Wild humans still exist. Humans who live close to nature, are in tune with their circadian rhythms, and live in cooperative societies. They wake and sleep according to the rising and setting of the sun, and perhaps grow or forage much of their own food.
On the other hand, some humans are urban dwellers through and through. They sit in traffic and go to grocery stores, and most likely have unnatural sleeping patterns. These are two extremes of the same spectrum, with various shades of gray in between.
If you identify more with the second camp, then chances are there has been at least one moment, however fleeting, when you’ve considered leaving your responsibilities behind, and escaping to live in the woods. Modern society, with all its spoils, can feel isolating, disenfranchising, and disempowering.
But before you quit your job and disappear into the wilderness, let’s explore those shades of gray. There is a system that aims to create a new paradigm for the way we live. It’s called permaculture.
What Is Permaculture?
Permaculture is defined as “the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.” It uses a variety of strategies to bring us back into alignment with the rhythms of nature–without evading responsibilities, needing to run away from technology, and asking us to quit our day jobs. However, it is such a powerful and refreshing lens that major changes may follow, after implementing the smaller tenets of permaculture at the start.
Austin Permaculture Guild is one organization helping to spread the values of permaculture in Austin and the surrounding area. In addition to hosting a variety of educational training sessions and courses, there is a strong focus on community. The group holds regular gatherings and potlucks, where attendees from all walks of life can discuss the one thing they have in common: they have interest in improving the quality of life for present and future inhabitants of this earth.
Examples of workshops are garden design, food fermentation and preservation, and building community. As I mentioned, the community aspect is crucial. Although self-reliance and independence are important to practice, one of the basic principles of permaculture is learning to live alongside each other in harmony and care for one another. There is an emphasis on diversity and intentional inclusivity.
When I say “community,” some might think of a commune, where possessions and responsibilities are split equally amongst all the members. Although this arrangement works for some groups, this is absolutely not necessary. The beautiful thing about permaculture is that it takes our current situation into account and offers small solutions, instead of big changes that can be overwhelming and don’t last.
So even if we don’t want to live in a communal setting, one of Austin Permaculture Guild’s courses on community can help improve our living situation, whether we live with family or roommates, and increase healthy communication with our colleagues and friends.
And as far as growing and preserving food, we are never expected to grow 100 percent of what we eat! Especially since so many of us live in a city, there is an assumption that we will still visit the grocery store. But a workshop on gardening or food forestry demonstrates how we can supplement our groceries to cut costs and feel less reliant on an outside source of nourishment.
Permaculture Design Course
Twice a year, Austin Permaculture Guild holds a course that teaches community and land design strategies, and connects participants to organizations that correspond to the individual’s interests. In the interest of making the course accessible to as many people as possible, tuition is offered on a sliding scale ranging from $600-$1,000.
In addition to classes on community building and gardening, this six-weekend course goes more in-depth, covering topics like soil biology, building ponds, and designing homes based on a specific climate.
The course takes place at Whole Life Learning Center in Austin (10801 Old San Antonio Road). It is a commuter course, but students are welcomed and encouraged to camp onsite the night before each full day of workshops.
Meet the Co-directors of Austin Permaculture Guild
Austin Permaculture Guild was founded 10 years ago by Dick Pierce. In 2012, Taelor Monroe, the current executive director, implemented a business structure, setting the foundation for what the organization is today.
Later, Chloe Buzzotta, who has a background in environmental activism, became co-director. Within Austin Permaculture Guild, Monroe and Buzzotta have different and complementary responsibilities. But one thing’s for sure: they are two passionate women with a clear mission.
Both facilitate classes for their Permaculture Design Course, along with Caroline Riley and other guest teachers from various organizations.
Austin Permaculture Guild Membership
Austin Permaculture Guild offers memberships with a variety of perks depending on which tier you choose. Monthly contributions to be a member range from $5 to $50, and benefits include a plethora of discounts: at Sanctuary Yoga, on the Permaculture Design Course, on a class at Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine, and many others.
Contributions from members help Austin Permaculture Guild further its outreach. The group also helps fund events like the monthly Permablitz at public and private locations such as schools, neighborhood gardens, and homesteads.
During a “blitz,” members of Austin Permaculture Guild and numerous volunteers transform the land, and help realize its ecological potential. Participants install berm and swale systems, which catch and conserve water, as well as plant food forests that are useful to residents and community members.
What’s Next for Austin Permaculture Guild?
On Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, Austin Permaculture Guild will host a raffle fundraiser at HOPE Farmers Market. Tickets are $2 each, and prizes include a JuiceLand gift card, jewelry, gift card from South Austin Chiropractic, gear from Whole Earth Provision Co., and more!
Stay up to date on all Austin Permaculture Guild events using the online calendar.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your experience with permaculture?
Katrina Cervantes paints, writes, is a massage therapist, and lives with a few goats and a sweet donkey named Lucy. Keep up with her travels at passageablaze.com.