One of the first things you learn about Permaculture is its 12 principles, a set of guiding lights through this way of living.
Principle number 3 is "Obtain a Yield". It is quite powerful and active. It drives you into action with a purpose: to get something out of your efforts that clearly addresses your needs.
As we were getting started, I didn't hope for anything specific yield. Getting information and creating some knowledge would already be a fantastic outcome. Still, we wanted to make sure we would not lose motivation because the initial work can be very overwhelming. It takes time, energy and thoughtful planning before there is anything to see - such as a plan, or a goal statement. And even more, to reach a point where you feel like you are actually "doing" anything.
We were getting a little anxious. I was worried about getting stuck into data overload paralysis and needed something to keep my hands, not just my eyes, occupied. And so we started a little vegetable garden. Regardless of what we wanted to do in the great scheme of things, it was clear that we wanted to grow some healthy foods close to home. So, one day, we just decided to start removing all those thousands, and thousands, of stones that were covering the soil and to turn it into a patch we could plant on.
Eventually, we made it. We could now work on making some compost for the soil and line up all the seedlings and seeds we had prepared.
We set up the garden beds, with pine bark for the footpath and using some bigger stones to create the outline of the beds. It was beautiful, and it filled us with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
We had made it happen, and we were already learning a lot. One thing was clear: it took much longer than we expected, especially to remove the stones. For some projects around the bigger area, particularly where timing is important, we will need help from others. This is not an issue in itself, as we want to start creating a community as well, but a clear realization.
I am, however, very proud that we did this together, as a family, and that we enjoyed the process. Because this was one of our first projects here, it was a way of also processing something very fundamental: we were starting a whole new way of life.
The goal for this endeavour was to get started, get our hands dirty and learn a lot. Fast-forward a few months and the mission has been thoroughly accomplished.
Bonus points: we are actually eating super delicious, healthy and nutritious food.
Different salad, onions, beets, courgettes, pumpkins and different herbs have already ended up in our plates. It is extremely rewarding to see these foods coming to live. It is quite incredible to remember that, where there were stones, there are now more animals than we can imagine, nurturing and feeding off of these plants. They are providing to the soil, to other animals and to this family.
There is a lot to learn. But we made it, without using any nasty stuff. Now we have a much more grounded ambition - and yet with higher goals - to what we want to achieve and offer to this plot.
As we continue to plan swales, ponds, harvesting water and defining lists of plants and resources to create a regenerative ecosystem, it is energizing and confidence boosting to just go outside and grab a bit of basil to season lunch.