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Douglas Crouch

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since Feb 07, 2010
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Recent posts by Douglas Crouch

What was, isn't what always remains.  Evolution is a feedback process that allows for expansion and growth.  Roots continue to grow for me here in Northern Kentucky and this blog shares a bit of that and what is coming.  Enjoy!

Also inside that link is to a permaculture/ foraging day we will have on May 18 at my place in NKY!
1 month ago
TreeYo EDU: This article focuses on examining the depth of electricity in our current lives and how to produce it renewably, as well as conversion and storage. Electricity is everywhere in our lives and one of the main design considerations for a regenerative homestead.  Create edge in the cultural landscape through breaking up centralized control over this resource.

Picture fromGoogle showing just how close my place is to industrial electric production

Electricity is a mainstay in our modern lives.  It powers so many different facets, drawing from the stored sunlight of fossil fuels mainly. This illuminates our paths towards over consumption, abundant information, rapid transportation, and industrialization of all sorts. It is like the sun is always out when you have electricity, throw a switch on, plug-in, and voila, power is there. It helps blend our soups and preserve the vegetables that compose it.  It powers our telecommunications and lets us diverge from rhythms of nature because of the stored sunlight in fossil fuels.  Normally they are burnt to produce steam which turn turbines thus creating electricity. It is an amazing gift, really, but a costly one with emissions and subsequent pollution (i.e. mercury, lead, and arsenic emissions along with CO2 from coal power plants).  It has increased our life expectancy and in some ways created a better and safer way of life.  However there is the flip side of the coin and the comforts it provides have also catapulted the over consumptive and disconnected society.  It is the very definition of a catch 22.  It also helps to power the homestead, a critical point of a permaculture landscape. Electricity is everywhere and just as it is stated in the intro article of this chapter, we not only aim to produce electricity with renewables, we also aim to reduce our needs of electricity through a myriad of appropriate technologies. Electricty demand will only increase as well since technology that was once liquid fossil fuel driven switches to electric, i.e. cars, chainsaws, weed eaters, etc.

Thus there are three main elements that Permaculturits utilize for the production of electricity to support us in lessening our grid demand.  They are the following:

  • Solar PV Panels
    Wind Turbines

  • Again before producing electricity one needs to examine what it takes to reduce consumption. You maybe cooking, heating water, storing food, augmenting building temperature, etc with electric which are very demanding energy wise. They may need to be converted to a different energetic source generation (i.e. earth tube fridge) allowing you to reach an overall production state of electricity instead of consumption.

    I include a short description of each and then go into the necessary hardware to complete them. I also include my biography of interacting with these technologies. There are others that are coming on and the potato will indeed light up a light bulb according to youtube.  But for now we explore these main three.

    Solar PV Panels

    This system captures the energy of the sun and converts it into electricity, providing a daytime energy source for a permaculture system. If the electricity produced during the day is converted by an inverter and stored in batteries, it can be used in the nighttime or on overcast days. Alternatively, the electricity generated can be used directly, without being stored, to power some machines such as pumps or aerators. The solar PV panels should be sited appropriately to maximize solar gain, considering seasonal differences of the sun angle. Trackers, which are panel stands that follow the sun’s daily movements, aid in achieving maximum sun exposure and make these systems more efficient, but may drive up their cost significantly. To maximize production, the panels have to be kept clean, especially in dry and dusty places. The Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, USA, cleverly located their panels in the parking lot, to provide shade for the cars parked beneath, creating yet another function. This electricity production system can be scaled variably, powering anywhere from a single household to a bigger community. Although it is usually an off-grid power source, some locales allow for grid tie-ins.
    3 months ago
    That is a difficult situation to deal with.  What are the environmental factors causing the drying out?  If it is high winds do consider shade cloth on the windward side and begin to plant a windbreak.  I have farmed in many dry climates, mainly in Mediterranean climates around the world so i know its not the same context but you may want to try a combination of both raised beds and sunken beds as suggested in this article i wrote. I did farm in a similar situation in argentina in the mountains there where frost was possible any month of the year.  Extremely arid.  And while the soil looked good because of its dark color it was actually devoid of organic matter and the color was more an indicator of the base volcanic rock.  However we had an endless supply of water because of a canal.  So i would also ask what is your soil made of?  So sunken beds might be a good choice for you summer crops and cooler crops on raised beds.  
    EDU Earthly Vlog from Treasure Lake, KY: I get the fortunate timing of seeing a big work of stream repair over a two day period, high flow and medium flow to highlight several techniques in restoring natural hydrology.  Quite pleased with the work and thankful for all who helped with it.  Play with rocks in a creek like you are a kid again and well.... be the beaver!  Express the run, riffle, pool pattern.
    4 months ago
    Thanks Dillon for the feedback and stories of others performing this technique.  Yeah the part on how much nutrition you are bringing is a good question.  People bag on permaculture for not having enough scientific data and time to weigh out such a resource is obviously a clear cut reason why not.  Nonetheless the observation part allows you to do your own research and verify or vilify such a technique.  Glad you included pigs in your feedback, its the one animal i haven't worked with in all my years of permaculture.  good luck on your next growing season.
    4 months ago
    As the debate rages on whether we should be eating meat or not, I publish my latest article within the animals chapter to present another key facet to holistic animal management; Cut and Carry.  Its a traditional technique that has been adapted by Permaculturists to ensure healthier animals and pastures.  Read about it here and the nuances of it all.  meanwhile enjoy the wonderful new header art from my dear friend and fellow permie, Joana Amorim.

    Written by Doug Crouch

    Within Permaculture, domesticated livestock and humans can combine to form an interdependent symbiosis in which there is thriving conditions for the animals and ecosystem regeneration occurring simultaneously. Contrarily, the more humans remove themselves from holistic animal management, the more pollution is created, resources squandered, and degradation occurs. Animal management entails we meet their basic needs by giving them shelter, water, food of varying forms, care, protection from extremes and predators, and limits.  These limits come in the form of the fence lines that we erect permanently or temporarily with electric fencing.  Also the shepherd has a range with his own flock, not bound as much by fence yet other varying constraints.  Moreover, feed is found within these limits or it is brought to the animals for a variety of reasons. The main idea behind cut and carry is you cut forage for the animal beyond their boundaries and carry it to them when needed.  In essence this is how hay and straw works, even grain inputs, but what we refer to as cut and carry is more leaf fodder than anything else. At the bottom of the article a few variations are explained further as well.

    Why Cut and Carry

    Constraints of all sorts exist when one is performing holistic animal husbandry.  It takes work; hard work, punctual work, and pulsative work.  It also takes keen observation and decision making that is timely, which is reflective of the principles using animals as a biological resource and energy cycling. Consequently, we perform this cut and carry task when forage inside a limit gets too low and you are unable to move the animals to a new area or want them to finish the last bits off while keeping them highly nourished.  Pasture observation is key along with the animals behavior changes, which allows you to make critical decisions. Beyond forage becoming low, other factors might influence your decision making for cut and carry such as when pastures are too wet and you prefer the animal to stay in their house sites or a sacrifice area (an area that gets really beat up).  Also sometimes to give the animals variety or a highly nutritious input we do cut and carry.  Furthermore, some animals like rabbits rely mostly on this system for their caloric input beyond grains and kitchen wastes.

    When raising goats at Treasure Lake, Kentucky, USA in 2018, I found myself cutting and carrying for all the reasons above.  I also would select certain vegetation that I was wanting to cut down anyway for numerous reasons so being able to carry it to my goats was great. I didn’t want to simply chop and drop where the vegetation was growing and I could not set up a limit where that vegetation was growing.

    Tree and Shrub Cut and Carry

    If animals are pinned in an area and extra forage is needed, simply find palatable vegetation and harvest this fodder for the animals.  From the above example of the goats, I was using the black locust, osage orange, box elder, staghorn sumac, and elm mainly from the native realm.  The non native bush honeysuckle, which proliferates in our disturbed soils there in Northern Kentucky, was also another I spent a lot of time cutting and carrying.  Some of the actual plants were not even out of the electric fenced in area but rather the vegetation was too high for the goats to reach.  So I would pollard the tree (cut at chest to head height) and let that drop and the goats would quickly devour the foliage.  However, some was from outside the boundaries and did represent quite hard work with the weight of the vegetation and the distance I sometimes would walk.  However I didn’t have to move the electric fence as often and again was able to remove unwanted vegetation from certain areas, like the dam wall, which is destructive for the dam whilst having a purpose of feeding the goats.  In the end it did make a mess of branches that overtime I intend to cut up for firewood, mulch, etc.  So remember if you cut and carry cuttings from trees and shrubs there will be woody material leftover that you will need to process one day.

    Similarily in New Zealand at a farm I worked on in 2007-08, we would chop and drop tagasaste tree branches to our sheep.  Tagasaste, also called tree lucerne, was a great supplement for the sheep in this mediterranean climate.  This tree fodder crop from the legume family allowed the sheep to have highly nutritious forage in the two low points of forage in that climate.  One period is when the soils are cold and wet in the winter and the other when the soils have dried and grow no grass in the summer.  This allowed for higher stocking rates, faster growing sheep, and healthier pastures and sheep.  The tagasaste were planted in Savannah style along with other tree crops.

    Cutting of branches of nitrogen fixers is a common way in which this strategy is manifested and contains an infinite amount of variations.  For example, there is also a common practice in the Dominican Republic to cut the fence lines of the gliricidia (madre de cacao) and feed that to the animals.  The fence lines were these trees driven in the ground as thick woody cuttings. They would then sprout and when more sunlight was desired for their “winter” tropical period, the leaf fodder was chopped and dropped for the animals to eat only.

    Thus we can procure these resources woody resources from wild or edge zones, plant them in that way or Savannah style, or create coppice woodlots.  All of those work and as always, many elements support the important function.
    5 months ago
    "You can't go from grid entangled to off the grid over night." In this new chapter with the TreeYo EDU online book, I get philosophical on what energy consumption and reliance on the grid is all about.  I finish with a call for action, another quote from the article, " Thus I challenge you to map your energy usage, see where you can complete cycles, and begin to incorporate biology and localism to emerge from reliance to independence energetically." BTW, new look to website, same great info.

    Written by Doug Crouch

    The focus of this chapter is the utilization of technology that is appropriate to minimize our reliance on grid provided energy systems that are often owned and operated by powerful and polluting multinational corporations.  It is easy to say “I am getting off the grid”, but the reality is we are massively entangled in the grid.  Furthermore, every product we consume has embedded energy, which relies mostly on grid power and global reticulation of materials for its production. The premise of appropriate technologies is that the technologies we rely on will produce more energy than what it took to build them.  For example, a shovel, although we will not cover the shovel in the subsequent articles in this chapter, is a form of appropriate technology when properly cared for.  You can break it on day two of digging but most likely, especially if you spend a bit extra for a quality hand tool, a shovel will last for years and will be used on varying projects from tree planting to construction.  It takes energy to produce that shovel; to mine, to cut wood, to transform the raw products into finished products, to ship those materials, to assemble, to ship the end product, to warehouse it, to ship it to retailers, to market it, to package it, and on and on until you get it home and begin using it.  It is actually a lot of energy again because of the global reticulation of materials and industrialization of material production.  In the old days you would have gone to the market and bought it from your local blacksmith in the village. The wood in the handle would have been harvested locally and the local artisan supported through your purchase. Now when you buy a shovel normally, you have no idea where the steel (or bronze) or wood comes from nor who put it together.  Anyhow, that shovel can produce energy in a system through its long term usage and regain the energy needed to balance it out and make it an appropriate technology. Basically if the energy produced outweighs the energy input, it is an appropriate technology.

    If we look at our interaction with energy/product providers here is a list of the way we are tied into the grid; the global, military, industrial, academic, government complex:

  • electricity
    food processing/ preservation
    water heating
    heating and cooling
    and more

  • Many of these are hard to gain any sense of getting off the grid, especially when living in urban areas, but we can make steps.  For example, people in cities find it much easier to get around without a car relying on public transport or bicycle.  If you live in the countryside and are a market gardener, I doubt you are taking your wares to the market via a bicycle or horse and cart.  However there are various technologies out there to lessen our reliance on the grid.  This goes along with the permaculture principle, for the important function of energy production have in your system multiple elements.  The problem with society, especially in developed nations, is that we rely only on the grid, burdening it, and causing pollution.  Furthermore when that grid goes down, say in a natural disaster, catastrophe is beset because resilience isn’t there. Resilience is created by having multiple elements to support this important function.  If we then zoom into the electricity category we are able to see that there are varying options that maybe appropriate depending on your context like the following:

  • Solar PV Panels
    Wind Turbine
    Micro-hydro system
    Energy Efficiency- unplugging certain appliances and relying on other technologies

  • The last one refers to the notion that before we can get off the grid we have to reduce consumption.  If you are consuming too much energy through wasteful usage it is hard to buy enough solar panels, unless quite wealthy, for all of your needs. So appropriate technology not only becomes about the things we buy or build to reduce our reliance on the grid, yet also about our lifestyle and consumption patterns.  This indeed is probably the greatest challenge of our developed nation ways, yet the local food and product movement is burgeoning to counteract this. Its possible, its just different. I have lived within a very low energy system relying off of renewable energies like solar, even part of this book was fueled partly by solar. It does create a different lifestyle but one that is more in tune with natural rhythms.

    more at

    5 months ago
    This is really where the fun comes in because the analytics of previous steps let the information and imagination flow into creating the dreams of what could be.

    Conceptual and master planning: Idea generation and refinement
    When the vision and assessment states are processed through cataloguing, we then use numerous tools of idea generation and refinement to get to the final design stage.  The vision and assessment stage produce a lot of information to digest and build a context for what, why, where, and how you are designing.  To move into idea generation we further process that information holistically as to produce concepts of design.

    SWOT Analysis

    The first step I use is a SWOT analysis as it rehashes the information analytically into a quadrant grid of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  On a piece of paper, you write out these four sections created by dividing the paper in four with a cross.  This allows you to ping back and forth because they are all interrelated.  For example a strength might be good hillside sun exposure but that may create a threat of fire.  A weakness might be a lack of water or erosion but creates an opportunity of earthworks or water catchment.  This step shouldn’t take too long but will enhance the design later on.  One needs to leverage strengths, admit weaknesses, create opportunities, and mitigate or nullify threats.  If you understand these well, the elements needed to do the step below will more naturally flow.

    Mind Maps

    To further see the full picture and incorporate the knowledge of a SWOT analysis, we use mind mapping next to tie functions and elements together.  The principles of permaculture show that we need to integrate functions and elements to produce sound designs through the creation of redundancy.  Thus in this step we layout a large piece of paper or use mind mapping software (lots of open source ones free for download) beginning with the functions.  I now list them in my design guidelines as the following:

  • Building Soil Fertility  – BSF
    Appropriate Energy Production  – AEP
    Integrated Infrastructure Development  – IID
    Quality Access Development  – QAD
    Regenerative Food Production  – RFP
    Cottage Industry Development  – CID
    Holistic Animal Husbandry  – HAH
    Water Cycle Completion  – WCC
    Domestic Water Use  – DWU
    Creative Biodiversity Promotion  – CBP
    Efficient Waste Cycling  – EWC
    Beneficial Social Interaction  – BSI

  • Each one of these functions becomes a bubble in the mind map and lines radiate outwardly to other bubbles (elements).  Certain elements, as they should, will be connected to several functions since the principle of each element should perform many functions states this redundancy. When you are going through you can check for this redundancy by adding arrows to cross check.  And you can check that your functions are fully supported by at least three elements as the principles also dictate.  As you move through this mind mapping, the elements needed to produce a robust design will become more apparent. Then with these elements you need to arrange them in the landscape which is the next phase, schematic design. Remember to connect inputs and outputs through the idea of a functional analysis and creating functional interconnections.
    6 months ago
    Thank you Dave Burton for doing so.  I can only hope that this resource reaches many and i do appreciate your work to help share it.  
    6 months ago

    February and March: Weekend PDC with the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute


    Dates and Times:
    Friday – Feb 23rd – 6-9pm
    Saturday – Feb 24th – 9-6pm
    Sunday – Feb 25th – 10-5pm
    Saturday – Mar 2nd – 9-6pm
    Sunday – Mar 3rd – 10-5pm
    Saturday – Mar 9th – 9-6pm
    Sunday – Mar 10th – 10-5pm
    Friday March 15th- 6-9pm
    Saturday – Mar 16th – 9-6pm
    Saturday March 23rd- 9-6pm
    Sunday March 24th 10-5pm

    Locations:  Treasure Lake and other tri-state host sites
    Facilitators: Doug Crouch, Chris Smyth, and others from the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute and beyond
    Course Fee:
    700$ ($200 deposit) By December 1st
    $750 ($200 deposit) By January 1st
    800$($200 deposit) After February 1st
    ****includes catered lunches  ****
    For more information and to register details contact the following:
    Register Here – At the bottom of the CPI inquiry page.

    THE COURSE: Format and Content
    The course will be a weekend PDC spread out over five weekends   This format allows for extra time for students to digest the material during the week off making it a great format for a holistic learning experience.  Students will also receive hands-on experience and also ample work time on the final design project and presentation. The course will be a certified through TreeYo Permaculture as we are guided by Bill Mollison’s curriculum that comprises the 14 chapters of his book “Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual”. Our schedule reflects this commitment and has a strong emphasis on how the design principles and process influence site develop and systems management. We will cover the following topics throughout the course:

    Ethics, Principles, and Methods of Permaculture Design
    Pattern Understanding: Interpretation and Application
    Climatic Factors: Broad Climatic Zones and Microclimate – Effects on Landscape and Design
    Water: Harvesting, Conservation, and landscape hydration with Earthworks
    Trees and their Energy Transactions: Tree Systems for landscapes and Tree Identification
    Soils: Classification, Food Web, and Restoration
    Aquaculture: Food Web, Aquatic Plants, Chinampas, Tyre Ponds, Water Quality Parameters
    Animal Systems: Integrate worms, chickens, goats, and many other animals in your design
    Strategies for Tropical, Dryland, and Temperate Climates: Influences on Vegetation, Housing, and Earthworks
    Introduction to Natural Building: Earth as a Building Material
    Fermentation and Nutrition: Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Sourdough Bread and Pickles
    Local Food Systems:  CSA-Community Supported Agriculture,  Cooperatives, Food-Coops
    Social and Economic Permaculture: Bio-Regional Organisation, Living in Communities, Transition Towns and Local Resiliency
    And last but not least: A journey into our local ecosystem that is incredibly biodiverse and a unique food forest in its natural structure. The connections made here in this class will forward your environmental literacy and build community with other proactive stewards.  

    The course will end with the required student design projects that will utilize a budding permaculture site in Northern Kentucky and other possible locations.  The sites often come from the students themselves or apart of our local network. By using an actual physical site for the design projects, students will gain the experience of completing a full design from walking the land during the initial assessment to mapping and measuring to client interviews and final presentations. It’s a great opportunity to contribute to the local permaculture scene as often the projects are carried onward.

    The design project process increases learner retention by allowing for immediate application and direct practice of learned skills while offering a means to evaluates students’ comprehension of the theory and lecture sections of the course. All of which are necessary to become successful, effective, and certified Permaculture designers.

    The final design project is also considered to be a direct hands-on project because students will be engaged in a process that will yield a viable design proposal. Our commitment to practicing the design principles throughout the course process itself reinforces the theory and lecture sessions. To bring the material alive we engage in facilitating the course so that numerous learning styles are supported. One of our teaching techniques is through design exercises that compliment the lecture material and add an element of fun to the atmosphere.

    and more!
    6 months ago