What is Permaculture

I believe there is no simple way to answer that question, because there are million ways to understand and apply permaculture. But let’s try to draw a general explanation…

  • It is a design method based on a whole-systems thinking.
  • It follows the dynamics of nature in order to create a sustainable life.
  • It serves people, earth and future equally.
  • Its purpose is to develop holistic solutions, than can be used in agriculture, urban areas, buildings, technology, community systems or education and economics.

I personally perceive permaculture as a shift in a way of thinking. Where human development doesn’t need to, and should not to, be against our environment. It shows on simple examples, that if we just observe nature and learn from it, we don’t need much more.

permaculture portugal
quinta kania farm

The whole story started around 1970’s, when Bill Mollison and David Holmgren coined word perma-culture (as an alternative to agriculture and indication towards permanent culture) and became explaining their ideas in books and courses. They developed a design method, that was based on 3 fundamental ethics and 12 principles.

permaculture principles

Click the link below to explore ethics and principles and learn from Holmgren himself:


quinta kania farm

Often talking about permaculture, the word sustainable comes up. Sustainability becomes more and more important nowadays, with the climate change and the resources not so infinite, as we thought about them decades ago.

Sustainable system is any system, that in it’s lifetime can produce more energy, than it takes to establish it and maintain it.– Bill Mollison
permaculture garden

A healthy system has the ability of self-regulation and resilience. Each parts of it are multi functional and connected to one another. We can observe it in a human body, ecosystems and happy communities. Permaculture is not an innovation. It is a restoration of a long, ancient traditions, that human kind seem to forget throughout the globalization and intense economic growth. If not that, we would not need permaculture to come in existence at all.

quinta kania farm

Let’s move on from theory to the practice and show an example.

When we moved into the land, there was no house, no facilities to cook or to keep our food cold enough to survive Portuguese summer. We decided to build up a simple outdoor kitchen and were excited to try out earth bags method. But for that we needed a good amount of soil, to fill in the bags. We got the idea to dig out a little cold underground storage near the kitchen. The problem turned out to be a solution.

Watch this video made by a wonderful project Finding A Better Way To Live in 2018 and check out more of their adventures here:


Big eco friendly fridge can store three people. Uses no electricity!

quinta kania farm

In this project most of the principles came out visible

permaculture principles
After observing the land and temperature, we placed our cold storage under the shading tree, next to the cooling water tank.

Observe and Interact

permaculture principles
No need for electricity, if we can use underground temperature. No need to buy the soil, if we can dig it up ourselves.

Catch and Store Energy

permaculture principles
Make the problem your solution.

Creatively Use and Respond to Change

permaculture principles
The materials we had available around us was enough to build.

Use and Value Renewable Resources & Services

permaculture principles
What is a pollution of one product, can be a resource for the next one.

Produce No Waste

permaculture principles
Building two structures in the same time made sense.

Integrate rather than segregate

permaculture principles
Byuing a fridge would be faster, but building one is a lot better.

Use Small and Slow Solutions

The story goes on… Our first fridge worked out very well trough the whole summer, even the next summer. But the winter after that we experienced extreme rainfall, and one day we found our fridge totally flooded. So we knew we had to learn on this mistake and make it better next time. This time we also made it way bigger, added a drainage, vapor barrier and built the arch from red bricks, so it can carry a load of the soil on top. All the interior we plastered with cob plaster, made out of the soil dug right from the spot.


Apply Self Regulation& Accept feedback

So here comes one of my favorite permaculture principle, because the mistakes make you a master after all.

permaculture portugal