Start by posting a bit about your climate/region or goals or land (or lack there of) and people will jump in with ideas and advise. I caution against vagueness as no one enjoys guessing or assuming about another. You'll get more responses when you post details.....
There are permaculture practices for every situation, so let us know your situation
I don't own land here (Seattle area), and essentially live in an apartment. However, I do own a small (20x20meters) parcel in Nicaragua (Esteli) on a hill facing a cliff. I'm most interested in developing that into a simple yet near-sustainable place (with the hopeful help of communal efforts). The soil is rocky. It rains hard, but typically only an hour at a time (flash flood style). Utilities exist but are sketchy. Wood is difficult to come by in Nicaragua.
I'm mainly interested in two things:
[li]Learn how to live on the land. This will include reading/watching but ideally I'd get my hands dirty and learn on a farm. No salary, just food and shelter and me learning to live and work.[/li] [li]Later put this into practice in Nicaragua, either a month or longer at a time. Or, elsewhere in Cascadia.[/li]
My background is I know virtually nothing except how to purchase stuff at Trader Joes ;) I've lived in Seattle/Portland for most of my 30 something years on this planet.
fairly old question but fantastic i would like to know too! Any One? Permaculture for dummies? Step 1? Seems to intensive and you can't just go willy nilly. My understanding it's system upon system and a design thing that lets every thing work synergistically. But what do you focus on 1st? I have heard zone 1? but there was no elaboration on what zone 1 was or what you do.
there's substantial wisdom in the common suggestion to spend a year observing the land in question before doing anything else.
strict adherence isn't entirely necessary, but the kernel is important: in our haste to see results, we frequently waste time and effort. making mistakes will always be part of the process, but knowing a little bit about the cycles and flows and seasonal changes of a place will go a long way. talking to locals will be a great complement to your own observations. ask about prevailing winds. crop pests. what grows well. what tools they use. there's no guarantee that local folks don't have bad habits they'll try to talk you into, but they certainly know more about the place than you do. talking to locals should also jive well with the communal efforts you mentioned.
specific to your place in Nicaragua: things happen fast in the tropics because of the relatively constant temperature and sunlight. sounds like one of your major concerns is going to be how water moves across the land, though that's true for most places. a place prone to flash floods above a cliff sounds... like an interesting case study. capturing that water and storing it in soil is useful to a point. depending on the particulars of that soil, though, too much water could send your property over that cliff. there might also be potential for a small hydroelectric installation, if that sort of thing interests you.
there are a few large-ish permaculture operations in Nicaragua that you could probably visit. just don't assume a person is a saint only because s/he is interested in permaculture. it's certainly a mark in their favor, though.
there's plenty you can do while you're in Seattle, too. maybe start a worm bin. is there landscaping at your apartment? grow some things in there. have access to the roof? friends with yards? grow some things there. friends with chickens? start a soldier fly larvae bin to feed those chickens and eat your shit (the larvae, not you). setup a small aquaculture system in your apartment or elsewhere. get some mushroom spawn and grow some mushrooms on straw or coffee grounds or a chunk of alder or sawdust. practice grafting on some of the many ornamental fruittrees all over the city. see if the Seattle Permaculture Guild is still active and go to their events. visit some of the permies out on Vashon. or out in Duvall. or Bainbridge. or Olympia. plenty of folks around doing cool stuff, and many are happy to talk about it with interested strangers. read, if that's your style. there's no shortage of literature available.
I hesitate to suggest volunteering on farms, because a lot of folks make their living working on farms and you could be undercutting that. I'm not a fan of the intern model, myself, but plenty of folks are. an apprenticeship arrangement is something I could get behind, though. not sure how easy to find something like that would be.
if you're serious about trying some of this stuff out, you might consider joining FarmLink. Mary connects folks looking for land with folks who have land available. it isn't a sure thing, and there's a fee to join, but it could help you out.
and I think I've gone on long enough. so I'll bow out for now. good luck.
I would answer it depends on each person's situations. For me it was adding animals back to the land - fertilization, pest control, weeding and more were big needs at the time.
Step 1 - add animals in a sustainable way. I needed to research and learn how to make my own feed (no store bought, processed feeds). Design and build housing. Install fencing to protect areas from the animals, learn how to eliminate the smells and otherwise manage their daily lives.
All other steps have flowed from there - as one thing always leads to another.