Mike Hagar

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since Jan 15, 2013
For what it is worth I have spent 43 years as a software developer, project manager, architect and IT Director for government, aerospace, schools, corporations (Microsoft, KPMG) and many others.  Along the way I have homesteaded in the Arkansas mountains, read the first publications on Permaculture by Bill Mollison in the early 80's, delivered my own babies, lived in an ashram, raised 6 kids and studied so much my brain and heart are about to explode. 

At this point in my life I am only interested in one thing.  Creating a sustainable food system for my children and grandchildren so that they might have a better chance of surviving the coming intersections of crisis' of Climate Change, Peak Oil and Resource Conflicts that are sure to come.
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Recent posts by Mike Hagar

CJ, I agree that a "Rating" scale 1-5 or 1-10 is better in many cases than a True/False. Since PPW is a "Workbook" where you can gather information from a variety of sources I keep track of the "Original Source" of all plant main data and characteristics. When I harvest information from PFAF (or USDA, or Eric Toensmeier) I need to use their scale description as well as data. The good thing is that you can have multiple "Categories" of Characteristics, each having a different focus or Original Source. If you create a more "regionalized" set of your own Characteristics you can modify them based on research and then experimentation and observations... and share them with others who may be in a similar region. Once your research phase is done (for now) you can Hide or Retire all of the Characteristics you have decided are not appropriate or of interest. They will always be there if you want to un-Hide them but you don't have to keep them in your face.

As mentioned my ultimate goal is to create a system that will harvest general information, help you to refine it and share it with more regionally similar permies.

P.S. The screenshot is of the Characteristic Library so you don't see any plant information here.

Hi CJ.

You ask a good... short ... question. I could just say yes but it would not get to the heart of your question so forgive my detailed answer. I hope it is helpful.

As you know, structured computer searches are only as good as the precision of the data definitions and the data. Your searches are based on your data and logical data definitions. You obviously have a very powerful system and the 200+ plants you have a great system for your project and I am sure that you have invested more than a few hours, days, weeks, ... in harvesting and organizing the data.

Like yourself, all of us start our Planting projects (Food Forests, Gardens, etc.) with books and web research and we learn to collect the data in some form or we get overwhelmed. I am calling my system the “Permaculture Plant Workbook (PPW)” because it is about managing the ENTIRE life cycle of plants in a person’s Permaculture project. Plant Research is the first phase and searches like you suggest are an important part and yes my system will provide that level of structured searching for our internal plants, but also outward facing (web) unstructured searches. The key to the search example that you state required structured fields containing the desired data (Trees, shitake, nitrogen fixing, cow forage). If you were interested in cows you would want to keep those “Characteristics” in your system. My system allows you to create any “Characteristic” you want to track on your plants.

I plan to start off with access to a basic INTERNAL plant library of about 5-7,000 plant names (and some basic info) I have harvested from “common license” plant data. I also maintain a citation and hotlink to the original data to give credit where credit is due. One great example of a plant resource website is Plants for a Future (PFAF.org) which has data on over 7,000 plants. I have imported some basic information for about 5,000 of them for North America. Until I can establish contact with them to obtain permissions I have limited my examples to only 15 structured searchable fields: Cultivation, Drought Tolerance, Edible Uses, Growth Rate, Habitat, Medicinal, Moisture, Nitrogen Fixer, PH, Range, Shade, Soil, Usefulness Rating, Well-Drained and Wind. (Special Note to PFAF.org... I am the guy who keeps emailing you about leveraging your data. I hope you are doing ok.)

Automated Web links insure that information providers get the visibility, new users and web click stream they need for advertisers, volunteers and donors. Before release I will also import some data from the USDA, Eric Toensmeiers and other websites that will support internal searches but also link to the original record so that as information evolves in the web-o-sphere our data doesn’t necessarily become stale and out of date.

PPW also leverages outward facing search techniques to facilitate web research through automating searches of known plant websites, keeping favorites for each plant, dynamically selecting your default Plant search engine from general to specific: Google, Bing, Wikipedia, USDA, Plants For a Future, Practical Plants, Permies.com or define your own web search string. Try to Google “Permies.com tree cow fodder shiitake nitrogen fixing” and you will get 3 articles from Permies.com and you are in one of them. In PPW, once you have selected the plants that you are most interested in, your list is likely down to 25-200 depending on your project.

With PPW you can start fresh and import ONLY your own data from your spreadsheet. You can define your own “Plant Characteristics” as data pairs: Characteristic Name, Characteristic Value for this Plant. From there you will be able to search for any combinations of data like those that you have defined. Plant Type: Tree, Mushrooms Supported: Shiitake, Nitrogen Fixing: True.

My loftiest goal is to create a community sharing component where people can export data and share it via email (or a central SQL database) with their regional neighbors. As the Web developer for www.SpokanePermaculture.org I have been working towards this goal with my local Permie-Buds and the architecture is currently built into PPW. My goal is to support harvesting plant data from the web, refine it, track your progress and share it with regional neighbors.

Please keep in mind that while my system is a real working prototype, it is still in its infancy and not ready for prime time. I am just now starting to talk about it in broader circles so I can get more community involvement on how to make it more useful.

As for your comment “I’m Not sure based on that pic, how you’d use the database.” It sounds like you just saw a screenshot from the system main menu. If you explore the website starting with the Overview you will get a more detailed view. If you register you can also download a 37 page initial draft of the user manual with 43 screenshots. Hope that helps.
Hi Ari. As a retired Software system developer beginning a permaculture project I have been similarly overwhelmed with the information (especially on plants) that I need to track. I am also the web servant for www.SpokanePermaculture.org and active in promoting permaculture in our area specifically. Working with local PDC consultants and permies I have begun to develop a software product called "The Permaculture Plant Workbook". I am just beginning to post screenshots and features to gather more Permie feedback before I release it.

I would love anyone's feedback to figure out if I am headed in a direction that will be useful to others. Screenshots can be seen at www.PermaculturePlantWorkbook.com. Let me know what you think.

Mike
Hi John,

As you can see we had a flurry of activity about this time last year and then I suspect that everyone got busy outside like I did. However over the winter I went on a developing binge and am close to releasing a client product to help manage the cycles of building and maintaining a perennial food forest.

Several people had been concentrating on the "Mother Ship" of plant data. Andru Vallance with Practical Plants made a compelling argument that we need to find a way to cooperate in building and maintaining a central repository for plant data. He makes the point that as soon a new project takes the core data into a new direction it is subject to fragmentation. There are several internet plant databases out there but many if not most started with data provided by a group in England called Plants for a Future (PFAF.org). Many have spawned new User Interfaces and dimensions of data that is now adding value in new ways.

These websites provide a great service to the world by collecting, organizing and presenting the data via websites with some powerful searches. "What nitrogen fixing plants will work in my Climate Zone?". They have a very big problem because they are collecting data on plants from all over the world that have adapted to different climates and conditions. It is the users (from every part of the world) who must sift through those plants (7,000+ at PFAF.org) to find the 1-200 most useful to them and their climate and growing conditions.

I, on the other hand have taken a different approach. I am supporting the Permaculturists who are BUILDING and MANAGING perennial food forests and gardens. My system supports 5 continuous phases in the PLANT portion of a project. To do this I felt that it was VERY IMPORTANT that the information pertaining to the plants in your project be stored on a client computer in case Internet access is no longer available. Therefore I have built a client database application that sits on the edge of the Cloud (internet) facing out and in. All of my forms pertaining to Plants, Planting Locations and Vendors have internal web browsers that act as "Favorites" for each plant, location and vendor.

When you surf and find something you like about a plant, planting technique, canning instructions or recipes... you just save the reference for the plant. To start the user off I have built in programmatic access to some of the most common internet search engines: Google, Bing, Wikipedia, USDA, Plants for a Future, Practical Plants (though I am having some problems with this one). You will also be able to add your own web resources and choose a default. As you walk down through plant lists as each plant is selected you can choose to do a default web search. I will often use PFAF or USDA (for native forestry species).

The supported project phases are:

Research
– Explore plants, create and refine lists to create Your project plant lists.

Planning – define planting locations for up to four (optional) levels (Project, Area, Forest/Garden, Bed (Hagarville Food Forest, back yard, Food Forest zone 1, North Flower Bed)

Acquisition - Match the plants you have selected and find vendors. Create order lists by vendor, plant and/or planting location.

Management – create maintenance plans for each tree/perennial/annual (Year 1 Tree: prep hole, plant, compost mulch, prune, paint trunk, etc.)

Observation – Use the built in Garden Journal to record observations, when you planted, harvested, etc.. The journal also coordinates each day with Photographs taken of the project. I can take my smartphone (or digital camera) out into the garden periodically and tak pictures of each zone, tree, bush, bed or plant of interest. Later each Photo can go through a “Review” process where you associate the photo with any of the Plants (from your list) or Planting Locations. Then when you review plants (or locations) you can see the photos associated with them over time. June, July, August or Year 1, 2 or 3. The final observational component is that I use a $100 Weather Station that collects weather data and streams it out to the Journal. So for every day you can see the Weather (Hi/Low Heat, Wind, Rain, Humidity and Daylight, based on latitude), your journal entries, management activities and photos.

One of the best aspects of the system is that it keeps a history on where you get your plant data. As you navigate through the premium plant websites on the planet you also provide them page clicks for their advertisers and drive more new users to their sites.

Not only is the data on individual plants useful, but researchers (global, national, regional and local) also put together lists of those plants that fill a niche for their area. These lists may come from you neighbor or a favorite book from Toby Hemenway, Eric Toensmeier or a local website (www.SpokanePermaculture.org). Each Plant contains a web link to the source of the data and each “List” can also have a link to the website, page or book of the originator.

Enough about my progress for now…

How are you trying to plug in John? What in the Permaculture Voices conference inspired you to reach out to the IT space?

Also… are any of the IT bears beginning to awaken? Anything new happening with Master Databases? Anything else?

Best wishes to all,
Mike
6 years ago
It is as funny to listen to Non-Woo Permaculturists talk about Woo. . . OBJECTIVELY as it is to hear Woo-Permaculturists talk about Science. The major point of difference is that the Scientists are addicted to OBJECTIVITY which separates the observer from the observed. Unfortunately beginner Woo-ists carry a lifetime of Objective indoctrination and it comes out when they try to explain how they FEEL (or intuit) the Woo.

For millennia humans have explored the unknown. Shamanism was the original science. I don't think for a moment that Native Americans were so primitively stupid as to believe generation after generation of shamen who demonstrated no effect within the physical world. They used medicinal plants, smoke, sound, neurolinguistic programming (chanting) and the laying on of hands. Certainly they had bozo's who had big talk but no real useful knowledge or skill but then we have Monsanto scientists.

Just like Physics, Permaculture, guitar and Woo-ism, unless you are willing to become a student, find (and honor or at least listen to and learn from) a teacher and then practice you will never master your instrument.

It is my observation that Wooists are inclusive and do not deny the values of Science in Permaculture. It is the Scientists (Objectivists) who deny the existence and value of the Woo. So until you master the objective aspects Permaculture you should not teach or criticize it. Until you master the subjective aspect of Woo you should not teach or criticize it. However as a community of human beings we should always feel free to share our feelings and ideas. This is the margin where the magic happens. . . I meant to say . . . where the synergetic effects of whole systems, unpredicted and unpredictable by observing the effects of sub-systems if considered seperately.

Observe and INTERACT
INTEGRATE rather then segregate
Use and value DIVERSITY
Use edges and value the MARGINAL
Creatively use and respond to CHANGE

This ain't just for Plants and woodstoves.
7 years ago
We have a series of self created problems on our planet that are becoming catastrophic. Permaculture is a method to realign people with the natural processes. I agree with the idea that if Permaculture is to gain the momentum necessary to reverse enough of these problems quickly enough it must reach many people within many cultures. That is the commitment of PMI and I support it. I support their stand that there should be no Fairy or God talk in a PMI PDC class that might be culturally misunderstood causing people to be turned off at a time when it is so necessary.

That said. . . the Scientific minded should be happy with a win and stop reading here.

We can look back through history and see many epoch’s where "Religion" has (d)evolved to become a source of conflict and misery. Not because of the true inspiration of the initiators, but the dogmatic “Mine is better” belief. In all cultures there is the understanding that there are things that happen that are obviously related but in ways that we don’t understand. The stars, seasons, trees, animals all seem to be co-ordinated or connected. “Spirituality” has been the area in which explore the unknown, the mysterious. Some say there is an intelligence expressed in the coordination. Some think it in only one intelligence. . . God. . . My God, not yours! Others think there are many examples of this “Mysterious” (unknown to me) so they should each have separate names. . . spirits, consciousness, fairies, mycelium, germs, etc. Some “previously unknown” mysteries and the people who talked about them were scoffed at by scientists. Primitive cultures may have called them evil spirits, then germs. Now science KNOWS that there is a complex of billions of different “Beings” cooperating (in some unknown way) in the human body. The quest for knowledge never ends. In right context this is good until ORGANIZED Science makes the same mistakes as ORGANIZED religion (my Science is better than your God).

Science has become a religion of observation, hypothesis (informed guess), experiment and proof. It has provided us with many USEFUL insights but has become dogmatic. By methodically experimenting, differentiating and evaluating (a=b), some mysteries get clarified and repeatable behaviors become useful. Some scientists start out thinking that the mechanistic approach of experimenting and proof will eventually lead to an understanding of everything. However, in science, no matter how many things you explain the more mysteries (or the “as yet unknown”) are revealed.

It seems to me that the current world problems of peak oil, pollution, depilated water tables and soils, deforestation, chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, etc., are consequences of science (which leverages differentiation), not spirituality (which leverages connectedness).

Scientists created the Green Revolution. They found the “Truth” that plants need N, P and K and they rushed to the pulpit of profit before they noticed that plants need other things. Monsanto practices chemical science not spirituality. ConAgra practices economics (statistical/economic math) science, not spirituality. I am reminded of the definition of insanity. . . Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Permaculture is a very valuable design approach aimed at providing a methodology to design in cooperation with nature. . . and nature is the WHOLE, some of which is unknown and unknowable. It is unknowable because to KNOW is to observe and that separates the Observer from the Observed. This is a phenomenon that plagues the scientific method.

When I listen to Permie favorite Paul Stamets (wearing his mushroom hat) talk about how Mycelium transports the nutrients needed by plants over miles. . . I cannot help but see a shaman and I cannot believe that he has come to this insight using only the scientific method without sensing the magic (mysterious) of our ecosphere, even though he does not talk about it during TED Talks. Wise move.

As a Permie, I hope that the pursuit of science does not lead us to abandon the importance of the Unknowable Mystery in our lives. Call it what you want, God(s), Nature Intelligences, fairies, molecules, atoms, quarks and strings. We must all decide what we consider the most important aspect of our Permaculture practice. Some THINK it is P, N, K and think they can prove it. Some think that GMO Corn subsidies are important to stimulate ethanol production for our automobiles and economy despite the consequences of corn prices on those who rely on it for food. Others FEEL that there is something more important. . . we just can’t prove it. . .

Via con Dios
7 years ago
Hi Gordon. It is a good idea and we have thought about it and we are still considering it as a possibility. However we are heading for no till polyculture beds. It is our hope/sense that by using mixed crop beds we will be able to avoid rotation requirements. Also we can use the paths for some hardy cover crops, chop and drop and then move the biomass into the beds as needed.

While we could shift the beds sideways as you say we also have quite a bit of water main lines and drip zones set up that would have to be adjusted. Thanks for the input. So far the spacing is working out great and our harvests are more than we hoped for. Since we have a great deal of room (2.4 acres) we are not having to deal with a small back yard. Therefore our large beds and large paths are working well for us. Even so the squash, melons and other use every bit of the paths for their sprawl. We could have worse problems.
7 years ago
Hello Matu, Ken and Michael,

Thanks for the new feedback. I have continued to build on my plan and thought I would place a new picture close to the same perspective as my computer model.



Here is the end of three 6' wide beds (2.5' bed +1' Stepping zone +2.5' bed) and 4' Main Paths. As discussed we standardized on 6' x 40' beds with 4' main paths. From this angle you see 3 zones with a 6' path between them.

We put our straw mulch on the path and walking on it loosens it and begins to break it down making it easier to place around the plants in the bed. We also throw all of the newly pulled weeds on the path. The Center 1' stepping area in the paths has helped to reduce fears of compaction. While we don't step there often we will straddle one bed while planting or weeding. We could put down boards to distribute our weight more evenly it would slow us down during daily garden tasks.

We are just getting this ground going so we have tilled a couple of times to add amendments and till in organic matter. Now we will just use garden forks to loosen the soil.
7 years ago
Thanks for your feedback Morgan. I intend to create a polyculture of acumulators and attractants to plant in all beds. I will look into the Thymes as you suggest.

Mike
7 years ago