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Geoff Lawton at PV1 - "The Permaculture Design Manual in One Hour"  RSS feed

 
Julia Winter
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Me again!

So, are you sad that you didn't get to go to the Permaculture Voices conference? Did you go but you can't remember what was said? Well, I am an obsessive note taker (most of the time) and I took notes at most of the talks I attended.

I will share them here with you!

Please note that this is in no way a transcription. These are my notes, taken in real time, on the fly, whilst trying to look at the slides (or video) and follow along. I find that note taking helps me synthesize information. None of this should be construed as an accurate quotation, even when I put it in quotes. (For example, I'm pretty sure not a single speaker used the utterance "Yo.") Much of the time, I am trying to summarize and it's entirely possible that I've gotten some things wrong.

My next notes document is geoff lawton. The topic this time was "The Permaculture Design Manual in One Hour"

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Geoff Lawton #2

I’ll have an ongoing film behind that doesn’t necessarily follow what I’m saying.

I’m going to try to cover the PDM in one hour (if we can get the sound to run. . . )

When I took my first PDC, I kind of left the course a skeptic. I didn’t ask a single question. Bill figured I was a sponge, just soaking up information. I went out to check some of the crazy stuff he’d said, and it was all true. Then I felt guilty for a while, then I started to pay close attention to every word he’d written.

The introduction is just that. The most important part is when it says how we have to really energy audit things, and how society would look if it were a permaculture society. When you’re trying to read this book, it’s really hard. It’s a manual.

He could have called it many things, but he called it a manual. Like a manual for a car. If you read one sentence, it’s like reading a paragraph and so on. Very information dense.

This is a manual for an earth repair system. It’s divided up carefully. Just checking out the names of the chapters and why he named them that is useful. If you go to the back of the chapter and read the summary first, it’s a way in to understanding the book.

The second chapter is concepts and themes of design, that one has the largest principle summary. This is the foundation of the book. Everybody wants to get into chapter three, but this is where you start. It gives you a true grounding. It’s definitely the most serious of all the chapters. It lays down why we need to design. Before you think about how, you need to think about why.

The next chapter, the methods of design, is one of the smallest chapters. One of the most common, we simply analyze the situation. slope, orientation, use of elements, position of elements, zonal elements, sector design.

Almost like an indigenous design, if we have time to observe and see what happens. If we are consulting, we don’t have the time. You have to get yourself into a zone, almost a meditative state, to truly observe.

Next, Bill talks about a random assembly of lists. We put down all these elements that we intend to include and then we randomly cross them—are we missing something? We are designers of time space as well as physical space. The One Straw Revolution was really something because he stacked time in a rice field. We’ve taken that further. We stack time with large perennials. Often we don’t know what we’re going to get other than it’s going to get better, it’s going to get more diverse

A lot of design is quite common sense, but some of it you just have to trust your intuition.

After this is Chapter 4, the part the universities would probably remove. It’s pattern understanding. It is really the glue. It really stands alone. When we start looking at the patterns around us, we’re looking at how energy is expressed in physical form. At the point that you get the pattern and you start to explain their simplified form, you start to open people’s understanding. The links that we make between elements that cooperate with natural patterns, that’s the clinching element. . . .

When you get to Chapter 4, people are starting to realize there’s something very special about this set of understandings. It’s only when you understand that patterns are expressed in energy moving through a system (?) Pattern is one of those subjects you either get it or you don’t get it Once you get it, you’ll never lose it. (like riding a bike)

Something that’s not expressed enough is about the natural orders of size, of scale. Something you have to concentrate upon. Bill references it clearly—there are no orders of size less than 5 or greater than 9, anywhere in the universe. We don’t know why, but they’re all around us as a reference. When you’re looking at larger orders, they are smaller in number and slower in movement. Smaller orders are greater in number and faster in movement. As you go through this, people are starting to realize—this is bigger than I thought. This is about everything. This is bigger in every way than I thought. This is more than just physical, more than just food supply, more than just space. It’s about the patterns of community, it includes the way that we behave. If it doesn’t fit in to harmonic patterns, it’s probably going to come backwards into a harmonic form.

Once you’ve given people some level of understanding of pattern, you’ve covered design. After pattern, everything is really a reference back to the first four chapters. If we don’t design right, we will get chaos. Chaos is when there’s an excess of energy, just short of that is the ultimate opportunity. We play with the edges of form. We occupy and extend the edge.

If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

You’re playing with the edge that defines form and the form that you want is a harmonic pattern. Things become more and more complex, more and more refined, more and more interesting.

You get excited, but you need to focus. Focus comes in the next chapters. Chapter 5 is climatic factors. You have to understand exactly how climate makes a difference. Distance from an ocean, altitude, latitude, mountain ranges, wind shadows. . . Where exactly are you? We are designing in relation to a climate. Bill put that in after pattern, because it is a major pattern, all around us.

The main interrupter of the energies of the weather is the energy of the ecosystem. The key species are the trees and the top predators. Jaguars in the Amazon, wolves in Yellowstone.

Chapter 6 (it’s a lovely sequence) is trees and their energy transactions. Not just “trees” it’s their energy transactions. It’s mostly the climate they interact with. It’s a very unusual chapter. Ecosystems are like batteries, full of energy. The first thing he honors is condensation - the natives harvesting water from the trees on the islands where it didn’t rain. The condensation from desert trees can be equivalent to 80% of the rainfall. Thus, a desert without its trees can be missing out on almost half its potential precipitation.

The trees moderate the climate. If the trees aren’t there, the energy doesn’t go away—you get overly energetic weather. You get the hottest days, the strongest storms. (ed: climate weirding)

The next chapter is water. One word. Water. From the climate, through the trees, now to water. Life is based on water, with the carbon transaction from the trees. Water has many constants. It is perfectly level as a liquid. It expands when it freezes. Evaporation cools the air. Condensation warms the air.

When we are looking at a property, as a consultant, the first thing you are looking at is water. Water is your initial priority. Water takes priority, because you can’t change the way it behaves. You can pattern it to be more life enhancing. It is the major element.

We can clean water with biological systems. We can capture it with hard surfaces. We can provide our selves with water to drink, water for our stock, rehydrating the landscape. That whole chapter just covers all the possibilities that we could have for water.

The next chapter is soil. A very simple indicator that you’ve got your design right is that you are creating soil. You are increasing in quantity and quality. (Here’s a sign of how bad industrial agriculture is—all that soil destruction.) Look at that, right in the middle of the book. One word titles: water, and soil. How do we create soil, how do we work with those ecosystems? The larger we go in application, the harder it is to create soil. You have to partner with an ecosystem. This is going way beyond organic. There are some very destructive organic farms out there, especially now that it’s trendy. A system that’s sustainable will create more energy than it uses.

Your understanding of soil and it’s creation by putting together elements that speed up ecosystem generation of soil. . .

The next chapter is earthworks and earth resources. This is one of my favorite chapters, because we start to work with the big equipment, doing the terraforming. We might make surface water resources (ponds). It seems harsh, but really on the scale of the planet it is very small. People get nervous about this, but this is what we do. We are terraformers of the earth. We have more ability than ever before to use modern equipment to do this quickly. Since the manual was written, we have better equipment. We have GPS guided machines now. Laser levels are very common now.

What we can now do to rehabilitate and rehydrate landscape, has increased massively. It’s great that we have this amazing potential. When you start directing water in positive ways, the response can be really rapid. We are making sure that our designs improve the landscape even when the maintenance is turned off. Imagine how much the landscape would improve if we really covered the area (near the Roosevelt swales) with effective earthworks.

We could use collected water, falling with gravity to create energy via compressed air (google trompe) If your’e using compressed air as energy, the waste product is fresh air. There’s a byproduct of coolth as well. The power of compressed air was discovered by Romans, the Andalusions were using this for their forges in Spain.

Then the manual goes into the three classic climates. Humid tropics, humid cool or cold climate. The rounded landscapes. They’re very different: your house is different, the forest is different. You hardly need food storage in the tropics. Then, you have drylands. Dryland strategies.

Drylands are very complicated. There’s a lot of diversity in drylands and there’s a lot of fertility, because nothing decomposes. When you working in dry land, your brix rating goes up on your plants better than any other place.

So Bill goes through these climates, he specifically outlines those climates. Plans for housing, grazing, garden. We’re fine tuning your focus now. Here the book is a reference.

Chapter 13 is Aquaculture. It’s almost like it should have been in the other chapters, but it’s a rediscovered thing, so it’s something new. It’s some of the most productive landscape we can ever create. Aquaculture is 30x more productive of protein than land based systems. Everything’s faster in water. Ipomea aquatica makes leaves faster than anything. We grow it on floating bamboo cages. Aquaculture is not just fish, it’s invertebrates, it’s plants. We’ve lost the understanding of aquaculture. There’s no department of aquaculture at most universities. The most productive system ever put together by people, the chinampa system, is an aquatic system. Warm and cold climates have potential for aquaculture. Wild rice (cold climate) is more productive per square meter than regular rice—it just doesn’t all become ripe at once.

If you go through southeast Asia, you can see there are more fish ponds than chicken pens. They know how things are going in their ponds just by looking at them.

The final chapter, 14, is like a Rubik’s cube: Strategies for a global alternative nation. Strategies are all about timing. For example, in dry land, you have to be ready for that rain event when it happens. When it’s raining, you should be out there in it. How do we work with people systems. How can we work with local currency systems, with barter. This chapter (and the pattern chapter) is the hardest for people to grasp.

How do we get into a world where money doesn’t just keep going up, where property goes down in price and up in quality. How do we share our successes and failures. How do we figure out who we can live with? Who are the 5% of people in this room that we could live with? If you could learn to identify the 1 in 20 that you could live with, you would be ahead—most of us have no idea. How do we create an ecosystem of people. When you start to create community action, it’s the scariest action. It’s people, right in your face.

If you look around this room, I look at all the faces out there, I see a typical group of permaculture people. It’s all different ages, all different backgrounds, different cultural backgrounds. It’d be real hard to get these people together otherwise. If you can put together a system where people meet regularly, where people get together just once a month to share their success, share their failures, share designs, share building techniques. If you do this for 5 years, you have found your tribe. You will also terrify the local politicians. If they come in and see a group like you, diverse like you, each representing 20 more people, they will need to know who you are and what you want.

Look at p510 in Chapter 14. You will see what you need. I’ve used that list all over the world. I have to make it into a fractal, to make it into a mind map, to grasp it.

The very last thing is “appropriate aid in the developing world,” and that’s exactly what we have to offer.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Wow! Thanks again, so very much, Julia, for doing this!

I am really going to have to bite the bullet and attend the next conference.
 
Julia Winter
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Yes.

Yes you are.

 
nancy sutton
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Thank you sooooooo much for sharing your rich notes (I'm very glad you have this talent :) .. and I'm sure I speak for dozens!! :) Between your generosity and the lovely tweets, I really feel I was there!
 
Daniel Worth
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He mentions "Wind Shadows" in the talk. I've not heard this and I was wondering, since some googling hasn't really explained it, if anyone had a definition of this idea.

Dan
 
Julia Winter
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I think a wind shadow is similar to a sun shadow. Like, when there's a prevailing wind from the west, there's a sheltered spot, a "wind shadow" on the east side of a line of conifers. I use that as one of the climate altering factors on my land in Wisconsin, to allow me to grow a peach tree in zone 4.
 
Cj Sloane
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The audio of Geoff's talk is available here.
 
Daniel Worth
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OK, that is the answer I'd assumed I just didn't want to use the term for the next 5 years to find out I'd got it wrong the whole time.

Dan
 
Jan Cooper
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I wondered about the book. Here is the website to see the book that he is referring to in his talk. http://permaculturenews.org/2014/09/26/geoff-lawton-presents-permaculture-designers-manual-podcast/
 
Julia Winter
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You can learn more about Bill Mollison's Permaculture Design Manual here, on it's review page.

Also, last winter a bunch of people read through the whole book and discussed it in these forums. (There are many more pages, one for each chapter, I just linked to the starting one.)
 
Joel Holmes
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Thank you for taking the time on this. Great read!
 
Ryan Tollmann
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Julia Winter wrote:I think a wind shadow is similar to a sun shadow.  Like, when there's a prevailing wind from the west, there's a sheltered spot, a "wind shadow" on the east side of a line of conifers.  I use that as one of the climate altering factors on my land in Wisconsin, to allow me to grow a peach tree in zone 4.



So 'wind shadow' is the lee side like in sailing? ( you anchor on the lee side of an island thus the wind is coming from the far side... and the smoother water is on the lee side...)
 
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