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Working with nature, instead of against it, can mean less work

August 28, 2011
By BARBARA WALLACE HUGHES, Messenger managing editor , Messenger News

Anyone can begin converting their property to permaculture design without specialized knowledge.

The first step, said Kathy and Jay Fritchen is mulching, which also means less weeding, less mowing, less watering.

"Permaculture means removing excess labor," Jay Fritchen said.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Barbara Wallace Hughes
Ducks are among the multipurpose creatures on the Fritchens’ acreage. They lay eggs, eat pesky insects and provide meat. In a permaculture environment, everything needs to have more than one purpose.

The Fritchens said they had been practicing permaculture for years without realizing it, working with nature instead of against it.

"Now, it has a name," Kathy Fritchen said.

"Ideally, in permaculture, you should produce no waste and no pollution. Everything is reused," said Jay Fritchen.

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Gardening tips from the Fritchens

Use raised beds or small containers to lengthen your growing season. "We were eating lettuce in April because you can control that little environment," Jay Fritchen said.

Sometimes, one or two vegetable plants is all you need, and it's less wasteful and less expensive to split a four- or six-pack of plants with another gardener.

Plant your garden close to your back door. "You can pull a weed as you go by," Kathy Fritchen said. "When you put your garden out a ways, it's easy to forget about it. For better gardening, bring it closer."

Permaculture design means less physical work, but it does require assessment and planning.

"You've got to take inventory of what you have, and you've got to know what you want to end up with," he said. "Then, it's all about the plants."

"Finding the right spot for them makes a huge difference. Permaculture comes down to obervation. You just watch what nature does, see how nature does things, then you copy it," Kathy Fritchen said.

"If you want to transition to permaculture, you have to get your infrastructure, your windbreaks," Jay Fritchen said. "But everything needs to be a dual purpose."

The Fritchens' windbreak includes a row of nannyberries that are edible far into the winter - although people will find themselves in competition with birds for the fruit.

"It's really cool in January, February, I can go outside, and I can pick a nannyberry. There's 5 feet of snow, and I can go out and pick a berry and eat it," Kathy Fritchen said.

The windbreak also has a row of hazel nut trees, which not only provide an edible bounty, but are efficient pollution filters and oxygen producers, Jay Fritchen said.

Finally, there are plantings of elderberries which, he said, have antiviral properties. The berries are a source of Vitamin C and potassium.

Incorporating permaculture principles is a very simple process, Jay Fritchen said.

"It's not a lot of work. It just takes some planning and some experience to get it rolling," he said.

Contact Barbara Wallace Hughes at (515) 573-2141 or



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