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permaculture designing tools

Posts: 172
Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands
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Hey all,

i dont know if im covering stuff thats allready discussed somewhere else but i couldnt find it with the search function.

There is some stuff i would like to share because it has been very helpful for me putting all that i was learning on the web and from books, these great techniques (from mulching to forest gardening), into practice, starting from scratch.

for you more experienced ones this is all probably nothing new, heck it isnt even unique to permaculture, it all existed before (like most pc practices). Still some people might find it useful and I thought it would be nice to create a thread to put these helpfull tools together.

First is the use of brainstorms and mind-maps to concretize your thoughts. Thoughts are sometimes hard to grab, and there might be a lot of them just zooming around in your head (especially when just starting to study permaculture and getting really excited and stuff). Mind maps help you visualize this and put stuff in context, in relation to each other. It might even help you clear your head and sleep better ( if youre the kind of person, like me, thats sometimes has their head buzzing with thoughts when you go to bed).

Second is the design proces described in SADIM (or OBREDIM)
Sadim is short for Survey, Assessment, Design, Implementation, Maintenance. Going consiously through all of these steps helps having an integrated approach.
On the permawiki, if you scroll down, you can find more about this, and obredim (slightly more specific).
SADIM – a design process usefull in permaculture.
Survey -this is about observation
- Site Survey
  (site survey   
- Sectors* and elevation
- client interview, locals

- Input/output analysis
- Set goals
  (holistic goal setting   
- Set the criteria by:
+ client interview
+ brainstorm
+ mind maps
+ etc
- SWOT analysis
(identify: Strengths, 
          & Threats.
- etc.

Use the 'Key planning tools':
- Make a 'base map'
- indicate the sectors and slopes.
- Think about relative location
- Start zoning the land (0 to 5)**
- Use the 10 (or 12) design principles

This is the fun part:
- Work where it counts!

During and/or after maintenance we go back to the obervations.

In every step in the process it might be necessary to go back to observing, assesing or designing.
Sectors are everything coming from outside the property. It can be prevailing winds, pollution from neighboring farms, noise, fire hazards, the direction of rains, cold winds, warm winds etc etc.

The zones start at your house or centre of activity: 0 to 5, every zone requires less attendance. So a herb garden that you need to acces at least 1 time a day (before dinner is coocked) woul be situated in zone one, a forest garden in zone 2 or 3, grain fields you visit less in zone 3 or 4, and large cattle usually in zone 4. Zone 5 is wilderness, where we dont intervene at all apart from maybe collecting some wild edibles now and then. Some people speak about zone 5a. which are little zone 5's in all the other zones, emphasizing that every part of a garden should have little pieces of neglect where we let nature go its way.
Posts: 172
Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands
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for some reason i lost half of my previous post, i know this is become an awfully long post, but im posting it anyway. probably nobody will actually take the time to read this, but even if one person finds something valuable in it its worth putting it out there.
Third is the use of a set of design principles. My problem at first was that every writer has its own. from Holmgren to Mollison, from Lawton to Whitefield, i keep finding others. Ofcorse many of them are the same but phrased different, also Holmgren tends to be much more conceptual (making it more easy to use them for anything else that a garden system). In the end i like the ones being used by the dutch teachers as they are very concrete and practical. I know this is becoming a very long piece of text and i noticed that doesnt work well on fora or websites, bút i will put them here.

I am really interested which principles others have been using (if they have). And i would be very interested in compiling examples in this thread of hów to apply them.

Encourage and work with natural succession
In anual monoculture every year your ecology is set back to its pioneer stage, costing you lots of work. In permaculture we try to encourage your ecosystem to evolve, guiding every stage of succession to be in our advandage with species that serve functions for us and their surroundings.
Increase diversity
The more diversity the more resilient your system is, if any part fails or doesnt give you a crop, others will. Also it is about creating resilient systems of species that mutually support each other. the number of relationships between species or other elements counts. Building guilds is a good example of this principle in action.
Every (important) element should serve many functions
The most used example as i know it is a chicken. But also the fruit tree, it can supply food, shade, bird-habitat, fire-wood, takes nutrients from deep layers and makes those available with leaf-litter. Another one is to not only use a legumes for food, but also provide nitrogen for surrounding plants that might need that, attract insects, and i think they can be really pretty when flowering
Every (important) function should be supported by many elements
Functions like fertilizing, electricity, providing for food or your water-supply, should always be served by as many elements as you can think of. Again when one fails the others will continu. for water, apart from maybe being connected to 'the net' you coul reside to collecting rain-water, natural wells, filtering your own grey-water etc.
Focus on (local) organic recources
For example in stead of synthetic fertilizers using compost or (hu)manure, waterflow to create electrity, biogas for coocking, and for building cob, straw, clay wood could be great local, renewable recources.
Catch, store and recycle energy on the spot
If using hedgerows to redirect winds, it is a small step to put turbines where you are directing it to. Trees are also great energy traps. rainwater can be used for washing, after being led through a living machine (organic purification) and used as drinking water after.
Efficient energy planning
Zoning your plot in how often you visit it and placing the elements according to that is a good example. Another is from a friend who has an outhouse, he put different elements that need care several times of the on the route to the outhouse, in one walk to the toilet he takes the kitchen scraps to the compost (turns the compost if necessary) does a little weeding in his herb garden, maybe picks some small fruit that is ripe and checks on the (plant)nursery.
Stacking in space and time
Stacking in space is well known, the forest garen the best example of trying to stack plants providing food growing in 7 different layers on a small piece of land. Less known is stacking in time. good examples are to put in lettuce and endive in at the same time. The salads will quickly grow into the space between the slow growing endive (this space is unused potential), by the time you are harvesting your lettuce the endive will need that space and grow big.
Relative location
When placing elements think about their relative location. How does it interact with other elements on your site, would it be advantageous to place them next to each other, a greenhouse next to your house? if you have nitrogen fixing plants, why not place them next to plants that consume lots of nitrogen?
Increase the edge
As is well known to ecologists edges are highly productive. the most famous example is the forest edge. the edge between field and forest, where species from both ecologies exist, plus species unique to the surroundings of an edge. Therefore ponds and garden beds are often designed in a way that increases the edge. But there are many more edges to consider, a tree, branching out up as well as down is the edge between (ground)water and air. Swales are ways to increase the edge, as are coffee shops, where people interact.

Chelle Lewis
Posts: 424
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
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I found this very interesting. I already use mind maps to brainstorm [super free tool called XMIND can be downloaded to do this on a computer.... just google it] but SADIM is new to me. Really neat way to tackle design. Thanks!
Brenda Groth
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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good overview of permaculture principles
herve boisson
Posts: 3
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Chelle Lewis wrote:super free tool called XMIND can be downloaded to do this on a computer.... just google it

Hey, thanks for the link, this software is really great!
James Branham
Posts: 5
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I'm just starting a forest garden. There is so much I don't know yet.
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