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geoff lawton, 'greening the desert', original and update  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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Paul and Helen's podcast reviewing Geoff Lawton's Food Forests DVD: http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/417-417/
 
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mycelium is the network of a forest... it has been looking for an engineer with thumbs to hire for a while now... this monkey has figured it out
 
master steward
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Geoff Lawton will be answering questions here on permies during the week of Nov 14.

What questions do you have?
 
paul wheaton
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A new video with Geoff talking about greening the desert:

http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/earthrise/2011/10/2011102793927343187.html

 
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thats awesome that hes on the forums Paul, nice!

what does Geoff think are essential tools in the field for a practicing permie?


 
jesse tack
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what, in his opinion, are the three or four most essential practical skills for a practicing permie?

and what is his advice on getting quality experience in these fields? 
 
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I'm a big fan of his and I have 2 Questions:

- When you have roughly 5 million people in the Arizona Sun Corridor, where the majority of the people live on a tiny suburban lot, and the outskirts of the major cities are populated by monocrop farms of lettuce, cotton, and hay, how can the individual people begin to make a realistic difference?

- As an widely experienced permaculture teacher, what are the necessary elements of a good education in permaculture?
 
paul wheaton
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Now Geoff and I are exchanging email about doing a podcast. 

Bring on your questions!  Quick!

 
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He recommends precipitation over evaporation timing for tropical and subtropical chop and drop: advice for temperate climates?

(as in thread http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/8369_0/permaculture/invasive-trees-as-a-nitrogen-source)
 
                            
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Paul,
As a development worker, I'd be interested in knowing at what levels did Geoff encounter (if at all) resistance to permaculture ideas and how did he overcome it?
Thanks,
Chris.
 
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1) What are his thoughts about inoculating logs with edible mushroom spawn and then using those logs as hugelkultur?  How would he integrate that into a food forest system (or would he even bother?)  What are Geoff's experiences with hugelkultur?

2) I have very strict local regulations against livestock and poultry of any kind.  How would Geoff envision a sustainable food forest and kitchen garden system WITHOUT these important animals?

3) How would Geoff manage an outdoor bathtub compost worm farm in temperate climates where it freezes for 2-3 months?

4) I would love to know Geoff's thoughts on Sepp Holzer.

5) Does Geoff plan on writing any books and doing any more DVDs?

 
pollinator
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I also would like his thoughts on the timing of chop and drop in a non-tropical climate, especially on how (or if) the technique should change in a climate where precipitation does not occur in the growing season.
 
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Question for Geoff: the "greening the desert" series is utterly fascinating. Do you have more technical details of your experiments and do you recommend any other study aside from taking a PDC?
 
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How are the international permaculture schools going?  How many projects, how successful, how many centers are there?  How does permaculture principles beneficially change some of the problems in the Muslim world with the treatment of women? Permaculture can really be a solution for families there, are there any developments on a large scale? Or Permaculture Refugee work?  How did the International P. Convergence and conference in Jordan go?  Thanks for his International work and schools!!!
 
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He works in many different countries.  What are his views about the receptivity and challenges faced by permaculture practitioners in different countries from the big-ag/government establishment?  Are some concepts being adopted into the mainstream in Australia, for example?  Are the government regs we have here in the US the main thing slowing the growth of alt-ag? Do other countries have helpful models that could work in the US? Can alt-ag even work in the US political environment?  What does he see as the way forward for permaculture/small ag vs big-ag in the US?   (Sorry if everyone else on the forums knows what he will say to this.  I'm a newbie.)
 
pollinator
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listening to the podcast with alexia allen, it was quite clear that there is an ideological aspect of permaculture far beyond the hands-on stuff, things like gratitude, awe and wonder, respect, etc. What are some of the ideological or psychological values Geoff finds useful in spreading the gospel of permaculture?
 
                        
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How wonderful! Well done, Paul! I think the work he has done with his wife and students is amazing and am grateful we have such people in the world. If everyone did 10% as much the world would be a fantastic place!

My question has been troubling me for some time and I really hope that Geoff will be able to reassure me that there is a workable solution.

Big grain farms .. are now a reality of life.
These are  some of the worst polluters of runoff fertilizers but years of the use of chemicals has pretty much killed the soil so made them dependent on chemicals to get any sort of crop at all, or is that a wrong assumption? Also, there isn't any way that it would be possible to harvest 10 000 acres of land by hand, at least in this country, and they have so much debt for equipment to be serviced..

What solutions does permaculture offer to these people?

 
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What does he think about the word invasive, and how should the use of it be dealt with?
 
                          
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I was impressed with some of his videos about bringing the desert to life through permaculture. It seems that the "overpopulation" question has become popular in the media again, but I think it would be a moot point if more of the earth (like deserts) were able to be more productive and "healed". In Geoff's work, I'm curious, has he worked with any government agencies to help land to be more productive on a large scale, such as countrywide or greater? Just curious.
 
Mary Saunders
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A lot of permies end up being too cranky to work well with government on a consistent basis.

Maybe George Washington Carver was a permie before his time, and being African-American, it is a very good thing that he didn't care a whit about patenting things and all that. 

Carver actually got summoned to talk about peanuts in congress, where he made an absolute sensation, then went back to Tuskegee on the train to his messy lab where other famous guys made pilgrimages to see him.

If we can call Carver a permie, he was probably the first and last humble, tactful one. 

When we get to Fukuoka, we start with the cranky, not-suffering-fools-gladly type.  I am at a loss to think of any well-known permies who could pass for diplomats. 

Holzer, Mollison, David Blume, so many of these guys who run around the planet are kind of an acquired taste, as I see it. 

I hope someone can prove me wrong on this.  I love Carver, but I confess I could not stay as cool as he did, as much as I wish I could.  Maybe in a future lifetime...
 
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paul wheaton wrote:
It takes a minute to get to it, but in the middle of this video is geoof lawton making some good points.



Excellent background music and, of course, the lecture.

 
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paul wheaton wrote:
Geoff Lawton will be answering questions here on permies during the week of Nov 14.

What questions do you have?



1) How best to integrate swales and berms with food producing a) gardens b) fruit and nut orchards c) windbreaks, woodlands & associated wildlife habitat
2) How to integrate swales and berms with water catchment earthworks
3) how to integrate small to large scale Hugelculture installations with 1) and 2)
All site specific, grade and drainage intensive factors..
 
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cini wrote:
He recommends precipitation over evaporation timing for tropical and subtropical chop and drop: advice for temperate climates?

(as in thread http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/8369_0/permaculture/invasive-trees-as-a-nitrogen-source)



I second this!
 
pollinator
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Fukuoka has never struck me as being cranky - he always seemed a little bit of a sly trickster with the way he phrased his ideas of gardening from a philosophical point of view, such as "do nothing." 

I admire him greatly, but he is not easy to understand from a literal point of view.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:
Now Geoff and I are exchanging email about doing a podcast. 

Bring on your questions!  Quick!



I thought about this for over a day now.  Worried that my question is really too long to answer I thought about it some more.  I suppose I can find answers to my questions over a long period of time I may even answer them all, however if I can only ask one question it would be about ameliorating sodic soil.  I have a small site (only 2.5 acres) on the Carrizo Plain in California.  Geoff's Greening The Dessert projects inspired me to give it a go.  Last year I bought this property and I spent a year watching it on weekends and planting some trees.  The climate is different than the Dead Sea valley.  The Carrizo Plain has had a low of -15 degrees in the past 30 years, but the average yearly low is between 5 and 15 degrees farenheit.  This means I cannot expect Olives, Pomegranates, Figs and Date Palms to grow there like Geoff's project.  All those trees have higher overwinter temperature requirements.  I'll lose all my trees.  Same thing goes for a lot of the leguminous deciduous trees, I'll lose a lot of them for various reasons, the soil being probably the most important factor (high clay/silt/loam with no sand).  So I've been planting Arizona Cypress and Afghan Pine (Pinus Eldarica) the two trees that can handle the most temperature extremes known and require the least amount of rainfall.

It is said that Pine and Cypress trees make the soil acidic. Well in my (newbie) opinion, that will certainly help ANY alkaline soil, salted or othewise.  The chief mineral content in the soil being Sodium Carbonates and Sodium Nitrates.  The surface shows salt crystals after every rainfall, which then blow away as dust when unsettled or trampled upon.  I think I'm heading down the right track with the trees I planted because they can only make the site better, right?

I believe I have at least 10 years to make the soil better, but I'm not experienced enough to know this.  I'm just a newbie, just getting my feet wet.  My line of thought revolves around the groundwater table being so high (around 8 - 12 feet below surface) I should plant trees to lower the water table and thus maybe allow the leaching of the salts to settle deeper into the soil and away from the top.

My question is did I do the right thing?  If not, what are some other factors I could consider in making the soil fit for a food forest? 
 
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My question for Mr Lawton.

"When will you write a good book for us?"

With area specific information -  from Tropical to Arid
 
Tyler Ludens
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I don't get the impression Fukuoka's farming was separate from his philosophy.  To me they always seemed intrinsic - his philosophy and farming developed together.  At least that is what it seems like in "The One Straw Revolution."

 
Mary Saunders
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I have followed Fukuoka's life carefully, including much that was written in tribute and remembrance after he died.  In particular, there was a writer who spoke of meeting him in Japan, where initially the writer was rebuffed.  Later, at a better time, Fukuoka gave him some seeds to take to China, and those seeds became important in rice culture in China. 

I have also spoken with Larry Korn, who brought out the reprint of One-Straw Revolution and who lived in Japan for many years, learning from Fukuoka.  Maybe Larry will read this and weigh in.  Perhaps cranky is not the right word from his perspective and my interpretation from my talk with him is inaccurate. 

I do not see being cranky as a mortal criticism of a person.  I think it acknowledges humanity, and also how frustrating it can be to be far ahead in one's thinking.  It also touches on the topic of do-ers v. tellers, between whom there can be differences that are challenging to bridge.

I also think that being of a certain religion may not ensure that a person is not cranky. 

George Washington Carver was not just a peanut scientist.  I know that is a common perception, but it understates his influence and importance to the economy and to feeding a vast number of white and black people in the early southern part of the U.S.  Cotton culture had devastated the landscape and depleted soil health. 

In the present iteration of individuals wanting to grow things, I think we will need to be further into the cycle before Carver's work will be appreciated as much as it has the potential to be, but already there is increased interest that I sense on the internet, in particular, from some in India.

Carver was one of the central stories in The Secret Lives of Plants, a book quite popular the last time there was so much general interest in gardening.

Anyway, back to the topic of questions for Geoff Lawton, once we have been immersed in permaculture thinking for a long time, it is challenging not to assume others know the same culture and back-stories. 

What are your favorite small projects that illustrate the principles in short-form?
 
                                
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I would love to know more about the mushrooms they found living in the swale mulch-pile.  Were they identifiable, (did they fruit? or was it just the mycelium?) how long did it take for them to get established, and does he think we could easily control what type of fungi colonized it to grow edibles?


Thanks for doing this, Paul and Geoff!!

From:Ziegler, Soizic. (swa-zeek)

thanks!
 
paul wheaton
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(sigh)

I have to put on my "in charge of this joint" hat.

1)  when asking Geoff questions, I'm gonna ask the ones with the "first name, space, last name" first.  And then I'll ask questions "from somebody" (the pseudonym things bug me).

2)  When a thread gets a bit awkward, I tend to tell my browser to search for "you" and then delete those posts.  Which I have started to do just before writing this post.

3)  I think the "cranky" question is a good question that is difficult to ask.  I support the idea of asking, and if folks have a powerful opinion about the question, I suggest they start a new thread.  If folks would like to request that the question be asked in another way, that is worth bringing up.

4)  I think it is important when pontificating about things from 500 years ago it is wise to state your stuff as your position rather than "the truth".  Because if you state it as "the truth" then anybody presenting a position that is an alternative is kinda comes off as sounding like going to war.  So folks tend to either say nothing, or bring a big bucket of war. 

5)  I deleted a post that seemed ... uh .... to have several good points, but the presentation was a bit too "hot" (and while I appreciate that this was the edited down version, I think editing it down even more might still not be enough)

 
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If I met Geoff Lawton ....I would thank him for spreading so much HOPE!. I always think Wow look at what he is doing in the desert. If he can do that there what can I accomplish.

I wonder if his work in the desert was inspired by the people that live there or was it the lure of the ultimate challenge of permaculture in such dry conditions.

What a great interview...I really look forward to listening
 
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I would like to know which permaculture groups are most active in Haiti, and which are most active in Mindanao, Philippines. What projects are they working on?
 
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Paul,

I listened to a podcast of yours recently where you lamented the lack of vision by clients that had retained your services. I can empathize with those clients of yours a bit for I find myself in sorta-kinda the same situation.  

I am excited about all of the possibilities that flow from Permaculture concepts.  Thinking in Permaculture principles seems to open new worlds of thought that leads in turn to more questions than answers.  

I FEEL after reading much material here over the course of some months that the permaculture path is the one I would like this facet of my life to follow. However, as the consummate neophyte, I lack anything other than a piece of land, the desire to use it as responsibly as possible and to leave behind the greatest possible legacy to those that come after me. I FEEL the Permaculture path will best fulfill those desires. 

I lack at least three identifiable things:
(1) the technical knowledge requisite to implement a WHOLE BUNCH of techniques that I have read about here,
(2) the ability to choose the better of two appropriate techniques
(3) a specific, ultimate vision of what I want or ought to be striving towards. 

As close as I can get right now would be to tell you that I want to take a piece of land of about 300 acreas and make it sing for generations to come while making as few mistakes along the way as possible.  

So given that I lack specific vision, I can't tell you specifically and entirely what I want.  Question #1 Is ultimate, specific vision required to begin implementing Permaculture techniques?

As I play around with this new found knowledge, take Swales for instance, I have an idea of where I think at least one or two might be well suited. The specific reason for wanting a swale eludes me. What I THINK I know is that holding water as high as possible as long as possible is a good thing. Not doing this as step one is to possibly commit a type 1 error. Once the Swales are optimally placed then, if I understand correctly, the land will have increased potential productivity with which I can utilize to maximize many different possible future returns to be decided upon at some later date as my vision solidifies over time. 

However, I am paralyzed by fear of sinking a mountain of money into something and in so doing committing a type 1 error for I know so little about what I'm doing that I don't even know if Swales are indicated in my given circumstances. So I do nothing. Time lapses, the effects of erosion intensify and I start to think that perhaps keyline plowing maybe the best first step to take. But then I become afraid of sinking a mountain of money into that option and in so doing perhaps achieving an effect that possibly could have been accomplished with FAR fewer inputs had I simply dug a single, simple swale using naught but a garden trowel. 

And then there is this vision I have of going out, doing a bunch of stuff, failing miserably, flying you out to my farm, spending the $100,000/hour you charge, walking about with you for six weeks showing you all of what I have done and we get to the end of your consult and you tell me something like, "Well, had you dug that first swale a 1/2" further upslope and chewed your tobakker on the left side instead of your right, all of these problems you have encountered would have never manifested in the first place.  But since you screwed up that first swale, you will have to go back all the way to the beginning and redo 20 years worth of work, every penny of money you have spent thus far has been a complete and utter waste AND you're ugly and because of that your kids are ugly. That'll be 4.8 million dollars. Thank you for your business."

 
So what I THINK I ought to do at this stage is work on the (for lack of a better word) infrastructure of my farm so that all future endeavors might flow more harmoniously from these initial endeavors instead of putting together piecemeal a bunch of parts that fail to achieve synergy. 

Seems to me that if you're practicing Permaculture on a 1/8 acre plot in your back yard like Robert Hart did and your only concern is keeping your mentally challenged brother from going further off the deep end and you flub, no biggie.  But when you have a more sizable responsibility with the potential to utterly screw up your children's inheritance, a type 1 flub can be truly catastrophic. 

Question #2 - If specific vision isn't required to begin implementing Permaculture techniques, how does one go about doing so without committing any type 1 errors?
 
Mary Saunders
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These questions caused me to think about Tuskegee and how they started. 

A quick net search brought up this link that might be helpful, and which also triggered a question for Geoff, which would be, do you know of living-museum type places, like Tuskegee, where people could go and wander around and observe mature stands of permaculture in practice?

http://www.permacultureguild.us/category/gallery/tuskegee/
 
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paul wheaton wrote:
Now Geoff and I are exchanging email about doing a podcast. 

Bring on your questions!  Quick!



3 biggest 'Ah-ha' moments?
How long were you studying before you felt like you had something to offer back?
If you had the authority to make one law, what would it be?

 
                          
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paul wheaton wrote:
Geoff Lawton will be answering questions here on permies during the week of Nov 14.

What questions do you have?

Paul,

I am a Southern California fruit farmer (avocado, persimmons and
others) and have started planting guilds and using polyculture
techniques in the grove since listing to your podcasts.  Have viewed Geoff Lawton's video's on water harvesting and Permaculture. My biggist
issue here is water so I have started some earth works projects to try
to keep as much water on my property as possible.  I would like you to
drill down a bit further with a question you had in previous podcasts
with regards to how long are the effects of the swales on a property
and how long you can extend the season without watering.  You thought
a couple of weeks, your guest thought a couple of months.  I know that
"it depends" on soil, etc. but would like to hear some real examples
from Geoff for a climate like Southern Cal.
Larry Duford - Fallbrook CA

 
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Mike Guidry from Sulphur Louisiana asks:  Geoff, you spent time here in Louisiana working with the army corps of engineers.  What are your thoughts on the best water harnessing methods for land that is mostly flat?  Thank you. .... And thank you also Paul for doing this.
 
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Hi Permaculture People
                                    it is a great honor to be engaged in a great conversation with Paul Wheaton today and to offer my thoughts to inquiries on this great forum.

Looking forward to all your questions.
 
paul wheaton
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Geoff and I made an hour long podcast yesterday. And a 90 minute podcast today.

Geoff will be answering questions in this forum next week!

 
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Geoff Lawton wrote:
Hi Permaculture People
                                    it is a great honor to be engaged in a great conversation with Paul Wheaton today and to offer my thoughts to inquiries on this great forum.

Looking forward to all your questions.



Welcome to permies Mr. Lawton!  What an incredible honor for you to come and answer questions next week! 

Thank you so much Paul for taking the initiative to make this happen, there are no words to adequately express my pleasure! 
 
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https://permies.com/t/106159/permaculture-design/Permaculture-Design-Divinya-yogic-community
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