The word, coined by Australian Bill Mollison in the 1970's, was originally a created from "permanent agriculture" before "sustainable" was commonly used as it is today.
It is the conscious design & maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability & resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape & people. Providing food, energy, shelter and other material & non-material goods in a sustainable way.
While it started as a set of farming design principles it evolved into a design philosophy that can be applied to all levels of healthy and sustainable human habitat and community.
We hope provide more content on the beginners guide in the future focusing on the best ways to get started in Spokane. Until then here is a great 23 page e-Book by one of the most acknowledged Permaculturists in the world.
The Essence of Permaculture - by David Holmgren