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Hi everyone,

I've been lurking around the forums the past weeks, but this is my first post. I didn't know where to put it, but I hope this is right.

I feel a sense of frustration about not knowing how to optimize. To get a sense of what I mean, I can only think to refer to these two blog posts from Seth Godin:


I'd like to do the "right" thing, but I want to know that the "right" thing to do is also the "best" thing, and to my knowledge, there is no quantifiable scale to bring discernment.

For example, vegetable waste from the kitchen. What is the best solution:
1. Composting
2. Vermicomposting
3. Black Soldier Fly Larvae
4. Bokashi
5. Biogas
6. ....there are probably other aerobic and anaerobic alternatives I am forgetting or don't know yet.

So how do I optimize my waste stream? Should I make soil, soil amendments or conditioners, live feed for chickens/fish, or convert to an energy source?

Another example, wood/trees. When should I:
1. Burn it?
2. Build with it?
3. Bury it in Hugelbeds?
4. ....Again, I imagine there could be other solutions.

I admit, my knowledge of trees is somewhat lacking, but I know, for example, that cedar is not ideal for H├╝gelkultur, but I wish there were a chart along the lines of:

Tree Burn Build Bury Other use Notes
Cedar yes yes no ??? Good insect/fungus repellant
Oak yes yes yes ??? Fast biomass production
Beech yes yes yes ??? Very hard wood
Birch yes no yes ??? Produces many leaves for groundcover

(Please note I made some of this information up and this example chart is probably not very accurate.)

Third burning question:
What significant or noteworthy differences are there between the manures of different animals?

Obviously the animal's diet matters, so maybe this question is far too broad, but let's say, for example, typical farm animals--cows, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, etc. Then, how would things compare if I went down to the zoo and asked for manure from herbivores like hippos, or carnivores like lions? Some large-scale worm farms feed their worms only cow manure, for example, are there advantages to this sort of double-processed manure? Differences in macro or micronutrients? Other traits worth mentioning? For example, worm castings protect plants from certain harmful insects, microorganisms, and diseases, while providing nutrients and retaining moisture, and improving soil structure. What does chicken manure do differently? If some make compost tea or vermicompost tea, can you make horse manure tea or any other type? Again, a chart might be really helpful in this area.

Sorry if my thoughts seem scattered, but any help is appreciated.

Posts: 4247
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Chad, welcome to Permies!
Thats a pretty good first post
I am still learning myself but I will give it a shot.

As Paul says "It depends" To me some of this stuff depends on what you are in to, what you want to learn about. To optimize , it seems that you would want to use what you have, the most amount of times. So for kitchen scraps you feed them to an animal, say chickens and their manure might go into a vermicompost( might be too hot ? ) then on to a garden. But if you want to learn about biogas you might want to put the scraps or manure into a compost pile and collect the gas from that then put the compost on the garden.

Wood is the same thing. If you have a rocket heater you would burn some. If you have a shed or greenhouse to build you might be able to use some of the wood for that. And hugels are always great for wood. I just hate to see folks burn a pile of branches without capturing anything from them.

There has been several discussions about having helpful charts like you mentioned. I would bet that there are some out there , we just need to get them all in one place.

One of the things about manures that I have learned from Paul is that you have to know what the animal was fed and how it lived. It could be full of all sorts of chemicals. So you would have to think about what is in the zoo poo . I know that different manures have different characteristics but I am no expert there. I know that horse manure has weed seed that passes through. Paul says that cow manure can be used as pig feed and in a pasture the chickens will tear up the cowpies to get to the fly larva. I have used horse manure in verma compost and it worked well.

Hopefully others will chime in on this stuff too.

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I think that "Optimizing" is actually an antipattern in most cases, especially within Permaculture.

You can only Optimize for one or two variables at once. Let's take the example of a bicycle. If you optimize a bicycle for weight, you end up with a sublimely, amazingly light bike, but it's terrificly expensive to purchase and maintain, it can't carry cargo, it can only ride on smooth roads, etc etc. Pro racers need that light bike to be competitive, so they take the downsides because they must optimize for weight. If I go in to a bike shop, I'm looking for something that works in rain, can ride offroad, can carry a load, and is easy to maintain. And my bike will be 20 lbs.

So my overall response is (at least at first) don't think about optimizing. Think about doing what is sufficient.

-You want to convert your waste stream into resources? What wastes do you have? What options do you have onsite? How much time do you have to build or manage a system?
-You want to know what to do with trees. What trees do you have? Do you require supplementary heating? Do you have building projects planned? Do you have space for hugels? Obviously, if you have a ton of trees, but you live in Costa Rica, you won't be burning those trees for heat. If you're in Maine...

It sounds like you're getting in to the Paradox of Choice- there's so many options and so much innovation to experiment with, that you can get hung up on what would be the BEST option. What really matters is that you DO SOMETHING. Look to the permaculture principles and see how your plans and ideas stack up. As long as you are working toward closing resource loops, creating abundance and productivity, and building soil, it doesn't really matter if you are OPTIMIZING EVERY SYSTEM. Once you have a baseline for your systems, then you start interacting with them to see what yields you can get.

Even then, though, optimizing for one specific variable is dangerous, because it blinds you to all the other variables.
Posts: 1671
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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"Do something"
Well put!
I have a hugle bed,an in ground pet waste composter, and a biochar retort, all in various stages of conpleteness, each using overlapping inputs.
I'm still in control here. LOOK at this tiny ad!
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