Next, I visited two home sites in the Seacoast Region. Together Amy Antonucci and Mary Gilbertson organize the Greater Seacoast Permaculture Meetup Group. Meetup is an online tool that makes it easy for local groups to form and meet around a specific topic. By connecting individuals, Amy and Mary are building a network of support, skill sharing and community.
Amy’s site, started in December 2008, is a wooded lot with a steeply sloped side yard. She’s adapted the site by building terraced garden beds. Each terrace level holds a swale, or a ditch that follows the contours of the land, that distributes rainwater evenly along each bed and decreases erosion.
Another highlight of her site was an edible plant called the spinach vine (Hablitzia tamnoides). Native to Eurasia’s shady woods and ravines, its leaves can grow to the size of a hand. When cooked this perennial tastes much like the spinach we’re used to.
Animals are also an important addition to Amy’s permaculture pursuits. Amy keeps bees in her backyard to yield honey and pollinate her plants – as well as her neighbors. Since her site is a project in progress, for now she keeps her chickens on a friend’s property. She has a heritage breed called the Dominique considered to be America’s first chicken breed. They are cold hardy and valued for both their eggs and meat. Amy is very committed to being a steward of heritage and threatened breeds of farm animals and plans to add Nigerian dwarf goats to her site soon.
When I asked Amy what attracted her to permaculture, she replied, “It just really clicked for me. We are borrowing from the past while using today’s technology.”
In contrast with Amy’s wooded site, Mary’s year and a half year old site is in a housing development. It is a perfect place for Mary to spread her permaculture ethics to her neighbors and show how you can bring both beauty and function together. For example, instead of burning bush, she advocates blueberries for striking fall foliage – and delicious berries too.
Mary is also helping to make rain barrels and keyhole gardens a common site in her suburban setting. One of her neighbors is already interested in building a keyhole garden, a circular bed with a path to the center. Her young son, Ian, shares her passion for permaculture and is quick to point out the different species growing in each circular garden.
It is all about pulling what she practices into everyday life. “Permaculture is a means to develop life skills and enhancements for sustainable living and beyond,” Mary shares.
Relative Location: By placing elements so they are best positioned to interact with each other, we can increase benefits and decrease extra labor. Since Amy’s site is wooded, select trees are cut to open up sun pockets. Some trunks are left standing to use as fence posts for a future goat yard. A new garden bed will be placed adjacent to the goat yard, where the manure can be more easily transferred from the goat yard to the garden for fertilizer. In Mary’s site, guilds (a number of perennials growing in one area) support the growth of her fruit trees by luring beneficial insects, boosting soil fertility and conserving water.
Ready to visit? Browse their meetup site at http://www.meetup.com/GreaterSeacoastPermaculture and view upcoming events and discussions.