I've been voraciously reading and learning from your website, it's amazing, thank you.... but I noticed I have to switch to Google a lot as I go along to research terms people use (for instance, swale, biochar ect) and I thought it would be useful to have one category that just defines what some of them mean to understand what people are talking about in the forums.... is there or could there be a terminology section, like a dictionary for noobs to make it a little easier to catch up to others learning curve on the website?
There was a thread about EM. The title and all references were "EM". Usually it starts with the non abbreviated name, then the shortcut is used after that. While it confused me, i could imagine a new person having no idea what it was.
I think rather than having a dictionary thread which no one will find after a while, it might be handy to have a description that pops up if we hold the little pointer thing over any of our categories.
If you held it over aquaponics, it would say that this is the growing of plants and fish in a symbiotic relationship where the waste products from the fish feed the plants, and the water returning to the fish tank is cleaned by the plants , or something like that.
There could be a little spiel for each category. I only see things on a mobile phone, so perhaps this already exists.
oooh I really like the idea of terms being clickable and then the definition being available but I bet that kind of code is difficult to do, admittedly I don't have an understanding of how that works either. Learning is my favorite hobby so I don't mind the research rabbit trails however sometimes I get so far off my originaI inquiry that i ccan't remember what I was originally trying to learn.
I'm such a Nerd I'm all flattered I actually got a reply on the PERMIES WEBSITE like I'm semi famous now. Ah, it's the little things that make life worth it, thank you for your time!! I'm special today
When Wikipedia first started in 2001, the idea that a reference site could be edited by the unpaid masses was mocked as completely impossible. Now it is one of the most visited sites on the internet, with hundreds of millions of hits a week and about 800 new entries posted daily. It has succeeded far beyond anyone's wildest dreams.
I love the idea of crowd-sourcing and crowd-editing. Some editing restrictions might be necessary: perhaps you'd need to be a Permies member of good standing for at least a couple of months before being allowed to edit. But I think that we'd see people acting in the interests of the greater group.
Here is a list of definitions I created for a course I was teaching. I would be thrilled to have the 'crowd' help edit and clarify.
Aeration: The process by which air in the soil is replaced by air from the atmosphere. In a well-aerated soil, the soil air is very similar in composition to the atmosphere above the soil. Poorly aerated soils usually contain a much higher concentration of carbon dioxide and lower levels of oxygen than atmospheric air. The rate of aeration depends largely on the volume and continuity of air filled pores within the soil.
Aggregate: A group of primary soil particles that cohere to each other more strongly than to other surrounding particles. In healthy soil, the texture will be somewhat like cottage cheese, crumbling into little “curds”. Root exudates are the glue that creates these little clumps of dirt that make the soil crumbly and aggregated.
Biologic Resiliency: The ability of the land and ecosystem to respond appropriately to disturbance. Typically, biologic resiliency is decreased by timber harvests, making the forest more vulnerable to the effects of disturbance. Forests may experience a decrease in plant and animal diversity, weak incursions, soil erosion, loss of the nativeseed bank, etc.
Cation Exchange Capacity: The ability of a soil to hold or make available nutrients to plants. Most plant nutrients have a positive charge. Clays and huus are negatively charged and as a result can hold nutrients.
Clay: A soil separate less than 0.002 mm in size. Clay is not a very small piece of rock, but the product of chemical weathering and re-crystallization. Clay has a negative charge and can hold positively charged nutrients.
Compaction: The process by which soil particles are re-arranged to decrease pore space and bring them into closer contact with one another. Compaction is most commonly thought of as a result of driving a big truck over the soil or some other heavy, compressing object. But compaction also happens when land is stripped of plant life above, and the roots that once served to break up the soil and introduce bacteria, fungi, aeration, etc. into the soil now are no longer present. Compaction follows the loss of such root systems.
Ecologic Trends: The direction an ecosystem or forest is headed in the not-so-distant future. For example, an appropriately harvested forest will tend to have more larch, ponderosa, spruce etc. Poor trends may include an over-abundance of lodgepole & knapweed. A plowed field will see significant decrease in soil biota and fungal networks, while an increase in weeds or fast growing invasive plant species.
Effective Precipitation: The portion of the total rainfall which becomes available for plant growth.
Friable: The quality of soil where it is crumbly and loose (like little pebbles or cottage cheese).
Humus: Latin for earth or ground, (thus, a human is someone of the ground). Humus is a fairly stable component of the soil organic matter remaining after the major portions of plant & animal have decomposed and will break down no further. Humus has a negative charge (allowing it to “hold” positively charged nutrients and chemicals), and is black in color, which is what gives healthy soil a dark appearance. It is “gummy” in texture, so it’s a key factor in creating soil aggregates. It holds its weight in water, thus significantly enhancing soil water holding capacity.
Hydraulic Lift: The ability of many plants to transport water from depth to the surface soil, and exude water from roots to the soil.
Infiltration: The downward entry of water into the soil; often impaired by soil compaction.
Mono-culture: A single plant ecosystem, such as a field growing only corn or grain.
Mulch: Any material that is spread over the soil surface as a cover.
Mycorrhiza Fungi: Usually a symbiotic relationship between a fungi and a plant.
Nitrogen Fixation: The conversion of elemental nitrogen to a form usable by plants & other life. Nitrogen is the most common gas in the air we breath (approximately 70%), yet it is difficult for plants to acquire the nitrogen they need. Certain plants have a greater capacity to fix nitrogen, pull it down into the soil, and then make it available to other plants. We refer to these plants as “nitrogen fixers”.
Organic Matter: Plant or animal matter, on or incorporated into the soil; in varying states of decomposition. Commonly called “OM”, or SOM (Soil Organic Matter).
Overland Flow / Surface runoff: Precipitation that does not enter the soil, but runs over the soil. A primary cause of erosion. A decrease in soil infiltration can cause increased overland flow.
Permaculture: A set of design principles used to create an ecologically sustainable agricultural system. Permaculture integrates water resource management, ecological engineering, sustainable agricultural techniques, managed habitat for wildlife and plants, and building regenerative ecosystems in order to create a truly sustainable “permanent agriculture”. Modeled after natural ecosystems, permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and looking at plants and animals and all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system. Increasingly, the term permaculture is used to refer to a movement of farmers, homesteaders, gardeners, ecologists and hippies (and the conferences, training courses, community gardens, restoration projects, etc. that they promote), who seek to change the way we practice agriculture and redesign our food systems.
Plant Guilds: A grouping of plants that are mutually beneficial to one another. The classic guild was planted by Native Americans and called “the three sisters”: corn, beans, and squash. The corn provided shade and a tall structure for the bean to grow up. The bean fixed nitrogen for the other two plants to consume. The squash gave shade to the soil, retaining moisture and keeping the other plant roots cool. Some guilds are as simple as two plants: tomatoes and basal. Others are much more complex, as you would find in a forest.
Poly-Culture: A diverse mix of plants growing together, where no one dominant species predominates.
Pore Space: The volume of void space in a soil. An ideal soil has 50% pore space and 50% solid material. This is why the soil will seem “light and airy” with great tilth.
Root Respiration: Unlike leaves in sunlight, roots need oxygen to function. Roots take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide into soil pore spaces. Water saturated soils with poor drainage will suffocate respiration. (Thus, more house plants die of drowning than thirst.)
Sand: A soil particle between 0.05 and 2 mm in size. This is a small piece of rock.
Silt: A soil particle between 0.05 and 0.002 mm in size; also a small piece of rock.
Soil Structure: The arrangement of primary soil particles into secondary particles.
Soil Texture: The relative proportion of sand, silt and clay in a soil.
Surface Sealing: Fine particles on the surface of a soil that inhibit water infiltration.
Tilth: The condition of tilled soil, especially in respect to soil ready for planting seeds. Good tilth is soil that is crumbly and textured, like cottage cheese or coffee grounds.
Water Holding Capacity: The ability of the soil to hold water. The addition of soil organic matter and humus dramatically increases the capacity of soil to retain water.
Water Stable Aggregate: A soil aggregate that is stable in water and resists dissolving into primary particles. Aggregates are often created and maintained by biologic activity.
Sand, Silt and Clay
Texture refers to the size of the particles that make up the soil. The terms sand, silt, and clay refer to relative sizes of the soil particles. Sand, being the larger size of particles, feels gritty. Clay, being the smaller size of particles, feels sticky. It takes about 12,000 clay particles lined up to measure one inch. Silt, being moderate in size, has a smooth or floury texture. Figure 1. Comparison of soil particles.
Table 1. The size of sand, silt and clay.
Very coarse sand
2.0 to 1.0 millimeters
1.0 to 0.5 millimeters
0.5 to .25 millimeters
0.25 to 0.10 millimeters
Very fine sand
0.10 to 0.05 millimeters
0.05 to 0.002 millimeters
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf