Thursday, June 30, 2011

Principles of Permaculture

Since its inception, the Principles of Permaculture have undergone refinements.  As Permaculture is about modeling nature, the basic core of Permaculture really cannot change.  Our understanding of nature improves with more observation and research.  As our understanding is refined, so then the guiding Principles of Permacuture are refined. 

Bill Mollison

In 1988, Bill Mollison outlined five Principles of Permaculture in his book Permaculture, a Designers' Manual.  Here they are:
1. Work with nature rather than against (assist, don't fight against, natural development).
2. The problem is the solution (everything can be a positive resource if we know how to utilize it).
3. Make the least change for the greatest possible effect.
4. The yield of a system is theoretically unlimited (yield is only by the information and imagination of the designer).
5. Everything gardens (or has an effect on its environment).

In 1991, Mollison wrote Introduction to PermacultureIn it were twelve Principles of Permaculture.  Some of these were re-statements of the previous five.  However, unfortunately some of these principles were rather vague... they were not readily understandable as a stand alone concept.  Here they are:
1.  Relative location.
2.  Each element performs many functions.
3.  Each important function is supported by many elements.
4.  Efficient energy planning: zone, sector and slope.
5.  Using biological resources.
6.  Cycling of energy, nutrients, resources.
7.  Small-scale intensive systems; including plant stacking and time stacking.
8.  Accelerating succession and evolution.
9.  Diversity; including guilds.
10. Edge effects.
11. Everything works both ways
12. Permaculture is information and imagination-intensive.

David Holmgren

Finally, in 2002, David Holmgren, the co-originator of Permaculture (along with Mollison), restated the Principles of Permaculture in his book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability.  He combined a few of the original principles and added some principles that were "understood" to be basic tenants of Permaculture.  Basically, he simplified the Principles of Permaculture into more user friendly ideas.  Here they are:

Twelve Principles of Permaculture

Every few days, I will highlight one of Holmgren's principles in a post, and expound upon it a bit.  Remember that all Principles of Permaculture are to be used as tools while keeping the Ethics of Permaculture in mind.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Riesling grapevines in Germany's Mosel River Valley

Terroir is a French word that really has no other word in any language that is quite like it.

By definition, terroir is the combination of natural elements (geography, climate, soil type, topography, and other environmental factors that are beyond human control) that create the special characteristics of wines grown in different locations.

It has also been translated as "a sense of place".  Beautiful.

I don't have as developed a palate to be able to distinguish the nuances of terroir in my wine, but I love the whole idea of identifying flavor with a sense of place.

While not following the strict definition of terroir, I would say that there have been three meals in my life that truly have given me a sense of place.  Without being too flamboyant, they have let me taste the region I was in at the time.  It is hard for me to put into words exactly what I mean, but when every component of a meal is produced from within a few miles of where you are eating, I think the meal comes together is a way few modern American meals ever do.  They just feel and taste right.

An example of Feijoada

I think I first experienced this while eating in Guarapuava, Brazil.  The meal was a simple black beans and rice dish with a dark, rich stew of beef and pork parts called Feijoada.  To this day, I don't know what parts I was eating.  Maybe pork ear, maybe beef tongue, maybe rib meat, I don't know, maybe all of them... seriously, those are common ingredients for this dish.  This dish often takes days to make, and the rich, succulent meat with the earthy beans was simply amazing.  It was a perfect pairing to the verdant Brazilian landscape with rich black soil.

Nigerian Goat Stew with Fufu
Not a great photo, but the only one I have of the final meal.

Loretta making fufu (pounded white yams)

I also experienced a sense of place while eating in Jos, Nigeria.  I watched, and helped a little, as a new and great friend Loretta made us a goat (and fish) stew that was served with fufu (pounded white yams - a chewy, starchy tuber not anything like the "yams" in the U.S. - which are really sweet potatoes).  All the ingredients were bought that morning in the local market and were grown or caught in the nearby fields and rivers.  This was a basic, traditional meal that captured the flavors of the region.  The meal was spicy and earthy just like the hot and dusty Nigerian summer.

An example of Wildschweinbraten.  

The third meal was eaten in the Mosel River Valley in Beilstein, Germany.  I had wildschweinbraten (slow roasted wild boar) with a creamy wine and wild mushroom sauce.  A side of hot rotkohl (cooked red cabbage) and bratkartoffein (German fried potatoes).  This was accompanied with a bottle of Riesling.  Everything, and I mean everything, was locally procured.  The boar and mushrooms were hunted in the woods at the top of the ridge.  The cream was from a local dairy.  The potatoes and cabbage were grown by a couple of elderly sisters who lived in the small town.  And the wine... from grapes grown within view of the small patio on which I was dining and overlooking the slowly moving Mosel River.  Never have I tasted food and wine that blended so perfectly together.  As if they were grown specifically for that one meal.  That may have been the best meal I have had in my life.

One of the goals in my quest to create a working Permaculture System is to create meals that capture the sense of my place and my land.  I want people to taste where I live.  I want to have my own terroir.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Permaculture Basics: Sectors

Permaculture Sectors
This is another core concept in Permaculture.  A sector is a path of energy into or out of your Permaculture System.  I mean energy in its true sense (not a quasi-spiritual one).  There are many potential energies that can enter and leave your land.  Let's look at a few of them:

Diagram of how the sun moves in each season.
Sun Energy
Consider the path of the Summer Sun and Winter Sun.  The further from the equator you are, the bigger the difference in path, angle, duration, and intensity.  Is your home facing the early morning sun?  Does your garden get the western setting sun?  

Diagram of sea breezes.
Wind Energy
Do you live in an area that has Summer Winds?  Do you have Winter Winds that come from a different direction?  How about a salty sea breeze?  Do you have seasonal storms?  Does the wind always/usually blow from east to west or from south to north?

A home on the water provides unique energy flows.
Water Energy
Do you live on a river, lake, or other body of water?  Do you have a stream or pond on your land?  From which direction does the rain come?  

Fire energy is an important component of planning.
Fire Energy
Do you live in an area that has seasonal fires?  Forest fires?  If so, from which direction would they most likely come?

Deer dining on a square foot garden.
Where do vehicles enter and leave your property?  Do you have trails accessing your land?  Where does wildlife come and go?  Where would a burglar try to enter and leave your property?  These are paths that can carry energy on and off your land.

Great view!
Not quite an "energy", but still important.  If you are always concerned about the neighbors watching you when you are working in your garden or that they can see you while you are standing in your kitchen, then this is psychologically draining.  If every time you walk out your back door, you can see the local shopping center over your low bushes, this ruins a bit of your mood - frankly, to me it would be depressing.  On the other hand, if you walk out your front door and see mountains or a beach or a sunrise over a meadow, that can be a huge benefit.  Don't discount how much a view (positive or negative) impacts your mood and how some privacy can create a stronger sense of peace.

Bad view!

Designing with Sectors
Viewing sectors on a map can be a bit confusing at first.  Just remember that the home is the center of the circle, and all the other sectors radiate out from it.  For example, using the Sector Map below, from the 10:00 position to the 2:00 position is an "Undesirable View..."  (this is also from WNW to ENE if compass readings are your thing).  Some sectors overlap, for instance the direction of the Winter Sun and Summer Sun.

The map below also shows the Permaculture Zones overlaid in shades of yellow and orange.

Sector Map

Sector Design is a vital part of planning your Permaculture System.  Every place is unique, so take some time to consider how energy enters and leaves your location.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Holy Shit... a book review

Gene Logsdon is one of my favorite agricultural authors.  Yes, I have a few favorite agricultural authors.  Logsdon always has a way of saying things that at first glace seems a bit "country" and a bit far-fetched, but after pondered for a bit turns out to be genius. 

His latest book, Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind is a look at agricultural and human "waste" (yes, human manure), how it effects the environment, and how it can be effectively utilized.  There is a large focus on farming in this book, so it is less useful as a how-to manual for the average home gardener.  But if you have any livestock, then there is probably a chapter or two for you.  Also, this book focuses more on traditional farming methods - not entirely "traditional" since Logsdon is actually a pretty non-traditional farmer - but he is not quite at the level of enviromental or biological systems integration as some Permaculture practioners would strive to be.

However, what this book really does is show that when manure is managed properly, it can go from being a large,costly, and smelly liability to a precious, soil-building commodity worthy of your investment.  An entertaining and educational read, classic for Logsdon... and a title that is sure to catch people's attention and spark worthy conversation over a topic mostly people try to avoid.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Importance of Edge

Love this photo of the Wood's Edge.
From Katya Horner's blog:

The classic ecological definition of Edge is the juxtaposition of contrasting environments.  The Edge Effect is the the impact the edge has on the ecology of these two environments and the edge environment itself.  As Edge Effect increases, biodiversity increases.

What does all this mean?  Basically, it means that everything happens at the edge.

In more layman's terms, the edge is the boundary of two different habitats.  This can be Field/Forest, or Lake/Shoreline, or Undisturbed Land/Farmland.  Pretty much, any place that two habitats meet, an edge exists.  It is here that biodiversity booms.  There is always more life and more variety of species at the edge of two habitats than there is in each individual habitat.  This is true in the natural world and the human world as well.  Just look at this map:

Population Density of the World in 1990

You will notice that the vast majority of the world's population lives at the edge of water and land.  This isn't random.  It is because there is more biodiversity in species of food (plant and animal) in the areas at the edge.  It provides more resources as well as transportation opportunities.

The same is true with natural habitat edges.  Have you ever tried to enter a forest where the edge has not been cleared away.  It is overgrown with brambles and shrubs and vines.  There are insects and birds all over the place.  But once you get into the forest, everything opens up again... the biodiversity drops.  If you like to fish or hunt, you should already know this.  Fish hang out at the edge of banks, at the edge of drop offs, at the edge of underwater obstruction, at the shadow edge of a dock.  Deer hang out at the edge of the fields.

Fish at the edge of an underwater structure.

In designing a Permaculture System, you need to keep in mind the importance of edge.  Increasing your edge in a Forest Garden, especially when also mimicking the biodiversity of plants typically found at the edge, will increase the beneficial insects, the birds which prey on damaging insects, it will not allow diseases to take hold and wipe out a garden, it will provide more vigorous growth in your plants, and it will likely produce better tasting fruits and vegetables.

This garden is full of edges.
Existing Edges
There are likely a number of edges that already exist where you live; you just need to realize they are there.
  • Wall/Yard
  • House/Yard
  • Sidewalk/Yard
  • Fence/Yard
  • Driveway/Yard
  • Planting Bed/Yard
  • Planting Bed/Fence
  • Planting Bed/Wall
  • Planting Bed/House
  • Pond/Yard

Ways to Increase Edge

Keyhole Garden Bed

The Keyhole is a classic way to increase edge in a garden bed.  Simple to design.  Not only does it provide more edge, it provides easier access to the plants to tend them as needed.

A Mandala Garden - nested Keyholes (from Gaia's Garden)

Make straight lines wavy.
A circle

A wavy circle has much more edge than the circle above.
This will allow more water-loving plants to be grown, more water edge for frogs to enjoy, etc.

This winding path is probably 6-7 times longer than a straight path would be.
That means it provides 6-7 times as much edge than a straight path.  It also helps prevent erosion, collects more rainfall, and turns the trip up the hillside into a leisurely walk instead of a climb.

Other Edges to Consider
There are many other types of edge to consider.  Here are just a few off the top of my head:
  • Shady Spot/Sunny Spot: Either permanent or partial shade vs full sun
  • Low pH soil (acid)/Neutral soil:  Occurs at the edge of pine trees for instance
  • Planting Bed/Large Rock: The large rock with its heat retention and moisture collection capabilities creates its own microclimate and therefore another habitat edge

Increasing edge is a simple concept with huge benefits.  Consider the importance of edge when designing your Permaculture System.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Peak Oil

Is Peak Oil already here?

Peak Oil is a simple concept.  Many of you may have already heard of it.  Peak Oil is the point in time when the world reaches the maximum extraction of oil from the earth.  After Peak Oil, the extraction of oil will become less and less.

Peak Oil is not the same as Oil Depletion.  Oil Depletion is when the earth feels the scarcity of oil, and is associated with rapidly rising prices and limited supply (i.e. you can't buy it anymore).

The concept of Peak Oil came from the American geophysicist, M. King Hubbert.  In 1956, he proposed ("predicted") that the U.S. would reach peak oil production between 1965 and 1970.  In the early 1970's the U.S. maxed out its extraction/production of oil.  Since that time, there has been a gradual, but steady, decline.  He was right.

Hubbert's theory, now known as Hubbert Peak Theory, can be applied to any region, country, or the planet as a whole.  It states that oil production will always follow a bell-shaped curve.

Graph showing Hubbert's prediction (blue) with actual data (dots).

So, where are we at today on a global level?  Here is a graph that shows the majority of the world's oil producing counties and their oil production curves.  Most countries in the world have already reached Peak Oil.  There are only a handful of countries (in the Middle East) that have not yet reached Peak Oil.

Graph showing countries in the world that have already reached Peak Oil.

No one knows for sure when Global Peak Oil will take place.  Some people think it has already occurred.  Others, though not many, think that it will not happen for at least another hundred years.  As you can see from the chart below, there are a lot of different theories/models out there that are attempting to answer the question of when Global Peak Oil will occur.

Graph showing different models of prediction for global Peak Oil.

In science, when you see so many models without consensus, you can be sure that the scientist truly do not know.  What you can take out of this is the common trend showing Peak Oil is coming sooner than we would like.  The International Energy Agency, which is a pretty legitimate intergovernmental organization, believes we reached Global Peak Oil in 2006.  There are other organizations who believe that Global Peak Oil will not occur until after 2020.  These organizations also believe that through the period of Oil Depletion, alternative energy scientists will make major breakthroughs that will allow the major oil-dependant countries to smoothly transition to an oil-free world.

I don't know if I am quite so confident.  I don't believe we will have a world-wide societal meltdown, but I don't think the transition to an oil-free world is going to be very smooth.

This is yet another reason I am a huge proponent of Permaculture.  With proper design, so many of our dependancies on oil start to diminish.  If we have the ability to produce the majority of our own food and energy needs, then Peak Oil is an inconvenience, and not the end of the world as we know it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Permaculture Projects: Hugelkultur

Anatomy of Hugelkultur

What is Hugelkultur?
This is a German compound word - aren't they all?
It translates as mound/hill (hugel --> WHO-gull) + culture/cultivation (kultur --> cull-chur).

Hugelkultur is making raised beds that are filled with rotting wood.  It is such a simple concept, but it is an amazing method to use.

Wood pile core of a hugelkultur bed

Benefits of Hugelkultur
  • Full of slowly decomposing organic matter
  • Full of nutrients.
  • Builds fertility over time.
  • The rotting wood is a massive sponge for water (read that: very little or sometimes no irrigation needed - fantastic method of water harvesting/preservation).
  • Heat from the decomposing wood helps create a warmer microclimate
  • It will last for YEARS!  30 years for a deep bed is not unheard of in climates without a high rainfall.  10-15 yrs for a deep bed in areas with high rainfall.  5 yrs or so for shallower beds.  As the bed ages, it will slowly shrink further and further down to the ground.

Side by side comparison of growing cantaloupes - seeds from the same packet!
Left - traditional garden method; Right - a very shallow hugelkultur bed
Look at the difference!

Creating Hugelkultur
Find your woody material.
This can be downed trees, old firewood, pruned branches and twigs, rotten logs, etc.
Wood can be fresh or rotting.  Rotten wood does decompose faster.
Just about any wood can be used.  Paul Wheaton recommends against Black Locust (since it almost never rots!), Cedar (it has natural pesticides and herbicides), and Black Walnut (contains a chemical that prevents plants from growing near it).

Mound your woody material
Lay the wood in a long mound.
It can be any height you want it to be.  1-2 feet is common in backyard gardens, but Sepp Holzer builds his mounds 5-6 feet high.
You can also lay the wood in a dug trench, so that the total height is not as high above ground level.

Cover your woody material
If you are not going to plant immediately, you can add additional compostable items: grass clippings, manure, kitchen scraps, garden waste, sod, etc.
Cover with a few inches of soil and/or compost.

Plant your mound
That's it!

Sepp Holzer's Raised Bed System... really a form of Hugelkultur
Please click on the diagram or link below to see a larger image.
Concerns about Hugelkultur
If you are using fresh wood, there is concern that nitrogen will be sucked into the wood during initial stages of decomposition.  While that is technically true, it appears that this system either mitigates that due to a concurrent release of nitrogen or due to an unknown mechanism unique to this technique.  Either way, people plant vegetables (high nitrogen utilizers) right away into brand-new hugelkultur beds all the time with fantastic results.

Check out these pages:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Permaculture Projects: Swales

Swale Design

Permaculture Swales
In Permaculture, a swale is a method used to harvest rain water.  They are long shallow trenches that run along the contour of the land.  This means that swales are perfectly level.  Swales do not direct water flow, but they collect water.  The soil removed from the swale is piled on the downhill side to make a slightly raised bank or berm.  When rain falls, the water runs along the surface of the topsoil, and it will collect in the depression of a swale.  The water will slowly seep into the soil and collect in underground pockets that will supply the roots of plants through weeks and even months without rain.

Illustration showing the water storage of a swale - from Gaia's Garden

If rainfall is heavy or fast enough, the water will also slowly seep into, through, and maybe overflow the berm.  Since the swale and berm are level, the water gently slips over the edge, and no erosion takes place.  The water then travels downhill to the next swale.

Plants are planted in the downhill berm.  The roots keep the berm in place, and the water provides moisture to the plants.  Water loving plants can be placed further into the depression of the swale, and plants that require less water can be placed further downhill of the berm.

As time goes on, rain and wind will continue to push and carry silt and other debris into the swale which will slowly build up a compost-like rich soil.  This will only continue to benefit the plants near the swale.

Swale design by Bill Mollison

Swales can be very large or very small.  They can cover large fields or small yards.  The key to making swales is keeping the swale level.  There are many techniques for doing this.  Two handmade leveling devices are an A-frame Level and a Bunyip (water level) which were both used by the Egyptians.  If you have the ability, you can also use a laser level or other surveyor's tools.

The ancient A-frame Level.
Here is a link to a PDF that shows how to use an A-frame Level.

A great video on making a Bunyip (water level)

Using the Bunyip (water level).
When the reading is the same on both sides, then the base of one stick is on contour (is level to) the other stick.  Mark a line with chalk or paint or string from one stick to the other, and you have marked the contour of the land.

The distance between swales is really determined by rainfall.  Swales should be closer together in areas with high rainfall.  According to Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden, they should be spaced 18 feet in areas with 40-50 inches of rain, and 50 feet in areas with 15 inches of rain.

The following images are of a larger swale system being built.  As you can see, the contour of the land typically creates a curved pattern across the land, NOT straight lines.  Rarely are there any straight lines in nature.

Larger swales following the contour of the land

Water harvesting in the swale

Here is a smaller swale system being established in a display garden:

The planted swale system at a display garden.
Note that the depression of the swale in this photo has been packed with straw.  This allows a more formal appearance to a yard (instead of standing water) while still retaining the water harvesting and storage capabilities.

In even smaller settings, you can create a Fish-Scale Swale.
Note that this swale will be filled with straw mulch and then covered with a thin layer of topsoil.  No one but the designer and the plant know the swale is there. Perfect for those who don't want a yard with "ripples" yet still want the benefit of the swale systems.

If you live in any area that does not receive regular rainfall and has weeks to months where no rain waters your plants, then I strongly suggest looking into Permaculture Swales.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Permaculture Projects: Lawn Care that Makes Sense

Organic Lawn Care: Lawn Care that Makes Sense

If you read my previous post on getting rid of your lawn, then you know I am not a big fan of lawns in general.  I am really not a fan of using tons of chemicals and spending hours of time on something that produces nothing.

With that said, I know that I am not going to convince everyone to replace their lawn with gardens and trees.  I also know that a patch of grass in the middle of a garden is pretty.  It is peaceful.  It can be nice.

But how do you grow a lawn without all the poisons and without spending all your free time maintaining it?  The following article explains how to do it.  It is written by Paul Wheaton.  He is a permaculturist who started the Rich Soil website and the Permies website (which has the largest Permaculture forum on the web).

Here is Paul Wheaton's great article on Organic Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy:
The key to the lawn care game is competition. You want to make things favorable for the grass and unfavorable for the weeds so the grass will choke out the weeds. Naturally...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Ethics of Permaculture

The Ethical Principles of Permaculture

Any philosophy has its own set of principles or ethics whether they are written or not.  Permaculture is no different.  When Bill Mollison and David Holmgren developed the formal ideas of Permaculture, they also developed three guiding ethical principles.

Permaculture Ethics
1. Earth Care
2. People Care
3. Fair Share

Now first, let me point out that these principles are all EQUAL in value; one is not more important than the other.  There are consequences to generally treating the Earth as more important than Humans, and there are consequences to generally treating Humans as more important than the Earth.  There are many ways to interpret these ethical principles, and this is my attempt, my version, my interpretation.  I do not hold these as scripture, because Permaculture is not my religion.  But it is a marvelous tool.

Earth Care
The Garden of Eden, Jan the Elder Brueghel - 1612
I am immediately reminded of what the Bible says in Genesis 2:15: The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (emphasis mine).

I think there are a lot of people who have forgotten one of mankind's first duties.  Take care of the Earth.  Understand that our life is sustained by what we have on this planet.  Air, water, soil, and all forms of life are interconnected.  Whether you call it the Butterfly Effect or Chaos Theory, a person's actions will have a consequence or domino effect on every other part of the whole system... the Earth.  I don't mean this in a spiritual way.  I mean it as scientific fact.  If we cut down the rainforest, we lose species of plant and animal for ever.  Was there a new cure for cancer in one of those plants we just lost?  Did we just destroy yet another one of God's amazing species in our mismanagement of the forest?

A parasite is a creature that slowly sucks up all the resources from its host while giving nothing in return.  When people treat the Earth with no regard for the future, then we are no better than planetary parasites.  I am truly not an eco-fanatic, but I am an ecologist (defined: a biologist who studies the relationship between an organism and its environment).  I have a biology and medical degree, and I have a keen interest in the relationship between our environment our health.  I have seen that when people care for the environment, they are caring for themselves.

Which leads me to the next ethical principle...

People Care
Do Unto Others, Norman Rockwell - 1961
I am very interested in Wilderness Medicine.  One of the first things I was taught when dealing with a wilderness emergency is to assess scene safety, whether it is an avalanche, flood, or landslide.  Only when I know the scene is safe do I enter and help others.  This is not selfish.  If anything it is the opposite.  If I heroically give my life to save another person, and I am the only one with medical knowledge in the disaster area, then dozens more people may die because I am not there to help them.  I have to survive to help others.  This is also true of my family and my community.  I need to care for myself so that I may continue to care for others.

When we put our focus on caring for ourself so that we can care for others (as opposed to caring for ourself as the final goal), our whole attitude shifts.  We start to think more about our family.  We also begin to think about the children in our life and their children's children.  We think more about the actions we are taking today that may effect them and their future.  This ties into how we use our land, the chemicals we choose not to use, the trees we plant that will live for hundreds of years after we are gone... ultimately then this ties right back to the first principle: Earth Care.

Finally, our mind starts to focus on  neighbors and community and ways we can help to build it.  As Jesus said in Matthew 7:12: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.  We start to reach out and help others that are less fortunate or who are lacking the information that we have.  We begin to teach others to take care of themselves.  When we give a man a fish, we feel good about ourselves for doing something nice, but this is an example of caring for ourselves as the final goal, not others.  When we teach a man to fish, we are now truly helping him.  If we teach him how to raise fish and then he sells them, we are now helping the whole community.

And this leads me to the third ethical principle...

Fair Share
The Four Elements - Earth, Joachim Beuckelaer - 1569
This is often interpreted to be some form of socialism, and I think this is why there are many neo-hippy communes that crop up around Permaculture centers.  In my opinion, Permaculture is not about giving away everything you worked so hard for to others that did not work.  This is one trap of human nature: expecting others to do your work for you.  And it is wrong.

Here is another trap of human nature: preventing others from caring for themselves and their families and communities so that you can accumulate beyond your ability to use.  And this also is wrong.

What this principle is talking about in my opinion (and according to Bill Mollison) is about setting limits to your consumption.  If you produce excess, then store it away for yourself or your children to use later, or sell it or trade it to those that want it so you can have other things that you need or desire.  But do not limit the ability of another person to do the same.  And do not take too much from the Earth that it has to recover and cannot provide for your children and their children.

The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.
- Bill Mollison

And that is it.  Earth Care.  People Care.  Fair Share.

It is that simple.  When we are managing our land in a way that is sustainable (Earth Care) and producing for our family and community (People Care) in a way that allows and encourages others to do the same (Fair Share), then we are practicing Permaculture.