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The Earth is the Lords, and the fullness thereof.


Domini Est Terra

The Journal of the Saint Isidore Society Volume 1 Issue 1

What is Permaculture?
by Malcolm Schluenderfritz These main principles of Permaculture can all be found in our Christian heritage. Here follows the design principles of Permaculture. They should be applied to anything we build or design, and wherever they are broken there is sure to be trouble sooner or later. I will not spend much time explaining the advantages of these principles; in most cases these are fairly obvious.

ermaculture is a design method which abstracts underlying principles from creation and then uses them in our projects. It can be applied to anything, from a thousand acre ranch to a shed to a garden bed. The use of permaculture assures that our work does not run counter to natural laws, thus wasting time, energy, and money, but rather builds on nature to achieve results more easily. It is important to us, since we are all sub-gardeners working in Gods garden. If we want to do our job well, we must understand the plan of the Master. In the next few issues I hope to cover all the basic principles of Permaculture in a simple and brief fashion. I thought this might be helpful, as you may often hear the work Permaculture occurring in our discussions.

About the St. Isidore Society

The Saint Isidore Society is an urban farming group. We are predominantly Catholic, but anyone can join who holds these basic principles: that every human life is sacred; that we are meant to be good stewards of the earth; and that the earth is to be respected, but not worshiped. Our basic mission is creating a sustainable local food supply in the Denver metro area. In the face of our current economic and social problems, and our Governments inability to cope with them, we our trying to find and implement local, small scale, empowering solutions. We are interested in many subjects and activities, from aquaponics to heirloom seeds to grass fed beef. And we are always interested in ideas for new activities. We hope you will join us. For more information on meeting dates and projects, visit our website,, and for questions and comments, contact us at

Guiding Ethics
1. To realize the dignity and worth of all people, known or unknown to us, and to love and care for them. We must realize that our actions impact every person now alive in some way, that the repercussions of our actions will affect all those still to be born, and that the wisdom handed on by our ancestors should inform our actions. We should especially strive to protect those who are weak or vulnerable in any way; the unborn, the poor, those suffering persecution. 2. To realize that the earth was given to us by God for our care and stewardship, and that as such it merits our respect. It can only be brought to its full perfection if we fulfill our role as gardeners. 3. We have a duty to responsibly use and invest all surplus wealth, in the broad sense of the term, in following the first two principles, realizing that all wealth originally flows from others and from the earth.

A Note on the Name

Domini est Terra, (the Earth is the Lords) sums up our basic philosophy, as it shows that we merely borrow the earth from God. Naturally, that means we must be very careful in our management of the world. However, that does not mean we can make no changes to nature. Beavers change pre-existing conditions drastically, but their changes are part of the whole, and benefit it. We have even more right than the animals to change our habitat, since God put us in his garden to tend and keep it. As we are only sub creators, not the Creator, we must take care that our modification of the Garden is in line with its basic principles, just as a beaver dam is. Thus the emphasis of this newsletter on Permaculture, which uses principles abstracted from Creation. Editor: Malcolm Schluenderfritz Art Direction:

3. Redundancy
In the world around us every function or job is preformed by many players. That way if something goes wrong and an element permanently or temporarily drops out, the web of life remains intact and functioning. Thus, there are many pollinating insects in a wild landscape, not just honeybees, and the flowers that support them are also redundant, with several different types flowering every month. Many insect predators hunt each insect herbivore, thus preventing an imbalance if one predator has a hard year and becomes less effective. When we do not mimic this redundancy, there is no safety net when things go wrong, as in the Irish Potato Famine, or the American Corn Blight. We need redundancy on many levels, from having several complementary sources of income, to growing several varieties of tomato.

4. Sustainability and Localism

Natural systems gain materials and energy from local and sustainable sources. Sustainable means able to carry on till the sun burns out; coal and oil are thus not sustainable. Local varies with the object spoken about, but anybody would agree that a massive sustainable wind farm or solar panel array in some desert, with the power being sent to a far-off city, is not local. Everything which can be grown or made onsite or near at hand should be; and that means almost anything. If this were done, it would be easy to get the small amounts of energy necessary from local sustainable forces; sunlight, water and wind power, efficient wood stoves and coppiced trees.

1. Multi-functionality
In nature things always have more than one function. A tree not only provides for its own growth and regeneration, but fills dozens other roles as well. This principle is broken all the time in our designs. We could follow it, for instance, by choosing trees to shade our houses which also provide fruit, instead of the relatively useless trees common in subdivisions.

5. Permanence.
In the world around us most things are permanent. Trees and other long-lived perennials make up a high percentage of most plant communities. Fertility in the soil is held there for thousands of years. The very word Permaculture is a contraction of Permanent Culture, or Agriculture. In contrast, our farms and gardens contain few perennials, relying instead on annual crops. We ourselves are semi-nomadic, renting properties belonging to someone else (usually banks) and moving across the country for jobs. We must come to rely more on perennial crops, must build up

2. Diversity
In nature, everything is diverse diversity on many levels. There is diversity of landforms, diversity of organism types, diversity of plants. To fulfill this principle, we should design diversity at all levels into our landscapes. Vast farm fields, perfectly leveled and planted to one variety of one crop, obviously break this principle, as do vast asphalted parking lots. Both set the stage for disaster; the one invites the cataclysmic spread of pests, and the other causes massive flooding.

permanent fertility in the soil, and most of all, must develop permanent communities.

8. Catching and reinvesting energy

Natural systems are extremely efficient at catching and storing energy. Plants can only capture a limited amount of the energy of the sun in any given area, but they use it to good advantage to store carbon and build biomass. With this, they can turn all of the otherwise destructive forces around them to their benefit, and can build a mild, beneficial microclimate. They both store this natural wealth as a reserve against disaster and hard times of all kinds, and they use it to enable them to grow more structures to capture more energy. The stored wealth is principally in two forms; living and dead biomass, and genetic diversity stored in propagules of all sorts. The biomass (carbon) stores minerals and holds water while protecting life, while the genetic wealth provides the necessary diversity and redundancy that the system needs to survive day to day, as well as providing for its regeneration. This stored and invested wealth permits ecosystems to rebound with amazing speed. After the eruption of Mount St. Helens, the large areas hit by blasts and mudflows still contained large numbers of viable seeds and spores, sprouts, fungi and other microorganisms, and small animals, due in a large measure to the fallen, rotting logs which protected them and provided them with water and nutrients. These legacies quickly rebuilt the forest. Only in the area of the crater was all life wiped out. In keeping with this, our landscapes should build reserves of water, minerals, organic matter, live biomass, perennial plants which become stronger and more productive over the seasons, and various other forms of energy. to be continued in the next issue

6. Stability
This principle is closely connected to the principle above. Natural plant communities are stable and not easily unbalanced, whereas our yards and gardens are easily destroyed by storms, droughts, or lack of attention. We must try to mimic the patterns of the natural world in our designs. That way, when medical emergencies or other factors in our lives necessitate leaving our yards untended, they can tick along without us. Perennial plants of any sort are more resilient than annuals, as we do not have to be around establish them every spring, their roots have a greater depth to obtain water, and they are through with the vulnerable seedling stage. Even if a storm does destroy their above ground parts they will spring back from the roots. Mulched garden beds with every niche packed full of perennial plants will conserve water and will not be invaded by weeds. Stability will be greatly enhanced if we adapt to our climate; a bluegrass lawn in a desert will never be stable.

7. Low disturbance.
Disturbance is anything which comes from outside of a system and affects it. Disturbance is not bad; it is essential to most systems. Humans will necessarily cause disturbances to pre-existing or designed systems, and if we are to be part of the whole we must learn how to design disturbances in accordance with their occurrences in nature. Natural disturbances exhibit two features; moderate intensity and impact, and moderate frequency. We should mimic this pattern of disturbance in our landscapes. Clear-cutting, yearly tilling, and weekly mowing are either too frequent, or too intense.

But if you have a house and garden, you can try to make hollyhock tea or convolvulus wine if you like.
G.K. Chesterton

Projects and Meetings

Meetings: We have a meeting on the fourth Saturday of every month, generally at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Littleton, but sometimes elsewhere. We also schedule other events and meetings with less notice. Contact us for more information. For all updates, send me your address for our email list. Community Farming: We are beginning the development of a community farm/ garden in Lakewood. Members interested in this particular project will contribute a certain number of hours and /or amount of money for their share of whatever produce there is to divide. Time requirements may be lowered or waived depending on a number of factors, and may also be fulfilled by donation of materials. We may develop other sites in the future, particularly in Aurora. in a members freezer in airtight containers. Members (and possibly others) could then borrow the seeds for the year, with a promise to collect and return twice the amount they borrowed. Over time, as strains adapt and the best varieties are found through experimentation in members yards, we will come to posses a valuable bank of Denver adapted genetics. Community gardens: we have not yet began work on this project. We would like to start gardens in disadvantaged neighborhoods, where residents could get a small plot free or cheaply, and would be assisted to produce a thriving garden. This would bring neighborhoods together and create a more wholesome environment.

Public Orchards: w  e hope to plant low maintenance edible plants in open spaces and parks. The fruit would Beehives:  We are building top bar beehives out of be free to all for the taking; minimal maintenance salvaged lumber at some of our meetings. After each would be done by Society members and locals. This interested member has one, we will sell them locally project will probably have to wait a while. to raise income. A top bar hive is designed to allow To educate ourselves, we will be taking the bees to follow their natural preferences, resulting Education:  a healthier colony, and is also simpler and cheaper to a number of field trips as a group. Places currently bebuild and maintain. No foundation frames are required, ing discussed include The Growhaus and the Living and honey can be harvested without the use of an Systems Institute. extractor. If you have salvaged wood to donate let us Members yards improvement: W  e will be schedulknow. We can use quite small pieces. ing work days in members yards to pool our experience Bee swarm collection: W  e will be building swarm and labor in making them more productive, according traps, which look like large bird houses, and placing to the owners wishes. them on properties across Denver. If you would like a If you have a project idea, we would be glad to trap on your property let us know. The trap is designed consider it. in such a way that the bees take up residence inside of it. We will pay a small sum of we get a swarm, unless of course it is installed in your hive. If you are elderly or disabled, but want a garden in your yard anyway, let us know, Seed Library: We are in the beginning stage of buildas there might be a member willing to put ing a seed library, which we hope to have operational in the work and share produce with you. by next spring. Donated, collected, or bought seed will be divided into small individual packages and stored

The Whole is Greater than the Part.