Alan Booker

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since Apr 12, 2013
Alan graduated from Auburn University in Electrical Engineering with a focus on computer architecture and neural networks. He currently has over 25 years of experience as a systems engineer and systems architect working in digital telecommunications and large-scale computer systems.
As he gained experience in the industry throughout the 1990’s, Alan began to understand the long-term problems being created by modern design practices. In researching possible solutions, he became interested in Permaculture due to its holistic design approach and track record of creating workable solutions in a wide range of climates and ecosystems around the world.
Alan started studying Permaculture in 2002 and completed his PDC with Geoff Lawton in 2007. After several years of field experience and a variety of advanced training, Alan completed the Permaculture Teacher Training class with Geoff Lawton in 2012 and began to add Permaculture to the classes and workshops he was already teaching on community development, health and nutrition, and nature connection.
From early experiences learning edible and medicinal plants, Alan developed a love of being outdoors and observing natural systems. By his early twenties, he was teaching wilderness skills, survival, and other nature connection skills. Today, Alan uses this background to help students more deeply understand natural ecosystems in order to become better designers.
In addition to teaching the PDC, Alan also provides consulting and workshops on earthworks, soil remediation, composting, forest gardening, holistic management of pastureland, keyline design, aquaculture and aquaponics, off-grid energy systems, and natural building systems.
Alan is the founder and executive director of the Institute of Integrated Regenerative Design, which provides education and research in support of regenerative communities.
Huntsville, AL
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Recent posts by Alan Booker

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:The cooperation vs. watching out for ignobility conversation seems to be apples to oranges.  With nature/non-human elements, there's no problem with anticooperative elements.  They're always both self-interested and providing yields to the system.  Only humans have a unique ability to be anticooperative.  

In the big picture, it's a learned behavior rather than an innate one.  I believe people are good at heart, but that doesn't mean I trust most people off the bat--they have to build that trust with me.

We also haven't had education in cooperation.  There is one MBA program that includes cooperation in its degree options, according to Carl Ratner, one on the planet.  Cooperative cultures around the world have been attacked and trust has been broken.  It can be rebuilt, though, using slow and small solutions and recognizing the problem as the solution.

Joshua, I agree that modern educational systems teach competition instead of cooperation in most cases. I have been studying how approaches like sociocracy can help people set up cooperative systems, but I haven't heard of the drL approach mentioned in your sig line. Any pointers to more information?

Ben Zumeta wrote:Regarding how Paul and Allen would manage 1million acres of western Oregon timber land, points about Northwest coniferous forest ecology and hydrology were at times quite inaccurate by my understanding of the current science (they did only have 30min prep), but many of the points in this podcast were great. I have always particularly liked Paul's main idea of moving many permies onto the land so it has more stewards/acre. Done well, this infusion of beneficial keystone species (permies) would be a vast improvement compared to the ridiculously low current # of Forest Service employees/acre. Being so stretched thin is what seems to prompt many unsustainable and ecologically destructive practices like herbicide spraying, monoculture, and poor fire management. I would bet this is similar on private forest lands, but should admit I know a lot less about current private practices (often kept private as proprietary) than those used in public land management.

I think it is important to note how I should grant Allen and Paul the benefit of the doubt and assume they are talking about plots with little to no old-growth left, and that they would preserve any truly ancient forests and the endemic soil species (often endemics are found in each old growth tree), unmatched carbon sequestration, water retention, fire resistance, and sanctuary they provide.

Ben, thank you for the comments. I can't speak for Paul, so I can only comment from my own perspective.

Yes, I do fully understand and appreciate the value of in-tact and healthy conifer ecosystems. In fact, I am currently working with a Native American group here in the southeast on a large tract of land where a large part of the work is restoring and maintaining one of the last stands of old-growth montane longleaf pines. Like many conifer forests, these are fire-dependent ecosystems which the native peoples here in the southeast actively managed with periodic burns.

When I commented that I would work to shift the land towards a full successional mosaic, I fully include climax ecosystems in that mix. I would definitely want to see a lot more than 5% of the land in late-succession and climax forest, and in-tact old growth forests would absolutely be at the top of my list to preserve and protect.

In my mind, a lot of problems have been created by poor logging practices that destroy the ecological balance of the forests (or just clear-cut them out of existence) followed by dense growth and suppression of fire. This creates exactly the kind of conifer stands that are such a fire risk (at least that is my experience here in the southeast).

So yes, I would like to see good areas of properly managed conifer ecosystems, especially old-growth, large enough to provide contiguous habitat, but with earlier succession ecosystems patterned onto the landscape throughout to provide varied habitat, break up pest corridors, and create edge.

To come up with an exact management plan, I would certainly need more than 30 minutes warning and more time to research the details of the ecosystems in that area. Part of that research would be what a natural mix of ecosystems would be in that area, along with the ecosystem mix that was maintained by the indigenous people when they managed those lands.

Lina Joana wrote:Any chance Allan could provide the reference for the interspecies quorum sensing/ increased phytonutrients in polycultures? That is super exciting!

There is now an increasing amount of scientific research in this field, but still not that many general-audience articles. For a less technical introduction, try these two articles:

Here are three articles from research journals to get you started on the formal research:

Joshua Rimmer wrote:

Josiah Kobernik wrote:I calculated that the total weight of the roof with three feet of soil soaking wet above the membrane is 12,660 lbs.
Each of the 8, 8 inch posts can support more than 22,000 lbs. So that's cool.

Could we see your calculations, Josiah? The numbers I find say wet soil averages 3000 lbs per cubic yard. If I recall the greenhouse dimensions correctly, 10 foot by 9 foot, 90 square feet times 3 feet deep =270 cubic feet. 27- cubic feet divided by 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard = 10 cubic yards. 10 yards times 3000 equals 30,000 lbs. You still have a HUGE excess load capacity!

Edited for my atrocious spelling!

In a timber structure like this the vertical posts won't present the major problems because they are in compression. The real concern is with the sizing of the purlins since they are taking the load in the shearing direction. You need to figure the size of the purlin based on the span distance between posts and the load coming down from above.
2 months ago
The PTJ page is looking really good. I like the overall look and feel. The tracks feel like a lot of really strong topics that should pull a lot of interest.

My only thought in terms of feedback is that the rather terse list of bullet points for each track are great for folks already pretty deep into permaculture systems, but would probably be difficult for someone a little newer to decipher without more explanation. Could there be a short paragraph describing each project and why it is so interesting/amazing? This would seem a little friendlier to the newcomers.

The early birds that are going to sign up immediately won't need this, but it might be helpful to add it later to  encourage sign-ups from folks that are plenty curious but maybe less conversant in terms like wofati, rocket mass heater, and spring terrace. A lot of terms like this with no explanation might imply to them that the jamboree is only for people with more experience and knowledge.
8 months ago

Jeremy Allen wrote:Alan, Chad, thanks for the replies.  I was trying to keep it generic so it'd be more helpful to others looking for starter guides on this.  But maybe it's more helpful to be more specific about my situation?

Firstly, Alan, can you talk more about your Ecological Solar Design course?  What are the skills taught to a non-electrician like myself?

Anyway, my situation is that I am moving into an off-grid yurt in the coming months.  It would cost >$80k to have power brought in, and then I'd get the pleasure of a monthly power bill and the company assuming ownership of all of the equipment I'd need to install to get the power to my yurt (and future house) site.  So off-grid just made a ton more sense.

I already have most of the equipment.  I got a killer deal on the Clean Energy Storage Powergrid PG11, here's the stat sheet.  It contains the AIMS 8kW Power Inverter Charger, the Outback FlexMAX 80, and the Nuvation NUV300 battery controller.  It's supposed to be "plug and play" but I don't have the skills to know the minutia required.  I also got a crazy good deal on Canadian 275w solar panels, so have 20 of those.  I don't have anything to connect the panels to the inverter/charge controller.  I see the schematic in the Powergrid instructions, but wanted to make sure I was doing everything properly (as you pointed out, small mistakes can be big problems).

I have a southern exposed area that's close to the yurt for the panels.  I ultimately want some type of pole mount, since I could more easily shed the snow and change the angle to catch the sun in winter better.

Hmm, what else?

I will reach out to the local contractor who does off-grid systems, but felt like I had most of the work done and just needed to "plug it all together."  Of course, I'm not so naive to think that's really all I need to do...  :)

Thanks for your, and anyone else's, advice.  Trying to save money, but like not exploding.


It sounds like you have a number of good components, but putting it all together properly takes a little work. I have worked with the Outback FLEXmax before, as well as Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries (although not the PG11), but I am not familiar with the Nuvation NUV300.

Since you have the charge controller and the inverter from different vendors, there may be a bit of trickiness is making sure they play together nicely. When you buy both from the same vendor, they usually have some way of talking to each other to do a few "smart" things that help out and let you manage them in a unified fashion.

On the Ecological Solar Design class I do go over a lot of these concepts in a fair amount of detail, but don't get into all the specifics that an installer would need to know. I concentrate more on covering the concepts a permaculture designer looking to integrate solar into a larger regenerative design would find useful.

I also take a much bigger-picture approach to what "solar" is. In my mind, your garden is the most sophisticated use of solar power. Sticking up solar panels to create electricity is dirty and inelegant in comparison. And how about a solar clothes dryer (aka a clothes line) instead of an electric dryer? Or passive solar gain from a properly designed building?

You would probably get a lot out of this class, but I am not going to have time to teach it again in the near future. Fortunately, the EAT Network had me do an early version of the class as a series of 14 webinars which they recorded. The first one is free at the EAT Community website and you can register for paid access to see the rest if you think it would be helpful. (They have recently changed around their paid access plans, so you will have to look at the details if you are interested.)

Good luck with the project and please report back on your progress and what you learn!
1 year ago

I have never worked with the RootMaker, but I have tried out the Air-Pot containers to learn more about how air pruning works. The Air-Pots seemed to work quite well for the few things I have grown in them so far.

I've never had the opportunity to use them on a large scale, so I would be interested to hear a comparison from someone who has worked with both the RootMaker and the Air-Pot on a larger project.
1 year ago

Julio Budreaux wrote:Paul and Alan, welcome! I would be super excited to win a slot in your next PDC course. I'm slowly (aren't we all?) putting together a permaculture Paw Paw orchard outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas. I've got three planted as tests and they've done well over the past year, so I now have another 8 ready to go into the ground this year and 28 seedlings planted in RootMakerII pots. My plan is to have more than 80 trees in the ground by the fall of 2020!

Anyway, welcome again and good luck to everybody in the drawing!

Hey Julio,

I'm glad to hear you are working with Pawpaw. We need more folks working with this amazing native fruit. If you haven't read it yet, I recommend Pawpaw: In Search of America's Forgotten Fruit by Andrew Moore.

Are you planting one (or more) of the improved varieties? Where are you getting your stock?

Also, what is the larger context of your orchard? Pawpaws definitely seem to do better in a diverse food forest setting where they can act as an under-story tree. What else are you working on for the other layers of your system?

J Davis wrote:Fascinating thread.

As bio/chemical toxins have become prevalent, the need to incorporate detox protocols into daily routines has become evident.

It seems that as emf increases, our need for adaptogens (and or cannaboids) may likewise become evident.

Does anyone have actual data on how earth shelters block or mitigate emf?

Because I'm not geeky enough already just being an electrical engineer, I also have my Extra Class Amateur Radio (aka Ham Radio) license. So I think a lot about how RF at different frequencies propagate.

The way EMF's interact with soil is determined by several factors, primary of which is the characteristic impedance of the soil and the frequency of the RF field.

The resistivity and permittivity of the soil together create the characteristic impedance and therefore determine the skin depth of the soil at each frequency. The skin depth is the thickness of soil needed to attenuate the signal down to 36.8% of the original. By the time you get to four skin depths, you have pretty much eliminated the field.

The SMeter website is a Ham Radio site that has a free piece of software to help you calculate skin depths for different types of soils and different frequencies. Their page on RF Skin Depth in the Ground has the link for downloading the software.

Charlotte Tessadri wrote:I think practicing permaculture is a great way to awaken the inner scientist in people, but I am not very strict with the word scientist. For me a scientist definitely is a person who wants to free themselves from the norms to discover the truth beyond the known. Old paradigms have to be changed or thrown out for something new to come. If you research within a discipline you already are caught in the concepts of that discipline, meaning you're already nit thinking freely, because the perspective you're researching from has been taught to you from someone else, who has also taken over concepts from another person.  
Thus a scientist who has studied in his field for many years might not be as free as someone who has never studied anything before.

And I think to really observe something, perceive it purely it is better to have a free mind rather than a mind stuffed with various concepts.

Anyway: Alan, thank you for the response about the education techniques from the San people. I'm very fascinated now and I'm wondering why you have such a deep knowledge in that field. Did you live with them for some time?  


I grew up outdoors all the time and started learning wilderness skills fairly young. I started studying tracking seriously about 20 years ago and have had the good fortune to spend some time tracking with a number of native people in a few places around the world, including Botswana. The native tracker I got to spend some time with there was not San; he grew up in the Okavango Delta. I used the San for illustration because one of my teachers has spent a lot of time with them and has documented the details I discussed.

In addition to permaculture, I also teach some wilderness skills, tracking, primitive fire making, bird language, and navigation. Primitive skills is an ideal way to help people build the connections to the natural world that makes them both excellent observers and caretakers, thus acting as a gateway to them wanting to learn permaculture and how to work with the Earth in a better way.

I am currently writing a book called Observation for Design that takes students through a 14-week program of learning deep observation skills and helping them understand how this relates to being a good designer. We always say that observation is a key to good permaculture design, but we seem to almost never actually teach that skill.