Tom Gibson and Catherine Feldman are going to present a workshop at the Bioneers Conference: Permaculture and the Home Landscape. I know them both as involved and active gardeners who completed a permaculture design certification course (along with me) at the Shaker Lakes Nature Center this past winter and spring. I’ve had the experience of seeing the lovely gardens that Catherine and Elsa Johnson have created at Catherine’s home. The extensive gardens are a wonderful combination of some of the concepts of permaculture and aesthetics. As I’d not had a chance to see Tom’s garden, I went gladly to meet with him there one afternoon in a free moment, just after he’d completed his Plant Biology midterm at CSU.
It wasn’t hard to find his house, hardy ageratum and white woods asters were blooming in full on the tree lawn, harbingers of sorts to the larger garden filling his front and back yard. Ten years ago, after a sewer problem left a large grey gash in the front, Tom and his wife Carol decided to plant a native garden, full of plants they both liked and were curious about. On the day I visited, blue stem goldenrod and blue asters bloomed in the dappled shade provided by old, tall trees.
Tom and Fuki
I was, more than once, sternly reminded to watch where I stepped, and to stay on the paths. In the back, there was a path made of sunken stone (an idea of master permaculturist Dave Jacke’s) and planted with prostrate bird’s foot trefoil. There was a this- year- new, gentle, privacy fence of smooth alder, a nitrogen fixer. There was wood and stinging nettle, and I was introduced to fuki, a Japanese plant that likes wet shade, and whose stalks are edible. (Also, I was introduced to a new breakfast recipe: Steam either wood nettle, stinging nettle or fuki stems. Then sauté them with garlic. Add eggs and veggie sausages.) Woodland strawberries were spreading their tentacles, and the comfrey, wonderful mulching and fertilizing plant, was growing full after its third cutting. Across from a bed of herbs, there was sweet cicely to nibble on, and a pungent leaf mustard.
So, my tastebuds were happy as Tom and I sat down to talk on the porch.
Q. So, you and Catherine are giving a workshop that involves permaculture. I wanted to ask you, since permaculture is such a large subject, how you yourself define it?
A. Well, I go back to the Bill Mollison thesis, which is to mimic the process of nature to grow the most amount of food with the least amount of effort. That’s true – but it is hard to ‘unpack’ for people who don’t know what you’re talking about. He had to come up with some kind of definition. I guess the way I see it is people integrating food production into their home landscaping. That’s what I’m really focusing on.