Why Walks in Nature are So Permaculture


Photography by Keveen Gabet

My wife thinks I’m hilarious. That’s a good thing I suppose. She also secretly gets annoyed with my fascination with permaculture – I know deep inside it’s a rather healthy obsession. Before I knew of the term, I was using an exotic array of self-made vocabulary, but now, all my practices and ideas fit nicely under one generic term. She gets the best of it though – I spend hours reading, watching, experimenting and researching and in turn, she gets the crème de la crème. I translate my findings into cute stories and it seems she now knows as much as me without ever reading a thing.


Her organic education comes with a price though. She knows that everything I do must make a lot of sense – a lot of permaculture sense. I might push the principles a bit too far sometimes (this distance is relative though). For every action I take, I must find several functions and yields. My life does not depend on it, but I truly enjoy playing this ‘game’ (I don’t take life too seriously although I seriously play!)

I’m a bit more thorough when it comes to using petrol. If we must take the car, let us find several reasons to do so, otherwise, let’s walk or find something better to do in the garden. Allow me to give you a hint of how my brain functions.


We love taking daily walks, but my days (especially in winter) seem to be so short that I must cram functions into them. In order to be at peace with our walks, I made a mental list of how it benefits us – permaculture style:

  1. Observe and interact: It’s always an opportunity to spot wildlife and observe the evolution of our landscape.
  2. Catch and store energy: These walks are a moving classroom as I share my stories about plants, animals and nature in general. I’m indeed storing the surplus of information inside my family’s brains.
  3. Obtain a yield: I could write pages about the yields I harvest. If you remember, I confessed my addiction to yields in a previous article.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: It’s the perfect moment to run my ideas through my beloved’s brain before making quick mistakes (and I do a lot of them!). It’s the equivalent of our office meeting if you will.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services: We are lucky to have functioning hands (thanks to millions of years of evolution), so inevitably, I fill them with things to carry back home. It ranges from rocks to sticks.
  6. Produce no waste: One thing is sure, is that with this attitude, I don’t ‘waste’ time nor anything petroleum-based (although I go through shoes faster than the average)
  7. Design from patterns to detail: That’s basically what I do by decorticating the permaculture principles and applying them to our life.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate: It’s a family affair, so even our dog joins in (and so will the goats soon!) multiplying the functions of our walks. I have also initiated (made great use of) all our visiting friends and their hands.
  9. Use small and slow solutions: I found a great source of pure clay so I always carry a bucket to collect some for my natural constructions. I swear my tiny biceps have doubled in size since we started these walks. Our rocket mass heater, outdoors toilet, cob ovens (and soon our strawbale house) were all built on these daily walks. You’d be impressed how much clay can be collected one bucket at a time.
  10. Use and value diversity: I also collect wild seeds that I bring back to our land (both for planting edges and feeding our chooks).
  11. Use edges and value the marginal: Because we generally walk along edges (it’s by far the most exciting place to walk), I often spot small trees that will struggle where they are and move them to a ‘better’ location – our own baby forest.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change: To paraphrase my friend Heraclitus: you never walk the same path twice. Throughout the year, we collect very different things. According to the season, we collect wild greens, acorns, flowers, medicinal plants or mushrooms.


I do this mental exercise for a lot of things I do in life. Not only does it help me improve my practice, but it encourages me to make the best out of everything I do. There is indeed so much wisdom in these simple principles…

So go ahead and take more walks. It can only make your life more wonderful.

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