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/ A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 1
18 / A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 1
Carel Struycken has long
been interested in the princi-
ples in Permaculture, not only
as it relates to growing fruits and
vegetables, but also in the per-
spective he takes on most human
He has lived in Pasadena, CA
for 25 years, is an actor who
played Lurch in the Ad-dam's
Family, as well as roles in Star
Trek, Men in Black, Witches of
Eastwick, and others. Born in
Holland, he grew up in Curacao
in the Caribbean, and moved
back to Holland at age 15. We
met to discuss his efforts at home
food production and permacul-
He showed me the Bible of
Permaculture... Bill Mollison's
Permaculture: A Designers Man-
ual, which details a way in which
we can grow food and live with
the land in accord with nature's
principles. ("Permaculture" is a
coined term meaning "perma-
nent agriculture.")
"The whole idea of perma-
culture is to put in as little work
as possible, and allow nature to
find its balance," says Strucken,
who produced all the vegetables
for a family of five for many years
using these principles.
"I am also a big fan of Fuku-
oka, author of The One Straw
Revolution. If I had the time, I'd
love to go to Japan, work on his
natural farm and learn about his
methods," says Struycken.
Both Mollison and Fukuoka
are advocates of natural farm-
ing, which means planting what
is appropriate for the area, till-
ing as little as possible, letting
the leaves and old plants serve
as fertilizer for the new plants,
and using natural methods for
bug control.
Using permaculture meth-
ods, Struycken grew lots of Asian
greens, mostly those members
of the mustard family that had
the highest nutritional value. He
grew herbs, tomatoes, yard-long
beans, and 14 fruit trees.
His yard is terraced with ce-
ment rubble, several pieces of
old cement walkways that have
been neatly stacked to form im-
pressive and long-lasting walls
using a material that is normally
discarded. He has also experi-
mented with raised beds since
the soil in his garden area was
so bad.
The smaller the plot, the hard-
er it is to practice permaculture
methods. Still, Struycken never
raked up and discarded leaves.
Under his avocado tree, he al-
lowed the leaves to accumulate
into a thick layer of mulch. "The
layer of avocado leaves is well
over a foot thick, and when you
look into the bottom of the pile,
it is all naturally-producing rich
soil," he explains.
All the kitchen scraps are re-
cycled in many compost heaps,
and he worked at cultivating the
earthworms that naturally oc-
curred in his yard so they would
do the tilling that farmers ordi-
narily do.
He purchased ladybugs years
ago since they eat the "bad" in-
sects, and found the ladybugs
like fennel plants. So the secret
to keeping ladybugs around is to
grow fennel, said Struycken.
Permaculture doesn't involve
raking away leaves or garden
scraps, but using them for the
next generation of fertilizer. Al-
though Struycken has tried to
produce all of his needed fertil-
izer from his own back yard, he
has found the need to occasion-
ally bring in chicken and horse
manure for his crops. "I stopped
using horse manure, though,"
he says, "since I found that it
produced too many weeds."
"I was amazed that I never
had to do anything to my lettuce,
and it was always perfect. The
ecosystem took care of itself,"
explained Struycken. He said
that though there were many
spiders and bugs in the garden,
whatever bugs ate his lettuce
got eaten by some other bug.
This is one of the basic princi-
ples of permaculture... that
nature, largely left alone, will
find its own balance.
Struycken, who has been in
the movie business for about 30
years, wants to do a series of
documentaries where he shows
sustainable communities around
the world that the principles can
be preserved for others to learn
"The Amish are the most suc-
cessful sustainable farmers and
they are using early 18th Cen-
tury technologies," he says with
a smile.
Struycken paused to explain
the difference between paleo-
lithic and neolithic in order to
make a point.
"Humanoids have been here
for at least a million years," he
explains, "and modern humans
have been here maybe 500,000
years. The paleolithics were the
hunter/gatherers, and the neo-
lithics were those who settled
in one place and began agricul-
ture," says Struycken.
"When we settled, we had
to make the effort to force our-
selves into the new mindset, but
our true nature is paleolithic,"
Struycken explains. He shared
a few comparisons to make his
The paleolithics lived in the
here and now, they were more
primitive by our standards, but
they controlled their popula-
tions, had fewer taboos and
laws, less possessions, and man-
aged to live on what the forest
provided. He cites the Bushmen
of the Kalahari as an example.
"Now, when you had agri-
cultural and cow-raising people
who lived adjacent to the primi-
tive people, the Bushmen would
rarely die of hunger, however
the agricultural people would
die of hunger. This is because
the agricultural people learned
Meet Carel Struycken
Leaning Towards
the Paleolithic
by Christopher Nyerges
Carel examines fennel plants in his garden. The wall was built from
discarded chunks of cement sidewalk.
Photo by Christopher Nyerges.