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What materials / technologies are acceptable for permaculture?

 
James Slaughter
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Should permaculture rely on the grid in any way? Is plastic dripline really acceptable, given the material it is made from? What should be kept as rudimentary and low tech as possible, and what are acceptable technological / material inputs? I myself believe drip irrigation is a waste of resources, as it is often faulty, fiddly to lay and deal with, and often encourages lazy gardening. Can aquaponics ever be considered "permaculture", when so many of the components necessary are a byeproduct of the industrialized world we live in?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think this must be left to the individual permaculturist. I don't think more barriers need to be put up to inhibit people from trying to practice permaculture.
 
Walter Jeffries
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James Slaughter wrote:Should permaculture rely on the grid in any way?


Sure. And if you want to produce your own energy to what ever degree that's fine too. No dogma.

James Slaughter wrote:Is plastic dripline really acceptable, given the material it is made from?


Very acceptable. An excellent use of plastic. Plastic water lines last and last. I have some that is 25 years old and shows no sign of aging. Probably will last another 25 to 100 years.

James Slaughter wrote: What should be kept as rudimentary and low tech as possible, and what are acceptable technological / material inputs?


This is really your choice. Technology is a tool. A way of thinking. Not a product.

James Slaughter wrote: I myself believe drip irrigation is a waste of resources, as it is often faulty, fiddly to lay and deal with, and often encourages lazy gardening.


I completely disagree. Drip irrigation is extremely efficient. Once properly setup it uses very little water and requires no futzing around. I do not see it as lazy in the slightest. It is efficient. Work harder than necessary if you like the exercise. That is cool too.

James Slaughter wrote: Can aquaponics ever be considered "permaculture", when so many of the components necessary are a byeproduct of the industrialized world we live in?


Sure thing. Make it into a system that uses the resources well. It isn't the tool that defines but the way it is used.
 
James Slaughter
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Permaculture - "Permanent Agriculture"

Any technology applied that relies on ongoing support, maintenance, or resupply from an external fossil fuel based industry surely does not qualify. I'm not talking about putting up barriers here, just trying to define permaculture by the ethos it set at its beginning. I'm sure that using initial fossil fuels or outside technology to set up a working situation, such as by creating swales, ponds, building structures, etc is all fine. I'm not so certain that those trying to use the permaculture banner to describe practice requiring technology that is unsustainable long term is what we should be advocating. Synthesizing practice from multiple historical references for farming practices that have thrived for hundreds if not thousands of years of practice with modern thinking about plant guilds and animal integration seem to be more at the heart of the overall message. Permanent sustainable agriculture supporting permanent sustainable community. I would give anything to be able to go back and see cities like Machu Picchu in action.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I think there is a process.

I want a compost toilet, but I have a regular one...
So I wait, because I have the tool I need everyday!

I have electricity, so I use it, though I look for methods to reverse this trend.
I will solar cook, I will sun dry, I will have a wood-stove instead of the gas-stove I found here.

I will find a way to warm water and bathroom.
Though it is now proceeding from the grid!

sure James you're right, this topic remains a blur!
And very context dependent. See how it is to say "no cats in permaculture"? Who can tell for another place than one's?
And I am not in favour of aquaponics for example, viewing all the material needed.
But I saw no best way than dripping plastic pipes for my place!

And I still do not know if it is best to use old tires for stairs, or beautiful natural wood pieces!!
(well, I use rock here!)
 
Walter Jeffries
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James Slaughter wrote:Permaculture - "Permanent Agriculture" Any technology applied that relies on ongoing support, maintenance, or resupply from an external fossil fuel based industry surely does not qualify..


Hmm... Your place to draw the line. But incoming solar, rain, wind are all also required to support, maintain and resupply your permaculture.

You asked a question of people but I think you already had your answer on hand and ready.
 
James Slaughter
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Did I post this question for an argument? No. It is something I have struggled with from the beginning to be honest. I have tried a lot of the store bought "perfect way" type of gardening, most of which ended up horribly, leaving me with a realization of the basic tenet of look more to what you already have at hand. And then I read about the potential of toxic leaching of materials (such as railway sleepers) which also left me scratching my head. In the end I think that on site materials or locally available, unprocessed materials are the way to go.

BUT this is all dependent on what you are dealing with given your economic and local limitations. I have lived in apartments in the middle of the city, where you only had a choice for growing in pots with drip irrigation on a balcony. Is this ideal? No. Is it permaculture at its base? Probably not. Can you still gain from permaculture principles in this situation, yes I believe so. Gorilla gardening, city foraging, there is still a great deal that can be done to reconnect with nature and feed yourself and your family in a viable way.

I still am at the stage where I believe that store brought solutions are generally not the way to go. Snake oil salesmen exist even in the organic / permaculture movement. My only point is avoid the idea that you need to "buy" your solution. Permaculture community should always be the first point of gaining what you need, whether it be information, seed, compost worms, even livestock. The more we can keep this a community ideal the better. I do not begrudge those that are trying to make an income from this movement. I do begrudge those that gloss over unsustainable products and try to create a state of dependence.

Another question that has just occurred to me is what technology or process has sprung wholly and solely from permaculture research?
 
John Polk
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I think that this is something that each person needs to decide for themselves.
We all make our decisions based on a number of factors, and none of us look at everything the same way.

Some may feel that certain materials should never be used, while others see that same material as a way to simplify the feeding of their family. I don't believe any of us has the right to tell others how to make their decisions.

In this country (USA) most homesteads would be lost without that handy 5 gallon plastic bucket, or a roll of duct tape.

I believe that a good permaculture design will ultimately reach a point that the requirements for outside inputs will diminish to nearly zero. Unless somebody is willing to spend their life using Victorian methods, I think using some materials and technologies is justified as a shorter term way to reach the end goal.

 
Ken Peavey
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Permaculture techniques work in the absence of grid ties or technological input. Hugulkulture, for example, removes the need for plastic drip irrigation. Then again, hugulkulture is a form of technology.

Any technology applied that relies on ongoing support, maintenance, or resupply from an external fossil fuel based industry surely does not qualify.

Your home probably would not qualify under this definition.

A physics professor once told me "There are no absolutes." But that statement contradicts itself.
The principles of permaculture are not necessarily written in stone. It is not a religion in which violation is a sin. It is open to interpretation by the individual.
 
Cris Bessette
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James Slaughter wrote:Should permaculture rely on the grid in any way? Is plastic dripline really acceptable, given the material it is made from? What should be kept as rudimentary and low tech as possible, and what are acceptable technological / material inputs? I myself believe drip irrigation is a waste of resources, as it is often faulty, fiddly to lay and deal with, and often encourages lazy gardening. Can aquaponics ever be considered "permaculture", when so many of the components necessary are a byeproduct of the industrialized world we live in?


I think permaculture is an ideal, not a goal that any permaculturist will reach someday and say "ah ha! I've reached the permaculture singularity, suck that Biodome!"
If plastic dripline will last centuries, then use it. That's pretty close to "permanent" as far as human lifespans go.

Technology that has to be renewed or re-purchased should be minimized, but I don't see technology itself as anti-permaculture.

 
Burra Maluca
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Cris Bessette wrote:
I think permaculture is an ideal, not a goal that any permaculturist will reach someday and say "ah ha! I've reached the permaculture singularity, suck that Biodome!"


Is everyone aware of the Wheaton Eco Scale?

I think we need to be aware of the fact that not everyone is at the same level we are on, but that maybe what we should be doing is aspiring to a higher level ourselves and at the same time helping everyone one else up a level, too.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Permaculture is full of contradictions, shall we put logs into the soil, or never till it and never put BRF into the soil? Only mulch? I heard "permaculture is mulch"...

It is a way to think how we can do better to save energy, even one's energy to go out and get the missing thyme for what is already in the pot! Do better is a path.

Why can I see some answers to James are harsh? Is it for his name or for the title with the word "(not) accepted"? Is it the best way to help James with a dilemma I am sure many people have? Can we decide he should be ashame? I do not see anything such as deciding for someone else in what he says, but personal decisions. And it is not a crime to wish other people do as you do! Don't you wish less people eat junkfood or focus on a bigger car? Honestly, I am sad when I see fat children eating a cake... And I wish... But I let them do.

A lot of books and teachers and foundators tell us what they think we should do (basically, their wish, because they try it themselves or because they see it works), which never put the gun on anyone's temper! Bill says "no cat", but never said to kill yours...

So yes, each one decides for oneself, which does not mean we cannot think (and tell!) what each of us here think about using technology, and which one. We have wishes and opinions until we find the next better one!

 
Aranya
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Well, there's the hierarchy of resource use (from the Designer's Manual p16):

Best are the these three options:
* Resources that increase with modest use (e.g. coppice, well-managed grazing)
* Resources that are effectively unaffected by use (e.g. sunlight)
* Resources that temporarily disappear or degrade if not used (e.g. annual crops)

We should only choose resources reduced by use (e.g. oil) if we have good reason and we can obtain a greater yield than the energy we consume.

Those resources that pollute or destroy other resources when used should be used only as a last resort (perhaps the measure of a good designer is one who never needs these).

I guess it in some senses it also comes down to the question

"Can you fix it if it breaks?"

It's often better to reuse materials that would otherwise be thrown away, buth if they are a bit of a health hazard (plastic drinking bottles, tyres perhaps?), maybe it's better to avoid them.

Of course nature uses only infinitely recyclable materials. One of the first Artificial Intelligence researchers said that their early ideas about making robot-like creatures out of plastic & metal were soon seen to be impractical as these things couldn't be cycled for ever, so the best material to use was what life is already made from. So, can it be cycled at the same level of use?

We are also now surrounded by materials and tools that have already been made. If they can save us time so we can get on with improving the resilience of our site elsewhere, then that surely is a good thing.

We might also start to appreciate how amazingly useful many of our everyday objects like bottles and elastic bands are and take a bit more care of them...

 
Rose Pinder
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I like your questions James and ask myself these alot too.

All of us are tied into systems that are not ideal (and we are all dependent on oil). Within the choices we can make, I think it depends on one's focus and needs. Plastic piping for irrigation that will last a lifetime will be a good choice for many setting up a system now, while we still have plastic pipe. But if all of us do this, who learns how to practice permaculture without it and what happens to the people who come later who can't buy plastic pipe but don't have the tech/skills to do it another way? In other words, it's a balance between making best use of industrial technology that already exists and while we still have it to create sustainability, and not creating/perpetuating reliance on that technology. Myself, I lean towards looking for low tech systems with inbuilt redundancy as much as possible, but like everyone I have to live a functional life now and so am also reliant on oil tech.
 
James Slaughter
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I also think it comes down to the fact that you get what you buy, you encourage the activity by how you spend your dollars. I just see a species intent on taking over every square inch of available lands, and leaving poison in its wake. It's kind of like what would the world be like if every household on the planet had a fridge question. Yet how many of us could do without it? I just think that a lot of the old, pre-industrial ways or early industrial ways of doing things, and producing things, have a lot of the keys for the viable technology of the future. It is not the plastic piping in itself that is the problem. It is the means by which it was produced and the byeproducts often left behind. I suspect there may be a lot of greener ways of doing current technology, just that those who have the reigns on our society dominate it by centralizing there control and their wealth. This, idealogically speaking, is very much against the permaculture way of local systems.

Enough of the deepness - couple of "low-tech" solutions you may be interested in:

Keyhole gardening African style:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykCXfjzfaco&feature=related

Gardening in (preferably) hessian sacks - great if you suffer from poor soil, concrete issues, or invasive tree roots.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMv72yQFbvI

Cheers.
 
Theodore Heistman
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Some Amish people practice permaculture. But if you aren't Amish there are no technological limits.
 
LaLena MaeRee
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James Slaughter wrote:

Enough of the deepness - couple of "low-tech" solutions you may be interested in:

Keyhole gardening African style:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykCXfjzfaco&feature=related

Gardening in (preferably) hessian sacks - great if you suffer from poor soil, concrete issues, or invasive tree roots.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMv72yQFbvI

Cheers.


Thanks for sharing these, awesome ideas! Also, thanks for asking these questions, I was curious about this topic as well but wasn't brave enough to face the firing squad.
 
Rose Pinder
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Lots of people could live without fridges quite successfully. My mother grew up on a farm with no refrigeration. They had a cold room at the back of the house for the meat, milk, butter, cream etc, and that worked fine. Everyone was doing that before we electricity. We would have to change some of our food practices of course both personally and community-wide, but fridges are a convenience rather than an absolute necessity like shelter and potable water. I don't mean everyone 'should' give up their fridge. But I do think that the ease of access to refrigeration is stunting development of other technologies like cool cupboards and food preservation.
 
LaLena MaeRee
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Rose Pinder wrote:Lots of people could live without fridges quite successfully. My mother grew up on a farm with no refrigeration. They had a cold room at the back of the house for the meat, milk, butter, cream etc, and that worked fine. Everyone was doing that before we electricity. We would have to change some of our food practices of course both personally and community-wide, but fridges are a convenience rather than an absolute necessity like shelter and potable water. I don't mean everyone 'should' give up their fridge. But I do think that the ease of access to refrigeration is stunting development of other technologies like cool cupboards and food preservation.


So true! We live in a travel trailer so our fridge is much smaller than what most people have. Because of this I am getting very clever at microclimates around the house for food storage! For instance, some of the dish cupboards are located on internal walls, so I moved the dishes to store in the pantry as it is on external wall so it gets warm. I use the down low dish cupboards for storing squash, potatoes, even zucchini. My pickle and lemon cucumbers don't ripen together enough for pickling batches so I stacked some porcelein floor tiles under a low window under the kitchen table. I leave that window open, and set cukes on the tiles which stay cold from the air the window draws in. These areas are working even during summer heat. We do not use an air conditioner either, or fans of any kind. I do open windows and doors early on hot days though to let a breeze move air through. Next we are going to build some mini root cellars under our trailer with old coolers we plan to semi bury at angles so we can access them easily.
 
Ben Stallings
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Regarding the plastic drip tape... like most plastic items, it could be made from biological plastics, even if it is currently made from petroleum. Maybe you buy the petro-plastic this time, and by the time it wears out, you will be able to replace it with bio-plastic. The same logic goes for electric vehicles: maybe the electricity comes from coal now, but in five years it will be from renewable sources, while a gas car will never burn anything but gasoline. Plan ahead for future sustainability!

And if you really object to drip tape, switch to buried clay pots, which are twice as efficient and can be made from local materials without industrial inputs.
 
Me Wagner
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As a "newbie" to the idea of PC (as in less than a week old, with much to learn, even though I am an old person) I just have to put in my 2 cents worth.. So much about the concept and practice of PC sounds so very hopeful, and a practice/way of life I want to learn much more about, and share with others.

However, when I read some replies etc. on various post, I get a bit worried that I will get "discouraged" from doing even my part (as small as it may be) to learn, practice and contribute to the effort/process because others view/preach PC as only a one way street, no detour, no exit and no return.

Please for those who are seasoned "pros", do not scare away the folks (like myself) who just want to learn, apply what they can, learn as they go, and NOT BE CONDEMNED or SCARED to death it is a "cult", with specific rules that must always be followed.

If I have read, and understand correctly, this is still in the "grassroots" stage (even if the knowledge has been around for years) , much as going organic started a few years ago. For me, grassroots means the effort to spread the word, light a fire under others arse, and "get started making a change" ....in this instance.

TY for allowing my input/thoughts as a newbie

 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Me Wagner, please do not be a bit concerned about any specific rules that always must be followed - and I do hope that you will not be discouraged.

Bill Mollison specifically says that there are no specifics. In my opinion that makes it a done deal

The whole point is to make our culture more sustainable in whatever way we can, large or small, urban or rural.

 
Rose Pinder
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Ben Stallings wrote:Regarding the plastic drip tape... like most plastic items, it could be made from biological plastics, even if it is currently made from petroleum. Maybe you buy the petro-plastic this time, and by the time it wears out, you will be able to replace it with bio-plastic. The same logic goes for electric vehicles: maybe the electricity comes from coal now, but in five years it will be from renewable sources, while a gas car will never burn anything but gasoline. Plan ahead for future sustainability!

And if you really object to drip tape, switch to buried clay pots, which are twice as efficient and can be made from local materials without industrial inputs.


Hi Ben,

Biological plastics are an industrial product, and as such are dependent on oil (and other finite resources) to source materials and manufacture (and indeed build, maintain and run the factory that makes the plastics), as well as shipping it around the world or country. In a powerdown world (post peak oil), it's likely that resources would be prioritised towards food production, and long term use bioplastic irrigation pipe might be one of the perceived necessities. But probably not for everyone who is growing food.


Clay pots are an excellent idea!
 
Rose Pinder
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LaLena MaeRee wrote:
Rose Pinder wrote:Lots of people could live without fridges quite successfully. My mother grew up on a farm with no refrigeration. They had a cold room at the back of the house for the meat, milk, butter, cream etc, and that worked fine. Everyone was doing that before we electricity. We would have to change some of our food practices of course both personally and community-wide, but fridges are a convenience rather than an absolute necessity like shelter and potable water. I don't mean everyone 'should' give up their fridge. But I do think that the ease of access to refrigeration is stunting development of other technologies like cool cupboards and food preservation.


So true! We live in a travel trailer so our fridge is much smaller than what most people have. Because of this I am getting very clever at microclimates around the house for food storage! For instance, some of the dish cupboards are located on internal walls, so I moved the dishes to store in the pantry as it is on external wall so it gets warm. I use the down low dish cupboards for storing squash, potatoes, even zucchini. My pickle and lemon cucumbers don't ripen together enough for pickling batches so I stacked some porcelein floor tiles under a low window under the kitchen table. I leave that window open, and set cukes on the tiles which stay cold from the air the window draws in. These areas are working even during summer heat. We do not use an air conditioner either, or fans of any kind. I do open windows and doors early on hot days though to let a breeze move air through. Next we are going to build some mini root cellars under our trailer with old coolers we plan to semi bury at angles so we can access them easily.


Hi LaLena, being in a similar situation, I appreciated your comments. Are you settled or travelling? Will the root cellars be transportable (in the sense of you can set up them up each time when you move?)

Did you see this thread about small space design? http://www.permies.com/t/17500/permaculture/beyond-land-based-design
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