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Tutorials for permaculture design with free software  RSS feed

 
Erik Lee
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Location: Zone 6 - Missouri
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I've been putting up tutorials on using free software for permaculture design as a kind of free bonus on geoff lawton's PDC (as attempt to reinvest the surplus I got out of it last year), and I thought some people here might be interested as well. The basic idea is that you can use free tools and data available online to make a nice, detailed map of your property and then draw the features on it that you want to create. Here are the links to what's up so far:

Part 1- installing the software
Part 2- Getting aerial photography for a backdrop
Part 3 - Using public topo maps to put contours on your map
Part 4 - Using google earth to make contours
Part 5 - How do survey your property to make a highly detailed contour map
Part 6 - How to stitch multiple images into a mosaic for high-resolution aerial photos

I have a few more in the works as well (drawing earthworks, buildings, roads, etc; managing colors and shapes; making complex shapes using add/subtract operations). I'd also be glad to add more if there's something related you'd find helpful.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Erik - I don't think I've told you lately how much you rock!

Thanks for this information - Geoff's new PDC students will certainly get value from this as well as anyone interested in mapping/designing their property digitally.

Thanks again!
Jen
 
Mike Schroer
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Erick,

Awesome! This is just what I have been looking for. Can't wait to get started.

Have subscribed. BTW, I lived in Cape Girardeau, MO for 5 years.

Greybeardmike
 
Ty Morrison
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Location: Boise, Idaho (a balmy 7a)
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Erik:

These are great. I wish I had the time to make some others to add.

GIMP is the best. I use it for so many things.

I would also suggest SnagIt for screen shot grabs.

My mainstay is SketchUp also free in the 'make' version or use one of the versions, SketchUp 8 being most popular. This is most handy if your work moves towards buildings. In any case, it works well with Google Earth and allows a pretty high resolution 'grab' of the site site image with all sorts of possibilities including topo.

Thats how I made this model for Jennifer in less than an hour. The contours are at 1 inch intervals since it is a small, urban lot. The screen shots were captures using SnagIt.


I am going to try Inkvision, as I have never really found a good 'drawing program'
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Blythe Barbo
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Location: Sequim, WA USA - zone 8b
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I want to second Jen's reply! Thank you! I have been struggling SO much with what kind of software to use to design a project and have spent SO much time messing with different programs from Gimp, Sketchup, PowerPoint, and even in Excel, to drawing it on an iPad with Procreate (I tried 6 different programs on the iPad, and Procreate seemed easiest as far as being able to use a Google Map image as a base layer, draw on top of that with subsequent layers, and save as a jpg - but it's not so great with text). I was just about to give up on all the electronics and go back to good ol' paper and colored pencils - which I would then have to scan to be able to upload to a website. Aggghhh! I'd rather be gardening! I am looking forward to following your suggestions!
 
Quintin Holmberg
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Location: Minnesota
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Erik ... I used to use MWSnap and would like to offer an alternative. Greenshot (http://getgreenshot.org/) is another good, free screenshot tool. Unlike MWSnap, it is an actively managed project and is open source.
 
Erik Little
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Location: USDA 5b - Central IL
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Enjoyed your how to posts Erik, great name BTW

I have used Snagit and other snapshot programs but I find that I can get a snapshot with CTRL + ALT + PRTSCN and paste it into MS Paint and crop out what I really want faster. I use Snagit 10 at work for the fact that it stores a copy of every screen shot ever taken with it for review...that is really handy.

It looks like everyone here that posted today read the dailyish email!!!
 
Karen Crane
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THANK YOU !!! THANK YOU!!!
So happy you posted this.
Was about to pay to take a class to find out this stuff!
Right on Tine!! THANKS!
 
Erik Lee
Posts: 104
Location: Zone 6 - Missouri
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Hey everyone, thanks for all the kind words!

Erik Little, Quintin - many thanks for the tips on screenshot tools. I usually just use the print screen button myself, but I was trying to find something more cross-platform. Looks like there are some much better options out there these days. I'll update the post tonight with some links to these better options. This is awesome!

Ty - Sketchup is a great tool (that's a nice drawing you posted, too). I haven't had much chance to play with it yet because I'm mostly a Linux user, but I'm thinking I'll figure out a way to give it a spin. I've mostly been using blender for the 3d stuff, but the learning curve on that one is intimidating even to me...

 
Kelly King
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Location: North West Vermont - near Saxon Hill
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THAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANK YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUU

I've been trying to figure this out for a year... I haven't even looked at what you've done and I already want to say thank you!

 
Miles Flansburg
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One of these days I am gonna have to give some of this a try. Thanks!
 
Erik Lee
Posts: 104
Location: Zone 6 - Missouri
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I just put up part 7: Exploring inkscape - drawing swales, ponds, and trees. Happy sketching!
 
Manolis Karamous
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Erik, just my two cents.

For screenshot capturing program a nice one that works on Windoz,on Mac and on Linux as well is ScreenCloud
 
Erik Lee
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Location: Zone 6 - Missouri
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Thanks for the recommendation Manolis, I've added it along with the other screenshot tools recommended here to the post. This community is awesome, thanks for the suggestions everyone!
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
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Manolis Karamous wrote:
For screenshot capturing program a nice one that works on Windoz,on Mac and on Linux as well is ScreenCloud


Screen capture is a built in feature on a Mac, all you have to do is hit SHIFT, COMMAND, 3, all at the same time. It'll make a sound like an old fashioned camera taking a photo. Mine get saved to the desktop but if you can't find it, search for "screen shot."
 
Erik Lee
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Location: Zone 6 - Missouri
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@CJ - I use a similar process in linux. Just press the print screen button and it saves a snap to your home directory (this is in Lubuntu). The only downside is that it's named by date, so if you do a bunch of shots in a row you have to go through afterward and sort them out to rename them, which can be a tricky proposition. This gets me sometimes when I'm doing a blog post with dozens of screen captures in it, so I'm actually going to try a couple of the tools recommended above to see if they improve my work flow.
 
Rebecca Holman
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Hey thanks so much for posting this cause I was trying desperately to find all the posts you have at Geoffs site, and it is really hard to find.

I am also going to put it on our Geoff PDC thread..
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Rebecca - I already cross-listed it there!
 
Manolis Karamous
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Cj Verde wrote:
Manolis Karamous wrote:
For screenshot capturing program a nice one that works on Windoz,on Mac and on Linux as well is ScreenCloud


Screen capture is a built in feature on a Mac, all you have to do is hit SHIFT, COMMAND, 3, all at the same time. It'll make a sound like an old fashioned camera taking a photo. Mine get saved to the desktop but if you can't find it, search for "screen shot."



The above program just extends the functions. It automatically uploads the screenshot to screencloud's server, and copies in the clipboard the link, or just copies the captured screenshot to the clipboard. It just saves you from an extra file. You can paste it at your program with a simple Paste function
 
nick girka
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Thanks Erik. I just love this community. Glad I am finally part of it and when I get up to speed hope I can become a regular contributor.
 
Erik Lee
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Hey everyone, here's part 8 - online research tools. I'm very interested in anything you have to add to the list as well - I'll add any tools you think I missed (there are plenty I'm sure....).
 
Erik Lee
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And finally, here's Part 9 - drawing zones, sectors, and other shapes
 
Kerry Rodgers
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Location: North Texas, Dallas area suburbs, US zone 8
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Thanks so much Erik and Ty for the tool suggestions. I was thinking google's contour data would not be so bad--it's gotta be pretty close, right? Wrong! The test swale that I dug last year is visible in the lower-right, and it is almost 90-degress from where google put the contour. I did the Earth->SketchUp and intersect with rectangles method. Here is the (unusable) result.

Erik, I read your Part 5 Surveying tutorial last night. I guess I'll have to fall back to that method. Thanks for all the help!
tw-skp-contour-are-wrong.JPG
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sketchup screen shot
 
Erik Lee
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Kerry - I've definitely had mixed results with the contour data you can download (google or otherwise). It seems to be pretty good on the scale of 5+ acre properties, but getting down to small lots you miss a LOT of detail and sometimes it's downright wrong. I think that happens mostly when the survey data is from before properties were developed and leveled. I did get a couple of good suggestions on the other forum though - check to see if you can download LIDAR data for your site. You should be able to find it if you google LIDAR plus the name of your state/country/county. I wasn't lucky enough to have it for my place, but all the counties around me do... If you can get that, you can really get some amazing resolution. The other thing is a different approach for locating the points in the survey - check the comments below the post for an alternative method that you might like more than the baseline approach. I haven't tried it myself yet, but it seems simple enough that it might be a win.

I'm also working on a new set of tutorials for taking the design software to the next level with GIS (qGIS in particular). One of the many awesome things you can do with that is input your own surveyed elevation points and have it calculate contours for you automatically using the same algorithm I talk about in the tutorial. I've been swamped with things to do on my place for the last three weeks, but I'm hoping to get the new series up pretty soon. GIS software is quite a bit more complex than inkscape, but I think it's worth learning and hopefully I can get it distilled down to something manageable...
 
Kerry Rodgers
Posts: 122
Location: North Texas, Dallas area suburbs, US zone 8
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Erik-- Thanks so much for all these interesting leads! Using your suggestion of search term LiDAR, I was able to find 2' contours with a web preview. I can definitely see how this data would be useful. It also agrees with the "test swale" I made with an A-frame. (I didn't believe the A-frame would be accurate enough, so I tested it by digging and watching it rain for a year--It really works!) As far as I found, I'd have to order the GIS data and wait for the quasi-gov't to mail me a CD-ROM. (If I did that, should I choose "DXF" or "ArcView shapefile" for a better experience in QGIS?) My immediate need for this stuff is to complete the design exercise for the Geoff Lawton online PDC by August. So in other words, I don't really need it right now. But it is really interesting. I'll look forward to your QGIS piece--I'm glad to know there's an open source GIS tool.

I'd really love to see LiDAR "point cloud" data for my place. But it seems you have to email someone, and pay something, and and and.... Can QGIS open/visualize LAS files?

For right now, I'm going to pour over your Inkscape tutorials, and try to get my GL-PDC project done (and swales built outside!). Thanks for the pointer to the two circles triangulation idea--I like that. I will likely try several methods.

Here's the 2' screen shot, for reference/entertainment. This does agree with my swale, and my other observations.

Erik--thanks again!
dfwmapsdotcom-2ft-countours-sm.JPG
[Thumbnail for dfwmapsdotcom-2ft-countours-sm.JPG]
2foot contours over Bing ariel photo (dfwmaps.com)
 
Erik Lee
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I'd recommend going with the shapefile, but I'm still a beginner with qGIS so I'm saying that based just on this link: http://gis.stackexchange.com/questions/25472/workflow-for-dxf-interchange-with-qgis which seems to indicate that DXF is not well-supported. Glad to hear you had lidar available, I was bummed that I can't get it yet... Looks like LAS isn't supported out of the box, but there's an expensive commercial extension that does it: http://gis.stackexchange.com/questions/73252/what-is-the-procedure-to-load-las-files-in-qgis-2-0-1
 
Josey Hains
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This is great Erik! Thanks so much for sharing!
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
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Thank you for the tutorials Erik! They are very useful! I would like to add a link to this discussion on this thread because it would be useful for both threads to know the other exists.
 
Rick Howd
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This map site is my new favorite google map version. Easy UTM data and contour overlays along with some other useful tools, the beta is better still (lower left corner)

Gmap4 Google Maps Mashup

The link is for the property I used for my PDC but you can go anywhere obviously.

 
Amedean Messan
pollinator
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I would love to see a version of this thread which uses the iPad for digital permaculture design.
 
Hope Henley
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Thanks Eric!!!
 
elle sagenev
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Subbing so I can keep track of this.
 
Scott Church
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I asked the design programs thread the same question, but I'm hoping that maybe somebody here has an answer.

I've been looking for not only a plot designer, but a full on planner with an array of Permaculture functions, but I cannot find any one stop shops. I want to be able to create designs with the massive knowledge of sites like this one behind me - and easily share what I'm learning with others. The garden planners I've seen are pretty awful, and the mapping software that exists, while free, seems to be complicated and not tailored to a Permaculture bent. Ideally, what I'd like to see would start with a map, and allow you to "drop" perennials and annuals into a space, and then accelerate time to see how they would develop over the next several years. It would have useful information about climate (probably based on GPS location data) and send alerts when frosts were arriving, or when the soil might be getting dry and it was time to water. Users could "upload" their garden profiles and share designs right through the program, so you could see what other permies around you were growing and where you might be able to get knowledge or resources. Topographical data (entered by users or even gleaned from LIDAR) could reveal consistently sunny spots that might go otherwise unnoticed. Maybe augmented reality on a mobile device could even let me do a virtual walk through of the garden before anything is even planted. Of course, it would connect people to experts, too, when the computation got too complicated or new questions not answerable from the app arose.

Does something exist that I don't know of?

Is anybody working on something like this?

Should I?
 
Tom Harner
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Thank you. This was immensely useful when doing my PDC project. Very grateful.
 
Lina Joana
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Firstly - thanks Eric! This was fabulous, And really helped me get a good plan done. I also wanted to share a quick way to get the file size down: I used inkscape for all my drawing, and then save the finished plan as a pdf. I then opened it in preview (on a mac) and copied/pasted the different areas into my document. When I was done, I had 6 images of different zoom ins/ areas of the property in my document, and the whole thing when converted to pdf was 119 MB. I'd also added a few last minute shapes, so going back and resaving the original images would have been miserable.
To fix this problem: I opened my document to 100% size, then took a screen shot of the figure (command Shift 4, select a square area with the mouse). I then replaced the original figure with the screenshot. Doing this got the file size down to 11 MB without any visible drop in image quality.
I'm sure there is a more elegant way to do this, but if you are in a last minute fix, it does work!

 
Kevin Swanson
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Ok, so now I've got my plot imported into inkscape. How do we go about getting the scale correct? Am I getting caught up on a trivial thing? I'd like to know the scale so that i can make trees/objects the appropriate size... Help!?
 
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