Wednesday Vignette: Found Japanese Garden


This rocks and moss at the Winant Park Trails in Concord, NH (photo taken last weekend) looked to me like an unconstructed Japanese garden, with hills and valleys, or rock mountains and moss islands: “In Japan, each element of [the] gardens is symbolic; stones represent mountains, sand represents water, and moss represents islands. The moss and stone are usually organized into groups and positioned in sand; often times they actually correspond to real surroundings. Using a highly stylized method, Japanese garden design seeks to duplicate the tranquility of nature, and, through meditation, take the viewer of the garden to a peaceful, serene place.”

No need for duplication here in New Hampshire — nature, serene and peaceful, is already assembled.

Wednesday Vignette is brought to us by Flutter & Hum
Quoted source: Moss Acres.

Book Notes: The Permaculture Handbook :: Chapter Eight

Here are my highly personal notes on Chapter Eight: Labor — Can You Lend A Helping Hand? in Peter Bane’s The Permaculture Handbook (2012). Any misrepresentations of Bane’s words or work are mine alone and completely unintentional. Notes on each chapter linked here.


“Most people can live with chaos for a while if they are reassured that it’s being contained and managed.” — Peter Bane 

Traditionally, farming households got labour from having kids and by building extensive networks for social relations (extended family, friends, neighbours). Because of planet overpopulation (and demographic trends), large families can’t be the source of farm labour in the future, so building social alliances is a good strategy; “[c]all it barn raising for the 21st century.”

spouse building a screenhouse, July 1999

In 1900, average U.S. household was 4.6 people; in 2000, it was 2.6 people. (Discussion of demographics trends during that time period.) But since the 1980s, “hard times … have meant that more people share housing” — adult children linger at home or return, the elderly live with others, couples who might have divorced stay together longer.

“The household of one person is a modern phenomenon. Beyond a few recognizable social roles — the witch, the woodsman, the shepherd, the hermit — solitary living made no sense in any traditional society running on the limits of solar energy. It presented no economies of scale, no benefit from division of labor, and it imposed harsh limits on the capabilities of the individual. Redistribution of wealth from the fossil fuel economy … has made single living possible and indeed attractive for hundreds of millions.”

farmer made of Legos, weeding, Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, VA, July 2016

But households that want to farm face big challenges that multiperson households don’t; “there are adaptive strategies, but generally they involve getting help. … Multi-adult households (three or more persons) have a significant labor advantage even though they are now a small minority.” Banes says a household of three adults is nearly ideal to garden-farm a small plot of 3/4 to 2-1/2 acres, except that “jealousy and asymmetry among the various dyadic relations tends to be corrosive.” Four adults can do anything he’s written in the book, and two couples with similar interests and goals living next door to each other would be advantageous.  Two people can manage up to 2 acres and make a living as farmers in a working season of 8 months, if they have access to urban markets. Children from ages 8-16 can contribute substantially.

kids interested in Urban Pavilion “backyard chickens” exhibit at Boston Flower Show, March 2016
adults and kids in a permaculture garden in NH, July 2012

“Garden farming is work, but also it involves managing complexity.” Physical exertion: tilling, planting, hauling, mulching, moving animals, maintaining infrastructure, weeding, pruning, coppicing, harvesting, processing. For major work — digging 600 feet of trenches, post-hole digging, chipping the top of a fallen tree — rent a mechanical tool for a day or week. “The permaculture approach in regard to all types of repetitive labor is to keep it to a minimum by design.”

me hauling crocosmia and cosmos stems to compost, August 2017

The essence of permaculture is to “concentrate beneficial energies on the site, scatter hostile forces, and conserve your own energies by using gravity, proximity, and connection to avoid unnecessary steps, transport, and work.”

spouse carrying some materials to make vegetable garden fence, May 2017

Two conflicting demands on garden farmer: to grow and harvest crops, and to build the farm (all the while perhaps holding down a job, raising kids, preparing meals, living an ordinary daily life), and “each task makes the other harder before they become mutually supportive.” You could farm in warm weather and build in cold, you could work a full-time job while building the farm and then slowly move to cropping.

Get Rid of Your Lawn: “Lawns represent a massive expenditure of energy and money that produces no crop; more fertilizer is used on North American lawns than by the entire agriculture of India. … Why do we perpetuate these cultural palimpsests? The psychology is largely one of keeping the deep dark woods at bay, being able to see predators coming at us from a distance, and emulating the rich. Some of these reasons have instinctive roots that we must respect, but this manifestation of our feelings of fear and envy needs a good shaking out. The genuine psychological need for open vistas can be met with very little grass and strategically placed long views. … Looking out over your garden can be just as liberating psychologically. … Apart from small areas for amenity … there’s no reason to grow grass except to feed livestock.” Grass is a poor garden-bed edge because it’s always encroaching [too true].

High Line (New York City) lawn with crocuses, March 2014

Stop Churning the Soil: Tilling is dangerous because it “exposes soil life to destructive forces and increases erosion dramatically.” Keep soil covered with cover crops or mulch, cultivate perennials, develop mulch systems. [He doesn’t discuss sheet-mulching in the text in this chapter but he has a photo of it.]

Plant Once, Harvest Many Times: “Perennials are the heart of any ecosystem. Nature uses annuals (what ecologists call weeds) to cover bare soil. Period. Annuals are opportunists that lurk on the fringes of more stable systems, waiting for a disturbance. In nature they blow in, drift in or germinate in the new sunlight, exploiting the suddenly available resources of solar energy, water and nutrient. Seen in another light, weeds are nature’s paramedics, first on the scene to repair damaged soil. They accumulate minerals dynamically in their tissues. As they die, these become available to other plants through the action of soil organisms. Once the soil begins to recover fertility, the annuals give way to longer-lived plants, a process called succession. Conventional agriculture has adapted its practices to create disturbance and prevent succession so that our field crops, which are mostly annual weeds, can continue to grow. … Perennials are better able to handle fluctuations in weather; their roots are deeper, and they will grow in almost any warm season regardless of when rains or frost come. Most importantly, perennials don’t have to be replanted.”

perennial sea kale at Paradise Lot, Holyoke, MA, June 2016

The remainder of the chapter discusses further how to partner with others through vertical ties (adult-child, older landowner-younger farmer, mentor-trainee, etc.) and horizontal ties (peers, neighbors, nearby siblings, former classmates, coworkers, etc.); how to create an equitable distribution of risks and rewards; building trust among partners; holding volunteer days on your land; and so on.

There’s a small chart of the garden farming year, with month, tasks, and labor demand (low to high).



Featured image (top image) is friends on a garden tour at another friend’s permaculture property, looking at problem areas, giving suggestions, learning from her experiences, etc., in Sept. 2015.

Book Notes: The Permaculture Handbook :: Chapter Seven

Here are my highly personal notes on Chapter Seven: Land — Scales and Strategies in Peter Bane’s The Permaculture Handbook (2012). Any misrepresentations of Bane’s words or work are mine alone and completely unintentional. Notes on each chapter linked here.


“Everyone needs access to land — for walking, for playing, for contemplating the beauty of nature — especially in cities. But nature is not a pet, and providing land as a support for health and spirit is a remnant of a far deeper and more complex relationships of humans to land. The most important bond between us and the earth is that we eat what it provides. We developed the habit of walking and running in order to pursue game, to roam in search of roots and berries. We contemplated the infinite complexity of land and sky around us in the process of stalking animals, netting fish, and searching for ripe seeds.” — Peter Bane 

The most important bond between us and the Earth is that we eat what it provides.

Everyone should grow a little food, even if it’s sprouts on a windowsill, mushrooms in a basement, and tomatoes in a pot on the patio or balcony.

growing sprouts (April 2015)

Standard U.S Diet: Americans eat 2,000 lbs/year each, which is 3,800 calories per day, 40% above recommended daily allowance of 2,700 calories. 

Current U.S. diet consists (by weight, not by calories) of 30% milk and dairy, 20% vegetables, 14% fruits, 13% meat, 10% cereals, 7% sugar, 4.5% fat, 2% nuts, legumes, and other foods (not = to 100% because of rounding). Fats have 20x the calories per pound as vegetables. The same diet measured by calories is 25% calories from fats, 22% from cereals, 15% from meat, 14% from sugar, 10.5% from dairy, 6% from veggies, 5% from fruit, and 2.5% from nuts and legumes. [I’m a bit confused by the inclusion of fats in the list — aren’t fats in all these other items, like dairy, meat, grains, nuts, almost everything? Does he mean that dairy is just milk and cheese, and fats are just what we take in from butter, oils, margarine, etc?]

“The nutritional content of food has declined since the advent of industrial agriculture due to the destruction of soil fertility wrought by tillage and chemicals. … [P]ound for pound, fruits and vegetables deliver much higher levels of these essential nutrients than any other food group, though nuts, organ meat, whole grains and legumes — and to some extent dairy products — contain significant amounts of particular and needed nutrients.” Most fats and sugars, which make up 40% of Americans’ calories, don’t have much nutrition. (Honey, maple syrup, butter, coconut oil, hemp oil, and olive oil do have some minerals or essential fatty acids in them.)

honey tasting at Savannah Bee, St. Simons Island, GA, Dec. 2015

Another way to examine food intake is to “measure the amount of land required to grow the food. This gets to the heart of the issue, because land is becoming a limiting factor for the survival and health of humanity. The 2,000 pounds of food eaten per person per year in the US come from three acres of crop and pasture land. In the aggregate, it takes some 900 million productive acres of farm and ranch land to feed the population of the United States.” The U.S. has cropland under cultivation of more than 300 million acres, and pasture and rangeland of 600 million acres, “but the US is still a net food importer. Most of the crop acreage in the US is planted to four commodities: corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. These are converted by the industrial system into sugar, animal feed, ethanol, paints and inks, food supplements and hundreds of feedstocks for industry. Very little human food — mainly bread and cereals — comes directly from these four crops.” Only about 3% of crop  acreage in the U.S. grows fruits, vegetables, nuts and other legumes.

“The broad picture is one of very few farmers raising large quantities of commodity crops, mostly in monocultures, with the labor intensive and nutrient-dense components of the food system offshore or managed with immigrant labor. Food-miles are high, energy costs are unsupportable and there is very little resilience in the system.”

Biointensive gardening – Alan Chadwick and John Jeavons. Well-studied garden-scale agriculture. They can grow a balanced plant-based diet for one person for a year on .09 acres (4,000 square feet), of which only 1,200 square feet are actually used for food crops, the rest devoted to growing compost crops to improve soil fertility.

Somewhere between these two poles of inefficiency and hyper-efficiency is a system of regenerative permanent agriculture for most of us.

A New National Diet: See image below for a diet Banes feels “would be acceptable to most North Americans for its variety, level of fats, protein, and bulk, and that could be grown and foraged by smallholder methods in suburban front and back yards and ’empty lot’ pastures.”


Bane mentions the non-tillage methods of Masanobu Fukuoka for grains and legumes.

The meat allotment is envisioned to include rabbit, poultry, and some lamb, pork, and goat, supplemented by wild game; a little beef might be possible in some farming situations. Fish would replace some meat needs.

© Mike Schiell

Fats would come from animals, in lard or goose fat. [No, not happening here!]

If all the methods he suggests (I’ve listed only a few) were adopted across the U.S., we could feed ourselves on 1/3 the acreage now being used, or on about 5% of the land area of the lower 48 states.

Scales of Production: Garden farms will emerge at five different scales:

Tiny City Lot (6,000 – 11,000 square feet): Emphasis has to be on foods with the most nutrition per square foot. Would include bees, chickens and ducks, pigeons, quail, rabbits, guinea pigs.

asparagus, hoop house, et al. at Paradise Lot (which is 1/10 acre or 4,300 square feet) in Holyoke, MA, June 2016

Multi-Lot or Suburban Plots (Microfarms; 1/4 to 3/4 acre): [Our property is 3/4 acre] Could “achieve a significant fraction of self-provision with some surplus for local trade.” Grow high-value crops for income. Keep medium-sized animals such as sheep, goats, geese, pigs. Aquaculture. Extensive tree and shrub crops. This size system needs a full-time summer farmer. Three-quarters of an acres is enough to support a 40-share subscription plan with 20 weeks of surplus, though it does depend a bit on your climate.

my dedicated veggie garden in June 2016, with transplants and seeds: peas, arugula, tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, squash, chard, and green beans

McMansion Redux or Green Island Plots (3/4 acre to 2.5 acres): Could be one big lot or some contiguous lots. Could support commercial intensive vegetable operation yielding a full income ($40K+), much of it from an acre of berries, OR mixed-farm provisioning for a household of 4-8 people. Could have several goats or a small milk cow. To farm for a living, you need 2 acres or more, though you can earn some living on less; “the challenge is to find a property that you can pay for from a modest living.” Helps to have some savings before you start.

Mini-Farm (2.5 to 8 acres, from land in the era before subdivisions). Nursery crops, fruit crops (vineyard, cider orchard), rotational grazing of various livestock, egg and meat sales, some agroforestry or aquaculture, plus elements of the smaller scale lots. Could provision household of 8-12 people.

Green Acres (8-25 acres): Extensive aquaculture. Rotational grazing of large animals is possible. Specialty woodland crops. Artisanal farming (cheese- or wine-making). Could be developed as co-housing with ready labor and captive market on site.

Strategies for Access to Land: “Don’t buy very much house — just what you need. Look for modest houses on larger lots — these will generally be older. A garage or shed is a welcome feature; a basement is less useful unless it has a direct entry door from the outside. If you live in a dicey or changing neighborhood but have an OK house, it may be possible to find a vacant lot across the street or down the block, or a house with more space to cultivate. Look for blocks with neighbors who will stay put, who have kids or who garden. This is very place specific, but clues may be flower beds, unusual paint schemes, statuary, well-occupied front porches.” Talks about urban homesteading. Probably should not pay more than $100,000 for a property — maybe land with a camper-trailer, then build as you can. Can also rent land, or rent out land, or buy land with others (Bane goes into some depth about this).

painted Baltimore rowhouse with crocuses in bloom, March 2014

Reclaiming the Commons: [See my page on Bane’s book dedication for discussion of the commons.] Another “method of sharing land is to use common land and resources.” Neglected land — roadside and median strips, parking verges, road edges, and in economically depressed places, houses, lots, and large tracts may have become derelict: “The public interest is served when local people take stewardship of these abused landscapes.”

chicory alongside road near a CVS pharmacy in Roanoke, VA, July 2016.

Qualities of Land: Best to have land with some elevational change but mostly flat and only gently sloping [this describes my land!]. The house shouldn’t be at the bottom of the landscape but in the middle of a gently sloping bit. Land on broad ridges can be good, land on narrow ridges isn’t. Some of the land should face south, southeast, or southwest. Condition of soil is a minor factor so long as it’s not boggy or pure sand, because you can improve soil tilth. Usually not a good idea to settle a forested tract. Consider access to the land, easements, traffic. Consider subsurface rights, like mining or drilling. Can you farm your front yard? Is there public transit, or can you bike safely to services? And lots more things to think about!

when our neighbours had alpacas in the front yard for a 1-year 4H project, May 2011 … I miss those cuties.


Featured image (top image) is of cherry tomatoes in a window box, in Rockland, Maine, Aug. 2013.

Book Notes: The Permaculture Handbook :: Case Study A

Here are my highly personal notes on the first of four case studies, Case Study A: Renaissance Farm, Bloomington, Indiana, in Peter Bane’s The Permaculture Handbook (2012). Any misrepresentations of Bane’s words or work are mine alone and completely unintentional. Notes on each chapter linked here.


“Year four (2009) was also the year of the fence, when garden yields had grown  to the point of attracting significant predation by deer, a herd of which loitered in the neighborhood, smoking cigarettes and comparing notes about their favorite organic vegetable snacks (Renaissance Farm being the best salad bar for several miles around).” — Peter Bane 

photos from Case Study A (Bloomington, IN)

The property for this case study (2006) was a .7 acres property on flat land, in an established suburban neighbourhood two miles from a city, at elevation 820 feet, USDA zone 6b-7a, with 44 inches of precipitation, in Indiana. The two small houses (and “decrepit shed”) and land were located in a 1-mile neighbourhood of 54 houses, none of whose owners gardened (one had a couple of small fruit trees) and most didn’t even grow ornamental plants. It was transformed into a garden farm selling bedding and nursery plants, seeds, salad greens and herbs, some veggies; other services were also offered, including consulting, teaching/apprenticeships, and publishing.

The purpose with this property — owned by the book’s author, Peter Bane, and his partner, Keith Johnson — was to “establish a permaculture demonstration and achieve a good measure of household self-reliance emphasizing perennials.”

They started with a yard that was lawn and pasture grasses, with some mature trees on the property. The two houses need a lot of repair and renovation, which took about three years. (Bane details their financial situation and loans.) Because the houses took a lot of time and money, the garden farm was slow in developing.

First year (2006): The front yard was “recontoured … into raised beds [with] … drainage ditches to divert runoff from the building foundations.” Salvaged fruiting shrubs and small trees they brought with them from North Carolina were transplanted. They planted out salad greens and flowers and some perennials. A small pond was built and eventually stocked with goldfish. Neighbours began to notice.

Second year (2007): Removal and major thinning of existent trees ( = four cord firewood in new woodshed). Cleared a weedy neglected area and installed a 10,000 gallon cistern (plus underground plumbing and hydrants) for water collection and irrigation. Built a 20′ x 48′ high-tunnel greenhouse for salad crops and herbs and hardy greens for winter. Continued to bring in mulch, wood chips, compost, and straw to build the soil.

Year three (2008): They had enough garden surplus to sell some at the local farmer’s market and to neighbors who stopped by. Installed new metal roofs and gutters for a water catchment system; using water from rain for the yard, the laundry, and one toilet, they reduced their water use from 8,000 gallons/month in Year One to below 1,000 gallons/month. Planted 23 fruit trees (apples, crabapples, pears, Asian pears, plums, peaches, cherries) and fruiting shrubs (thornless blackberries, black raspberries, currants, gooseberries, plus a large mulberry, and some fig trees were already present on the property).  They began to be able to harvest and store a variety of vegetables, though the soil was still developing.

more photos from Case Study A (Bloomington, IN)

Year four (2009): A wetter and cooler spring and summer than previously meant some yields decreased (e.g., tomatoes) and some increased (e.g., berries). First yield from some of the fruit trees. An intern spurred the keeping of bees, with some colonies making it through winters (to 2012, when the book was published) and others dying and being replaced. Garden yields were now attracting deer, so fences were installed, and 200 saplings of small-medium trees were planted 18″ apart on three sides of the lot (eventually to become a dense hedge). They built another woodshed, which they filled by foraging in their neighborhood. They extended an above-ground root cellar near the cistern.

active beehives in Windsor, Vermont, Oct. 2016

Year five (2010): Building a large covered front porch with a solar array on it. Added four small ponds in front of the greenhouse.

Year six (2011): Plans included major expansion of outbuildings — barn, potting shed, workshop, quest quarters, another cistern, sauna, animal housing, composting toilet. (Bane notes that they did erect the barn that year and started on the cistern.)


“How does all this add up? And what lessons can we learn from this relatively young system?” Part of his response is that “[w]e are debt-free, firewood-rich, and approaching carbon-neutral. We have both excluded our main garden pests (deer) and increased connectivity with our neighbors.” Small mammals, however, “remain troublesome.” Weed pressure is still high and there’s not enough ground cover yet. They hope to add rabbits (meat) and poultry (meat and eggs).

small mammal (groundhog), Longwood Gardens, PA, April 2016

Bane notes that other people think they’ve done a lot in a short time, but it doesn’t feel that way to them. Their challenges included having jobs already (one full-time home-based, one part-time), and “[b]eing middle-aged when we started here (and coming with a certain reaction to primitive living from too long in the woods), we chose to buy low-cost existing housing.” That meant “we got the liability of compromised design [e.g., the houses are situated the wrong way for solar gain] and worn-out infrastructure.”

But their example has changed things in their suburban neighborhood: Their neighbors started a vegetable garden in 2009 and got 30 chickens; the woman with fruit trees also planted vegetables, got bees, and built a chicken coop; and the neighborhood now includes a grass-based livestock farm with 9 or 10 cattle from time to time.

lean-to shed and chicken tractor at Foundwell Farm, Pembroke, NH, May 2015.


Book Notes: The Permaculture Handbook :: Chapter Six

Here are my highly personal notes on Chapter Six: A Garden Farming Pattern Language in Peter Bane’s The Permaculture Handbook (2012). Any misrepresentations of Bane’s words or work are mine alone and completely unintentional. Notes on each chapter linked here.


“In order to take advantage of the unplanned devolution of economic and social complexity and work successfully within the rhythms of nature, it is sometimes required to move quickly and often necessary to wait. Projects will stutter along as labor, weather, budget, materials, and insight permit. This is not a bad thing.” — Peter Bane 

This is the longest chapter in the book, 38 pp. Bane begins it with:

“I offer this language as an aid to designing permaculture systems on urban and suburban properties and for the creation of garden farms at whatever distance from city centers. Each pattern consists of a problem statement and a solution, with each problem being a common conflict or demand in the terrain of garden farming that needs to be resolved, and each solution being a directive about how to solve it by placing and shaping landscape, building, and social elements.”

Each of these ideas relates to one or more of the other ideas.

1- Landscape Catchment: We have an obligation to slow the descent of water through catchments. Keep riparian edges covered with trees. Terraces. Restore wetlands. Store water high and release it harmlessly. Hold water in ponds and dams.

2- City-Country Fingers: Metropolitan areas in North America average 2 acres per person overall, with cities proper averaging 5 people per acre — not dense compared with “Manhattan or older European and Asian cities, but in many ways more appropriate for a low-energy future.” Encourage public-transit-oriented development. Farmers markets on the edges. Edible landscape. Bicycle boulevards (safe thoroughfares for slow traffic).

farmers market at Union Square in New York City, June 2012

3- Agricultural Terrain: Allow 1/2 acre or more for cultivation per homestead. Place farm settlements to optimize productivity of the land, while minimizing energy costs of shelter and access to markets. Create and preserve woodlands and plant farm shelterbelts. Place houses in clusters of 6-12 homes, oriented to the sun.

4- Working Neighborhoods and Ecovillages: Self-reliant community is optimal at 500 people (250-1000 span), across cultures. (Other optimal group sizes: 3-7 for a work group; 40 for classes.) Should provide access to food, housing, education, clothing, jobs, sociability, healthcare, spiritual practice. Needs 300-3,000 acres of land.

5- Water: Source and Force of Life: Catch water on ridges, roofs, cisterns. Retain runoff. Store it. Conserve it.

rainwater gushing into (and over) one of our rain barrels, Aug. 2017

6- Forested Ridges: “Reforest and maintain permanent tree cover on steep uplands and all slopes of more than 20%.” The species should be weighted toward natives but also include economically valuable and edible plants.

7- House Cluster: “Most of us meet our social and common cultural needs amongst a circle of 30-40 people. Studies have shown that most people limit interactions with neighbors to the houses immediately adjacent and also directly across alleys or streets where traffic is light.” Six to twelve houses clustered provides mutual support for hard times. Facilitate chance meetings by the arrangement of driveways and mailboxes. Trees form privacy screen between neighbours. Ensure that every house in the cluster is approachable.

8- Living in the Garden: “Plant productive trees, shrubs, and other perennials along streets, in parks, and around public buildings. Encourage grazing and harvesting for home use. … Give away edible perennials to support the spread of small orchards and forest gardens.” Have outdoor common rooms.

9- Woodland Mosaic: Humans prefer the niche at the edge of savannahs and forests: “Thus we open clearings in wooded regions to plant crops and surround our homes with lawns. In grassland terrain we shelter our houses with trees. The most food-productive landscapes will take the form of a woodland mosaic with small sunny garden clearings , paddocks, working hedges, and modest patches of productive trees.” Aim for 40-70% tree cover in urban places.

clearing between woods, West End Farm Trail, Concord, NH, Nov. 2012

10- Wildland Foraging: We forage in dysfunctional ways: crime and shopping. “Hunting, fishing, and the gathering of herbs, berries, mushrooms, dye materials, and fiber plants provide a vital release for the deepest part of our beings.”  Let all public land be open to foraging; establish it as expected behaviour.

spouse picking blueberries along meadow trail, Aug. 2014

11- Garden Farms: Size of less than a half-acre to 20 or so acres. Remove legal barrier to suburban and urban farming, e.g., let smallholders raise livestock and sell produce directly to consumers.

12- Shelter in the Sun: In cold climates, orient homes with long side toward the sun.  Overhangs, awnings, thermal mass, insulation, greenhouses

13- A Home of One’s Own: Provides a “bulwark against the reemergence of feudalism.” ! Support home ownership and co-housing.

14- Household Provision: “Social insurance in the mid-21st century will consist of access to land, both private and common. Three-car garages will become home business and workshops … Revise the model of the household to center on gainful work at home: food production, processing, and storage.”

15- Alley Cropping:  Practice for urban areas. Make rows of productive trees the backbone of the garden farm, using all the space around and between them to frame lanes, planting beds, linear paddocks. Fit them along driveways and fences, in parking lots, in pastures.

apples espaliered at Bedrock Gardens, Lee, NH, Sept. 2016

16- Local Trade: Home farm stands, public produce markets. Benefits of local trade now are “freshness, characters and community solidarity” but in future, as energy costs rise, will also have price and reliability advantage.

local food for sale, Warner Fall Foliage Festival, NH, Oct. 2014

17- Family Table: “Energy descent means more hands will be needed at home, yet population imperatives argue for a falling birth rate.” New ways of living in one household: Children back home with parents (with or without grandkids), housing cooperatives, widows with student lodgers, etc. Group living with age diversity and varied strengths.

18- Country Kitchen: Garden farm kitchens need to accommodate 4-12 residents and guests, food prep (from scratch), food storage, socialising, and the activity of a working household. Should be 20×30′ in center of house (can include adjacent dining room in open plan), with multiple niches, seating areas, etc. Create pantry nearby.  Cooking area should be 12′ of counter space or more. Triangular pattern between double sink, stove, and fridge. Several tables.

my kitchen, Dec. 2011

19- Neighbors and Strangers: “New farms must knit themselves into the fabric of a neighborhood where their activities may be anomalous.” Have private areas in the house/yard where people can’t intrude. Make sure guest quarters don’t compromise your own privacy. Develop gate, signs and schedule to make it easy for visitors to come by but hard for them to intrude.

20- Communal Labor: Develop networks of mutual aid to transform large projects into fun and meaningful rituals; “let work be balanced with food, learning, and stories.” Make sure there is a role for everyone at every age.  Keep a good selection of tools on hand.

21- Woodshed: Growing and using wood. Optimal energy yield from wood air- and sun-dried for 18-24 months, necessitating covered storage.

22- Storage Barn: i.e., a shed within 100 feet of the main house. Cheap, spacious, used for animal housing, tool and materials storage, crop processing, guest/worker housing. Could be a rented semitrailer, but best would be a two-storey structure with ground level access — possibly conversion of an existing garage. Collect rainwater from the roof.

friend’s barn and garden (cistern under barn, not visible; rain barrel is visible), with guest room inside, July 2012

23- Workshop: Need capacity to build and repair furniture, implements, small structures, tools, basic machinery. “As soon as you can afford it, build or convert a space for sheltered work with tools.” Could be garage, utility room, porch, covered patio, large vestibule with cupboards and hooks. Minimum long dimension of 20′, level smooth floor, wide doors, good natural light, and (if fully enclosed) some form of heating.

24- Animal Housing: p. 71 (I didn’t take notes)

25- Roof Catchment: To collect runoff. Every roof is a water collection device, just need gutters, down spouts, and simple plumbing and storage. One inch of rain on a square foot of roof = 5/8 gallon water. Runoff on a 1,000-sq-foot roof in Boston is 27,000 gallons. Family of 4 can live on 40 gallons of water/day (14,600 gallons/yr) with efficient appliances and conservative habits.

26- Cisterns: “Having clean water stored in good quantity onsite and available to flow by gravity where needed is the cornerstone of home security.” Need pipes and channels for distribution.

27- Reticulated Water: Moving water through pipes (hydrants, taps). Some detail in this section.

28- Branching Cart Paths & Lanes: Need a network of paths on garden farm. Need vehicle access but should be permanent, no compacting needed soil. Loops. Main lanes of stone, brick, gravel; smaller paths of old carpet, scrap wood; tiny paths with woodchips, coarse mulch. Prostrate herbs in pathways and along edges, but suppress grasses.

29- Fencing: “To limit crop losses [due to deer and ‘pest wildlife’] and to contain and manage your livestock, you will need working dogs, fencing, or both. Dogs are regenerative and flexible if well-trained.” If you have 5+ barriers with  acres, dogs make sense (they can annoy neighbors barking at intruders in night); if less, consider fencing.  Deer can leap over 10′ barrier with running start and sight lines, but a 7-8′ fence should work. Metal, electric, or living (but living hedge takes 5-7 years). Compact 1/2 acre costs about $1,000 to fence with welded wire. Plant dense, useful trees and shrubs just inside fence.

fencing, Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA, June2013

30 – Contour Planting:  Needed on slopes.

31- Coppice and Hedges: Tall trees are difficult to harvest. Coppicing is the cutting of trees low, at multiyear intervals (they regrow). Pollarding is similar but with cuts at head height to prevent animals browsing the regrowth. Almost all angiosperms (in North America, angiosperms are mostly deciduous hardwoods) will regrow from stump sprouts if cut when fairly young. Use trees and shrubs as living fences, as mulch, for fruit, as tools, as windbreaks, as trellises, etc. Prune at intervals of 2 months to 7 years, depending on growth speed and what you need from them.

32- Small Earthworks: “Garden farming thrives on the productive edges created by small changes in elevation and surface shape. … Therefore, learn and practice the management of water with spades and mattocks, shovels and rakes to divert, spread, soak and hold back runoff for the greater growth of plants and animals.” Create ponds, and dams, swales and terraces, raised beds, trenches.

our pond when we lived in Maine, built by spouse, July 2002

33- Ponds and Dams: Waterbody enlivens ecosystem. Stored water valuable for household use, irrigation, aquaculture, microclimate, fire control. Identify all possible dam and pond sites. Ponds: 1/3 of area should be less than 3′ deep; include islands and peninsulas; seal with local clay if possible. Don’t dam a permanent stream.

34- Water Gardens & Fish Crop: Imitate swamps, estuaries, shallow lakes. Water no more than 5′ deep. Surround pond with fruit trees.

35- Swales & Terraces: “Sloping land requires small levelling structures to make it suitable for intensive cultivation.” Terraces: Use terraces to stabilize hill slopes (with stones, trees). Pitch them toward the hill slightly. Swales: Dig swales broad and shallow to store intermittent runoff in the soil. Space at vertical intervals of 6′, or horizontal intervals of 60′, whichever is less.  Stabilize with trees, shrubs, deep-rooted perennials, mulch.

36- South-Facing Outdoors: Orient buildings, pavements, courtyard, work areas, growing areas toward the sun; to provide shade in summer, use multipurpose deciduous plants.

37- Outdoor Rooms: “We can never afford to enclose all the space we need to use. Every house in a temperate or subtropical climate must be able to expand its functions outward in warm weather and contract inward in cold.” Porches, patios, deck, pavilions, courtyard, gazebos, balconies, and even wooded glades and groves. Some can be roofed with open sides. Connect house and all working buildings to outdoor room on at least one side. Used hedges, walls, fences, buildings to define the spaces.

screened deck between two parts of a house, Rehoboth Beach, DE, Aug. 2011

38- Greenhouse: To get year-round food, usually need special protection for plants in some seasons. Greenhouse essential, giving early start to spring crops and late harvest to summer/fall crops, plus fresh greens in winter. Try some perennials that are marginal in your climate (e.g., fig, peach, grapevine, lemon, loquat, et al.)  Greenhouse needs plenty of vents and in USDA zone 5 or colder “actively store heat in the soil of the beds.” Have permanent beds, maybe fish tanks.

inside the greenhouse at Paradise Lot, Holyoke, MA, June 2016

39- Summer Kitchen: Canning a harvest in late summer “puts an onerous burden on the home kitchen.” Keep heat and moisture out with a summer kitchen. Wood-fueled rocket stove. Solar oven. Could be screened. Locate in shaded level area within 50′ of kitchen; provide running water, 2+ burners, 12-20′ counter space.

40- Drying Yard: Solar food and plant drying on open level pavement (like a driveway or patio, graded to drain away from buildings). Grain threshing, fermenting coffee beans, drying fruits, herbs, and seeds, etc.

Not a drying yard, but an effective way to dry hops, raised on a screen in a greenhouse in Plymouth, NH, Sept. 2014.

41- Laundry Lines: “Homeowners association rules against this most basic solar technology are the least defensible of collective regulations, just waiting to be defied. Provide your household with upwards of 100 feet of lines. Run the lines east-west if you can, make the permanent, and put them over turf if you can.” Location should get all-day sun, breezes, and be no more than 30′ from laundry area (washing machine) in house. Location can be the woodyard, since the two uses are seasonally complementary.

42- Porches & Awnings: “The porch provides a primal function of reception and outlook for the house. It is an outdoor room of the highest order.” Main front and back entrances should have porches. Protect from rain, but mainly make entrance transitions more graceful. In a pinch, a linear awning or large porch can support clotheslines.

front porch of a rowhouse in Baltimore, MD, May 2016

43- Trellises for Shade: Use trellises “whenever summer shade is needed in the same place that winter sun is welcome.” Train deciduous vines (fruiting, flowering, fragrant plants) over them: tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, grapes, kiwis, clematis, morning glory, hops. [I’d add: scarlet runner beans, nasturtium, malabar spinach, passionflower, white climbing hydrangea.] Use annuals while perennials are getting established.

plants around trellis (hardy kiwi vine is one, I think) at a friend’s, July 2012

44- Food Storage: Have 6-12-month food supply: “wide variety of energy-, protein-, and nutrient-dense foods in quantities of 1,000-2,000 pounds per person.” Must be protected against vermin, oxidation, moisture, and heat for up to two-years. Drying preserves a high level of nutrients but may require supplemental heat; freezing preserve nutrients but is energy-intensive and subject to power outages; canning compromises vitamin C but can be successfully stored for years. Smoking and curing meat/fish. Pickling, salting, fermentation, and cellaring of roots, tubers, fruit, etc. also discussed. Begin now. Store food grown by others; buy in bulk at farmer’s markets.

45- Root Cellar: Should be about 55F year-round and against a north wall. Ventilation and access both important.

46- Pantry: Houses built before 1920 usually had pantry; should be recreated in all houses now. Key: proximity to kitchen, protection from excess heat, ample wall space.

part of my pantry, June 2017

47- Water Cascade: Water in the household can be used more than once for various purposes; reuse water at its highest potential. Drinking, cooking, rinsing of dishes needs high-quality water; dishes can be washed in lower quality water.  Use of basins to wash preserves greywater. “Upstairs bathwater might regularly be drained into the washing machine for a load of laundry. Used dishwater suffices to flush toilets.”

48- Greywater Trenches: Dispose of water from laundry and bathing in yard. Details on constructing a trench to carry it.

49- Wetland Water Cells: “Swamps and marshes are the kidneys of the landscape; they purify water.” Wetlands slow the flow of water, so there’s not so much run-off. Discussion of how to deal with black and grey water.

50- Patch Gardens: Patch gardens increase edge effect, enhance nutrient exchange, limit soil compaction. They can be tiny (but don’t have to be). [I’m not quite sure what this is about.]

51- Rotational Grazing: Movement of animals in the garden/farm: “Let animals forage to their benefit, herd them along promptly, and rest the land behind them. Animal polycultures (chickens after cattle, geese with pigs) offer synergies that reduce risks and disease. … Keep your livestock tight, and move them often.” Keep all but waterfowl (which have dedicated ponds) out of waterways; instead, bring water to them. Donkeys and llamas guard sheep.

52- Small Paddocks: Confined animal grazing. Won’t have many large animals (cattle, horses) on garden farms. Mostly goats, poultry, rabbits.

goats at Hildene Farm, Manchester, VT, Oct. 2010

53- Fruit Tree Guild: Trees always grow in communities. Woody plants thrive in fungally dominated soils, grasses in bacterially dominated soils (and young trees don’t do well among grasses, which produce allelopathic chemicals to suppress tree growth). Need nitrogen-fixers, dynamic accumulators, aromatic herbs, pest-repellent plants, nurse crops. Berries (esp. currants, gooseberries) fruit well in part shade. Allium, marigolds, and daffodils ward off pests.  Carrot and cabbage family plants with small flowers excellent for beneficial wasps.

fruit tree (peach) guild, July 2017

54- Poultry Tractor: Animals’ mobility is great advantage and disadvantage for farmers. Solution is to confine stock in cages, pens, paddocks that can be moved around. Description of a good poultry tractor.

55- Catch Crop: “[U]nused sunlight on soil is a wasted resource. Nature responds with weeds — the smart gardener with a short-term, fast-growing crop.”  Woodland ephemerals. Keep all soil growing come crop all the time. Use legumes. Even weeds can be a catch crop and return minerals to poor soil.

56- Zones of Accumulation: “With irrational cultural values rampant, cities discard food, organic matters, packaging, furniture, metal of all sorts, slightly or scarcely damaged consumer goods, surpluses for which there is no market, and even whole buildings , neighborhoods, and industries. … The adept farmer must develop an eye and a nose for where wastes collect and where they may be captured as resources, especially biomass, but also useful scrap lumber, furniture, metal, and ‘spare parts.'” Zones of accumulation are places on the homestead where waste resources can be stockpiled. Near main paths but not on them. Some things will stay there for a while but everything should move or transform. Keep a resource inventory.

57- Salvaged Materials: Variety of shapes and sizes more important than huge quantity of any one thing, “though do not hastily reject a bonanza.” Dimensional lumber, bricks, blocks, stones, intact sheets — of wood, metal, screen glass, containers. Compound materials not ideal unless they meet a specific need now. Only keep what you can store and what can be reused or repaired easily.

salvage at Bedrock Gardens, Lee, NH, July 2015 — they are artists and make sculptures from the metal parts

58- Resource Inventory: Purpose of collecting salvage is to avoid trips to supply stores. So you have to know what you have. If there’s no inventory, it’s a pile of scrap. Purge salvage areas of low-grade materials periodically. Purge, sort, organize all accumulation zones at least twice a year. 

59- Hodgepodge Growth: At times things will go slowly: “Projects will stutter along as labor, weather, budget, materials, and insight permit.” Be flexible. Become comfortable with uncertainty. Complete work in phases. Don’t dismay if things take longer than expected or if other projects intervene.

60- Working Pioneer Plants: Pioneer plants are “fertility pumps and are the main drivers of succession.” They are mid-sized, often shrubs with small fruits, attracting birds and small animals who bring in seeds and manures, increasing diversity, complexity, fertility. They often fix nitrogen or cover the ground. Grow them, coppice them, chop & drop, slash & mulch them.

61- Fertility Crops: “Any deep-rooted crop is a good candidate for soil building.” Legumes roots usually have bacteria that fixes nitrogen in the soil. Other plants have fungal associates that mobilize nutrients. Dynamic accumulators  draw up minerals and nutrients into their tissues and release it when leaves are chopped (& dropped), or when the plant dies and decomposes. “On a smallholding, at least 30% of the landscape should be growing woody perennials and other permanent fertility crops. These can include fruit and nut-bearing species.” Pasture forage might take up another 20%, with another 1/3 in staple/vegetable crops, and 10-15% in aquaculture. Each should have a fertility component — coppice, manure, legumes, fish waste.

62- Mulch and Compost: Soil is built best when undisturbed. Compost, though a good thing, is labor-intensive and wasteful of carbon, nitrogen, metabolic energy — cannot be primary source of fertility on a farm. Best for growing seedlings, nurturing transplants, top-dressing new perennials.  Build soil by using mulch: chop & drop in all zones. Rotate animals. Use hot compost for noxious, seedy, and coarse plant material.

comfrey leaves – living mulch, Oct. 2015

63- Shifting Enterprise: Re: selling produce, honey, meat, etc. Most reliable approach to steady income relies on information and diversity. Can grow 60-100 kinds of fruit/veg but don’t try to make money from more than 12.

64- Public-Private Gradient: Working at home challenges. Balancing work and family. Establish the limits of your accessibility to the public early on. “Don’t carry your cellphone around the farm.”

65 – Communal Bathing: Finnish saunas. Combine with food drying, greenhouse, or near a pond.

66- Rooms for Guests: Dual-purpose rooms and spaces: fold-out couch, guest bedroom that’s also a pantry, loft in barn, guest cottage that’s sometimes rented for income, etc.  Put guests to work.

67- Connection to Street: Entrance should be obvious. “Direct the flow of arriving traffic by landscape indicators more than signs.”

68- Fruit Stand: “You may decide never to sell directly from the farm, but it offers many built-in advantages — no transport costs and flexible scheduling chief among them.” On a quiet street, probably mostly neighbours, so self-service might work well. On a busy road, need a safe pull-off and signs that give motorists at least 20-seconds warning. Stand should be in sight of house or location outside where someone is working. Better to offer a good selection on a few days than dribs & drabs every day. Fruits, juices, honey, tomatoes always popular, and a few unusual items.

tomatoes for sale at farmer’s market in Cambridge, MA, Oct. 2015


Featured image (top image) is grapefruits, oranges, and hot boiled peanuts for sale along roadside, Fernandina Beach, FL, Dec. 2016.

Book Notes: The Permaculture Handbook :: Chapter Five

Here are my highly personal notes on Chapter Five: Learning the Language of Design in Peter Bane’s The Permaculture Handbook (2012). Any misrepresentations of Bane’s words or work are mine alone and completely unintentional. Notes on each chapter linked here.


“[L]ist the qualities you would like the landscape to exhibit: dappled light, birdsong, bodies of water, aromatic scents, … direction of the light, a sense of mystery. Be as specific and inclusive as you can. Think of environments you have liked or in which you have felt comfortable. What qualities did they embody that evoked those feelings of resonance?” — Peter Bane 

I really like certain kinds of light. (Evening, early August 2016)

“Design is the conscious process of making culture.”  ? I didn’t understand it in 2014 and I don’t now.

The key to any design process is observation and other forms of data gathering. Especially if you’re new to the bioregion, take time to get to know it:

“Walk the land and notice different microclimates. It’s especially fruitful to walk about late on a sunny afternoon in autumn or winter when the temperature begins to fall rapidly. In a landscape with any relief, pockets of cold air will form and flow downhill, and the atmosphere will stratify to reveal warmer and cooler layers. … If you have a chance to see the land under a late winter or early spring snowfall, these same warm and cool microclimates can be graphically obvious as the snow begins to melt. Take note of warm and cool slopes, different plant communities and any animal tracks and paths you see. … Use all of your senses, and let your feelings of comfort and discomfort, danger, anxiety or lightheartedness rise to the surface. Your subconscious can register significant influences that may not be observable by the five ordinary senses.”

one of my many snow melt photos, this one from 13 March 2017 … you can see that most of the fruit guild, at the top of a slope, melts first, and the land, on the left, along the garage foundation (not shown).

Also, “sit for a bit on the land and let yourself begin to daydream or nod off. On the edge of the dream state, many non-verbal influences can come forward that we would otherwise not allow into consciousness” and visions and symbols may appear in your mind.

Access written/online records: Soil records from Natural Resource Conservation Service in your county. Online maps with aerial views of your property. Notice the industrial infrastructure and natural features nearby. Keep a daily log of temperatures and precipitation. Learn to read the land to understand its history [Tom Wessels’ Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England is an excellent resource for this in my area.] Indicator plants tell us about the soil (e.g., “Reeds, cattails, horsetails or sedges indicate a high water table or periodic inundation of the soil”). The map is not the territory; the process of mapping is more important than the map itself.

Stand on the property, make a sketch of your property showing roughly where things are and their size and shape. You can make a base map, then overlay on transparent paper information about soils, water drainage, sun patterns, wind, noise patterns, etc. One of the main purposes of mapping is to “reveal relationships that might not otherwise be obvious.” [Enter your address into to get a map of the angles of the sun at various times of the year, overlaid on the Google map of your property.]

the sun’s angles on my property (from on 22 Nov. 2017

SIDEBAR on how to measure land with your body: arm length, hand span, stride. Also how to measure tall things using triangulation.

How to develop a vision for your land: List all the things you want or need to have around you. Then “list the qualities you would like the landscape to exhibit: dappled light, birdsong, bodies of water, aromatic scents, the sound of children (or not), colors in the vegetation, details of buildings, distance to neighbors, direction of the light, a sense of mystery. Be as specific and inclusive as you can. Think of environments you have liked or in which you have felt comfortable. What qualities did they embody that evoked those feelings of resonance?”

If you live already on the property you’re trying to create a vision for, you can clean the slate by approaching the property from a direction you don’t usually take; “focus on the shape of the land and try to see the energies of wind, water, sun and plants that have molded it.”

Design Aims: “Now that you have begun by identifying and observing the landscape, reading its clues, studying maps and documents and polling your own opinions, needs and desires and those of your household, you must distill these into a design aim or set of aims.” E.g., self-reliance; comfortable/functional spaces to live; home employment; privacy and serenity; a creative space; a diverse and productive plant and animal community.

[I wrote down, in Jan. 2014: beauty, comfort, a place to have parties and be with friends, wildlife habitat.]

party on the patio, July 2015

Site evaluation checklist (p. 48).

After you determine aims, then strategies come next. This is when design languages are useful, including pattern language. Pattern languages reach “into a language of patterns that is part collective unconscious and part visible infrastructure of our cultural setting. Pattern languages for cultural design are human, and each place speaks its own dialect. At the same time, all inhabited places on Earth share some common elements of a universal pattern language.”

Garden Farming Pattern Language and How to Use It: “Think of this language as an inventory of possibilities from which to shape your home landscape. The patterns are numbered: those at the top of the list are the largest in scope, while those at the bottom evince the smallest scale. From this selection you’ll begin to see the elements and some of the relationships that need to be developed to manifest your vision in a living landscape. A listing of the patterns follows, while a more complete articulation of the patterns may be found” in the next chapter.


There are 68 patterns listed, grouped together. I won’t list them all here but as an example, patterns 1–10 describe the ecological and social ground of garden farming; they are: 1. Landscape Catchment 2. City-Country Fingers 3. Agricultural Terrain 4. Working Neighborhoods and Ecovillages 5. Water: Source and Force of Life 6. Forested Ridges 7. House Cluster 8. Living in the Garden 9. Woodland Mosaic 10. Wildland Foraging. Patterns 21-24 describe major building elements (woodshed, storage barn, workshop, animal housing). Others involve a water system, shaping the land (fences, paths, contours), water features, solar influences, food handling, cultivation systems, and so on. I don’t really understand it.


Needs & Yields Analysis: Determining needs and yields in the system tells us how to connect them most effectively. Description of all workplaces and jobs to be done.

He offers the example of a fish pond: It needs a source of water, containment, protection from pollution and runoff, good aeration, and the fish need a source of food, other species to consume their wastes, protection from predators. The yields of a fish pond include nutrient-rich water (for irrigating and fertilizing plants), fish, insect control, reflected light, humidity, nutrient wastes from the bottom, thermal mass, fire protection, perhaps recreation, contemplation, habitat for other animals, water for farm animals and bees, etc. Knowing all of this helps us determine where the pond should be situated, its size, what could be grown near it, etc.

Zone & Sector Analysis: Reveals the impact of habitations.

Zones: progression of areas around the center of the system (the house), from 0 (house) to farthest away location on property (could be as close as 2 or as far as 5); “As the numbers get larger, the size of territory increases while human impacts and management decrease.” [Mollison also describes these in Chapter 5 of Introduction to Permaculture.]


Sectors: These are environmental influences that are external to the site: wind, water, sun, views, storms, etc. (I have no idea what “genetic drift” means.) The upshot: “By analyzing the different sectors influencing a site, we can determine how best to focus beneficial energies such as winter sun, summer breeze or a view of the mountains, while scattering or deflecting hostile energies such as storm winds, pollution or fire. Sectors, along with zones, enable us to place every element of the system in the best possible location for beneficial function.”


Featured image (top image) is blowing snow, March 2017. We usually get wind from the northwest but sometimes, especially in a nor’easter, it swirls around on the east-northeast side, as shown here.

Book Notes: The Permaculture Handbook :: Chapter Four

Here are my highly personal notes on Chapter Four: Permaculture Principles in Peter Bane’s The Permaculture Handbook (2012). Any misrepresentations of Bane’s words or work are mine alone and completely unintentional. Notes on each chapter linked here.


“Much of the distress of the modern world comes from moving and acting in strange and distant environments, from the loss of the familiar, and from speed. … Multitasking may bring a certain exhilaration, but a constant diet of it ultimately exhausts and fragments the mind’s capacity for attention.” — Peter Bane


Permaculture Principles:

1- Observe and interact. Alertness, observation, patterns awareness.

2- Catch and store energy. Cycling and re-cycling. Build soil, store water and solar energy, plant forests, save seeds and other life.

solar panels on Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens education center, May 2014.

3- Get a yield (or a harvest). Redundancy. Yield is “an expression of surplus in ecosystems.” The yield doesn’t have to be for humans — though humans have legitimate claims on yields of managed ecosystems; it can also be for the birds, insects, fungi, etc. Imagine the sequence of yields (p.31-32). Example:

“Grasses produce seed, a potential yield, only after they have germinated, rooted, grown, and photosynthesized over a period of several months. We may be interested in the grain, but there are also straw, root biomass, and a host of grain-eating animals, birds, insects, rusts, fungi and other organisms that represent potential yields from the same cycle. We must stretch observation and imagination to recognize the other yields of this and similar growth cycles.”

spouse and friend chipping/shredding neighbour’s tall grass stalks for our use as mulch, May 2016

4- Self regulate and accept feedback (ethics). “Maturity is about good judgement and appropriate restraint of the exuberances of life and growth.” Consider down-stream impacts; we all live downstream (there is no such place as “away.”)

5- Use and value nature’s gifts. “The current economy recognizes nature primarily as a resource base and a dumping ground for wastes. Permaculture … expands our awareness of the many services that nature provides. … Many of the least appreciated and therefore most abused environments are also the most important ecologically.” Wetlands and swamps, e.g.

swampy bog area, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept. 2013

6- Waste not. Waste = food for someone. “Structures invariably break down, whether they are the ephemeral walls of cells, the delicate tissue of leaves, the bones of animals or the very rocks of the Earth’s crust, but none of the parts are lost (save a few molecules of hydrogen and helium that may float away from the outer reaches of the atmosphere).” Maintain things. All things on Earth except radioactive materials (“which we should forswear producing or distributing”) can be consumed by some life form. [Plastic?]

Exploitation (using the resources we’ve carefully built up)
7- Design from pattern to details. Cultivate an awareness of patterns in nature, and also in culture: “Natural patterns are widely applicable and have their genesis in the very nature of matter itself. However, more complex, specific and human-oriented patterns can also be observed —- for example, in the optimum shape and size of public spaces or the relationship of settlements to their surrounding topography. Successful buildings follow well-established cultural and architectural patterns …. Because they engage the right side of the brain which perceives form and spatial relations, patterns access our organic or body intelligence. They are inextricably rooted in form and thus are grounded in the body’s experience of the world.”  Design is iterative, “best done in a series of thoughtful stages where each new layer of the work grows out of the previous ones.”

hosta spiral patterns (May 2007)

8- Integrate, don’t segregate: Connections and relationships are at the heart of permaculture: “The mind may separate elements, species, or categories of things, but in the physical world they exist together.” In designing, we need to consider things as components of integrated systems. Look for multiple functions of each element and in the placement of elements in relation to each other.

9- Choose small and slow. There’s no need for haste, even with the urgency of “civilizational decline.” Small and slow is how life and nature move (e.g., photosynthesis, which “captures trillions of megawatt hours of energy every year but takes place one cell and one plant at a time”). Local, human-scale, familiar. “Much of the distress of the modern world comes from moving and acting in strange and distant environments, from the loss of the familiar, and from speed. … Multitasking may bring a certain exhilaration, but a constant diet of it ultimately exhausts and fragments the mind’s capacity for attention.”

gourd leaf capturing energy (Sept. 2016)

10- Cultivate diversity. Today, “only 20 plant species make up 90% of the human diet” (cites UN Food & Agriculture report from 2011). Always include native plants, which make valuable connections to local pollinators, beneficial insects, and soil organisms. “Most gardeners are doing very well if they raise 30–50 types of fruits and vegetables and a handful of herbs, but 300–500 species would be typical in a working permaculture.” Cultivate diversity as a basic approach. Push climactic limits. Spread your bets. Concept of deep diversity, including plants from every known taxonomic order in gardens whenever possible. “Worldwide, 2/3 of seed production is in the hands of fewer than 10 giant multinational corporations” (he cites here).

11- Mind the margins and look to the edges. Push the edge – the edge is where the action (productivity) is. Edges (ecotones in landscape) blend resources of two or more environments. Sensitive indicator species often dwell at the edges. Systems with the most edge — estuaries, swamps, and forests — capture the most solar energy as biomass.

forest wetland, where lots of wood frogs are in the spring, Concord, NH (March 2016)


12- Cultivate vision & respond to change. Refine our systems.


Featured image (top image) is a diversity of 40-plus tomato varieties grown at Spring Ledge Farm in NH and available for tasting in Sept. 2016.


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