So I'm going to bust my way onto this newly discovered gem of a website and say....I love owning land! I (meaning my father and I) purchased a small home in downtown Mcminnville about 6 months ago. This is my first time being on land that the work I do will actually mean something in the long run. I'm so tired of planting fruittrees, removing mega-lawns, and capturing rain-water, only to come back to the house a year later and see the trees replaced with grass, and the gutter dumping into the driveway. It's finally my domain! I love it. Instead of following my normal passions, however, I find myself a slave to the backyard. Which I am almost ok with, but I worry about overloading myself. SO, my first question to this forum is:
With so many projects (almost infinite, it seems), how do you step back and say, "It will never be done, and I am ok with that". Another question: If you enjoy the work, is it really work? Digging holes (by most people's accounts) is not a leisurely activity, but why not?
Some more practical questions: How do you balance aesthetics (i.e. resell to Mr and Mrs John Q Public) with permaculture ideas? Some day I want to move out of this place, to somewhere with more space for my chickens to cackle, and I want to make sure that I am not digging myself a financial pit. That mushroom garden probably doesn't really appeal all that much to 99% of the population.
I'm going to get this ticket. I'm going to ask so many questions you all had better just stop asking and start answering.
There are two schools of thought with permaculture ... or ... maybe there are infinite schools of thought and there is one spectrum that I want to express here. And, this is an issue where Dave and I have some difference of opinion.
Some folks make lists of things to do, prioritize those lists and sorta do their design as a sort of evolutionary process. Other folks draw things out (on paper) in a one year plan, five year plan, twenty year plan, etc.
So evolutionary design vs. revolutionary design. If the spectrum can be represented numerically where 0 is paperless and 100 is every planting is on paper before it happens, I would guess that Dave is about 75 and I'm about 25.
2. No matter how complete your design, it will always change.
The most important things to pay attention to are the items that are hard to move: trees, hardscaping, large ponds. You really need to put a lot of thought into things like that, esp with placement and spacing and mature size.
The 'soft-scaping' is easier to change. If zucchini get too much sun and wilt every day, the next year you could plant them in a place that gets a bit of shade. If the trees grow larger and shade the blueberries, well, the blueberries are shallow-rooted and can be moved.
As all the permie literature points out, start near the house and work your way outward. The closer to the house it is, the more attention it will get. If you have to leave the outer areas in field grass, lawn, or cover crop, it's fine!
And don't forget that as you go, you will change your mind. You're learning as you go, and there will be AHA! moments when something comes together and you realize that the place you intended for the potatoes is great for the blueberries. Or you will discover a microclimate that is good for an apricot tree. If you design a micro-managed layout today, and pull it out five years from now to compare, I'm sure you will find that many of your ideas have changed, and what you have learned has changed how you see things. And that's a good thing.
Permaculture is not a final process, it is an always-ongoing process.
It sounds like you're doing great! Just keep going, keep learning, keep planning, keep doing.
On the aesthetics issue, think like a realtor then do what you like. Like Sue said keep in mind things that might be a deal breaker for the next guy, things you might have to pay to remove to sell etc. Always remember the next person might hate work and nature and everything you did and bulldoze and cement everything in anyway. Once you leave/move don't ever go back, it can hurt a lot sometimes (experienced it myself).
I am in a similar situation basically waiting and saving and playing in my backyard for the option and the money to pack up and get out into the country and away from the neighborhood. In my case I figure I am on a 5-10 year plan before that comes about. Sooooo...... I don't spend unnecessary money on things I don't like or want etc on the off chance they will increase the value of my home. However the hard facts are I am here for awhile so I am not going to just wait around doing nothing.
In my case having some plans points out to me the next logical step in moving forward. Often I have to shift gears because something else becomes more important. Ex. I am putting in a stone path but want some backyard chickens so the stones got put on hold for a few more days so I can get a coop and run built. However the stones are still high on the list as they will define the rest of my planting spaces. But since I no longer use any chemicals I will need to plan a couple hours out to knock down a few weeds to finish either project. On the actual path I have no idea what it will look like when I am done. I know in general what areas I want to link with the path but really as each stone comes off the pallet I trust it will tell me where it wants to go. From the scale Paul posted I think I am a 0-5. I put almost nothing on paper and design is back there somewhere but really I mostly work with nature and observation by feel and intuition.
To minimize complications or the feeling of being a slave to the backyard, I often break down everything in my head into smaller areas. Sometimes by micro climate, sometimes by what I want or expect from the area etc. As each individual area slowly matures or becomes it often dictates what happens next or what the surrounding areas will be or need. Again like Sue mentioned it will never be done, but by breaking it all up into smaller more easily dealt with areas it seems less overwhelming to me.
Is it work? Not to me, I come home from work and head straight to the backyard to decompress. I will happily toil away in the hot sun or freezing winter just to be outside and enjoy nature. In my case I figure I am doing something right I still love getting dirty and working hard as long as it is in my own backyard. Each year I produce more of our own fruits and veggies while trying to keep my backyard very natural. This year I have seen wild ducks and quail right at my back door and I am sure if I can get enough cover somewhere the pheasants I hear nightly will one day come over the fence to play as well.
Hoping something in there helps,
"Study books and observe nature. When the two don't agree, throw out the books" -William A Albrecht
"You cannot reason a man out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." - Benjamin Franklin
some great thoughts so far. as sue said "it will never be done" and I think its best to look at that not as a frustrating fact but as a recognition that your plansshould and will change with what you learn. priorities shift, something won't work the way you expected, oppurtunities will arise. be ready to meet each project being ready for the unexpected. I am particularly adamant about using materials that present themselves. sometimes a whole new project or idea is started simply because I have found an oppurtunity to use something i never had access to before. finally. the hardest thing for me.. go easy on yourself. some things might get left half finished. so what. if something changes your priorities..even just a whim...that is part of the fun of life. but then I am the sort of person that just follows my nose and I like it that way.
OK first..everybodies information was fantastic.. second..don't go to the store unprepared and buy before you read and study .. you might end up trying to plant an orange in an area where oranges won't grow..like Michigan !! duh..not that anyone would be that stupid..but know your zone..and learn your microclimates..
where did the snow melt first..that might be a microclimate..is there still snow somewhere..don't put anything really tender there..etc.
yes..by all means put your trees in the first year first spring..but study where to put them..do you want just fruit, shade, privacy, will it fall on your house in a storm, will it drop berries or nuts in your lawn and send them flying with a mower
what are the pros and cons of this plant, where is the best place for it..what benefit will it give to other plants, what might it take away,
and never grow things you will never use..as for me I HATE cilantro love coriander..can't stand the smell of cilantro and won't touch it or weed near it..so i buy the coriander from someone else that grows the smelly stuff and I keep it out of my yard.
also if it says invasive or rampant grower remember that can be a good thing or a bad thing..me I have acres and acres to fill so i buy INVASIVES..esp if they provide food..but if you have a small space..be careful !!
plan out your paths..but also everyone elses paths..as a dog or kid might choose an entirely different path right through your precious lettuces.
also don't neglect your views from inside your house..and some winter ineterst..esp if you live in MICHIGAN !!! I do..
we NEED evergreens here for our sanity !!
wishing you the best as a new landowner..love it and it will love you back
Bloom where you are planted.
I'm sure we all speak from experience, one of the main reasons that I studied really well what would grow near my walnuts "before" I plunked them into the ground..leaving a good 20' all around and 40' to anything that the books say "the wont grow near walnuts"..my guess is that 40' might just be overkill..
as far as invasives..as my goutweed post shows, I love invasives and plant them where they can take over those places nothing else wants to grow, like my goutweed grows in the deepest shade and I pile autumn leaves up for them to root in..sure they are invasive, but they are also edible (although I have yet to try them) and if there was a famine in the land, i would not starve to death.
then there is the beautiful clematis i had to move as it was blocking anyone from coming up the laundry deck steps to the house..that was a monster..likely left root pieces in the ground when I moved it to the property line to hide the neighbors..so it will proably return..it is beautiful.
there were the seedless grapes I planted on above mentioned property line when my MIL was alive..so we both could pick them, and I had to dig up the mature grapevine plant this week and move it away from the property line..as last year the only one that could pick the grapes was the new neighbor that bought MIL's land..i want my grapes..
planning..thought..study..but get the trees in FIRST..so start reading up on trees and get shopping.
Bloom where you are planted.
Wow, lots of interesting commentary on this one. Thanks!
To start at the beginning, I would echo the sentiments of the other folks responding and recommend making peace with your never ending 'to-do' list. In all honesty, I think there is just about as much value in the process as in the product (there usually is, especially if you value your understanding of the world around you).
As to whether or not it is work, I would say that depends on what you're doing. If you enjoy it, call it whatever you want. If it happens to make the world a better place, you've found what most people seem to be looking for...fulfillment and fun. I stopped distinguishing between work and play long ago. Once you start looking through Permaculture lenses, you can't very easily take them off. Who else here as started looking at other people's property with appraising eyes?
The aesthetics question is an interesting one and one that I think has largely been poopooed by folks in the permaculture community for too long. In order to effect change in the broader community we will need to be able to create systems that work both in terms of functionality and conventional aesthetics. In fact, I just wrote an article for the Bullock's newsletter about it. Check it out at http://www.permacultureportal.com/network_newsletter.html and let me know what you think.
The other question that was brought up here was to what extent do you design and plan ahead? I would say this question is answered differently by different folks. Folks who take permaculture design courses are presented with a design process. This usually involves base mapping, conceptual designing, master plans, implementation strategies, and so forth. What if you taught a permaculture design course for indigenous folks from a culture where maps where not used? What about a culture without a written language? Obviously, the design course has been geared toward those educated in the Western system. For those of us who were, a planning process involving written materials makes a lot of sense. However, it isn't necessary. In fact, here at the Bullock's there is no master plan. It exists within the heads of the Bullocks themselves. They just keep modifying it and switching things up as needed and they system gets better bit by bit.
However, I would say that it won't work that well for everyone. In fact, there are a few cases where I think having a fully drawn out plan is essential:
1. There are a lot of people involved - If the vision is in your head and there are many people involved in the implementation, you will constantly be finding that things aren't happening the way you intended. With many people the plan becomes a communication tool. Everyone can look at the drawings and be on the same page about where the site is going. If you are just working on it by yourself, this isn't nearly so critical.
2. You are trying to convince someone to let you make changes to their land - If you don't own the land, but you want to make changes you are far more likely to receive a yes from a landowner if you can show you've thought the whole design through. The owner of the land will want to see the big picture and it will be easier to understand if they can see it.
3. You are offering professional design services - When you step into the professional realm and you have to be concerned with zoning, permits, codes, covenants, environmental impact statements, and professional presentation being able to show what you are going to do upfront is critical. The professional design arena requires a certain level of completeness and "we'll figure it out as we go" generally won't fly with most county officials.
Outside of these parameters, I would say starting with a comprehensive site analysis and written plan would benefit just about anyone. It can be pretty challenging to figure out how to locate things in relation to one another if you're just sort of assembling as you go. At the same time, any plan you make up front should allow room for flexibility. Without flexibility the plan will just be some exercise you did a few years ago and forgot about.
All in all, I would say Paul is right. I'm probably a 75 on scale he laid out above. It doesn't have to be pretty and it doesn't have to be super detailed, but I always design for what I want the ultimate outcome to be for the whole system. That outcome I draw on paper.
Keep the good questions coming, folks!
Principal - Terra Phoenix Design
planning process involving written materials makes a lot of sense. However, it isn't necessary. In fact, here at the Bullock's there is no master plan. It exists within the heads of the Bullocks themselves. They just keep modifying it and switching things up as needed and they system gets better bit by bit.
.....this was a good point here...things always change..
Like you plant your tree....eventually that tree will cast shade..but not this year.
eventually the tree roots will be sucking up all the water and nutrients..but not this year.
you need to plan for TIME..early on you can get away with planting a LOT of things around your trees that will help your trees grow..that will bring up nutrients and provide a living mulch..etc..but eventually that tree is going to bring in a lot of shade..
but the basic backbone of your plan has to be set up as a permanent plan..looking to the future of changing things as shade grows..and as plants mature and are harvested..etc.
Bloom where you are planted.