Forest Gardening: Vision & Pattern Language
We’re in the middle of the Design & Theory weekend of the 2010 Forest Garden Immersion Series. This 4-weekend series, one per month, immerses participants in the practice and culture of forest gardening. A few spots are still open for the upcomingweekends:
- Install & Establish (May 28-30)
- Caretake & Tend (June 18-20)
- Food & Medicine (July 16-18) …Sign up now at http://tiny.cc/fgis2010!
We’re compressing the entire Edible Forest Gardens design process (EFG Volume II, Chapter 3 & 4) articulated by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier into a single weekend – so our teaching team needed to get creative. Rather than uber-detailing each stage of the design process, we decided to trial a Pattern Language approach.
Pattern Languages, named and articulated by architect Christopher Alexander et. al in the 70’s, are one of the most powerful design tools that exist in the world. Patterns are defined as “solutions to problems across contexts”, which can be strung together to form complete designs for towns, buildings, and more… Since their original proposed use for architecture and planning, Pattern languages have been used in realms from medical training, software design, to the compositiong of zoning laws. An excellent resource is the collaboratively co-created “Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution” published by MIT press.
Dave Jacke & Eric Toensmeier created the first draft of a Forest Garden Pattern Language in Edible Forest Gardens Volume II, which Connor Stedman of Turkey Tail Permaculture concept-mapped last year:
Connor and I also typed up the Name, Problem Statement, and Solution Statement for all of the 57 patterns in Edible Forest Gardens — you can download a PDF of these statements here. As I looked through the patterns in preparation for our course, I realized that I and other designers have been using patterns in my forest garden design work that were not included in the first draft. So, drawing on our collective experience (especially the brilliant pattern-articulators Dave Jacke, Eric Toensmeier, Jonathan Bates, Dyami Nason-Regan, and Christopher Alexander et. al), I’ve gathered 14 patterns and proposed 23 new ones for the language. I also re-arranged the patterns into a new six-step forest garden design process, which is laid out as a Flower Petal Bed (pattern #46) in the following diagram. To design a forest garden (after articulating goals and analyzing the site), simply choose 1 or 2 patterns from each “pattern bed” and connect them together into a design. You can download the map by clicking on it.
The Apios Institute for Regenerative Perennial Agriculture (which I’m on the board of) has just released a very exciting new co-creative resource: the Edible Forest Garden Wiki. The wiki itself is an ecosystem of information, automatically inter-linking useful forest garden Species Pages to mutually supportive Polycultures to fully designed Forest Gardens – much like the Internet Movie Database connects actors, films, and production companies. Wiki-members (subscription is about $2 per month) can add their own experiences growing 700 forest garden species, add new polycultures and forest gardens, and comment on other people’s designs. Check out the free content and become a wiki member!
Part of my longer term vision is develop the Forest Garden Pattern Language through a similar co-creative online space, where we can all propose patterns and try them out in our designs. The patterns that work across contexts will emerge through our collective research and experimentation. Sound like fun? Want to play? Let me know in the comments!
Natural Swimming Pools:
Multifunctional Tools for a Permaculture Landscape?
In Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual, he says something along the lines of, “While we’re not using Chlorine to make mustard gas and poison our drinking water, we fill our pools with it and have a great time swimming around. Why would I want to immerse myself in a liquid that no other living thing can survive in?”
Natural swimming pools provide a completely biological method to create clean, clear swimming pools. They can be designed and built on nearly any scale, from small backyard pools to huge public swimming areas. Used extensively in Europe (especially Germany), they have yet to really take off in the US. Today I attended a seminar by James Robyn of BioNova Natural Swimming Pools, who gave a 400-slide overview of the systems and offered some basic design principles and guidelines. My complete set of notes from the day is available for free download here: Natural_Swimming_Pool_notes.
Basically, Natural Swimming Pools (NSPs) are just like normal pools or ponds that pump water slowly through “Regeneration Zones” – which are simply Constructed Wetlands. Using a gravel substrate 3 feet deep, a diversity of locally-adapted aquatic plants (including submerged, emergent, and floating plants) are planted at a density of 2-5 plants per square foot. Water should flow through the pools at a rate of 26 gallons per square foot of per day. Costs for constructing Natural Swimming Pools are roughly $100 per square foot – which apparently is similar to the cost of a conventional chemical pool.
From my perspective, a simple permaculture-inspired earth pond with a constructed wetland would serve exactly the same purpose. Especially if the pond was being used for multiple functions – agricultural irrigation, aquaculture & food production, light reflection, microclimate, etc.
That said, if you have a design client dead-set on a pool, the comparable pricing and straightforward biological technology of Natural Swimming Pools is an attractive alternative to yet another unnatural chlorine-poisoned turquoise blotch on the landscape. Furthermore, NSPs offer the chance to add habitat diversity and plant species diversity — another way that ecological design can potentially enhance ecosystem health while meeting our human needs.
If you would like a Natural Swimming Pool consultation and feasibility assessment for your home or business from AppleSeed Permaculture LLC, please contact ethan[at]appleseedpermaculture.com.
Plants for Natural Swimming Pools
Note that I was quickly copying these off of slides in the presentation, so many spelling may be wrong. For some interesting tidbits about planting and substrates, you can download my complete notes from the talk here. You can also read Wikipedia’s “Organisms used in water purification” for some ideas.
Do you know any good books on Natural Swimming Pools? Can you correct any errors in these plant lists? Let us know in the comments.
- Typha spp. (cattail)
- Iris spp. (good for P uptake)
- Lythrum salicaria (Purple loosestrife)
- Eleocharis (spike rushes)
- Butomus umbellatus (flowering rushes)
- Baldellia ranunculoides (lesser waterplantain)
- Acorus spp. (blueflag)
- Caltha spp. (marsh marigold)
- Swamp hibiscus
- Myosotus spp. (?)
Deep Water Zone Plants
- Ranunculus spp.
- Myriophyllum verticillatum, spp.
- Elodea canadensis
- Potamogeton lucens
- Chara aspera
- Ceratophyllum spp.
- Water lillies
- Nymphoides pletata
- Ptamogeton natans (?)
Carbon Farming: Concepts, Tools & Markets
Here we are in winter farming conference season – I presented this talk at the 2010 Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Winter Conference (Massachusetts), and got some great feedback on the idea of local carbon markets. I’ll be presenting again next weekend (January 23rd) at the NOFA NY conference – you can learn more and register here: www.nofany.org. Scroll down below the slideshow to download the handouts.
Anyone interested in starting a local carbon market? Let me know in the comments.
Young Farmers Conference 2009:
Permaculture for Farmers & Ecosystem Investing
Below are the slideshows and handouts for the two workshops I presented last week at the Young Farmers Conference, dosage held at the incredible Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. Let me know what you think in the comments – and Enjoy!
Permaculture for Farmers
Download the handout by clicking on the image below.
Download the handout by clicking on the image below.
A Dirty Story – Permaculture Poetry & the Microbial Beats
Fresh from the final party of our 2009 Permaculture Design Course at the Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute – Listen to these mp3s, download’em, and spread’em around. Lyrics are in the comments below…
Permaculture Seeds Sprouting on St. Croix
St. Croix, a 6 x 20 mile island in the Caribbean, is exploding with positive action. Led by the Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute, locally grown food and ecological agriculture are seeding in with island people and travelers across the island. Now, in collaboration with AppleSeed Permaculture and Gaia University, the US Virgin Islands are being innoculated with the empowering principles and processes of permaculture design.
The Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute (VISFI) is a 7-year old working farm and educational center designed with permaculture principles. The founder and executive director Ben Jones of VISFI reports, “The seed of inspiration for VISFI was born from the permaculture movement – and 7 years into the development of our farm institute, we are nurturing our first regional permaculture students. We are happy to come full circle with the vision of sustainable design, using scholarships to bring in the local community to learn with North American participants in a lush tropical farm paradise.”
“This course marks an awakening of the permaculture movement into the Virgin Islands, and we’re really happy to be working with neighbours, former students, musicians, activist, farmers, and hope they leave our living campus full of new ideas to spread the fine ideals of permaculture around the wold.” The course also includes a true diversity of participants: from a St. Croix conscious-reggae artist to a Certified Public Accountant from Pennsylvania, from a new Gaia University associate to a northeastern United States market gardener, and from an international agricultural development consultant to a Puerto-rican indigenous Jibara woman.
The lead teachers of this first-ever Virgin Islands permaculture design course are Ethan Roland of AppleSeed Permaculture and Dyami Nason-Regan of Starberry Farms. They connected with Ben Jones through the transformative action-learning degree pathways of Gaia University, and share his vision of global abundance through their permaculture design and teaching work. After training with Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Research Institute in 2005, Ethan started AppleSeed Permaculture to spread permaculture through professional consulting and teaching work throughout northeastern North America and around the world – Ethan has since taught permaculture in Menominee, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and beyond.
Working with the VISFI staff and the deep permaculture design process developed by Dave Jacke (www.edibleforestgardens.com), the teaching team delivers the standard 72-hour permaculture design course as a complete immersion in permaculture design and action. Participants are mentored through a full 2-week permaculture design process, including standard hands-on activities (compost-making, food forestry, gardening, natural building) and learning in a diversity of living classrooms.
The mission of the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute is to provide a working educational farm enterprise that integrates sustainability in education, environment, and community through quality instruction in Agroecology and related fields.
…combines experiential learning, outdoor lecture, field laboratories, personal and group research projects, leadership development, and local environmental awareness into a comprehensive educational experience.
…encourages personal growth, self-awareness, and community development in each student relationship with agriculture and the environment. We promote healthy agriculture through intelligent, sustainable farm design coupled with environmentally conscious practices and principles.
…seeks to forge an economically productive link between the organic revolution and modern agriculture systems. It is our aspiration that family and community based agricultural enterprises will prove sustainable for generations to come.
…staff, through years of academic study and disciplined agricultural experience, have developed a progressive curriculum that encompasses Sustainable Agribusiness, Tropical Organic Farming, Tropical Agroforestry, Permaculture Design, Cultural Mentoring, and Agritourism. A synergistic approach to agricultural learning will produce students with the skills and knowledge to survive in a modern world as small and medium-sized farm entrepreneurs.
VISFI sets the benchmark in advanced experiential education with our agroecological curriculum. Our program is essential in today’s increasingly environmentally aware society. VISFI is confident that our blend of talented staff, natural farming practices, unique location, and progressive curriculum will help mold and create tomorrows farmers and agricultural leaders.
In collaboration with Gaia University, VISFI is working to create a global network of small farm and educational farm campuses to facilitate the sharing of information, ideas, and sustainable agriculture and resource management technologies. Gaia University will host its first orientation in Integrative Eco-Social Design at VISFI in December 2009, kicking off programs for its accredited Bachelors, Masters and post-Graduate degrees.
Even though we’re only a week into the course, it’s clear that the teachings of permaculture are spreading on the island. Local participants have brought their friends and family to visit the VISFI, taking home seeds and cuttings from the vast array of fruits, nuts, and perennial vegetables on the farm. They carry with them the priniciples and ideas of permaculture, to plant and nurture in their own communities.
The long-term effects of Permaculture Design Courses are always difficult to predict. But here on St. Croix, an island with a painful history of slavery and devastating agriculture, the practices of permaculture are already beginning to heal the ecological and social landscape.
May our work in the world continue to create abundance, joy, and positive action for these uncertain and quickly-changing times.
To learn more:
The software development world is doing excellent work to move holistic & dynamic design processes forward. My friend and Gaia University colleague Patrick Gibbs pointed me to an ‘Agile Manifesto‘ for software development, whose principles seem very applicable to collaborative eco-social & permaculture design.
You can find the principles here: http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html
I’ve re-organized them, pulling the most-useful for ecological and social landscape design to the top. I’ve also replaced the word “software” with “outcome” to generalize the ideas. I’ve slightly altered a few of the principles and marked them with an asterisk*. If there is an immediately corresponding permaculture principle, I’ve included it afterwards in (parentheses).
MOST USEFUL FOR DESIGN PROCESS
- Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential. (Pc Principle: Leverage)
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage. (Pc Principle: Creatively use and respond to change)
- Functional outcomes are the primary measure of progress*. (Pc Principle: Obtain a yield)
MOST USEFUL FOR SOCIAL PROCESS
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. (Pc Principle: Apply self-regulation and accept feedback)
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- Business people and designers must work together daily throughout the project.*
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable outcomes.
- Deliver working outcomes frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, designers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.*
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
Several of these agile principles map very closely to the Principles of Collaboration I articulated for my Master’s Thesis at Gaia University:
Ethan Roland teaches and practices permaculture at the Epworth Center in High Falls. His goal is “to establish local food security and deliciousness in a time of dramatic change.” He talks about each separate polyculture planting as a metaphor for the movement as a whole; as they grow and spread outward, he will mow less and less space between them until they connect to form a complete fabric.
[Lee Reich, Ethan Roland] …and other experts provide advice, classes, and assistance in making some positive changes to the flora around our homes and doing it in a way that works for us. We don’t all need to become self-sufficient overnight. But if we make choices that gently move us in that direction, relying less on imports, spending more time (and less money) connecting with our food—and enjoying luscious fruit along the way—we can spend less, eat better, and have enviable yards. What’s not to like?
You can read the whole thing over at the Chronogram website: www.chronogram.com
Ethan Roland’s Top 5 DIY Permaculture Books
1. Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway (2009, Chelsea Green)
2. Edible Forest Gardens, Volumes I and II by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier (2005, Chelsea Green)
3. Food Not Lawns by Heather Coburn Flores (2006, Chelsea Green)
4. Landscaping with Fruit by Lee Reich (2009, Storey Publishing)
5. Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies by Owen Dell (2009, For Dummies Press)
Ethan Rolands’s Top 5 Regional Permaculture Nurseries
1. Catskill Native Nursery, Kerhonkson
2. MiCosta Nurseries, Columbia County
3. St. Lawrence Nurseries, Potsdam
4. Tripplebrook Farm, Southampton, Massachusetts
5. Oikos Tree Crops, Michigan
Permaculture designers: It’s time to get serious about profitability.
Farmers & Greenhorns: You already know what I’m talking about.
I’ve been working on an integrated ecological farm design for the Ashokan Center in the Hudson River Valley bioregion. The design calls for a mega-diversity of organic enterprises: Multi-species rotational grazing, hardy kiwi vineyards, mixed-fruit orchards, agroforestry & silvopasture, no-till & greenhouse vegetables, gourmet & medicinal mushrooms, and more. There are 200+ edible & useful species spread across 13 acres of farm and 200+ acres of forest.
But to start an ecological farm (in the USA at this point in time) takes money. In order to justify the up-front capital expense that my clients will have to invest to get this farm going, I need to be able to show them that this mega-diverse permaculture system can be profitable.
How can I do it? How can I predict the potential expenses, and calculate the possible profits? What can I show my clients to convince them that all of these great permaculture ideas make good economic sense?
By using Enterprise Budgets.
Enterprise budgets are summaries of actual data on the costs and yields of growing a particular crop — from asparagus to tilapia to black currants to walnuts to cattle to shitake mushrooms. The basic pattern is as follows:
INCOME – EXPENSES = NET INCOME
- INCOME (aka revenue, receipts, gross revenue, gross income – sometimes shown with a break-even chart)
- EXPENSES (aka costs – often divided into variable costs & fixed costs)
- NET INCOME (aka margin, gross margin, annual returns over costs)
Pretty straightforward, right?
For example, download a simple Bell Pepper Enterprise Budget from Penn State here and take a look.
As you move into perennial crops (like this pear example), the enterprise budgets get a bit more complex. AND, there are currently very few enterprise budgets that focus on small-scale, organic and post-organic permaculture enterprises. So we’ll need to develop based on the small-scale enterprises we initiate — this means learning the basics of good bookkeeping and accounting, and keeping good records on our expenses and yields. Some of the best current documentation on this scale comes from Joe Kovach at Ohio State University – take a look at his work here.
In Kirk Gadzia’s Holistic Management module during the Carbon Farming Course, our financial planning exercise (which you can read about over at the Carbon Farming Course blog here) focused on choosing agricultural enterprises to re-invigorate an ailing farm. To bring the whole-systems thinking of permaculture into play, I needed to propose viable multi-functional alternatives to the simple and unprofitable hay production. Fortunately, I’ve been collecting every single enterprise budget available on the web for the last year — so I had many options, from seaberry & hazelnut orchards to perch & bullhead catfish aquaculture. (The systematic collation and organization of all these budgets creates the backbone of the economic design tool for ecological agriculture enterprises I blogged about here.)
In order to support the ongoing development of ecological agriculture, I’m making available to you all the all the enterprise budgets I have collected in the last 2 years – more than 1090 of them. I ask only that you keep seeking and creating out new budgets to add to the collection – especially ones that use real data from small-scale organic and permaculture operations. Download ’em here – careful, this is a 130mb file.
Permies, are you ready to get realistic about profitability? Let’s get this sort of economic sensibility into our designs.
Farmers & Greenhorns, how can I make this information more available and useful to you?