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Law of Permaculture Thermodynamics

 
Posts: 35
Location: Colbert, WA
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This experiment I have started with lasagna gardening, straw bale gardening and hugelkultur beds has started me thinking about getting old and the means to address it, while still growing in and maintaining a sustainable permaculture garden.
One of the principles of permaculture is what I call the Law of Permaculture Thermodynamics, i.e.- conservation of energy. This says that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it can change forms. As we get older, we have less energy available to do heavy lifting, digging and construction. It changes though from kinetic into other forms. It changes into lethargy, inertia, potential, and wishful energy. We keep less and less kinetic even if we are active in our "golden" years.
In this vein, whatever I design for the garden, whatever approach I take toward planting is not for conditions that exist today or tomorrow or even 2 years from now. It is for conditions that may, and in some cases, will exist in 10 years, or 20 or 30. Torie has already had 1 knee replaced about 5 years ago with a 10 year knee. My shoulders are starting to feel the wear as is one knee. If I am down for days or weeks, all hard physical labor in the garden and on the farm stops. Same to a lesser degree goes for Torie. She is critical to the operation of the farm.
So, I am experimenting with designs that we can live, and grow with. Raised beds, whether hugel, straw bale, lasagna or box gardens can minimize bending and stooping are going to become more important. Planting nut and fruit trees along trails and paths that are easily accessible is important. Fortunately we will still have the tractor but if diesel goes to $10 or $15 per gallon or more, it's use will be drastically curtailed and it will be back to the wheel barrow and buckets. Resources will have to become closer and closer to the point where they will need to used.
This gerontological gardening as I call it(old folks getting dirty- picture that!), is,in my opinion, not being addressed enough in the permaculture world. Granted, permaculture design describes methods to minimize outside inputs and energy expenditures while maximizing outputs. But the elderly need focused attention put to techniques that will benefit them(us).
 
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I like the train of thought. I have often thought that we should prepare for old age in many ways when we are younger. One idea I had is that the young should spend some time on a motorized scooter that so many old people end up in at some point in life. Mostly because you learn quicker when you are young and you dont lose those skills when you are old. So if you got used to things like scooters while young you would already have that skillset when older. Not to mention that a permaculture scooter with a little trailer on the back would be pretty hardcore.
 
pollinator
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I have seen many older people slowly run a business and home into the ground because they were unwilling or unable to find younger people to help them. Those people need to be paid.
 
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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Permaculture does take this into account thru the use of zones and design considerations. I just looked up espalier trees in my permaculture notes yesterday because my husband saw two apple trees with large root balls but extremely narrow tops installed at a house.

I think this comes from the Yankee Permaculture pamphlet:

Note that observing the apple tree in a wild state gives us one more design option. Not everyone has a forest or shelter belt. An elderly person may not want to climb apple trees at the edge of a forest to harvest, but find that a small, espalier tree growing up the face of his or her house is very suitable. While the actual labor per apple is high, the time may be incidental to other activities, such as enjoying the garden, watching over infant grandchildren playing in a sandbox, or simply pinched going out to the mail box and back. The labor is very light. And if it is not taken from other activities, but merely done incidental to other activities, the actual lost time in labor is zero, again an infinite yield per hour lost to preferred activities. Furthermore, if one enjoys caring for an apple tree, possibly a pleached arbor over a back door walk to an outdoor eating area, the labor is actually a yield, so long as we design the amount of work required within the limits of pleasure.

 
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Along the lines of a motorized scooter, is a riding mower.

I often see used ones going quite cheap on Craigs List.
The secret is finding one with a decent motor, but with a mower unit that has problems. Should be a bit cheaper.
Remove the mower unit, and you gain some ground clearance, and reduce some weight (goes further on a gallon of fuel). Don't buy one that doesn't have a tow-hitch built in. I have seen those tow able garden carts going for $25-50 on CL. Great way for transporting bulky/heavy items around the farmstead.

As far as hiring younger labor, start building relationships with neighbors who have young kids. When these kids get into 4-H, they will become great assistants for chicken yard, and other homestead chores. Part of their payment could be in chicks, (or piglets) raised for show in the various exhibitions. Children raised in a 4-H environment may be more useful to you on a homestead than the 'casual labor' that you will find in town. Plus, you are helping the next generation instead of enabling the town drunk.

As wonderful as a grape arbor is in your youth, it can become an Eden in older years. A wonderful place to get some quality outdoor time for much of the year, regardless of your climate. Make it large enough so that you can have a picnic table and some comfortable chairs. Perhaps even some lamps and a college dorm sized refrigerator. The more time spent there in the nicer weather months, the longer you can delay the onset of 'cabin fever'. Cabin fever can lead to lethargy and depression, both of which are more harmful to aged folks. You need to get plenty of healthy outdoor time when the weather permits.

 
garden master
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Interesting. I'm middle aged and in good health (if poor physical condition) but a lot of my interest in food forestry has to do with the notion of improving our quality of life in our declining years in a world that may involve a lot more poverty, food insecurity, and wild weather. Making my food forest scooterable is a longer-term goal; but I really love the notion of repurposed riding mowers, which are a bit more rugged.

As part of our ongoing eldercare obligations we were actually in a scooter shop last month where they had a golf-cart sized scooter with a trailer hitch and a cargo trailer. At inflated Medicare prices it was the cost of a small car, but they are out there!
 
Diabalein Avidyia
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Dan Boone wrote: Making my food forest scooterable is a longer-term goal; but I really love the notion of repurposed riding mowers, which are a bit more rugged.



One advantage for the scooters is they are electric and thus can be charged on solar. Riding mowers are usually gas powered. I suspect there are probably a couple potential options out there, hell a good old Quad is a purpose built machine for this kind of work...figure out how to make one electric and you are set.
 
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Location: Fennville MI
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Diabalein Avidyia wrote:

Dan Boone wrote: Making my food forest scooterable is a longer-term goal; but I really love the notion of repurposed riding mowers, which are a bit more rugged.



One advantage for the scooters is they are electric and thus can be charged on solar. Riding mowers are usually gas powered. I suspect there are probably a couple potential options out there, hell a good old Quad is a purpose built machine for this kind of work...figure out how to make one electric and you are set.



Electric UTV's are out there now. Wheaton Laboratories has tried at least one. there were some fairly significant discussions/reviews in some of the threads over there. No need to invent that wheel
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Fennville MI
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In many ways this discussion is very close to home. I am 58 years old. I am also, by some measures, in the best physical condition of my life and I have not spent my life on the couch
But building our homestead is work that is ahead of us. Lots of work. Lots of heavy work. And so I run a few times a week, and I split logs and move timber and shovel dirt on the weekends. I try and do yoga and get my wife to do it too, but that''s pretty inconsistent right now

Point being, I know full well that I have a hard road ahead, one that has daunted younger men. So, there's planning to deal with the idea that I won't always be able to move ten foot oak logs 18 inches in diameter by myself, that shoveling tons of stuff isn't always going to be a couple of hours in the morning, and so on.

But, this is one of the guiding concepts in Permaculture, isn't it? We put in the heavy work at the front end, so as to make the subsequent processes self-replicating, self-perpetuating, easy to maintain.

Yes, it needs to be planned - and of course it should be in the designer's mind as they look at the land - what do we want this to be, not just next year, but thirty years from now?
 
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