The Chronicles of Smurf – Principle 8
Integrate Rather Than Segregate
Day 30, 6.30 p.m.
Banjo returns from a trying day at work with the Hub. It transpires that Alanna the Sparky has acquired a new canine assistant, a French Bulldog by the name of Truffles, who accompanies her on-site and supervises the tangling of electrical cables.
Hyperactive and hyperattentive after the manner of her breed, the interloper has been deriding Banjo’s stick-guarding abilities. ‘See? I could have taken that one. Piff-paff-pouf — it is gone! Il faut bien être plus attentif, cher Banjo!’ Banjo evokes the newcomer’s bumptious, mocking manner vividly. I had no idea that he spoke French. Qui l’aurait cru?
My day has been equally arduous. After napping in my favourite armchair for a moderate length of time, possibly five hours, I was awakened mid-afternoon by the noisy arrival of the Kidz.
I assisted the Harper in collecting eggs from the grudging chooks, whereupon the Suzy and the Fern used said eggs, still warm from feathery posteriors, to bake cupcakes. Then I dutifully entertained the Harper by running in circles and batting at ankles.
At length, cupcakes were doled out to the Kidz and I had to evade the sticky attentions of both the Fern and the Harper. I sought safe refuge in the lemon tree until bath-time.
(Do you have any idea how much grooming it takes to remove cupcake icing from one’s fur? No? Well, then.)
Now the Fern has been successfully decontaminated and packed off to bed, while the Harper is allowed another half hour of quiet activities on account of being A Big Boy. He is drawing chooks — or possibly tyrannosaurs. Difficult to tell.
The Hub is enlisted to tuck in the Fern and read aloud the latest instalment in the Adventures of Wilhelmina the Wombat. It is the biography of a marsupial who, against all the odds, becomes a famous ballet dancer. A remarkable tale of perseverance in the face of adversity, and one from which we can all learn a thing or two.
Dinner time for adult humans — and dogs. My food bowl is topped up also. I nibble daintily, more for politeness’ sake than out of hunger.
Banjo inhales the contents of his foodbowl in three seconds flat, belches and flops down in his bed, replete and content. It seems a good opportunity to resume our examination of Permaculture principles.
‘Principle 8 is an interesting one,’ I begin. ‘It exhorts us to integrate rather than segregate.’
Banjo thinks. I can hear him thinking: it is a gurgling, rumbling sound. Although now I think of it, this is probably just his gastric processes grappling with the precipitate arrival of a large meal.
‘Nope,’ he concludes at length, licking his chops. ‘No idea what that means.’
Sometimes I doubt my wisdom in embarking on this educational enterprise. I search my mind for a more concrete explanation.
‘It’s about taking a holistic approach,’ I venture.
‘Ah. Now I get you,’ responds Banjo enthusiastically. ‘Yes, holes. Useful things for putting bones in.’
‘That’s not quite …’ but Banjo is not easy to distract from a train of thought, once it has gained momentum.
‘And rabbits often pop out of holes, always worth investigating a hole with that in mind … Hmm, but then there’s snakes. You don’t want to go sticking your nose in a hole where there might be …’
I attempt to wrest back control of the topic of conversation. ‘Well, that’s a good point, Banjo. Holes have many functions. You can dig them; you can put bones in them; you can watch them, in case rabbits pop out of them.’
‘Indeed. It’s what’s known in Permaculture jargon as “stacking functions” — one thing serves many functions. Conversely, many things may serve the one function.’
‘Right. So for example, things to chase include bicycles, seagulls … and cats.’
‘Exactly. While things to claw without mercy include chair arms, tree trunks and dogs’ big, fat noses,’ I respond evenly.
‘Point taken,’ concedes Banjo.
‘Good,’ I reply, eyeing him sternly. ‘… So when we plan a Permaculture design, we should give attention to the juxtaposition of supporting elements. To cite the Permaculture principles:’
By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between them and they support each other.
‘Rather like us, then,’ concludes Banjo, innocently.
Is that the ghost of a smirk on his muzzle? Sometimes I think that old Banjo is not as silly as he appears.
Next week in the Chronicles of Smurf:
Principle 9: Use Small and Slow Solutions
Smurf is alarmed to hear of the imminent arrival of a bobcat at Dry Creek Farm.