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Recognizing Patterns and Applying Them in Designs

 
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In Permaculture Design Companion, Jasmine Dale makes a helpful chart to help illustrate some permaculture patterns and get the designer to start recognizing patterns and learning how to apply them.


(source)

What are some ways that someone can better recognize patterns and learn to apply or modify patterns?

Like, for example, how could someone recognize a downward (destructive) spiral and turn that into an upwards (constructive) spiral?
 
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I think part of my success as a farmer has been being able to recognize patterns pretty easily. I think anyone can do it, but that it just takes some time to hone that skill.

An example in nature is like when I mow the sides of the road. I mow a lot of different weeds and a few patterns emerge, and I mentioned it this morning upon a post. On hills that get sun, I see certain weeds. I have concluded that they do not like well drained so much...I mean these weeds are on the graveled ditches of roads. NO...here in Maine we put a lot of salt on roadways to get rid of ice and snow, and more so on the hills for cars and trucks to make it up, or safely down. So these certain weeds thrive on soil with high calcium levels. Hills equal more salt, and thus why the weeds thrive there. Well if you break the cycle of what they thrive on, I can get make the soil what it aint, and thus kill those weeds. So when I start to see cerain weeds in my fields, they are indicators of what my soil has an abundance of, or what it lacks. Over the years, as I identfy more and more weeds, I get a better idea of what my soil needs even without soil testing.

Here is an example in regards to people. I would never hire anyone who scuffs their feet while they walk. The pattern I have seen is, those that scuff their feet tend to be very lazy. Scuffing their feet does not indicate they are lazy, so much as they are so lazy they cannot pick up their feet. I know I can save a lot of trouble if I just never hire a feet scuffer in the beginning.


 
Travis Johnson
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I hesitate to say this because it probably seems odd, but a great way to observe, is just to go barefoot.

I know for many on here, that is nothing new, but I am a bit different. I have not worn shorts since I was a kid, and I never go barefoot. I MEAN NEVER! But a few years ago I was into photography, and would go for hikes on my farm. I found that if I went barefoot, I could really sneak up on wildlife and get some great pictures of them in their natural element.

I think I got that result because it forced me to walk slower, but also forced me to pick my way carefully through the forest, so I was not stepping on sticks and the like. I was just ten times quieter walking barefoot.

But I mention this because sometimes the simple things allow for moments of observation. I not only got some great photos of wildlife, animal behavior tells you a lot about your land, and honestly, can any of us not gain something from slowing down a little on a hike?
 
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Greetings ~ In a quick search of permies.com, this is the only post addressing this subject. Thanks! Other than the replies here, have you discovered any more connections between recognizing patterns and applying them in design? I am struggling with this subject also. Thanks!

P.S. I'll be making my own post along these lines shortly.
 
pollinator
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Spider Webs: most efficient access to any area on the property

Leaf Veins: efficiently gather resources into one area using converging small paths into a large one to be transported to where it gets used

Tree Rings: start at the center and gradually work your way outwards as the inside is completed

Tree Slice: the strength (heartwood) is in the center so everything is supported, the bark protects it from the perimeter

P.S. Travis Johnson I love going barefoot, it's quite possible to sense even slight elevation and soil changes by feeling dampness, slopes that would be unnoticeable with thick soles and raised heels.

 
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I love the barefoot idea. I feel usually too busy with kids. Going out with them barefoot would ground us. I'll wait until it is spring. We got our first frost last night.

My other recommendation is just sitting and watching. We can learn so many things by relaxing and observing. I feel like it is a great tool to have.
 
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I find aimlessly walking around works pretty good.  But then I usually forget to write down my observations.
 
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I like the barefoot idea, but I don't think I could be 10 times quieter.... my feet are old and I have abused them a lot over the years and think that I would be yelling a bit at the first little stone I stepped on!!  lol
 
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I llike to have a sit spot too for observing and often keep a notebook to harvest what I see, hear, smell etc. With my busy, analytical mind, 'passive' is an important compliment to all that thinking in the design process. I aim for 'relaxed alertness', with my senses open, body relaxed and varying my vision and hearing between near and far, soft and focused etc. Also combining objective observations with our own inner responses and thoughts seems to lead me nearer the 'essence of a place' to guide designs and me towards what most suits the land and people in any place.
 
Jasmine Dale
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Scott McBride wrote: have you discovered any more connections between recognizing patterns and applying them in design?



Follow that thinking of Huxley Harter's post. When I have a design idea, first think what functions benefit this element eg a roof needs to be strong, waterproof and so on. Then, consider the core archetype patterns to see which suits, so a spiral would meet the need of very strong (allowing you to use smaller, less valuable timbers) and the structure of the spiral provides a regular frame, enabling a roof liner to be supported. Looking at it another way a pattern saves energy, whether your own time, effort and money, or embodied energy from production by being an efficient use of resources.

Here's some core patterns from my book and suggestions for further reading (Starhawk, Jung, Mollison and Holmgren)



Each pattern interacts with others in real life, forming processes, however recognising patterns of branching, web, spiral, honeycombe, sphere, torus and so on, and then understanding what each brings, is a strong foundation for then applying to a design.
 
Jasmine Dale
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Dave Burton wrote:In Permaculture Design Companion, Jasmine Dale makes a helpful chart to help illustrate some permaculture patterns and get the designer to start recognizing patterns and learning how to apply them.


(source)

how could someone recognize a downward (destructive) spiral and turn that into an upwards (constructive) spiral?



Good question Dave, my first thought is that we recognise a destructive pattern when we lose energy, either of a material nature..."my soil is washing away"...or in a non material way..."I am always tired". So recognizing it's destructive is the first step, observing and noticing. I'd hope then to have the motivation to address it and turn it towards a constructive spiral on the basis of understanding it was happening and the causes start to be clear. The process of turning it round would depend each time on what the situation demanded.  For me that's always underpinned by thrival rather than survival...so if a branching pattern was funnelling water into an area and eroding soil, after careful observation, the simplest thing might be to redirect the water using the same pattern to take the water somewhere useful. If my personal energy was 'random scatter' and my energy too thinly spread and unfocused, I might ponder how that could be harnessed e.g. stick in a load of cuttings, spread perennial seeds to stabilise the soil before I could find the time and focus required for redirecting the water properly that had caused the erosion!!
 
Travis Johnson
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I almost did not mention going barefoot only because I thought it was silly. I am glad I wrote about in now though thanks to several of your comments. Thank you!
 
Travis Johnson
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Using LIDAR to make 2 foot contours of your farm enables a person to see patterns.

I am working an area of my farm now that has these fingers of land, then deep ravines in between. That is a pattern on my farm, and indicates the soil is highly erodible...highly fertile too which is why it erodes, it consists of loam that ie easily displaced by moving water.
 
Travis Johnson
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Along those same lines, some tree species indicates soil quality. I look for Basswood in my travels, because if there is a lot of it, that means the soil is very fertile.
 
Jasmine Dale
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I'm familiar with our native wild plants and the minerals they accumulate eg dandelion magnesium, nettles NPK, horsetail silica. Good patterns indeed Travis, thanks for reminding me.

I always find myself scanning the lanes for a measure of how much diversity and resilience there is around, sadly often very little compared to a permaculture garden.
 
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