The concept of Whole House Agriculture derives from the Greek word OIKOS (eco) which means, “home” or “house”. It is the word that gives us ecology (the study of home) and economy (to manage the house). So, this is not simply about gardening or agriculture, but about managing the entire household and property. The building of fertility is not simply about soil.
The Permaculture Project LLC develops a step-by-step strategy for the homeowner: simple food, medicine, and utility plant production (and animals) for small, intensive home systems, energy, water, and construction plans for well-being, ecological integrity, economic stability at ultra-low cost. We teach you to forage within walking distance of the home, how to prepare and preserve food, how to do the minimal for your family’s sustenance and health. Get in touch with us…
In my experience, I would have to say, “Yes”, but it is an incremental, step-by-step process of learning. It is in the doing, where one begins, experiences, takes risks, tastes, and moves forward with perseverance. Granted, I have had years putting these systems on the ground in rural, suburban and urban settings, but, again, it is all process, creation, and implementation. I have had to learn from my “mistakes”, assuredly, but my tendency is to look at these mistakes as feedback, as opportunities to explore more deeply, to try things out this way, and that.
How can we harvest all the food groups that we typically eat from on a fifth of an acre and from foraging locally? How can we have a complete diet with a diverse and mineral rich variety of foods? We are a culture that has grown up on a predominately grain-based diet. We have processed and reprocessed grains to the point of absurdity: breads, chips, pastas, etc. There are basically eight foods that feed the world and they are almost all grains. Settlement and grain-based agricultural systems go hand in hand. How important is this prevalence of grains for a human being’s health and wellbeing? In this segment, we will find out that grains are not the “staple” that is necessary for our nutritional balance. But what can we accomplish on a fifth of an acre and through foraging in the middle of an urban or suburban area or on ten thousand acres? Small, intensive systems are what feed us, systems that are doable at a human scale, systems that contain all the proteins, minerals, and vitamins that we need in order to lead a healthy existence for our entire lives. The following easily harvestable foods are what makes this possible on small to large acreage:
- Dairy: dwarf goats (milk, kefir, yogurt, cheese)
- Meat: guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, squirrels, wild game, fish (ponds and aquaponics), insects (entomophagy)
- Grains: quinoa, wheat, corn, oats, amaranth (wild and cultivated)
- Vegetables: wild and cultivated
- Fruits: wild and cultivated (mulberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, currants, crabapples, pears, etc.)
- Nuts: wild and cultivated (acorns, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, walnuts)
- Sweets: maple, birch, sycamore, walnut syrups; honey
- Salt: dehydrated seawater
- Oils: oil press for nuts, sunflower seeds
- Sprouts (in jars and on soil), microgreens
- Smoothies and juices (fruit and vegetable)
- Eggs (chickens)
- Dehydrated foods
- Mushrooms (grown indoors and outdoors)
- Hunting and trapping
So, where does it all begin? In the kitchen? The backyard? Water? Animals? Building? Energy? It all begins where we find ourselves, the region, the ecosystem in which we find ourselves. And we essentially begin with climate, our foremost “limiting” factor. Can we work effectively within the context of the seasons and produce enough food to meet our needs, collect and store water, safely house our animals, and make our homes as efficient as possible (minus the gadgets), based intrinsically on the movement of the sun through the year?
As the majority of the population now lives in cities and suburbs, I put into practice techniques of various fashion that I have utilized in my life as a child of the suburbs (outside NYC), a rural farmer, a contractor in the city, and now I find myself back in a suburban situation. The methodologies I have employed are applicable across the board no matter the backdrop. All of this life experience, from childhood to my current age of sixty-five is pertinent to the circumstances that I currently find myself in, a family of three raising a large percentage of our needs on a fifth of an acre, and, foraging for the rest of it (of course this does include a bit of hunting and gathering in the local marketplace).
Is it doable? I ask myself this question each time I endeavor to place a new element into the landscape, the homestead. How much work, time, study, will it demand of my family? Will it contribute to our sustenance, our basic necessities, our health? Could others do this readily? How local are the materials, the seeds, the tree stock we are procuring? What will we do with the excess yields, should we have an abundant year? Am I merging my efforts with the natural cycles that interpenetrate our existence and give us life? Do I follow the ethics, methodologies, living principles that I believe in? Do I follow my intention?