I was watching some YouTube videos today and the woman really has her animal systems dialed in. It made me realize I need to level up to reduce the toil around my homestead. This also made me think of Paul Wheaton’s eco scale of permaculture. I’m wondering if permaculture would benefit from being turned more into a game with levels that are unlocked as you gain more experience.
If you took Geoff Lawton’s full permaculture design and dropped it on a normal person who didn’t know what they were doing I think it would end in disaster. Geoff basically said as much with the greening the desert I video. He handed off the work to the locals and it was a disaster after he left. As I gain more experience I’m seeing more connections and a path higher. When I tell friends about what I’m doing they think I’m crazy because of the phenomenon Paul talked about in his eco scale. I’ve also had friends ask where to start and I say read Gaia’s Garden. They find it completely overwhelming and quit. I found it inspiring but that’s me. What I didn’t realize when I first read it was that getting to Geoff Lawton’s level is a long road.
The PDC course is also great but it’s another tour de force. We’re trying to drop 50yrs of advanced designs on people that aren’t ready to handle it.
Paul has already basically laid out what such a course could look like but there’s no years of experience attached with each level. I’m sure it depends. There’s going to be savants that just get everything right away and people that struggle for years to learn the hard way.
Maybe something like this:
Level 1: plant a small garden and learn how to compost. Spend 2 years doing this and scale up a little each year.
Level 2: learn about natural building and build a small cob oven or rocket stove. Continue scaling the garden.
Level 3: learn about animal systems and how they can integrate to reduce toil.
Level 4: TBD
We could also borrow a tune from union apprenticeships and have apprentice, journeyman, master permaculture practitioner.
Maybe these levels could be attached to your Permies profile. Level 1 people can see and learn from more experienced folks and help people get started.
I realize this is a bit regimented but I think it could be helpful. Permaculture is complicated and I think it could help people by limiting the scope of what they’re ready to handle just like any other apprenticeship.
The distilled idea is that a very basic system helps people start and as they gain experience complexity is layered into their systems. They’re now ready to see the connections and take advantage of them. I’ve learned it takes years sometimes to get comfortable with each bit of complexity. As you scale up new problems emerge that are addressed by the next level.
I agree that permaculture can be overwhelming Chris. I quickly realized that trying to implement everything at once would be impossible for us due to the expense involved in buying plants, moving earth, building ponds, etc... I've decided to bite off small chunks at a time concentrating on what I can improve with very little expense. As I result I'm finding that I'm not getting overwhelmed by tackling too much at one time and I can see a big difference in the areas I've already worked on.
Yeah I've been doing the same thing. My wife made a fairly comprehensive plan while doing a PDC course and we've been implementing it in phases. It's tempting to try and do the entire thing at once but the slow way has helped me gain knowledge and see efficiencies along the way.
Permaculture can be overwhelming... But then one day Holmgren's advice finally registers and you start looking for small changes and using an incremental approach. Because it's impossible to do it all at once. Not just overwhelming, but the process is one that requires passage of time and sequential events in succession. Parmaculture is like eating the elephant... One bite at a time.
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