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The Problem is the Solution [Permaculture
Posted on April 3, 2014 @ 12:50:00 PM by Paul Meagher

For those of you into growing plants, you might be interested in this video on Mullein. Mullein is often considered a weed, but as this video shows it has many medicinal uses, can be used to amend soil, to create pagan torches, and is apparently an excellent replacement for toilet paper.

Mullein is a good Permaculture plant for all these reasons. It can also be used to illustrate one of the principles of Permaculture, namely, that "The Problem is the Solution". This is a difficult principle to grasp but essentially it says that the problem may only be a problem because of the particular way we are looking at it. The problem is potentially a solution to another problem we might have. In the case of Mullein, the problem might be that it is a weed in our garden. Why is it a weed in the first place? Perhaps because our soil is disturbed and needs nutrients which Mullein is capturing for us, so it is a solution to the problem of amending our soil so we can better grow our vegetable plants. Also, when we have the knowledge about the many uses of Mullein, we can see that it is a solution to other problems we might have - bronchitis, smoker's cough, ear infection, toilet paper emergency backup, etc...

The Temperate Climate Permaculture blog lists other examples of how the problem is the solution:

  • The problem of deer in the garden? Hunt them and you have a solution for your food bill!
  • The problem of occasional flooding of a river? We can plant trees to capture the silt the flood is carrying, and we have a solution to building good soil!
  • The problem of too many “weeds” on our land? Eat them and we have a solution to lowering our grocery bill and increasing our nutrition! Plus we can identify the type of weed to give us an answer (solution) to our soil condition.
  • The problem of a wet spot (poor drainage) on your land? You have the solution for where to place a pond!
  • My own problem of too many sticks from overgrown bush trimmings that were not good for our fire place and too woody for the compost pile? I laid them out over an area that may be a small sinkhole. This was the solution to keeping my children and dog away from that potentially dangerous area, and it provided a great habitat for the local population of lizards… right next to the vegetable garden, so they can come over and eat pests whenever they choose!
  • My own problem of a sudden population of caterpillars eating through my Kale patch? I did nothing, and ended up with two Kale plants that were not affected. I now had a possible new caterpillar-resistant Kale variety… solution!

A weed is often defined as a plant that is in the wrong place. Armed with some knowledge about the many benefits of Mullein, we might regard Mullein in our garden as being in exactly the right place - alongside other plants providing useful food and medicines for our household. The lesson here is to be careful about how you frame your problems; when seen from a different frame your problem might also be the solution to another one of your problems.

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