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Permaculture For Preparedness, or “It’s More than Just Gardening, Genius!”

July 22, 2019

(I’m posting Mountain Guerrilla Monday early this week. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do at work, and around the farm, and we’re expecting a break in the weather that is supposed to drop temperatures 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit starting tonight. By getting this posted today, I can take advantage of an extra day of the reduced temperatures to get some catching up done.)


Permaculture is famous for its ethics and principles. These are the basic guidelines along which permaculture was codified by Mollison and Holmgren. Sadly, many readers have limited themselves to second, third, and even fourth generation permaculture teachers and writers, and much has been lost in the translation, so to speak. People have learned a shallow understanding of the tactics and techniques of permaculture, without really understanding the strategy or operational capabilities.

An example of this in preparedness can be seen in a comment I received a few months ago, in which a reader lauded the discussion of alternative energy, food production, and other aspects of daily living in a post-industrial environment, but wanted me to focus on the “partisan” aspects, by which I assume they meant the cool-guy action figure gunfighter stuff. The problem with this is something that all too often, people who have never had to plan an operation, let alone write an OpOrder, overlook: you can only “operate” so long without support in the form of food, equipment, and shelter. There’s a reason, after all, that an SF ODA has engineers and medics, as well as weapons sergeants. As a mentor in SF once asked me, “What do you call an A-Team made up entirely of Bravos?” The answer? “An understrength Ranger Platoon.”

If we approach the discussion of Permaculture from the UW perspective, the focus on Permaculture begins to make considerable sense from both an operational and a strategic perspective. If we define our UW strategy as “We don’t have to win. We don’t even have to not lose. All we have to do is make sure our supporters and the unaligned populace both know that we’ll still be here when the enemy is gone,” and we define our strategic goal as “cultural and genetic survival” rather than “individual survival,” then the permaculture approach begins to make even more sense.

While it is possible to stockpile vast quantities of storage foodstuffs in our secure Guerrilla Base area, in accordance with DoD/USASF doctrine for the conduct of UW operations, the Guerrilla Base area is only secure until the enemy gets pissed off enough to expend resources destroying it. Related to this idea, of course, is the mantra I was taught as a young NCO, that your Escape and Evasion plan (now referred to as an EPA, for Evasion Plan of Action) should be an integral part of any operational planning. Hope for the best, but plan for just in case.

The fact that Permaculture offers us a means of diversifying our resources, by spreading the harvest across geography and the seasons of the year, allows us a “five-point contingency plan,” or elements for a PACE plan for sustenance.

Permaculture Ethics

Going back to the misinterpretation in contemporary Permaculture texts however, let us begin with the ethics of permaculture. Often, these days, these are bowdlerized as “Earth Care, People Care, Share the Surplus/Fair Share.” This simplification comes about, in large part, because of the liberalization of Permaculture, politically. In fact, the original ethics, outlined by Mollison included:

Care of the Earth, Care of People, and Setting Limits on Populations and Consumption.

While this too, to many modern readers of a conservative or even libertarian bent, will seem very “SJW” in nature, it’s really not. In fact, the foundations for those ethics can be seen as far back into human history as you care to look.

Care of the Earth
Set aside preconceived notions about “Earth Day” and Al Gore. Set aside your notions about some universal approach. Rephrase this as “Care for your piece of the Earth,” and see if this doesn’t make more sense. I cannot have any real impact on rare earth mining in China. I cannot have any real impact on plastics being dumped into the oceans, instead of being recycled. What I can have a very real impact on is the piece of Earth that I have control over.

Most Americans today have never spoken, face-to-face, with a farmer or rancher. To be clear, I’m not talking to small-scale farmers like myself that produce for family or community use alone. I’m talking about farmers that raise hundreds or even thousands of acres of crops. I’m talking about ranchers that raise a commercial herd of cattle as their primary revenue source (the studies I’ve seen have said it requires approximately a minimum of 250 breeding cows, to make a living off cattle today). If you talk to these folks, they’ll be the first to tell you, they do everything in their power to take care of their piece of Earth, because they know it is their primary revenue generating resource. As a rancher in Wyoming once told me, over beers, “I don’t ranch cows. I farm grass.”

If we accept that people need to eat, no matter how gung-ho, bad ass guerrilla gunfighter they might be, then we must—by extension—accept the logic that people need to care for the land where their food is grown. Whether you see the ongoing situation in America and the world, as a result of natural imperial decline, as a planned, protracted operation to overthrow individualism in favor of a one-world government, or a result of environmental impacts of human behavior is ultimately, irrelevant. In any of those scenarios, this isn’t going to end in a year or five years, or even a decade. Setting aside a year’s supply of stored foods, and not having a valid, functional plan for growing more food, to sustain that food supply past one year, doesn’t make much sense.

Our ancestors exercise this in their personification of nature spirits, by respecting nature and making offerings, and ensuring that their human-centric activities coincided with what they perceived to be appropriate seasons of the year.

Care for People
Once again, thanks to the usurpation of Permaculture by the political Left, this too often gets translated as “you should care for every single human being on the face of the planet. If you’re not concerned with their well-being as much as that of your children, you’re nothing but an evil, corporate capitalist individualist.” Setting aside the ridiculous impossibility of actually having genuine care for people you don’t even know, on an individual basis, this is dumb, even from the perspective of the SJW Left. After all, do they actually care about the welfare of their political opponents? Not evidenced by the attacks that have taken place, and the diatribes and screeds they have published.

On the other hand, “Care for YOUR People” makes total sense, whether from the tribal perspective that I advocate, or from a purely doctrinal UW perspective. You know why SF engineers know how to build shit as well as blow it up? Because they can take care of the local indigenous population. That builds loyalty and rapport. You know why SF medics are more than just “combat medics,” trained to patch up bullet wounds? Because they can improve the health and welfare of the local indigenous population. They allow the SF ODA to “care for the people” who are helping them.

From our perspective, this means providing healthy, wholesome, safe places for our own people—kith-and-kin—to live and survive, even as things collapse around us and them. We can see this in the development of “folk based religions” that emphasized ancestor veneration, and passing on the valuable lessons from the ancestors on to the next generations, where they would be useful.
Setting Limits and Controlling Consumption
At first glance, this appears to be very totalitarian in nature, and misapplied, it could be. On the individual tribal/family/band level though, it makes absolute, total sense. We are limited in the number of people we can actually know well enough to develop a trust-based relationship with. Dunbar’s number is a subject I’ve discussed in all of my books, to one degree or another. If you start trying to take care of people outside of that circle, or you start trying to provide resources for them, taking away resources from your own people, neither party is going to survive, are they?

At the same time, if you control consumption, to ensure there is surplus for next year, instead of accepting the modern assumption that “I can always get more at the grocery store,” you don’t have as much to worry about come winter, when less is growing. On the other hand, if you let all and sundry access to your stored provisions, without limiting and controlling the consumption of those resources, you’re going to run out, before the resupply is in place.
Permaculture Principles
In order to effectively live up to the Permaculture Ethics, a set of principles that must be adhered to, in order to be considered Permaculture, were developed. Like the ethics, they have been changed and modified, and altered. This is perfectly alright, since different principles may have different importance, in different environments. However, we’re going to stick to looking at the two founders’ principles.

Mollison’s original Permaculture Principles were five in number:

Work with Nature, Not Against It
This sounds like some tree-hugger, environmentalist bullshit, but only to residents of the modern industrial world. Absent modern petro-chemical fertilizers, and large, exorbitantly expensive farm equipment that even large-scale farmers can seldom afford without putting the family farm in hock, you have to consider the natural cycles and systems. While even small-scale farmers like myself can occasionally fuck up, and make up the differences by spending some money, in a post-industrial, or even just a grid-down environment, that’s just not an option.

If I ignore the natural environment, and, say…try and plant orange trees where I live…I’m wasting resources, and I’m still going to have to buy oranges at the grocery store. On the other hand, if I build a greenhouse, and put something like a rocket-mass heater in it to provide marginal heat during extremely cold (for this environment) winter days and nights, it IS possible for me to grow oranges here. Hell, there’s a guy in Wyoming that is growing organic bananas at 8000 feet above sea level, in a green house.

For the UW environment, this simply makes it possible to grow foodstuffs for your local indigenous populace, even when you are functioning long term in denied areas, with an inadequate or ineffective underground transportation network. You know what will turn people against the resistance, and towards the regime, in an UW environment? Watching their kids starve.

Make the Least Change for the Greatest Effect
We are all limited to the same amount of hours in a day, and days in a week, and weeks in a year. As such, we need to prioritize and budget our available time. While in a peacetime environment, we can work around that a little bit, in a denied area environment, where we have to provide security, as well as producing food, with limited manpower, we need to be efficient. By determining what the smallest changes we can make are, that will have at least the minimum required effect, we can make ourselves more efficient.

Do you need to spend the money to shoot 1000 rounds live-fire every week, or can you achieve adequate (better) results by dry-firing those rounds? Do you need to do an hour of weightlifting 3-5 times a week, plus a hour or two each of those days for cardio/running/rucking, or can you do some Crossfit type training that will get you where you need to be in less time, with fewer training sessions per week? Do you need to put in a garden with eighteen rows of corn, that requires fertilizing, weeding, and harvesting, or can you spend an hour walking around a nearby woodlot, to identify what edible, useful plants are available, and then go spend five minutes, once a week, harvesting what you need?

The Problem is the Solution
Because our house is built with rough-cut lumber, and is well-designed, but has lots of ventilation as well, one of the issues we began noticing, the first summer, was the number of wasps (red wasps and yellow jackets) we were finding in the house. Then, the following spring, we heard a strange thumping and chirping noise from inside one of the upstairs walls. At first, I was furious, thinking we somehow had mice in the walls. Then, we noticed we had birds chittering around our bedroom loft window. I went outside and looked into the situation. We realized we had a family of barn swallows nesting in the wall of the house, just below the eaves.

You know what barn swallows eat? Among other things….wasps. We have not had any wasp problem, to speak of, since.

A similar situation was noticed by a reader, regarding the Permaculture movement in general, and its trending towards individual liberties. A large number of “permies” are becoming increasingly disenchanted with government, as they realize it is the government that is limiting their abilities to do what they want, in order to live within their beliefs. As jurisdictions limit tiny houses, humanure composting, and raw dairy sales, the very “tree hugger environmentalist” Lefties in what many see as a communist plot (environmentalism is, according to some people, simply a communist plot for control), are being turned against government influence, because it is stopping them from being more environmentalist.

The Yield of a System is Theoretically Unlimited
If you went out today, and dozed a piece of ground bare, down to the dirt (let’s say you manage to leave the topsoil, although, technically, you could extend this backward and even the topsoil would eventually be replaced), and simply left it, over the next year or two, you would see grasses and other small, tenacious annual plants take root and begin spreading. Eventually, you would then see shrubs of various types take root and begin growing, then some trees would pop up (in my area, those pioneer trees will be cedars). Eventually though, in most environments, you would have a large, “old growth” forest of large trees, with some grass and possibly some shrubs, growing beneath it. That is succession.

By planting appropriately, and managing our design minimally, the same thing can happen, in a controlled fashion, in a permaculture garden or food forest. We might plant some strawberries for ground cover, with some annuals like onions, and some asparagus next to it, with a fruit tree in the middle. We could harvest strawberries this year, and onward for many years. We could harvest onions this year as well, but unless we replanted them next year, we’d be shit out of luck. By the second or third year though, we’d be getting some asparagus, that we’d be able to harvest for as much as a decade or more (and if it spread naturally, we’d be able to harvest it for a couple of decades or longer). In a few years, the fruit tree will start producing, and will produce for decades. If we planted a nut tree, instead of a fruit tree, it could be harvested for centuries (we have a couple of oaks and hickories on our farm that have been reliably estimated at being hundreds of years old, and they still produce acorns and nuts).

The same thing can be applied culturally, if our values are valid. I have three surviving children. If I teach them our cultural values, and they live virtuous, fulfilling lives, they will pass those on to their children. My grandparents had 6 children. I have over 50 first cousins in the surrounding area. Each of them has between one and five children. That’s a pretty significant produce of shared cultural values, isn’t it? Plus, if we accept that we can each have a positive impact on our friends and their families, as long as we’re not douche nozzles about it, we can increase the production exponentially.

Everything Gardens (modifies its environment)
The barn swallows in my house is an example of this. This squirrel stockpiling acorns somewhere, and then forgetting where he stashed them, or the squirrel ending up in a pot of squirrel and dumplings on my woodstove this winter, before he harvests his cache, and thus the acorns growing into another oak tree, is another example of this.

The same can be said about the above example of expanding our influence. If, instead of hiding out in their Bunkers O’ Doom, people would get out and network within their communities, even with people that don’t initially seem like-minded, they’d go a lot further in developing resilience and robustness in their preparedness. You never know who might turn out to share your antipathy to outside influence in your personal choices, whether that’s religious observances or humanure composting or home schooling.

Holmgren’s Additions
In addition to the original five principles of Mollison, his protégé, David Holmgren added some additional ones.

Observe and Interact
In addition to its importance for gardening—it doesn’t make sense to plant your garden in a spot that is in the shade of nearby trees throughout the summer growing season…unless it does—the observe and interact principle should be self-evident for preparedness.

If people would shut the fuck up, and stop talking about how awesome they are, every waking moment, and bragging on their preparedness and gun collection, they might actually realize that some of their neighbor’s are pretty prepared as well, and might make good allies.

As we teach children, we’ve got two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. That’s because we’re supposed to listen and observe twice as much as we talk….

Catch and Store Energy
While this is specific to water, solar (in the form of plants collecting sunlight and turning it into stored energy via photosynthesis), and others, its parallel is tied to the above. When you notice someone is like-minded, in any small way, catch and store that energy by cultivating the relationship with them, even if the relationship is based on something completely non-preparedness related.
Obtain a Yield
This one is particularly relevant to me currently, on both sides of the coin. We are beginning to harvest food from this year’s kitchen garden, so that tie-in is obvious. This morning, my wife prepared me a salad, with every single ingredient except the ranch dressing, having come from our garden. It was, as they say, “Deee-lish!”

On the other side of the coin, I received an email a couple weeks ago, bitching at me about charging for my books. Apparently, believers in individualism and capitalism think that making a profit—a yield—only applies to them. I’ve never asked for anything for writing the blog, in my attempts to help complete strangers be more prepared. On the other hand, I do charge quite a bit for the books. That’s because, just like I don’t plant a garden without expecting that we’re going to get vegetables out of it, and just like I don’t raise animals just for pets, but to harvest for meat, I need to get a yield, to make it worth my while to do these things.

The same applies to general preparedness. If your idea of preparedness is simply surviving, and you have done no planning on improving your situation on the downstream side of whatever you perceive is on the horizon, you’re not setting yourself up to obtain a yield. You’re wasting your efforts.

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
While there are more, this is the last of Holmgren’s Principles that I’m going to cover in this article, simply because we’re already at six pages, and I have shit to do tonight, before going to bed.

In the garden, self-regulation and feedback is “plant what you can take care of, harvest, and use,” and “if a crop fails, repeatedly, it might be a sign that you shouldn’t be planting it, regardless of how much you like it.

Outside of the garden, self-regulation and feedback acceptance is all about having standard metrics, and sticking to them, even if it means you have to alter your planning and execution. If my PT program isn’t allowing me to meet the standards I have set for myself, I need to change my fucking PT program (this was a big driver in my initial decision to try CFE as mentioned in the From the Library article this week. I like lifting weights. I like doing WODs. I hate running any distance longer than about 50 yards. But, I need to be able to run a couple miles at least, so I had to start incorporating more running into my programming. I accepted the feedback that I wasn’t getting enough running and endurance out of my programming, and then self-regulated by changing my programming.

One of the things that I discussed in the Reluctant Partisan books, was the concept of America, the Idea. I was raised to believe that one of the core values of America, the Idea, was self-reliance and community. I don’t expect complete strangers to do anything for me, and I don’t expect them to give me anything. At the same time, when a complete stranger starts making demands of me, especially when that demand is predicated on their own personal beliefs, and is not commensurate with my own, they are quite welcome to go fuck themselves.

I—and I’ve had discussions with others that have had the same experience—have had more than a few people that wanted to talk shit about “Why aren’t SF guys ‘liberating the oppressed’ here in America!?”

Ironically, I’ve actually gotten this question from those who self-identified as “Right,” and those who identified as “Left.” The thing is, as a lot of people seem to not know, SF is actually the largest element within the US Special Operations Community. While, as a portion of the military, and certainly as a portion of the overall US population, we are small, there are a LOT of SF qualified folks, both current and former. The religious beliefs run across a broad spectrum, as do their political beliefs. So, which of the self-identified “oppressed” populations in America are “we” supposed to support and “liberate?”

At the end of the day, I left the military well over a decade ago. I walked away with no particular sense of debt to special operations community at large, the Army, or even the people of the United States. My loyalties today, are to my people. My family, and my clan of choice.

What yield would I obtain, for their benefit, by going out and starting an insurgency to better someone else’s lot in life? Especially, as has too often been voiced by readers, if my values and their’s are rooted in different fundamental belief systems?

Am I greedy, and self-centered? Am I unpatriotic? Maybe. Hell, I don’t know. The answer to those questions is probably subjective to your belief systems. My children, my wife, and my friends don’t think I’m selfish. In fact, my wife often accuses me of being too generous.

So, if you want to talk shit about how “SF” should be overthrowing the government, or interfering with the legal electoral process in the US, simply because you don’t like the outcomes, or what those outcomes portend for the future? By all means, enlist, go to Selection and the Q-Course, spend some time on a Team, and try to convince your new peers of that. Good luck.

As for the rest of us, we’ll be applying the principles of UW—and permaculture, as it turns out—to build resilient, robust systems that will outlast us, and those groups and factions trying to subvert our way of life, so that “we” will still be here, after the opposition has gone “home.”


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  1. Robert Slaughter permalink


  2. Do you think it’s a fool’s errand for younger man to pursue occupations/experiences in SF fields and the like these days in the face of all this information? Occupations that to a varying degree prevent building of a tribe and development of your own self-sufficiency?

    I fully understand that being selected is being brought into another brotherhood etc.

  3. drdog09 permalink

    “He who eats, Wins”

  4. Simply outstanding. Thank you.

  5. Btroll permalink

    Your allusion to the Taliban and other insurgencies is spot on. “Go ahead and collaborate, we can wait until the outsiders leave and deliver our night letters.” I type this from suburbia but I’m still gardening and trying not to get too fat.

    Thanks for what you do.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Three From Mosby | Western Rifle Shooters Association
  2. John Mosby on Permaculture – Lower Valley Assembly
  3. Permaculture for Preparedness | The Survival Gardener
  4. Permaculture for Preparedness | Best Gardening

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