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Why 7 stacking functions?

 
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Hi Shawn Jadrnicek, thanks for stopping by and joining in the conversation.

I don't have a copy of your book yet, but I'm looking forward to the chance to read it.

In a review of your book, it's mentioned that it's important to stack the functions of any component in a design. If each component has 7 functions, then it is "so connected with the surrounding environment that it takes on a new autonomous, lifelike quality".

Could you tell us more about this? (assume that some of us are really brand new to stacking functions) Also, why the number 7?
 
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Hi Ranson,

Thanks for your interest in the book and a great question. Every function that a component performs saves time and energy. For example, a prickly pear plant can be a fence, fruit and vegetable and save money and energy needed to produce or purchase these items. The stacking function principle in permaculture states that every component should serve many functions and every function should be served by several components. Having functions served by several components builds some redundancy into the system in case something fails but sometimes can be defined as a function of the original component.

After studying design components that I had created and others I had seen I felt like the best ones had at least 7 functions (with a monetary value that could be assigned to the function). I then started researching the number 7 and found that it had a lot of spiritual, mystical, religious and psychological significance so I decided to incorporate it into the definition of bio-integration: when a components has 7 functions (check out the wiki page on the number 7 and The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information by George Miller). My hope was that bio-integration would bring some focus on the functionality of designs which I feel is the heart of permaculture. I also would love to find more highly functional design patterns others have created so I can use them to my benefit and defining them helps start that process.

I posted my latest bio-integrated design to the forum titled "New Heat Extraction Technique for Compost Piles." I was still working on this one when I wrote the book so it's not in there but I think it would be useful for people so I wanted to share.

 
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Shawn Jadrnicek wrote: I then started researching the number 7 and found that it had a lot of spiritual, mystical, religious and psychological significance



That's what I thought it might be!
 
r ranson
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Hi Shawn, thanks for the explanation. I like this idea, that everything has several different functions. Stacking functions makes a lot of sense.

I wonder, how could I find 7 functions for garlic? It's such a vital part of my diet, but it dosen't seem to do much else around the farm. A tree can be building material, shade, mulch, fruit, hedge &c. But garlic is just garlic. I want to put my garlic to work. Is this the kind of thing I can apply stacking functions too?
 
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I live in France you would be amazed what they can do with Garlic here

David
 
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I find it's easiest to get the most functions out of animals and things with water. I'd have a hard time finding 7 functions for small plants because they don't cast shade or block a lot of wind but garlic has the edible scape, bulb and leaves and can be medicine and pesticide. Garlic might be a dynamic accumulator, it's lousy at suppressing weeds and my chickens don't eat it but definitely a good money maker. I'm probably missing a bunch of possible functions and curious to find more.
 
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Shawn Jadrnicek wrote:started researching the number 7 and found that it had a lot of spiritual, mystical, religious and psychological significance



I think I remember reading that the brain has 7 short-term "memory registers", ie. a person can remember 7 different things at once but anything over that number is a different process. And supposedly that's the scientific basic for the number 7 becoming a "magic" number much beloved in folklore.

Yeah, here's an example text on this topic - https://www.insidescience.org/content/brain-seven-magic-number/1342
 
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Garlic (or leeks) is a great companion plant to carrots as they keep each other's pests away.

Garlic also can overwinter in a lot of climates. We plant it here in November and December! Almost the only thing to plant that time of year.

Green garlic is delicious -- do not leave it all in the ground to turn into bulbs! Chop up the young leafs/stems/bulbettes and throw them into anything.

Not sure if these seriously add enough functions to get to seven, but garlic is great anyway!

Let's see: We've got edible bulbs, edible leaves/stems, pesticide, medicine, companion plant... We're getting there...
 
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