Design Theory Into The Zones

Zones for a house on a hilltop

Where is it?

confused roosterDo you ever get frustrated because you can’t find something? How many times have you wished there was a better system? Have you struggled to complete a task because the tools or resources are not at hand?  Ever wished to add a little something but it is too far away? Are you always feeling for your keys in the bottom of your bag only to find forgotten debris instead? Is there sometimes a touch-of-confusion at work making it hard to get stuff done?

If only everything was in its place. But wait… how do we know where the right place is? This is where it pays to do a little bit of designing.  Permaculture Zoning gives you the design tools to make life more comfortable and work more efficiently. We have a tool that can sort things into zones according to how much we need them, and in return, how much they need our care.

Tea herbs from the gardenSome things need to be close-by because we use them often. For example: tea herbs near the cups, kindling next to the fire, or pens on the desk. Some things need a watchful eye but need some space in order to thrive (like a children’s play area, or the berry patch).  Other things may prefer not to be bumped or tampered with so they do well in an area that is typically neglected, like wine in a cellar. These also include a nesting robin, or the soft yoga mat in your sports bag.

Zones for Efficiency

There are a few basic factors to help us determine which is the right zone for something. Firstly, ask how much observation does the item need? Secondly, ask how frequently am I going to it? If the answer is often, put it nearby. If the answers are rarely, put it far away.

This design tool is super flexible. You can apply the zoning tool to your design for a farm, a home, a community garden or a work station. You can even use it to pack your luggage.

When Bill Mollison was introducing the concept of Zoning as a design tool, he talked about having food plants that were needed regularly near the kitchen door.

These include herbs and plants like lettuces and kale that we can clip each day rather than rip it out of the ground.  Zone thinking can also be applied to the design of your bag. Those items that are needed regularly need a pocket up high to keep them accessible. Whereas, things that are rarely used but handy in emergencies can dwell in the outer zones.

Applying Permaculture Zone Theory To Design Of A Bag

Get Your Nest of Zones

Zones don’t have to be separated. But compartments, pockets, or fences are often useful. In zone 1 we keep regularly used and valuable items. In a bag these items might be your keys, phone, medicine or photo of your favourite chicken.  On the farm, Zone 1 might hold your dog’s box, your pick-up truck, your trusty tools and your favourite wet weather coat. In Zone 2 you will find intensively grown food-plants and the smaller species of fruiting shrubs. The hen-house might sit in this zone to help manage weeds in the orchard and provide regular eggs. Bigger trees, pumpkin vines and corn patches site well in Zone 3 and larger farm animals go well in the Zone 3 or 4 area. Zone 5 is a great space to dedicate to wildlife which thrives on careful management and minimal disturbance.

Zones according to use and micro-climates. Our design for yoga retreat in Otford

What about Zone 0 you may ask?

Self reliant eldersZone 0 is traditionally indoors or in your head where all those secret recipes dwell and where you hone your powerful ethics and motivation. But In a house design or on a farm, zone 0 can also contain ferments, indoor production and work stations, the office and first aid.

As you can see, there are a lot of design tools taught through Permaculture. Learn more design tools with a Permaculture Design Course. We offer courses online and on-site.

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Self-Reliance Not Self-Sufficiency

difference between self-reliance and self-sufficiency

Self-Reliance Is Empowering

You could be forgiven if you thought that permaculture was about self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is not the idealised ‘GOOD LIFE’ as speculated in the 70’s by BBC.  If you want long days of lonely, repetitive hard work and the very real risk of starvation and disease, then self-sufficiency would be for you.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a lifestyle that connects you with nature and your neighbours, boost your Self-Reliance.

In a nut-shell, Self-reliance enables empowerment through increased local production by giving, trading and/or sharing. ‘Self-Reliance’ values and cares for the weak and the elderly. Self-Reliance has the power to  strengthen community connections, improve our health and the planet’s health.

Community Values You

Permaculture promotes a sense of community. The basic ethic of Caring for People drives us to build better communities. By consulting the community we design adaptable  structures – physical and invisible. Physical structures include social hubs, educational and recreational areas.  Invisible structures include trading centers, banking systems and news exchange facilities.

Supercharged Design

winter harvest_croppedPermaculture designs for whole ‘villages’ not just individual households. This increases the efficiency of the waste cycles. Resources (physical, intellectual, social) are more immediate and usable. At best, the cycle of local production and disposal of the waste are tightly connected.

Self Reliance Grows By Sharing

city-farm-sharing

Frequent exchange of little resources requires very little planning. In a busy community, resources are shared, traded and loaned. ‘Hand-me-downs’ are passed on as needed. Harvests and meals are casually shared. Valuable and timely knowledge is offered informally.

One of the most obvious features of this ‘informal’ economy is that the consumer and producer meet. They tend to be kind to one another. In his free e-book, Permaculture Strategy for the South African Villages Terry Leahy explores the power of the gift economy. The gift economy fulfills the permaculture principle of ‘working where it counts’.

Self Reliance builds Self Esteem

sharing-the-tree-of-hearts

Many farmers work in isolation with heavy budget pressures.  On a large property, farming is time-consuming, lonely and destructive.

In surprising contrast to this, small holdings can be highly productive and rewarding. This works especially well when the local community supports local food production directly through farmers markets.

Given that Rural suicide is significantly higher than urban, healthy relationships are the key to survival. When farmers need assistance (psychological, medical and veterinary services) help needs to be close at hand. Enriching the community bonds through localised trade helps to build bridges and understanding.

Owning a large property is huge responsibility

ladies-morning-meeting-in-glasshouse-market-gardenLarge properties have heavy maintenance requirements. The cost of neglect can increase the risk of disasters such as fire. A community management team can help share this responsibility and combine resources for tree loping, noxious weeds control, soil erosion management, water pollution filtration, and emergency response.

Elders adopt the ‘benefactor’ model

Self reliant eldersElders can share their workload whilst mentoring young people. Sharing your resources, skills and know-how creates a closer-knit community.

This is known as the ‘benefactor’ model. This model works well for Polyface farms and other small communities. As a result, a succession of skilled people in a specialist field is ensured.

Permaculture values people as well as our environment.

Build your own self-reliance skills. Enrol with us today.

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Permaculture For Children

Little Lives Matter

Children have the opportunity to make a cultural shift. When a young person discovers new foods, they set patterns of eating and behaviour that will shape the way their culture relates to the land and to native foods. Here is a moment for humanity to make a lasting difference. Any dependency on imported foods can be surpassed. The young family can build a rich understanding and respect for the natural world.

“Perhaps there is no greater thing we can do for our children than to ensure they receive their birthright, a love and understanding of nature and a knowledge of their place in it.” Janet Millington

Children – Nature and Nurture

little-girl-readingBy working with nature and not against her, the potential is greater.  For example: one of Australia’s first huge mining towns, Broken Hill, has now become one of the biggest solar generation towns. All it took was an attitude shift.

Young people have heaps of attitude! We can work with their inventive nature as well as nurturing their love of nature. At the recent Illawarra Greenflicks event, we gave out our permaculture fortune tellers to get young people thinking positive about the things that they can do for a better future.

Enriching Programs For Children

There are some great programs for young people to nurture their sense of connection to nature.

Permaculture paper fortune teller
Our Permaculture ‘fortune teller’
  • The Crossing puts sustainability into action for young people to protect and enhance the natural environment. We do this by involving young people in permaculture, landcare and habitat survey on journeys with us.  These journeys can include hiking, canoeing and mountain biking.
  • Pioneering Outdoor Classrooms: CAROLYN NUTTALL and JANET MILLINGTON wrote their book to promote connecting with nature in young school children. “Permaculture is about all aspects of human interaction with the environment. For many reasons, including the reduction of open space and the issues relating to the safety of children and the advances in computers, those afternoons of running free with nature have all but ceased for most children today.”
  • Roman Shapla, a graduate of ours has been developing a Children’s Permaculture Design Course. Anything that is taught to adults can be introduced to children. We just need to allow more time and flexibility in the delivery.
  • Another graduate of ours helped build a highly school permaculture garden in an industrial heartland, Cringilla Primary School has engaged, empowered, informed and active green children.

Start Small and Be Effective

Rose and the big leaf
Big leaf umbrella

One of the permaculture principles taught by Bill Mollison is to start small and be successful. This gives positive feedback, experience and energy to reach for more.  Young people yearn for a better environment. The first steps are to:

  1.  build awareness of their foot-print,
  2.  give young people easy ways to reduce their impact
  3.  give them ways to build a better futureMore familes enjoying nature, children playing outdoors, using garden classrooms, growing food in the cities, making connections

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Big Bill Chilling – Making Your Rental Home Cozy

Get Yourself Cozy For A Lot Less

Most of the western world spends a third or more of their income on heating and cooling their homes. But in poorer nations, around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires. Even if we live in a leafy part of the world, where we can grow our own fuel, getting a clean wood-fuel stove is not always an option.
The growing number of people who rent a home can’t use a fuel stove because there is simply no chimney. So, how do we get cozy and cut the continuous big bills? Is natural energy possible in a rental home?

Here’s Mr Bean’s take on the cold – to get the ideas started.

The best energy principle for Cozy Living:
When air moves, it cools down.

How Energy Works For Us:

  1. Air transfers its energy to whatever to hits. When air hits the window, it transfers its warmth to the glass and the glass then transfers energy to outside when the outside is cooler. Energy (via Entropy) likes to go from hot to cold, from order to disorder, from a heat source to the wider universe. If want to stop sending energy to the universe, slow the airflow down by having smaller living spaces (you can use curtains to section off smaller areas in a large open-plan home).
  2. earth_sun_day_fireyThe sun provides a lot of natural light and warmth.  With double glazing, this warmth can be trapped. It is the still air between the two sets of glass panes that provides the insulating layer in double glazing. The insulation is not from the panes. So, if you want to let natural light through but don’t want the heat to escape than any two layers of material ie. recycled bubble-wrap, perspex, fabric will work. If you choose to use a plastic wrap, be aware that it can melt to the glass so put a layer of white curtain up first, then the wrap. A simple white curtain will trap the air between the windowpane and the room and continue to provide light. If you are serious about stopping heat loss at night, you can use a heavy blind or comforter and make sure the edges around the window are well covered. Have a cover over the top to stop warm air rising. A pelmet can be made out of wood, covered cardboard or an extra length of material draped over the curtain tops. Avoid Styrofoam as it kills many animals and never decays. Styrofoam rises from the dead to kill again.
  3. Check the sun’s path for your location. The sun-less windows and walls of your home can be a cold sink where all the heat is zapped. Not much morning sun comes in on the west so there is little or no point in keeping these windows open for natural light unless they are your only morning light source. These are the windows that warrant the most insulation at night.Totnes-(304)Wes_April
  4. People generate a surprising amount of heat. Imagine if we were able to contain this heat and not let it continue to slip out into the universe. Can you modify some of your routine so you get to bed early where it is snug and warm? How can you optimise your access to natural light and warmth?
  5. Gravity can also work for you. The beauty of heavy curtains is that they are self-closing using gravity. You don’t have to constantly ask for people to close the door. And curtains can be easily opened to release excess heat into other rooms of the house. Curtains made out of recycled woolen blankets can be fire-retardant and can be cleaned.
  6. Little John Owner at www.PlantBasedServices.com
    bookcases as insulation

    Insulation stops heat transfer. There are several ways to insulate the home and wood is one of the best insulators and also offers thermal stability. Wood has high R rating and great thermal stability. If the walls are not to be tampered with [possibly because they have toxic paint or asbestos in them] then you can use internal wood paneling. The thicker the wooden panels, the better the thermal mass. If you don’t own the home, you can build or salvage a lot of tall timber bookcases and fill them with books. (Be careful to attach the bookcases so they won’t fall forward).

  7. beauty-of-thermal-massGet the right amount of thermal mass. Thermal mass is not a substitute for insulation, it is the home’s air-energy battery.  Too much mass can mean the room can take forever to heat up or cool down. Do the calculations to find the right amount of thermal mass for you climate and room sizes. Experiment with your thermal mass by adding thermal mass objects one piece at a time.
  8. Air moves from high density to less density. Any passing breezes will suck out air in the house. It is not uncommon to see people stand and chat with their front door open. An open door can act like vacuum, sucking out any heat within. If you are lucky to have a door that is in a sunny spot – you can boost your natural energy source by installing a little greenhouse on the door – the greenhouse door will cut drafts (by creating an air-lock) AND the greenhouse will help heat your house. Your greenhouse airlock can be as light as a tent and made out of recycled plastic (like packaging for furniture) or glass, can be relocated to your next home. Alternatively, you could make the airlock out of white curtain material and a waterproof roof. The main aim of an attached greenhouse is stop airflow and let natural light through.

Simple Steps to Cut Your Heat and Money Losses

  1. Nature Knows How - Soft TechnologyRug up in the living room. Wear warm clothes but make sure the visitors are cozy too. You can offer your visitors some wraps and slippers. Permaculture is about building a sustainable culture.  Building a culture that is cozy and fun for everyone is more likely to be sustainable. If you are having lots of visitors, it is great to share a cozy fire and if we use big theatrical style curtains to slow the air flow, the visitors can also enjoy the warm atmosphere.
  2. Try using a trombe wall.  You can make a trombe wall out of thermal mass like a heavy timber bench seat positioned in a sunny window  “A Trombe Wall made from the local mud and brick offers better relief from the smoke and the cold.”
  3. nz-greenhouseLook up and look down. Many people forget that heat is also lost through the ceiling and floor. Low ceilings are easier to heat than high ceilings. If you have a high ceiling, make sure it is insulated and install a fan that can be reversed in winter to push warm air back down. Check all sky lights are well sealed and consider getting double glazing on them.
  4. An extra floor pad with high thermal mass is useful where the sun can shine upon it.   If you can’t insulate the floor, you can use lots of rugs underfoot to stop drafts.
  5. Install a solar heating system that can go in through a window. Support manufacturers who use recycled components e.g. CanSolAir solar furnaces. A ‘floating floor’ can be used as a low-cost low-thermal-mass large-area heater. It canraditor bench seat could have solar hot water pipes contain pipes that are heated. The heating can be done outdoors by the sun. You can even use recycled pipe, a compost pile, or tank that is heated by a slow outdoor burner. A floating floor would be tricky to take with you, but something like a bench seat above it could be handy and fun. The pipes could be a simple coil of black pipe that sits outside the window and comes in through the window via a modified wooden panel with holes for the pipe inlet and outlet.

Turn your Savings into Investments

solar-raysWe don’t need to suffer the cold and we don’t have to suffer big bills.  There are lots of options for getting cozy. The first focus would be to reducing the losses.

Once your energy losses are cut, you can evaluate how much heating you need.  Invest your savings in energy from nature like capturing the warmth from the sunny windows onto thermal mass or getting solar heating piped in through a modified window pane. These tools and skills are transportable and can travel with you to your next home.

Cutting your big bills gets you the resources to build a sustainable future.

We enjoy our solar hot water radiators
We research, share, and teach permaculture online. Thanks for supporting us.
We research, share, and teach permaculture online. Join us in your permaculture adventure. Do a permaculture design course with us.

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Getting Into The Permaculture Zone

Permaculture Zoning

This permaculture design was created by April 15 years ago and has travelled the world extensively. It has been used to promote courses and workshops in many countries.
zones are used in permaculture design

Zoning isn’t something you do on a yoga mat but it can be used to design anything from a farm, a work station, garden, home, kitchen, caravan, tent, luggage, handbag or even a wallet.

Zoning is a Permaculture design technique that positions the elements (like herbs, trees, chicken house) in our design in areas according to their need or our use. The greater the needs or use of the element, then the closer we place it.

The beauty of Zoning is its flexibility. This design tool is scale-able.

The design tool called Zoning can be applied on large farms, city apartments, urban homes,  kitchen design,  and even in the design or re-design of a little bag. (You can redesign a bag by inserting pockets, wallets or compartments. In the same way we can re-design a property by using fencing for the zones).

A Little Bag of Zones

Many bags have the knack of swallowing items and scrambling them.  That’s because they are not designed for function but usually for looks. We can apply the design technique of zoning to the re-organisation of a bag (a handbag, a sports-bag or regularly used luggage).  Everyday important items such as keys, phone, and medicine would be kept in upper pockets or pouches (the Zone 1 are) and less regularly used items would be allowed to sink into lower Zones. Finally, the forgotten items will drift into the far recesses of the bag.

handbags can have design zones too

It’s not us – it’s them!

Not all items that we need will like being kept in easy reach, in Zone 0. It might seem wonderful to have a tree that produced fruit salad or a herb garden that gave us all our favourite herbs. The reality is, not all fruit likes full sunlight, and not all herbs like to grow in pots. Sometimes the best zone for an element is determined by the needs of that particular element.

Zoning The Herbs

hills_hoistarium

When we use herbs regularly, like our tea herbs, we can keep some of them in easy reach by planting them in pots on the kitchen window sill in (Zone 0). This suits the peppermint but not really a green tea bush which prefers space to grow into a small tree and likes to live on the edge of the forest (Zone 3). Other herbs might only be available when in season (like Coriander), and prefer a protected nook in Zone 2. Exotic herbs like Ginger and the bay tree might need to grow in the forest so we plant them in Zone 4. The herbs in Zone 5 could include rare indigenous herbs.

Zoning On a Bigger Scale

zones-picIn a larger scale Permaculture design we break the design up into Zones according to the amount of attention and space each area requires:
Zone 0. The Home. Indoor production (sprouts/ferments) and processing of food, waste,
water collection, repairs and education.
Zone 1.  The area outdoors that needing regular observation, tending and harvesting
eg. plants we can browse and use each day.- intensive garden beds with keyhole access.
Zone 2. This area has less intensive managed areas but with animals needing daily attention eg. poultry, rabbits, worm farm, snail farm. Orchard trees.
Zone 3. Occasionally visited areas with self-fed animals (stock) and seasonal wide-ranging crops eg. corn, wheat, rice, pumpkin, bamboo.
Zone 4. Wild food gathering (eg. nuts, native fruits) Wood for Fuel, self seeding trees.
Zone 5. A Natural area – a rarely visited area. This zone is best linked with neighbouring wildlife corridors. This can be sometimes managed to reduce risk of catastrophes ie. fire, pollution, drought or hurricanes.
Zone 6: The greater bio-region or social context.

Zoning is a powerful permaculture design tool. It is used in conjunction with other design tools such as sector planning, analysis of elements and connecting the relationships of elements.  Learn more about Permaculture. Enjoy doing a Permaculture Design Course with us!

we develop world leading resources

More Women Than Men Grow Food

Feminine Faces Farming

April milking a cow whilst researching house cowsBruce French likes to remind us all.  “More women than men grow food“.  His experience is vast. He and his family have worked internationally to research and document a huge library of rare food plants and their uses.

Most food today is produced by industrialised farms run by economists. State-of-the-art production uses robotic tractors and drones.

Women in worldwide permaculture
Aranya supports hundreds of Permaculture farming widows in India

Farmers have a broader knowledge of the land, water, native animals and the history of pests and disease. Farmers know soil biota, fungi, plants, animals and have a keen eye on the weather. The real farmer is grounded and deeply connected to the land.

Worldwide, most farmers work on small holdings close to home. They are closely connected to their extended family. When we visualise farmers – do we see their saris, beads, skirts and loose flowing pants?

https://www.grain.org

Trending: Saris, Aprons and Straw Hats

paint-fasterIn permaculture, most of the designers, diggers, inventors, illustrators, organisers and promoters, educators and activists are women. But most of the public faces are male. Curious?

Robyn Francis and Geoff Lawton are two permaculture leaders around the same age with same start time, similar training, both dedicated, full of know-how, work and self confidence.

Yet these two world leaders enjoy very different lifestyles. Geoff travels extensively. He has set up a global team with lots of people working for him and has spent well the hard earned permaculture money on educational videos. Robin is still very much in charge of her home-site, travels to teach in poor countries and blogs about her pet pig, Polly. They both look very comfortable with their permaculture choices. The difference is huge.  Publicly, we encounter Geoff a lot more.

Systemic Differences

woman and worm farm

Professor Stuart Hill notes: Men will set up systems. Traditionally, women will maintain them. Permaculture teacher Chris Evans of Nepan witnessed the ability of the women in the patriarchal Himalayan society to rebuild, modify and improve on a wall that was originally built by the men.

Permaculture women in wealthy sub-cultures enjoy planting and nurturing trees, pick fruit, dig swales, fix leaky downpipes, repair steps, replace the oven light, screw a hinge back into place, retrofit stuff, sew, nurse sick animals, saw and bring in the wood.  Although it is frustrating that women have not yet earned their right for equal pay, they have earned some flexibility.

Women value variety and flexibility. They are creative and innovative.
Women will nurture systems and develop incremental improvements.
When given an education they can enjoy a huge range of successes.

Women growing foodWomen have the perfect nature to live ‘the ethical dream’. They dream of self-reliance, empowerment, being capable and feeling a little challenged. It is not a perfect dream. Life is not perfect. And they know it.

Give A Woman Your Support

Women get injured more when they ‘hit their shoulder with the shovel’. This is not just  because they are new to it. It is often because they lack mentors and training. They will stubbornly learn the ‘traditionally’ male skills by looking over a shoulder or reading books or by just trying to follow a practical post on the internet.

Join the communal effort to give women equal financial and emotional support to do courses, ask questions, build their skill base and become empowered. We at Permaculture Visions offer a 40% discount so you and your partner can study happily together.

 

Immerse Yourself in a Permaculture Design Course

we can do itWhy Do a Permaculture Design Course?

There is a truck load of free information about permaculture today. There are videos and specialist pages, consultants to do the designing for you and associations with newsletters, field days and conferences.

Is a Course Really Helpful?

get empowered“Isn’t there an ap for this? Surely it would be faster and easier to hire a designer. The designer could design our lifestyle for us”.  Er, yes! You can get a designer but it would be handy to be able to understand how it works to how to operate the design. A permaculture design is as flexible as a bicycle it will hum along in basic mode or you can ramp it up to a higher production mode whenever you want to. [Bill Mollison]

Get Empowered

It would be wonderful to be able to steer the permaculture design as your needs change. It would be paradise to understand how the design functions, know how to connect with it and build the abundance. Yet the ultimate permaculture experience is the empowerment.

 

The permaculture design course gives you more than a design.
It gives the skills and tools for empowerment.

In the earlier years of Permaculture interviews London asked: Short of starting a farm, what can we do to make our cities more sustainable?

Mollison answered: Catch the water off your roof. Grow your own food. Make your own energy. It’s insanely easy to do all that. It takes you less time to grow your food than to walk down to the supermarket to buy it. Ask any good organic gardener who mulches how much time he spends on his garden and he’ll say, “Oh, a few minutes every week.” By the time you have taken your car and driven to the supermarket, taken your foraging-trolley and collected your wild greens, and driven back home again, you’ve spent a good hour or two — plus you’ve spent a lot of money. Permaculture can be as simple as sitting down and drawing the plan then a little effort in implementing it and then some time in harvesting the rewards.

before and after permaculture design

If you have always wanted to do a full permaculture design course, this is a great way to do it. Jump in. Immerse yourself in a full permaculture retreat with local and international participants of a range of ages and backgrounds.

Time to retreat and plan

students on winter Permaculture Design Course Bandusia 2015

Take time to slow down, think deep and plan for a busy growing season. Perhaps you have already been learning heaps about Permaculture but not yet finished your PDC, this is a good chance to push through.  Retreat and Renew. Learn about practical elements of growing food, social aspects of building resilience in your community and become more self-empowered.

Upcoming Permaculture Design Course Retreat

We research, share, and teach permaculture online. Thanks for supporting us.Learn permaculture with experienced and mature elders in St. Albans near Sydney Jan 2nd til 14th 2017

Permaculture Sydney Institute engages only highly experienced and professional trainers for the Permaculture Design Certificate Course. All are practicing Permaculturalists deriving an income from Permaculture. Each has over 15 years experience in the movement, and vast experience in work and training. They also come highly skilled and qualified in a range of related professions and specialist areas.

Book yourself in and join us.  April Sampson-Kelly of Permaculture Visions International teaches face-to-face in a PDC only once a year.  In this Permaculture Design Course there will be the chance to learn from great mentors.

April and Snowy her hand-raised goose
April and Snowy the hand-raised goose

If you want your stay to be super comfortable then be quick to book yourself a room. If you want to connect with nature and bring a tent there is the option to camp beside the pool and join in for hearty meals.

Lots more information at http://www.permaculturesydneyinstitute.org/events/category/permaculture-design-certificate/

Bandusia - how to get there
How to get to Bandusia

 

Making Meaningful Connections

Permaculture Has Designed Connections

Permaculture is not about What You Have. Permaculture is about How You Connect Things.

chicken-weeds-worms-towerPermaculture is a way of thinking and designing that looks at the whole system. Permaculture is not just a collection of clever, yet separate, units.

Some people may think they are doing permaculture because they have used sine common permaculture strategies. They may be catching and storing the water. They may have created some typical permaculture elements like no-dig gardens.  Whilst permaculture may look like a collection of these ideas, it is actually a whole systems plan based on the way nature interconnects the elements.

energy flow chart

Why Plan?

When we look at the little parts we may be focused on a collection of problems. We can get trapped in the search for solutions but when we step back to examine the whole system (our whole lifestyle or community) we may actually begin to see patterns of behaviour, good and bad interactions between parts and insights into how we can link things together to optimise their function.

By building effective connections, the value of each element is enhanced.

systems_thinking

Functional Physical Relationships

King parrot
Wildlife are part of a functional system

In the garden we can easily build functional relationships between elements. We can use

  • a shade tree to shade a truck,
  • a deciduous fruit tree to provide reactive, seasonal shade for the house
  • we can allow access for the chickens to help clean up fallen fruit.
  • A pond could provide ambient light, humidity and habitat for pest-controlling creatures such dragon-flies. A pond call also be integrated into intensive gardens.
  • Mixed herbs and vegetables which can be positioned within easy reach of the occupants.
  • The pond can also be part of a total water management plan that diverts water away from the house keeping the footings and occupants dry, mould-free and secure in a more durable home.

Put simply, we link units closely by their needs and waste products.  This enables one need to be satisfied by the waste products of nearby units.

 

Functional Social Relationships

Systems thinking can also be applied to economies, networks and social relationships. Healthy regular connections with supportive contacts can build a resilient and responsive social network.  We all need validation, a sense of purpose and achievement. In permaculture we are actively creative. We can be more productive outside our standard work-space. We can all benefit from being giving and sharing. We can enjoy the peace and satisfaction of goodwill.

time_and_tide

 

Biomimicry & Permaculture Today

Janine Benysus, in her ground-breaking book Biomimicry, acknowledged Permaculture as a way to create food forests by mimicking the workings of the natural forest. The insights are still relevant. She had predicted Nature would be a powerful educational model. There are now an abundance of designs based on nature. One of these thriving design sciences is evident in the number of good mature permaculture sites worldwide.

And as we develop more observation skills, Nature becomes our patient mentor.

Revisiting Biomimicry’s Principles

Janine Benyus1: “9 Basic Principles of Biomimicry and how they work:

  1. Nature runs on sunlight. This is true of nearly every living creature, but not all.  The very rare exceptions include tubeworms in the depths of the ocean that eat chemicals released from volcanos. There are recent discoveries showing a few rare organisms do not need full sunlight. And sadly, with climate change we are witnessing the struggle of some plants to survive in full sunlight. The permaculture strategy to stack plants in a food forest is valuable here. We can fit a lot of plants into an intensive space and out-compete weeds.
  2. Epping forest, London IPUK delegates from Africa and Hong Kong marvel at the wasted abundance in a major city

    Nature uses only the energy it needs. If a creature harvests more than it needs, the harvest is not wasted. Squirrels often forget where they buried their nuts, these nuts either sprout into new trees or are eaten by other creatures. The trees benefit from this forgetful relationship.
    Most predators will kill only the weak animals in a herd. Most kill only as needed. There are always puzzling exceptions. Foxes will bury their kill and dig it up to eat later, they believe in banking. But it is difficult to see the wisdom of a predator that kills all the flock of hens without leaving some animals to reproduce. Perhaps cunning doesn’t imply planning skills as seen in Ants farming fungus or aphids.

  3. Nature fits form to function.
    When a function is needed, a form evolves: The camel evolved great nostrils to minimise water-loss. The termite uses insulation to prevent the nest from overheating. Bears and skunks burrow for comfortable hibernation. Functional design today learns fr
    om nature.
    Nature Knows How - Soft Technology
  1. Nature recycles everything.
    Energy, chemicals, and matter are used and reused by nature. Where there is desolation, very little matter is moved or transformed but where there is life there is constant change.
  2.  Nature rewards cooperation.
    bumble_bee_yellow_flowerThis is essential in the web-of-life. Many plants rely on close relationship with their pollinators. Flowers reward the bees by providing them with nectar. There are often competitors and cheats in a natural system (eg. robber bees who by-pass the stamens and raid the nectar by drilling holes in the base of the lower) but the bulk of the work is done through happy, productive relationships.
  3. Nature banks on diversity.
    Through diversity, there are many different types of creatures, with a variety of habits and needs. There is an intricate co-habitation in a rich tapestry of living organisms.
  4. we found our niche and we are filling it!Nature demands local expertise. In some species, we find local expertise, size and functional diversity in the one colony. Ants are a good example of diversity and are one of the most successful and diverse species on the planet (15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass.[8)
  5. Nature curbs excesses from within. When there is a limit of resources, many natural processes will curb population growth. Some species are less fertile without adequate nutrients. Some species of animals can delay the implantation of a fertile embryo, enabling them to delay pregnancy until the season is more favourable.
  6. Nature taps the power of limits.
    This principle was more
    controversial at time of writing and is has mixed metaphores (a limit is not a power source) so it is difficult to qualify.
    Janine wrote:
    “real survivors are the Earth inhabitants that have lived millions of years without consuming their ecological capital, the base from which all abundance flows.” Our ecological capital includes energy, nutrients and genetic material.  Fortunately, for humanity, there a constant and free energy input from the sun, a strong life force and a rich bank of genetic material.  With careful management we can maintain a clean supply of nutrients.

permaculture_farm_Ideas-1024x601Limits create responses. Innovation such as variation and diversity is stimulated by limits.  Because farming exports nutrients, there are real limits. 

Some farming ideas can help reduce nutrient loss ie. with the use of good water management to help minimise erosion. We can build soil organically by supporting micro-fauna and flora.

An integrated system like Permaculture uses less ecological capital.  It recognises our limits helps us focus for resilience.
1Benyus, Janine (1997). Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. New York, USA: William Morrow & Company. ISBN 978-0-688-16099-9.

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Cooking and Fermenting – Ancient Pleasures

Peachy Reasons To Cook

from: Australian Museum

Why did our ancients invent fire and start cooking?
Here are three old and solid prongs in the hot debate about raw foods and cooking:

  1. Food Security
  2. Enhanced Nutritional Value
  3. Food Safety

1. Cooking for Food Security

Storing food makes life comfortable and dependable. It is really handy to be able to store your surplus foods, send some to a distant relative, trade some or have the weekend off from farming and mend some clothes. The farming of grains changed humanity and shaped the landscape. Suddenly, communities had long-term food storage of grains, tubers and dried pulses.  From this food revolution shaped our culture. Towns were founded, cities grew and supplies for adventures and wars were fueled.

The traditional methods of preserving food were:

April and the Pizza oven
Garden Prunings used for fuel at Silk Farm

Cooking foods to a temperature of 100°C for a minimum of 5 minutes will kill many food-borne disease microorganisms (ie. salmonella, e coli, campylobacter, listeria). This enables us to keep foods for longer because they do not decay as quickly.

2. Cooking for Enhanced Nutrition

The nutritional value of foods are often enhanced by cooking.

  • Heat makes many foods tastier (the sugars are released, flavours enhanced, and the fibers become more digestible.)

    cooking well geothermal copy
    Geothermal cooking well Rotorua NZ
  • Many vegetable fibers are naturally indigestible and heating and pounding helps to make them suited to human consumption.
  • The beneficial phytochemicals produced by plants such as peas and tomatoes are more readily available when cooked (but not to be cooked in carbon steel pans).
  • Most plant toxins are destroyed. Early varieties of plants such as beans originally contained lectin phytohaemagglutinin which is destroyed by cooking and fermenting.
  • Some cooking methods are more nutritious than others. Slow and sealed cooking locks in the nutrients.
  • Cooking can also destroy nutrients especially in oils and fats, making them harmful.

Not all Apples are Apples – What?

Malay Apple - Syzygium malaccense
Malay Apple

Identical apples of the same variety will rarely have the same nutritional value. Their richness of nutrients depends on the quality of the soil that the apple tree grows in.

As for nutritional value of meats, the animal’s exercise, stress levels and diet will affect the type fats and fibers in the meat. (Freely ranging animals have more nutrients and better quality fats. “Wild-animal fats are different from both farm-animal fats and processed fats, says Dewailly. Farm animals, cooped up and stuffed with agricultural grains (carbohydrates) typically have lots of solid, highly saturated fat.”

3. Cooking for Food Safety

cherub-chicago-museum_art_chicago

Many bacteria, viruses, some poisons and harmful micro-organisms lurk in our foods. This includes liver fluke (which can be transmitted by snails). Most of these threats can be killed by cooking. But not all.

Bacteria [ie. Salmonella] usually dies when cooked. Some by-products (ie.  the botulinum toxin) can be destroyed by heat but other toxins from moulds, micro-organisms, viruses or bacterial growth can still make us sick.

Good health is not so much about which foods are best to eat, or how to prepare them or what hazards to avoid. The ‘proof is in the pudding’ as long as it is a healthy mix of nutrients.

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