helen99: Gateway (Gateway)
Spent the better part of today using the import function at http://www.dreamwidth.org/misc/import.bml

The entries all imported successfully, as did the tags and the custom access groups.  However, the comments have not initiated after <strike>two</strike> four  hours.  The Info page at http://dw-news.dreamwidth.org/2826.html indicates that the number of people importing has increased to the point that it could take upward of 5 hours, though, so I will wait until tomorrow to look into it more.

Today was rather fun - We are taking it easy out in the woods this weekend.  Our creek, which had very little water all fall and winter, has suddenly begun going strong.  We've been putting little check dams all along the creek to allow the water to sink into the ground and collect more.  The theory is that this will assist in collecting the water into the ground, and encouraging the creek to flow longer during the year.  It is a seasonal creek right now, and we thought it would be great if it flowed year round across our property.  Here' are a couple of articles about check dams:



Jan. 23rd, 2009 11:13 am
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
I just got an email from Heathcote where [livejournal.com profile] rialian, [livejournal.com profile] laurelindel, and I took our permaculture intensive course. The email contained a link to the website for their upcoming permaculture intensive. http://www.heathcote.org/immersive.shtml

I noticed the picture immediately, and for a few seconds, wondered why everyone looked so familiar...

I'm behind the elbow of the guy to the left, and Rialian is in the background. I *think* that's [livejournal.com profile] laurelindel in front with a shovel, but I can't tell for sure.
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)

Dawn (the permaculture instructor) gave us this text and asked us to format it into four columns and fit it on two pages.

This was done.

It is... uh... very complete.

I like it, but I'm weird.

If you can get through this flier, you'll do great in the permaculture class. The flier is like the instructor - amusingly so.
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Our permaculture apprenticeship class just finished (I think that means we're now full-fledged apprentices). Mainly, we learned the basic permaculture language (including the word 'permaculture', which means permanent culture) and practiced applying the principles to our own immediate living spaces and to a portion of the acreage where the class was held. The apprenticeship convened one weekend per month in September, October, and December. Then we had January and February off, and then class resumed for one weekend per month in March, April, and May.

For the past several weeks we've been staying up late to write the final report and prepare the oral presentation for the class, both of which were due last weekend. The presentations consisted of the permaculture designs for our own dwelling places. We had been gathering information for the design all year, so that had to be distilled into a 10 minute oral. We all went slightly over the allotted time -- ours took 45 minutes (and that was average). Ours featured mushrooms, mushroom mycelium, and mycoremediation prominently, because we wanted to add something a little different than what everyone in the class already knew. People said they enjoyed the report, particularly the mushroom part.

Even though the anticipation of giving the presentation caused me some anxiety, it was a good opportunity to synthesize what we'd been learning and doing. We all came away with nice new certificates. So where do we go from here? [livejournal.com profile] unda_stella has asked us to do a design for her and we accepted! I figure the best way to get into this is to actually do some of it. Each place will be different. [livejournal.com profile] unda_stella's environment (so unlike our yard) is Sunny and Bright, and is in the Land of Lemons and Oranges, Passion Flowers and Palm Trees, Sand and Ocean... Ah, Zone 9, how I miss thee...
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
I'm trying to get my final permaculture report done before the 19th which is when our last class is. I've filled in about 2/3 of the final report outline so far, but there are still a lot of areas I haven't addressed yet.

I haven't written about how our design satisfies all the principles of permaculture yet, for example. I haven't addressed how each of the design elements meets the stated wants and needs of the client (in this case, the clients are Rialian and me). I haven't printed out handouts for "the clients" and also for the people who will be present at the presentation. I have not made a list of people and resources who could help us implement the design or provide insights on how to do it.

I still don't know how to build a passive solar hot water heater, for example, even though it was explained to me several times, and I read some websites. Even if I built it, I wouldn't know how to install it or how it would affect the longevity of my roof.

My knowledge is also weak in the areas of backup energy and backup water (for example, building a non-electric water distiller, building a water filter from scratch, how to purify water once it's filtered without using chemicals). Knowledge is also weak in the area of emergency waste management. I do not know how to build even a simple composting toilet (and we have the schematic diagrams and the wooden parts already). Nor do I know how to make a miniature, NON-SMELLY methane digester to produce a biogas alternative to natural gas (not one of the huge ugly things they have for cattle farms).

The diagrams I drew for my report are amateurish, and I'm embarrassed to show them in public. I should draw new ones, but I don't think I can do any better than the ones I drew. When I tried to draw some new ones, they came out even worse than the originals, and none of them are even remotely to scale, nor are things drawn in proper relation to other things in the yard.

On the 19th, we have to present this report orally to a bunch of people, some of whom may be people who just happened to get Heathcote's flier at the Faerie Festival. I saw two Heathcote members distributing "come one, come all" fliers that invited anyone to come.

I feel a bit discouraged right now. However, There are a few more edible things growing in the yard than there were last year - that's encouraging. I might get some cauliflowers, tomatoes, cabbages, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and oyster mushrooms this year. There's already some mint and rhubarb and wild ginger, and a patch of sunflowers. So I'm hoping.
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Side Job :p rescheduled for tomorrow. Two minutes after I stepped off the elevator and walked into their office, the power went out. Glad I wasn't *in* the elevator when it went out. A construction crew working in the area hit a power line, which affected a radius of a block or two (including my own office).

The fact that there was no power in my own office (and no window, so it was pitch black in there) meant I had a couple of hours to wander around in dangerous places. I went to the nursery and got:

2 tomato plants
1 blueberry bush
2 strawberry plants
2 cauliflower plants
2 broccoli plants
2 trellises

I underestimated the length of the two trellises. Luckily, I'd never unpacked my camping gear from last year's Thresholds (heh), so I had about 50 bungee cords, a 25' rope and two 3' ropes. That was enough to secure both trellises to the top of the car so I could take them home. There they reside now until I get off from work, going on the assumption that they'd be too much trouble to steal. It took me about half an hour to tie them down. By the time I finished battling with the trellises, the power was back on.

Anyway, here's the plan:

Stake the two tomatoes in ceramic containers with good drainage on the sunny side stoop.
Anchor the trellises on either side of the stoop about 2 feet away from the house. Start training the now-budding hearty kiwi up one of the trellises. Not sure what will go on the other one yet. Perhaps a maypop vine.
Put the 2 strawberry plants with the houtounyas inside the circular rock border in the back yard where the dead rowan (now removed) was - they'll get some sun there.

That leaves the blueberry and the vegetables (broccoli and cauliflowers). [livejournal.com profile] rialian, any ideas where to put those?

Edit after phone conversation - Suggestions so far: Put blueberries either in Garden Patch #3 or near the pine trees. They like acidic soil, and they'll get some sun either place - leaning toward Garden Patch #3. I'll ask them where they want to go. Maybe one of them can stay in a ceramic container and travel up one of the trellises. The vegetables will go in the keyhole patches by the fence.

My younger brother Jason said that he's not surprised that [livejournal.com profile] rialian is growing gooseberries, by the way. I'm not sure why the term "gooseberries" has stuck in his mind with respect to [livejournal.com profile] rialian, but ... it's Jason... The first time Jason heard the word "gooseberry", and heard the fruit described as "striated", he laughed uproariously hysterically for about 10 minutes (we never did figure out why)...
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Mostly for my future reference -- I'm interested in getting two of these eventually (still deciding on type):


Also trying to figure out exactly how to restructure the downspouts so they go to the catchment barrels, and if that entails buying an additional downspout piece, and if so, exactly how long it should be and how to install it. I guess I'll have to get the barrel first so I can see how tall it is.

I liked the fact that these (as opposed to discarded Pepsi berrels etc.) have a threaded spigot where a standard garden hose can be attached and the water used regularly (avoiding mosquitos). The water would also need to be treated for mosquitos with something that won't contaminate or hurt plants.

The Diverter also looked useful.

Without purification/filtration attached, the water would only be used for gardening.
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
It snowed here last night - not a whole lot, but enough to stick on all the leaves. It was supposed to do this in January, not NOW. Geeze. I already planted the berry bushes last week, thinking it would stay warm after that - one of them was starting to flower. The two kiwis were starting to bud too. Now I hope they make it.
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Found a bag of plug spawn in the box with the Reishi and Oyster mushroom kits. Now I'll have to figure out where the drill is. It might be upstairs in ... Rialian's closet. Aggggghhhh!!!!!!1 So ok, maybe it's not that bad. Well, yes it is.

Anway, the Black Currant, the Blackberry vine, and 5 houtounias arrived in the mail today. All planted (just to keep a record of things).

Any other ideas for what we should put where?
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Back from Permaculture intensive. Now to assimilate the notes... The workshop was held at Heathcote (http://www.heathcote.org), an intentional community which is trying to go more toward a path of sustainability. Their vision is to create a sustainability educational center that includes a Permaculture demonstration site for use in permaculture and organic gardening workshops. The focus of the current apprenticeship program is to give a needed boost to Heathcote's vision through the students' ideas, skills, and labor, and hopefully complete some of the planting for the permculture demonstration. This, in turn, would provide a foundation for possibly creating a branch of Gaia University at Heathcote where students could obtain credits toward Gaia U's Integrative Ecosocial Design degree program.

Last month's class centered on building the basic permaculture vocabulary, and on imparting the foundation concepts. The assignment was to create an As Is map of a project of our own devising. We chose our yard as the project and mapepd it out, more or less. After going over the As Is maps we'd created and brainstorning suggestions for each other's projects, this weekend focused on starting the permaculture demonstration site. The intention had been for us to address the problem of doing something with an area that had been totally disrupted by putting in a septic field - maybe doing something to restore the area. After looking at the history of best laid plans coming to nothing, though, the whole class kind of gravitated toward doing a design for the area immediately surrounding the cabin of the person who is most involved in bringing permaculture to Heathcote - In fact she is the only reason it is there at all. At first she resisted, because she *really* wants to fix that blighted area, but we broke it down kind of like this:

"You're the central point from which permaculture on this land will take hold. Therefore you are the Keystone for this ever happening. Therefore you have to be strenghtened and your position strengthened by getting a forest garden going right around your house, in your Zone 1. From there, other people will come in, will be attracted. The path from the educational center to your house should be the demonstration area, because that is the path you and everyone else will be taking. Besides, you will want to be able to pick breakfast on the way to the educational center".

In other words, by observation, we identified the path that she would be treading the most frequently, and recommended that we do the demo area there. This would take the least amount of effort, and would be easiest for her to maintain. That's the whole idea of permaculture - to design it so the effort and impact on the forest are minimized. Also, since that is her "Zone 1" (the area around her living quarters), she has more say over what happens there and could proceed without committee involvement.

During our interview with her, we had noticed that she was extremely stressed. She doesn't want to think only of herself and do her own little area, yet she knew that previously, they had tried to bite off more than they could chew, and had gotten nothing done. She was convinced that once again nobody would help her and all the designs and plans would come to nothing. But then you could see her slowly realize that if she nourished her own space, that this could be the heart from which the whole thing could finally live in manifest form. Also, if we made the design small enough, she would not be quite as dependent on anyone to make it happen. Assistance could come in the form of organic gardening workshops in which people came to learn gardening techniques by helping with the permaculture demo area.

Then we spent some time mapping out the designs - we worked in groups of three and came up with three designs, each one thinking in terms of what would make her happy. The next step will be to actually make it happen for her. Unfortunately they're extremely shortstaffed out there - of the people who live there only two attended the course, and one may or may not be committed to the project. It almost feels like she is entirely on her own with trying to create the educational center and the permaculture demo.

One of the people in the class brought up some interesting points: The resident group needs people who are committed to the work and the ability to reach a consensus within the group, before addressing the problems of a forest garden. Partially true. However, I think that making the design small enough so one or two people can handle it and addressing that small part for starters may actually serve to obtain that consensus. Once the rest of them see it work, I'm hoping they'll decide that they want a forest garden just like it. Then they can figure out how to connect the various spaces so they work together. The trick will be to persevere through several years with the first design, and see to it that the first little part does work.
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
It's off to Permaculture intensives for the weekend. Last chance to get my homework from last month's intensive done. I have to spend the rest of the night trying to finish my "As Is" map of the yard (the basic map of what we have now, which is what we have to work with).
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
I'll never make a farmer or a permaculturist. I want to let nature run wild and free and do whatever it wants. Who are we to tell nature what to do. Such a lofty creature is man. Right - that's why everything he touches crumbles to loathsome slag. I don't want to help people. I want most of them to disappear before they destroy the last vestige of beauty on this planet and put the earth's heart in a steel cage.

Some girl in the class was ranting about 'underpopulation'. I wanted to smack her. She was visulaizing 30 people having parceled out the Heathcote land, so every inch of it was being turned to some useful work. God forbid that the land should remain untouched and in a state of natural beauty, serving nobody's purposes but its own. It exists for its own sake and the sake of those creatures who dwell there. Who came up with the idea that nature is there for us to use, there to serve us?? If we foraged as the rest of the creatures do, and were subject to the same population controls, we would probably do no harm at all and create great fertilizer. Unfortunately, none of that is in place. My concept of elven permaculture (see end of post) is to assist in our own foraging capability - NOT to set up some sort of farm. The largest livestock I'd be interested in having would be wild mallards in a pond somewhere, from whom I'd ask to borrow a few eggs now and then.

The same "use every inch" malady (and the lack of any aesthetics when constructing a building) seems to afflict the planners at Four Quarters. Permaculture defines "Wilderness" as a "useful function" fortunately (Zone 5), but that is usually visualized as far away from the house, not something of which we are a part. But at least they consider it to be necessary, which is a grand step up from the rest of society. I guess at 4QF, "Turtle island" would be their Zone 5.

Why do they think this way? It's that old Work Ethic (TM). Things are never allowed to just play free for their own happiness. They have to be serving a useful function. Have you experienced how powerful the wood can be if JUST LEFT ALONE??? That's what I'm talking about. If things can be done without disturbing a place,I think it would yield a lot more and actually give back of its own accord. Think "visiting dignitary" rather than obligation. If you treat the land as if it is obligated to you, it will fight back. If you treat it like royalty from another realm, then maybe it will treat you better. Maybe not, but it's worth a try. Some of permaculture is like that. But as applied by the people in the class, no. They tread WAY too heavily, and are very human-centric.

No wonder Mollison was an alcoholic.

Feel free to trash this post if you disagree.

Edit - in reviewing this, I think I could live with an elven version of permaculture. If you must build, use structures that are aesthetic and whose contours and lines meld with the land, and hardly show. Use contours rather than harsh corners. Disguise things behind trees. Plant edible food where there are natural clearings in the forest rather than clearing vast tracts for yourself at the expense of everyone else in the forest.

And lo and behold, that's exactly what [livejournal.com profile] rialian has been doing for a year.

I realize that permaculture disturbs the land far less than any other farming method, especially if it employs edible forest gardening. It's just that I don't see most of its proponents as having a reverence for nature as it is. What they are trying to do is to serve humanity and avoid its mass extinction, which I suppose some people would find admirable. They at least want to form a relationship with nature, which is more than most.

But the problem remains that they see nature as something whose proper place is to serve them, instead of seeing themselves as an integral part of it.

Oh my...

Sep. 11th, 2006 04:33 pm
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Permaculture Ravers?

I know someone who might attend this. I'd be interested to hear what happens.
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
We spent the weekend at Heathcote - an intentional community that [livejournal.com profile] rhiannasilel told us about a while ago. They were offering a cob workshop, and for a once, we weren't already booked and they didn't cancel.

Read more... )
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
I just started reading "Introduction to Permaculture" by Bill Mollison. I love this old coot. Here's what he says in the Preface:

"I grew up in a small village in Tasmania. Everything that we needed we made. We made our own boots, our own metal works; we caught fish, grew food, made bread. I didn't know anyone who lived there who had only one job, or even anything that you could define as a job. Everybody worked at several things.

Until I was about 28, I lived in sort of a dream. I spent most of my time in the bush or on the sea. I fished, I hunted for my living. It wasn't until the 1950s that I noticed large parts of the system in which I lived were disappearing. Fish stocks started to collapse. Seaweed around the shorelines had thinned out. Large patches of the forest began to die. I hadn't realised until then that I had become very fond of them, that I was in love with my country.

After many years as a scientist with the CSIRO Wildlife Survey Section and with the Tasmanian Island Fisheries Department, I began to protest against the political and industrial systems I saw were killing us and the world around us. But I soon decided that it was no good persisting with opposition that in the end achieved nothing. I withdrew from society for two years. I did not want to oppose anything ever again and waste my time. I wanted to come back only with something very positive, something that would allow us all to exist without the wholesale collapse of biological systems." From Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison

Whatever solutions he developed, for whatever reason, the above puts words to how I feel a lot of the time - and I never had the opportunity to 'live in a dream' as he describes - but I know it should exist ... somewhere.
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
Permaculture.net: This website has a "reload" link that gives the many and varied definitions of permaculture. My favorite one of them was:

"Permaculture is the conscious design of `cultivated` ecosystems that have the diversity, stability, & resilience of natural ecosystems. It is a harmonious integration of people into the landscape in such a way that the land grows in richness, productivity, and aesthetic beauty. - Permaculture is an ethical design system for creating human environments that are ecologically sound & economically viable. Permaculture systems provide for their own needs, do not exploit or pollute, & are therefore sustainable. -- Peter Bane"

One definition that I didn't see involves careful observation of patterns and relationships between the existing lifeforms, and then trying to match energies with them (kind of like you would when trying to get a finicky horse or high-strung puppy to trust you). The result is a cooperative effort between the person and the land rather than a war, and the land begins to give voluntarily (with a minimum amount of work). The major work that goes into it is the observation of these patterns. If you want to add something, like a vegetable, fruit tree, berry bush, etc., you would first determine if the new addition would actually work with the existing ecosystem or if it would work against it. The same would apply to constructing a home, making a greenhouse, or planting a willow tree. A lot of trial and error may happen before getting it "right", but once it's in place, it keeps going without much work.

Another good link was Heathcote's Intro to Permaculture course (free, online).
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
This morning, [livejournal.com profile] rialian gave me a handful of cherry tomatoes from his garden. They were from a small hanging tomato plant, which seemed to work best, because the bugs left them alone. I had them for a snack just now and they were delicious. Yay home grown food.

Speaking of home grown food, our much anticipated book order, Permaculture: A Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison just arrived. Needless to say, [livejournal.com profile] rialian has pretty much devoured this enormous book in one sitting (well, maybe not all of it, but a good portion of it).

Bill Mollison is an astounding and wonderful old elf (78 years old), who has dedicated most of his life to designing, developing, spreading, teaching, and implementing permaculture throughout the world. It's just now taking off, after 50 years of effort. I'm glad he lived to see the day. His book, which was $80 when I purchased it, now goes for $127 on Amazon or Borders.com. Suddenly Mollison is pretty hot, which is good, because he deserves to be. Note that it still goes for $79.14 plus shipping and handling from Australia if you buy it directly from http://www.tagari.com, in which case the proceeds go to the Permaculture Institute.

I especially liked what Mollison's people are doing in Aceh, Indonesia (of 2004 tsunami fame). These guys are serious, their actions are backed by reproducible results, they're not just some fringe nutcases, they walk their talk, and they research, design, and implement solutions rather than obsessing about millions of interlocking and self-perpetuating problems.

Permaculture: A Designer's Manual is the main teaching textbook used in the curriculum of Mollison's Permaculture Institute in Australia. To give you an idea of the level of proficiency required by the Institute before offering a diploma or certification of any kind: In order to get a degree from the Permaculture Academy (an extension of the Permaculture Institute), you would have to do at least 2 years (4 years is preferred) of hands-on field work in your chosen area of expertise. Areas of expertise include education, media, site development, site design, community services, finance and business, technical development, resource development, architecture and building, and research.

Like I said, they are serious, and they've thought this through. There may be pieces missing or pieces that could be improved, but I haven't found them yet. To completely oversimplify for the sake of brevity, their approach encompasses a philosophy of treading lightly on the earth by restructuring human habitats to work with the existing environment instead of against it (existing plant and animal ecosystem + direction and availability of sunlight + available water + available space) by:

1) creating balanced, sustainable, edible, LOW MAINTENANCE (for the busy commuter) ecosystems in very small spaces (such as yards) and making use of wasted spaces, for example lawns, to feed yourself.

2) putting back into the ground what you take out (the concept of waste becomes nonexistent - compost, reuse, or recycle everything).

3) making the best possible use of building location, orientation, and materials for energy efficiency.

I think there's a lot more to it than that, though. More later (after I read the book)...
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)


http://www.sentientlandscape.com/ -- When I saw this website I literally burst into tears (and I don't do that often). [livejournal.com profile] rialian saw the whole episode and made a valiant attempt to boodle me back to some semblance of sanity. I wrote them a letter detailing how very far away they are from where I live, and asking if they know anyone like them around Maryland. Haven't heard back from them yet. Maybe I should have put something other than "Golly Darn It!!!!" in the subject line...
helen99: A windswept tree against a starlit sky (Default)
"The prototypical formal "urban" garden was invented in ancient Rome. It featured paved terraces, geometrical and highly formal beds edged with clipped evergreen hedges, topiaries, and statuary. The Roman "Manicured" look screamed, "Look! I have slaves!" because it was so incredibly labor intensive. The manicured look is still very energy intensive, though these days a lot of the work is accomplished with machines and chemicals.

The cost of hands-off gardening are still at least as high as they were in Pliny's day, when he complained: "He whose fields are cultivated in his absence by slave labor, agitates his fields and cultivates his own future desperation.". The desperation Pliny was referring to included loss of topsoil, loss of fertility, and erosion induced by agriculture and logging. Modern agriculture still suffers from the old complaints, but has added chemically polluted soil, air, and water to the ancient list."

Excerpted from Eat More DIRT: Diverting and Instructive Tips for Growing an Organic Garden, by Ellen Sandbeck.

April 2010



RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags