We are a family of four, living in the remote coastal town of Cordova, Alaska. Because our place in the world is so unique, both culturally and environmentally, I recommend reading the Geographical Context page first.
Our home is just four blocks from Main Street, which means we are technically “urban;” yet because town is so small, our yard backs right up to an enormous uninterrupted wilderness. Eagles fly overhead all the time, and black bear occasionally come through our yard. We are living at the edge between wilderness and civilization, both literally and figuratively.
Our backyard “farm” is a work in progress. I go through cycles of charging ahead, taking on too much, getting overwhelmed, hibernating, and eventually, inevitably, becoming inspired yet again. As a full-time mother of two kids under the age of 6, I am often discouraged by how slow my progress is. But, like watching the hour hand on a clock, when I consider where I started from I remember to feel proud. This yard was no more than 1/2 inch of dirt over gravel fill when we moved in, with a straggly green cover that couldn’t fairly be called lawn. Now there are several beds of beautifully rich and deep soil, filled with annuals and perennials, and an enormous flock of poultry.
Because we are a complex family with many diverse preferences, our yard must meet many needs. I am the sole “farmer” and my take-over of the lawn is not unanimously supported. Meaning, I must temper my desire to use every scrap of dirt to grow food.
Given our space constrictions and diverse needs, I am encouraged by permaculture’s strong emphasis on stacking functions and Bill Mollison’s tenet that “yield is theoretically unlimited.” Although I would have liked to have 10 acres to work with, there is something comforting and even inspiring about having such a small domain. It forces me to think creatively and allows me to have an intimate understanding of every inch of our land.
For example the lawn itself, so reviled by garden activists, can be a productive element when designed to be. If grass is considered just one piece of a whole system, then a lawn is essentially a mown meadow. If designed to do so, a lawn can provide soil building and protection, mineral accumulation, attraction of beneficial insects, medicinal herbs, unobstructed sunlight to garden beds around it’s edge, and high quality grazing or cut “hay” from the mower.
This kind of thinking forces me accept that my only real limitations are time and energy. Eventually I will accrue enough of both to realize my dream of a Feral Eden.
For more detail on each element, please see:
Here is an overview of my DIY Permaculture Design
And for the real permageeks, the complete Assessment, Evaluation and Design, totaling over 100 pages research, maps and thought processes.