Category Archives: Permaculture

Who will you be known as?

‘You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.’
Isaiah 58:12 The Message version

I love this version of Isaiah 58:12, it is so “Permaculture” but also speaks so much about what I think our faith is about. The whole of Isaiah 58 speaks of how we should live – the kind of “fasting” we should exercise, we are called to “loose the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke”.

If we were to change the word fasting to “voting” then perhaps this would give us an indication of some of the things we should be taking into consideration when we choose who to vote for in this coming election. Which party or parties are going to work towards these things, towards justice, a loosening of burdens and release from oppression, who is going to promote sharing food with the hungry, sheltering the homeless and clothing the naked. Which party is going to help us restore, rebuild and renovate so that our communities are “livable again”?

Permaculture is based on the ethics “Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share”. As I have said here before, for me, these fit so well with my Christian faith and I use them to help me make every day decisions like “what do I buy (or not)” and “who do I vote for”. In these coming elections let us try to steer clear of the media hype, the fear mongering and name calling and let us apply our understanding of our faith to making a decision who to vote for.

If you would like to meet for a conversation around this topic over the next few weeks do let me know.

Paul Magnall

You are what you eat?


Permaculture Sunday 2015 – sermon

Genesis 2:5-15
Micah 6
Luke 4:1-4

• Today it is Permaculture Sunday and 2015 is International Year of Soils
• I’ll mention a bit about Permaculture but if you want to know more read some of the links or we can arrange for an evening where we talk about it

Permaculture is based on a set of ethics – Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share – and as I have said before, I find that these ethics sit incredibly well with my Christian faith and help to provide me with a framework within which to work my faith out.

One of PC principles is to observe and interact – to take time to look at how things are working before doing anything. And I find that when we observe Nature we discover some amazing things and we find much better ways of doing things.

So, to soil. If we observe soil we find that healthy soils are teaming with microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and microscopic roundworms called nematodes.

From <>

Some scientists are now thinking that there is a strong relationship between health and our contact with healthy soil. Our guts are also teeming with micro-organisms and we know that if we wipe them out with antibiotics we are more likely to be unwell. If our gut microorganisms are exposed to soil microorganisms then all sorts of things happen and we are generally healthier and more able to fight disease and illness – this is not to say that we can’t also pick up diseases from the soil. This is led to some people using the phrase “we are soil”

We are soil, when we die we say dust to dust, ashes to ashes, I add the bit “compost to compost”. This soil then feeds the next lot of food we grow. There is a lot of truth in that Yorkshire song – On Ilkley Moor Baht’at! If you recall, if you go out on Ilkley Moor courting Mary Jane without a hat on you will catch your death of cold, then, when you are buried the worms will eat you up, and the ducks will eat the worms and we will eat the ducks! It is said that we all carry a bit of William the Conqueror in us. Ultimate recycling.

It would seem that we, and the planet, are healthiest when we live close together.

Healthy soils also absorb and store huge amounts of carbon dioxide as what we call “organic carbon”. If these soils are left exposed to the elements with no plants in them or they are regularly ploughed up or compressed or sprayed with chemicals then they lose their structure, the microorganisms and other soil life that do the work of trapping the carbon die and the soil gives off carbon dioxide rather than storing it contributing to climate change. By keeping soils well planted all year round, by recycling the so called plant “waste” (prefer compost material) back into the soil to feed the organisms, by not ploughing or compressing the soil then the soil can regenerate – you can actually grow soil and all sorts of amazing things happen. In the Jordan, an area of semi-arid desert where, in some places, modern farming and irrigation techniques have led to the soil becoming salty and almost unable to support plant life, about 15 years ago a group of permaculturists started to dig trenches called swales along the contours, they mulched their sides with plant waste from other farms, waste that was going to be burnt and they planted a mixture of nitrogen fixing trees and fruit trees. Local people thought they were mad, the trees would die, it was too dry and salty for them to survive. But when the rains came the trenches filled with water and instead of it evaporating off it soaked into the soil and was kept there by the mulch providing water for the plants. Within 4 years they were harvesting food. Scientists from a local university came to find out why the salt wasn’t killing the trees and they found that the fungi in the mulch was taking up the salt and trapping it chemically in an inert form that didn’t hurt the trees. All over the world, similar stories are happening.

It would seem that we, and the planet, are healthiest when we treat the soil well.

So how do we treat our soils, the soils that we depend upon for our life? Monty Don says “If we are to feed the world we must have good soil”. Again and again in history civilisations have risen and then fallen because they have exhausted the soil – they have failed to look after the soil. And if we don’t wake up and act we are going the same way but on a global scale. Recent scientific articles suggest that we have about 100 harvests left before our soil is exhausted.


The way the article was reported it says that we should grow more food in the cities – which I agree with – but it didn’t say much about changing the way in which we do our farming!

So how is much of our farming done?

The Green Revolution in the mid-20th century saw us apply science and technology to growing more and more food. At a time when the population was starting to grow rapidly and more and more people were moving to the cities we needed to rapidly increase our food output and so we started to treat food growing as a an industry. And it worked, we got huge increases in production. But at a cost. In particular agriculture became very oil dependent. Here is a brief summary of what some of our farming involves today

• Oil powered machinery clears the land whether it be rainforest or existing fields
• Oil powered machinery ploughs the land
• Fertilisers manufactured using oil are applied to the land
• Herbicides and pesticides are used to clear unwanted plants and insects
• Seeds that have been transported half way round the world, that are treated with anti-fungal treatments and genetically altered to make them resistant to herbicides and to help them resist certain pests are sold at vast profit to farmers who then use oil powered machinery to plant them
• Oil powered machinery is used to spray oil based herbicides and pesticides onto the crop
• Oil powered machinery pumps water to irrigate the plants
• Giant poly tunnels and greenhouses are heated often using … guess what.. oil
• Oil powered machinery harvests the crop
• Oil powered machinery processes the crop, often throwing out anything that is the wrong shape or colour
• Oil powered machinery is used to store food in an atmospherically controlled environment
• Oil powered machinery transports the food round the globe
• Oil powered machinery is used to process and package the food, often adding additives that have required oil powered machinery to produce them or are even made out of oil.
• Oil powered machinery is used to transport the food to warehouses and points of sale
• We then often use oil powered machinery to transport the food home

So you can see, most of our farming is very industrial and oil based. And to make this method of farming more efficient we don’t want trees and hedges in the way, they just slow down our machinery and use up land that could be planted on. The result is that hedges and trees are ripped out and we end up with massive fields of unprotected soil or, during the growing season, a monoculture crop – wheat or potatoes or cabbages as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately, monocultures are very susceptible to disease and pests so they need spraying. And the giant fields have no trees and hedges and other plants to protect the soil so it blown or washed away at an alarming rate – no wonder we may only have 100 harvests left. In some parts of the world those harvests are already failing. The slash and burn methods of farming that are destroying the rain forests of South America often exhaust the soil at a much faster rate.

In Africa, South America and other parts of the world, where small farmers have been growing a huge range of food on their small holdings, governments and businesses are moving in, throwing them off the land, ploughing the land up to make more giant fields for their industrial farms. This is known as land grabbing. It leads to a few rich businesses owning all the land and the farmers losing their livelihood and often ending up in the slums of the cities.

This is the cost of much of our food production today. We are destroying our life support system and we are destroying the lives of many people but since we are living in cities and are so distant from what is going on we don’t feel so affected by it all.

Currently we produce about 140% of the food needed to feed the whole world!
There should be enough for everyone. But not only do we not share it out evenly, we throw obscene amounts of it away.
What strange land is this that we live in?
• We have more than enough but we don’t share it out.
• We don’t allow people to grow their own food, to make their own living.
• We allow big companies to dictate the economics of small countries and the way in which everyone has to live.

This gets me angry and I’m sure that the God of the Old Testament prophets and the God of the New Testament Jesus must be angry as well.

Currently, the way that much of our food is produced is not sustainable. Despite the recent drop in oil prices, oil will get more expensive and there is only a finite amount of oil in the rocks. It is starting to run out!
And our soil is running out.
And population growth is another matter I won’t cover here.
This is not sustainable!
So what solutions are there?
Perhaps there is another, better way? Perhaps there is a way in which we resist the temptation to allow a small few to have the power to produce most of our food?
Perhaps there is a way that we can feed the world using less or no oil. Cuba has demonstrated that it is possible to feed a nation on reduced oil input.
Perhaps we should stop wasting so much food when so many are hungry?
It is calculated that up to 50% of the food gets wasted in the process of getting it from farm to consumer, and that is after the huge investment we have made in it!

Again and again God has demonstrated that He is a God of abundance, that he will meet our needs, that He can provide enough for today (eg manna in the wilderness). And Jesus taught us that too, in words and by his actions. When faced with huge crowds of hungry people he could have turned stones into bread, instead he chose to take what there was and to share it with everyone – and there was enough.

So what can we do?
How can we reduce the amount of oil we use to grow food?
What can we do to help make enough food available to everyone?
How can we work towards Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share?

Here are a few suggestions, we can’t all do them but if we started or increased doing some of them it would make a difference:
• We could grow more of our own. Every little helps! Movements like Feed Leeds and Incredible Edible Todmorden are leading to an increase in the amount of local food being grown and eaten. It is putting people back in touch with their food. It is creating and strengthening local economies and communities and having an impact on people’s health.
• We could buy local foods – food miles is a very complicated topic but if we bought from local farmers, other local producers, local shops then, hopefully, we are reducing our dependence on oil.
• We could eat seasonal foods – buying and eating strawberries from local farmers in the summer is going to use less oil and create less waste than strawberries from overseas at Christmas!
• We can campaign against land grabs – this is where the rich and powerful throw people off their land in order to turn it over to growing monocultures – one crop over a large area – as opposed to the more sustainable, and probably more abundant forms of farming that the local people practice such as eco agriculture.
• We can support the small farmers and small holdings here and abroad – these are often more efficient at feeding people and involve more people thus reducing unemployment, increasing food security.
• We could vote for a party that really cares about the earth, the soil and it’s people!
• We could stop throwing so much food away!

And this is where The Real Junk Food Project network of cafes comes in.

The project was set up about 18 months ago by Adam Smith and it is a growing network of cafes of all sorts with 6 in Leeds and more being planned. Operated by volunteers, waste food from shops, markets, supermarkets, restaurants, homes, food banks and other food retailers – food that is perfectly good and useable that is otherwise destined for land fill is cooked into nutritious meals. And this food is then available to customers on a Pay As You Feel basis – people pay what they feel like paying, what they think the food is worth, or what they can afford, or they can volunteer. The food is not free, but you don’t have to use a coin with the Queen’s head on it to pay for it.
Our main aims are
• To reduce and eventually eliminate food waste
• To reduce and eventually eliminate food poverty
• To build community
All Hallows café is currently open Tuesday and Fridays 10am to 4pm with occasional catering for events.
If you want to know more then Google “Real Junk Food Project” or ask me afterwards.
In this world of inequality and injustice I believe that we are called to bring a bit of God’s justice and compassion to people in need and at the same time challenge those things that so obviously need changing. Sometimes we are so disconnected from what is going on the world, but if we apply the first principle of Permaculture and observe, then we will start to see those things that are wrong, those things that need changing, and those things that are good, that we can celebrate.

Prayer for the Soil
Giver of life, we give you thanks that in the richness of the soil, nature awakens your call to spring
We praise you for the smell of the fresh earth, the life that creates and lives in the soil, and the life that comes from the soil
We ask that you help us to be good stewards of the land, and even though we live in the city, may we support those who care for the land on our behalf.
In the name of the one who gives us new life, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen
Useful links
Permaculture Association
Soil Association
Greening the Desert – video about the Jordan
The Real Junk Food Project Network
TRJFP@AH café – All Hallows’ Junk Food café
Red Kite Permaculture – my permaculture blog (a bit quiet at the moment!)

Paul Magnall
3rd May 2015

Sermon – 24th August 2014

Notes from the sermon preached by Paul Magnall

Exodus 1:8–2:10
Romans 12:1–8
Matthew 16:13–20
And Jesus said “who do you say that I am”?
And Peter replied “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the enigma of which is borne out in our interpersonal relationships”
And Jesus said “What?”
Maybe it is a sign that I am having an early mid-life crisis but reading this passage in Matthew leads me to ask the question “who am I” and “Who do we believe ourselves to be?”
One thing is clear to me, I am one person, one of 7.25+ billion people in the world, a population that is growing at a rate of about 80 million people a year. We live on a beautiful but finite planet occupied by over 8.7 million different species of life – excluding bacteria and single celled organisms.
Unfortunately many of us are living a lifestyle that would require several planets if we wanted to maintain that lifestyle. We are consuming resources faster than they are replaced.
In the last two hundred years we have used up fossil fuels that took millions of years to form. Over those millions of years carbon dioxide from the atmosphere was absorbed by plants and organisms which were then trapped deep underground. We have been releasing this trapped carbon in a way that is dramatically affecting our planet.
The mechanisms that initially trapped that carbon dioxide are still functioning – trees and plants continue to absorb the gas, organisms in the sea and the soil still sequesters carbon, and although we are beginning to understand all these systems we are destroying our rain forests, polluting our seas and trashing our soil.
And we are not content with wrecking our planet, our life support system, we also trash each other. We use something called economics, which no one really understands, but is a god that must continually be fed in order that its growth is maintained. As long as there is economic growth then all is well. And to maintain this growth
– we make sure that part of the population is working too hard whilst another part of the population has nothing to do.
– We make things we don’t need and then persuade people that they do need them, that they can only be attractive to others if they have them.
– We maintain the economy by making sure that things have a short life, that they either break or that they go out of fashion.
– We maximise profits by mass production of food and other goods even if it means that quality is poorer and choice is reduced.
– And we stimulate the economy by creating weapons that destroy and then selling them to anyone who is likely to use them particularly if it means that they might be our friends and supply us with other rare resources.
We are making a huge big mess.
So back to the question “who am I in all this?”
I, personally, believe that I am someone who is loved by the creator so much that he wants me to be redeemed and sustained. That love is shown in the life and death of Jesus.
And the 7.25 billion people, they also are loved by the creator, just as much as me. As is the planet and all the life that exists on it.
Realising this amazing love, should I not also love what my creator has created?

My change of lifestyle over the last few years has allowed me to slow down, to take time to observe. As I look at the view over Leeds from this garden and as I walk, cycle and work around Leeds what do I see?
– Hungry children in schools and on streets
– Supermarkets so full of food they have to throw huge amounts of it away
– Homeless people sat on street corners begging
– All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
– Ridiculously expensive cars
– So much waste
– An economic system that favours the rich and keeps the poor in their place with a middle class who keep their heads down in case they rock the boat and fall out
– A media that encourages a climate of fear and greed and encourages people to express their prejudices
The world that Jesus lived in wasn’t that much different? The area around Galilee had once been a wonderful place to live. Fishing was good, everyone had sufficient food and a place to live. But now the occupying forces and the local rulers and business men had taken control of the economic system paying ridiculously low prices for the fish which was transported around the empire. The occupying forces taxed the local people and the money and profits went to the rich people back in Rome and to run the Roman military machine which kept the Pax Romana by force. Society was split into the rich and powerful minority, the middle classes who kept their heads down and the poor.
And Jesus stood in the middle of this world and said “who am I?”, “who do you think I am?”

Peter’s response was that he saw Jesus as the Messiah, in other words, “the anointed”, the one who is our saviour or liberator.
Saviour or liberator from what?
I believe that the way Jesus lived demonstrated a “counter culture” to the issues of the time. He talked of revolution but it wasn’t a violent overthrow of the oppressors. He showed how people could live in harmony, overcoming the barriers that divide, bringing people of different backgrounds and politics together so that they could understand one another and accept each other, see that they are neighbours and dependent upon one another. That together they could be, as Gandhi is supposed to have put it, “the change they wanted to see in the world”.
This is why I am excited about Permaculture.
Permaculture has many definitions, the word originally came from “permanent agriculture” but now has been expanded to “permanent culture”. It is essentially a design tool with a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature. Of observing how things work and then working with them.
There are three core tenets or ethics in Permaculture which can summarised as Earth care, People care, Fair share and I hope that no one here would disagree with them!
Many people who practice Permaculture believe that by observing nature and carefully designing systems we can produce enough food and other resources in a way that builds a sustainable pattern of life on Earth for everyone and everything. In order to do this we do need to learn from nature and our mistakes eg we need to find a way of controlling our population, we could live more simply, embrace the concept of enough is enough, etc
Permaculture isn’t just about agriculture though, it is also about culture, about how we choose to interact with each other and the world, how we run our businesses, spend our leisure time. It’s about how we choose to live.
Permaculture has a series of principles, the number varies depending upon which of the main practitioners you read. I have put some information about these on the garden noticeboard, there are loads of books and articles on the Internet and I will write a little about them on the website at some point but these principles can be applied to just about every area of our lives, the aim being to produce a sustainable way of living in harmony with the rest of the world.
So I see Permaculture as a useful tool that can help us to care for each other and for the world. In our society it is a “counter cultural” tool because it is counter to the economic system that controls our society. It says “enough is enough” when our economic system demands more growth. It says “let us think of the next generation, and the next, and the next” when our society can’t get past the next election. It says “everyone is of equal value” when our society favours the rich and the powerful and devalues the dispossessed and those who are different.
But isn’t that what Jesus was saying? Isn’t that what his life and death demonstrated? A counter cultural, non-violent revolution? A change of mind and heart? That the abundant creator has provided us with more than enough? That we should love one another because we are all part of God’s beloved creation?

In our Roman’s reading Paul told the Church in Rome not to think more highly of themselves than they should, that they should “not be conformed to the pattern of this world” but be transformed. He then goes on to describe how they are all members of one body and how they should love one another using their skills and gifts in the service of all. The way Paul was calling the church in Rome to live was “counter cultural”, a reaction to the Roman society around them and that they should “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”
So, back to that question Jesus asked and to Peter’s reply – you are the Messiah, the liberator, the saviour. As we open up our lives to God’s creative and sustaining spirit I believe that we can see the power of the resurrected saviour and redeemer working in us and transforming our interpersonal relationships not just between ourselves in this congregation but with our community, our environment and throughout the creator’s world.


Community Garden session 8 + 9 – Sunday Afternoon 26th May and 2nd June

Work continues, the weather has been kind but the ground has not! As you can see from these photos the ground is very difficult, it’s not just boulders, rocks, stones and concrete, Tony and Joanne found another conduit with a cable in it. Fortunately they didn’t do what I did to Rev Steve’s cable!

If we had the money we would just build raised beds on top of ground and fill it with imported top soil or compost, but we can’t afford that and it would be a high-carbon solution (lots of fuel used to transport wood and soil). Our aim is to re-use as much materials as possible and to regenerate / generate the soil. It may take a while but “Rome wasn’t built in a day” or as Permaculturalists say “slow and steady wins the race”!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We still want to “obtain a yield” though and the plants we have put in are doing surprisingly well, even if the odd slug has appeared. We have also added some comfrey, a small hazel, mint and some raspberry plants to the collection. Ramesh, ably supported by Rob, has managed to cut some of the grass – we will leave an area for wild flowers to grow in – and this will hopefully add to the composting and help to improve the soil. We also have some alfalfa seed to use as a green manure. Alfalfa has very deep roots that seek out minerals and nutrients deep in the ground and pull these up into the leaves and upper roots making them available to other plants. It also helps to break up and aerate the soil – something our soil desperately needs!

Apple BlossomThe fruit trees are looking good and two of them have some blossom on – we mustn’t let them fruit this year as we want all their energy to go into becoming strong established plants.

So, we continue to make steady progress. We have lots of issues still to tackle such as access to the garden and water, but I’m sure we will come up with creative and effective solutions. As always, if you would like to help or just offer encouragement, do get in touch.

Community Garden session 6 – Sunday Afternoon 12th May

This Sunday we invited members of the congregation to bring back their pea and bean plants if they had grown to a reasonable size – and if they wanted to – so that we could plant them in the garden. Unfortunately, because it had taken us so long to prepare the ground for the apple trees the first vegetable bed was not ready so the beans and peas were planted along the vicarage fence and under the other two fruit trees along with some strawberry plants. It never ceases to amaze me how few people have grown plants from seed or planted plants out in the garden! Definitely something to work on.

Raised BedOnce we had planted our young plants we went back to tackling the first vegetable bed. Since we now have timber from the blown down fence we don’t have to go foraging / purchasing any edging yet, however, the timbers are slightly shorter than the width of the bed so rather than messing about with cutting wood to size we are going to reduce the width of the bed slightly. Alternatively we could “nick” some of the timbers from the nice new fence to the vicarage – or maybe not! Joanne yet again started digging to Australia using the new spade and fork that we now have (thanks Tony and Joanne!) but this time she came up against a much tougher barrier, a lump of rock almost as wide as the vegetable bed. Fortunately, by the time we get the bed raised the soil should be deep enough for most plants but it has reminded us of what we are up against.

The contractors who put up the fence said that they were coming back to take away the plant waste and last week we thought that we had missed out the chance of burning it and incorporating the ash into the soil. Fortunately they haven’t been so the two pyromaniacs (T&J) set light to it being careful not to burn down the church.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Many thanks this week to Tony, Joanne, Andrea, Kate, all the pea and bean growers, the children, to anyone else I have forgotten and to the tea boy (Rev Steve). I’ve got a few weeks off now for good behaviour so Tony and Joanne are in charge and I hope to be writing up some of the Permaculture thinking behind the planning of the garden over the next few weeks.




As a Christian, I enjoy joining the dots… things connect and unexpected ideas come together from different quarters. Recently I’ve been thinking about Paul’s challenges on Permaculture  as well as my varied interests as an art psychotherapist. A training conference the other day entitled “An introduction to eco-psychology” provided some intriguing links.

The facilitator, Nick Totton, is looking for ways to transform therapy, (we could use the word “healing practice”), through applying some of the core concepts of ecology. He provides a framework through which we can both think about how we respond without overwhelm to the needs of the planet, and look to help our own and others’ inner transformation too. See the book, “Wild Therapy: undomesticating inner and outer worlds” by Nick Totton.

I have also been following reflections month by month in another book:
Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of life: a monthly guide for your soul’s journey on this beautiful earth” by Ian Siddons Heginworth. This takes me into the woods regularly seeking metaphors and processes for my own healing. I’m thinking over the wonderful inner adventure I’ve experienced in the six months of having moved to a new house with a vegetable garden, and near woods. I’m still exploring why this has been so refreshing and formative, a kind of reconnection with small pockets of the natural world.

It looks like All Hallows is going a similar way as we open up the garden for people. Let’s keep reflecting on the spiritual significance of this…

Pippa Woodhams

Community Garden weekend – Sunday Afternoon – no.5

Sunday 5th May, beautiful weather and we are going to get these trees planted!

Dandelion Tree!

Dandelion Tree!


After the church service the congregation were invited to come into the garden to see how things were going, to discuss our plans and to see where their peas and beans are going to end up. The children in particular seemed to enjoy the garden and very quickly picked loads of dandelions to make chains of yellow flowers which they hung from the rose tree.



With a larger number of volunteers we managed to dig over the bed next to the fence and to finish digging out the trench for the trees to a sufficient depth and width so in went the rest of the trees along with two blackcurrants and two loganberries which we will try to grow up the fence to provide some privacy for the vicarage.

We also dismantled the old fence for the wood panels that we hope to use for making slightly raised beds. The timber is old and dry but it should suffice for the time being. We also have a huge pile of cuttings from the cotoneaster that was cut down. We had hoped to burn this for the ash to enrich the soil but we ran out of time and it will probably be removed by contractors during the week – an opportunity missed!

A huge thank you to Tony, Joanne, Pippa, Rob, Ramesh, Steve, Danny, Catherine, Buster (the dog!), the children and everyone else who helped to make the weekend so productive. The garden is beginning to take shape!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Community Garden weekend – Saturday morning – no.4

This weekend saw two work sessions in the garden – on the Saturday morning and the Sunday afternoon. The main aim being to get the four fruit trees planted and to plant some other fruit bushes that we had acquired.

The trees are from Ashridge Nurseries and are all maidens:

Tony and Joanne tackle the stony ground

Tony and Joanne tackle the stony ground

Saturday morning saw Tony and Joanne hacking away at the stony ground. Huge pieces of stone and brick were dug up. Joanne in particular seemed intent on digging a hole through to Australia!

During the week contractors had been to replace the vicarage fence that had blown down. They also removed the whole of a fantastic cotoneaster that had been growing along the fence. The new fence was about 2m tall and provided some privacy for Rev Steve but the old fence is lower and without the plant allows us to watch Rev Steve making his cups of tea in his kitchen. We will need to look at growing something new, attractive and hopefully productive along that section of the fence.

The soil against the fence that has now been revealed looks quite rich. It is dark and moist and contains a lot of works. Because we needed a quick fix for planting  our trees – it looked like we would need a week of digging to get the trench ready for four – we decided to plant two of them against the fence and to grow them as espaliers so in went the Greensleeves with plenty of water and a bit of micorrhizal fungi rootgrow. Mycorrhizae are fungi that coexist in the soil with plant root systems. They have a symbiotic relationship in which the fungi provide the host with additional water and nutrient in exchange for the plant’s waste products (mainly starches) that the fungi require to grow. Mycorrhizae grow vastly more rapidly than roots and so they can increase the effective root area of a plant many times in only a few weeks.

Lunchtime came, hands were blistered, so we decided to call it a day and reconvene after church on Sunday.

Permaculture Ethics 2: People Care

20121113-090636.jpgThe second permaculture ethic I am going to look at is People Care which can be summarised as “enabling access to the resources people need for a good quality of life”.

This doesn’t really seem that difficult an ethic to embrace on the surface but when you start to dig a bit deeper it is an incredible challenge. Many people who try to apply permaculture ethics and principles to their lives become aware of how abundant life is. We have so much! And as Christians we often celebrate the abundance of creation. If we were to look after creation then there would be plenty to go round and everyone would be able to have more than enough to have a good quality of life.

The incredible challenge I find in this is “how much is enough”? Do I really need that sexy looking car? (Is it the car or the girl driving the car that’s sexy?) Do I really need to replace the sofa every three years? (Will I have paid for it in three years time?) Do I really need to eat that second helping of dessert? (The girl on the TV advert hasn’t got any fatter eating it!)

If you read the bits in brackets you may realise that the challenge presented to me has a lot to do with advertising. I try to live with what I think is enough but advertising tells me I haven’t got enough and tries to persuade me to consume more. In the process of pursuing more for myself I forget about others who are less fortunate than myself. I am convinced by the adverts that there may be a shortage so I need to get it now, which means I have too much which I don’t use and so I waste some of it. And I get stuck on the merry go round of consumerism. And I can’t get off …….

But if you do get off, and you stop and look around you, what do you see? I see unhappy people pursuing a dream that cannot satisfy. People Care is partly about helping each other to stop the consumer merry go round and helping to find themselves as people rather than as consumers, as human beings created and loved by a generous God. Then it will be easier to find out what is enough, to realise just how rich we really are and to care for each other.

For me, this is what Jesus tries to help people to do. As I said in the first article about Earth Care, ” I believe that Jesus saw all creation, all people, all animals, plants, soil, water, food, everything, as God’s creation, as part of a giant gift economy, to be cared for, to be tended, to be loved, to be appreciated, to be valued. Not to be consumed, abused, treated as of no or little value, commoditised, discarded.”

So for me, the second Permaculture ethic, People Care, also rings true. It resonates with my faith and my being.