I did my happy dance. Thank you to everyone that kept this thing going. There were chapters I would have not slogged through without the accountability factor. And thank you Burra for making all the threads and not missing even one week.
I made it, with the exception of the aquaponics chapter, which I will read after planting season...I am in the throes of it right now, and the weather has been nice, so I am outside every spare moment.
Even though I did not post here much, I too, am most grateful for the group slog & accountability...I never would have made it through chapter 11 without it! The. Endless. Chapter. 11.
I have a much better understanding of the underpinnings of permaculture now, and the importance of connections. I have a number of reference pages marked. I am really, really glad I read the book.
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
After thinking it over a few days, I think one of the more valuable outcomes I will garner by actually reading the whole damn thing is in sorting what's useful in other resources. Some of the first books I read emphasized the food forest over other solutions, like savannas. Sometimes other options weren't even mentioned. And when someone drinks too much purple Kool-aid and says on the forum that growing annuals isn't permaculture, I will say to myself in my best Texas drawl, "well bless his/her heart," knowing that Bill included a few annual beds in most of his farm diagrams. What's life without a summer tomato? As a design system, permaculture helps us create an amazing variety of solutions, some of which Bill never himself never envisioned. There's enough in this one book for a lifetime of exploration and reflection.
I definitely appreciated the accountability. One chapter a week, with a "mid-term" break, was about right.
One take-away is that the book seems to contain more solutions than it does analysis of problems.
That means I may be looking outside permaculture, or to more experienced folks in my climate, for cogent analysis of the problems / limiting factors in a particular situation. Knowing how to evaluate limiting factors is a skill I was hoping to build with this read-through, but I guess practise is the only way to really develop it.
The book does offer a summary of plant-behavior indicators for nutrient imbalance, but I need a lot more dirt-time to be able to parse out what particular form of neglect has caused stress, and what factors can be added to alleviate that stress without constant care.
Another is that systems are complex. There are dozens of factors to be balanced.
I already had a bias toward looking to known/proven solutions, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. The range of solutions in the book reinforces my bias: although they may be more 'proven' than some other methods, some appear to be novel and not well tested. So I may be interested in trying any method suggested in the book, and practised successfully by someone in a comparable climate. Yay for the forums!
Inventing/designing my own methods seems likely to be more labor than fruit. (and yet .... huglacier....)
I guess this is kind of like the difference between
- traditional artisan design (elegant solutions to known problems; and variations of decoration or material using known cuts and styles of clothing)
- runway fashion design (it's a cape! it's a skirt! It's a muppet! It's a political statement couched in absurdist orange fur!)
I would be much prouder to 'invent' a new tool, or an easier way to make an elegant basket, or a beautiful and relatively conventional-looking garden that waters itself, than a wearable Muppet. Although a grafted 'tree of many fruits' is certainly attractive.
(Although this absurd fashion example combines conventional tailoring with a creative costume approach... sometimes jazzing up the familiar keeps one's creative interest alive. This is roughly like that mandala garden to me: the elaboration is not necessary for function, but may produce creative wonder or satisfaction that supports the original function.)
Recognizing my biases has been a big one.
I definitely favor wildlife habitat systems, not livestock or fenced range. And self-regulating systems that require minimal care. And work in big sporadic bursts, not constant daily attention.
- I like being able to go visiting, and come back to food. I don't like being stuck feeding and watering. The modern era of easy transport is definitely a factor in my upbringing and habits.
I wonder if I will eventually settle down, for example if we have kids? Or if I've picked the right direction in working toward being a journeyman natural builder and eventually living on a sailboat. Still trying to figure how sailboat + land stewardship fit together.
- I would love to fence less, yet I would also love to establish perennial gardens and fruiting trees, and shade over the pond. And I don't particularly want to achieve this by completely excluding deer, for example by keeping a dog trained to run them off. Dilemmas.
It's also been interesting recognizing what elements are straight out of "the book," and what elements seem to have been developed over cycles of teaching and on-the-ground practise in different regions. I've sat in on parts of several good teachers' PDCs, and my impression is that the courses are definitely more cogent and easily assimilated into practical knowledge. Practical design projects and hands-on projects accompany most lessons, which seems like an important way to read the material. I've definitely enjoyed the chapters more that were pertinent to immediate plans, rather than abstract or climate-irrelevant.
And flipping back through, I remember really appreciating the analysis of wind-patterns, currents, erosion and depositional flows, fire patterns and home defense, etc.
While I don't think it's necessary to compress every pattern into a single, "master" pattern, I do think the practical statistics on height-length relationships in eddies, or blocking radiant heat whether from sun or fire, are very useful. I may have been dismissive of some of the other chapters because they're things I had already studied, or have entrenched opinions about. Every little bit of additional ability to predict consequences is a big help when it comes to making effective improvements with limited time and resources.
A lot of the plants mentioned are either not suitable for our climate, or potentially invasive (is there any plant that isn't one or the other? I guess that leaves the marginal-for-climate, or slow-growing species).
Yet I very much enjoyed looking up some of the wide variety of plants and livestock species mentioned, learning some of their tricks, and looking for analogues.
WOW, that was one of my all time favorite reads!
It is not often that you find a lifetime of work and experience in one place.
Next winter will be for rereading, and again and again. Too much information for me to take in all at once!
I never finished, moving on to our homestead, and not haven't electricity stopped me from reading - working while it's light and no light when I don't work... I'm still going through it, bit by bit though - and returning to the forum to read what people think of it once in a while. It is a great resource to have this on the side while reading.
Hooray! I actually finished this and can finally join the ranks of the literary! Course, it took me 10 months and ended appropriately on All Hallows Eve.
My overall thoughts: A lot of it at first did not appear relevant to me, but in each chapter, I found ways to apply the basic concepts to my own situation; much of it was at a level of detail that might make it a good reference at a later time (or not); some of it I simply didn't agree with (don't get me started on the last chapter), and I found myself getting a little annoyed with his rants on the establishment, even though I did agree with most of those (it is his book after all - he can say what he wants). Completing this volume did several things for me, other than give me a feeling of accomplishment: 1) it greatly widened my appreciation for the depth and breadth of permaculture and increased my understanding of how everything is connected on many different levels; 2) it made me realize I really just want to spend more time in my garden; I am not much of a social activist, but I am glad there are those that are; 3) it made me feel humbled in the presence of someone who could pull together such a huge amount of information. Bill Mollison set out to change the world, and I think in many ways, he has been successful in creating a movement of change that could very well save our species. Of course, it is up to us to carry it forward.
For right now, my head hurts. I will take time to reflect on and reread much of the PDM, along with other books on permaculture. And in the meantime, I will go back out in my backyard and tend to our bees, create interconnected habitats, reduce our footprint in whatever ways I can, conserve our resources, minimize our waste, share our bumper crops, appreciate what we have, live simply, and be a part of that change. I guess by default I am a social activist after all.
If you have a bad day in October, have a slice of banana cream pie. And this tiny ad:
Permaculture Voices 1, 2 and 3 - all 117 hours of video!