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Is anyone really doing permaculture?  RSS feed

 
                        
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Jay Green wrote:It's a fair question. How about a show of hands on this forum alone? Anyone truly living a permie lifestyle in every aspect and producing even enough food for their own families without spending more than they would on just buying it from a local grower?

I'm as curious as the OP....



Permaculture doesn't necessarily need to be measured in acres. Some of us have gardens that we measure in feet. There are times when I think pemaculture works even better on small plots than it does on larger ones. I live in a housing development built in the late 60s so I have a postage stamp back yard. That being said I raise enough vegetables to supply not only my own needs but those of the neighbors on both sides of me. I keep rabbits for manure, meat and just because I like them. I don't keep track but I'm sure the amount of actual money I spend to produce meat and vegetables is pocket change.
That being said, permaculture is a life style and an ideal to work toward, not something to be taken lightly. Complete self sustainability is a myth, but we can come close. Every time we harvest for our own use or to give away or sell we lose a bit of fertility. This must be made up by bringing in some nutrients from outside the system. Without some outside input it will eventually run down. Fortunately there are numerous sources for free input of nutrients. Neighbors bag up and throw away grass clippings and leaves in the Fall. This is wasted and costs taxpayer money to haul away but can be salvaged for our own use.
My rabbits are raised almost entirely on greens, both from the garden and gathered wild greens with a small amount of grain as a suplement. The greens I gather wild produce both meat and manure for the garden so there is outside nutrient input from them.
We have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk but once we commit, it quickly becomes a way of life.
 
pollinator
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deleted and moved to its own thread http://www.permies.com/t/16596/permaculture/place-non-farmers-permaculture#144819
 
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Location: North Central New York
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[quote/] Permies tend to be self-starting, can-do types, but is this individualistic philosophy hindering us in attaining our common goals?

So, I'd like to ask a new question, with the theme of my original post in mind.

Among the world's intentional communities, does anyone know of any that are founded on, or reaping the benefits of, permaculture?

How wonderful it would be if the folks who are qualified practitioners of permaculture would form communities around themselves, not only for WWOOFing and other forms of teaching, but for intensifying the evolution of permaculture as a discipline.

Take a look at Transition Towns.
 
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To me, permaculture is a very broad term that encompasses a lot of different techniques. It should not be confined to a rigid paradigm. Is someone growing veggies in neat doing raised beds with some drip irrigation doing permaculture? To me, yes. I think anything that moves away from monocropped agribusiness is a step to sustainability and fits into the permaculture discussion. Food forests are obviously the ideal but I think it is important that we include people of all sorts of understandings into our camp and we all learn together.

This said... in my short experience with some permaculture stuff, it is working and is extremely encouraging. In Central FL I plant spineless cactus and Chaya along the railroad and other places. I do nothing and then have the food to eat. I consider this profitable, rewarding, etc. Plenty of other perennials and trees have shown me exponential hope in permaculture and the ideas that come along with it. I have produced so much food in such small spaces with such little time and resources. I don't have a food forest quite yet but I am very very very happy with what I have been able to grow so far.
 
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I would love to start a farm with a number of other people and as we become profitable splinter off into individuals or small groups which can start their own farms and help others do the same.


Imagine it, you start a farm with 5 other people after 3 - 5 years you are profitable enough to invest in another piece of land. Half of you stay on the original piece of land while the other half nurture the new piece of land. All the while working together.



I've thought about starting a thread on this. I think the lot of us that didn't grow up learning everything on the farm need to seriously consider coming together. From what I see it seems that pretty much all of us are trying to do this just within our own small families. So usually everything involved in starting up- building up a huge amount of capital, finding the right piece of land, planning thoroughly what to do, building various skills, hard labor- all of these things people are trying to either by themselves, with their spouse, or within their immediate families. Any one of those tasks listed is a major endeavor, and it seems almost impossible for a couple of people to do all these things alone. I think lots of the farming 'newbies' are going to wind up much more successful if they are on property with 3-4 other completely devoted couples instead of having just you and your significant other to shoulder all the burden all the time.

Sorry if this too off topic.


 
Tyler Ludens
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Jesse, I think there is a huge need to discuss and act on working together for common goals. All the time I see people on these boards despairing because they can't afford land, or, if they have land, are overwhelmed with too much work to do and making little progress. If there could be a way for folks to join up for group purchase of land, it would be wonderful. I don't mean communes, unless people want to do it that way. There are many different legal means of purchasing land in common and different arrangements for sharing land.

 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Jesse, I think there is a huge need to discuss and act on working together for common goals. All the time I see people on these boards despairing because they can't afford land, or, if they have land, are overwhelmed with too much work to do and making little progress. If there could be a way for folks to join up for group purchase of land, it would be wonderful. I don't mean communes, unless people want to do it that way. There are many different legal means of purchasing land in common and different arrangements for sharing land.



In Britain, Hugh Fernley Wittingstall of River Cottage fame helped to start the Landshare Project a few years ago. This is a web based system where people with land connect with people who want to grow. I think it has now spread to Canada and Australia. It has ranged from local farmers and landowners to big corporations donating a piece of land where a local community can cultivate it and grow vegetables and in a lot of cases raise livestock. This could easily be done here and help build ties between communities. Here is the link to the British site http://www.landshare.net/index/
 
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Allow me to say that I think Vickers' question is among the more important questions that could be asked, and that many of the responses to his question drift off into almost a pseudo-religious explanation of the benefits of permaculture that are not responsive to the inquiry. (Also like a religion, one also senses in these responses the thinly concealed outrage that a heretic would dare question the fundamental value of permaculture.) If the claim is that permaculture harnesses the inherent efficiency of natural cycles in a remarkably productive way then it is legitimate to compare permaculture to the efficiency of other forms of agriculture. Absent that proof, then we should tone down the rhetoric and just claim that permaculture is an alternative and interesting way to garden.

I will say that I have embarked on a project to test the claims of permaculture. I have literally fenced off an acre of land in a sunny, warm, and water-drenched part of America, and I'm going to see whether using permaculture principles I can grow enough food to feed a family of four in a self-sufficient, sustainable way. (This means producing on the average 10,000 edible calories per day.) I actually think I can pull it off, and I actually think permaculture will be key to making it work, but until I do I'm not making any definitive claims.

When you fence off an acre of land and you can clearly see the perimeter you start to appreciate how large an acre really is. About half the acre is in pasture/orchard, and this area is sufficient to provide lush pasture for a ewe or two and space for about 6o fruit trees. The other half acre will be in raised be gardens and include a human habitat and outbuildings like sheds and chicken coops. Theoretically, in my area of the world using efficient grain species a person could grow up to 200,000 calories per day on an acre during the peak growing season. Using less photosynthetically efficient vegetables but stretching production to for growing seasons I think the 10,000 calorie per day goal is eventually obtainable once the permaculture systems --especially the orchard-- have reach a level of mature productivity. At any rate, I've given myself five years to achieve the goal.

In closing, every person produces about 2.5- 3 lb. of valuable excrement every day that can be converted to fertilizer (that's about a billion pounds of lost opportunity in America each day), and I need to go make my contribution to permaculture right now.

 
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George Hayduke wrote:...many of the responses to his question drift off into almost a pseudo-religious explanation of the benefits of permaculture that are not responsive to the inquiry.


In closing, every person produces about 2.5- 3 lb. of valuable excrement every day that can be converted to fertilizer (that's about a billion pounds of lost opportunity in America each day), and I need to go make my contribution to permaculture right now.




Finally! I'm tired of the philosophical digressions, I want results! lol

Go make your contribution!
 
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Cris Bessette wrote:

George Hayduke wrote:...many of the responses to his question drift off into almost a pseudo-religious explanation of the benefits of permaculture that are not responsive to the inquiry.


In closing, every person produces about 2.5- 3 lb. of valuable excrement every day that can be converted to fertilizer (that's about a billion pounds of lost opportunity in America each day), and I need to go make my contribution to permaculture right now.




Finally! I'm tired of the philosophical digressions, I want results! lol

Go make your contribution!



Now, I am curious, what draws the two of you to permaculture if not it's principles?

edited to add: I happen to love "philosophical digressions". sorry.
 
George Hayduke
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Judith Browning wrote:

Cris Bessette wrote:

George Hayduke wrote:...many of the responses to his question drift off into almost a pseudo-religious explanation of the benefits of permaculture that are not responsive to the inquiry.


In closing, every person produces about 2.5- 3 lb. of valuable excrement every day that can be converted to fertilizer (that's about a billion pounds of lost opportunity in America each day), and I need to go make my contribution to permaculture right now.




Finally! I'm tired of the philosophical digressions, I want results! lol

Go make your contribution!



Now, I am curious, what draws the two of you to permaculture if not it's principles?



Can't speak for Vickers, but I'm drawn to permaculture because its fundamental promise is a sustainable, self-sufficient, virtually closed system of food production that ultimately requires minimal labor and maximizes the value of the only 'free lunch' we get as a species: solar energy. Other agricultural techniques are much more reliant on the stored solar energy of petroleum, and I think ultimately that's a losing game. If we can go easier on the planet, raise healthier food, and have prettier gardens as a result, those are nice collateral benefits. But, objective truth and measurable results matter.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Maybe more of the folks into measurable results could do some more measuring of their results and make the resulting measurements available for the rest of the permaculture community to study. I think this would be inspiring and help to answer the perennial question "Can it really be done?"

 
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Jason Matthew wrote: The soil I am working has been mowed for 20 years. It is hard, compacted clay that refuses to let roots penetrate. This fall I will plant a soil building seed mix, and a sod busting seed mix from an organic garden supplier. If these do not work... I will probably try at least a couple of years with these mixes; otherwise the only option is to dig in tons of organic matter. Not really viable without heavy equipment for any amount of ground larger than a postage stamp.



I'm in a similar position - trying to establish a permaculture- inspired orchard on 1/2 acre of heavy clay, former pasture that lost all it's topsoil due to overgrazing. Much of it is still in grass and sweet clover, which improved the condition of the top 3 inches of soil over the past 4 years, but i'm trying to speed the soil improvement along. The areas mulched with cut grass are much better in the top 1-2" and retain moisture better, but if allowed to dry out the subsoil is still like a brick. This year I tilled a section and seeded it with sweet clover. Sweet clover roots are supposed to go about 12' deep, breaking up the hard packed soil and drawing minerals from the subsoil to the surface where the crops can use them. Due to the drought, I watered the seeded area regularly for the first few weeks, but now the sweet clover is thriving on its own. Next fall I will mow it before it goes to seed (sweet clover is a biennial) and dig into a few spots to see if/ how much the soil has improved.

Sorry about going off topic, but wanted to share my experience and the sweet clover idea with you.
 
George Hayduke
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Maybe more of the folks into measurable results could do some more measuring of their results and make the resulting measurements available for the rest of the permaculture community to study. I think this would be inspiring and help to answer the perennial question "Can it really be done?"



Yes, and part of the 'can it really be done' question is whether it can really be done with a reasonable amount of labor. Essentially, by intentionally building rudimentary artificial ecosystems comprised of selected and useful plants you are trying to do an agricultural 'judo move;' you're inserting human intention in a living system and hoping the momentum of nature --and not an extraordinary amount of human labor-- will result in bountiful edible calories for years to come. It's an attractive notion and one that deserves serious and exacting study.
 
Cris Bessette
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Judith Browning wrote:

Now, I am curious, what draws the two of you to permaculture if not it's principles?



The principles drew me in, I've been reading, studying and doing for a couple of years, and now I want something to happen.
Maybe I need more patience, but meanwhile, my garden is the worst I've ever had.

If you don't like my principles, I've got others. - Groucho Marx.



 
George Hayduke
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George Hayduke wrote:

Tyler Ludens wrote:Maybe more of the folks into measurable results could do some more measuring of their results and make the resulting measurements available for the rest of the permaculture community to study. I think this would be inspiring and help to answer the perennial question "Can it really be done?"



Yes, and part of the 'can it really be done' question is whether it can really be done with a reasonable amount of labor. Essentially, by intentionally building rudimentary artificial ecosystems comprised of selected and useful plants you are trying to do an agricultural 'judo move;' you're inserting human intention in a living system and hoping the momentum of nature --and not an extraordinary amount of human labor-- will result in bountiful edible calories for years to come. It's an attractive notion and one that deserves serious and exacting study.



Good luck!

I live on a 30 acre farm with about ten cleared acres. I took the worst acre for this permaculture experiment. Like your land, it has a thin layer of topsoil and a hard clay pan underneath. The fruit trees seem to be doing well in the orchard. The veggie garden will be mostly raised beds. I run cattle, sheep, and chickens through the pasture now to keep it trimmed back and to add organic matter to the soil.

The single biggest challenge I currently foresee is feeding the chickens, frankly. A free range chicken usually gets 15-20% of its diet from actual forage, and the remainder right now is standard commercial chicken feed. I really rely on the chickens for high-grade fertilize, eggs, and less frequently meat, so I can't afford to boot them out of the project. But, I will need to figure out a way to eventually feed them exclusively off the bounty of this one acre. There was a recent post in the this forum about growing your own chicken feed, and that was helpful.



 
Valerie Dawnstar
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Here's an example of it working. 1000 pounds of food in 1/4 acre. UMass at Amherst even has their own You Tube channel. http://www.youtube.com/user/umasspermaculture?feature=results_main
 
George Hayduke
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Cris Bessette wrote:

Judith Browning wrote:

Now, I am curious, what draws the two of you to permaculture if not it's principles?



The principles drew me in, I've been reading, studying and doing for a couple of years, and now I want something to happen.
Maybe I need more patience, but meanwhile, my garden is the worst I've ever had.

If you don't like my principles, I've got others. - Groucho Marx.





So applying permaculture principles to your garden has thus far reduced its productivity?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Sorry about thread drift.....

Cris, the transition period between a typical garden and a stable permacultural ecosystem can be very hard, and super discouraging. If one is used to using fertilizers and pesticides, stopping using them can cause a sudden decrease in production and a sudden increase in bugs. It's hard to push through this transition period and get to the stable system. Keep with it, and try not to get too discouraged. Don't give up, it really will get better eventually! Try a lot of different methods in different parts of your yard, if you have enough space, because what works for someone else might not work for you, so it's best to try a bunch of different techniques.

If it's any consolation I've been trying to garden permaculturally for several years (really started to do it with any seriousness in about 2006 I think) and I'm just now beginning to think I might be getting somewhere....my plants aren't ALL dying!
 
Cris Bessette
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George Hayduke wrote:
So applying permaculture principles to your garden has thus far reduced its productivity?



So far, yes, the plants that made it past seedling stage are sickly and small, little flowering / fruiting.
We've had pretty decent rain where I live, and I mulched everything good, so not a water problem.

I used to have a source for lots of manure, last few years I haven't so I've been working on building
up soil fertility without relying on outside sources (which seems to be permaculturally correct.)

Maybe I'm expecting too much too soon? Meanwhile I only managed to get enough out of the garden this
year for a handful of meals. Almost nothing to be put up for winter.

 
Cris Bessette
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Sorry about thread drift.....

Cris, the transition period between a typical garden and a stable permacultural ecosystem can be very hard, and super discouraging. If one is used to using fertilizers and pesticides, stopping using them can cause a sudden decrease in production and a sudden increase in bugs. It's hard to push through this transition period and get to the stable system.....



This is pretty much what I've come to believe, but still, I get tired of neighbors asking "so... you didn't do a garden this year?" (to which I say, yeah, its there behind the weeds, and everything is very small if it lived at all)

I just bought this property close to 4 years ago and the soil in the garden area was obviously mistreated (IE tilled to death, chemicals, fertilizers) hardly a worm in sight. still, I've been steadily adding organic material, mulching like a mad man, purposely letting certain types of "weeds"grow (clover, local weeds with big root systems,etc) I've built swales, ponds, hugleculture beds, etc.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up, I'm just discouraged.

 
George Hayduke
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I have found the fertilizer equation to be the easiest to solve, but I have about 400 chickens on our farm that are raised on hay litter, and the manure/hay combo makes for pretty awesome fertilizer when it is allowed to age. The high nitrogen of the chicken manure and the carbon in the brown hay work well together. We don't do anything too labor intensive. We stack the soiled hay in an uncovered mound and allow Nature to take its course. A few months of rain and sun reduce the nitrogen 'heat' to tolerable levels and we apply the aged compost around the base of fruit trees and use it as a cover mulch on raised bed gardens. The results are pretty fantastic. The problem that I wrestle with is how to create chicken manure in a permaculture environment because it necessarily means I need to raise the chicken feed on site. A free range chicken consumes 500+ calories per day. Twenty chickens consume as much as a family of four people. Thus, the challenge before me.
 
Judith Browning
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For us there was really no transition. Growing organically for forty years (on this land for twelve) made it easy to slide into permaculture ideas. We are filling gaps around our fruit trees with layers of plants, we have always grown our gardens on raised beds with a mix of plantings, no till, lots of leaves and cover cropping. I water what I can and we manage to grow all of our fruit and vegetables. Different years different things do well. We have not tried hugelkultur yet but I intend too with our spent shiitake logs over the winter.

edited to add: I obviously have no "training" in permaculture design..I only have read extensively like so many others and am trying to incorporate ideas when they might enhance what we already do here. We do not live off the grid now but live very minimaly. I guess I thought we were all on the learning curve.....
 
George Hayduke
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Judith,

Would you be kind enough to give me some specifics about how you planted around your fruit trees? Many thanks.
 
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I don't recall Mollison or Holmgren ever saying that permaculture promises individual households complete self-sufficiency, am I wrong? High consumption and over population seem to be our major problems. I've always got the impression that permaculture was about transitioning towards a lower consumption and population while meeting the needs of people and the earth. Localization of production and consumption is derived from those goals, and therefor an emphasis is placed on the self-reliance of the community, not the individual. I could be wrong but this has always been my impression. This could be any variety of systems including any variety of practices. There is an apparent correlation, perhaps causation, between agriculture and increasing birth rates according to Toby Hemenway who largely cites work done by anthropik. Holmgren says that he used to be or still is critical of Mollison's past representation of permaculture as this completely easy and effortless panacea, which sets people up to quit and dismiss the whole thing as a fraud once they don't initially succeed. Despite that, the central questions that permaculture tries to answer are still in need of being solved.

If we can't sustain this huge population with sustainable methods then two things are likely to happen: 1) We continue current methods despite the fact that they are a cause of the climate change that will likely make the current level of production impossible, resulting in depopulation due to scarcity. 2) We find creative means to simultaneously meet the needs of people, prevent climate change, and reduce the population by means of limiting consumption and reproduction. I think permaculture is attempting to address this situation. If either way the result is depopulation, it's a good idea to find ways to make that process as harmless as possible. Again, i think that permaculture is a framework for finding such solutions.

What does this mean to the individual though? I think there are a lot of ways to contribute. I'm trying to simply limit my consumption and introduce more low-maintenance and higher production here at my parents's house because those are two things that they don't mind tending too. If I had my own house, I could do a full blown forest garden and actually work on producing more calorie crops and wood fuel, which would demand a certain degree of work and certain aesthetic that my parents' don't want and that might be unrealistic for the size of our yard.
 
Judith Browning
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George Hayduke wrote:Judith,

Would you be kind enough to give me some specifics about how you planted around your fruit trees? Many thanks.




Our fruit trees are spotted in all over, not in a typical orchard layout. I water the peaches and youngest trees.
I plant shallow rooted plants out under the dripline of the trees. Mainly for the purpose of grass supression and to cut as mulch.
I have blood peaches that I started from seed. They are at all different ages. The largest (and the ones that have been producing) have wood ashes piled against the trunk for borers and out from that what I think is a russian comfrey and further out echinacea, passion flower vine, vitex, sumac and young persimmons. Some of these I dug holes and planted some are just what comes up here when you don't mow and we let them stay. I have to use things that the deer or rabbits won't eat so garlic, walking onions, mints all work for me. I'm not able to dig under these trees because they are already established but the smaller trees have or will have the same plus a ring of bulbs or iris or something to keep the grass back. Our figs have a circle of leaf mulch and then pyrethrum, rosemary, oregano and sunflowers. We add a welded wire cylinder to protect young trees.
Our pie cherries have no other plants with them yet nor the pears. Our wild fruit (persimmons and muscadines) have wild plum and various understory plants naturally and the same with our woods pear (at an old hog pen).
I know you asked "how" and I think I gave you "what".
 
George Hayduke
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You gave me how and what! Thanks.
 
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I too would be interested to know if anyone has recorded their success on a step by step basis that would afford the beginner the best possible vantage point before diving in and meeting the inevitable challenges that come with each individual situation. Be it a book, documentary, training course, blog. Something that would give the whole thing in a nut shell. Verification of success is huge for me. Many of us hear so many random "revolutionary ideas" and many are, but they can be almost a discouragement when faced with conflicting info. If there was one guy (Sepp maybe?) that we could all agree is an authority, that would be willing to divulge his information in a thorough, concise, organized, systematic way in which the average person could go and copy we might be 20+ years ahead than if we just went and tried to figure it out for ourselves. I am excited about the "learning process". It is sure to be filled with years of trials and mistakes. I would just like to be given the best chance possible to succeed, and I think it has to be out there somewhere. If someone who knows how to find it would be willing to make it easier on the rest of us, it would be a great service to all.
 
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My interest in permaculture is in its potential to improve cost-reduction for homesteading purposes, and secondarily, profit-increase from responsible land use industries through stacking of functions, etc. My hope is to live on a farm, provide what I need on it, and make a little extra scratch from whatever excesses/cottage industries result from my activities. "Saving the World" is out of my reach. Homesteading sounds like fun, and permaculture appears to be the best model for making it a success to boot.

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On the questions: 'Can this really be done?' and 'Does it really work?' I gain insight from a few people, such as Martin Crawford, who criticize cultural insistence on inappropriate diets for a population's climate, and offers alternatives that are stackable, (he claims that an acre of mature walnut can produce as many calories as an acre of wheat, while also carrying food producing plants in layers of understory, as an example - similar claims can be made of any food forest, but this model requires shifting cultural appetites from grain-based breads and the like to ones made from nut flours, as an example). If we are to debate whether we can feed a growing global population using permaculture, the naysayers tend to have an inflexible attitude about what can be done. Consider first how much land is used for recreational horses, unproductive monoculture yards/golf courses/road easements, etc - there are more unproductive acres, at least in North America and the industrialized world in general, than there are in food production. If this were changed, we could no doubt produce more, better quality, food than we do currently. sepp holzer is said to have claimed all the world's food needs could be grown in Russia. Also to consider are some of the models of permaculture some folks attempt to force on nature, such as Helen Atthowe's "veganic" permaculture - as I understand it, this excludes all animals from a food growing scenario, at least for purposes of human consumption. If all humanity were to exclude all forms of animal-based proteins and lipids from their diets, I doubt that we could feed as many people as we do currently, let alone exponential growth projections for future generations.

On the question: 'How much can I do on an acre' I am reminded of Paul Wheaton's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8zNfiNA-3A&feature=plcp - the couple at the end get into a fairly detailed account of what they are doing, and claim that, based on their criteria, they would need about an acre per person per year to provide a sufficient number of calories and vitamins. I have no experience trying to live an entire year off of a homestead, but their metrics make sense to me - at least their figures aren't arbitrary.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Michael James wrote: If there was one guy (Sepp maybe?) that we could all agree is an authority, that would be willing to divulge his information in a thorough, concise, organized, systematic way in which the average person could go and copy



In order to "copy" Sepp's methods and get the same results, the average person would have to have similar if not identical conditions and resources as Sepp, I think. That's one of the main "problems" with permaculture, it's not a one-size-fits-all system, it's tailored to specific conditions. There are some basic concepts which are universal such as the design principles and planning in zones, but the actual on-the-ground methods vary a lot. What works for Sepp might not work for someone else dealing with dramatically different conditions. For instance I'm not in an alpine climate, so Sepp's methods might not work for me (I probably couldn't have all those ponds, for one thing)....Unlike plow agriculture where you go to any flat land virtually anywhere on the planet, clear it, plow it and plant it, permaculture systems are designed for the individual piece of land, so copying isn't actually possible, in my opinion. With more examples from many different kinds of climates, we might get closer to being able to "copy."

 
Collin Vickers
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When I ask for templates and schematics, I'm talking about comparing apples to apples, and I think others are too.

Lets say we are talking about a five-acre property in eastern Montana, in a windy, hilly area, mostly facing north. The parcel was chopped out of a section and a half of ranch land, which is being sold because the elderly owner passed away and her children can't maintain it themselves. The parcel is not fenced, and has a crude access road. The water table is 300 feet below soil, with no stable bodies of water on the surface. Plant and animal species on the property are A-Z. The person that buys the land does their homework and determines whether there are contaminants in the soil, etc, etc.

If we had some kind of permaculture database, (the forum qualifies somewhat, except that information is not categorized very well, and isn't necessarily screened for accuracy,) that person could begin to do a little research to determine what they want to do with their new homestead. This database might be something like wikipedia, where approved individuals are asked to provide credible information, which is then peer reviewed by qualified moderators, that way only authoritative, reliable information is accessible, and all the chaff of digressions and theoretical jive are cleared from the outset.

First: what are his priorities? Water, building topsoil, fencing, living quarters, etc. He can pull up a list of recommendations for small farms, say, 5-10 acres. He can assess his goals for the property, (homesteading, making a living, experimentation/research, whatever) and get a sense of where his money should be spent for best effect, how to save money, what to put at the top of his agenda. Based on this, he puts keylining first on the list, along with seeding soil builders. He decides to buy a mobile home for temporary use while he gets the improvemts rolling in when time, weather and resources permit. If there is an open range policy in Montana, which there likely is, he might concentrate on fencing his property to keep his cattleman neighbors off the tender plants that grow after the spring rains, etc. He reviews his water needs, contemplates having a well dug in, goes over the civic code for the area to determine whether he can compost his own effluent, etc. Speaking of his neighbors, he introduces himself around, gets a sense of what tools and skills are available locally, with whom he might be able to work in the future - if there is a dairy farm in the area already, he can scratch having dairy animals off the list, grow veggies on that portion of land instead, and trade some of his crop for raw milk. By the way, when he gets to the topic of fencing, he now has a use for that video he saw on how to build a sturdy fence out of old shipping pallets - he calls some of the department stores in the nearest town to see how he might get his hands on some, after estimating how many he needs, of course. All the tips and tricks he learned thus far now have an interconnected framework to fit into; the picture on the jigsaw puzzle begins to be revealed.

Second: how does he refine his set-up, based on the characteristics of his own plot? He pulls up a page on north-facing slopes in the northern hemisphere, reviews the pros and cons, determines what he needs to do to optimize this quality on his farm. He realizes that X, Y and Z problem plants are present, so he reviews ways of dealing with them. He determines wind patterns, looks up a way to deal with that. He decides to build hugelbeets using straw, since there aren't many trees in the area, and begins pricing equipment rental in the area. He learns how to optimize the shape of the hugelbeets so as to extend his growing season, cut down on wind effects, etc. He determines a few strategies for dealing with the problem plants, and more things are scratched off his list.

Third: what kinds of things will he introduce? Does he want a food forest, pastured animals in paddocks, vegetable crops in rotation, or combination? More specifically, which foods does he prefer personally? He decides he wants to set aside an acre for his living quarters and a vegetable garden, another acre for a food forest and firewood, with the remainder to remain in pasture for a paddock shift system. He researches crops and animals that do well in his area of Montana, sources and prices seeds and starter stock, etc - he finds various websites and catalogues recommended by other permies as a starting point.

So, you see, little by little the hypothetical starter permie accesses the body of existing permaculture knowledge to start out on a good foundation with his new venture. If he is doing it with other people, and they can't agree on what to do, he now has some basis for saying that X will work better than Y, because exprienced permies had indicated that such and such a thing works best on a north-facing, wind-swept slope in eastern Montana. He has a good idea of how much capital would be required for his various ideas, how long they will take, what legal roadblocks might be in place and the like.

Equal information opportunies would be available for an owner of two hundred acres in southern New Mexico, or a suburbanite with a third of an acre in Fort Lauderdale. Information is tailored to what they have, what they want, and it's already been filtered and reviewed by people who are quailifed to do it. A lot of guesswork is removed, mistakes are avoided, capital money/time used efficiently instead of wasted, etc, etc.

Final analysis? The balance tilts that much more in favor of sustainable living, responsible stewardship of the land, wholesome food production and consumption, etc, etc.

When I originally asked if anyone was really doing this, and petitioned for the qualified persons to chip something in, in a comprehensive manner, this is the sort of thing I'm driving at.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Collin Vickers wrote:
If we had some kind of permaculture database



Looks like an excellent project for someone who is interested in having one.

Various folks are working on various permaculture databases, looks like there's another one for someone to work on.
 
Collin Vickers
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Unfortunately, saying 'there oughta be' and actually making it happen are lightyears apart from one another. Folks willing to sacrifice for others, like Paul Wheaton in the case of this forum/videos/podcast, are worth their weight in gold.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Yep.

 
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Collin Vickers wrote:Every time I do a little research about the greats of permaculture/sustainable agriculture, (Holzer, Salatin, Mollison, Lawton, Fukuoka, Bullock Bros,) sooner or later I read about how their methods don't work quite as well as they are purported to, or that corners are being cut, they talk all day but don't own an inch of land, or something. Occasionally, people cite the friend of a brother's former girlfriend who harvested ten pounds of food per square foot, or growing thousands of species together on a quarter acre. But, I don't see the produce. Where are the videos and pictures testifying to the permie cornucopia? Is there even one person making the coveted $100k annual farm-based income, or feeding the masses



Our family does sustainable farming and timber in the mountains of northern Vermont. We sell our products weekly to local stores, restaurants and individuals. That is how we earn our living, pay our mortgage, our taxes and everything else. We have no off farm jobs. We've been doing it for a long time. We sell primarily wholesale direct to stores and restaurants and some to individuals as well. It is a business and id didn't happen over night. It took decades of planning and then gradual implementation, learning the skills we needed, developing the customer base, building infrastructure, etc. We own our land and tools, aside from the small amount still owed to the bank. I'm not going to tell you our income but suffices to say it is sufficient for us to pay the bills and be comfortable.

I'm not looking to 'feed the masses' but rather to produce enough for our needs and enough extra to earn enough for our needs from our land while continuing to improve our land. We are very successful at that. I have no interest in "getting big". Rather there should be many, millions of small farms. We feed thousands of families and that is enough. This idea that any one farm should 'feed the masses' is crazy. That's the gilded path to the hell of Big Ag.

As to tours, talks, videos and such, I write a blog in the evening and answer questions there but I'm too busy actually farming, homeschooling and building to do tours, conferences and such. My blog is a better way of sharing information. That works for me. Other people like face-to-face and such but that isn't my personal style - I live out on a mountain for a reason. One can have plenty of community without urban. I don't like traveling and I don't like crowds. I live here because I like being here so there isn't much reason to go elsewhere. The Internet is great for connecting and researching. My blog is free. You can read and I get nothing. I have no vested interest in convincing you of anything. I merely share what has worked for us.

Realize that what works for someone else may or may not work for you. You will have differences in climate, animal and plant genetics, soil, water, feed, management, methods, life experience, how hard you work, etc. You can't simply take something someone else is doing and apply it like an assembly line formula. This isn't plastics. This isn't mass production. This isn't a franchise. That is rather the point.

Collin Vickers wrote:There are also lots of start-ups that fail and go back on the market in short order.



Yes, but this is true of any venture. Most fail. Be it restaurants, bookstores or what ever. People try things. Things happen. Some people find they don't like something as much as they thought they would and move on to something else. Some succeed. I've read that 10% making it past the first year is pretty good across the various endeavors of humankind. Evolutionarily speaking that's a very high success rate! We've been earning all of our income from farming for a long time but it doesn't happen over night. It takes time to work out the kinks in production, marketing, delivery, to build customer base, develop products. Permaculture is a lot like other businesses in this regard.

Collin Vickers wrote:Could there be someone out there doing the unglorified, off-camera, unpublished work of permaculture and realizing the dream?



There are a lot of people out there who are walking the walk, who are earning their living farming and homesteading in a sustainable permaculture manner. I know many on the web and some locally. They may not be the big names but they're doing the daily grind. Some people I know doing it are not even on the net or power grid. They just do it.

Collin Vickers wrote:If so, are any of them forthcoming enough to post a copy of thier balance sheets, tax returns,...



You're really asking for too much. People are not running for President here. Dial back your demands.

Collin Vickers wrote:comprehensive, specific details about how they did it, from the time the first seed was planted?



Read more blogs and discussion lists. This sort of thing is widely discussed.

Collin Vickers wrote:I have no intentions of defaming anyone or starting any trouble, I just want to see some verifiable proof that all this stuff isn't just so much humming, hawing, and wasted time.



What I hear you're saying the 'unglorified' people who aren't out to prove themselves must prove themselves. The reality is they'll probably not be all that interested in proving anything to anyone. They just want to do. I know many people who are doing and simply aren't known. Quiet lives.

So... ask yourself permie, "what have you done in a sustainable way today?"

Every day do something. In time you'll build up your skill set and your infrastructure.
 
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Collin Vickers wrote:The point of this topic originally was to indicate my personal feeling that there is a broad gap in the knowledge base available online and in books - lots of little tricks and tips, but not much in the way of comprehensive information.



This is self-evident! Nobody who understands Permaculture's native complexity would ask for universally applicable soup--to-nuts guidelines. That's definetly not what you're asking. If I'm reading you correctly, you're asking for guidelines which have in general proven beneficial for most permie holdings, and which ones have farted&fell. These kinds of documented and reliable cause & effect pairs are usually called "Best Practices".

Some Best Practices we all know about are:
* Swale building
* Increasing edges between habitats
* "Stacking" functions
* Gotta have trees!

Such Best Practices, laid out in commonsense order, are what you're asking for, right? "If starting with bare ground, go to step A. If starting with grassland, go to step C". These maps are usually drawn up by multiple Subject Matter Experts, conferring with each other. SMEs are the people at the tippy-top of their field, those who have BEEN THERE and DONE THAT. If we had a half-dozen or a dozen of these folks, papers and pencils and a couple of hours without distraction, they could hammer out Best Practices that everyone agrees on. Then they could lay these out in order (observe before build, swales before trees, etc) and Bob's your uncle. When they get together over coffee or booze to just chew the fat, (and they will) we will get our Best Practices map.

I'm pretty sure we don't have that many SMEs yet. Heck, we don't know who the SMEs are except for the Luminaries named in this thread. When we do have that many SMEs, and when they find the time at a conference or FAIR or something to talk, some pretty amazing things will result. In the meantime the rest of us will have to muddle through comparing notes without a syllabus, teacher, curriculum or class.

But it will happen. Keep your eyes peeled for when enough folks like that get together in one spot. We live in exciting times.
 
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