Tallamy + Permaculture = Nature’s Best Hope

Doug TallamyIn preparation for this celebratory “Earth Month” which includes Earth Day on the 22nd, and Arbor Day on the 29th, our March TRIbe book discussion group featured Doug Tallamy’s latest book, Nature’s Best Hope, which offers the premise of a “Homegrown National Park,” which is created through the collective effort of landowners everywhere to establish individual yards as networked nature conservation areas.  Tallamy proposes the following actions - which align with many permaculture design principles, every landowner can do to make this ecological restoration possible:

  1.  Use NATIVE PLANTS, and remove invasive species. Non-native plants, including hybridized and cloned cultivars of natives, do not adequately support our local ecosystem food web necessary to support the biodiversity that will ensure full ecosystem functioning.  Of primary consideration are food and habitat for CATERPILLARS, which are the foundation of the food web for other species.  Some native trees and shrubs we highly recommend for HUMANS as well as for wildlife include:  Black cherry, native plums, persimmon, paw paw, and serviceberry.       

             Resources for determining good native plant selections include:

    1. Wild Ones:  https://wildones.org/
    2. Pollinator Partnership:  https://www.pollinator.org/guides 
    3. National Wildlife Federation Native Plant Finder: https://www.nwf.org/nativeplantfinder/ 
    4. Dr. John Hilty’s Illinois Wild Flowers website for Illinois gardeners:  www.illinoiswildflowers.info
    5. The Conservation Foundation’s “Conservation@Home”:  https://www.theconservationfoundation.org/conservation-home/  
  1. Shrink your lawn 50% and increase the overall number of plants in your yard.  Follow the permaculture principles, “Design from patterns to details” and “use small, slow solutions,” by adding a few new native plants each year -- make sure you put the right plants in the right place and you don’t have to do it all at once.  This also applies the permaculture principle, “Work with nature rather than against,” when you replace lawn with native resources.
  2. Plant “keystone” species that also support “specialist” pollinators:  Oaks, Black Cherry, Willow, Goldenrods, Asters and Sunflowers, along with your monarch supporting milkweeds. Permaculture principle:  “Work with Nature rather than against it.”
  3. Network with neighbors.  Different yards can provide habitat for different species.  Not every yard can do it all.  Permaculture principles:  “Use and value diversity” and “Integrate, don’t segregate”
  4. Incorporate supportive hardscapes.  Eliminate continuous nighttime lighting (Permaculture principle:  “Produce no waste”), include water for wildlife (Permaculture principle:  “Use edges and value the marginal”), mow lawn to 3-4” (Permaculture principle:  “Catch and store energy”), install several nesting areas (Permaculture principle:  “Use and value diversity”), cover window wells.
  5. Create ground level habitat.  LEAVE YOUR LEAVES which supports pollinator larvae, and make sure soil around plants is not compacted (lawn). Permaculture principles: “Catch and store energy” and “Use and value renewable resources."
  6. Do not use chemicals for fertilization or destruction. Permaculture principle: “Apply self regulation and accept feedback.”
  7. Share your knowledge and talk to your neighbors.  Permaculture principles:  “Observe and interact” and “Integrate, don’t segregate.”

Tallamy provides detailed rationales for each of the above recommendations in the book and we highly recommend reading the book in its entirety for full understanding of the importance for each.  In celebration of Earth Month, we encourage you to pick one recommendation to implement this month, and even better, to additionally create a plan to incorporate as many as possible over the next year or two.

Register for Permaculture Forest Gardener

If you would like to learn how, and be guided through the process to create a plan to transition your own yard, we encourage you to enroll in our Permaculture Forest Gardener certificate course, which starts April 24 and meets once a month live online with our instructor Connie Kollmeyer, or you can take it independently online without the certificate.  Additionally, if you would like to visit and “observe and interact” with gardens and landscapes employing natives and permaculture principles, be sure to enroll in our Permaculture Forest Gardener Field Immersions (almost full)!

Resilience as Revolution

Resilience– a term becoming more prominent in discussions of well-being and health - is the ability to adapt to and accommodate stressors and challenging situations. Also called the “bounce back factor”, resilience can be examined across different scales, such as the individual, community, and the environment.

The term resilience subverts typical ways of thinking about tragedy and stress as negative and destructive by flipping the language – instead of asking what went wrong, resilience asks what went right? How did the individual, community, or ecosystem adapt to, reintegrate, and grow? How can we utilize personal and community resilience for bigger social change, such as environmental activisim? Indeed, resiliency and its corollaries and synonyms of abundance, regeneration, replenishment, adaptation, relationship, collaboration, and community are the intent of permaculture*, the model on which The Resiliency Institute is based.

“Resilience is perhaps our most beautiful, miraculous trait” (AM Brown, Emergent Strategy)

What makes us, individuals and communities, resilient? Research has identified individual indicators of resilience, such as genetics and other biological markers that are, one their own, weak. However, one key concept when considering resiliency is relationship or community support, and not just breadth of relationships, but depth. Close, supportive, loving relationships allow for security and adaptive capacity. “When we are engaged in acts of love, we humans are at our best and most resilient” (AM Brown, Emergent Strategy) Resilient individuals make resilient communities and vice versa – bidirectionality and mirroring of parts to the whole, individuals to community.

To create resilience, we need self-care, earth-care, and community-care (see permaculture* definition). At The Resiliency Institute, we engage individuals and communities in these care concepts – resilient self-care and community care through our women’s circles and yoga classes, nature connection and earth-tending care through herbalism, edible wild plants, permaculture, and forest-bathing classes (people remembering their connection to nature and desiring to care for the earth is, itself, revolutionary), and collaborative efforts with similar organizations to bolster and support and nourish community abundance, such as Sustain Dupage, and the Theosophical Society.

We are approaching our 7 year anniversary at The Resiliency Institute. Anniversaries demarcate effort and encourage self-reflection. What has our organization done in 7 years? How have we changed and adapted? How can we regenerate and progress our vision, mission, and community offerings? How have we contributed to individual and collective resilience? - All self-reflection and organizational care at the workplace level to allow for resilience. And we are proud of our record. Classes, nature connection, community collaboration and abundance. Tiny revolutions** with a big reach. Thank you to those that have supported us – together, we can craft the resilient individuals and communities that will sustain us in the future.

*Permaculture is beyond the frequently used pseudonym of “permanent agriculture”. It is a holistic design approach for creating resilient systems for daily living practices (people care), land care, and community care. Permaculture involves working with nature rather than against, with the goal of creating abundance so that individuals and communities become producers rather than consumers. Permaculture has been described as “revolution disguised as gardening”

**‘Tiny revolutions’ was the theme of our Wild Woman Project Circles for 2019 . The idea was to create and foster tiny, individual acts of self-care, sustaining, whole ways of living that ripple out from individual to greater community. Harnessing our individual and collective resilience for well-being, health, and holistic ways of being is an abundant mode of existence that contrasts strikingly with the typical fixation on illness, dysfunction, and scarcity. In this way, resiliency is revolution – a circumventing of negative framing of disturbance, stress, and even tragedy into empowerment and the positive identification of flexibility and growth. Tiny acts that are actually big.

Recommended Resources:
Brown, AM. Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. AK Press, 2017.

Southwick SM et al. Resilience definitions, theory, and challenges: interdisciplinary perspectives. European Journal of Psychotraumatology 2014, 5: 25338 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/ejpt.v5.25338

The Hive Podcast: Permaculture, Sustainability, and the Art of Frugal Hedonism with David Holmgren https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nathalie-nahai-2/the-hive-podcast

Find more information about our classes and registration HERE.

Photo by Jana Blue Photography