Adapt -to make suitable to requirements or conditions. We often do this backwards. We think of changing the environment or situation to suit what we think it should be. Bringing in amendments for the soil/garden, etc. When you consider one of the design principles of permaculture, the problem is the solution.
The problem is the solution; everything works both ways. It is only how we see things that makes them advantageous or not (if the wind blows cold, let us use both its strength and its coolness to advantage). A corollary of this principle is that everything is a positive resource; it is just up to us to work out how we may use it as such.
In other words, it is only a problem because we perceive it to be. When we change the way we look at and think of things, we start to see the solution that our current problem is. Say you have heavy clay soils, we do. Clay soil is good for retaining water. Use this characteristic to your advantage by using it in the building of swales and ponds. The solution is to not create more waste. If it is in an area you want to plant a vegetable garden or orchard, don’t bring in sand to lighten it. The soil will improve greatly with the technique of gardening known as the “Back to Eden” method.
Adapt to the Soil
Not wanting to till the garden year after year, or bring in expensive amendments, we looked for alternatives. We need to use a gardening method that would adapt to the soil we had, not the soil we wished we had. That has proven to be the Back to Eden method. We cleared and pulled heavy weeds before laying cardboard on the ground. Next, we covered the cardboard with woodchips. Sometimes we put manure from cleaning the chicken coop, but not always. The rows we will be planting, we place rich compost from the cardboard up. The depth varies as we try to keep the surface level, even if the ground below is not. We have had productive gardens just from this method, the first year. Each year, with adding nothing, the garden does better and better.
When planting a tree or bush in the orchard, we plant as normal. Then, place the cardboard around the trunk, cutting a slot in the cardboard to cover as much ground as possible. The manure and woodchips are placed around the tree, on the cardboard. We leave the woodchips higher on the perimeter, creating a bowl shape. This aids in water retention as well. We typically only water at planting; with the Back to Eden method, additional watering is often not needed.
We have been amazed to see how the ground has changed. When we dug out a dead tree or bush to plant a replacement, the improvement to the soil was readily apparent. It may not happen overnight, but within only 6 months the change was undeniable.
Adapt to the Climate
When choosing what to plant and grow, what animals to keep, the style house to build, you need to adapt to the climate. Chickens can be kept nearly everywhere. Their shelter needs to be suitable to the temperatures you experience. When thinking of fruit trees to grow, bananas will not grow – and produce fruit, if you live very far north. Now your micro-climate, too. By our latitude and longitude, we are in zone 6A. From observation and experience, we know that we stay cooler in the spring longer and that we do not get rain as often as surrounding areas. We plant a week or two later than garden planning calculators show we can.
Adapt to the Terrain
Do you have an area where rain runoff naturally collects? This might make a great location for a pond. Do you have gullies where water rushes down a slope? This area would benefit from swales to slow and direct the water flow. These are just a few examples of how to adapt to the terrain. Building sites, driveway placement, and garden location are others. Both homes and gardens benefit from southern exposure (in the northern hemisphere).
Adapt to your Budget
We have been receiving seed catalogs since late November. It can be hard to not want to plant it all. After your climate and soil type have helped to narrow down your choices, there is one more consideration before finalizing your list. How much do you have to spend? When you first move to your homestead (whether that is a decent amount of acreage or a suburban home) there are things you want to fix right away. You cannot do it all at once. We do not recommend you go into debt. Part of savings each month goes into our garden fund (which encompasses more than just the vegetable garden). How to plan the use these funds? You need to adapt to your budget.
One of our biggest outlays a few years ago was having woodchips and compost delivered. We realized that having our own chipper would not only save us money, but help to clear another orchard area. Compost can be made easily on site with scraps (produce leftovers, stems, and peels plus fallen leaves, etc.). Not only does this use “waste”, but it can be quick by using one of the processes of turning the pile. Throughout the summer, we make a “bin” of straw bales in the chicken yard. Inside this space, we put the veggie and fruit peels and scraps. The chickens eat it, scratch it (stirring/turning) and add some fertilizer. Within a few short months, we have compost. And more money in our garden fund for the fun things like peach trees, berry bushes and brussel sprout seeds. This is how we adapt to our budget.
You may be realizing that the permaculture meaning of adapt is working with what you have. It is planning a use for what is waste in one area and finding a way to adapt what is available to be a solution in another. It is recycling, being a good steward and seeking to leave your spot in the world better than when you found it. It is using what God has given you – both physical resources and knowledge. It is often taking a different road, which is much like a life following Jesus, The Way.
Linking up with Blogging Through the Alphabet.