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what is permaculture?

paul Hatfield
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 3
10,000 years ago, people learned to plant their favorite foods close by so they wouldn't have to go far away and find them.  Only these plants always seemed to need care while the stuff in the wild didn't.  Permaculture is (IMOO) about understanding why and attempting to work more symbiotically with nature so that these plants can be healthier and more productive with less water, fertilizer and effort.

paul Hatfield
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 3
I think a good 30 second answer to this question is to explain that the sahara desert used to feature lush growth. Some people suggest that it became a desert due to over-intensive agriculture. Permaculture is about reversing this process.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Permaculture (as I see it) is three parts:
(1) an ethic or philosophy.
(2) a set of design principles. Applying the principles will (should) lead
to a design that fulfills the philosophy.
(3) a bunch of tactics that may or may not apply in any situation
(eg herb spirals, keyhole beds) and may be obvious (eg organic
gardening).

Lisa in Ashland Oregon
        


Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 1
"Permaculture is about reversing this process"

Surely with the number of people on this planet, meaning the need for more food, there is no way we can reverse the process?
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
For me it is an outward way of connecting to the larger community (insects, animals, plants, elements) which is a reflection of my inner nurturing and self-care. Or, a larger exterior climate which mirrors the optimal inner micro-climate.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Permaculture is how we take control over our own lives, meet our individual needs and build our common future. Let Nature be our mentor.
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Practically speaking, what does this replenishing mean?
Marilyn Queiroz
steward

Joined: Apr 03, 2005
Posts: 60
Would this not be taking infertile ground and making it fertile again, thus increasing its productivity and usefulness to man?
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
I'd like to post the standard:

"designing food systems with ecological principals in mind"
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Permaculture is alignment with nature.

A Dine elder told me of a where Dine women give birth that gave me a glimpse of this alignment.
Dine women give birth in a hogan or a round house. There is a rope that is attached to the roof and the sky and the creator. She holds onto and pulls on this rope until she births.

-A garden shaped like a willow leaf

-homes and windows arranged to honor the solstice, equinox, seasons

any other examples of this alignment?

Andrew

Ashland, OR
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
According to Bill Mollison, the fella who coined the word, "Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems." - Excerpt from Permaculture: A designers manual by Bill Mollison.
                      


Joined: May 08, 2006
Posts: 4
Location: Okanagan Valley of BC, CANADA
I would just like to add that the word Permaculture comes from permanent agriculture, and it is a form of no-dig, no-till gardening or farming. 

Permaculture gardening replenishes the soil as nature does in forests and lands not used by man... decomposing (rotting) organic substances.  This creates new soil and feeds the old stuff.  It builds a new layer each year as last years weeds, manure, mulch all rot down and become rich new soil.

A book I just read (from the library) that I love and highly recommend is Permaculture in a Nutshell by Patrick Whitefield.  It's a small, easy to read book packed full of great info and ideas.


Quote: Sometimes I don’t know what I do all day, but I know it takes me all day to do it. –A. G. Price, 2006

Blogs:
www.growinggreater.blogspot.com  (my yard makeover)
www.born2cree8.blogspot.com  (my fiber arts)
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15623
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
There are aspects of permaculture gardening that are no-till/no-dig.  And there are aspects of permaculture that are big-till/big-dig.  Swales and terraces come to mind! 

sign up for my daily-ish email / rocket mass heater 4-DVD set / permaculture playing cards
                      


Joined: May 08, 2006
Posts: 4
Location: Okanagan Valley of BC, CANADA
Thank you, Paul.  I sit corrected (hard to stand at a computer  :lol Obviously I need to continue with my reading/research into this topic.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15623
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
No-till is by far the best way to go.  But I've learned the hard way that there is a time and place for till.  An example would be that if you are starting out with lifeless dirt (not soil) - it's better to break it up a bit first and work in some organic matter and/or rich soil.
                  


Joined: Apr 22, 2009
Posts: 27
Location: Seattle
I'd be interested in winning this ticket to see the Bullock's place.  Of course I've heard about it.  The questions that I would have for Dave are...  What makes "Permaculture" different from other people throughout time who have attempted to make best use of their available resources with whatever means are available to them  What is there that is really unique to Permaculture  Certainly, the world is 'smaller' now and information from other parts of the world is available to people through Permaculture teaching, but how is this unique  Yes, Permaculture is different than AgriBusiness but is it really different than other "alternative" systems--for example, the systems that were the source material for what is taught in Permaculture classes  I can't think of anything that I learned in my Permaculture design course that wasn't available from some other source if one were to look for it.  Is Permaculture something more than a marketing program designed to fill the pockets of those who teach Permaculture Design Courses  If it is something different, what is this difference
Dave Boehnlein


Joined: Jun 10, 2007
Posts: 291
Location: Orcas Island, WA
    
    2
Dan,

While permaculture draws on a lot of different disciplines (organic gardening, natural building, alternative energy, earthworks, horticulture, etc.) it would be inaccurate to say that a strawbale house, organic radishes, or a wind generator make a permaculture site. When I think about what permaculture has to offer I focus on the fact that permaculture is a design system that helps you to solve problems. How, then, is permaculture different from other design disciplines such as industrial design, product design, architecture, or engineering? None of those other design fields can claim that they have an ethical foundation. Care of the earth, care of people, & redistribution of the surplus provide the basis from which decisions are made in permaculture design. The design principles (using biological resources, designing for resiliency, utilizing edges, etc.), process (from site assessment to implementation planning), and methodologies are all distilled from those ethics to help us make design decisions.

Ultimately, permaculture provides an overarching way to link together the disciplines upon which it draws in a sensible, efficient way. How can the design and siting of the house (realm of the architect) benefit the plant systems around it (realm of the landscape architect) and vice versa? By having basic literacy in a wide variety of disciplines, the permaculturist becomes able to communicate across disciplines, much like a conductor is the one to helps all of the musicians in an orchestra create a symphony instead of a cacophony.

Therefore, permaculture doesn't seek to provide practitioners with info on how to build a cob house. There are plenty of books and courses out there on that topic. Permaculture doesn't seek to make sure that those who've taken a design course all know how to wire a solar panel. That information is also out there already. What permaculture does is encourage people to think about how to best incorporate techniques such as cob and solar energy into an integrated system that will meet human needs while allowing ecological processes to continue unhindered. I like to think of permaculture design as the toolbox and each of the disciplines upon which it draws as the tools.

Dave


Principal - Terra Phoenix Design
http://TerraPhoenixDesign.com
                            


Joined: Apr 24, 2009
Posts: 34
Location: West Seattle, WA
Dave, I think you have just given me the best definition of permaculture I could have ever asked for.

My issue with the idea of permaculture has been that most who profess to use the principles of permaculture can't really give me a direct answer that sums up what "it" really is.  This has been frustrating as I read articles on the topic because it all seems so broad and encompassing that it is difficult to understand our place in the realm of permaculture.

Thus my explorations into this forum the past week or so have been all about just that: exploring what permaculture really is and how does one exercise best practices.  While I thought I had a vague idea as to the definition and the implementation of permaculture, I promptly found out that I didn't have a clue.  Then, as you answered my question on urban farming in another thread, I thought "hey… maybe I'm not so far off."  Wrong again…  When I actually spoke to a couple of self-professed, hard-core permaculture folks, they let me know in no uncertain terms that I was wrong on all counts of permaculture.  In fact, they informed me, I was doing more harm than good by creating these urban farming spaces rather than doing (insert barrage of information I stopped listening to because of their condescending attitude).

Do you get my drift here?  I'm not a stupid man… really… I can dress myself just fine and I can even tie my own shoe laces.  I think I can identify when someone is posturing rather than telling me a real definition or representing a true principle in action.  I don't think I would start drooling nor would my brains liquify and run out my ears if someone were to give me a descent definition of permaculture.  However, it still eludes me.

Your explanation, if I am reading correctly, is that permaculture is a broad discipline that encompasses a number of practices.  A guideline, if you will, for various practices to follow.  Yes?  Further, that guideline states that all practices and sub-disciplines (as they become identified when working within said guidelines) should operate taking every other practice and sub-discipline into consideration in regards to the impact on the environment as a whole.  Am I even close(er)?

Honestly, there have been times when I felt like the original poster in this thread.  It has seemed like permaculture was some vague, undefined construct that drew people in via the promise of some enlightened path that only a select few were able to follow.  However, if I am reading your answers both here and in response to my post on urban farming, there are many attainable levels that we can all reach without eating entirely from a forest garden or living in a straw house.  There are degrees and steps that can be taken to reach those standards, but those standards being reached or not do not include or exclude those who are on the path to understand the greater concept.  In other words: there ain't a decoder ring or a secret handshake.  Everyone can join the club.  LOL

The more I explore what I thought I knew about this, the more I find I know less than I thought… and the more I find out I have to learn.  Maybe I'm a step closer to understanding what I don't know yet?? *head explodes*
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
My first voyage into permaculture was the purchase of the book Introduction to Permaculture about 15 years ago. I had always been interested in organic gardens, homesteading and french intensive planting up to this point but permaculture offered  plethera of new ideas that were not available in the research into the above mentioned techniques.

Although most of the information that I obtained at that time and since has dealt with southern hemisphere gardening or Northern pacific, neither of which address my situation in Michigan, the techniques still can be adapted to the freezing north and can enhance the property I have been working on for the past 38 years.

Several of the pricipals that were added to my thinking from my initial study were the association of different planting zones to the house. The idea of walking by  the spent vegetables on the way to the chicken coop and tossing them in and then tossing some of the chicken manure back on the compost pile or garden while maintaining the coop and then walking back to the house with the eggs and gathering up your breakfast on the way..

Basically Time and Effort saving techniques..putting the intensive gardens closest to the house and the chicken yard or goat pen or whatever..just beyond so that you deal with both in one trip.

There was also a great deal of information on ponds and edges that stimulated my mind to thinking in those areas..however not having access to equipment at that time to work out a pond, it has set idle until now. Since our housefire required the contractor to dig fill from our wetland field, which left a large hole that filled with water and stayed full most of the season until a drought a couple of years..I now have the ability to begin working on the edges, islands, and wetland plantings that were never there before. This brought me back into re reading those areas of my Permaculture literature, knowing that this is a new opportunity for me in Permaculture of my property, incorporating edges of water and soil.

We also now have better means of managing our woodlands, as I have more physical laborers to help cut and remove dead trees so that the deep and dying aspen forest is difficult now to even walk into let alone manage. So now I am gaining new interest on the forest floor and how I can best use that after removing a lot of dead and dying aspen to get into the area and plant understory trees, vines, groundcovers and hopefully lots of food producing crops.

I have studied all winter on the best use of these new areas and have put in orders for things like elderberries winterberry blueberry, raspberry, wintergreen, sunchokes, multiplying onions, dozens of nut trees (carefully researching those nasty walnuts), a plethera of fruit producing trees and bushes, and lots of those smaller plants like asparagus, rhubarb, etc..and have been busily reading up on each plant to see where best to place it in association to each other plant..and drawing up a plan.

Spring is just now arriving and the plants are just now arriving..and I'm beginning to attempt to work my plan...there is a lot of heavy physical labor involved..but nearly all the fruit and nut trees are now in..i'm pleased with their placement, they all now have associations with other plants nearby, whether to bring up nutrients from below, mulch, feed, or provide pollination..and my land is now becoming more productive, healthier and a friendlier environment.

I can't walk but a few feet anywhere in my yard without stepping on deer or rabbit poop..so obviously it is a haven fore wildlive..however, the wildlife damage to my property this year was highly minimal compared to previous years..they are coming in and eating the plants that i have allowed for them (the deer LOVE the hollyhocks and canadian hemlocks) ..and they seem to be leaving most of my plants alone..even the rabbits walked right over my lettuce without nibbling it..finding more preferable plants to eat that i don't eat.

so I think I'm starting to get the hang of this thing in our newly redesigned property (since house fire 2002 July)..back on a better track..and going strong.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
gary gregory


Joined: Apr 09, 2009
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
Dan wrote:
   I can't think of anything that I learned in my Permaculture design course that wasn't available from some other source if one were to look for it.  Is Permaculture something more than a marketing program designed to fill the pockets of those who teach Permaculture Design Courses  If it is something different, what is this difference

 
Studying permaculture has taught me to be way more observant and I still have a long way to go.  I have also met a lot of great and interesting people because of it.  My instructor's pockets are filled with dirt, seeds, and the occasional leaf with unidentifiable insect damage.  And there is no other place you can find Mollisonisms such as;  "everything gardens", and "the map is not the territory" 
  I think permaculture attracts folks who "think outside the box" and provides more tools to do just that.  I like the term 'gardeners that have gone feral'.  Permaculture may seem loosely organized to you but people who think outside the box  are difficult to organize as a group [because they are always thinking outside the box], and I think forums like this are a wonderful way to keep in touch with other permies and new ideas.    Gary


Gary
Dave Boehnlein


Joined: Jun 10, 2007
Posts: 291
Location: Orcas Island, WA
    
    2
LazyLocavores wrote:
Your explanation, if I am reading correctly, is that permaculture is a broad discipline that encompasses a number of practices.  A guideline, if you will, for various practices to follow.  Yes?  Further, that guideline states that all practices and sub-disciplines (as they become identified when working within said guidelines) should operate taking every other practice and sub-discipline into consideration in regards to the impact on the environment as a whole.  Am I even close(er)?


It sounds like you've got a good grasp, LazyLocavores. If I really had to boil permaculture down to a simple three word definition I would say "a design system". In other words a process. Permaculture gives us a process through which we can take a piece of land. What is the goal of that process? It depends upon the goals of the person for whom you are designing. However, since permaculture has its feet deeply rooted in ethics part of those goals will certainly be the ability of the environment to continue to provide ecological functions and the ability of the environment to support people. So you can use permaculture design principles to design a rural homestead, a suburban cul de sac, or an abandoned urban lot. Depending on your goals you can try to make any of these into a retreat center, a single family living space, or a drive-in theater. The permaculture design principles just help you figure out ways to do it that are efficient, economical, and ecologically harmonious.

You are right on the money when you say that permaculture encompasses a lot of other fields. Hopefully, permaculture provides us a way of uniting those fields so they begin to work together efficiently. I remember hearing a story about a construction site where the cabinet maker was walking out of the house feeling satisfied about the beautiful cabinets he just installed. Meanwhile, at the same time, the electrician was walking into the house with a hole saw to drill a hole in the cabinets so he could run a conduit for the lighting. Sounds like an orchestra with no conductor, right? While that example is from construction, that type of thing is going on all the time when folks try to approach sustainability from within only one discipline. Hopefully, the permaculture design process gives you an overarching plan for how everything works together.

Brenda Groth wrote:
Although most of the information that I obtained at that time and since has dealt with southern hemisphere gardening or Northern pacific, neither of which address my situation in Michigan, the techniques still can be adapted to the freezing north and can enhance the property I have been working on for the past 38 years.


Brenda,

You're right about a lot of the early permaculture literature. People wrote about what they knew best and that was the tropics and warm temperate areas. However, I wanted to point you to a resource in your neck of the woods (broadly speaking) that cropped up a few years ago. Minneapolis now gives us the Permaculture Research Institute: Cold Climate (http://www.pricoldclimate.org/). I visited these folks this winter. They have some really great stuff going. Hopefully, they will soon be churning out good info (and examples) that are more directly applicable to your situation.

Cheers!

Dave
                            


Joined: Apr 24, 2009
Posts: 34
Location: West Seattle, WA
Hopefully, the permaculture design process gives you an overarching plan for how everything works together.


This is my ultimate goal.  As we progress into our business development, we will strive to make it a sustainable on every level as possible.  Using this concept of "permaculture as design system" will really help focus us on this goal.

Thank you again for being patient enough to field my questions in this forum that must seem tediously basic and ordinary to you.  You really are giving us a lot of inspiration and focus.  Also, thank you to the moderators of this forum for doing the same.
                  


Joined: Apr 22, 2009
Posts: 27
Location: Seattle
Dave, thank you for the cogent discussion that, to me, speaks to the importance and value of good design.  Incidentally, I have read manuals and guide books from the 19th century that outline the importance and value of good "farm" planning in order to maximize efficiency and nutrient cycling.  I have also read some of the classic "back to the land" writings from the 1970's that spell out in detail intricate food growing systems and land management systems.  Most, if not all of these spoke of the ethics of working with nature and following ecological practices.  Granted, they didn't have solar panels then and they weren't faced with the consequences of peak oil so they did not always factor these considerations into their planning.  I am glad that there is a word (Permaculture) that people can use to discuss the importance of good design and ethical practice but I feel that there is also the possibility of making sound design decisions and using ethical practices without using this word (Permaculture).  I am glad that there are teachers and resource people who make themselves available to tutor us in good design and ethical practice--whatever "system" they claim is most useful to them.  I feel that people should also think carefully about ideas that are presented to them and should not always believe everything they read just because it shows up in print.  It is thoughtfulness and attention to system complexity that seems to be the valuable attributes--whether it's called Permaculture or something else.  I believe that it will continue to be valuable to think "outside the box" so that individuals don't make the mistake of simply adopting an accepted practice without giving continual thought to its consequences over time.  I've met many farmers who are very skilled at this.  I've also met some "Permaculturists" that have rushed to construct some piece of infrastructure an their land only to find that they have to move it or redo it because it didn't work out as they initially thought.
    So ends my second blog submission thereby doubling my chance for having my name drawn to receive the ticket to the workshop at the Bullock Estates.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
thanks so much Dave, I just popped up that COLD site and I'm sure I'm going to be reading a lot. I really loved the original permaculture book I have had for years, but it is true, a lot of it is very "foreign language" to me. I'm clever enough to be able to adapt most of the ideas to my region as the ethics are true for any region.

I did realize immediately after our housefire that establishing the zone around the new house was extremely important..that year was referred to by our family as "the year of the mud"..2 years ago my son went through the same thing, and we are just pulling him out of the mud now as we spent yesterday grading a walkout for his basement to the North.

One great thing about removing all the topsoil where the pond went in our property is that our fill around our house was fresh black Mich peat, clay, sand and topsoil mix and it is super fertile, so i didn't have to build that soil up to get a start, just tackle field weeds. I did have a problem starting fruit trees as many of the fruit trees that I purchased had frozen and had to be replaced, but now I have a great start having peaches and plums around the front and cherries, apples, pears, berries and nuts around the back. Our small greenhouse is growing things already this spring and a new garden area has been established around it and is getting planted..These gardens are on all sides of the house within a 60' radius..so now we can move out to the UNMANNED zones.. this year.

Had I not been familiar with permaculture, I likely would have planted all those fruit trees in the UNMANNED zone, and likely they would have died of drought and deer and rabbit damage, as they would have been over 200' from our house and water sources.

I know that the firmly established permaculture design in my brain, although it was from New Zealand and Australia, still reins in my desire to roam too far and do too much, where other disciplines do not necessarily put the emphasis on the zone 1, close to the house teaching as permaculture does.
                              


Joined: May 02, 2009
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
I don't know much about permaculture(am learning), but the gist of it seems to me is that it's a tool to enable humans to live in right relation with the land. (Land meaning plants/animals/weather/tribe/geology/time/creator, the whole shebang). And that right relation is the holy grail, not doing everything by the book. Bloom where you are planted n all that.


My Blog, Natural History and Forest Gardening
www.dzonoquaswhistle.blogspot.com
"Listen everybody, to what I gotta say, there's hope for tomorrow, if we wake up today!" Ted Nugent
"Suck Marrow" Henry D Thoreau
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
this is a great thread. extracting a definition makes permaculture seem much more flexible than it is sometimes portrayed.  I think dave's definition is the most eloquent and encompassing and practical one I have ever heard. It upsets me when it becomes a set of rules that one must follow. I think it is more of a mindset to guide you on a journey with some basic guideposts and suggestions that makes your life better and respects the land. In its true form has the flexibiblity to adapt to individual situations and isn't a cookie cutter plan. I am struggling now with our new place to adapt realistically some permaculture ideas to the land plan. for instance. my garden is annoyingly far away. the soil is much better where it is and it would take many years to build the soil enough to have it by the house and it would never have the depth of soil without risking serious water dry out problems in the summer with a large raised bed. so I feel the best thing to do is not huge renovations to get the garden near the house but to simply adapt  to the fact that the it is in a less than ideal place and do the best I can with what I have.


[img]http://i109.photobucket.com/albums/n52/havlik1/permie%20pics2/permiepotrait3pdd.jpg[/img]

"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
Leah, we do what we can with what we have..sounds like you are making the most of what you have..think of people that have to drive to their gardens and you will realize..it isn't ALL THAT far away !

I would love to see some photos of your new place..as you get things going.

I also appreciate this thread...and of course the others..i now have a list of good reading from the reading post..some new permaculture sites to go to to read up on things..as well thanks a million
                            


Joined: May 01, 2009
Posts: 20
Location: Pittsburgh PA
So ends my second blog submission thereby doubling my chance for having my name drawn to receive the ticket to the workshop at the Bullock Estates.


Dude, what's up with the shameless angling for this prize?



P.S. -- permaculture is definitely a demon that possesses people and commands them to "define permaculture" constantly. What!

Is Permaculture something more than a marketing program designed to fill the pockets of those who teach Permaculture Design Courses  If it is something different, what is this difference


"Permaculture" is an eclectic course syllabus (and a protected trademark) that started in the '70s -- end of discussion! Of course you can learn everything taught in PDC's from your own research -- that's how they were put together to begin with! You'll just miss out on Mollison and everyone else's collective life experiences with respect to those source materials.

It's a little bit like asking over and over again, "what is an Avon lady?" 
"And how do I make some money from it!?"

Just listen to a 45+ hour PDC from the '80s... that'll set some brains aflame.
http://www.permacultureplants.net/Audio/audio.htm
http://openpermaculture.org/pipermail/permaculture_openpermaculture.org/2007-January/001089.html
http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/permaculture/2007-January/026162.html

Time ta get yer bittorrent on BOY.

Dave Boehnlein


Joined: Jun 10, 2007
Posts: 291
Location: Orcas Island, WA
    
    2
Leah Sattler wrote:
this is a great thread. extracting a definition makes permaculture seem much more flexible than it is sometimes portrayed...In its true form has the flexibiblity to adapt to individual situations and isn't a cookie cutter plan.


You've stumbled upon one of the most important aspects of permaculture here. There is absolutely nothing "cookie cutter" about it. The way you respond to a design challenge in Panama will likely be different than if you were in Oklahoma or Wales or Morocco. The principles apply across the board, but the techniques you choose do not.

Permaculture requires a bit of retraining for your mind. As most of us on this forum are Westerners we are surrounded by a world in which reductionism is applied liberally. Permaculture design inherently operates in opposition to reductionism. Instead of narrowing solutions to the one right one and applying it everywhere (like a monoculture), permaculturists know that the answer to the question changes as the circumstances change. Therefore, the right answer for one may not be the right answer for another. In fact, at our courses I often half-joke that the universal answer to permaculture-related questions is, "It depends..."

In tandem with a more holistic understanding of problem solving (instead of reductionism), permaculturists also apply what is often referred to as the "transitional ethic." The transitional ethic basically states that:

  • [li]a) No one is going to go from zero to sustainable overnight and [/li]
    [li]b) We should try to selectively utilize non-sustainable technologies (such as bulldozers) that already exist to help set us up for sustainability (or better yet regeneration) in the future[/li]

  • Furthermore, while all permaculture practitioners are seeking ways to approach sustainability, they are all starting from different points. In my opinion the first part of the transitional ethic is what should keep permaculturists from looking down their noses at others. The attitude of "Oh, you still poop in a flush toilet. What a lame-o," doesn't really fly when you are recognizing that we're all starting from different points. It becomes important to honor folks for setting their foot on the path toward sustainability instead of knocking them for where they were when they decided to get on that path.

    Thanks for the good discussion! I think there is a certain amount of demystification that needs to occur around what permaculture is and what permaculture isn't in order for it to become a relevant design system that impacts more people. That is starting to happen right now. There is quite the buzz around permaculture right now. In fact, five years ago I didn't used to use the word when I was talking to people about what I do. Now I find that at least half the people I communicate with have at least heard the term (out here on the West Coast, anyway). People in the professional design realm are starting to pay attention too. It is an exciting time to be a teacher. People are especially receptive.

    Here's to demystification!

    Dave
                                


    Joined: Apr 24, 2009
    Posts: 34
    Location: West Seattle, WA
    ajmot - it is wonderful that you know all you feel you need to know about permaculture and the practices thereof.  It is too bad those of us who are looking into this further aggravate you so.  Not all of us are so far along the path as you are.
                                


    Joined: May 01, 2009
    Posts: 20
    Location: Pittsburgh PA
    Okay okay, I'm sorry for ranting at y'all.   

    But I'm not begrudging you the education. I pointed out for you the ultimate permaculture treasure trove short of plunking down your $1200 course tuition --> the 47-hour "1983 PDC".

    Cuz really there's no good in talking up permaculture in gauzy terms. If you went in to ask a merchant banker "what do you do?", they probably wouldn't tell you much, both because (1) they are going to protect their trade secrets (that's a big part of getting paid) and because (2) it took so long and so much knowledge for them to get where they are, there's no way to honor that life of work in a short conversation.

    So, I would just go to a law or business school and get the course schedules and syllabi for the four-year "merchant banking" education. Myth busted.

    Mollison has said explicitly the same thing about permaculture. It's just a very special and eclectic syllabus. It is a bit of a racket -- otherwise there would be multiple complete audio and video versions of the PDC for us to snag, and a lot better visual documentation of the successes and failures. Bollucks Bros, step up! Give us us free already boys!

    (Through all my searching, so far I've only found evidence of a SINGLE videotaped PDC, of Bill Mollison at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose Texas circa 1994 and 1995. This consists of 16 one-hour VHS tapes (at $350+ total) produced by people who now appear to be defunct, and of which only TWO tapes appear to exist in the world's library system...    http://www.networkearth.org/perma/culture.html#Permaculture)

    When you listen to the 1983 PDC, the information is so dense and intense, and the goals so spot-on, it is really pointless to try describing the details of a permaculture education in less than a few hours -- really in less than 20 hours.

    So I'm just here to give you that advice. If you want a quick definition, but you don't go all-in and listen to a good 40 to 100 hours of this education, then you are seriously cheating yourself out of the spectacle and the possibilities. If I sound aggravated, it's because despite all the good that permaculture stands for, it is not yet free (free software) and open-source. Some of us are here to change that!



    So, like I said before, you can find the whole 2.5gb monster at:
    http://www.permacultureplants.net/Audio/audio.htm

    And if you look around, you might also find it online packed into a certain 12.13gb torrent.

    Also don't miss out on other Mollison lectures like "Funding the Revolution", the incredible "Aquaculture" segment from Perth (tracks 1-6), and the punchy 51-minute "Fire" lecture from Nannup (at bottom of above-linked page).

    The most transparent explanation of the PDC I've found online -- including the readings lists, fees of all kinds, lots of jabber, and a course syllabus -- is a 62-page document at:
    http://www.barkingfrogspermaculture.org/Preregistration8_08.pdf

                                  


    Joined: May 02, 2009
    Posts: 262
    Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
    and to think indigenous people and many subsistance farmers throughout time have figured this out pretty well without tapes, classes to pay for, trademarked "theories", super expensive books...or even bulldozers. 

      BTW Steve SOlomon's book Growing Organic Vegetables West of the Cascades is an awesome teaching book, you get the basics of soil for West of the Cascades--enough to get a good grounding to hang and organize whatever else you learn. And I got it used like 20 years ago for a few bucks(it was only 12$ to start with).  No fairy juju.
    gary gregory


    Joined: Apr 09, 2009
    Posts: 395
    Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
    wyldthang wrote:
    and to think indigenous people and many subsistance farmers throughout time have figured this out pretty well without tapes, classes to pay for, trademarked "theories", super expensive books...or even bulldozers. 


    And what did those indigenous people and subsistance farmers pay for their knowledge?    You used the words yourself-throughout time.  Go ahead and spend a few hundred years of trial and error trying to figure out the best way to grow food for your family.    How can you begrudge someone for having the insight and skill to be able to put folks on the fast track to knowledge and to want to make money for their efforts?  Putting the brain to work can have as much value as manual labor.   
      I took a PDC in 1994 in canada.    At the beginning of each morning session was the question; "what was the best of yesterday?"    Each student got to respond in turn.    Quite often the responses were about being part of that community for awhile rather than about the previous lesson.      It was well worth the cost.    I have enduring friendships from that time.    There are a lot of things on this planet that have more value than money.        Now I have to go move goats to summer pasture.  Tomorrow there will be a 'best of yesterday' out of this adventure.
                                  


    Joined: May 02, 2009
    Posts: 262
    Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
    I'm not begruding people making money from people who can afford to pay money for the "fast-track"--I'm just saying it's not rocket science, and it doesn't take a few hundred years to work things out. Humans were at first hunter gatherers, and as such had to be really good observers of the land and keep a good memory of where to find stuff and the habits and ecology of animals and plants. Those observation skills served them well when they made the jump to cultivation(and made the learning curve much shorter--they were NOT starting from total ignorance). Obviously the learning curve was short enough for survival or we wouldn't be here. 

    Just saying it's doable to tap into that gazillion years of (hopefully remaining latent)survival intelligence, if you don't have the resources to pay for the fast track.
    gary gregory


    Joined: Apr 09, 2009
    Posts: 395
    Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
    wyldthang wrote:
    Just saying it's doable to tap into that gazillion years of (hopefully remaining latent)survival intelligence, if you don't have the resources to pay for the fast track.


    I agree and maybe permaculture is a way for us to exercise that latency and keep it viable for future generations.   Something like the druids did.    I'm not so sure the jump to cultivation was rapid.   Large scale changes usually come in small increments.
       I may be ignorant about it, but I don't personally know of any permies making a lot of money teaching.   Your comment about trademarked "theories" caused me to think of the Medicine Man or Woman of old and that as I understand it they didn't even sell their knowledge of herbs etc, but kept it in a secret society so as to have power and status in the community.     I've only been around this forum a short while, and personally I have a long way to go in learning about and implementing this knowledge, but it seems that those that do have the knowledge are sharing it quite freely and in large quantities.     cheers  Gary
                                  


    Joined: May 02, 2009
    Posts: 262
    Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
    you're probably a lot farther along than you think

    Just remember, failing, knowing you failed, and then figuring out WHY you failed is just as important as "doing it right". You'll end up with a much better product and education.
    Brenda Groth
    volunteer

    Joined: Feb 01, 2009
    Posts: 4433
    Location: North Central Michigan
        
        9
    hey I didn't mind paying for my book i got on Permaculture many years ago..it opened my eyes to a few things that I wasn't aware of..sure most of it was in new zealand and was talking about warm weather crops..but at that time I was aware enough of what was being taught to use a lot of the principles to save way more from the cost of the book from the produce coming out of my property
                      


    Joined: Apr 22, 2009
    Posts: 27
    Location: Seattle
    Brenda,
        I haven't figured out how to make things appear in blue boxes yet, but I'd like to quote your first entry on this thread (cut and pasted here)....

    My first voyage into permaculture was the purchase of the book Introduction to Permaculture about 15 years ago. I had always been interested in organic gardens, homesteading and french intensive planting up to this point but permaculture offered  plethera of new ideas that were not available in the research into the above mentioned techniques.


        To me, research means continuing to ask questions and continuing to learn--trying to see from new points of view.  Sometimes whole new fields of inquiry are discovered.  Sometimes we learn to see "old" things in new ways.  Your reference to studying French Intensive gardening reminded me of something I heard in a lecture presentation recently:  The instructor quoted some study that claimed to have completed a thorough analysis of French Intensive Methods.  The results of this analysis suggested that in terms of the cost of human energy expenditure (Calories burned) compared to total crop output (Calories produced), the French Intensive Method has been one of the most efficient systems of food production ever developed.  One reason for this was their intensive use of horse manures to boost soil fertility, according to the analysis.  Back before cars, the primary mode of transportation around Paris (of all kinds: human and freight) was the horse.  Many horses meant mountains of manure.  I'm told that large trenches were dug and layers of manure several feet deep were buried beneath the topsoil (think modified "hugel-culture" here).  As this manure "composted," it would not only make nutrients available, it might also have helped to raise soil temperatures which, along with cloches and covered beds, helped extend the growing season of a particular garden plot making it possible for the first time to grow successive crops through the course of 3 (or 4) seasons in many areas.  The high fertility meant that the scale/size of growing areas could be reduced while maintaining high levels of production.  The fact that things could be grown is places where they couldn't be grown before (reslut of season extension) also meant that the transportation of many finished crops to/from distant places was no longer necessary in many areas.  Smaller scale growing areas also created an economy of labor--more production from a smaller area of land--(less foot work, less carting around of equipment, less distance for carrying harvested crops, etc).  This sounds like an incredible utilization of resources to me--sort of like what a Permaculture Design Process might come up--taking a "waste" stream like the mountains of horse manure and turning it into an asset.  Laying out the space to utilize labor efficiently.
        Another note: I understand that every small French village peasant cottage was accustomed to having its own little kitchen garden right outside the back door--[volumes have been written on the French Herb/Kitchen garden alone--check out the Cookbook section of the bookstore]--now we call this "Zone 1."
          Of course today, we have automobiles (not as much horse manure) so the French Intensive system is probably not as practical as it must have been in its day.  So this speaks directly to my initial entry...  I'm glad we have creative minds that give us a new perspective about things.  Is Permaculture a radical new invention that will dramatically change the world forever, as some of the more fanatical people I've met might wish it to be, or is it a clear-headed way of thinking about questions that many have been thinking about for a long time that can offer us fresh ideas--fresh ways of seeing--that can make a difference--starting at the local level and having more impact over time as more and more people tune in to the importance of being thoughtful of the environment, etc.--from many different points of view
        I like "Permaculture" thinking but I resist becoming a "True Believer" who might stop looking around for useful/important ideas that might turn up from somewhere else.  After all, to me "Permaculture Design Thinking" (a.k.a. "Good Design Thinking" is about just this:  finding good ideas and exploring how they might work in the unique situation in which one might find oneself.  "Permaculture" does not have a monopoly on the thinking process, at least I don't think that it does--I could be wrong here.  ()

    Thanks,
        Dan
    Brenda Groth
    volunteer

    Joined: Feb 01, 2009
    Posts: 4433
    Location: North Central Michigan
        
        9
    Dan it is so true,  back in the years before our fire when I started out in french intesive gardening, we had availability to goat manure. The GOAT LADY eventually moved away after a stroke and so we turned to horse manure and we had the most beautiful and productive raised garden beds you ever wanted to see..

    well when we had our fire i moved all of our plants to those beds that I could get my hot little hands on, to weather the deconstruction of our burned out house and property, the moving of the remnants out as it was demolished, the basement and drainfield and well all broken in and filled in with whatever they could haul in..the new foundatioon built 40' back from the rear of the old house..the new house put in and the new 4' high raised drainfield (we are on wetlands and it was a new requirement) a new well dug and the mess that made..new propane tank hauled in..

    our contractor was given permission by us to remove topsoil from a wet area in our field to backfill around the house and drainfield 4' high slope down to ground level..and created a pond.

    then the  years of mud to try to rebuild..as we moved plants into the new area we removed the wonderful soil around them in those beautiful raised french intensive garden beds to our new property..bucket by bucket..

    then our son asked if we (as we had promised before) would still consider giving him a building site for a home..which turned out to be where our gardens had been built for 20 years..OK ..sure..he was our son..he also had to have removed a huge woods of baby ash and oak trees...it was destruction all over again..this was 2 years ago.

    in the meantime the month of our housefire my FIL died and 2 years later my MIL died..and we had to flip and sell her house..

    so that brings us to 2009..we have gone through 6 years of upheaveal..barely gotten pants in to cover the soil around the zone 1 area of our home and drainfield area..(fortunately the privacy screen of evergreens and maples and one large ash were saved and 100 year old grapevines)..

    last year we put in several fruit trees and the year before shade trees and some berries and vines..the greenhouse that had been on Joel's property got moved up to on top of our septic tank..yes on top..warmer..

    This year we were able to afford to buy fruit trees and more berry bushes and trees and baby nut trees and put them in as well as more shrubs and other trees and plants..

    unfortunately we were not able to get a supply of the goat or horse manure for a few years and when we tried to it was all very fresh (see dairy doo on organic forum thread)..

    now we are building things back up around the new location (same property)..

    it is a long hard lot of work for an older person to do all by herself..with a lot of building projects and other things in between, even had to take off a year to work at a factory and a 6 mo hiatis for hip replacement..but I'm back in the saddle so to speak)

    this year we are heavily mulching the areas we have so far established with another layer of wood chips..and as I said above we are getting diary doo to help with the fertility..this year we will get the compost piles better running with truckloads of horse manure again..and get new beds started in the rear..start to work on the pond edges and the forest gardens as we are able and not overextending ourselves..and to also help rebuild the area around our son's new place that is now mostly mud and sand..

    all the knowledge I have gleaned from the books, and the forums, and of course just from trial and error will be put to hard work this year....and I have two more bildings to build and fences to repair..etc..so it will be a very busy year..but it will be ALL MINE..no obligations to anyone else this year..money goes for US, time goes for US..and every day I'll be able to either read and research or work on the property..to build it up to fertility and production for our ..as I said in another thread..elder years..

    Joel Hollingsworth
    volunteer

    Joined: Jul 01, 2009
    Posts: 2103
    Location: Oakland, CA
    Just today, I encountered an article that brought me to another definition.

    Permaculture is ecosystem hacking...where "hacking" is defined as bypassing the perceived rules of a system, to work with its actual rules.

    http://paulbuchheit.blogspot.com/2009/10/applied-philosophy-aka-hacking.html

    Quite importantly: you can't write down the actual rules, and education can do little more than point to them, and offer venues for their discovery.  A hack that everyone uses, that has become conventional wisdom, ceases to be a hack.

    The parts of permaculture that seem most essential to me, are those that most flagrantly and elegantly violate the rules as they are widely understood, while scrupulously following the rules that truly apply.  Fosbury flops of agriculture, if you will.


    "the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
     
     
    subject: what is permaculture?
     
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