Permaculture Discovery Part I

So the list below that kind of goes on is the comprehensive one I was given in my Permaculture Design Certification class. It covers a lot, but I like Dave Holgrem’s Design Principles below those because his seem clear, practical and easy to understand. I’ll enjoy discussing them at the beginning of the year with my Permaculture Discovery partners as we explore how to use the principles and ethics to live full, abundant and holistic lives.

We’ll start by working with water in the landscape. When we are done listening and playing games, we’ll be staking out a swale on the steep hill in my backyard using a simple triangle rigged with a homemade plumb bob and center line. See the video below.

The second gathering will work on sheet mulching an area in one of our yards. See instructions and example in the second video below.  Happy Permaculture experimenting in 2011.

Ethics (core moral values)

Care of Earth

Care of People

Redistribute the Surplus

Principles (fundamental tenets or rules for conduct)

Observe and Interact with Natural Systems

Practice Conservation

Value Diversity and Edges


Many Functions for each Element

Many Elements for each Function

Catch and Store Energy

Appropriate Scale

Attitudes (manners, feelings, positions to guide action)

The problem is the solution

Yield is only limited by the imagination of the designer

Least change for the greatest effect

Relinquish power

Integrate rather than segregate

Respond creatively to change

Strategies (goals to prioritize and focus efforts)

Too many to list – specific to a particular system or area of interest

e.g. Water

Capture and store the water on site

Use water as many times as possible in the system

Conserve water as much as possible

Water leaving the system should be clean

Techniques (specific methods for obtaining a goal)

Too many to list – specific to a particular system or area of interest

e.g. Water

Dig swales on sloped land to spread it-slow it-sink it

Use a front-loading washing machine

Install a rooftop rainwater catchment system

Capture and use greywater

David Holgrem’s Permaculture Design Principles

1)Observe and Interact
2) Catch and Store Energy
3) Obtain a Yield
4) Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback
5) Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
6) Produce No Waste
7) Design from Patterns to Details
8) Integrate Rather than Segregate
9) Use Small and Slow Solutions
10) Use and Value Diversity
11) Use Edges and Value the Marginal
12) Creatively Use and Respond to Change


Slow is Beautiful


I just signed the Priciples of Slow Money. Going out in the huge unending rainfall that is turning our drought ridden landscape a gorgeous green these last few days has made me long for slow. People around here are rushing everywhere, but I guess mostly to malls, because that is the main feature of this Woodland Hills, California suburban setting.

These few days before Christmas some of us slower locals have to muster our courage to go to our regular grocery stores. In a few weeks we start our new CSA bi-weekly food deliveries, but we’ll still have to shop for the rest of what we eat. Slow Food is another movement taking the world by storm. I need to discover more about those movements. So far I have only seen requests for me to pay some money to join them, which, without income is a difficult thing to do.

I try to grow things here. After a year of living in this place, I have dug a small swale,(video example above) to slow and spread water, planted several fruit trees, pruned and fertilized the orange and lemon trees so that at least there were a couple of small fruits on them this year.

Mostly though, I am trying to grow soil where almost none exists anymore. It has been lost to pavements that sweep rain water full of topsoil to the drains and to the sea. We have sheet mulched in places, started raised beds, planted many seeds that didn’t make it, covered the front yard with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries as well as hibiscus, a pomegranate tree, a gorgeous fast-growing plum tree and a hummingbird garden.

The vast hill behind our house holds huge trees, a totally wild zone so steep it’s a hands and knees crawl to the top, and some badly eroding landscape. So far what we have planted that’s still there are artichokes, a peach tree, two passion fruit vines, and a bunch of wild garlic. I have to say it looks untouched back there. I love the huge eucalyptus trees, but haven’t discovered how to make things grow out there without much sun. And what do you do with the huge bark that constantly peels off eucalyptus trees?

Permaculture is a great field of experimentation. Today, I’ll love this place I have been planted and stay tuned for the next step in this great adventure of co-creating with nature the slow way.

Business and Spirituality

I love The Blue Economy, Gunter Pauli’s work on creating a new age of business worldwide. It makes so much more sense to me than all the rest. But I’m also aware today of my desire to seek my spiritual bones, to become one with all that is, to lay down my barriers to community and enter into the ONE.  I think my spiritual path is this poem by Rabia-the most influencial female poet in Islam’s Sufi tradition. She says:

Slicing Potatoes
It helps,
putting my hands on a potato, on a broom
in a wash
tried painting,
but it was easier to fly slicing

To me that’s a lot like Permaculture  and the Blue Economy. Getting my hands in the soil or converting coffee grounds into mushrooms for food, replenishing the lost topsoil in any way I can. That is a big part of my spiritual practice, though I read the poems of my mystic beloveds, try to give when I’m asked stepping back from the lonely, sad place our culture promotes. I love going from grasping to sharing. Not that I don’t sometimes fall into that lie that says we are not all beautiful parts of one sacred whole, but once in a while I see usually when I’m digging in the earth.

None of Us Are Free/Economic Inequality Causes Crime, Depression, Early Death, etc.

With so many billions of dollars swirling around from Washington and so many unemployed, underemployed friends, family, etc. I think it’s time to talk about economic inequality and the affects it has on humans.

An amazing article by “Yes Magazine,”interviews  British epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson about what happens when a society has unequal distribution of wealth. The most telling statement to me was,” Inequality affects our ability to trust and our sense that we are part of a community. In a way, that is the fundamental mediator between inequality and most of these outcomes, through the damage it does to social relations. For instance, in more equal countries or more equal states, two-thirds of the population may feel they can trust others in general, whereas in the more unequal countries or states, it may drop as low as 15 percent or 25 percent.” Read the whole interview here

He is talking about Us here, that is the U.S. and the difference between us and Sweden or France and even the difference of what state in the U.S. we live in and how unevenly distributed the wealth is.

Yesterday, I was part of a debate about whether the documents that WikiLeaks leaked should have been made public. I was astonished that some people who I thought were close to me politically thought it was wrong! Here are a couple of the reasons given.

1. Didn’t trust people with the information. Dolts would use it to cause more harm.

2. It was like a schoolyard tattletale.

The first thing seems like the result of living in an unequal, consumer society and the second seems like judging whistle blowing as bad behavior because peers who may have been doing harmful things should be protected, kind of a “gansta” mentality, in my thinking.

All this brings me to the giant need we have for community and sharing. A very interesting conclusion of the above study is that in order to deal with many of the ills of our society we need to bring more economic equality to our societies. Another point Wilkinson made is that we are not consumers because we are selfish but because we are such social beings that it is extremely important to us to be accepted by our community. The anxiety and mistrust of fellow human beings this produces deeply affects both the poor and the rich. In other words, poverty is not the problem, but inequality is what needs to be solved.

My work in trying to spread Permaculture without the huge expense ($1200 and up) it takes to get Permaculture Certification. There may be a place for getting certified, but it has become one of the main means by which Permaculture designers get income and share the knowledge. I do feel like knowledge is power and that with holding information is a way of controlling the masses. I consider the soldier who leaked the documents to be a huge hero and am grateful that there was a place he could send what he found.

We are all living with more anxiety and fear these days post 911, but most of mine comes from watching our rights get eroded by governments who claim to be protecting me and are probably scanning this post for reasons to put me on some list…..Or maybe it’s because I live in such an unequal society! There has not been such a vast divide in income in this country since 1928, the year before the Great Depression.