I've just been reading a couple of the meta discussions from the past few days. I'm curious, how many people here see permaculture as a tool for designing sustainable systems and use it as such? (by permaculture, I mean permanent culture).
It worries me when I see people saying that permaculture is hard work, and that they've been doing it for x years and not seen any results. I wonder how many people are trying to apply techniques, rather than using design.
One of the core things I learnt about permaculture was Bill Mollison's tv programme where he puts some straw bales in the ground and plants potatoes in them. The potatoes grow, he gets a yield from not every much work, and then the left overs from that form a garden. I think he used Pc design to establish a food forest on that site. He was very strong on the idea that permaculture is not hard work, and that the point of Pc was to use Pc principles and design strategies so it didn't have to be hard work. I don't mean that one should avoid hard work (I like it myself), but that Pc should be a functional self-sustaining system that relies on minimal human inputs.
I do see some discussion here that is design based, but mostly I see discussions about techniques. Which is very useful too, but I am interested to know how many people think in terms of design.
There is probably another question here, where/how did you learn Pc? What are your influences? Was design part of that?
I'm a very slow learner and for me the design part is hard. I would love to get help designing my system, but don't know how to properly ask for help. I have information about my place in my projects thread.
Some climates are also more difficult than others. Some people are good at getting things to grow and some are not. It took me many years to learn that I can't simply plant a tree here and expect it to grow. I have killed virtually every kind of tree anyone has suggested will do well here.
Rose, I was also perplexed by the comments that people were working really hard and getting worse results. I didn't know if it was an expectation issue, a transition issue or some other problem. Maybe you are on to something about it being a design problem.
I was drawn to permaculture because I'm the laziest gardener around. I will research and plan everything into miniscule detail and that work like crazy to be sure I only have to do it once. I'll start planning years ahead when I can. Sometimes the plans go astray, but generally when they do I spent so long planning that I already have alternatives in my head. When I started reading permaculture how-tos, I had a lot of "yeah, I do that" moments. I didn't know why I did things that way, it was just my way of being lazy. In short, Pc suits what I already want to do.
Tyler, I think you say something very important. I have had many times where I try to ask for help on a question, but I can't get the help I need until I ask the right question. By the time I figure out what the right question is, I have already found the answer!
I took me a long time to understand what was meant by design too, but once I did it became obvious how important that was. Like you Nicole I realised that a lot of what I already did was Pc design.
I think part of the difficulty for me was getting past the idea that the design was what you did on paper. It's not IMO, although drawings can be a useful tool in the design process. It's more about understanding the relationships between things and being able to make choices about how best to create and support those relationships.
Mollison in Introduction to Permaculture:
The Design: a beneficial assembly of components in their proper relationships
The Pc Principles then give specific ways of doing that
Each element performs many functions
Each important function is supported by many elements
Efficient energy planning
Using biological resources
Small scale intensive systems
Accelerating succession and evolution
My difficulty is in applying those principles to the actual site. I am familiar with the theories, it is the application I find difficult. If you can give some examples from your own site design, that might be helpful.
I'm half way through reading a review copy of Aranya's Permaculture Design Step by Step, due to be released in the US on 3rd September. It does exactly what the title says - walks you step by step through the design process, teaching you how to pull all the techniques and ideas together into one coherent, fully-functioning whole. There's a lot of stuff on the paper aspect, as most 'design' is done for clients where the physical plan is important, but it goes much deeper than that.
When I've finished reading it, I'll post up a full review in the staff review forum, and we're also doing a promotion of the book starting on September 10th and the author, Aranya, will be available to answer questions.
I've looked at your thread and what doesn't come clear to me is a cohesive feeling for your site. You have the sheep there -- why? Prairie garden where it is -- why? The answers for many things may very well be "because ___ was there already," but if item X that you visit everyday is somewhere inconvenient and item Y is something you check on once a week but is outside your front door, then what you may be need to do create new people patterns.
I'm not sure I'm being clear, so I'll give an example. The vast majority of my official "back yard" is taken up by septic lines. There's not really anything I can do about that, okay, so that's the "lawn" for the dogs and relaxation. And much of my site gets too much shade when it's not summer, so the annual vegetable garden could really only go in one place. This created a pattern where I went from my back door to the garden at least once a day. So I extended that pattern, with an orchard, then a shed, then planting on the back fence, then a grouping on the other side, and next things you know I have a pattern where I make a circuit of the back yard and look at the stuff that needs looking at more often, with a shed in a convenient location for when I need to grab a tool or something. A hammock in the spot where I can't grow anything. And some pretty stuff on the way to the garden to make it a nicer path (although I need to do much more work there). I started with something that had to be where it was, but the next step was recognizing my own pattern and how that garden placement affected everything else before I moved on to the next place for a project, and so my site is growing more organically.
You have all these maps of contours and water flow and such, but I don't see YOU. I would suggest that before you rearrange or add anything, that you spend some time observing yourself and your husband's patterns. Working with the land patterns is important, too, of course, but I think maybe your vague -- discomfort? dissatisfaction? -- is a little discord between you and the site, and not any failing of your projects or ideas. Your hard work and enthusiasm shines through very brightly, and I am impressed at your efforts so far.
I like Nicole's advice for Tyler...The flow of the components should be to do with how you and your husband use them and what is convenient , functional and aesthetic in your daily life. I love winding paths that wander by the places I grow things here....I follow them everyday for a walk at least once and do small things to plants as I pass. I rearrange and add plants in my head on the walk for the future. But, we don't have goats or chickens or rabbits anymore...when we did they were an integral part of the family...including milking in the cabin for awhile.
My design skills are in weaving and don't necessarily crossover into homestead planning. We sometimes hit on a better placement for something years later. With the drought I am thinking of circling the water sources.
I'm glad you started this thread ,Rose.
In my mind, having someone else design your hometead for your own personal convenience and comfort is like having an interior designer "do" your house...how is that done successfully?
"We're all just walking each other home." -Ram Dass
"Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder."-Rumi