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Permaculture in Hawai’i


Childhood family camping trips always ended with the same question. Stevo would ask himself,

“Why are we going home? We have everything we need right here.”

He was satisfied with the basics wrapped in the extraordinary luxury of nature’s beauty, stillness and clarity.

29 years of living on Maui have offered Stevo a place to combine his carpentry, artistry and vision in a home that serves his Soul, body and mind as well as his family, friends, and community. He recalls how every camping trip, venturing from their home in Ohio to Michigan’s wilderness with his mom, dad and six siblings, provided inspiration that has guided him here.

Haiku, Maui is heaven on earth, naturally. Stevo proves that adding humans to this setting can be harmonious. He provides a place for mutually beneficial interactions. Stevo gratefully acknowledges years of contributions from many volunteers that have worked on improving the land. Each human, tree, plant, bee, and soil microorganism, every element and component, supports many functions that are integrated into the success of the whole system.

Enter his co-creation.

Stroll barefoot on the velvet carpet of yellow-blossoming peanut ground cover. What began as 12 shoots 7 years ago is now 5 acres of plush comfort blanketing the land. The temptation to walk on and on is exhilarating, passing circles of comfrey, through a fragrant food forest with multi-levels of pineapples, taro, asparagus, oranges, limes, lemons, kava, avocadoes, bananas, papayas, purple star apples, and orange “pumpkin-pie-tasting” eggfruits. Over 400 fruit trees and exotics enjoy living here. Along the trail, towering coconut palms are embraced by climbing vanilla bean vines. A lush garden brimming with kale, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, basil, zinnias, borage, and much more, serves as the green centerpiece of bounty. Hibiscus burst in perfect pink blossoms over the flowering pond and the welcoming entrance lanai of his sweet “Hobbit house.”

“This is a ferro cement building,” Stevo says, one of many styles of dwellings on Maui built by Stevo, a showpiece of efficiency and sensitivity. This comfortable space offers a kitchen, storage, sleeping, and dining space built with exquisite details in warm wood counters and closets, slate stone floors, and very special windows. Life-size round windows blur boundaries, acting as “portals,” as Stevo describes them, carrying one’s Spirit out on the breeze, over the jungle cliffs through the rain, floating safely above the rushing creek below and back to the soothing shelter. Peace reigns here.

“It takes 25 minutes to clean my house.” Stevo happily shares this added benefit. The exquisite simple space inside retains the sense of connection with the jungle’s moods outside. This oasis is a great example of permaculture.

Penny Livingston-Stark, co-founder of The Permaculture Institute of Northern California and The Regenerative Design Institute defines permaculture and explains its origins,

“Permaculture is a design method for creating sustainable homes, and entire human settlements, with the resiliency and stability of a natural eco-system.”

”Bill Mollison of Tasmania and David Holmgren of Australia developed Permaculture in the 1970’s. As there was no term for sustainable culture they coined the term “permaculture,” to embody “permanent” and “agriculture.” It evolved into the notion of “permanent culture” as culture and agriculture reflect each other. Creating a permaculture environment is a gradual and long-range process.”

Stevo’s land is testimony to the rewards of such a commitment.

Eighteen years of observation, intelligent design, and nature-guided actions have evolved this Haiku haven into a zone of regenerative connections, providing shelter, food, energy, water, inspiration and waste management as dividends. This true place of home honors the gifts that are our natural birthright, from the soil teeming with life up to the sun and rain, weaving the contribution of every living thing, including humans, into a web of healthy relationships. The result is abundance and beauty through comfortable, elegant and artistic shelters using minimal resources, solar energy, composting all organic waste for soil nourishment, and bright, flavorful food that seems to be radiating back all the years of care and love.

Permaculture ethics underlie these harmonious design results:

1. Care of the earth
2. Care of the people
3. Sharing and returning the surplus

“Hawai’i was originally established on such practices,” says Scott Crawford of Kipahulu Ohana, a permaculture cooperative.” It seems to me that the ‘ahupua’a system and the lo’i kalo embody and illustrate the principles of permaculture in many ways. We have a rich heritage specific to this place of the canoe plants and the actual physical changes to the landscape, e.g. most every stream in East Maui has ancient lo’i along it.”

Scott is actively participating in stewarding the land, encouraging others by example.

“Today we have to continue to restore and develop a modern version of that, which is based on and preserves that heritage, integrating the best of ancient indigenous knowledge of this place with permaculture principles, modern sciences and all the plants and tools that are available from around the world.”

Making a list of what one truly values can help determine your own design choices, and includes planning how your day and energy will flow to support the whole system. How many times you need to visit an area, plant, tree, or animal in a year determines where it is situated in your site plan, or how far from your home in the center, Zone 0. Permaculture plans are mapped in zones that can be a useful template for any location. Prioritizing design by zones allows us to use our energy, time, materials and resources most efficiently. Zones are flexible and adaptable to individual needs. For example, a wildlife corridor in an outer area, Zone 5, could have a channel or loop path that allows deer and birds to wander freely close to the house, if that is desired.

Here’s a brief outline of zone design from Bill Mollison’s book, Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual

Zone 0 addresses the house design, orientation, home climate, and domestic efficiency.

Zone 1 components require continual observation, frequent visits, work input, complex techniques (fully-mulched and pruned gardens, chicken laying boxes, parsley and culinary herbs, quiet animals).

Zone 2 can include small stock and the orchard, a less-intensively managed area. Small ponds, hedges, and terraces are placed in this zone.

Zone 3: “Farm” zone for commercial crop and animals for sale or barter. It’s managed by green manuring, has large water storage, soil absorption of water, feed-store or barns, field shelters as windbreaks.

Zone 4 borders on forest or wilderness and is managed for wild gathering, forest fuel needs, pasture or range.

Zone 5: Natural, unmanaged environment used for occasional foraging, recreation, or just let be.

One simple step we can take today in any setting, be it rural or urban, is to step outside, sit for a half-hour and open every sense to observe what nature is up to right where we live. Doing this often can bring great insights and save wasted labor. Keeping a journal can make it fun to track your observations and progress.

What do you hear? Birds, chickens, traffic, children playing? What could you add to solve any problems you notice, or to meet a need? Would you prefer to hear a flowing fountain, bamboo wind chimes, or even the ‘music’ of a stand of bamboo shifting in the wind? Wandering chickens provide pest control as they eat the bugs and turn them into eggs, enriching the soil with their manure contributions.

What do you see and feel? Are there slopes for water catchment swales and terraces, cement slabs for pots of vegetables to grow upon, or winds that could be softened and rerouted by a windbreak of trees? Would solar lights create a welcoming path at night, or could you plant a row of small white flowers to create a path that “lights” your way in the moonlight?

Could you add fragrant flowers and/or fruiting vines on a trellis for rain cover, providing a tasty and shady entrance? Any way we can become more immersed in nature’s harmony, and provide for our own needs more intensively closer to home will serve us well.

Permaculture was inspired by an awareness of ecological crisis. Permaculture’s promise is an opportunity for us to establish a new way of living as we are emerging from a dying system, allowing us to preserve our oceans, forests and wild lands from further destruction. Regeneration is possible. We can work with nature with less and less labor required over time freeing us to focus on more creative and socially responsible work. The network of permaculture designers and dabblers spreads around the world empowered by their connections, supported by The Permaculture Credit Union (www.pcuonline.org phone: 505-954-3479), intentional communities www.ic.org, and on-going trainings and workshops.

Permaculture is about solutions. What better place than an island as magnificent as Maui, and a state as blessed as Hawai’i, to empower ourselves with such wisdom? Permaculture invites all life to flourish on islands of sanity.

To enjoy monthly permaculture gatherings in Hawai’i, join The Maui Permaculture Network. Circles, sharing seeds, plants, fruits and veggies, knowledge, tips, inspiration, meals, sustainable site tours and talking story at a new location each month.

For further information visit www.klarity.org

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