I understand the emphasis and importance permaculture design places on patterns; however, everywhere I read about it, it's just more and more explanations of the patterns themselves, the theory, but not much on how we then take and apply those patterns to our designs. I'm fascinated by the theory, believe me, seeing a survey of all the many harmonious patterns in nature (like some youtube videos I've seen) gives me an almost spiritual feeling; but I'm curious about how people are actually using it in their designs, aside from little things like herb spirals. Watching some documentaries I've seen some interesting layouts, and doing a bit of WWOOFing I've seen a garden or two laid out in interesting shapes (which I actually found rather inconvenient to move around and work in) so I'm also interested in hearing about how they end up working out in the long run.
I tried searching the forums (and google) to try and find some examples but had little luck. Does anyone know of any pages or videos where they talk more about the practical, real world applications of patterns? It could be even long-form talks/lectures in video or podcasts if you know of any. I really want to understand this better, but I need real examples.
Like, maybe someone talking about their observations of nature and the "problem" situation they found themselves in, what they noticed and how they turned that observation into a pattern based design, how they chose or knew to use that pattern, and why. Anything like that. Thanks y'all!
I've found some useful help in looking at aerial views and maps of the great permaculture projects - PA Yeoman's Yobarnie, Bill Mollison's Tagari Farm, Geoff Lawton's Zaytuna, Sepp Holzer's Krameterhof, to see how they all share a similar pattern of water harvesting shapes on contour in the landscape.
The biggest thing you will find the use of patterns great for are: Water control structuring, alley way cropping, food garden layout and tree plantings.
If you set up your water control structures (terraces or swale/berm with ponds) according to the pattern lay of your land, you will end up with nicely defined alleys in which you can alternate trees and crops.
Food gardens can be spiral, mandela, row type, terraces or a nice combination of all types.
Tree planting can be either orchard style or nature style, both give good harvest. The reason orchard style came into being was to make harvest more efficient by cart and horse and now truck and cart.
Nut trees should be thought of in the same manner as fruit trees when you are planting, until you get to the really tall nut trees like pecan or walnut.
Avocado trees also fall into the large nut tree pattern unless you are using the @ 20 foot varieties where you can use a fruit tree pattern of planting.
I have found that planting trees in a mix of types works very well for quantity of fruit produced (same for nut trees). You can also mix fruit and nut trees in the same planting patterns.
Observation of the lay of the land is the normal method for finding the best patterns for each section of land.
On my farm, we use three different patterns since our land has three different "lays"; shallow slope to the north, flat crown on the ridge line and steep slope to the south.
This patterns into swale/ berm on the north face and terracing with back edge swale on the south face, 0.5 % grade on the crown.
The drive in on the south face and is being re-contoured to a low crown, high side slope to ditch with stops every 20 feet.
The road was the one that took the most observations to come up with a design that would not wash out in a high rain fall event.
The stops are going in on a diagonal to route any high flow down to the ditch, which is on the "Up Hill side of the road way, the low crown is only two inches so a large rain won't create a second "stream path" and create a gulley where we don't want one.
If we tried to use only one pattern, we would not be able to sequester enough water and washouts would occur.
Topography maps help, but nothing works as well as a string, plumb bob and your eyes, or a laser level, for getting the vision of your land firmly in your mind.
Once you have that, then selecting the right patterns becomes quite easy.
I have lived on the same farm all my life (42 years) and in this house for 24.
On the winter solstice, I watch the sunrise in the morning, but only because I like to see how where the moon disappears. On certain years it is 4 trees away from the big pine tree and some years it is as high as ten. This year it was only 4, a very tight curve. Needless to say it has been a very cold and snowy winter. This was no surprise to me, the pattern has shown that for 24 years. Afterall the moon controls the tides, and there are currents in the ocean, and currents are what bring storms and storms are low and high pressures bringing us weather. The earth rotates for sure, but apparently it has a bit of a wobble to it, about 6 trees out of balance at my place. Cross reference this with the concentric rings of trees felled near your home and you get a great history of hard winters dating back decades depending on how big the tree is (and how long it has been growing)...no Farmers Almanac needed.
I have also noted a pattern in farming alone. On average it runs in 7 year cycles. 1 out of 7 years will be very profitable. 2 will be just barely profitable. 3 will be just below profitable. 1 will be extremely poor. When I get a really bumper crop year, I spend money on the long term stuff like liming fields that have a 7 year time payback. This not only adjusts highs and lows on income taxes, it keeps me farming.
Sheep prefer circular arrangements. Since they have no defenses and can only run; getting pinned into a corner could be life or death. Situate doors, alleys, gates, and barns so they can flow in a circular direction. After 1 time, it is ingrained in them. After 2 times it is habit; try that with boxes or rectangles and tell me how long it takes to chase sheep and put them where you want them.
All geological information can be based on the shape of the land, which here was the passage of glaciers traveling South-Southwest. Need to find some gravel for a project here in Maine, you will find it on the Northeast corner of a hill because that is where the ground rock was piled up by the glacier. Thinnest soil; on the southwest corner and all water runs south too.
And while I am speaking of direction, it is impossible to get lost in the woods of Maine. The most shade is on the North side. Finding your way is as easy as seeing where the moss is on the trunks of trees and orienting your way from there. Or of course you can always look up at the top of a Eastern Hemlock, the top tip always tilts to the East...always.
Weeds and grass grow in patterns. Sometimes they come in yearly cycles like clover which takes two full years to fully germinate a newly sown field. More then one farmer has re-tilled a field and resown it thinking it did not take, when really they just needed patience. And weeds, they grow depending on PH levels and mineral levels. My Grandfather taught me this by tasting weeds...yep tasting weeds. When certain ones grew we knew what soil amendments to put down just based on that. Sweetening the soil with lime can also be determined through the pattern of weeds.
I will probably think of 10 more when I try and go to sleep to night, but there are a few.
I had this question, too. An example is that working on contour is patterning for water, because water both creates and follows landscape forms. Patterning for wind is when you position elements intelligently to pacify or intensify wind as needed. A grove of trees on a windy plain will have a cross section like an airfoil because this is the most advantageous for the trees. If you are working open-mindedly and intelligently towards energy pacification and storage, patterns will emerge almost by themselves. For instance, I designed a water garden to maximize soakage in a spot with bad drainage, and later realized that it followed the pattern of water soaking into the ground: stacked semicircles, getting successively bigger. I was following the right pattern by default, because I was asking the land what would work best for it, instead of imposing an inappropriate pattern that I had already decided on.
Earthworks are the skeleton; the plants and animals flesh out the design.
Here’s good advice for practice: go into partnership with nature; she does more than half the work and asks none of the fee. – Martin H. Fischer