I can’t believe I haven’t written before about my “girl meets permaculture” experience last year. It was one of those serendipitous second-hand book-stall moments, where I picked up an old copy of Rosemary Morrow’s Earth Users Guide to Permaculture and was instantly hooked. Whilst it wasn’t the most practical introduction to #permaculture that I could have found, it was transformative and inspirational – and started me off on my permaculture mission.
What was it that really got to me about permaculture? Well, it’s a practical, economic and political science. It’s based in the physical reality of living on Earth, with each other as equals. I’ve wondered for years how to integrate ideas about social equality, economic sustainability and ecology. And I think permaculture has many of the answers. It’s a shame it sounds too revolutionary for the political mainstream because it represent our best hope of living with catastrophic climate change and over-consumption.
It’s been over a year since I started learning about permaculture, and I’ve ploughed through several weighty tomes, dug up my front garden and planted several polycultures. And got some hens. But I’ve noticed that some of the ideas from it are seeping into the rest of my life, particularly the concepts of inputs and outputs. This was something I read about in Juno just before I found my first permaculture book.
So what do I mean by inputs and outputs? Inputs are all the things that you need to add in to a situation, metaphorical or literal to make it work. In your garden, that might be water, fertiliser, new plants, fencing, labour. In your family life that might be time, money, electricity, toys, cleaning. The outputs are all the things – good and bad- that you get as a result: food crops, shelter, water run-off, green waster, well-fed children, contented parents, the need to do outside work to earn more money.
I find increasingly that, no matter what the situation, I’m choosing to do things that balance the inputs and outputs. So when I got fed up of lugging some extra weight around, I chose to start #intermittentfasting because the only input it requires from me is a hefty dose of self-control, and it has a whole bunch of positive outputs (and a significant negative one – I get grumpy). And it helped me decide what to do about schooling for my littler daughter – our current school requires significant inputs in terms of emotional support, engagement with school to try and make it a bit better, sorting out problems with teachers, understanding their poor communications with us; whilst there have been positive outputs too these are not balanced by the inputs we’ve had to keep shoving in – and there have been some pretty negative outputs to deal with too.
Not all of life can have 100% positive outputs, but just being aware of what we’re putting in and getting out, and keeping these in a positive and easy balance is a happy thing.