I hope this thread isn't discouraging to some people just venturing into the discipline.
One of many misconceptions about Permaculture is that it needs to be practiced on a grand scale. The truth is, Permaculture is a method of planning and design. Permaculture projects can be small or large, so long as you have used Permaculture practices in developing them. Your plans don't always work as intended, but at least you know you thought them through beforehand and have learned both from your successes and failures. Most people, myself included, do not practice Permaculture perfectly. Those who do, are often blessed with resources (either skills, brains, or money) that many of us do not have. That said, there are so many things to learn from Permaculture that, even if you are only using some of the techniques, your homesteading skills will benefit from them.
To keep it real, I'm including a picture of my humble front yard in year 2 of transitioning from a traditional lawn to a productive foodscape. It is a small plot, but I am trying to keep my 2014 PDC in mind while developing it:
I don’t have the time to read this whole mega-thread, but I think I have the gist of it, and I’ve got some things to say: permaculture is a design science, based on the ethics of care for the earth, care for people, and return of surplus to these two goals. In other words, it’s a tool that lets you organize everything, especially your local bit of the biosphere, so that it permanently, simply and comfortably provides your needs and increases in abundance and fertility in the process.
Let me give a thought experiment: everyone has a zone 0, which is the home that they live in. In a temperate continental climate, the house needs to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. So, build your house around a rocket mass heater (also known as a Russian stove or a kang.) and plant deciduous trees to provide shade in the summer. Sun-side windows are also in order. In zone 1, which many people have, you can put... whatever you eat regularly. An herb spiral is a common feature, as are double-reach garden beds on contour. These would have huge diversity, to fill niches and confuse pests, as well as having lots of organic mulch regularly applied, probably from coppice or pollard of border shrubs, preferably legumes, Siberian pea tree would be useful in this scenario. Rose bushes can have parsley and garlic planted under them, for regular harvest. a garden pond (it can just be a hole in the ground lined with plastic or clay) can be installed for predator habitat and temperature control. Zone 2, which most people with zone 1 can fit in, can be wrapped around the zone 1 garden on the side away from the sun, can be a more intensely managed or barely managed (depending on the owners’ inclination) food forest that can also benefit from the zone 1 edge legumes, it can be just 10 square feet, or a whole two acres. It will probably be the most vibrant and diverse ecosystem on the property, and will provide yearly harvests of fruits and berries to be processed for winter. Part of the inner edge of zone 2 can have double-reach garden beds for low-maintenance staples. Unless you’re involved in farming, you probably won’t have a zone three, and I think that this is what confuses people the most about permaculture. They think it takes tons of land that you can turn into a forest-pasture-water harvesting continuum to be sustainable, because that’s what you see in the movies. It is a very profitable zone if you get it right, but it’s actually the least important for most people. zone four can just be a treed border to the property, for a bare minimum of replacement building materials, a really profitable timber forest, or non-existent. Zone five can either be a wide swath of land or just a little “representation” of zone 5, a wild corner that is left to go crazy, and be a therapeutic, peaceful nook. Not to be neglected in design are the outside forces acting on the property, and they are very easy to handle. Simply identify them, and then say “yes” or “no”. Strong winds from this sector? Wrap zone 4 around that side near zones 1 and 2 in the form of a heavy windbreak. A breathtaking view in that direction? Leave a gap in the forested areas to make sure it stays in sight. Is there a bad smell from that sector? Strong smelling flower bushes should help, and maybe you can create a wind tunnel with the gap in the trees you left to leave the good view open, and direct that wind flow towards the smell somehow, blowing it away from you.
I hope this helps to show that anyone can “do” permaculture, from the lawyer who just wants to eats healthier food and live with a measure of sustainability, to the regular suburban Joe with less than half an acre and not much time, to the farmer who wants to make it his life’s work. Don’t worry about how everyone else’s permaculture looks. Do your permaculture.
(Water catchment is a must, though. Just take a shovel and an A-frame and make some mini swales, if you don’t feel like messing around with big machines)
Earthworks are the skeleton; the plants and animals flesh out the design.
Location: Russia, ~250m altitude, zone 5a, Moscow oblast, in the greater Sergeiv Posad reigon.