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The Why of Permaculture Design  RSS feed

 
Jeff Mathias
Posts: 125
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
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Lately I have seen a number of people here on the forum looking for advice like: "What would you do with this land?" Or, "How would you permaculture this land?" And these are fine things, it gets the ideas rolling and the diversity of answers here is awesome, sometimes like someone turned on a fire hose of information. Hopefully it gives one ideas that perhaps they had not thought of previously.

But....

An often under looked part of permaculture design is why?  Simply put many of us found our way here to the forum out of a desire to do something different and be more in touch with nature and the natural processes of life itself and permaculture certainly fits this bill.

But...

Why you want to design is as important to permaculture; perhaps even more important than the how.

I do understand that why can be one of the hardest questions to tackle! But once answered it gives us a better direction or beginning if you will.

I have heard that at many a PDC that there are as many designs for one idea as there are people involved.

Designed properly and with forethought from the get go many of the problems encountered by others often go away or never get a chance to get a start. If a person could come here and say I have this land with these features and I enjoy these types of things and there seems to be a need in my community for this stuff, I think it would be easier for the forum members to give better specifics regarding ideas and directions to head.


Some examples:

1. Say for example you love plants: growing them, tending them & propagating them. What you would design for your land may be entirely different then what someone who enjoys aquaculture would do.

2. A younger vigorous individual may want to design a pastured chicken setup that moves daily, where as and older person who still wants to raise chickens may want to design a self composting system or even a self cleaning system where the coop stays in one place but still allows chickens the ability to rotate through fresh pasture daily.

There is really no better or worse ideas in a properly designed system providing you are taking as many factors into consideration as you can. Well so long as a 90 year old grandma isn't out all day dragging chicken tractors around by hand I suppose. Well unless she enjoys it and wants it that way.

Anyway my point is if you can, give some serious thought to why you want to design what you want. The how is out there and it isn't going anywhere in fact as is obvious on the forum is it practically expanding exponentially.

Good Luck in all of your endeavors,

Jeff

 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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That is a point well taken.  We all fit into different categories as far as age, available finances. regions, and overall goals (amongst many other categories).  A younger person would be capable of putting in a lot more hard work than an older person.  Somebody that buys land with a large mortgage would most likely need to keep an off farm job until the loan had been satisfied.  Somebody striving for self-sufficiency would have entirely different goals than somebody looking for a hobby farm to retire to.

Myself, I fit the 'older' category.  While I still can do (some of) the labor, a major aim is to get it developed to the point where labor needs begin to decline with each year.  I have worked for somebody else most of my life, and working the rest of my life to satisfy a mortgage lender is not in my picture!  A goal is to provide for myself as best as I can...until the fruit/nuts become productive, that means a lot of dependence on annual crops.  Beyond that, hopefully I will have enough fruits/nuts to "trade" for things like flour, potatoes, coffee and sugar.  My children, at present, show no interest in my project, but if SHTF anytime soon, they will probably show up at my doorstep one morning!  If I have provided a 'safe haven' to escape to for them, then what more could you ask of me?
 
                                      
Posts: 172
Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands
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Why you want to design is as important to permaculture; perhaps even more important than the how.


Or, to put it different, the why, determines the how. Your design aims will determine how your design looks and functions.

Having no design aims leads to poorly or non-functioning systems.

A multitude of design aims that can serve us or nature, determine, together with the intrinsic properties of your land, how your system will look, what elements are in it and how they interact or where they are placed.

- Some-one with a fulltime job that wants to have food from the garden without having to tend it much, could design a self maintaining garden supplying all-kind of (possibly niche) food.
The would save this person money but would have a lot lower yield than some-one who has a part time job and decides to spend the rest of his time tending his garden with the aim of producing as much as they (the garden and he) can. This garden would also look totally different, and species chosen and combined would differ as night and day.

Someone trying to grow for market aims would have a totally different outcome again. Working on a very damaged land, having soil restoration, would influence again. Or wanting to design for orang utans, could influence again
(not only would you need to design a orang utan habitat, designing an income and stable economy for the people who feel they need to cut down the orang habitat would come in handy as well).

Anyway, good point jeff

joop
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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great post, one thing most people skip when thinking about the property. most of the time its thoughts like "what should i put here" that lead the way as far as design goes. systems like this take longer to fully establish imo. knowing why up front will help your garden to maturity faster.
 
Christina Darling
Posts: 71
Location: East-Central Illinois
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Why? I live on 7.5 acres in east central Illinois. We have a garden but it is not optimized. I would like to create something that is beautiful, self-sustaning and healthful for me and my husband and for the soil/environment. I'm also thinking about maybe chickens and milk goats. We have two wells (but no ponds or streams), raspberries, blackberries, blues, fruit trees, a little wooded land, and are surrounded by GMO cornfields. I am retired and somewhat disabled and my husband works fulltime. Where do I begin? (I have ordered Sepp's book.)  

We live in an 80+ year-old farm house, have a three story barn, and an old summer kitchen (now a shed) with a root cellar. The root cellar hasn't been used in decades and we know it is inhabited by possum. We haven't even looked down there. Seems a shame to not use it but my husband is convinced there are dead animals and maybe rats there as well. I thought about filling it up with snow in the winter to see if it could be made into an ice house for summer storage. We are both past middle age.
 
Christina Darling
Posts: 71
Location: East-Central Illinois
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We think the summer kitchen and root cellar beneath it are as old as the house. It might not be safe to go down there although the summer kitchen/shed feels sturdy.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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JRTgirl, from my own experience, I would say - start right around the house making food gardens.  I made the mistake early on of putting my food gardens away from the house, and ended up not taking care of them enough.  The older I get the more I want to keep "pulling in my tendrils" and putting things closer and closer to the house.  We're planning to give most of the land back to nature, trying to restore it somewhat by repairing some erosion and other overgrazing damage, but I realize I won't be able to do much so am reducing my grand plans quite a bit.  Wish I had known more about permaculture design at the beginning, but - better late than never! 
 
Jeff Mathias
Posts: 125
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
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JRTgirl wrote:
Why? I live on 7.5 acres in east central Illinois. We have a garden but it is not optimized. I would like to create something that is beautiful, self-sustaning and healthful for me and my husband and for the soil/environment. I'm also thinking about maybe chickens and milk goats. We have two wells (but no ponds or streams), raspberries, blackberries, blues, fruit trees, a little wooded land, and are surrounded by GMO cornfields. I am retired and somewhat disabled and my husband works fulltime. Where do I begin? (I have ordered Sepp's book.)  

We live in an 80+ year-old farm house, have a three story barn, and an old summer kitchen (now a shed) with a root cellar. The root cellar hasn't been used in decades and we know it is inhabited by possum. We haven't even looked down there. Seems a shame to not use it but my husband is convinced there are dead animals and maybe rats there as well. I thought about filling it up with snow in the winter to see if it could be made into an ice house for summer storage. We are both past middle age.


Hi JRTgirl,

You might notice I don't get by here real regular like and I have a hard time always keeping up but.... I think it would be beneficial for all of us to help you with your design here in this thread as an example of the process for others who follow along if you don't mind.

I think you have provided enough information that I and others can make some guesses as to potential directions you might want to go. We can flesh out the rest as we go. Since we are potentially creating a design for you and your property please chime in often with your ideas, needs, wants and dislikes when you see them. It will be easier to shift gears in the design process in the beginning with input from you then to redesign completely later when we realize something is not compatible with your ideas.

A couple of additional questions to help get down to the core of why?

I am sorry this is kind of personal and you certainly need not give specifics but you mention you are somewhat disabled. Is there anything about your disability that might necessitate special designs? Ex. Confinement to a wheelchair would require special considerations. So would an inability to stand for a long period of time or the ability to walk your property.

What is your ultimate goal? Is it simply to create a "beautiful, self-sustaining and healthful for me and my husband and for the soil/environment."? Or do you have other goals in mind with the understanding that the design be "beautiful, self-sustaining and healthful"? Put another way are you looking to work and provide income from your design or are you wanting to simply be able to provide more for yourselves?

Do you have any experience with chickens or goats?

Do you want a or many water features? Why do you want them? It is perfectly acceptable to simply want them for beauty however if they must also serve other purposes it is good to know at the beginning.

Let start with that....while all designs could encompass either scenario, the specifics of each may also be vastly different.

A few suggestions and ideas to get you thinking.

Get that cellar cleaned out. Moth balls or osage orange maybe. Live trap the animals. You need to get the dead if there out as well as the living. You need to know if that cellar is usable or not. If safe structurally clean it out and secure it from future invaders.

Not sure how your property is so this may or may not benefit you, but for things like drift from the GMO fields large hugelkultur beds along the property lines planted in trees and shrubs should help to reduce much of the drift coming on to your property or at least limit it to the edges of your property.

If you do intend to generate income from the property what are you and your husbands interests as they pertain to the overall design. You want to do what you love or are at least interested in if at all possible.

Ludi brings up a good point also; your most energy intensive items should be located closer to your house when possible. Example: You don't want your greenhouse as far from your house as possible if you are growing things that need care 2 or 3 times a day.

Consider how you might want to break your land into paddocks for rotating your livestock around your property. Is there certain features that will make it easier or worse? Can you set it up so the animals do much of the work after harvest is complete or will you have to always protect certain items.

Jeff
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I think one of the biggest keys to permaculture design is the zone system.  Even somebody in their 20's needs to look at distance from the house for various functions.  Years from now, you will no longer be young (or you may end up trying to sell, and many potential buyers will be retired folks).

Certain chores need to be done daily (or 2-3 times daily) like milking and egg collection.  Hen houses and goat barns need to be close enough that you don't put off those chores because it is either too hot, or the path is too icy to safely walk.  The kitchen garden should hopefully be visible through the kitchen window...oops I need some oregano for this dish...oh, there it is!

Never go out there or back empty handed.  If you bring an armload of dried branches each time you go look at the woodlot, by the end of the year, you will have a winter's supply of kindling, or enough to start another hugle bed.

As we get older, we tend to try to ease our work loads.  If you start practicing this when you are young, you learn good work habits, and you design around that day when chores get harder to do.
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 2844
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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We have drawn our 10 acres at least 20 times so far in the build process, each time a few things remain where we had drawn them to go previously. As John Polk has said, the Zone structure makes the most sense for long term design, why go further than you have to for things you need daily?

Being older I tend to plan a lot of things to be in the right spot, whether or not that happens in the end is dependent on if the boss (wife) agrees with where I want to place said item, be it garden space or animal space. Our chickens (eggs/meat) free range, only kept out of certain garden areas because they are shared by our dogs, who might like to chase/kill the chickens. The goats (milk/meat) also have their appointed spaces for now even though eventually they will have much more space/spaces to roam, we have not decided yet on how to set up their paddock/s. The rabbits (meat) were easy, one big pen with underground housing and a little escape house surrounded by 2x4 wire fencing.

We are contemplating if we will do pork and if we do, how to do it. I'm in favor of buy, raise, butcher. Wife is boar and sow= piglets, so far we have not reached a decision, either on the need for pork or how to proceed to raise it. We have the one exception we do agree on which is that the fat would be good to have for making sausages of goat and rabbit meat. We do know we will not have any cattle, we both were raised with them (me dairy farm, wife beef) and neither of us desire to do that again.
 
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