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The Impermanent Designer

Posts: 1047
Location: Northern Italy
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This is kind of reviving an old thread that I remember reading here, so I apologize.

After working on two different projects and having the first fail to meet its objectives but fall into okay hands and the second fail miserably to reach its objectives and be plowed under, I'd like to bat around some ideas about impermanence and creating longer-lasting designs.

One of the crucial things I have learned, and have heard said, is that if you don't have the social element rock-solid, everything can easily unravel.

In the first case, the "client" never turned into a "manager" of the project as we would have liked. Only when we finally withdrew our support did they step up and do something. All the time when they could have leveraged our willing and unpaid help was lost.

In the second case, the owner-neighbor became needy and a little parasitic - something that irked us because of our limited time and resources. We would have kept up with it and used it as a wild-tended zone, but he is more happy with a "field" than our wonky constructions. He basically evicted us without actually saying that he wanted us to get lost. Next week, our 3+ years of work will be raked over with a tractor and then plowed under.

The other thing that I learned is that in impermanence lies the possibility of building a movable stash of stuff that you laboriously carry around with you. Not the best situation, but at least you have something to build into new designs. As things accumulate, we need less and less to get new projects off the ground.

The current situation looks as if it could last into perpetuity, since the owner has no interest in the property, is hugely wealthy, doesn't really need the property, is happy to have us, and (the best part) is an absentee landowner.

So. any thoughts on either how to leverage impermanent situations or how to set up social situations better?

Posts: 6120
Location: United States
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I am unsure how moveable permaculture would work because permaculture means permanent culture. For impermanent situations, this makes imagine a grassland or prairie ecosystem. Those ecosystems are prone to restarting many times, so maybe finding fast-growing low to the ground perennial plants would be helpful in establishing an ecosystem that can be made quickly and saved (i.e. saving seeds and cuttings for future development) quickly.

As for the social aspect, I think one of the best ways to get the system going is to find ways to make people happy. What are people wanting? What do people need? What would make the landowner happy? Can you integrate the needs and wants of others with your goal of establishing a permaculture system in the area work? What is going on locally? Any news events that people are passionate about?
William James
Posts: 1047
Location: Northern Italy
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As a sort of response to the first part: we made a good move of planting a lot of comfrey and sunchokes. When the field gets plowed and stuff gets torn to bits, guess who is going to go into hyper-production? In theory we could come and harvest those, so it's not a complete loss.

As for the second part, owning property is one way to encourage permanence, but it is one of those trump cards that really can dominate the social relations if not used correctly, especially with people outside the horizon of ownership.
I think the other side of the coin is finding the right people with whom you can build a lasting committee to oversee whatever is done. People who share the same objectives, can work together well, and will stick with it when things get rough. Basically people who intend to stay and make things happen, through thick or thin.

I haven't been able to extend that type of connection between people beyond my own family (we have tried), so we're doing it that way for now.

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Absentee Landowner Perspective

I bought land (240 acres Grafton NSW Australia) as a way of spreading my capital, because I like it and because I have permaculture leanings. The land has good pasture for now, but twice the area of scrubby land could be brought into pasture using goats and hard work. I'm spending a on water infrastructure to drought proof the property and vastly increase the carrying capacity, productivity and variability of what can be produced on the land. HOWEVER, normally I live in Thailand. I have business and am presently looking for the permanent impermanent soul who wants "free" land

My current pre-occupation is my bucket list project of building a small house and some cabin accommodation for WOOFER types or other who would like to LAND on some LAND, feel the real Australia, Lend a hand and revive their souls.

Absentee Landowner wants RESPONSIBLE people first. (cant be guarranteed) People who will follow through with their plans and are sympathetic with general aims.

Absentee Landowner does needs security for what they already have. That means people who can show RESPECT for property and tools, machinery. Maintenance of fences etc

Absentee Landowner will probably pay for permanent improvements and reward farm development.

Absentee Landlord may have some requirements eg: The east fence needs maintenance - a timeframe may be given to be sure the land user is being responsible.

Absentee Landlord wants to know what is happening on their property and may arrange some form of farm surveillance. Report on a regular basis is just polite, and an agent who is paid to check the property and report may be employed. Best thing is to share your plans / progress / and outcome with AL.

Absentee Landowner does not need money - you pay the rates / taxes and you keep the profit of your own work. If the AL invests say stock, they share profit.

Don't get too fussed with permanence. Few people do the same thing all their lives, you will probably want to move on someday yourself. Most ALs will be happy to sign a rent agreement giving you a low to zero cost and some conditional duration of occupancy. Fail to abide by conditions and you would get evicted = eg dont bring drugs onto the property may be a reasonable condition.

Welcome the AL to return to the property. Provide some modest accommodation for AL to holiday or visit for a few months.

Hint: Be generous! Share a little of your bounty with AL or AL's mates.

Those a few idea, perhaps others will respond with what they consider a workeable arrangement.


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