Foraging is Permaculture

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Foraging Is Permaculture

A blog post by Jack Chase  July Internship РWeek 1

Thank you for happening upon this blog and for reading this post. This post describes the perspective of an intern (that’s me!) and a new understanding of permaculture.

The planting of annual gardens has always seemed a bit off to me. I understand the value of artificially selecting seeds: it’s how we arrived at so many of the delicious foods that we eat today, and I can see myself participating in that new take on human evolution. While many plants live for only a year, only long enough to spread their seed, much of the back-aching work of agriculture comes from tending to the specific needs of these plants. What seems optimal: plowing, watering, greenhouses, etc. is adding to the embodied energy of the harvested food.

I had always thought of permaculture as creating new adaptations (or even species!) in the plants that produce the foods we love. I thought of it like we think of so much today, a technological solution to a human-induced problem. Even after reading J. Russell Smith’s Tree Crops, I was hung up on the idea that we needed to put more (if different) effort into the production of our food.

Like a mentor straight out of a fantasy novel, Deanne has shown me so much. How could I have lived surrounded by forest and have been afflicted by the stuff, and still not know how to identify Poison Ivy? Not only that, I had thought of Poison Ivy as a menace. Really, all plants have defenses, but so many species, including Homo sapiens, have adapted to overcome those defenses. Perhaps then, there’s a reason Poison Ivy rubs so many of us the wrong way. Perhaps we never adapted to avoid it because its defense is a warning, not a death threat. It warns us to be conscious as we tread through the homes of a myriad beings with each footstep. It warns us that our steps land on both delicious foods (if unknown) and creatures equally as alive as humans.

Every time I close my eyes, I see Poison Ivy. It’s imprinted itself into my brain with its wisdom. However, I learned a third lesson from the plant. We humans often forget our past. Among so many other things, we are gatherers. Permaculture need not be something entirely new. If every household took a few steps to learn what grows and can grow in their area, then grape vines would cling to skyscrapers, mulberry trees would stand tall in every suburban lot, wild mustard would have our faces puckering in all sorts of new dishes, and wild garlic would grow like grass.

We’ve done permaculture before, and it would certainly take some serious changes to live off of it exclusively. That said, Deanne has not been to a grocery store since March 15th (stay safe out there, folks!).

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