The Chronicles of Smurf – Principle 11
Use edges and value the marginal
Day 84, morning
‘I suppose you think you’re big and tough,’ comments the mouse bitterly, ‘murdering Cedric like that.’ Its whiskers twitch in contempt. Nevertheless, it backs under the sheltering bulk of the large, black, plastic compost bin.
‘I’m not dead,’ comes a faint squeak from under my paw. ‘I can still have the bastar- … eeeeeee-k.’
The mice in this garden have strong self-belief. They are convinced that no obstacle is insurmountable, no foe invincible, if only you have faith in yourself.
It goes to show that self-help tropes can only take one so far.
I nibble reflectively on Cedric’s tiny pink feet, then bite his head off.
‘Monster!’ A murine peep of outrage emanates from under the compost bin.
Permaculture teaches us that ‘the interface between things is where the most interesting events take place.’ I wholeheartedly concur. Sometimes it is a struggle to find the relevance of Permaculture principles to the feline modus vivendi, but principle 11 is a bloody ripper.
So to speak. I notice ever more Banjoisms creeping into my vocabulary.
The Suzy has cunningly designed Dry Creek Farm in such a way as not only to use edges, but to maximise them. As the summer progresses, her design is taking shape on the ground.
Paths curve — the Harper refers to the path through the veggie garden as the Wibble Wobble Way. Keyhole beds wrap themselves around a central opening, just large enough for a human to squeeze into with a trowel or a watering can. Maize stems and sunflower stalks rise loftily from green, shady forests of pumpkin leaves and are bound in mutual support by twisting ropes of runner bean vines. Conical herb gardens spiral crazily like fragrant floral witches’ hats.
All of this interplay of light and shade, foliage and gravel paths makes for a magnificent hunting ground. I can prowl unseen or lie in wait, motionless, under a watermelon vine or amidst rhubarb leaves. The garden abounds in animal life: lizards, mice, frogs, birds. Things to stalk, pounce on and dispatch.
Day 84, evening
‘I can’t find a bloody thing out there,’ complains the Hub. ‘It’s a jungle.’ The Kidz are safely abed, drifting in the Snoozeboat across the Slumber Sea to the Land of Nod.
Snuggle Time for Grown-Ups, by contrast, is getting off to a shaky start.
Banjo and I always pretend not to notice what the Grown-Ups are about, at such times. It would be impolite.
‘It’s all about maximising the edges, Darl. Dave Holmgren says edges are the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system,’ observes the Suzy mildly, running her hand through the Hub’s sparse hair.
‘Yeah, well that’s all great, but I lost Fern for half an hour yesterday arvo,’ complains the Hub. ‘I finally found her sitting in the frog pond, using my gardening hat to make mud pies.’
‘You didn’t tell me that when I came home. I wondered why she was already bathed and dressed for bed at three-thirty.’
‘It, uh, may have slipped my mind …’
‘So that’s what happens when I leave you to look after the kids while I have lunch with the girls, once in a blue moon.’
‘I only took my eyes off her for a minute, Love,’ the Hub defends himself. ‘Anyway, I thought it was about time she learned to, umm … “apply self-regulation.” You know — like Dave Holmgren says … None of this helicopter parenting nonsense.’
‘Self-regulation? She’s three years old!’
‘Oh, well … start ’em young, as Dave probably once wrote somewhere, or maybe it was Bill Mollison … Now, let’s get back to exploring our interfaces and seeing what interesting events might take place … What!?’
‘Dave also says “Don’t imagine you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path,”’ counters the Suzy archly, removing the Hub’s hand from her thigh and wriggling from his embrace.
Next week in the Chronicles of Smurf:
Principle 12: Creatively Use and Respond to Change
An unexpected event causes Smurf to reconsider his future at Dry Creek Farm …
David Holmgren is the originator of the 12 permaculture design principles, which are cited above.