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Permaculture: A Designers' Manual - Chapter 4 PATTERN UNDERSTANDING  RSS feed

 
Burra Maluca
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Chapter 4 PATTERN UNDERSTANDING

4.1 Introduction
4.2 A general pattern model of events
4.3 Matrices and the strategies of compacting and complexing components
4.4 Properties of media
4.5 Boundary conditions
4.6 The harmonics and geometries of boundaries
4.7 Compatible and incompatible borders and components
4.8 The timing and shaping of events
4.9 Spirals
4.10 Flow over landscape
4.11 Open flow and flow patterns
4.12 Toroidal phenomena
4.13 Dimensions and potentials
4.14 Closed (sperical) models; accretion and expulsion
4.15 Branching and its effects; conduits
4.16 Orders of magnitude in branches
4.17 Orders and dimensions
4.18 Classification of events
4.19 Time and relativity in the model
4.20 The world we live in as a tessellation of events
4.21 Introduction to pattern applications
4.22 The tribal use of patterning
4.23 The mnemonics of meaning
4.24 Patterns of society
4.25 The arts in the service of life
4.26 Additional pattern applications
4.27 References and further reading
4.28 Designers' checklist
 
Cj Sloane
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Pattern understanding is like a marriage of science and the woo woo factor. One of it's offspring is the Fibonacci series (section 4.9) which is useful for permaculturalists ...and stock traders.
 
Ann Torrence
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Five thoughts on chapter 4
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"Where the boundary itself is difficult to pass, where it represents a trap or net, or have no ability to do so, accumulations may occur at the boundary" [p 78] reminded me of Gary Nabhams’s story of being taken down to a Tucson area river with a native elder to collect organic material after a rain storm. The riverbed looked scoured clean, but the elder knew the right type of bend in the river that would trap and collect the stuff he wanted for his garden beds. Gary’s price for field knowledge was paid in use of truck and shovel. Sorry I can’t remember the source for that story.
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"Patterning is the way we frame our designs, the template into which we fit the information, entities and objects assembled from observation, map overlays, the analytic divination of connections and the selection of specific materials and technologies." [p 94] Real caution is necessary to avoid the human frailty of trying to force the data to fit the pattern rather than changing the intellectual framework to fit the circumstances. If things don’t make sense in the selected pattern, it might be time to look for a different pattern rather than dismiss the data point as a fluke. Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit the pattern you want to impose, the data drives the outcomes.
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RE: Phenomenological time [p98] Mollison gives an example from an Australian Aborigninal culture, but one of my favorite North American field guides is a treasure of these connections. Rocky Mountain Wildflowers by Craighead, Craighead and Davis (1991) is full of gems like this in the description of the serviceberry: "About the time this shrub blooms, new velvety antlers of moose are developing and Rocky Mt. Bighorn ewes are lambing."
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I would add to the further reading section a book by Kimberly Elan, Geometry of Design (2001), which has fascinating examples of geometric patterning in everyday objects, typography and commercial art over many decades.
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I had a hard time finding the link from the theoretical beginning of the chapter to the application. Mollison's attempt to define a unified theory of natural patterns was interesting, but he didn't tie in how to use his theory of why natural has these designs into how to select the appropriate one for your framework. If you want to cut to the chase, you are anxious to get to the meat of applied design as it relates to getting your trees in the ground, the salient points of action of this chapter are in the last 4 paragraphs. I can make it even shorter: 1) study patterns; 2) minimize waste space; 3) maximize edge effects; 4) select patterns to direct energies within context of zones and sectors.

edited to disambiguate the emoticons from page references
 
Desirea Holton
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This chapter hurt my visually-oriented brain. Too many big words about pictures and not enough embedded YouTube videos. When he got to the parts I recognized, like herb spirals and edge, I was right there with him. But then he'd go off into the more complicated (yet probably no less important) things and I couldn't stop myself from skimming...a lot. I think a reread is in order.
 
wayne stephen
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This chapter demonstrates two things to me . One , proven models and designs are necessary to the neophyte since considering pattern at this level would melt your brain . Second , documenting ones successes and failures for future trials and generations is even more important . If your success or failure was due to any of these patterning effects how would you know ? All in all , the concepts laid out in chapter 4 are exquisite and therefore contain truth .

For those visually oriented types [ myself included ] I will embed a youtube video previously posted by Burra . This young lady has a bright future in store if she elects to become a Permaculture Pattern Consultant :



When you get time check out Parts 2 and 3 .
 
Burra Maluca
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Here's part 2



And part 3



And an introduction to a few ideas in the book The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature



And toby hemenway is into patterns, too.

 
wayne stephen
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wayne stephen
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Chapter 4.19 Time and Relativity in the Model :

"As we see the seed as the origin of the tree , so we can broaden our view , and our dimensions , and view the tree as the current time-focus of its own geneology . Before it in time lie its ancestors , and after it is progeny . It lies on the plane between past and future , and { like the seed } determines by its expression the forms of both , and is determined by them . Just as the stem of the tree now encapsulates its history as smaller and smaller growth rings , so universal time encapsulates the tree in its own evolutionary history ."

Just when you think the book is veering off into woo-woo land it is very easy to do a quick search and find the ecology science parallels to this poetic statement :

"In the 1990s in the latter part of his career H.T. Odum together with David M. Scienceman developed the ideas of emergy, as a specific use of the term Embodied energy. Some consider the concept of "emergy", sometimes briefly defined as "energy memory", as one of Odum's more significant contributions. However the concept is neither free from controversy, and not without its critics. Odum looked at natural systems as having been formed by the use of various forms of energy in the past: "emergy is a measure of energy used in the past and thus is different from a measure of energy now. The unit of emergy (past available energy use) is the emjoule to distinguish it from joules used for available energy remaining now." This was then conceived as a principle of maximum empower which might explain the evolution of self-organising open systems. However such a principle has not been empirically demonstrated nor verified by the scientific community."

So , if I am understanding this properly the tree contains the embedded energy of its ancestors and will pass them on to its progeny . It is not just using the energy currently supplied by the sun but has also carried forward the spark of life into the present . That would make seeds , biomass - living and dead - fauna and flora [including us] parts of a biological power plant and energy storage system . Maybe this adds weight to the statement : "yield has no limits".

 
Paul Cereghino
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It makes me so happy to see random groups of people chewing on the big book.

Toby's video above is talking about some great 1960s architecture work by Alexander et al... http://www.stewardshipinstitute.info/wiki/index.php?title=A_Pattern_Language

A lot of that thinking came out of stuff like Feibleman's seminal Theory of Integrative Levels... http://www.stewardshipinstitute.info/wiki/index.php?title=Nested_systems

This is all mainstream pre-Mollison thinking, and the stew from which Mollison emerged.

So what amazes me about Pattern, is the quest for a generalized theory of how function follows shape... however pure pattern in natural systems seems to emerge from complex systems only rarely... we are surrounded by a few great examples, but most systems are full of whisps and whispers of patterns.

Modern ecologists commonly reference a process-structure-function triad. (See [See p2 in Simenstad et al 2006]). Because of what we are, we focus on structures--the things we can see. However the structures emerge from processes, which actually drive formation of structure. This leads to identification of "process domain", or recognition that different places are dominated by different physical and biological processes--wind, tides, river flood, fire, herbivory, etc.

So the pattern or structure emerges from the energy of place. So I suspect that the placement of pattern depends on accurate recognition of the process environment. If you build a sand castle on a beach it is an aberration in a place ruled by wave energy combined with tidal saturation. It doesn't matter if it is a spiral or a rectangle. So by focusing on pattern and using pattern to control process and function, we may be putting the cart before the horse, because the pattern must respond to dominant processes of a place. Pattern can shape process, and process results in emergent patterns, but you cannot escape the reality of your process domain.

I don't know what this means in detail, and I am still seeking generalization about patterns like grid, dendrite, spiral, wave, overbeck jet etc, but I think any discussion of pattern, and pattern effect, begins with recognition of the processes your are imagining you might be engaging.

For example the tree model occurs at the intersection of air and earth... but the processes are energy flow down, and nutrient/water flow up. It seems like the dendritic pattern is about distribution and diffusion or collection (in the case of river basins). I'd be interested in more detailed observations of patterns and the processes they reflect. Physiologically, what exacly is it that a spiral does for a snail, and what does that mean for design.

 
Burra Maluca
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Paul Cereghino wrote: Physiologically, what exacly is it that a spiral does for a snail, and what does that mean for design.



You might find this quote from The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature interesting.

The logarithmic spiral has the unique property that the curve is everywhere 'similar', differing in size but not in shape. In other words, as the curve rotates through a fixed angle, it grows uniformly in scale. This, and the description above, help us to see what are the fundamental generating mechanisms of such a form. Some things remain constant, for example the angular speed of the curve's tip, and the shape of the curve, while other things, for example the linear (tangential) speed of the tip, change in a well-defined way. We can then generate a form like this by proposing that the deposition of new fabric at the shell's rim follows a growth mechanism that produces these characteristics. A mechanism of this sort that generates a three-dimensional mollusc shell with the cross-section of a logarithmic spiral is as follows: the existing shell rim provides a template on which new shell material is laid down, so it stays the same shape, but the rim is expanded in scale at a constant rate. If, in addition, the growth happens initially to be slightly faster on one side of the embryonic rim than the other, this imbalance is maintained proportionately as the shell gets bigger, and it curves into a spiral. It does not take too much imagination to see that a mechanism like this is a rather 'natural' one to be expected from a creature making a shell that needs to keep pace with its own growth, and doesn't require any mysterious geometrical knowledge or an ability to figure out what on earth equation 1.2 means. The imbalance that leads to spiral growth could come from any source - any imbalance will produce a logarithmic spiral. If there is no imbalance, the shell instead has a cone shape, just as one can find in some species of mollusc.


This link might be interesting if you are into spirals and algorithms.

And if ever I write about math or pattern, I simply have to share this video. You don't need to know anything about math to appreciate the beauty in this, just watch it and enjoy.

 
Cj Sloane
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Burra Maluca wrote:You don't need to know anything about math to appreciate the beauty in this, just watch it and enjoy.


But I do get a little extra enjoyment recognizing the Fibonacci series in the beginning of the vid.
 
Janet Dowell
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I'm glad to know others have struggled with the text in this chapter. I have largely felt lost through most of it. I haven't had the chance to watch the videos posted above, but will get to them tomorrow. Thanks for those!

I have kept up with the reading, so am very glad for this group....I am motivated to keep up with the schedule! Chapter 5 starts on Sunday...has gone fast so far!
 
Paul Cereghino
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to be expected from a creature making a shell that needs to keep pace with its own growth


So this is getting me closer for a spiral. It is used for a system that is expanding, where as it expands it has a capacity for more growth.

Perhaps food forest plantings can spiral, as your load of cuttings, layers and divisions increases as your forest size increases, but by using a spiral you minimize edge as you expand into (in my case) eurasian grasses that I am trying to replace. It sounds beautiful, but it just doesn't hold water when it comes to doing the work.

I think the trouble with the Pattern chapter, is that Mollison felt it would be important, but didn't exactly know how it would be important. He points at a bunch of evidence that process-pattern is critical, but doesn't actually have a robust theory of pattern to offer us. I get the pretty pictures, and most of the math, but I don't see the direct application.

I suspect that pattern needs to be revisited in terms of sector analysis (and my comments above on process domain). Pattern results from a dynamic... a process. So sector analysis is the consideration of the processes that are moving thorough your site. The scalloped edge maximizes solar gain, and so the scallop or parabola pattern is part of the response to the sun sector--WHERE SUN IS IMPORTANT due to climate and your process domain, is limited by sunlight.

This makes me think about one of Mollison's comments in the In Context interview... where he suggests-- do one thing right. I suspect that "one thing right" depends a lot on the place you are working (desert, tropical, cold, flooded...) and if your founding pattern matches the processes that dominate and drive life on your patch of earth... it reminds me of when I am responding to a person trying to grow eden in the desert... and the one thing right is all about water... if you mess up on the water you are doomed, and so the founding pattern should have something to do with gathering and maximizing use of water, like the net and pan pattern.
 
Burra Maluca
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Janet Dowell wrote:
I have kept up with the reading, so am very glad for this group....I am motivated to keep up with the schedule! Chapter 5 starts on Sunday...has gone fast so far!


We're actually going to have 'catch-up week' next week. Quite a few people, including myself, seem to be a bit behind on the reading, and chapter 4 has been a bit 'heavy'! Hopefully we can use that week for pulling our ideas together and sharing them. Also it gives any latecomers a chance to catch up, too.
 
Elissa Teal
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Burra Maluca wrote:

We're actually going to have 'catch-up week' next week. Quite a few people, including myself, seem to be a bit behind on the reading, and chapter 4 has been a bit 'heavy'! Hopefully we can use that week for pulling our ideas together and sharing them. Also it gives any latecomers a chance to catch up, too.


Oh, good! I actually have just started reading the book and am only on chapter 2. Had a busy January so far and am just now finding time to do some digging in!
 
Emily Aaston
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I managed to make it through this chapter. I feel that much of it went over my head. But I do feel like I have a renewed appreciation for pattern. I would like to find one of those big coffee-table books filled with colorful, beautiful aerial photos of natural landscapes. I also spend a great deal of time hiking and feel now that I will spend more time noticing patterns and would like to take lots of pattern photos and create a file to reference when I begin my design process.
 
Erica Wisner
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This chapter was the first place I started to see more obsverations than opinions.

I think condensing everything into one central pattern is a bit much - it will make the one or two critical types of natural phenomena that don't fit seem like orphans, while masking the differences between phenomena that do fit on the model. But it is definitely a rich model.

I liked the examples of actual patterns from nature. I would have liked more photos and real examples, rather than abstract drawings.

I think he was slightly off on understanding what the dendrite pattern (branches) means. He placed some cosmic significance on the "origin" - confusing the reference of a Cartesian "origin" or coordination point with the "source" meaning of the word origin. A tree doesn't necessarily originate at its trunk - which may seem like a weird thing to say, but it's true.
We have junipers in eastern Oregon that are dozens of centuries old, and they "walk" away from their point of origin. It is true that the seed usually happens to fall on the air/earth boundary, but we also have nurse logs in Western Oregon where the seed sprouts ten feet off the ground, then sends down roots that eventually become branched trunks when the nurse log rots away.
Mycorrhizal mats also move and shift; slime molds may grow more branches or trunks near a new resource, letting old ones atrophy.
The trunk is just the area where flow is happening more, and the branches where diffusion (resource gathering, resource dispersal) is more balanced with flow. Depending on where the flow is happening, a river can easily cut a new bed, turning a once-central route into a stagnant oxbow.

It's not generated from a trunk, or from its edges; it's a relationship between both.
(The Maori tell folks trying to document their family tree never to start with themselves. If you only know your mom, start with your mom. If you know an older ancestor, start as far back as you can. Putting yourself at the origin is not a good practice; it encourages a lack of humility.)

Dendrite patterns are a relationship between flow / confluence (things coming together) and diffusion / dispersal. Raindrops create runnels even where no stream is present. The stream bed does grow over time; but it can also meander and diffuse back into branches (estuarine and beach sand patterns) as it deposits.

One of my favorite examples of diffusion density and beautiful patterns is snowflakes:


Snowflake shape depends on the availability of water vapor (supersaturation), the temperature (affects crystal formation), and the previous shape of the snowflake (accumulation). Because the pointy bits stick out more, they smack into more water molecules, and build up faster. So each snowflake's shape is a report of the conditions along its entire, tumbling, looping path through a particular cloud system at a particular string of moments in time.

Note that when resources are scarce - when the cloud is below saturation, so water is both depositing and evaporating from the crystal - we get much simpler shapes. Only when the region is super-saturated, favoring rapid accumulation, do we get these branching shapes.

But we also have weird regions of simplification like the "columns" band between the two dendrite areas (-5 to -15 C roughly).
And big transitions like the freezing point; we don't get any snowflakes above freezing, because the crystalline structure of water suddenly becomes irrelevant.
There are whole other sets of names for partly-melted frozen water, like hail, graupel, sleet, slush, etc. And weird patterns that happen in melting snowbanks, for that matter.

These branching shapes - whether in three-dimensional trees, two-and-a-half dimensional landscapes and snowflakes, or two-dimensional crackle patterns, have a lot of nuance.
Although they may favor certain relationships (I loved learning about the 3.6:1 ration for stable eddy trails), they do not rigorously comply with them. A stream doesn't slow its flow down to make the 3.6 ratio - the eddies just spin off in an unstable fashion, rather than forming a stable standing wave.

Blood vessels, rivers, and other branching flow patterns have to accommodate a very specific particle size at the terminal point. Rivers accomodate the raindrop, or even the water molecule/ condensation droplet in dew-driven systems.
For blood vessels, this is the blood cell. If the blood cells can't get back to point A, it's not a circulation system. So at the end, they are very tiny loops. The cells themselves may feast on diffused chemicals that could be absorbed from cul-de-sacs, but the blood cells have to circulate. A creature without blood cells (like mycorrhizae) can circulate nutrients through the entire structure; the structure itself becomes both trunk and branches. I suspect the main vessels can elongate, too, if there is a big distance between the media the two branch systems are trying to integrate (lungs / toes for blood, air / earth for trees). All kinds of fancy amendments, like incomplete cell walls between mycorrhizal cells (with complete walls along the outside of the filament), can allow living organisms to 'stretch' the rules and achieve a better transmission of vital nutrients along a gradient that they occupy.

So is a branching structure truly appropriate for a garden?
Keyhole beds are terribly cute, and I've enjoyed making and using them. But there are some things to be said for rows, or at least for straight paths. Deer trails make straighter paths between key resources (water, rich food) and meandering ones among diffuse resources. In my garden, being able to swing the gate open, and the path between the house (harvester approaches / food scraps returned), the barn (manures), and the water source in the garden, are pretty important areas to have clear.

Other areas might be meandery, but the topography is going to be more important than a theoretical 'diffusion' of my access - for example, the pine and aspen logs in my hugel beds are roughly straight, and stack densest when they are in a rough line. If I had curvy old oak branches, I could make arcs or meanders. The contour of my garden is also important; paths and terraces might be a defining factor.

And just how small should those terminal cul-de-sacs be?
What's the unit of flow in the garden?
If the unit were always one wheelbarrow, well, a cul-de-sac where you can dump the wheelbarrow and then back out might be useful.
If the unit is my footprint, then stepping-stones can serve as keyholes. But sometimes I step, sometimes I crouch down to weed (my butt is regrettably bigger than my foot.)
The unit of access varies too. Sometimes I pick a few tomatoes and greens for salad. Sometimes I can harvest a bushel of tomatoes from 1 cul-de-sac, but at other points in the season I might need to visit 3 or more beds before I fill a container.
If the unit of flow also includes very small particles (like irrigation water), then being able to overlay a diffuser (sprinkler, sprayer, drip tape which tends to be linear) for that size of unit is important. I've heard that keyhole beds are hard to irrigate, and I'm experimenting with integrating them with hugel moisture retention...

In general, I think the optimal path configuration in a garden may be more like deer trails or terraces rather than cul-de-sacs. So often I visit the garden with interlaced errands - yes some errands repeat, like I often come from the house; but some days I return promptly; more often I spot chores and spend a few minutes or hours; other days, I continue across the garden to check on the other parts of the yard (barn, workshop).
Cul-de-sacs work great for lots of particles flowing from privacy/diffusion (commuters returning home) to a central route (highways and urban centers), but are not that easy to observe or circulate through at human scale. In fact they somewhat discourage observation; their 'privacy' element is quite strong.
It's not a one-way path, or even a true back-and-forth path. It's a meander, like a labyrinth; it overlays itself into a net, like deer trails; and certain 'trunk' routes are important (water, wheelbarrow, my own daily path taking me past key observation points).

In places where human settlement has reached some stable density over time, or where cultures have discovered an optimal group size for survival in each season, we can see some distinct patterns emerge.
I think one reason why permaulculture as a "design science" is so popular in the US and Australia is that we have radically disrupted settlement patterns. We don't have access to 300-year farm journals showing the results of previous experiments, or 900-year-old farmhouses with the oast-houses converted into an art studio. We have instead an unfamiliar territory, and an ongoing expansion of human settlement eating into that territory without patterns for sustainable relationships.

We can carry a 'design science' with us to all kinds of unfamiliar regions. If we want the privilege of creating from "nothing," wherever we can afford to buy a tract of land, then design is a good way to think of our strategies. But no environment is "nothing". We never start with a blank page. Learning to observe what we start with is a really critical skill, one our culture has downplayed for centuries.

It takes a culture a long time to develop those optimized designs we call 'traditional' architecture.
We mis-use that word for 'conventional' or 'fashionable'; the California Ranch house layout is not traditional, it's a recent innovation made popular by fashion images. Even a pioneer home is not necessarily sustainable - it's merely replicatable, and almost assumes the opposite (pioneering settlements can be seen as an indication that the mother culture's pattern of settlement is not sustainable; it produces excess people and demands constant inputs of new territory).
The Cape Cod saltbox, Hebrides black house, or Tlingit longhouse are traditional structures, with a known function in a known region over a period that includes at least a certain amount of feedback from local climate, energy, and ecological resources.

The pattern of "new" settlements, no matter how carefully designed, is not a sustainable pattern... unless it includes some element of abandoning or deconstructing "old" settlements at the same rate.

Design for eventual decay seems like a crucial element.

Design for complete biodegradability is huge: if fish and plankton and crabs eat your sewage, and you would not want to eat that fish, you should find a better way to sort your sewage. (Hint: Heavy metals, radioactivity, and persistent chemical compounds are not tasty food.)
There's some big stuff going on at the land/ocean interface. Fresh water is important to conserve; there's a reality that things lost downhill won't come up again on their own (like the hunter's lesson about never shooting downhill in case you might hit something you'd have to carry back out).
But that's all the more reason to respect the species and individuals who work the gradient backwards, like salmon, and eagles, that carry nutrients inland vast distances. Interrupting an upward flow, or a reverse-gradient flow, is immensely destructive. Right up there with destroying delicate soils, and deforesting areas that are on the edge of the forest / savannah / desert moisture boundary.

Unfortunately we don't know what all these flows are; we don't always have the background to anticipate the consequences of local actions. We in the US and Australia have very short local memory, and a dim view at best of anything pre-industrial. We often apply a pattern from one bioregion to another without any recognition that the environment may dictate appropriateness.
A lot of the Old World has better memory, or longer records. True, some of those memories calcify imbalanced resource flows, like the minerals flowing away from Africa and the Americas toward Europe and China. But they also calcify traditional rights and relationships that may predate the constant energy imbalances of the industrial (coal and petroleum) age.
Researching local patterns before designing in a new location seems like a huge advantage, and one that is under-emphasized as permaculture often considers itself 'superior' to existing local knowledge. Compare current local patterns with historic or pre-historic patterns for more insight, but don't ignore local knowledge.

I've started concurrently studying basic biology again, and some ecology texts, and getting outside more: looking for practical context for the design abstractions.

Yay winter reading binges!

-EKW
note: edited to make the diagram actually appear
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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I have always liked both the Mollison lecture above and this lecture about patterns:
 
Burra Maluca
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A few thoughts on paths and patterns.

This is a map of the roads in the area I spent the first 35 years of my life, taken from this site.



The main routes are shown in red - they roughly follow the paths of least resistance, along the river valleys.

Between the main roads are little roads, which join them, and between the little roads are lesser roads. And, not shown on this map, are footpaths. Together they make a reticulated network - you can, for the most part, get to anywhere from anywhere.

I thought all roads worked like this.

When I moved to Portugal there were no available maps for the smaller roads, so I set about exploring them on foot, following my usual technique of just keep turning one way until I either come back to where I started or hit a bigger road. I hit a few problems, as the roads are laid out differently here.



Everyone tends to live in villages and own land further afield. They don't tend to walk from place to place just for the fun of it, they stay in their village unless they are going to their land. Each bit of land is accessible by a road, but people go to it and then return. Land seems to be owned mostly by the inhabitants of the village whose roads go to that land (did that make sense?) and the roads ended up making something like a river-drainage pattern. Like the one below, taken from this site.



And of course the pattern is the same because the 'function' is the same - to access (or drain) each bit of land. But it only has to be accessed/drained from (or to) one direction. Each bit of land needs to be accessed, and water from each bit of land needs to drain. And what really 'got' me was when I saw a council map of the area, which showed both water-courses and roads - here the roads stick on high, dry land which the rivers obviously form on the low land, so you end up with a double pattern of inder-digitating drainage/access patterns. It's really pretty, but I don't have a copy to show you.

It reminds me of the circulatory system - arteries actively supplying all cells of the body, then veins collecting all the fluids up and transporting them passively back to the heart.
 
Cj Sloane
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Burra Maluca wrote: Together they make a reticulated network - you can, for the most part, get to anywhere from anywhere.


Then there's the famous line a New Englander gives when asked directions:
Ya can't git thar, frum here.


So I wonder if there's a Portuguese version of that saying. Certainly, the landscape has a dramatic effect on culture.
 
Paul Cereghino
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I am really enjoying hearing other people testing permaculture concepts in detail. Two ideas and a proposal...

THE PATTERN WE BELIEVE, MAY NOT BE THE PATTERN THAT IS - For example both Erica and Burra mentioned the implied return in some dedritic systems but not others. For example a river dendrite only serves to drain (except where anadromous fish bring oceanic nutrients up stream). However the greater the absorption (the net pattern of fallen rotten logs in the forest), the fewer channels are necessary for drainage, and the more productive the system, and so dendrites are (mostly) one way systems affected by patterns at either end...

FUNCTION MAY COME FROM NESTED PATTERNS - the dendritic flow of oxygen rich blood in an artery network ends in a net-like bed of tissue where the work occurs. Part of the function comes from the slowing and high level of contact in the tissue bed. In a dentritic circulatory pattern, there is a outgoing and an ingoing dendrite. How does pattern change incoming vs outgoing? What kind of nodes exist on incoming and outgoing. So in a garden path network the primary flow is nutrients out and in. Perhaps this translates with mulch and compost pickup and storage locations outgoing, and then a net pattern in the growing beds, which return to processing nodes on the return trip (that are back to back with the mulch dumps).

I think we need to spend more time unpacking patterns based on real case studies, and not be content just coming up with some simplistic explanations (that tend to end observation). Until we really test our conceptual understanding of pattern, I doubt they will provide much value in design.

I'd suspect three main pattern groups...

NETWORK PATTERNS - structures that convey flow. dendrite, net/grid, braided, node strength...

EDGE PATTERNS - structures that form between surfaces and systems. Straight --- various convolutions...

TEMPORAL PATTERNS - "structures" that form through the variation of activity over time. various regular and irregular pulses --- continuous
 
Michael Cox
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I've only just started this chapter, but I have to say that the opening section has left me cold. I read it over twice and just couldn't get what he was on about - too abstract and nebulous. I can cope with abstract but this all seemed just too tenuous. I'm hoping he swings back around to discussing practical implications as I'm finding it heavy going right now. Far cry from the previous 3 chapters that I couldn't put down and will be rereading at some point.
 
Michael Cox
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Ok, so I soldiered on - it got a bit better, but I stll struggled to see the applications for all the abstract verbiage.

Edges are good
So, one of the big messages here is that edges and boundaries are good and that both zones benefit where they come in contact. When he brought it down to the level of a forest/field boundary I was finally able to get my head around it. Animals/wind etc... effectively act as messengers transfering materials and nutrients between zones. Deer live in the trees but browse in the field boundaries, exchanging nutrients between regions.

Maximise edge effects
By avoiding straight lines you can maximise the edge effect in a given area - scalloped shapes in clearings act as sun traps and provide a more varied set of potential niches than a straight edge. Planting rows of different crops adjacent to each other maximises the edge effect between crops (eg strips of legume/grain). The herb spiral design on page 101, figure 4.30 is a good example of how using pattern creates a diverse set of conditions in a very small area.

I guess overall I've struggled to find the relevance of this chapter because the scale he is talking on seems vastly inappropriate for my conditions - flow forms of rivers are facinating and I can see this patterning being put to good use on large scales. But this isn't very applicable in the acre I'm looking at working in. I can see some thought going in to path planning, but again I'm limited to some extent by what is already present - we need a nice direct path from the door to the veggies and the compost heaps and there is then only limited scope for flexibility in the growing area itself.
 
Cj Sloane
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Michael Cox wrote:
I guess overall I've struggled to find the relevance of this chapter because the scale he is talking on seems vastly inappropriate for my conditions ...


The scale he's talking about is both macro and micro. The knowledge may help you one day or may not.

But... the information in this chapter is much more interesting in narrative form. A post of mine from Geoff's online PDC thread:

I have to say that there were things that Geoff mentioned in the PDC that are in the PDM which I had sort of glossed over when reading but were super interesting when told in narrative form.

Best example? Page 96, Figure 4.26.
"An experienced man lowers his testicular sac into the sea to accurately gauge water mass temperature."

Honestly, I may have glanced at the drawing and the text but it did not make the same impression at all as when Geoff explained that and the reasons for it!
 
Cj Sloane
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Before writing - all knowledge was communicated via pattern. It's easier to remember a song that rhymes than it is to remember info that doesn't (the facts in the PDM, for example).

The navigators of the Pacific would sing their way across the oceans - singing was the only way to remember the timing of the navigational changes. And if you really had to remember the song, they tattooed you while singing. And the most important messages were tattooed on to the most painful part of the body.

The PDM is a most of all a reference. Best used in conjunction to all the info you heard in your PDC. Why? Because we didn't get tattooed during our PDCs so we don't remember everything.

I'll never forget that image on page 96 - not because I read it or saw it, but because of Geoff's description of a man getting lowered into the ocean and saying "ooww - we're heading south" or "ahhh we're heading north" and everyone laughing.
 
Michael Cox
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On patterns - geoff lawton's latest video is out and he discusses using edge effects in a really harsh desert environment alternating food forest/windbreak/evaporation shelter strips with narrower foof crops alleys.

Thread discussing Geoff Lawtons Desert to Oasis video
 
Johnny Niamert
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I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter! Quite refreshing, and it was written 26 years ago, to boot! I wish someone would have handed me a copy when I was 8. Socio, political, religious, historical, scientific, philosophical aspects; all in a 'gardening' book. How enlightening. It's like the Ancient Aliens or Coast to Coast AM version of, simply stated, 'how to be a farmer'. My cup of tea!

I'm not an expert, but a student. For me, this is a model or philosophy of how he believes one should think in observing and practicing patterns in permaculture design. Not a set theory or 'how to do exactly what I've done', but more a guide on understanding principles. The worn out quote about fishing applies, IMO.... I believe Mollison is trying to teach you 'how to fish'; rather than simply giving you a fish, per se. I think he devoted an entire chapter to waxing philosophical on these things because he believes it is an important and lost form of thinking. I don't think there is a 'one size fits all' point to this chapter. Just as there is not the same for each unique geographic site. There is another quote, which I cannot repeat verbatim at the moment, which essentially goes: The point of a good teacher is not to fill your mind with facts and what they have previously learned; but to mold your mind to obtain facts and new knowledge of your own volition.... Something like that anyways.

"Permaculture itself acts as a translator between many disciplines, and brings together information from several areas. It can be described as a framework or pattern into which many forms of knowledge are fitted in relation to each other. Permaculture is a synthesis of different disciplines." I would say this is a manual on the "holistic" way to grow, to use a worn out term. You don't need to study one aspect, but bring together knowledge from many different aspects to properly practice. It's not as simple as 'conventional' ag. Not just soil chemistry, or NPK, or how much water and what pH, what climate or not, what kind of tractor, implement, or variety of seed, etc.

The micro/macro aspect that CJ recently posted about, the same notion that struck me in the face during Ch. 1, was again racing through the back of my mind while reading this chapter. "The universe, and this earth, behave as self-regulating and self-generated constructs, very much akin to a single organism or thought process." Fractals are infinitely repeating, at any scale. Go in closer for a better look, they will look the same as if you went further backwards and more distant. It's almost a chapter that could be the introduction to a quantum mechanics or astrophysics text.

I'm trying not to go off on a tangent but I think a lot of the, to use the popular term, "woo-woo" aspect is missing in today's thinking, understanding, and, ultimately, action of 'Western' societies. "A bird's-eye view of centralised and disempowered societies will reveal a strictly rectilinear network of streets, farms, and property boundaries. It is as though we have patterned the earth to suit our survey instruments [and profit margins] rather than to serve human or environmental needs." I think permaculture is yet another attempt to reunite humans with some of the lost knowledge of the more 'primitive' ancients, similar to the aforementioned Ancient Aliens type shows.

In today's cold, corporate, for-profit, dog-eat-dog, centralized, distant, 'scientific' world; a lot of energy, ancient knowledge, and "woo-woo stuff" has been lost. Whether it is by design, or by accident.
"Art [or I'm going to include "woo-woo" stuff] belongs to, and relates to, people. It is not a way to waste energy on resources for the few. Sacred calenders melted down to bullion or objets d'art are a degradation of generations of human effort and knowledge, and the sacred art of tribal people hidden in museum storerooms are a form of cultural genocide, removing knowledge from its context, and trivialising objects to decorations or loot.
Human information, as a tribal art form
[or "woo-woo"], is most frequently debased and destroyed less for monetary gain than for the replacement of public information by an exotic, secretive, irrelevant and basically uninformed centralised belief system. The fanatic cares not what is destroyed [or mocked] if it empowers the repressive hierarchy that is then imposed. Most tribal art has been burnt, looted, destroyed, and broken by invading belief systems, destroyed by those seeking secret power rather than open knowledge, or by those who are merely destructive. Book-burning and image-breaking is the reaction of the alienated or intellectually-depraved to the accumulated wisdom of its revelationary ancestors. We most damage ourselves when we destroy [or mock] information and aids to understanding."




Time to watch some vids. Thanks for posting the links, everyone.
 
Stuart Davis
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I was glad to hear of the “catch up week” as I too was finding it hard to get through this chapter. I have always understood the concept of edge. Pattern seems more mysterious. I much appreciated the videos that others posted. Thanks. For me, it helped clarify a few things. It seems that patterns are the result of some rule, law or process that takes place and therefore (in my opinion) the pattern may not be as important as the rule followed or the process developed.

For example, if one does swales on contour, a pattern emerges that can be quite beautiful but the designer did not necessarily think about the pattern but thought more about slowing water across the land and proceeded with a design based on this.

Another example is the spiral galaxy or vortex ring. If Mollison explained the underling law behind why a galaxy is shaped like a spiral, I missed it, given my lack of being able to focus on this chapter. However, a vortex and galaxy shape results from the law of conservation of angular momentum.

Here is another related video that hopefully will result in some insight into this chapter.
http://www.learner.org/vod/vod_window.html?pid=568
(if this link puts you into the Mechanical Universe main menu go down the page to lesson 19. Angular Momentum. Other lessons may apply as well such as lesson 16. Harmonic Motion)

I can think of at least one very purposeful good use of a vortex in permaculture - the vortex filter commonly used in aquaponic and pond systems.

While reading this chapter I was thinking of all the other stuff I needed to get done and I did learn some new things. However, I could not help but think that if I took the time and calm my mind there might be some very profound insights I could uncover. Perhaps I will revisit this someday in a more settled state.
 
Peter Ellis
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I keep having the feeling that Mollison is deliberately keeping it vague with patterns. He talks about their uses in aboriginal cultures for storing knowledge and conveying it, he talks about how patterns appear, in differing magnitudes, again and again throughout the universe, he gives us a few teasers about some pattern effects we can benefit from in our designs.

But I do not think he is presenting a design tool in the sense of "use this pattern here to do this and that pattern there to do that."

I think he is trying to get us to think in a different way, to see our world as interconnected and to recognize all the ways that everything is connected.

That perception will naturally aid us in seeing where nature's patterns fall into place on our land. He cannot tell us what to use, but he can tell us how to look at the world such that we will see for ourselves what to use.
 
Cj Sloane
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Stuart Davis wrote:
Another example is the spiral galaxy or vortex ring. If Mollison explained the underling law behind why a galaxy is shaped like a spiral, I missed it, given my lack of being able to focus on this chapter. However, a vortex and galaxy shape results from the law of conservation of angular momentum.



That was my first thought, but then I remember about the spirals/growth relationship. A quick look at the Angular_momentum page reveals much discussion about orbits, non on spirals.

So Mollison does say somewhere that spirals are growth patterns and it would then follow that if the galaxy is growing (expanding) it would make sense that it's a spiral.

So here's my question:
If growth is often depicted as a spiral, how is contraction depicted?

I don't know the answer but Fibonacci numbers are often seen/used in contraction. I wonder if it's just a spiral in the other direction?
 
Johnny Niamert
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Stuart Davis wrote:
I can think of at least one very purposeful good use of a vortex in permaculture - the vortex filter commonly used in aquaponic and pond systems.


Vortices are very important in biodynamics, as well.

Cj Verde wrote:
So here's my question:
If growth is often depicted as a spiral, how is contraction depicted?


Surprising Spiral Structure Found at Galaxy's Supermassive Black Hole

"ALMA has revealed a surprising spiral structure in the molecular gas close to the center of NGC 1433," says Françoise Combes (Observatoire de Paris, France), who is the lead author of the first paper. "This explains how the material is flowing in to fuel the black hole."

I would almost venture to say that it is just 'growth' in the opposite direction.

Cycles.
 
Miles Flansburg
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I have been enjoying paul stamets videos lately and he gets into patterns also.

When I was studying management I found a book that I thought was really interesting.

http://www.amazon.com/Leadership-New-Science-Discovering-Chaotic/dp/1576753441

This might also be helpful to those who are in communities and are looking into leadership functions.
 
Janet Dowell
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Is there a link to Chapter 5 up yet? Aren't we at the end of the week for Chapter 5 (e.g. aren't we supposed to start Chapter 6 tomorrow?) Or did I miss something (entirely possible)?

Thanks!

 
Burra Maluca
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Janet Dowell wrote:Is there a link to Chapter 5 up yet? Aren't we at the end of the week for Chapter 5 (e.g. aren't we supposed to start Chapter 6 tomorrow?) Or did I miss something (entirely possible)?



Here's the link to chapter 6 - Climatic Factors

I usually start them Sunday morning. That gives Saturdays for 'catching up' with the previous chapter and Sundays for getting into the new one. For all those poor souls who do five days a week Monday to Friday
 
Cj Sloane
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Burra, the link's not working.

***Edit*** lots of permies links not working but the amazon link above is. Hmmm.
 
Blythe Barbo
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I am having trouble keeping up with others on this thread, but I finally made it through this chapter. I felt it important to really grasp this chapter because I struggle with patterns in my own garden, which I am trying to convert to a more permaculture-type growing system.

A lot of Chapter 4 seemed a bit “out there” to me – I can appreciate patterns in the universe and in my regional watershed, but what about how it applies to my back (flat) 2 acres? I would love to have a labyrinth or a mandala – but they aren’t very practical to me. I need something that is quick to access, water, and move a wheelbarrow around. I can see how our little plot of land fits into the larger landscape and is influenced by the strong west winds from off the Pacific, but short of planting some windbreak species (which I have done), a lot of that is outside my control.

This particular paragraph stood out to me because it summarizes WHY using patterns is important, even on a small scale:

"Patterning is the way we frame our designs, the template into which we fit the information, entities, and objects assembled from observation, map overlays, the analytic divination of connections, and the selection of specific materials and technologies. It is this patterning that permits our elements to flow and function in beneficial relationships. The pattern IS design, and design is the subject of permaculture."

Ok. So – the pattern enhances beneficial relationships – and I can understand using patterns to create microclimates. Identifying appropriate patterns and incorporating them into the landscape design is what design is all about. I get that part.

But here is my problem: I have been rotating vegetable & green manure crops around a grid of six 25-ft square plots (2 rows of 3 squares with paths in between) for the past 20+ years. I have really built up the soil in this area. Over the past few years, I have been filling in the squares with perennials (fruits, nuts, berries, nitrogen fixers, perennial vegetables, bee plants, etc.), grouping them according to mutual needs (soil, sun, water, pH), which has served to create guilds, spacing the main plants according to growth requirements, and then planting an understory of herbaceous plants and groundcovers. I would like to incorporate more patterns into the landscape, but I seem to be stuck in this grid mode--I have simply created a bunch of patches within the grid layout. I keep thinking maybe a pattern (and pathways) will emerge as the plants fill in, but so far, I am not seeing it. The “network” looks nothing like a branching system. There are a lot of edges, but it’s pretty chaotic.

Realistically, though, it still works. It is easy to access and water. I am amazed at the biomass that grows there - it is quickly becoming a jungle!

My issues: Imposing a pattern somewhere just for aesthetic reasons is nice, but it makes more sense if the pattern serves a function, does it not? I am having trouble seeing a “flow” to my garden; had I understood pattern language a little better 20 years ago, I would have designed this quite differently. Also, I am having trouble imagining how to expand the garden beyond making larger circles around what I already have; it makes more sense to me to concentrate on optimizing our zones and making the current garden more efficient rather than create patterns just to have them.

Is anyone else having trouble incorporating patterns into their established landscape, and how did you resolve it??

The last few paragraphs in this chapter pretty much sums it up for how to take patterns to a practical level. Most everything else served to increase my appreciation for patterns, but not necessarily apply them to my own situation.

Thanks for your insights, everyone. This forum has really helped me in better understanding Mollison's thoughts.
 
Paul Cereghino
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Really honest thinking... more needed.

I suspect a grid is a kind of pattern like a honey comb or cracks in plaster, or a hyphal network, or a capillary bed that allows for the distribution of materials or energy in all directions, and good access to all points. Standardizing size allows for developing infrastructure (cold frames) that are more flexible. Congratulations on creating a pattern.

I suspect that most of the "pattern" we put into gardens in pursuit of harmony with nature are actually meaningless to nature. In an intensively managed system like the annual portion of your garden, you are an integral part of the ecosystem, you are the animal causing disturbance to benefit plants with an annual life history strategy, and so the "pattern" needs fits the mental ruminations and movement patterns of that animal that is the disturbance vector (you). If the pattern needs to change, it is because the interaction between you and the system isn't optimal or is leaking energy in some way. I'd look for leaks (water nutrients energy (including your labor)), and then adjust pattern to plug those leaks.

That your pattern emerged through your labor, makes it more real to me than some intellectual construct applied for aesthetics, or based on some workshop or supposition about the nature of nature. I suspect that part of being an ecological designer is to question everything.
 
Blythe Barbo
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Paul Cereghino wrote:I suspect that most of the "pattern" we put into gardens in pursuit of harmony with nature are actually meaningless to nature. In an intensively managed system like the annual portion of your garden, you are an integral part of the ecosystem, you are the animal causing disturbance to benefit plants with an annual life history strategy, and so the "pattern" needs fits the mental ruminations and movement patterns of that animal that is the disturbance vector (you). If the pattern needs to change, it is because the interaction between you and the system isn't optimal or is leaking energy in some way. I'd look for leaks (water nutrients energy (including your labor)), and then adjust pattern to plug those leaks.


THANK YOU, Paul, for your thoughtful response that makes so much sense to me! I admit to often feeling a bit like a rodent, ruminating in the underbrush - it is good to remember that we, too, are but one small creature in a large, complex garden we define as our world. I particularly like your idea of looking for leaks in the system. That is a practical approach I can follow. I realize now that some of the plants I have planted create a honeycomb pattern (which is meaningful to me, because a big part of my garden is in support of honeybees and other pollinators); other areas are like a Metatron / Tetrahedron (?) (just worked out that way - the plant spacing seemed logical); and yes, some of the paths are a bit like a hyphal network. I suspect that as things grow and change, patterns will shift according to what makes sense to Nature - but not necessarily because I am imposing my will on the system, other than doing what I can to encourage everything to thrive. I like that.

And I see we are practically neighbors!
 
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