Book Review: Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway

gaias_gardenI read Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway a few months back. I think it’s a good time to give a brief review now that I have given all my learning and thoughts time to settle and synthesize. I don’t have the book beside me for reference and I am only recalling from memory the elements that struck me most.

I found this book in the library after searching for “permaculture” in the catalog. It is probably the most popular permaculture book that has been written in recent years. To be honest, I was quite impressed that the Singapore library actually has books on permaculture considering how alternative it is. There is an element of subversiveness in permaculture, as Bill Mollison said it himself. When he heard a reviewer describe his teachings as seditious, he said:

Yes, it was very perceptive. I teach self-reliance, the world’s most subversive practice. I teach people how to grow their own food, which is shockingly subversive. So, yes, it’s seditious. But it’s peaceful sedition.

Well, it definitely does not look subversive from the cover of the book! Continue reading

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Project Green Valley – Order Within The Mess

When we started work on Project Green Valley, it was but a barren piece of land with grass growing on hard sun-baked clay. I remember wondering where so many fist-sized stones came from. They were actually hardened and dried pieces of clay. The soil was in bad shape and there was a lot for us (and nature) to do before we restore fertility. After about a year, this is how it looks.

Green Valley

A food forest! See if you can spot sweet potatos (green, purple, yellow), kang kong, wild spinach, sweet leaf, papaya, banana, tapioca, bitter gourd, lemongrass, citronella, passion fruit, and more!

The way it is today, Project Green Valley requires almost no watering. Even if we had to water, we would draw from the pond and not rely on tapwater. There is little need for weeding because the soil is densely planted with no area of exposed soil. The strong sunlight grass needs would have been filtered by the other taller plants by the time it reaches the soil. Continue reading