WTF is one of the TCG posting on permaculture?  ROFL!  IMHO, this is BQYE!

Yep, made the last one up.

Welcome to a new category, an informal series, meandering as it will through my family’s adventures in permaculture.

But seriously, permaculture?  On a Catholic blog?  Let me learn you something.

This comes as little surprise to those who know me, or who have any real understanding of the Catholic faith.  For a start, observe the confluence of these two:  Bethlehem Farm.  I spent a year on the farm, and another three nearby, helping people build and repair their houses and helping establish (what is now) a very impressive garden.

Bethlehem Farm is an explicitly Catholic community, and sustainability is actually one of their philosophical cornerstones.  They encourage organic farming, living in harmony with the seasons and one’s local climate and resources, and making every effort to live in a way which promotes giving (to others, to the Earth) over and above taking.

It is in giving, after all, that we receive.

And Bethlehem Farm is not an anomaly, but right in line with Catholic teaching.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, for instance, tells us that “caring for and cultivating the world involves…joyful appreciation for the God-given beauty and wonder of nature…” and “…protection and preservation of the environment, which would be the stewardship of ecological concern.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has it, “[m]an’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”

Of course, you did not see the term “permaculture” used in either of those passages, nor is it immediately visible (if at all) on the Bethlehem Farm website.  Neither will you see the term “The Trinity” in Scripture, but it follows from what is written.

Permaculture, of course, is not the only …I beg your pardon.  Perhaps you are as unfamiliar as I was with permaculture, only a few sunrises ago!  Here you go!

As I was saying, permaculture is not the only way to carry out God’s command to “take dominion” over the Earth, but it seems to be at least one possible means.  Moreover, it seems to be a challenge given a suburban setting, which only motivates this writer.

And, it seems…romantic, to me.

In college, I was introduced to the idea that a good garden is the way man “perfects” nature.  Nature by itself, this view held, is wild and chaotic, and not particularly conducive to human needs.  In order to make the greatest use of the Earth, humans would need to cultivate it.

But traditional gardens – even suburban lawns! – seem almost comical to me.  I remember spending five weeks in the woods as a camp counselor, then returning to my suburban home, and laughing – heartily, without effort – for a minute or so when I first laid eyes on the clean and well-defined borders given to plant life.

There’s no doubt gardens can be beautiful – I simply find most of them amusing, like a dog wearing a sweater.

But to cultivate nature within one’s humble lot, to welcome her genius and offer a home to her lovely and untamed essence, and to barter with her evenly, as much as possible – now that awakens the soul, doesn’t it?

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