serviceberriesWhat Is Permaculture?

Permaculture is an approach to designing sustainable, ecologically-sound, perennial food-producing systems, large or small, that mimics the complex relationships found in nature. ‘Perennial’ means plants that come back every year by themselves, so once they’re established, they’ll give us fruit, berries, sap, nuts, and other good things, without much help from us!

What’s going on with Permaculture at St. Dunstan’s? 

We’re not a model permaculture site, but this is an approach that’s influenced how we live with our property.  Beginning in 2014, we have planted many food-producing and other useful plants. We’ve also focused on what’s already here, discovering and appreciating some of food-producing plants and trees already on our property: black walnuts, pear, crabapple, redbud, serviceberries, garlic mustard, elderberry, linden, wild strawberries, mulberries, purslane, & more.

Why permaculture at St. Dunstans? (Rev. Miranda reflects, fall 2014)

Not because we hope for, or expect, large-scale production of hazelnuts or currants or blueberries. (Though our woods do generate substantial numbers of black walnuts…!) But because – most simply, most basically – of the sheer joy of picking something and eating it. Or picking something and bringing it to your friends to share. It delights the heart to cut a bunch of grapes, or pluck a handful of blueberries, or gather a cupful of blackcaps, and eat them, now or later. It’s the more delightful, really, when there aren’t enough of whatever-it-is for us to get too serious about gathering and using. Just enough to enjoy, to fill cupped hands with bounty and a mouth with sweetness.

That particular joy – I believe – is holy. It is part of God’s original intention and desire for this planet, a truth carried in the language and imagery of Genesis, a garden of bounty for our feeding and our pleasure and our respectful, attentive tending. I believe that in that tiny moment, the moment of picking something that has grown from the goodness of land and sun and rain, and eating it, we are what we are meant to be. Whether we planted that plant (or its ancestors) or not, it has flourished with little help from us, by the bounty of the earth and the grace of God; and when we enjoy its fruit, we receive that bounty. It’s one of the simplest and most concrete examples of grace that I can think of.

We first got interested in permaculture thanks to a wonderful workshop offered here by Mark Shepard of New Forest Farm. Check out his website to learn lots more!

Want to get involved? Look for announcements of upcoming workdays or events. You can ask to join our Food Forestry at St. Dunstan’s Facebook group, if you’d like to hear about workdays or good gathering times! 

6205 University Ave., Madison WI

St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church