Tag Archives: design techniques

Big Permaculture Design

One of our latest projects has been to produce a large-scale design for a yoga retreat.

Our Design Process

  1. Conduct diagnosis of existing site features (including risks).
  2. Prepare guiding policy. The permaculture design offers a detailed plan to build wealth and empowerment to the residents and visitors.
  3. Set an action plan based on the fundamental ethics and ideals. These actions are driven by passion and feelings of the residents and result in self-reliance, abundance and greater harmony within the local community.yoga retreat permaculture design

Diagnosis

watershed for permaulture design

Firstly, we examined the current land use and drew up a sector analysis. One of the aspects of the sector analysis was the narrow solar window. The yoga retreat sits in a narrow valley. This means the morning sun is late and the afternoon sun falls away early in the afternoon.

We looked at all the natural energies on the site. The analysis included the surface watershed to and from the property. We identified which risks were threatening property.  The risk diagnosis alone will save the client in substantial costs far greater than the cost of the design. There were expensive threats to key structures. One of the threats to the foundations of a building was by local deer.  Another structure was suffering erosion by surface water from a poorly directed drain.view of solar window to yoga retreat - permaculture design tool

Permaculture Zoning

deerAlthough the current practices on the site by staff and residents were fairly sensible, there were plenty of opportunities to increase efficiency.

Zoning enables the design to put groups of elements into an area based on their needs and products.  Put elements that require high levels of observation and attention close to the staff and resources.  When an element requires less attention, it is positioned further away.

Delicate sprouts and seedlings require daily observation and attention to keep them watered and pest-free.  Simply position needy elements near to the care-givers. Zone 0 contains the elements that demand the highest level of attention.

In contrast to the sprouts and seedlings, vegetable greens are harvested as they become ready.  These elements are slightly less needy. They belong in Zone 1.

A tree that bears fruit only once a year goes further away in Zone 2 or 3.  Crops that need lots of space include pumpkin vines, corn or choko. So these go in Zone 3.  Crops that are harvested only as required (e.g. tinder for winter fires) are positioned far away. But they sit along a track to make the harvest, storage and transportation easy.  Deer and other large animals are directed to outer zones only.

permaculture design large property zoning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun Trap Gardens

The sun-trap garden faces the morning sun. Plant deciduous trees on the north-east boundary. The winter sun will penetrate through the bare branches.  Whereas, evergreen trees sit on the southern and western boundaries to shelter the sun-trap from hot afternoon suns rays.

sun trap permaculture design

Water Management

Slow the water to consolidate your resources.  One can never argue with water.  Water knows gravity and follows. Slowing the water increases the chances for plants to absorb it.  Water falls gently to the plants below.

redress water flow permaculture design

Easy Tea Gardens

before and after improvements tea garden permaculture design

There were areas where expensive and thirsty lawns had died off to expose the dusty soil below. The design adds wicking beds of tea herbs. These structures are multi-functional. They include relaxing garden seats.

Making A Sacred Space

April under boulder at Wave rock WA

A Sacred space is positioned beside the riverbank. The focal point could be a very large rock or platform. Large rocks are abstract but majestic. Abstract creations are not easily damaged by passing travelers. Sculptures, one the other hand, are at higher risk.

An alternative focal point is a defined space. A space can hold reverence. Often a sunken area formed by mounds, a glade of trees or walled garden feels inviting and embracing.

Social Strategies

Residents will learn to eat what grows easily in their environment. This is easier than forcing the landscape to grow foods that we are in the habit of demanding. The notion of re-educating our palette helps us to adapt to climate uncertainty.

Connections with the broader local community are enriched by the allocation of space for a community garden. This design element is a win-win. The community garden would help maintain the neglected corner of the property whilst benefiting from ideas and better connections to the local community.

Key Activities in Staging Plan

  1.  Redress the risks
  2.  Build diversity and intensity within the existing gardens before building any new garden areas
  3. Use natural attrition plan to replace evergreen trees on northern side of structures with deciduous trees
  4. Start at Zone 0 and work outwards. For example: grow sprouts, seedlings and tea herbs. These provide a good yield for minimum cost and effort. Then add companion plants to the orchard.

Start small and build on the successes.

Build your own permaculture design skills. Study with us at Permaculture Visions.

Set limits and redistribute surplus

Save

Solar Energy – The Oldest Power On Earth

Years of Power In Just One Day

There is more solar energy striking the earth’s surface in one and a half hours (480 EJ) than worldwide energy consumption in the year from all sources combined (430 EJ).solar-power-cut

“The question I ask myself is: what do I want to achieve? and what are all my options to get the task done? For example: when I buy a drill I am really wanting something to make a hole. Essentially, we need to
Keep the endpoint in focus and the options wide
Green Technology Engineer – Paul Kelly, Research Support at Permaculture Visions.

Wide Spectrum of Solar Opportunities

solar-rays

Solar power is abundant, free and the oldest power source known to humanity. The Sun beams a broad variety of energy waves to us.  For thousands of years humanity has used the heat, light and UV for our daily tasks.  We are enjoying an explosion of research and development as we near peak pollution and warming targets.  Along with the rise in Solar technology a number of female engineers are leading research and many mature women are able to contribute to installation and maintenance.

Boston Herald 1948 re: Dover Sun House invented by female engineer Maria Telkes.

Developing Technologies Include:

www.oorja.in

diagram: www.oorja.in
Different Solar hot water systems – bathroom water and room heating

What is the Environmental Cost of Solar Panels?

To calculate the full cost of any gadget we can do a whole of life analysis. This works out the energy cost from the time we dig the materials up to the time we dispose or recycle the materials. Research shows that a solar panels generate more energy that it took to create and many panels are lasting much longer than originally expected.

With recent developments including organic solar cells, the environmental cost is coming down. Durability and effeciency is constantly rising.

Can I Use Solar Energy Without Buying More Stuff?

Some great passive solar options include:

sustainability workshop
  • attach a conservatory or Greenhouse (made with recycled windows) to the sun-side of your home to create warm air. the trick is to keep it small to reduce the cooling air movement.
  • place mirrors in the garden to reflect light into the home. You can make sculptures out of recycled stainless steel instead of glass.
  • create a solar oven made out of reclaimed picture frames and a thickwalled box.
  • make your own light-shelves, install a waterbottle light in a dark shed
  • experiment with drying food
  • incorporate simple heat banks [like Trombe walls] into your home and office
  • hang herbs to dry in your kitchen or a simple solar dryer
  • hang your clothes to dry
  • if you live in a cold climate – build a cozy outdoor nook in the sunny corner of a tiny greenhouse. Incorporate lots of thermal mass (ie. mud-brick benches and pillars) and you can sunbathe in it on sunny days in winter.  Install a shower with a rocketstove water heater in another corner and you could spend most of your winters daytime happily in there as do many on Carraig Dulra permaculture farm in Ireland!

Here is a great list of DIY projects – Enjoy!

Learn how to integrate Solar into a Permaculture Lifestyle in a Permaculture Design Course with us Online.

Or immerse yourself in a full time two-week Permaculture design class this June at Permaculture Sydney with world-class teachers.

 

Freedom From Obsession

Who wouldn’t want freedom from economic slavery? What would a world of economic honesty look like? Many of us sing: “I OWE, I OWE IT’Schook-on-computer OF TO WORK I GO”. In reply to this mournful choir you may hear voices offering hopeful refrains. Ted Trainer urges us to explore simple living. His is an alternative to the obsessive consumer slavery.

Here’s the good news! It costs nothing to aim for lower expenditure. There is no risk of failure in our quest for freedom.  Challenging the economics of global consumption can benefit us in surprising ways.  We can stop to smell the roses, enrich our social interactions, question what we really need and reduce our waste.  Some of us will develop creative, productive habits. Others might explore green technologies. We can all build lifestyles that work toward physical and mental health and a healthier, more peaceful Earth.  “What people must see is that ecologically sane, socially responsible living is good living; that simplicity makes for an existence that is free.” – Theodore Roszak

Playful productivity

Dr Ted Trainer is a visiting Fellow chicken-diggingat the University of NSW. He invites us to go one step further than the noble pursuit for freedom from economic slavery. He suggest we turn work into fun.  Much of Ted’s work is invisible.  He explores the intricacies of social connections and aims to find ways to support inventive and creative thinkers.

On his alternative lifestyle education site at Pig-face Point, Sydney, Ted has a playful approach to food production. He shifts the focus from a sense of work to a sense of exploration and creation.

Ted says “Work doesn’t feel like work when you’re having fun”.   Part of his site was designed for fun (bridges, arches, islands, caves, etc.) and other parts have purpose (dams, rammed earth shed, cob oven, and home-made furniture from found branches.  He uses his site as a model to show people how to create an interconnected, well-resourced and equipped ‘village’ or housing complex.  Here is one of his students 3D models where we can see retrofits of whole suburbs to better connect the community, reduce waste and increase local production.demonstration model before & after peak oil

Creative adaptation

Ted is like a happy nutty professor escaped from the lab!   He has a lot of energy experiments (tidal energy, water wheels, methane gas, composting toilets, etc.) For years I had believed someone else that said that a methane converter couldn’t work in our cooler climate. Now I know that to be untrue.  Simple bio-gas chambers off composting toilets can work in warm-temperate zones.  Ted had one working off his toilet. If Ted, hadn’t bravely tried this, I wouldn’t have seen it for my eyes. He also had some low-tech stuff which demonstrated in a fun way, like a simple hose coiled to pump water as you turn it.

Essentially his experiments are not just about the individual successes or failures.  His efforts show that is worth trying new things and not just believing other people’s assertions. Ted has an inspiring attitude.  Some of Ted’s writings are available online at social sciences at University of New South Wales and at the simplicity institute.

This Video is a Ted Trainer Interview on ‘The Simpler Way’

Permaculture Zones

Permaculture Zoning in a bag
Permaculture Design Technique called Zoning, can be practiced on a wide range of scales as diverse from Farms to kitchen, to bags.

Zoning is a Permaculture design technique where we put the elements or items of a design in areas according to need. The needs of the item and our use of it. For instance, we need tea herbs, so we plant them in pots on the kitchen window sill, (zone 0) some more near our doorstep (Zone 1) and other types of mint that love a lot of space, can serve other purposes such as suppressing weeds and only need occasional attention (such as mint) further away, perhaps in Zone 3.  Permaculture Techniques such as Zoning are scale-able.  The design technique 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. This is similar to how we re-design a property by using fencing for the zones).

You can also view here a traditional view of permaculture zoning for a farm.