Sunday, August 19, 2012


This morning it was "out and down" at 4:15 a.m.  I was up and THEN I heard a rooster crowing.  The early call was made in order for us to scoop up Helen and Skip, two of Paul's Woodinville area fans, and head north to Anacortes to catch the early ferry to Orcas Island where a tour of the famous Bullock's Permaculture Homestead had been arranged.  If you have never done a ferry trip through Washington's inter-coastal islands, put it on your "bucket list."  The ride is smooth, the service is great and the views are spectacular.

On the Ferry

The Bullock Brothers brought an unusual approach to the property they farm on Orcas Island.  Like all permaculture approaches, they approach farming like Tai Chi Chu'an.  The purpose is not to work against Nature in farming but to observe, adapt and observe again using Nature as a partner more than an opponent to be subdued.  Everything about growing must be considered: climate, microclimate, companion planting, water source and water treatment, the farmer's own consumption and waste generation, non-farm animals like bullfrogs and songbirds.  It is this reflective engagement with farming that makes most people in the permaculture world consider the Bullock Brothers operation one of the most interesting examples of permaculture being employed, and one with obvious results.

A multiple-grafted apple tree or "Frankenfruit."
The Bullock's Permaculture Homestead is a living laboratory, too, where young people vie to be awarded a spot on the Homestead's roster of 12 "skill builders."  Skill builders are learning by doing as they implement the Bullock brothers' permaculture ideas on the farm.  They learn practical skills used on every farm but also those skills of patient observation and consideration of systems at work both in Nature and on the farm.  This learning aspect will prepare these young people to go out in the world not only with knowledge of farming but with a practiced eye to observe what is happening on the land.

One skill builder, Jane, conducted our group's tour today.   For three hours she walked us through the farm's kitchen, herb garden, tree forests, ponds, chicken pens, plant and flower nursery, water management system, living quarters and a host of other elements at work.  While we walked around the property she showed us example after example where the land had been healed, where innovative production methods were at work, where plants and soil and critters all seemed to buzz in a harmony that made me think, this is what farming ought to look like.

Jane explains the solar-powered water pump system
Now, among my readers there are doubtless those who are master gardeners or even permacultural enthusiasts.  Those readers may have their own thoughts and ideas about what farming or even gardening should be, and they may feel the Bullock's almost exclusively off-grid experimenting is not practical any more than their heavy reliance on re-used, recycled and re-purposed stuff. The fact remains, we only have so much stuff and so many ways to use it before it is used up or spoiled.

Presently the world relies on a global corporate system that uses chemical and petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides and questionable land clearance practices to provide the world's food.  That approach has limits that seem more and more apparent every day. It seems to me that trying to be a partner in growing makes more sense than growing food in a global, highly mechanized and chemical basis in the long run as quality local food becomes more valued and appreciated.  Could it be that permaculture and examples like the Bullock's Permaculture Homestead are going to show the way to make agriculture a much more meaningful and proximate part of human life?  Do we have the time and means to fulfill the promise of permaculture?


  1. Glad you are doing this blog. We are waiting in San Diego to see Paul on the 7th. this way, it is almost like we can travel along...... Thanks.

  2. I remember crossing Puget Sound on a ferry boat when I was 6 years old. It was, as you say, smooth and spectacular. Your garden is growing and surviving the invaders: deer, racoons, and Bucky Beaver. Thanks for the triplog blog.

    1. Thanks, neighbor. These soil tillers make me look like a piker...