Permaculture is a design system 

for creating thriving sustainable inhabited environments.

Permaculture design emphasizes patterns where the whole is greather than the sum of its parts.

Permaculture design therefore seeks to minimize waste, human labor and energy input by building systems with maximal benefits between elements to achieve a high level of synergy.
Permaculture designs evolve over time and can become extremely complex systems that produce a high density of food and materials with minimal input. 

Originally referred to "permanent agriculture",

but was expanded to stand also for "permanent culture," once it was perceived that social aspects were integral to a truly sustainable solution. 

Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system. -- Bill Mollison

For a beginner in permaculture, we recommend 3 books;

 for backyard scale: Gaia's Garden; for farmstead scale: The Resilient Farm & Homestead; for the whole picture of what is happening in our watersheds: Desert or Paradise. We suggest that you also refer to our book section on Resilience, Self-Sufficiency, Survival and Change which of necessity incorporates much of what permaculture is about.
We also note that without a living sustainable soil none of this will work.
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How to Prune Fruit Trees

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Natural Beekeeping 2nd Edition

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Plant Species Index for the Pacific Northwest and General

A Litwin/Seattle Tilth Assn., 1990, 22 pp. SECTION: Permaculture and Trees, Useful in planning hedgerows, windbreaks, shelter belts and living fences. APPR...
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The Holistic Orchard

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The Resilient Farm and Homestead:

The Resilient Farm and Homestead Ben Falk, 2013, 305 pp. We think this is the book of the year, and probably the decade. Open it to almost any page an...