Permaculture is all about getting the most out for the least in, and aiming for minimal energy usage and zero waste. Well and a whole load of other things too. I was lying awake in bed the other night thinking about things (as you do in the wee small hours) and the image of the stockpot came to me. Powerful symbols can be helpful in directing our thinking. At the end of the day permaculture is always about how we think.
I’ve got many cookbooks in my house (because what’s the point of growing all this food if you don’t eat it?). One of the favourite sentences out of all of these is from Sri Owen’s book: Indonesian Food and Cookery.
“Most Indonesians live in villages or small towns, or at least grew up there before they joined the rush to the big cities…” and then she talks about Moslem festivals. “Not all Indonesians are Moslems. The feasts of many religions are celebrated in parts of the archipelago. But everyone shares a common attitude, which I think can be described as a sort of informal piety towards every natural force.” A brilliant description of what we have come to call permaculture.
“Respect is both felt and shown for the earth, the creatures and plants that live in it, the air and water that nourish it and the uncertain terror of volcano, earthquake and flood. This attachment to the processes of nature is not formalised or fussed over, because it does not need to be: it is taken for granted.”
She has lots of other wise things to say. The most profound of which for me is that Indonesian food is really the food of peasants. There isn’t a higher or lower class of food. Everyone aspires to the same celebration of sharing food if you can, using traditional recipes based on local product.
OK. So what’s the point of the title: The Stockpot. Well it’s one of those rich symbols as well as a reality. In our house there’s usually a stock pot on the go. A way of slow boiling up left overs to extract the last amount of goodness from the food that is available to us. So today I’ve processed cauliflowers, chard, peas and beans and onions. The good bits have all gone into tonight’s meal. But the leftovers have gone into the stockpot, boiling up to make stock to enhance tomorrow’s meal. After that the remains become compost. Nothing wasted.
Another route would be to feed the waste material to chickens before it became compost. Or if we killed and ate a chicken roasted, it’s bones would be used to make stock. OK you’re not going to do that if you are vegetarian or vegan in your diet.
It’s not what you actually do that counts. It’s the principle. The Stockpot principle says it’s not just about wasting nothing it’s about extracting as much as you can from every yield all along the way.
I’m just talking about food here. But there are many other ways we can capture energy and distil it down. The garden is always a great symbol of how to get the most out of life.
I’m off to enjoy vegetable soup now.
Graham Bell and his wife, Nancy Woodhead, welcome visitors to their forest garden by appointment. You can book on courses and open days, or make contact for other engagements via the website.
Sign up to the Red Shed Nursery on Facebook and @redshednursery on twitter to stay in touch.
You can see a short film of the garden here:
Graham Bell is the author of two books: The Permaculture Garden and The Permaculture Way, both available from:
Graham is teaching a Permaculture Design Course at Zaytuna Fram, home of the Permaculture Research Institute Australia from October 17 – 28 2016. Visit the course listing page here for more details and to book.