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Permie Principles in practice  RSS feed

 
Paul Andrews
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I would just like to say that I have not done a PDC although I am fascinated by permaculture and I am trying to incorporate permaculture principles into my life. I find some of the principles difficult to transfer into real life so it would be really helpful to me and hopefully others if we could start a conversation about the practical application of the 12 principles not only in the garden but in everyday life.

I am finding it difficult to find decent explanations to each of the principles.

Paul
 
Troy Rhodes
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Here's my expanded version. It's just my version. It's not holy. There are others. But it will give you a place to start. Also, most of the principles are sort of vague ideas, until you apply it to a particular problem. So, while it is fine and good and worthwhile to discuss the principles on their own. It is far more productive to discuss them in the context of a particular problem. Any problem. Permaculture is a problem solving design science more than anything else.

1. Observe and interact.

Try shit. See what happens. Write it down so you'll remember next time. Theory is worthless without execution and feedback. Don't go off half cocked. Observation should make up a big chunk of your problem solving.

2. Catch and store energy.

Energy is everywhere. Use the free stuff first before you use the expensive store bought stuff, if possible. Solar, wind, water, gravity, “waste” heat, “waste” cold, volunteers, students, your support community, etc etc etc. Conservation isn't sexy, but it is the primary answer usually.

3. Obtain a yield.

Let's call that profit for now. If you don't get a return on your investment of time, energy, resources, money, it's not even sustainable. Never mind regenerative.

4. Apply self regulation and accept feedback.

Be a grown up. Accept constructive criticism from any body and any thing that wants to teach you something. Everything is connected and works as a giant feedback loop. The people and the environment around you will let you know when you're doing something stupid—if you pay attention and forget the whole pride thing.

5. Use and value renewable resources.

By definition, if your farm, or your business, or your house, or your life depends on non-renewable anything, it is doomed to fail sooner or later.

6. Produce no waste.

This is another way of stating that permaculture is really a design science, and never looks at the “problem” in isolation. It looks at the entire system from the cradle to the grave.

If process A (building cool furniture) produces “waste” sawdust, it should be coupled with process B (making compost), so that instead of paying to have it hauled off and buried in a land fill, it gets turned into another useful product and additional profit/revenue/yield.

7. Design from patterns to details.

This is another way of stating that permaculture is a design science that looks at entire systems, and systems of systems. If you have no idea what the big picture looks like, no matter how great the immediate solution is, it will undoubtedly cause “unanticipated” problems upstream or downstream. e.g., “Hey look! We're very clever. We can make electricity out of enriched uranium!” While true, how do you economically store the waste for 50,000 years in a sustainable fashion?

It also recognizes that the same solutions gets used over and over in nature. If you start to recognize patterns, you can apply this old familiar solution to this other new problem in the new and different context.

8. Integrate rather than segregate.

From the middle 1800's up to about 1950, it looked like we could just use science to solve everything. It produced a very linear and oversimplistic way of solving problems. One classic example is 1,000 acre fields of monocrops. The (oversimplified) science told us it was more efficient that way. But in the long term, we realized that it ruins the soil and the water and leads to drastic loss of biodiversity and produces super weeds and super bugs and literally lifeless soil. The simple, one-size-fits-all solution is usually the wrong solution.

9. Use small and slow solutions

If you see a problem, try a small example experiment and see what happens. If it works, tweak it and try a bigger version. Etc etc etc. Big/fast (grossly oversimplified) solutions are usually the wrong solutions. The classic example of how not to do it is the chinese Four Pests solution. Mao just declared that mosquitos, rats, sparrows and flies were a big drag on the system. Everybody was ordered to kill them by any means possible. Yeah, it turns out that the sparrows were the primary control on crop destroying insects and literally millions of people starved to death as a result. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Pests_Campaign

10. Use and value diversity.

Lack of diversity almost always turns out bad. We want diverse communities of people and plants and animals and world views and technologies, etc etc etc. If you put all your eggs in one basket, eventually, something bad will happen and you will die. Eg Irish potato famine. Always have a backup plan. And another backup plan. Nature rarely uses a single path to success.

11. Use edges and value the marginal.

We have observed over the years, that the most productive robust environments are the transition zones. Eg, not deep in the forest, and not in the middle of the plains, but at the transition zone. This argues against giant monocropping.

But this is not just true of natural environments. The “edge” in a business is where the business interacts with the customer. It doesn't matter what's going on in the warehouse or the factory, if a business does not give the costumer a positive experience the business will fail. Another edge is between the business and the supplier. If you don't pay your supplier, you will go out of business. If you take really good care of your supplier, you might get preferential treatment when there is a shortage of product. Another edge is where the business interacts with the employees. If you treat your employees poorly, your business will never thrive in the long run.

12. Creatively use and respond to change.

A business or a farm or a relationship that has one inflexible fragile method of succeeding will invariably fail in the long run. A robust business/farm/relationship has a complex organic redundant system. If something critical changes, it responds quickly and can often benefit from the change, compared to the one-size-fits-all strategy that essentially CAN'T respond to change.



Once you grasp the enormous problem solving potential of permaculture, you will never view any aspect of the world the same again.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Troy Rhodes wrote:
4. Apply self regulation and accept feedback.

Be a grown up. Accept constructive criticism from any body and any thing that wants to teach you something. Everything is connected and works as a giant feedback loop. The people and the environment around you will let you know when you're doing something stupid—if you pay attention and forget the whole pride thing.


It took me awhile to apply this to the concept of "pests." I don't personally accept the idea of "pests" in my garden anymore; as far as I can tell, insects eat plants which are stressed somehow, which means I'm doing something wrong - trying to grow a plant in the wrong habitat or season. So it's useless for me to kill the critters if I'm not solving the underlying problem. I don't kill critters in my garden except, very rarely, especially inconvenient fire ant nests.
 
Paul Andrews
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Wow Troy. Thank you very much for taking the time to post such a comprehensive reply. I am going to take some time to re read your definitions and come back with further questions.

There seems to be quite a lot of overlap between the principles and whilst I was reading your post I was imagining a mind map with all the inter connections between all the concepts. I might have to start drawing up such a diagram so I can start getting all these connection right in my mind.

I suppose the most valuable thing to come out of the principles is that it encourages you to stop and think before you do things.

Paul
 
Wendy Fisher
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I enjoy using permaculture principles as a design lens in my everyday life, particularly when I'm designing music programs for work or trying to figure out my lifestyle. Responding to your question about how to use permaculture principles in everyday life, I think it would be fun to brainstorm about how to use the permaculture design process with regard to a random everyday-life-idea. For now, let's try "How to make friends as an adult," just because.

I've heard that the best way to make friends is to have a series of unplanned spontaneous encounters (which is why life on college campuses fosters friendship formation so easily). I'm no expert -- on either permaculture or friendship -- but I'm feeling playful and designy, so let's give this a whack.


Observe and Interact – Go to different spaces and check them out for "regular hang-out-ability." Agreeable church nearby? Club? Charming bar or coffee house? Game store with community gaming tables? Something else? Maybe go out and try hanging out in these spaces and find a few that seem right for you. Check out who's there. Say hi. Return a few times to see how the mood, population, or agreeableness shift over time.

Catch and Store Energy – Gather e-mail addresses and phone numbers from people you like. Notice if there's interest in creating a regular activity, such as a regular gardening group, a D&D night, a choir, a movie night, what-have-you.

Obtain a yield – Enjoy spending time with people at these locations, maybe leverage those phone numbers and e-mails into a dinner party or a Facebook group or a community e-mail list or into a series of planned social encounters

Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – Notice if you're burning out, notice if you need to wear deodorant, notice which people you enjoy and which people enjoy you, figure out which people seem supportive and enjoyable v. the reverse, cut the crap and refine your process accordingly

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – Hang out in places you can afford given your income, find easy ways to make hanging out with people convenient and sustainable, don't be a mooch...

Produce No Waste – Don't be a jerk, don't participate in drama, cause no harm, don't let anyone abuse you or use you, have good boundaries and be kind, and keep things local to you so you don't waste a lot of time or gas getting to these unplanned spontaneous social encounters.

Design From Patterns to Details – If a Friday night movie night works, maybe a Tuesday night board game night will also work. Or if a book club works, maybe a gardening club will also work. If regular meeting times work, set up more meetings. If a spontaneous flow in and out of the door works, foster the flow and don't block it by trying to control times in and out

Integrate Rather Than Segregate – If you've been having fun at the book club, the coffee shop, and the gardening group, try bringing people from these populations to the charming bar, or invite representatives from each group to your home for a gathering, or bring a friend from the coffee shop to the gardening group, etc.

Use Small and Slow Solutions – Start with a visit to the coffee shop once a week. If that weeks, maybe build in a regular stop at the library's continuing adult educations classes. If a dinner party with your integrated friends group works, maybe the next thing is to organize a camping trip -- if that works out, maybe it can be an annual event.

Use and Value Diversity – Maybe interact with people who are much older or younger than you, from a different culture, or who have a different religious or political value system.

Use Edges and Value the Marginal – Challenge yourself out of your comfort zone. Go somewhere new. Hang out with someone who seems lonely. Volunteer.

Creatively Use and Respond to Change – If one of your new friends moves out of state, maybe you can arrange a yearly visit at their new home, bringing you sweeping views of New Jersey or whatever. If a friend discovers a passionate interest in rock concerts, maybe go with her and help her with the driving. If a friend goes through a tragedy, support him with food, conversation, or dish washing as seems right to you. If your charming bar closes, see if you can divert your bar friends over to the coffee shop.

Anyway. That was all totally random. Maybe it's hogwash, I don't know. But it's some hazy 5am brainstorming about how to use the principles of permaculture applied to an actual design problem. Whether or not I did it well is an entirely different story.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm really starting to apply "Return the Surplus" with all the extra plant material being produced in the kitchen garden, I've started a "feeding chickens on only compost" experiment, building compost heaps in the chicken runs, and not feeding anything else. I'm helping them by fluffing the heap every couple days with a digging fork, so they can get the worms down there. Once they have turned most of the material into shreds, I'll return it to the garden and move them to another heap.

The idea: http://geofflawton.com/videos/chicken-tractor-steroids/

chickencompost2.jpg
[Thumbnail for chickencompost2.jpg]
 
No prison can hold Chairface Chippendale. And on a totally different topic ... my stuff:
paul's latest kickstarter
https://permies.com/t/65247/permaculture-design/permaculture-design-alternative-technology-live
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