Good Gravy! Beginning a permaculture design plan


by Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

This column looks at permaculture in general, and how permaculture can be applied to us in South Dakota and specifically here on Cheyenne River and Western South Dakota.

The ever-wise they (whoever they are) say that if you can’t explain something then you don’t understand it.

In martial arts, as soon as you learned something worth teaching someone else newer to the art than you, you were expected to teach what you knew.

Our teachers said that you didn’t learn without teaching.

With this in mind, I have the humble hope of teaching and sharing a bit about permaculture as I learn the ethics, principles and ways of living that can then be shared with other people, whether in my own home, in passing conversation, with fellow gardeners of the Soiled Hands Society or via this column.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m taking a Permaculture Design Course, the common vehicle of permaculture learning since permaculture’s start in the 1970s. Part of that course is doing a full-blown permaculture design for a piece of land of one’s choosing.

When deciding on where to do my design, I decided to approach the leaders of the Episcopal Church here in Eagle Butte, to find out if I could possibly do a design plan for the property there.

They have graciously agreed to work with me on this, and I hope that a gift of a permaculture design plan will give the church overall a good place to begin, since some in the parish had already mentioned wanting to start church gardens.

A permaculture design plan takes so many factors into account that it is hard to go into detail, but I hope to share my journey with the church as a way of explaining more fully what I am learning and help all of you better understand permaculture.

I recently started doing a bit of my research for St. John’s. The other day after the service, I stopped to take some photos for my own reference. I noted where the sun was in the sky, where the fence lines were, the slope of the land, how much and what type of soil access was around the south side of the building (which could benefit from shade), the types of roofs and possibility of rain catchment systems and how to better create a peaceful sanctuary for the inhabitants and parish members alike.

I looked at what areas of the land are shaded by trees or buildings and how much room there is to plant perennial, fruit-bearing shrubs and trees. I began to infer what microclimates (areas of differing temperature, moisture, sun, etc. within a general climate area) the land there might have and that would allow more diversity of growing. I looked at where the best areas for various types of gardens would be, annual and perennial vegetables and herbs.

Knowing the large amount of foot traffic for a public space like a church, I looked at what could be done to create more of a sanctuary and restful feel to those coming to the church for funerals or prayer.

I have thought about the needs of the hungry people who come to the church seeking food and resources, and I have thought of all the volunteers who come and want to work on projects with us.

This is just a start.

I have quite a bit more research to go, including getting measurements of various parcels of land so that I can graph it out on paper. I need to visit with people familiar with the land there and ask what they know of the different seasons. I need to take soil samples in various places. I need to further listen to the possibilities of the land, soil and the hopes of the people of St. John’s and Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission.

I have even been giving quite a bit of thought to the issue of foot traffic and the problem of public defecation in our alleyways.

In my next column, I will break down some of the things I have found with the property according to permaculture ethics and principles, and how I will define the different zones of use there.

I can be assured this will not be in my textbook–designing for a church, but I am excited about the possibilities that opens up for us.

For more information on permaculture in our area, email Tasi at or call (605) 200-1408.



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