Two Quick Links and a Plug (or two)

The first plug is for the Linked In Permaculture Group. If you are already part of Linked In, you might enjoy participating in this group.

In their group digest, I ran across links to two organizations that I want to share, Tree Yo Permaculture and Earthmetrics

First Tree Yo Permaculture  (from their home page):

Tree Yo - Swale building in Singapore

Tree Yo – Swale building in Singapore

Tree Yo is a co-creative collective of people engaged and connected in the Permaculture Community. They  design for resiliency, they teach environmental literacy, they build with the earth beneath or feet, they use technology that is appropriate, and they travel the world to spread the word!

I’m not sure where the authors are based, but they sure do travel the world.  Their upcoming permaculture design classes  will take place in Portugal, the Dominican Republic and Cincinnati, Ohio. That’s some real diversity!   Take a look at these shared resources. These are links to several PowerPoint presentations they’ve compiled as part of the PDC they offer.  These are accessible through Slideshare and include such topics as patterns, aquaculture, tropical permaculture and mapping. Also bookmark their EDU webpage that is an open source communal education resource.

Speaking of mapping, the second link I wanted to share was to Ecometrics, specifically to their online course in Digital Mapping and GIS for Small Landowners and Permaculture Design. (From the Course Summary): marina view drive parcels

This self-paced course introduces digital mapping tools and techniques (Geographic Information Systems or GIS), and how small landowners and permaculture designers can use these tools with freely available data for site planning.

This seems like a valuable course, particularly if one intends to be engaged in permaculture design.  I first used public GIS maps available to residents of my county in my first permaculture design project. I fumbled through the GIS software but was able to manage the basics of locating the parcel, printing out the map and obtaining basic dimensions and areas. Having a resource that can walk you through the basics seems useful.

The second plug is for WordPress.  Both of these websites are driven by WordPress.WCBadge2013-Attending

And finally, if you live in the Atlanta area, be sure to get your ticket for the WordCamp Atlanta that is coming up on March 15th and 16th.  The event sold out last year and organizers expect the event to do so again this year. Come expecting to be inspired by all that you can do with WordPress from blogging to  developing websites in general.  See you there!


The Path of Least Resistance

I just finished reading The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz. Robert is a systems thinker whose work was profiled in the blog Leverage Points as one of the path of least resistance10 best systems thinking books of the past 10 years (or so).  He presents systems concepts in a very non-technical way demonstrating them as an artist-like way of creation.

Anyway, after reading the path of Least Resistance I am really struck with the frequency with which we in general see things as problems, such as:

  • the problem of global warming
  • the problem of ecological disconnection
  • The problem of unhealthy food
  • The problem of ineffective action.

Fritz argues that an orientation that tries to attack and eliminate the “problem”  leads to system oscillation. One takes action for a little while and once the pain becomes less intense, one relaxes and the problem returns.  This is happening because while you attack the problem, you really haven’t done anything to change the system underlying the problem.

He suggests that creating a totally new vision independent of the constraints of the existing system is a much more effective approach.

This reminds me of Donella Meadows’ work, Places to intervene in a System where she ranks 12 ways to bring about change in a system be it a life activity, group, organization or business from least to most effective.  Most of the problem solving efforts that we take fall into the least effective categories, typically throwing money and resources at the “problem” or “repairing the physical infrastructure”.  Fritz’s approach falls into one of the more effective categories, changing the fundamental goal of the system.Thinking in Systems

When one sets the permaculture goal, one creates a fundamental goal of the system that engages the values of earth care, people care and resource share.

I’ve followed many a permaculture blog since starting this blog and completing the PDC. I’ve found myself being exposed to thousands of little “solutions;”  thousands of little elements that supposedly fit within a larger permaculture project.  I’m not sure if it”s the blogging or facebooking writing framework or the biases of our culture that encourages these little solution snippets but we seem to be stuck on describing these least effective ways of effecting the system rather than the higher level ones.

The model Fritz presents starts with the vision and current reality and then presents three stages of the creative cycle, germination, assimilation and completion. The PDC process I participated in emphasized vision and current reality and then presented a ton of information but really didn’t present the “how to” of the process of germination, assimilation or completion.  As this blog continues to explore permaculture beyond the garden I hope I can find more resources that focus on these creative stages.  Or maybe I can create them myself.

Have you seen other permaculture design resources that focus on these aspects?

See also Moving from Patterns to Details part 2

Permaculture Goal Setting


Wow, Its been almost a month since I last posted.

I mentioned that a new PDC would be starting in the Atlanta area. I signed up and went to my first session last weekend. Both the information provided and information format exceeded my expectations. I find it really to be part of a group discussion as I move thru the permaculture concepts.

One thing that struck me was our discussion of the process of setting the goals for your permaculture design.

The leaders presented a framework where there was:

  • a natural landscape goal
  • a social landscape goal
  • an economic landscape goal and
  • an internal landscape goal

All of these combined to form the overarching summary goal for the project.

The natural landscape goal reflected the commitment to the earth share permaculture ethic.  The social , economic and internal landscape goals reflected the commitment to the people care permaculture ethic.  Although the resource share ethic was not specifically reflected by a goal, the thinking was that resource share would be reflected through the process of actually completing the permaculture design.

What struck me was how relevant this same process is to other enterprises not typically viewed as a gardens, such as businesses, marriages, community groups or creative projects. The premise of Machelle Small Wright’s book Co-Creative Science is that anything that has order, organization and life vitality is nature. And that a garden is a working partnership between nature and human beings.

“From nature’s perspective , a garden is any environment that is initiated by humans, given its purpose, definition and direction by humans and maintained with the help of humans….

Nature does not consider the cultivation of a plot of land as the criteria for a garden.  nature considers a garden to exist where ever humans define, initiate and interact with form to create a specialized environment….

The laws and principles that nature applies in the co-creative vegetable garden are equally applicable to any kind of garden whether it is growing in soil or otherwise…. ”  

Co-Creative Science pages 21 and 22

I hope to use these goal setting methods in more than just my permaculture projects.

Maybe I need to change the tagline of this blog to something other than “Permaculture concepts beyond the garden”

Waste Not Want Not

Scrap Cardboard from Watts Up

As a child, I was discouraged from creating waste.  I was told not to waste food; I should not to take any more food than I would eat.  I shouldn’t  cook more than I would eat. I was told to turn out lights when I left a room. I was encouraged not to waste paper, not to buy a lot of clothes, not to use a lot of resources. I brought that thinking to my permaculture practice.

But I’ve reflected on these teachings after seeing the film Temple Grandin on video last weekend.  The film which I’d encourage you to watch, explores the life of Temple Grandin, a young woman with autism who, with the support of her family and community, learns to work through the difficulties of autism to ultimately complete her PhD. Her autism, while presenting a number of challenges, also gives her access to an extremely powerful  visual memory and empathy which prove to be assets her in pursuing her life’s work, designing facilities for cattle.

What struck me in the film was how she would experiment and the waste she created in the process of experimentation. There’s a scene in the film where she is trying to build an exhibit to demonstrate perspective. As she tries again and again, she creates a pile of waste boards and paper.  As I watched it I thought, “I would never have created so much waste”. But them, maybe I’ve been missing the point.

I think our culture is obsessed with efficiency, eliminating waste.   We typically judge companies based on their productivity.  At every moment  we believe we should be doing something “productive”, making money even when you sleep.

Though permaculture say produce no waste, I don’t think we are  aiming to maximize production efficiency in the same sense that our culture typically does. In an ecological sense, waste to one is food to someone else.  Permaculture is about consciously completing the cycle, bringing in new elements to use up every bit of waste. Many organisms try to survive in each particular environment; some succeed and some fail. Those that succeed, over time, thrive.  Over time, the ecosystem as whole become more efficient.

Yes it is important to not use resources at an unsustainable rate but many trials are necessary for success. An equally important strategy in producing no waste is to bring in the new elements that will beneficially use the waste that I create.

Riot for Austerity – A Project

A few days ago I stumbled upon a blog that challenges its readers to cut their  emissions by 90% within a year and to hold them at that level.  The writer proposes that people do this by reducing use in 7 areas:

Riot for Austerity Year 2 Outcomes from MamaStories

  • Transportation
  • Electricity
  • Heating and Cooking
  • Garbage
  • Water
  • Consumer Goods
  • Food

(I’m not sure what the basis of a 90% emissions reduction target is.  Here is one thought. Looking at National Ecological Footprints produced by the Global Footprint Network,  the 2007 data indicates the US global footprint was then 8 hectares/person while the global average was 2.7.  In comparison, the average for Europe was 4.7 hectares per person while the average for China was 2.2 hectares per person. Their figures show that  global footprint exceeded the biocapacity in 1975 and that in 2007 the available biocapacity was 1.8 hectares per person. Getting from 8 to 1.8 is a 77% reduction.  I don’t doubt that available biocapacity has decreased since 2007.)

In any case, reductions to a consumption levels that matches the biocapacity of the planet is a good preliminary target on which to base any attempts at self-regulation (Principle 4).

This project was originally started in May 2007 at Simple Living but stopped.  Sharon Astyk one of the co-developers has resurrected it at Casaubon’s Book  here.

I don’t know what is doable in a year’s time, but this format makes a lot of sense in terms of tracking my use and making reductions.

This will also be a good blog to follow; there should be lots of good ideas that are relevant to permaculture beyond the garden.

Riot for Austerity – Project Information:

  • Leverage Point Priority: C (Increase access to feedback.)
  • Importance: A
  • Difficulty: 1 (collecting the feedback) 1 and 2 (initial reductions)
  • Cost: $0 – collecting the feedback
  • Comments on functions: This activity will provide feedback on electricity, natural gas and water use, food consumption and waste reduction.

Last Thoughts on Prioritzing the Project List

I stumbled on this in Permaculture, Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability today:

“Thus, the first priority is to survive (obtain a yield from captured energy), while the second is to pay for what we get in some way that helps maintain the future flow of energy.  The third is to contribute in some way and direction to the wider system, rather than seeing our own survival as an end in itself. “

I’ll add this to my list of considerations in prioritizing my projects.

Also see: My First Project List and More Thoughts on Prioritizing the Project List

More Thoughts on Prioritizing the Project List

As  I thought about it a little more, I created another inventory to assess where I stood on 12 permaculture principles in five overall areas:

  • Food
  • Energy
  • Water Use/Reuse
  • Material Use/Reuse
  • Community

Here is my August 10th, 2011 assessment in the area of food.

 Area of Implementation S C O R E  Comments
 Buy from a local
 I rarely make the conscious choice to buy from a local source.
 Obtain a Yield (zone 1 sources)
 Use foods with low embedded energy
 Create a diversity of sources
 Catch and store (at home)
 No waste  All foods recycled to compost or worm bin. All packaging is recycled as well.
Leverage Feedback  There is no tracking of yield or diversity of elements.
 Use Edges and Marginal Areas
 Integrate and stack functions

Here is a  link to my entire chart,  Inventory of Principle Implementation.

As you can see my scores are pretty low.  I’d like to get a minimal score in each area of the chart.  In other words I’d like a score of one for 1)buy from a local source, 2)catch and store at home, 3)leverage feedback, 4)use edges and marginal area and 5)integrate and stack functions. I need to choose projects that will give me these minimal scores. This will give me integration across the area being assessed.

To help me look at this aspect, I added an extra column to my original projects list to capture my thoughts on the functions associated with each of the projects. For example:

  • For the  Transplant Setup Project  I noted that creating capability to grow plants from seed and create my own transplants would be an alternative to buying transplants from the garden store.  Also I would be creating more a of yield in my zone 1. These are two functions.
  • For the Plant Rye Grass for a Mulch Project , I noted that doing this would provide erosion control, improve the soil and create mulch material. These are three functions.
  • For the Canning Local Produce Project, I noted this would allow me to use more local produce.  This project would create an alternative to store-bought products (diversity). I would be increasing the yield in my zone 1. I also would be increasing my stored yield. These are four functions.

So here is how I will rank my projects:

  1. I’m going to work on the projects on my list that are immediately and obviously useful (A Importance level) and easy to do or requiring a little effort (1 and 2 Difficulty level) first.  I’m going to make easy  (small) changes to my life.
  2. I’m going to choose to work on the projects that offer many functions and integrate with my existing systems first.
  3. Finally as discussed above, I’m going to choose to work on projects that fill in my gaps first.  This would mean that canning local produce (which would fill two gap areas: buy from a local source and catch and store at home) would be a better choice for me now than planting the blueberries (which would fulfill two function which I already have covered:  increase plant diversity and increase yield and storage). I won’t be looking at projects that cut food waste since my score there is already very high. Once I have a project or two that addresses each area, (which gives me a score of 1 across the board) then I’ll choose a new set of projects (to try to give me a score of 2 across the board).

So enough with the tables and on to the projects!

Also see: My First Project List and Last Thoughts on Prioritizing the Project List