Principle 11: Use edges & value the marginal

“Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path”


Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

The icon of the sun coming over the horizon with a river in the foreground shows us a world composed of edges. The proverb “don’t think you are on the right track just because its a well-beaten path” reminds us that the most popular is not necessarily the best approach.

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Transforming the urban edge

The urban environment is full of edges, each with it’s own unique potential for transformation. This drawing shares some ideas for how to make productive use of a front yard in Tokyo. Espaliered fruit trees, container compost and garden beds, balcony gardens, vines to take advantage of roof space, a small water tank with potting bench above, propagating area, bike stand, herb gardens, vegetable beds and a ‘gift station’ for sharing excess produce, used books and crockery.

‘Transforming the urban edge’ illustration by Paul Kearsley from the Urban Permaculture Guide 始まる新しい生き方 and the 2016 Permaculture Calendar


Principle 11: Use edges & value the marginal

Principle 11: Use edges & value the marginal

Principle 11: Use edges & value the marginal - The Bus Stop Library

The Bus Stop Library

This library was set up as part of the Clovelly Road Better Block initiative where the local community is aiming to make the street greener, safer, more human and liveable. This bus stop invites travellers to engage with the space at the beginning and end of a journey. The sign above the shelf reads “Please enjoy reading something while you wait for the bus. You are welcome to take it and replace it when finished or exchange it with something you have already read.”

Photo contributed by Russ Grayson

Principle 11: Use edges & value the marginal - Nomadic living in a harsh environment (Pakistan)

Nomadic living in a harsh environment

Kochi nomads are on the move from the Musakhail district of northeast Pakistan towards their summer destination in the uplands of Afghanistan. Gaddai camels are the mainstay of pastoralism in this region for both transport and food. They have the ability to travel long distances and are resistant to extremes in temperature and disease. Lactating for much longer periods than sheep and goats, and better convertors than cows, make them ideal for the harsh climates.

Photography by Dr. Abdul Raziq

Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

Ranging around the edges

Members of the Pittwater Community Gardens group are planting hardy perennials around the edge of their netted garden. These plants will attract beneficial insects and create a microclimate that will enhance the productivity of what is inside. The chickens are free ranging on the margins, to help control insects and weeds while close to the safety of their home. This will provide them with a more diverse diet, which saves on feed costs while providing eggs, meat and fertiliser.

Photo by Michael Courtney

Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

Nettle foraging

Here on the edge of the forest wild nettles abound, providing a green leafy vegetable even when other food sources are scarce. As with many wild foods nettles are rich in vitamins, nutrients, and medicinal properties for a myriad of ailments. Wild plants have been an important resource for traditional societies, and are food for the modern locavore. The Nettle Eating World Championships in Dorset remains a fairly marginal sport.

Photo and accompanying text contributed by Joel Catchlove and was taken at Maude Island Farm in Canada.

Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

Share the edge

Over the fence from the City Farmer Compost Demonstration Garden, the Maple Community Garden spreads immaculately along a disused railway line. It is the first of a number of community food and flower gardens that follow the railway line east through Vancouver. Community gardens provide extra edge between gardeners, for sharing of ideas, methods, seeds, produce, and company.

Photo was contributed by Joel Catchlove and was taken at Maple Community Gardens in Canada.

Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

Maintaining valuable traditions and skills

This elderly woman farmer is carrying harvested wheat using a traditional back pack in her mountain village. At these margins of Japanese society, the elderly stay fit, healthy and useful maintaining the culture and skills necessary in the energy descent future. The elderly farmers in rural Japan have extraordinary longevity and vitality. In many villages the farming, forestry, landscape and building maintenance are all done by people over 70.

Photo and caption contributed by David Holmgren

Principle 11: Use edges & value the marginal - Rural re-settlers

Rural re-settlers

With the sacred Aboriginal mountain of Mumbulla in the background, the Bega Valley is at the edge of adaptive change. The Champagne family are among many people in the area who have made the change from city consumers to rural producers. While the agricultural production is initially small, the production systems are usually regenerative and often innovative. These smallholder settlers have had a big impact on the social capital and social structures of the area.

Photographed at Brogo Permaculture Gardens in Australia by David Arnold

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