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Permaculture Design - In the home  RSS feed

 
Christopher Kerrschneider
Posts: 25
Location: Iowa
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Hello all,
Over the past few months, with the help of gaia's garden and this forum, I have been learning the ways of permaculture design. It's wonderful and I can't wait to put so many things into practice this growing season!
As I've been learning I have also begun sharing theses things with my wonderful gardening partner, my wife. She's also blessed with the desire to have a wonderful home on the inside too. From this desire she challenged me to look at organizing our home, cleaning, and planning it
with permaculture practices in mind.

I found this to be incredibly interesting and wanted to bring it to the forum to see if anyone had ideas about how permaculture design could be used in designing the functionality and beauty of INSIDE the home.

Let me know what you think!



Chris
 
chrissy bauman
Posts: 132
Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
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the only permie way i can really think of for keeping the home neat and clean is to not use disposable anything, and to clean the place with vinegar and water. what was your question?
 
Christopher Kerrschneider
Posts: 25
Location: Iowa
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Kind of.

There are a lot of things (products) that are "sustainable/eco friendly/reuseable/ green" We know about them as they are thrown at us through advertisements. There are also a lot of ways to consume less and make the home a place of more natural things, and although all of these things might, and I would argue should, find their place inside a home that is created through permaculture design, my question lies more in the design elements of permaculture.

Think: guilds, zones, multi-functional items ( and no a Magic-Bullet http://www.buythebullet.com/ doesn't count , interacting systems, recycling of resources, efficiency of our resources.


Permaculture, as Hemenway puts it, rests upon some ecological principles: The Niche, Succession, and Biodiversity. Now, this makes sense because we are seeking to construct our garden through an
ecological lens. We seek to model our created landscape after nature. The mature forest is the great teacher.

So the tricky part here is the root of my question, do/can these principles transfer over? Can we work systems the same way? Can we model how we organize our shoes and coats near the front door in a way that you could understand through the permaculture lens? Is there a better system (other than a mature forest, lol) to model our home after?

Not sure if this makes my question any clearer. :/ (But it sure gets the gears turning in my brain)

In summary, my intent was to examine systems.

I get that its impossible to do this without eventually getting into compositing bins and types of green cleaners, but thats the beauty of permaculture right? it all flows together.

Help?
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I like this line of thinking. We try in our home to be mindful of those possibilities. An example is surrounding our woodstove. It is our only source of heat and also heats our water, cooks our food, dries our clothes nearby in rainy weather, boils my natural dye pots, warms my seed flats and young plant starts, warms the miso crock... all of this for six months every year..plus producing ash for soil amendment and dehumidifying the house...then there is just the pleasure of sitting on our sofa watching the fire (the stove has a glass door front) and the physical activity of cuttng and hauling wood...all good for mind, body and soul.
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I like Judith's example of her stove's multiple purposes; I think it's important to remember that permaculture's a design system that encompasses all life's aspects, whereas people often think of it as being about growing plants and animals.
David Holmgren knows what he's on about: http://permacultureprinciples.com/
I find the 12 permaculture principles good to keep in mind for basically everything, but two that I'm especially fond of are 'integrate rather than segregate' and 'design from patterns to details'.
My house was built over 100 years ago, and ignores pretty much every single rule of sensible design except that it's small (1076 square ft).
It doesn't really work yet, but I have the same ideal for inside as outside: if I'm on my way somewhere, I should always be able to take something there, and bring something back.
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I believe that old homes were more permie-like - especially rural homes.

Old homes were much more likely to have root cellars - Wonderful for much more than roots.
(Worm farm, bokashi, plant seeding in spring, storage, work shop, etc, etc.)

Then there was the classic "mud room" which helped keep the day's toil out of the living spaces.

Then, of course, even city homes had a coat rack near the entrance.
Kick off those muddy shoes, and dripping raincoat. And place your hat on top.
Whenever you needed to leave, all of those necessities were handy in one place - right next to the door.

Modern homes seem to be more designed for the consumer mentality.

 
Leila Rich
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John Polk wrote:I believe that old homes were more permie-like - especially rural homes

Rural may be the key, as well as random things lke a country's road planning etc.
For example, the grid layout of my suburb's streets, and the convention of placing a house facing the road no matter what the aspect, means that my house was built with big windows to the South (Southern hemisphere...)

 
Dan Porter
Posts: 9
Location: Tempe, AZ
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This is a light stand I made for a hydroponic setup in our spare bedroom:

http://blog.hydroharbor.com/2013/03/do-it-yourself-light-stand.html

I live in urban Tempe, AZ. While going rural is a lingering ambition for many of my friends and neighbors, I think the principles of permaculture can still apply to an urban lifestyle. Here in Arizona, our power company is investing in renewable resources and "greening the grid" as many power companies are. How do you feel about an on-the-grid alternative to fuel-dependent farming and distribution? I don't like to think that those of us who don't have land are out of luck. It's working for us, and many people in our city are producing food on small lots because we get lots of sunshine. We don't even need to refrigerate the produce we grow at home because we harvest as we eat.

The other obvious advantage to growing indoors is climate control. While our toughest plants are scraping by in the heat, our delicate plants are as comfortable as we are inside.

I'm curious if this presents a challenge to the values of permaculture, or if hydroponics is a step in the right direction for urbanites.
 
Leila Rich
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Dan, I'm not very familiar with hydroponics, but it seems to be 'organic or beyond' seems to be extremely unusual.
But in my temperate climate it's more about trying to create artificial warm and sunny growing environments outdoors, rather than protecting plants from them!

By the way, for me, the future's suburban!
 
Dan Porter
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Location: Tempe, AZ
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Leila Rich wrote:the future's suburban!


Can I use that?

The word organic itself is suspicious. I meant to offer an explanation of organic nutrients for you here, but it turned into a full post on my blog:

http://blog.hydroharbor.com/2013/04/organic-hydroponics.html

It covers almost everything you didn't want to know about fertilizer, peak phosphorus and organics. Spoiler: organic nutrients will change the world!

I want to add that nutrients are fertilizers, and the only fertilizer more environmentally-responsible than organic nutrients comes from the animal and plant waste in your own yard.
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Leila Rich wrote:the future's suburban!
Dan Porter wrote:Can I use that?

I'll rephrase it: "my future's suburban"
Now you can go for it
I'm not very educated about hydropnics, so I look forward to reading your stuff.
 
Christopher Kerrschneider
Posts: 25
Location: Iowa
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First off, to give word to the previous posts. I would say yes, hydroponics would be a good system to incorporate into a home if you are desiring to design your household with permaculture design/ principle in mind. I would think there are many benefits/uses to having a hydroponic system, especially if you can incorporate aquaponics into the mix. Then you are looking at some synergy. Fish are happy, plants happy, you are happy.


Also, I hope the future isn't suburban (suburbs). When I hear suburban I think cookie cutter houses, suv's, and a monoculture lawn that reeks of round-up. So, while yes, the population of the world may grow in a suburban like setting, lets hope and work toward the culture encompassing this landscape to be one of a community which truly seeks to care after their 1/2 acre and live life together.

Now, what brings me here tonight is I want to share a discovery. This evening I was doing laundry in the basement and I needed to use the restroom so I used the toilet that is downstairs. While doing so I noticed my dehumidifier was full, needing to be emptied. Then, before I flushed, I took the water receptacle out of the dehumidifier, removed the lid from the top of the toilet tank, then after flushing, poured my water from the receptacle into the toilet tank to be flushed next time it is used!!!
I was excited.

I typically take the water and cast it onto my lawn or pour it into used, clean milk jugs which I keep stashed around the foundation of my house incase the water goes out. In which case I would at least have grey water to wash the dishes / flush the toilet, and in extreme emergencies use for cooking/drinking. Now I am wondering if there is a good way to store this water I'm collecting to be used in my toilets on a regular basis.

Now, if I was a single man I would just keep some old milk jugs with water in them in the bathroom to save a gallon or two every time I flush. Unfortunately my wonderful wife would prefer something more aesthetically pleasing and more efficient.

Ideas?


Chris
 
Rebecca Holman
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Here is a video that may cover some of the concepts you are asking When permaculture moves indoors
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
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Location: South West France
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I totally agree Leila Rich, that we should try to bear in mind all the permaculture principles and one by one apply them to the way the houses are built and what we used certain areas for, how they are heated and so on. That's exactly what I did when I designed our house.

Let's take one Permaculture principle and see how it can be applied to a living space - for example : Catch and store energy

Use the sun and it's changing height over the seasons to keep your house cool in summer and warm in winter. On the side of the house where the sun is, have big glass windows and doors and use an overhang to keep the sun out in the summer and let it in in the winter. We incorporated our sun block into a glass covered terrace using these calculations :



In the summer it's cool



In the winter the sun shines all the way into the house. This photo was taken on the winter solstice.



The floor is covered with a thick thermal mass and underneath there are straw bales to keep it cool in summer and absorb the sun in winter. The tilles are made from mostly from clay which was dug out of a home to make a pond (To store rainwater from the roofs) about 15 metres from the back door.



The stone and wood inside the house also absorb the heat from the sun in the summer and from the woodstove in the winter. The stone used in the house was found within about a mile from our house and most of the wood came from our own woods.

The terrace stores heat too with bottles used under the floor for insulation and clothes dry quickly under the glass roof. In spring I use the terrace for bringing on young plants and in the summer it's used for eating, dancing (Even when it rains) and entertainment.





In the autumn it's used for sorting out our food for storing, drying dyed wool and storing pumpkins and plants that need to be kept frost free



In the winter we use it for projects, here for example we're making the trusses for an extension



We also use it for storing hams, bacon and sausages and and as an outdoor 'fridge.



Like Judith Browning we also have a woodstove which performs all the same functions as hers but it doesn't heat the water. So we've a solar panel which warms the water and a back boiler (On the same circuit) in the fireplace which we use in autumn, spring to take the chill off the air or to dry clothes, cook on or dry food or when it very cold to heat the house, the hot water and radiators upstairs.



The fireplace is a huge thermal mass with a bent chimney and retains the heat long after the fire goes out. I use a little pocket rocket to top up the hot water when I don't want to heat the house in the summer. We use small branches found around the woods next to the house or waste corn cobs as fuel.



We can heat the water at the same time as reducing tomatoes for sterilising using a few strategically placed tin cans with holes in the right place to heat the cauldron - the back boiler.



We're off grid and use a couple of little wind generators and some solar panels to give us light, music, internet and charge up all our tools and run a 'fridge in the summer. It's not fancy and didn't cost a fortune but it's done the job for the past 15 years.

Still considering at catching and storing energy, for me, also means saving my energy and the layout of the house and kitchen should lend itself to being able to do all the things that you need to do easily and efficiently. We've six dogs and countless visitors with dirty boots and to actually get to the kitchen means walking the dirt of all those paws and boots into the terrace and placing enough tables and work surfaces around the terrace for people to put what they are carrying (Food, tools, bits of tractors) on those instead of the kitchen table !

I use wall hung dish dryers over the kitchen sink so never need to dry or put away dishes, I've a huge table in the middle of the kitchen which I use as a work surface. So when I say "Clear the table !" when I'm ready to serve dinner, all my mess is cleaned up too. Also, not much electricity means I couldn't possibly own an iron...

...and so on.

I could go on and on about this, (One of my favourite subjects, so sorry about the long post.) but I think that people can develop these examples for the other permaculture principles for themselves.
 
Leila Rich
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Christopher Kerrschneider wrote:Also, I hope the future isn't suburban (suburbs). When I hear suburban I think cookie cutter houses, suv's, and a monoculture lawn that reeks of round-up. So, while yes, the population of the world may grow in a suburban like setting, lets hope and work toward the culture encompassing this landscape to be one of a community which truly seeks to care after their 1/2 acre and live life together.

That's why I changed it to
Leila Rich wrote:I'll rephrase it: "my future's suburban"

I was aware of the potential implications of that statement, and chose it carefully
There's a variety of reasons living in town is the best choice for me, and while it seems counterintuitive, I think urban permaculture is awesome.
My suburb has small, cool, old houses, nmot an SUV in sight and if there's a lawn, it's a rare NZer who does anything except mow.
 
Jerry McIntire
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Location: Oak savannah - Viroqua, Wisconsin - zone 4 - 34"/yr
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Good topic! This makes me think, again, that I want a beautiful list of all twelve principles to hang on the wall, so I can think often of how to apply them inside and out.
Jerry
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Leila Rich wrote:
Christopher Kerrschneider wrote:Also, I hope the future isn't suburban (suburbs). When I hear suburban I think cookie cutter houses, suv's, and a monoculture lawn that reeks of round-up. So, while yes, the population of the world may grow in a suburban like setting, lets hope and work toward the culture encompassing this landscape to be one of a community which truly seeks to care after their 1/2 acre and live life together.

That's why I changed it to
Leila Rich wrote:I'll rephrase it: "my future's suburban"

I was aware of the potential implications of that statement, and chose it carefully
There's a variety of reasons living in town is the best choice for me, and while it seems counterintuitive, I think urban permaculture is awesome.
My suburb has small, cool, old houses, nmot an SUV in sight and if there's a lawn, it's a rare NZer who does anything except mow.


I think there are bound to be some more densely populated areas even when we've made a transition to post peak oil, and the mentality that goes with it. People in groups is part of our natural state isn't it? In Paul's dream land in Montana, he is talking about radii for deep roots people that have households clustered. Things will surely change shape and form, but when I think of suburbs with large lawns and properties, it is not the spacing of people that will change in the future, but how the land is managed. Some of the suburbs of the east coast have properties of several acres. Here on my place, I call it a farm, but it is only 2.6 acres. Maybe I am in suburbia too.

I am glad there is a discussion of permaculture principles influencing house design. It seems a natural to me, until I remember how many people have not understood my priorities in my home, and how I had to argue and fight with the contractor I had hired to put the addition on my old home, just to get what I wanted. He wanted to build for "resale value", and a hypothetical buyer at a hypothetical future time, build for what he thought they would want, rather than build what I wanted and was planning to live in.

The building trades are dictating a lot of how buildings are built, and it has to do with ease for builders, and not for ease for the future occupants.

We need contractors to be required to take permaculture design courses to qualify for their licenses. Yes, and while I am on this rant, the county building inspectors should have to take the same course!

Thekla
 
Amir Salvatore
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Location: North Carolina
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Great topic. I've actually been slowly getting more into doing stuff inside. Or rather I should say, I've been starting from the inside out, since i haven't really gotten much going outside yet - mostly collecting ideas.

Not sure this is what you're looking for - but I'll give it a go.

Although my ideas are still growing, let's start with "water". When it comes to cooking for example, I always try to reuse water until it's all soaked up. Although easier done than said (usually it's the opposite ). Let's say for example, you got a double broiler and you want to steam some potatoes or beats or something. In the water I might also add some oil or kelp, or anything that will circulate with the food. Now, when the foods done I store all left over "liquid" in a glass jar, no matter how much is left. Then the next day I cook up some rice or quinoa or something so I know all the water will be soaked up. What I love about this is that sometimes you are left with a really good liquid that'll give your next meal a nice, unique flavor. Also, although probably not a big deal, I'm pretty sure there are nutrients that leak from some food into the water - so all those left over nutrients are taken up the next time around.

Another thing I reuse water with is with washing the dishes. Although I haven't fully gone handwashing yet, and I can't reuse the gray water in this community, I do try to conserve as much water as possible. If I'm say cleaning a pot or a bowl or something, when ever I'm finished cleaning and get that urge to "swish" around more water just to be sure(I can't be the only one who does this), instead of throwing that water out, I just dump into an empty container and water the indoor plants. When water becomes excess, it goes outside. With this method it helped me to remember to water the indoor plants as well.

Cast iron pans are also great at stacking functions. It's always fun to try and reuse it as much as possible within the day or next before wiping it down, or even cleaning. For a rough idea, lets say you cook eggs, then the next person cooks in the same pot, then the next person steams vegetables(like cabbage), then the next person cooks meat w/ spices, then maybe the last person might want to cook beans - which end up tasting delicious. Again this is easier done than said since every situation varies (some people might have more of an "ew" factor about this).

Another fun thing is furniture. Maybe a piece of furniture you have laying around could be used in a totally different way. For example, I have a 3 story foldable bookshelf I luckily got a while back - it's now my new desk. Granted it's small, but the vertical space makes it feel quite large. You can also tilt some pieces sideways and find that if you added maybe a few pieces of wood, you'd have something with more shelves on it. So try to reuse/recycle anything before you decide to throw it away.

I think the best way to approach inside the house is to question everything you do, and think, is there a better way I can do this? Can I reuse this? Could I have used less? etc etc.

I do have more ideas, but most of them are dynamic - just like doing permaculture outside, inside every situation calls for careful observation since every environment is different. From the space of your house, to how each person thinks - you wouldn't want to try and "conserve" this way, if person B doesn't agree - nothing gained. But maybe you know how person B think, and although you didn't conserve much, you created equal grounds for both of you.

Anyways, that's all I got for now. Sorry for any confusion(:
 
Chelle Lewis
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Hi Irene,

I love reading your posts. Thanks so much for all the pics for catching and storing energy. Please share more with pics if you can and want to. Fascinating. You are really living a permaculture life-style and the demonstration is fabulous.
 
Julia Winter
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We are pondering home design, and looking at lots of homes. I recently saw an article on a very small urban house for two people (a married couple, no kids). Their sleeping space was just off the main living space, and they had their small stacking washer/dryer in the (walk-in) closet. I thought that was very clever, given that such a large percentage of what gets laundered needs to go right back into that closet when it's clean. . .

We are a family of four, so we're going to have multiple bedrooms, but I'm definitely thinking about having the laundry space adjacent to all the bedrooms if possible. Now, I know this isn't a totally permaculture design idea, because that might not involve having electrical appliances to wash your clothes, but for our family in the near future we will be using something.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I didn't know that permaculture is anti electric clothes washer, if it is then boy am I out of the game. I use a front loader with the "waterfall" action. Said to need less power to run, needs less water too. Just usually more expensive to buy. I know a clothesline is cleaner, safer, cheaper than a dryer, more "permie", maybe you are planning to have the clothes line located near the washer in the closet near the bedrooms, maybe even in the bathroom, where all the plumbing already is.

From another standpoint, having the laundry set up right where you generate the dirty clothes and right where you store them when clean seems very efficient. Think of all the steps you'll save by not going to the distant but more commonplace laundry somewhere near the garage, at least twice for every load you wash. Time you could spend doing some other wonderful thing.

You'll figure out something workable.

Thekla
 
Julia Winter
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Oh yes, I'm with you! In Wisconsin, when we had a bigger house, we had a nice clothesline that ran across the big basement room (with the heater, the tank for the solar hot water and the supplemental water heater) but on one end was right by the washer and dryer. And we had a laundry chute from the bathroom in-between the bedrooms, so that was a pretty efficient system. The clothesline had a pulley on either end, so it was easy to load up and send across the room.

Now that we are in a pretty tiny house (less than 800 sq ft) the washer and dryer are out in the (unheated, currently VERY cold) garage. Very inconvenient. So, almost anything would be better than this!
 
Christopher Kerrschneider
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Location: Iowa
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Amir Salvatore wrote:Great topic. I've actually been slowly getting more into doing stuff inside. Or rather I should say, I've been starting from the inside out, since i haven't really gotten much going outside yet - mostly collecting ideas.

Not sure this is what you're looking for - but I'll give it a go.





I would say you're right on track. Lots of good stuff related to stacking functions, Thanks!

It is awesome to see this topic take off with all of the goodness every poster on here has provided.

Irene- those pictures are great. Thanks.


Over the winter I have found it more difficult to continue with some of the "permaculture in the home" stuff that is much easier in summer. For example, we have basically given up on composting, as the pile was/is frozen solid and when it is below 0 I find it a lot harder to get out and dump the bucket. (last winter we had worm compost set up in the basement, but this winter focused on creating a better living space overall.) Although I have been more likely to take the time to prep/save the food scraps for the chickens more than I do in the summer. Same with using the clothes line, it was back to the standard dryer for most things.

When the next winter begins to draw near I shall begin to set things in motion for a better design for the winter.

Has anyone else faced this "winter backlash" ?
 
Julia Winter
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Some things I did in Wisconsin are that I moved a composter (I was lucky enough to get a used "spinning barrel" type composter) up onto the back deck after it got too cold to eat out there. Thus, at the end of fall, I took down the table and chairs (also took down the fabric roof and mesh walls of our gazebo on the deck) and emptied the composter into the big 3 bin system, then set it up where the table and chairs used to be. Thus, when we had two feet of snow it was still easy to put things into the composter. One good thing is that compost doesn't get stinky in a Wisconsin winter!

I had an electric heated base for the chicken waterer, and that helped a great deal. Once it got so cold they didn't want to go out, I'd just shut the little trap door and turn off the motor that usually opened it in the morning. I built up a deep layer of organic material in their room in the winter, and almost all my food scraps (less onions, garlic, banana peels and citrus) went into the chicken space.

I already described our indoor clothes drying line above. I should re-emphasize how helpful the pulley system was. It is so much easier to put things on a line when you can stand in one place and just keep moving things down the line by pulling on it.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Christopher,

I think about this kind of thing a lot! I take it to be absolutely normal for our patterns to change related to the weather. Don't all organisms change their habits with the changing physical conditions of winter vs summer?

We do our best to do what is right, but sometimes conditions are more difficult than others for various tasks.

Here's an extreme example: You are ill, and so are your children, and you need to stay in and rest. Maybe all the towels have been puked on, except the ones that have been used to clean up the diarrhea. And its raining outside, and the basement clothes line is full up, and you are going to need clean towels with in the hour, because the baby is going to need to be cleaned up again, and you did not sleep well last night, and are running a fever yourself, you have a headache, and are feeling you are going to puke soon yourself. There is no one to help, it's all on you. That's not a day for hanging clothes on the line. If there happens to be a central heating forced air natural gas furnace you turn it on, even though you usually heat with an efficient wood heating source.

You normally make your own chicken broth, but you are out, and you use the store bought stuff that you have in the basement, even though it comes in a non recyclable container, isn't organic, and normally you would not even consider it food, but the baby needs the broth and that's what you have, so on that day, it's what you do, without guilt... maybe you decide you never want to be in that situation again, so you make a stash of emergency home made chicken broth that will not be used except on this kind of day....

We have the means to make life a little easier on ourselves under various conditions. I don't think there are any gold stars for NEVER partaking of the ease available through wasteful modern systems.

I like to think of percentages, and life span impact. If I have burned less than 20 gallons of gasoline per month in the last 8 months,(no plane or train travel, solar electric home, passive solar heating) then this week, to get to and from the permaculture voices conference for example, I might be about to burn 80- 100 gallons of gasoline in one week. Should I not go if the only way to get there is to drive the van? Forgo all that I will learn, and thereby forgo all the ways I will influence others with what I DO learn? Burning 100 gallons of gas in one week is different than burning 100 gallons of gas every week.

This system can be used to rationalize inappropriate use of resources and technology, but for me the objective is not to live as a caveman on principle, but to live at a moderate level, balancing my ideals with the constraints of my life.

And keep in mind a fearless moral inventory of the impacts of my the decisions.

Well, maybe this has been a rant. Sorry. What I mean to say is be gentle with ourselves all the while keeping a close watch on our overall impacts, and observing for the times when we fall short of our ideals, and trying to adjust our systems so that we won't fall as short, as often.

Life is a process of continuous adjustment.

Thekla

 
Ann Torrence
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A literal stacking function is the Finnish dish-drying cabinet over the kitchen sink. Why did I not see this BEFORE I built my house?

Any time I am handling materials, I want it to make a lap through the house that maximizes value and minimizes effort.
 
Christopher Kerrschneider
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Location: Iowa
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:Christopher,


"Life is a process of continuous adjustment."

Thekla




Good words.

A rant it was, but a good one! Thanks.

A good point to be made, also, about adjusting our behaviors with the seasons.

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Thanks Christopher.

I've been thinking since I posted, because if a person is in a 100 gallons of gas per week situation, then it doesn't mean a person is evil or wicked or anything. It's just the starting place, the thing to do is to become aware, notice the situation and begin to make adjustments.

I like what Julia devised for her chickens and the compost situation.

Anyway, I'm glad I didn't offend you

Thekla

 
Marcus Hoff
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I think it is quite possible to move permaculture indoors.
If you think in the same principals, like: Every item should serve multiple purposes, produce no waste and so on.
Also if you use the basic interior design rules about color, lighting and spacing many of them make very good sense (not just in a permaculture way). Like creating more light in a room by putting mirrors in strategic place, color the floor to either reflect or absorb light. Arranging furniture so that you use the least amount of energy/time to move around (especially in the kitchen) or giving a sense of space to a small room.
 
Erica Wisner
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A fun thread!
We did this for an office once, a zone analysis for which equipment was in which zone for each person.
Zone 1 was the immediate, active desk (pencils, computer, phone)
Zone 2 was stuff you use a few times a day (bottom drawer of the desk, shared printer, calendar, relevant files)
Zone 3 was a few times a week (older files, watering the plants, the bookkeeper coming in to write checks)
Zone 4 was stuff you use monthly to yearly (board meeting folders, annual reports, backstock for slow-moving sales items)
Zone 5 was stuff we never used, but thought someone else might still want (the big storage-room jungle, with like a half a commercial kitchen for that eventual building remodel)

It was fun to overlap people's outer zones to determine where to put the printer, who sits adjacent to shared filing cabinets.

Architectural books can help think about classic layouts, room to allow for various activities, what kinds of spaces can overlap.

Permaculture may also take into account passive flows, what flows into a space (sun, fuel, water) and what outputs that space provides (heat, greywater, drafts).

- Bedrooms: Private, quiet, near closet or dressing room, near bathroom or nursery, nice if it's near laundry. East-facing windows are nice if you want to wake up with the morning light
- Bathrooms: Private, noisy, smelly, needs water access, humid, needs ventilation fans or windows, nice if it's easy to find, near closets or laundry.
Conflicts: If you can avoid backing a toilet up against a bedroom wall, the occupants will thank you. Also, can you direct guests there without embarrassment? +1 for hospitality.

- Kitchens: Public, messy, warm, needs water access, needs fuel / electrical access, near pantry, garden, garage or grocery delivery point. Within kitchen, cook needs certain things in reach, guests out from underfoot. Diners need access to dishes, silverware, common breakfast or snack foods if self-service, coffee, tea. Lots of food and compost and garbage going in and out; compost accessible near sink and cutting surfaces is wonderful. Space nearby to expand long-term food storage (chest freezer, garage racks for canned goods) a plus.
- Pantry / cellar: Cool storage for food; near kitchen, near garden for roots / seeds / worm bins, cleanable or non-moldy if doing fermented foods or cheeses.
- Dining: Formal dining rooms are between guest areas and kitchen, with door or pass-through into kitchen that does not look directly onto sink full of dirty dishes. Informal dining may be within kitchen, or as adequate tables within an all-purpose living or rec room. Formal dining rooms sometimes become offices, parlors, craft rooms, or even guest rooms if not in use.
- Breakfast nook / island: informal room for family meals, off kitchen; primary purpose to allow diners easy access to food while not standing in cook's way; also shares heat of kitchen without heating whole house for families doing the school/off-site work thing.

- Living room / rec room: for mainly sedentary activities, heart of the home's function as shelter, entertaining guests. Easy access to entry way, dining, bathroom; possibly also garden, kitchen, or other overflow spaces for big parties. Sedentary activities require greater warmth; close to heated core of house. Most common hours of use: mid-day through evening, with evenings dominating.
- Parlors, guest rooms, home office: typically occasional-use only, may be on periphery with a separate, on-demand heater. Access to main living areas, entry way (offices may want separate entrance), bathrooms; but generally may be in cooler periphery of house or any convenient unused space. More regularly-use home offices, or one used for purposes that demand heat such a massage or yoga studio, may be on south side or near heated core.
- Game room / exercise room / shop / hobby room: more active pursuits don't require as much warmth; may open onto garage, basement, garden/pool, or other related activity areas and sources of materials. Can even be in basement or semi-outdoor locations (porch, attic).

- Glasshouse / growing rooms: between house and garden, south or sunny side, access to water, nice if near kitchen, entertaining areas.
- Entry: formal transition between outdoors and indoors. May be a mud room, formal entry with coat closets and stairs, or anything in between. Porch can also double as mud room / entry.
- Porch or mud room: transition from outdoors; access to entry, social entertaining spaces.
- Utility / mechanical room: central hub facilitates distribution of electrical power, heat, solar power or hot water; furnaces and boilers benefit from being near-central, below living areas; near workshop, laundry, hobby areas.
- laundry: water access, exterior walls for ventilation and drainage, convenient if near utility room, bedrooms, bathrooms, clothesline

- garden: Zone 1 outdoors, near-house features may include greenhouse, poultry, kitchen herbs, salad, other daily-use produce; water access, compost and kitchen access.
- outdoor entertainment areas: BBQ, children's play areas, within reach of kitchen, living, entertaining areas, bathroom.
- incubator: puppies, lambs, eggs and chicks may need a warm spot indoors; farm kitchens may also connect to a byre or dairy.
- wood-drying shed / tool shed: usually about 30 feet from house, can be near garden (tool storage, bark and sawdust re-use) or near driveway (wood delivery).
These outdoor spaces may be part of the home's design, for example in climates with white-out conditions or very short growing seasons, you may dedicate more indoor / porch-type space to firewood, seedlings, and prized farm stock.

Other principles:

- most frequently-used items within reach. 'kaizen' is the principle of incremental improvements; your changing activities will dictate adjustments over time. But there are some common ones:

Kitchens ideally are a narrow, enclosed workspace, with a one-step triangle between sink, stove, and food storage (fridge). Pantry as close as convenient; if a distant root cellar or cool store, then also a smaller everyday pantry cupboard.

Cooks are popular, but do not want 'company' when they are moving hot pans around. Dining, hangout, or other social spaces can be separated with half-walls or islands. Ideally these contain most items a helper would interrupt the cook to find: coffee/tea, dishes, silverware, napkins, maybe even the sink or fridge is part of the transition zone.

Offices ideally have filing or storage within reach of desk; if shared, Internet hubs and phones are between users.

Seating areas are 'lobes': seating in profile or 3/4 view of each other, can face the fire or TV, tables for refreshments, not divided by heavily-used walkways.

Wood-burning heat sources need firewood storage, tools/matches, ash bucket, and any other utility features such as cooking, clothes drying, seating, etc.

- emergency or safety items in the places where they are most useful, and not where they are likely to be buried, inaccessible, or irritating to the point of removal.
Fire alarms near bedrooms; away from kitchen steam but between kitchen and bedrooms.
extinguishers near entry/exits and fire sources, not in hidden cupboards; egress windows in bedrooms and basements (shelters); emergency food and water stored in shelter (cellar, basement).

- most expensive infrastructure centralized (heat, water, electrical)
- hallway nitpick: Define hallways or pass-throughs to occupy the least amount of a room, setting aside suitably large undisturbed 'lobes' for intended activities.
- provide doors to control air flow - cross-breezes, central stairway as ventilation chimney.
- heat moves from east to west over the day, with southwest being the hottest part of the day; warm air moves from lower to upper; warmth moves in line-of-sight from heater outward (radiating)
- water flows most easily downward. Domestic water typically arrives at 15 lbs pressure, or may be pumped to an attic tank to achieve similar flow.
- cool is available on shady side

- where people are, and have been for a long time, local structures reflect what is generally needed for comfort. Don't neglect the standard functions: drainage, roof eaves, foundations that protect from settling and damp; footings that resist fire, snow, and vermin; insulated walls and ceilings, ventilated attics; windows that offer both wind and light; doors that shut.
It can be a fun design exercise to name all the functions of a ubiquitous object like the headboard on a bed - things you may not notice until you've lived without one. (Draft stopper, reading support, pillow rack, ventilation of walls and bedding, often shaped to deter spiders or vermin from reaching pillows; grab-hold when sick, playful, nursing, etc... may also support blanket forts, mosquito nets, princess or whitewater-canoe fantasies, books and reading lamps, piles of kids for storytime, alarm clock, hanging pockets if no built-in shelves. Oh, and it's decorative, formalizing and celebrating the loving union of a couple, or their sheltering protection of a child or guest.)

- when building with standard materials, follow common standards unless there is reason to deviate (for example, consistent 16" spacing on studs makes it easier to find studs for hanging shelves later)
- anything built must be maintained, and may need to be altered or repaired. make reasonable provision for minor changes: places to attach shelves or new walls, egress windows in an office that might become a bedroom.
Both standard and traditional (ancient) construction methods allow for remodels. Some innovative construction methods do not, yet, have a reasonable remodel potential. (earth-tube domes, poured-concrete walls, polyester laminates, earth-sheltered structures with inaccessible water barriers or drainage, some truss systems, some curtain-wall brackets).

In my perfect home, therefore:
Kitchen near garage or driveway, garden, and play/social areas
Bathroom and kitchen might share a wet wall and greywater drainage
Living room and office would be between kitchen and heater, staying warm
Bedrooms might be on the opposite side of the house from the kitchen, sharing a wall with heater; or upstairs, above parlor where heat from evening entertainment could be dumped upstairs at bedtime.
If I have a washer-dryer or other appliances, I would expect them to go near a bathroom or the kitchen (outside wall, water access)


One classic design is my uncle's house, from about the 1910's. Picture it as a rectangle 3 squares wide, 2 squares deep, with porches front and back, and a smaller upper story with dormers:
- central front entry that leads to central stairs, parlor to R, dining room to L;
- off back entry beside/under stairs leads to kitchen (L by dining room), study and/or bathroom (R off parlor), outdoors/back porch.

Upstairs, bathroom (and any water storage tanks) can be over kitchen or parlor; bedrooms over parlor and rest of floor area. The 'spare room' or study can double as a guest room; in my uncle's house the parlor is a large living room, and the study has a folding door that allows it to enlarge the parlor (or serve as a giant TV console, with the office computer facing the room). There is a fireplace against the exterior wall in the parlor, but routine heating is with a basement furnace.

This design allows a loop (kitchen to hall to dining) that opens into the backyard play space and covered porch, but does not include the parlor (adult hangout).
Back kitchen and back porch lead onto garden, easy transfer of greywater from back of house to garden if desired. Deep porch where produce can be processed, outdoor picnics laid out.

Depending on orientation, front or back porch, or a side porch, can be a sunny spot for zone 1 plants as well as mud-room, people-watching, etc.
My uncle's lot is narrow, faces west, slopes toward the street, so there is sunny garden space in both front and back. The back is mostly trees. Friendly neighbors have built backyard gates between the yards for kid and party access.
A masonry garage down at street level also makes a warm thermal mass wall for heat-loving vines and tomatoes.

Nice, classic setup.

For myself, I'm working with an 800 sf cottage, and plotting a 550 sf apartment over the shop. Weird-shaped spaces may take several tries to get a sensible nesting of functions, without leaving unusable corners.

So many possibilities....
There is no such thing as a perfect house, but many that work well.

The oldest inhabited houses are those that have accommodated the family from cradle to grave, in extended clans and bachelor farmers, in many configurations over time.
Water closets are recent, even more than the attached garage (or byre); the need for air, light, shelter, food storage, and privacy are ancient.

What you are sheltering from changes by season and region, but not much over generations (cold, heat, muggy stillness, hurricanes, mosquitoes, warring or nosy neighbors).
How big a food storage you need, the level of privacy, and the routine activities, change.

One of my favorite design tools is looking for the oldest preserved houses in a given region - and if it's a dried-up museum, take a snoop around at any still-inhabited old homes nearby.

I also like the idea of a lopsided duplex, or two-family home, as a more practical unit for long-term ownership than the single-family home.
A nuclear family goes between two main sizes: two to three adults, and a passal of active kids-and-adults. The family group bulges at generational intervals like a snake eating eggs.
The big house is for the big phase of family life.
A smaller cottage or granny flat is handy for the other phases, especially if there's enough privacy that it could also be rented out to friends or strangers when available.

In this culture we would expect privacy: designated separate kitchens, separate entrances, soundproof bedroom walls, a policy of non-interference, and lines of demarcation between public areas and Very Private I Mean It.

Old long houses (very similar designs whether Norse, Tlingit, some other northern peoples) might have firepits in the main gallery, cupboard-beds or curtained benches along the sides, but much less auditory privacy.
On ships, there are conventions for personal space even though everyone can hear everything: a place you can party and hang out during meals and off-duty (galley, common room), places for quiet company (chart room / library). If you see anyone in their bunk, or somewhere else but off-duty, they are signalling for privacy and you leave them alone.

Awareness of others, and interference with others, are two different things. Privacy can come from being non-visible or non-audible, from keeping secrets close to your chest, from having belongings undisturbed. But security may also mean having someone check on you if they hear a thump and then silence, or having neighbors within shouting distance if you are attacked by burglars or wild beasts. There are few layouts that can offer real (hidden) privacy for an activity like sex, while preserving the 'shout for help' or 'ominous thump' caretaking functions.
In permaculture we try to be very aware and observant of all the patterns around us, but we don't need to interfere, or to make other housemates uncomfortable by insisting that their patterns are our business.

-E
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