy target for criticism because it is prone to misunderstanding, and early practitioners wove embellishments of its potential but without providing practical demonstration. Yield is often the criteria, but Permacultural systems take their yields in many different ways and thus are not easily comparable. I take criticism of Permaculture as a spur to thinking about its longterm future.
Approaches to Problem Solving, Jan 2002
Problem solving is key to the design for life. Solutions demand good information on which to work, and thought processes that are given free rein. Permaculture provides good approaches to problem solving, but there is a fictional precursor in nexialism, the fundaments of which are so sound that they have real, modern day adherents.

Permaculture and Land Use In The English Countryside, May 2001

This is a briefing paper on the Permaculture approach to farming. It explains this approach through showing how it is complimentary to a number of current Government themes in rural development. It was written during the time that the FMD outbreak spawned a frenzy of reflection on the future of farming, raising an expectation that new and different approaches would at last come in for serious consideration.
Wolves in sheeps clothing, July 2000
I learnt not to judge a magazine by its cover when an American backwoods magazine turned out to offer more than just advice on low impact building, solar energy, composting toilets, and a food dehydrator.
Using Plants with a Purpose, April 1998
Shrubby plantings besides roadways and on central reservations represent the new urban hedgerows, offering refuge to wildlife as well as colour through flowers, leaves and berries. The shrubs are chosen for their survival value in urban situations, as well as how they look. One reason for this survival is that the shrubs may be nitrogen fixers, but they are not members of the pea family having instead Frankia as the bacteria symbiont . Other plant families have this symbiont, and can be found in a range of habitats.

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