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Lf London
Posts: 96
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
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Complexity and depth of a permaculture site design.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How complex a design can be created for a site? Given those limits
imposed by climatic region, i.e. desert as opposed to tropical rainforest,
are there practical limits assuming offsite inputs, arbitrarily available
within a radius of a day's drive from the site, are allowed?

It seems to me that there should almost be no limits. Organism populations
evolving, succeeding and surviving within interacting, intersecting
ecological niches on site could become quite complex in their diversity
and contribution to overall site ecology and function.

I was reading Mollison's Permaculture Designers Manual and discovered
this statement:

"Energies enter a system, and either remain or escape. Our work as
permaculture designers is to prevent energy leaving before the basic
needs of the whole system are satisfied, so that growth, reproduction
and maintenance continue in our living components.
All permaculture designers should be aware of the fundamental
principles that govern natural systems. These are not immutable rules,
but can be used as a set of directives, taking each case as unique but
gaining confidence and inspiration from a set of findings and solutions
in other places and other times. We can use the guiding principles and
laws of natural systems, as formulated by such people as Watt, Odum and
Birch, and apply some of them to our consciously-designed ecologies."

One of the easiest issues to understand, at least superficially, is nutrient flow on a site.
Once, for example, off site inputs such as natural sources of N, P and K and trace minerals are applied and
absorbed by the system, what happens to nutrients generated naturally on site,
N, P and K & minerals, through natural cycling and
extraction by organisms such as N2-fixing bacteria with legumes and
fungi? How can this energy in the form of nutrients be conserved, used
and retained on site? I think this provides a hint as to the complexity
of a design that can be created and also with the flywheel effect,
the additional complexity that can and may evolve as those elements
of living systems coexist and coevolve on a site.

I find this topic fascinating and will probably pursue it for many years
to come. My years as a landscape designer and contractor has given me a
taste of what this is all about. Ornamental plants can be difficult and
challenging to establish on a site as some have narrowly defined
cultural requirements and maintenance needs. Establishing diverse and
robust populations of beneficial microorganisms can also be challenging
as can be creating habitat for widely diverse species of wildlife that
serve the needs of and are served by other on-site elements.

The methods, tools and schemes available to a permaculturist seeking to
develop a site are many, varied and powerful.

I would welcome anyone else interested contributing to an ongoing thread
on this topic.

<><><><>

Permaculture Designer's Manual, revisions, new works on Permaculture.
Tuesday, June 17, 2010

Recently, I submitted my thoughts on whether there are any practical
limits of depth and complexity for a permaculture design. It occured to
me that others might possibly rewrite, add to or otherwise evaluate this
document, its revisions and new ones that I post as well as following
with their own essays. This way we might build a collection of open
source, collaborative documents that would eventually become resources
of lasting value. Some of this material might be worthy of inclusion in
a new or revised Permaculture Designer's Manual.

If this idea appeals to them, it would be especially useful if those in
the list, who conduct PDC's or offer permaculture consultation and
workshops, would offer criticism of our respective works-in-progress.

As for myself, I have never taken a PDC and am presently beginning to
take a serious look at and read the main body of literature that
comprises the primary permaculture knowledgebase that we all access so
frequently. I have a huge and diverse library with many old and rare
volumes, so this is an especially pleasant task for me to undertake.

Bill Mollison's Permaculture Designers' Manual is a brilliant work
and really inspiring reading. It should form the core of the modern
permaculture movement's knowledgebase.

I'd be interested in any feedback on this topic.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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"Energies enter a system, and either remain or escape. Our work as
permaculture designers is to prevent energy leaving before the basic
needs of the whole system are satisfied, so that growth, reproduction
and maintenance continue in our living components.


This strikes me again and again as one of the most inspiring ideas of permaculture.  In terms of the physical systems there are tons of proven strategies for maximizing yield (of course, infinite variations and complexities will evolve).  What I am so curious about is the application of this theory to our social, medical, economic and political systems.  The energy losses are needlessly staggering at every turn of human interaction.  I hope to develop these concepts and work with designing the human side of systems in the future. 
 
Lf London
Posts: 96
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
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yukkuri_kame wrote:
This strikes me again and again as one of the most inspiring ideas of permaculture.  In terms of the physical systems there are tons of proven strategies for maximizing yield (of course, infinite variations and complexities will evolve).  What I am so curious about is the application of this theory to our social, medical, economic and political systems.  The energy losses are needlessly staggering at every turn of human interaction.  I hope to develop these concepts and work with designing the human side of systems in the future. 


Hello Yukkuri:

As for applying permaculture principles to "social, medical, economic and political systems", a lot of this work is being done now
as interest in Permaculture spreads through the populations of each country. All that is needed is for it to be incorporated in the infrastructure with benefits realized in nearly every sector of the economy. With permaculture you also have market farming. Farms designed using permaculture principles are more sustainable and give the Earth more that than they take out. As for energy losses,
they would be minimized or eliminated through the use of permaculture. I can speak from experience, I have developed a 6 acre sustainable market farm which exhibits maximum energy retention. I am, at least,  working toward that as a goal and have spent a lot of money getting as far along that path as I have. Human energy is another matter but involves the same principle of conservation. As interest in permaculture grows worldwide more people will migrate toward lifestyles that emphasize wise use of their time and resources available to them.  As some might say, its a happening thing. As Alan Chadwick said:
"We need to create the beauty and the quality  first. The quantity will follow."

Are you in Japan?

You might find this website interesting:
Journey To Forever
http://journeytoforever.org/

LF London
Chapel Hill NC

 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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i believe that the more educated the masses become that the more these ideas will begin to flow, however, you still look around you as you travel off of your own property, and you will find that even most landscaping that is done around homes, businesses, buildings, parks, etc..are still monocultures.

Say for example the modern park, will have lawn and trees with an occaional annual or perennial bed of one type of flower.

Most landscaping done around buildings and businesses, tend to also be monocultures, say a group of various evergreens,  or possibly a group of perennials, ore possibly a group of annual beds.

all lovely, but they are generally not coexistinig and helping each other, they are all taking the same requirements out of the soil, and putting nothing, or very little back into the soil itself.

My way of thinking is how can this type of information become more widely available to the everyday person out there. We tend to group together as a small group whether online or in magazines, books, or commujnities, but how can these principles be more widely available to the common man?
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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Brenda Groth wrote:
My way of thinking is how can this type of information become more widely available to the everyday person out there. We tend to group together as a small group whether online or in magazines, books, or commujnities, but how can these principles be more widely available to the common man?
IMHO a good way to do this is to find and promote successful local examples of permaculture, that people can see and experience for themselves.  Somewhere in this forum I related my experience of exposing our city's parks maintenance supervisor to this self-sustaining lawn seed mix: http://www.protimelawnseed.com/products/fleur-de-lawn ; I got involved with the design of a new park in our neighborhood, and suggested this mix instead of regular lawn for much of the park (as well as a number of other sustainable features).  I took the maintenance supervisor and the landscape architect to a site at a nearby town that had a large area planted with this mix, and explained the benefits.  I was able to convince them, and they did use it in the park.  I am sure that this mix will now be considered when future parks are built.  But the key was being able to show the decision makers a successful local example, and let them talk with the property owner about maintenance, etc. 

If you do not know of a successful local example, start one yourself.  Also seek out opportunities to influence the decision makers, such as the community meeting I attended which triggered all this.

One thing that I think is lacking in much of permaculture is aesthetic appeal.  Most people see no difference between a mature food forest and a "weed patch".  I think there needs to be a transition period where permaculture designers sacrifice a little productivity in order to satisfy most people's desire for an orderly-looking landscape.  Eventually people will be fine with the look of a food forest, but so many people have grown up with neatly trimmed shrubs/hedges and manicured lawns that I think it is too much of a culture shock to take them directly to a "wild" food forest.  One idea is to have a map of the permascape available so people can see that yes there has been a lot of thought put into what they see in front of them - it is not just an abandoned chaos.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 995
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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adunca wrote:
IMHO a good way to do this is to find and promote successful local examples of permaculture, that people can see and experience for themselves.  Somewhere in this forum I related my experience of exposing our city's parks maintenance supervisor to this self-sustaining lawn seed mix: http://www.protimelawnseed.com/products/fleur-de-lawn  I got involved with the design of a new park in our neighborhood, and suggested this mix instead of regular lawn for much of the park (as well as a number of other sustainable features).  I took the maintenance supervisor and the landscape architect to a site at a nearby town that had a large area planted with this mix, and explained the benefits.  I was able to convince them, and they did use it in the park.  I am sure that this mix will now be considered when future parks are built.  But the key was being able to show the decision makers a successful local example, and let them talk with the property owner about maintenance, etc. 

If you do not know of a successful local example, start one yourself.  Also seek out opportunities to influence the decision makers, such as the community meeting I attended which triggered all this.

One thing that I think is lacking in much of permaculture is aesthetic appeal.  Most people see no difference between a mature food forest and a "weed patch".  I think there needs to be a transition period where permaculture designers sacrifice a little productivity in order to satisfy most people's desire for an orderly-looking landscape.  Eventually people will be fine with the look of a food forest, but so many people have grown up with neatly trimmed shrubs/hedges and manicured lawns that I think it is too much of a culture shock to take them directly to a "wild" food forest.  One idea is to have a map of the permascape available so people can see that yes there has been a lot of thought put into what they see in front of them - it is not just an abandoned chaos.


These are good points.  I think that the best way to get other people interested is for them to see good examples of a productive, easy-to-manage permaculture landscape.  As people struggle more with economic issues, and have to work long hours just to make ends meet, traditional gardening and farming practices become less attractive because people just won't have the time to put into them -- a standard row garden takes a lot of time.  A mature permaculture landscape ought to be able to produce as much food (if not more) with a lot less work, but people need to SEE that in practice. 

And yes, it does need to be an orderly landscape, not just for aesthetic reasons, but also so people don't have to be concerned about stumbling over a poisonous snake that they didn't see in the underbrush, or about wildfire starting in a tangle of dead branches and dry grass....Personally I prefer the 'wild' look, but it is easier to figure out the patterns of a more orderly landscape.  I think that eventually a person will progress to something more natural in appearance, but we ought to be happy to see any form of permaculture even if it isn't a mature form yet.

Kathleen
 
                                  
Posts: 175
Location: Suwon, South Korea
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adunca wrote:
IMHO a good way to do this is to find and promote successful local examples of permaculture, that people can see and experience for themselves.  Somewhere in this forum I related my experience of exposing our city's parks maintenance supervisor to this self-sustaining lawn seed mix: http://www.protimelawnseed.com/products/fleur-de-lawn  I got involved with the design of a new park in our neighborhood, and suggested this mix instead of regular lawn for much of the park (as well as a number of other sustainable features).  I took the maintenance supervisor and the landscape architect to a site at a nearby town that had a large area planted with this mix, and explained the benefits.  I was able to convince them, and they did use it in the park.  I am sure that this mix will now be considered when future parks are built.  But the key was being able to show the decision makers a successful local example, and let them talk with the property owner about maintenance, etc. 
If you do not know of a successful local example, start one yourself.  Also seek out opportunities to influence the decision makers, such as the community meeting I attended which triggered all this.
One thing that I think is lacking in much of permaculture is aesthetic appeal.  Most people see no difference between a mature food forest and a "weed patch".  I think there needs to be a transition period where permaculture designers sacrifice a little productivity in order to satisfy most people's desire for an orderly-looking landscape.  Eventually people will be fine with the look of a food forest, but so many people have grown up with neatly trimmed shrubs/hedges and manicured lawns that I think it is too much of a culture shock to take them directly to a "wild" food forest.  One idea is to have a map of the permascape available so people can see that yes there has been a lot of thought put into what they see in front of them - it is not just an abandoned chaos.


Great points... and actions!  You're a hero. 

The objections to permaculture and the larger category of sustainable living that I've heard recently are that it is a "flight of fancy,"/"pie in the sky,"/"totally unrealistic,"/"utopian,"/"hopelessly idealistic."  "We are not going to meet our energy and food needs by local, organic gardening," etc.

I think there are basically three answers to this criticism.  First, our history is full of such 'hopeless idealism' that goes on to prove the critics wrong, from the Declaration of Independence to the Wright Brothers to numerous 'impossible' medical advances, and on and on.  And such 'utopian' thinking is actually necessary to stimulate innovation at the very least.  Second, we already see small successes that promise to pave the way for larger successes, despite not a lot of support from government and business.  And finally, the current system is unsustainable and getting worse.  The status quo is simply not an option, nor is simply 'hoping' for a solution to come in time.

But I agree that the absolute best response is to be able to show an example of an idea that works, like you have done.


 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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well i have been in the process of turning over our 10 acres and our son's 10 acres and the land we sold  to our neighbors 40 acres as quickly as possible to food forests..over the past 39 years..however..after our housefire in 2002 i had to start over with baby trees for the most part on our own property.

I would love to be an example to people in the area..but my example is so young at this point..before the fire i had large fruit bearing food forests..but lost them and had to start over..so now they are "stick tree" food forests..

Maybe in the future i'll have a well defined example that i can share with people..but at this point they would kinda probably laugh..
you can see by clicking on the two following links to our propertyphotograph albums.
Eventually I would love to use my property as a teaching example, but feel i have to wait until the trees are bigger than leafy sticks
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=23386&id=1846485863&l=500c304934

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=22539&id=1846485863&l=e05859fdc6
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3381
Location: woodland, washington
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what was the source of that fire, Brenda?  are you designing your food forest to avoid a similar fate in the future?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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There are human limits that would need to be accounted for. Because any design is a construct of the human mind, it either has to be simple enough to fit completely in the mind of each person involved with the design, or to be adapted to pass into (and, more importantly, out of) some inanimate form without too much loss or distortion.

In the very early days of the personal computer, computer systems were simple enough that a few of the upper levels of hardware design and a few of the lower levels of software design could all be comprehended at once, in the mind of a genius like Steve Wozniak. The system Woz designed has a beauty and efficiency that stand in sharp contrast to newer systems, because he was able to appreciate nearly-fundamental hardware concerns in the design of fairly high-level software, and vice-versa: his design was able to span four or five layers of abstraction. Since then, there are new layers of abstraction to handle the complexity (three or four new ones, depending on how you choose to count them, making a total of perhaps nine), and detailed information is rarely carried across even three of those layers for the sake of design. A huge proprotion of the effort currently applied to computer system design, is spent making information accessible for work on a different layer of abstraction.

For a more humble example, I've been trying to re-habilitate the front yard of the property I'm renting at. A new tenant moved in, and saw some bitter lettuce etc. growing there, so pulled everything that didn't have its own masonry border: gladiolas in full bloom, lillies...if he had seen the progression, he might have seen a plan in action, but then again, maybe not. Maybe gladiolas that don't have some permanent indication that they are intentional, and aren't part of a large, uniform block, are less preferable to him than dead clay.
 
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