One of the first things about permaculture that I learned was to first observe, then observe, then wait and observe, and then take small actions for change. You have to understand your context before you can apply techniques or principles to your situation. For applying permaculture to gardening and farming, it’s important to observe the local area where you want to grow (soil tests, rain fall, sunlight, etc). However, it’s also very important to know your surrounding region (climate, local plant and fungi species, local wildlife, etc). I frequently hike through parks near my house to get a better idea of what is already living near me. Doing so gives me the opportunity to observe natural ecosystems and patterns around me, and contemplate how I can copy these existing natural patterns to benefit my garden. This also gives opportunities to find herbs and other resources for wildcrafting or herbalism, or plants that you might want to propagate for your garden. No need to order seeds if you can collect them, or better yet transport species that are plentiful.
There are several hiking groups that explore areas in our region. Many of these groups meet several times a week, exploring areas minutes from my home that I never knew existed. I’ve met lots of friendly people, seen some amazing sights, and learned a TON about my local ecology. Improve your plant identification knowledge, learn to forage, learn to track animals… I encourage everyone to become more aware of your surroundings, and spend some time in nature!
Here are some local hiking meetup groups:
Hiking Around Philly – My favorite hiking group. Led by a friendly guy named Sidney who seems to know about every marked or unmarked trail within 100 miles of Philadelphia (maybe an exaggeration, but I’m constantly impressed by his hiking knowledge of our area).
The 20’s Hiking/Indoor/Outdoor Adventure Group – A meetup.com group that occasionally does hikes in the Philly area.
Return to Nature – A foraging teacher from NJ that gives classes from NYC to Philly.
Wild Foodies of Philadelphia – A meetup.com group that organizes hikes and plant walks to identify useful, medicinal, and edible plants in and around the city.
Here are some photos from a recent Hiking meetup that my girlfriend and I attended at the Schuylkill Environmental Center:
Here’s some inspiring poetry from the Poetry Trail at D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton, NJ: