Douglas Crouch

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Recent posts by Douglas Crouch

"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

    1 week 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.
    1 month 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.  
    1 month 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!
    1 month ago
    This next article in my online book is in the Animal Chapter and it examines meeting their basic needs. Having kept animals on different farms all over the world, its been fun to write in this chapter.  This year i got to keep ducks and goats at Treasure Lake, which was lots of work and quite fun at times.  I share with you some insights in this article.


    If one was to do a functional analysis of ten different animals within the domestic livestock category, one would find some pretty consistent crossovers on the pattern level in terms of inputs.  Thus we will cover those similarities so that when we get to specific animals, the details can come through rather than repeating constantly. Ultimately caring for domesticated livestock is a very large responsibility and to meet the ethos of permaculture we really need to be sound within our animal husbandry. However when we know our inputs and outputs combined with the intrinsic characteristics of the breeds and combine that with the principles of permaculture and patterns of nature, domestic livestock can bring resilience to the system.  It is on us who take that responsibility to treat them with respect and care, mimic natural systems, and encourage ecosystem restoration.


    It is basic yet paramount. Thus the higher the quality of the water we deliver, just like humans, the better the health will be for our animals.  It mandates us to bring fresh water to troughs or water bowls, either via piping or manually, and to keep the drinking troughs clean.  This is one of the hardest parts/ decisions of keeping animals because setting up infrastructure to deliver water to the drinking locations can be costly especially with rotational grazing systems. That is why you often see ponds built and rotational grazing not happening and the animals having free access to the water.  However this diminishes the water quality and increases the chances of the animals getting parasites, a detrimental health threat to the animals and if chemicals are used to treat it then also to the ecosystem.  So water must be planned well, because you will want to keep the water topped up, unfrozen, and also to wash the water bowls out from time to time. This can be lessened by correct placement to keep fecal matter out of the troughs as much as possible, which is a challenge honestly. For example, I switched to a water bowl that attached to the walls of my semi movable goat pens at Treasure Lake in the summer of 2018.  Before that they were on the ground and always a mess to clean because of the animals defecating in them.  It still happened from time to time because I had to keep some of the water bowls low because of the baby goats. However this small change represented a lot less cleaning and cleaner water. At a farm I worked on in California, where water is precious, we would clean the water bowls outside the chicken yard underneath a mulberry tree effectively watering and fertilizing it each day (energy cycling). Furthermore, you can add a probiotic, organic apple cider vinegar being any easy one, to help keep gut flora good.  If chlorinated water is given to animals, the consequence of this anti-microbial agent will also trickle to your animals. Animals need good gut flora to maintain their vitality just as humans do.

    Read on at
    1 month ago
    So things continue to snowball at Treasure Lake, Permaculture and organic farm.  all good stuff unfolding.  The next is Mycotopia @Treasure Lake. Romain Bernard Picasso, will continue to lead Mycology open source events at the lake and paid workshops.  To get familiar with the fungi world try out the following dates for free:
    Saturday June 9th - 9am-11am
    Log & totem inoculation

    Saturday June 23rd - 9am-11am
    guilds & outdoor outdoor beds if you need more info
    7 months ago
    An examination into the sculpting of the earth for water infiltration.  A diverse approach to the palette of earthworks available for this critical point of regeneration. Join us at Treasure Lake for some permaculture in action!

    In this weekend course, we will be sculpting the earth for water harvesting and access all the while bringing a greater level of biodiversity to the property grounds. The course aims to give you tools for managing landscapes holistically and speeding along the regeneration work that stems from this holistic approach. The course will be a unique blend of observing existing systems, implementing new ones, and designing for those in the future.  The course will constantly weave through the TreeYo Holistic Model of Development thus intertwining many factors of development.  From soils to budgets, from nursery operations to machinery types, this course will be a kicksatarter for moving your own projects or consulting forward. The course will flow from theory, to the planning and design both inside and in the field, and move into concentrated times of implementation.

    We will be examining and working with many of the following earthworks:
  • Swales
    Check dams
    Silt traps
    Terraces, hand and machine made
    rain gardens/ pit gardens/ banana circles
    diversion drains
    sunken and raised beds

  • We will be looking in-depth towards when to use these particular earthworks and how to execute them with care, precision, and the post work to make them function optimally.  By using a diversity of earthworks in different zones to match particular needs of the land through contextual and climatic review, you will walk away with a greater confidence on which to choose for accelerating succession and evolution at different sites.  We aim to improve the hydrological cycle at Treasure Lake and within the greater watershed of the area and invite you to be apart of that.  This is the next step for the site, to lay the mainframe and from there start to work with others in the watershed to maintain higher water quality within Treasure Lake.
    8 months ago
    All Day Plantwalks, Hands-on Plant Activities, Children’s Activities, Informative Plant Presentations, as well as Vendors and Tradeshow of the Greater Cincinnati area Plant People!
    Location: Treasure Lake and Dark Wood Farm, Petersburg, Kentucky. 2590 Lawrenceburg Ferry Road.
    Facilitators: Doug Crouch, Rebecca Wood, Celeste Shumrick, Ben Belty, Michael Hood, Abby Artemesia, Ande Schewe, Lawrence Greene,
    Jeremy Schewe, Susan VonderHaar, Ellil Rose
    more info:

    There is a calling for more collaboration and community around creating opportunities that are accessible and affordable all the while very dynamic. This event has come together from that need whilst offering a space for learning, family interaction, and a communal spring gathering occurs. This event is created and produced by some of the Ohio River Valley and beyonds best plant based business’ and organizations.
    With a deep sense of gratitude and excitement we are bringing this experience closer to Cincinnati! We invite you to join us, unplug for the day, and immerse yourselves into the wonders nature provides and offers.
    At all times several things will be happening, indoor presentations, outdoor walks or hands on, vending, kids activities, and space to just be.
    It’s really about cultivating in yourself a deeper awareness of your connection with plants, and enjoy walking away knowing a bit more than you have before, and perhaps be inspired as you walk into the spring season closer to nature and refreshed in your connection with others on their own plant journeys as well… Enjoy a plant and nature experience with a community, and perhaps bring the family and create a memory together…

    Host Site:
    Treasure Lake with Dark Wood Farm
    Treasure lake is local small business focused on recreation in nature, from hiking to birding, boating to fishing that has been in the Crouch family since 1984.  It’s a wonderfully scenic place hidden in the hills of the Northwestern Corner of Northern Kentucky and Boone County only 22 miles from downtown Cincinnati.  We have been hard at work developing the broad acre forest for bio-diversity and wild food abundance.  With our thickets of spicebush and paw paw in the understory and towering hickories and oaks in the overstory, the wildlife love it here and we are sure you will too.  Camping is on one of our flat ridges that perch above the 15 acre pay fishing lake.  Furthermore, it is a community center of sorts as well with entertainment and nature immersion uniquely blending together! The property also now features Dark Wood Farm run by Annie Woods, a local growing local foods.  The farm runs a 50-person CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program from May- November and sell their produce to restaurants in the greater Cincinnati area. Furthermore, the following Permaculture elements and functions that can be experienced are:
  • Non Timber forest product development including a focus on wildlife management
    Extensive Native Food Forest and specific management techniques to enhance this
    Hot & Cold Composting (Vermiculture) systems for boosting soil life, picking up on waste streams, and cycling nutrients
    Market Garden that feeds into local foods and creates employment
    Natural Building with a focus on social space creation and our stage
    Event and Festival hosting to create a cultural gathering point for many points of culture

  • Schedule of Events
    Full Presenters Bios and Talk Descriptions Expanded Click Here
    March 30th: optional camp and campsite fun with music, separate camping fee applies
    March 31st:
    8:30 am- Arrival registration, greet and meets.
    9:00 am- 10:15 am
    Plant Walk A: Plant Folklore and a Permaculture Perspective: Rebecca Wood, Ande Schewe, Doug Crouch
    Presentation A: Basic Healing, First-time Medicine Making: Celeste Shumrick
    10:15 am-10:30 am Tabling and Networking break
    10:30 am-12:00 pm
    Celeste showing off her love for plants and hands in the earth
    Plant Walk B: Wild Edible & Herbal Walkabout: Abby Artemesia and the Wandering School
    Presentation B: From nut to flour: an acorn processing primer, Interactive with Michael Hood and Ben Betly
    12:00 pm -1:30 pm Lunch Break, networking and tabling
    1:30 pm-3:00 pm
    Plant walk C: Plantwalk Teachers Walk- Folklore, Science, Medicinal, Research, Personal Experience, etc.- Numerous facilitators
    Presentation C: GeoBotany: Power of Knowing Natural Communities: Jeremy Schewe
    3:15 pm -4:30 pm
    Plant Walk Hands on D:: Planting Forest Medicinals: Doug Crouch and others
    Presentation D: Monoculture Roots Drum Circle, Lawrence Greene
    4:30 pm -4:45 pm: tabling and networking
    4:45 pm – 6:00 pm
    Plant Walk E: Plant Spirit Medicine- Deepening our Plant Relations: Rebecca Wood
    6:00 pm farewells and option to camp for additional separate fee
    Kids Program Schedule:
    “Guided Connection to Earth” uses Senses and Artful Creation for a full day of Nature emergence.  Two experienced facilitators will be hosting Kids’ Programming activities to run concurrently with event speakers/break schedule.  At 6 pm the children will present their Plantwalkers encounters with a Performance Art piece.
    For the Kiddies (ages 5+, accompanied younger children welcome.  Teens/tweens are appreciated Program Assistants)
    9 months ago
    huge can of worms.  You will hear a lot of different answers.  There is a move towards those holding a diploma in Permaculture or even Permaculture education are those allowed to teach and give out certificates.  I stick to the 14 chapters of the designers manual, blend a bit of new stuff in, and do an exhaustive design project.  
    10 months ago
    New TreeYo EDU article release: Drylands Tree Crop Selection.  This is one of the sections I cover in the PDC and having worked many years in the Mediterranean and other drylands/ brittle regions it was a fun article to recall all I have learned over the years.  Being back in the humid temperate part of the world, we can grow some, but not all of these.


    Introduction Pattern

    Drylands Tree Crop selection is determined not only by the dryness of the climate but of course also by temperatures.  Having worked in both Mediterranean areas, temperate drylands, and tropical brittle climates, there is some crossover in some of the climates but not in others.  Bill Mollison defined drylands as below 500 mm of precipitation but we must also realize that there are climates that we think of drylands because they are brittle climates.  So although they may fall just above that, like where I worked in Southern Spain in 2016-17 (600 mm of rain), they are really just brittle climates that go around seven months with little rainfall and an exacerbated sporadicness in these changing days of climate. Additionally, where I worked in Neuquen, Argentina was a drylands area but also very temperate so this list focuses on those warmer parts of the drylands. Also this list is very general and the reality is that often local environments have edible plants that locals incorporate in their diets traditionally and modernly and need to be considered.  When composing this list in a PDC with students, you will always find that this happens as students throw out a name of a plant they interacted with in their travels or home lands.  Thats what makes this listing hard because does one search for such list in the tropical section or temperate even though they live in a drylands?

    All drylands planting are aided by some sort of infiltration earthwork in general so do remember that. Microclimate accentuation is also very important.  For example I saw citrus thriving in Ibiza, Spain next to Carob and Olives whilst there for a PDC assignment.  However within these amazing terraces that all three were planted on, the Citrus were in the valleys, which the terraces also crossed.  You could see
    the soil was better there than on the ridges and I also think that had to do with how they treated the soil in the valleys as well.  Because it wasn’t as straight and uniform as the long ridges, the soil seemed to be less often plowed giving more integral resilience to the valley soil.  Also it always comes up, in reflection of Geoff Lawton’s Greening the Desert Film, irrigation will always help plantings get off the ground.  As stated in that video very plainly, drip irrigation was used to get those plantings up off the ground. Of course in some parts of the world this is not possible but hand watering periodically does occur to ensure establishment.   Also not stated in that video was the fact that Dr. Elaine Ingham was there spraying compost tea so seeding those microbes back in the ecosystem is very critical to success. Furthermore, you may see certain crops grown in the drylands of certain areas like California or Central Asia but are often sucking out groundwater through massive irrigation infrastructure.  Furthemore, remember that in drylands there are specific establishment strategies, which some are seen at my other article called Corridor Planting. And part of that also involves establishing pioneer plants before hand, hardy in their nature, and often nitrogen fixers to accelerate succession and evolution.  Also windbreaks are sometimes needed before any tree crop planting is done and often some form of mechanical or biological soil treatment. Basically a forwarding of succession needs to occur before planting; building soil, providing a better microclimate through slowing winds and sun, and infiltrating more water.

    10 months ago