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The Functional Analysis Thread

 
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I was looking at Bill Mollison's functional analysis of a chicken the other day and thought "wouldn't it be nice to have a place where I can look at the functional analysis of various creatures, plants, systems, etc. and mix and match?" This thread is an attempt to make this happen!

The idea is that people who have a lot of knowledge or experience can make a post offering a functional analysis of something. It can be a plant you love, a creature, a structure, anything really. Think of each post as an index card about a certain potential component of a design system. If people participate and join in, this could be an encyclopedia of functional analyses that people can peruse and mix and match to meet their projected needs!

For those unfamiliar with doing a functional analysis, it's essentially taking an element of a system, large or small, and identifying the intrinsic characteristics of the element, the inputs needed to make the element function optimally, and the outputs of the element. It's that simple. For more info, you can Google the term in relation to permaculture, or see some examples here: https://permacurious.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/functional-analysis.pdf

Now the idea of this thread is create a library of general functional analyses. It's always important to remember that all elements will be somewhat different depending on site, among other factors. But it is still useful and possible to create a general functional analysis of say, a chicken, as well as a general functional analysis of certain plants. On a very basic level, this kind of project may at least enable people to see what connections could be made between elements and start to think about the elements of their own system.

I only ask that those who do a functional analysis of a certain thing in this thread have at least some book knowledge AND practical experience with the element in question so that the posts will be informced by at least some real-world observations. I'll be posting a few in a bit, but I invite anyone here with a passion or expertise in particular design elements to post some functional analyses!

Here's a template if it will help get the juices flowing. If we get enough, I'll see about editing this first post to include a "table of contents" for the thread.

Functional Analysis of [INSERT ELEMENT NAME]

Intrinsic Characteristics

1.

2.

3.

Inputs

1.

2.

3.

Outputs

1.

2.

3.

Comments/More Specific Observations:

 
master steward
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Is this what you have in mind?



   Functional Analysis of Semi Dwarf Apple Tree

   Intrinsic Characteristics

   1.  10-25' tall and wide

   2.  Deciduous tree

   3.  USDA zone 4-7 is their preferred climate with 800 chill hours and 6.0-7.0 pH

   Inputs

   1.  Pollination by bees from apples within 50'

   2.  30" of water per year  (This one's a guess)

   Outputs

   1.  75-130 lbs of apples

   2.  Modest leaf fall of smallish leaves in the fall

   3.  Prunings (especially water sprouts) for trellises

   4.  Scion wood

   5.  Shade

   6.  Wood for woodworking or smoking
 
George Bastion
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Yes, exactly! And if anyone wishes to add more context or observations, they can do some underneath the main lists. Say someone had an element that needed shade and a source of fall mulch nearby, and also wanted to build up their supply of smoking woods. They could see that the Semi Dwarf Apple Tree provides these things and also see what inputs are required and could be connected to other elements.
 
George Bastion
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Functional Analysis of a Honey Bee Colony

  Intrinsic Characteristics

  1.  ~10,000 - 80,000 individuals in a colony

  2.  Nest in hollow cavities, with a preference for those ~ 40 liters in volume

  3.  3 castes - mostly workers (female), hundreds of drones (male), up to 20% of the colony, and queens (female), 1 per colony for any lengthy period of time

  4. Naturally will swarm each year if healthy, splitting the existing colony into two colonies

  Inputs

  1.  A hollow cavity to nest in

  2.  frames or top bars (for areas where inspection must be necessary)
 
  3. Access to sufficient nectar sources within ~2-8 miles around the nest

  4. Access to a water source within ~2-8 miles

  5. On-going labor and management, depending on style


  Outputs

  1.  30-100 lbs. of honey per colony

  2.  Beeswax for candles, salves, balms, waterproofing, etc.

  3.  Anti-bacterial propolis for tinctures and healing salves

  4.  Mead (fermented honey wine)

  5.  Honey vinegar (mead turned to vinegar)

  6.  Pollination of plants within ~2-8 miles

  7. Pollen as plant protein and vitamin source
 
George Bastion
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Functional Analysis of a PawPaw Tree (Kudos to Clemson and North Carolina State extension articles, which provided much of this info)

Intrinsic Characteristics

1. Trees started from seed will produce fruit in 5-8 years, and grafted cuttings can produce fruit in as little as 3-4 years.

2. 20’ tall and less broad at full maturity

3. 5-10 feet spacing; closer for thicket to mimic natural conditions, further for separate trees.

4. Requires other cultivars present to bear fruit. Plant in groups with at least 3 different varieties.

5. Grow best in fertile, well-drained, slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5-7). Thrives in river bottoms.

Inputs

1. Water. Plan to provide ample water to pawpaw trees, especially during the establishment year, either manually, or as a byproduct of site.

2. Training. To train the tree to grow as a single stem, remove suckers that sprout during the early years. Or, leave suckers on the tree to train the tree as a hedge or screen plant.

3. Shade. Young trees are very sensitive to sunlight and should be kept shaded until they are at least 1.5 feet tall. Can get full sun in mature years.

Outputs

1. Highly nutritious fruit. Skin and seeds of fruit not edible.

2. Leaves, bark, and twigs produce anti-cancer and insecticidal compounds called acetogenins. Lab tests have show effectiveness against certain cancer cells. Can be used to create tonic.

3. Bark is very fibrous and good for cordage and rope, while wood is light and good for carving – flutes, spoons, etc.

Comments/More Specific Observations: The best time to plant pawpaws is while the tree is not actively growing- early spring or fall. the taproot is easily damaged during transplanting, which will often result in tree death. As a result, saplings grown in containers have a higher transplant survival rate. You can collect wild fruit, save the seed, and start saplings from these seeds. To save pawpaw seeds, collect ripe fruit, remove all pulp from the seed, and place in a cold, moist spot for 90-120 days. Do not let the seeds dry out before planting.

To mimic the understory conditions that the pawpaw needs for its establishment years you could plant on the north side of a fence where the pawpaw will be shaded while its young but receive full sunlight as it matures and grows above the fence line. Another option is to establish a quick growing nitrogen fixing tree or shrub on the south side of where you plan on planting your pawpaw. Get this tree established the year before so it can provide adequate shade for your newly planted pawpaw tree. Choosing nitrogen-fixing species gives you a quick growing tree that will properly shade your pawpaw as well as providing fertility for the tree. The shade tree can then be cut down a few years later once your paw paw is established and the danger of sunburnt leaves and shoots is no longer a threat. A third option is to plant quick growing annual legumes on the south side of the pawpaw while also building a simple bean or pea trellis over the top of the paw paw to provide quick shade, nitrogen fixation, as well as a crop from your leguminous shade-giving plants as you wait for your pawpaws to mature. Also, planting in a site that is as humid as possible is ideal for the pawpaw.

Fruit is extremely perishable and is amazingly delicious when it is perfectly ripe. It can be used much like you would use a banana. For longer-term storage you can freeze the fruit and make ice cream out of it.

Requires pollination, mostly by flies. Flower smells somewhat like rotting flesh to attract these creatures. A way to mimic these conditions is to put rotting meat near paw-paws to attract the pollinators.


 
The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers: http://richsoil.com/cards
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