Sunday, August 23, 2009

Permaculture Persecution

I am sure that a lot of my permaculture buddies can sympathize with me about the experience of discussing an exciting permaculture design or idea with someone and then having them respond with “no”, “it will be messy”, “what will the neighbours think”, etc. For those of us who put their heart and soul into permaculture, these responses can be very disheartening. I think that often times these negative responses have to do not only with misconceptions regarding permaculture, but also with different perceptions regarding beauty. In fact, I would bet that most people have not really thought about beauty and depth and that their perceptions regarding beauty are only skin deep.

Here is a case study that concerns “what the neighbours think”. A couple of weekends ago I got into a lively debate at a party with a neighbuor who doesn't like the idea of me (eventually) cutting down the Norway Maple on our front lawn to make way for fruit trees. Her main objection was that she liked the way the tree looked when she walks by. Someone else got into the conversation and asked why I wanted to cut the tree down. When I told her that it was to plant fruit trees in its place she replied, “wouldn't that be, uhhhh…., ugly?” I can assure you gentle reader that I did not say the first thing that came to mind. All I could think of saying at the time was that I guess people have different perceptions of beauty.

Why do I perceive planting fruit trees on my front lawn as beautiful?

There is beauty in the actual fruit trees themselves. While a large maple can be beautiful as well, I would say that a flowering cherry tree, along with the subsequent cherry tree covered in red fruit, is more aesthetically pleasing than a Norway Maple, at least on my front lawn.

There is beauty in eating fruit from your own yard knowing that it hasn't been sprayed with chemical pesticides or fertilized with inorganic fertilizers.

There is beauty in knowing that the fruit from your yard only traveled 20 m on foot to the kitchen rather than being transported from Chile, California, or even St. Jacobs, for that matter, using fossil fuels.

There is beauty in seeing your children get excited about eating fruit grown in their own yard. Take a look at the picture at the end of the blog of my kids eating cherries grown on a dwarf tree in a half barrel.

There is beauty in seeing the kids calling a fruit tree on the property “the restaurant” because of its prolific berries. In this case it is a weeping mulberry. One of our neighbour’s kids even made two pies with berries picked from the tree and gave one to us.

There is beauty in knowing that your fruit trees will help support the local bee populations that are currently under threat from a variety of sources.

There is beauty in knowing that the fruit trees on your property are producing food for your family and not just shade and leaves to rake.

Taking into consideration these aspects, I think that a much deeper appreciation of beauty can be found than simply the appearance of one tree or another. If and when a similar discussion comes up, I hope I will be better prepared to articulate my thoughts and feelings on permaculture and the beauty of home grown food. Please feel free to share any experiences or thoughts that you have had pertaining to permaculture persecution or differing appreciations of beauty.

Here are my kids picking the first ripe cherries from a dwarf tree grown in a half-barrel on the driveway.