After a year full of very hard work establishing the system, it was time to begin to allowing nature to do the work for us. At first, the title of this section may seem a bit contradictory. How can you, at the same time, consolidate and diversify?
By consolidate, I mean to hold on to the gains that we made in the first year and reinforce them while concurrently reducing the amount of time and energy we would invest. The age old method
of cover cropping: hardy, multi functional species improving the soil and occupying the majority of the niches available would prove to be a valuable tool in this effort. I wanted to use the second year to increase biomass production on site and replenish the soil’s nitrogen. Expanding comfrey to widen our nutrient net was also a high priority (and is ever so easy to accomplish).
One of Bill Mollison’s famous quote’s is, let your site demonstrate its evolution.
Earthworks hydrology construction is one of the first big steps in getting a property established and can be an invaluable investment into its future, so it is something you want to get right. Earthworks going wrong can be very expensive and a major setback for you and your property.
We have had a bit over 12 months to watch, observe and interact with the site. We have watched how the major mainframe earthworks changed the dynamics and zoning of the site.
After observing the spillway above the overflow for around 6 months, we have decided to take advantage of current resources and install some cool aquaculture elements. This can be seen in the photo’s below:
150,000 litre fishpond
150m of swale
3 more level sill spillways
We have the ability to flood the system to form multiple storage opportunities, all of these are gravity feed we can deluge our main crop terrace, or any of the other elements, with nutrient rich fishpond water.
Samuel Alexander of the Simplicity Institute, who has written numerous articles for Permaculturenews.org, has just published Prosperous Descent: Crisis as Opportunity in an Age of Limits. A paperback of the book is available here. Samuel has made available a free PDF version of his book, please visit his site here for more details.
INTRODUCTION TO PROSPEROUS DESCENT
I sometimes tell my students that I am an ‘apocaloptimist’. While, in truth, I am neither apocalyptic nor optimistic, this neologism serves as a fruitful conversation starter. It allows me to begin stating the case for why we, the human species, are facing overlapping crises of unprecedented magnitude – crises that are threatening the very persistence of our civilisation. At the same time, I explain why all of these problems are of our own making and, indeed, that their solutions already exist and are within our grasp, if only we decide that solving them is seriously what we want. I also maintain that the process of solving or at least responding appropriately to these problems can be both meaningful and fulfilling, if only we are prepared to let go of dominant conceptions of the good life. This means embracing very different ways of living, while also re-structuring our societies to support a very different set of values – especially the values of frugality, moderation, and sufficiency. In short, I argue that the problems we face today are as grave as the solutions are available and attractive, and this tension is reflected in the title of this book – PROSPEROUS DESCENT – which I use provocatively to signify a paradox whose meaning will be unpacked in the following pages and chapters.
You’ve never seen buildings like this. The stunning bamboo homes built by Elora Hardy and her team in Bali twist, curve and surprise at every turn. They defy convention because the bamboo itself is so enigmatic. No two poles of bamboo are alike, so every home, bridge and bathroom is exquisitely unique. In this beautiful, immersive talk, she shares the potential of bamboo, as both a sustainable resource and a spark for the imagination. “We have had to invent our own rules” she says.
What Our Grandparents Knew About Ecology, Genetics and Ethics:
“What does an animal need to have a good life? I don’t mean a good life physically. We know a lot about what kind of food, water, exercise, and veterinary care animals need to grow well and be healthy…
What does an animal need to be happy?”
Dr. Temple Grandin
Raising livestock is rooted in so much more than reading directions from dry tomes spouting food and shelter basics. The concept of cultivating animals as one would set seeds for a crop of wheat or pour some oil into a tractor is finally been seen as waaay off the mark. It doesn’t matter how hard agriculture tries to disembody cows, pigs, chickens or sheep, the animal REMAINS. And those animals need to exhibit normal behavior in order to thrive. Stress and growing conditions impact the productivity of plants (and even this is becoming a problem… with GMO’s), but plants do not have minds. As Dr. Jaak Panksepp reminds us, animals have brains. Their brains are connected to their bodies and unlike plants; a living thing with emotions needs to have its intellect valued if it is to flourish. The livestock of our grandparents’ farms were bred to withstand conditions, co-exist within a community, produce at a reasonable level that prevented chronic distress, reproduce naturally and further genetics for vigor and disposition. So what happened? Breeding for super production and other agricultural practices have slowly eroded the foundation blocks of sustainability and balanced unnatural yields or body traits that render animals in consistently precarious states, are in direct opposition to good and rational husbandry.
Slovenia food self-sufficiency index (the rate between home production and consumption) is considered low when compared to countries of Western Europe. It’s not easy to find reliable figures on what this exactly means thus I invite anyone finding reliable sources to please publish them in the comment session of this article. I have provided some reference from which I extracted the figures provided next.
An article on the Slovenia Times states that self-sufficiency in Slovenia is 93%, lowered to 78%, if we consider that Slovenia imports 99% of its feed (old issue of feeding animals instead of people?)
Slovenia is a net importer of vegetables, grains, potatoes and beef (though for our globalized absurd system it also exports a certain amount of these) as reported in the FAO agricultural commodities balance sheets.
Documented these figures, I must say that, at least in some parts of the country, villages seem well geared to maximize food resiliency. I wonder how this backyard production is accounted for in the mentioned statistics and what role it plays in feeding the population.
I ran into a funny story in a Michael Pollan book not long ago: The American pioneer legend, Johnny Appleseed, used to stay two or three hops west of the colonial expansion in the USA, buying up large swaths of riverside land and planting apple trees. In most historical accounts (the Disney version), he is depicted as an angel of virtue, making sure that everyone got their apple a day to keep the doctor away. In actuality, he was planting apple orchards because settlers wanted to make their boozy apple cider wherever they went, so there he’d be with a load of apple trees mature and ready to sell when the arrived. The apple a day creed was a promotional quip by apple growers during the prohibition. That’s the long way round of saying, since those prohibitive days, many of us have lost some lesser noted, but equally valuable skills, for self-sufficiency.
One of the aspects of practicing permaculture that often gets overlooked—in the building of soil, the harvesting of water, the conserving of energy, and all those other great things we get up to—is some level of proficiency in the kitchen. It’s well and fine to grow a bunch of wonderful, nutritious food, but it’s also very easy to miss out on some of the basic, everyday products we could be making at home. Doing so would be one more effective way of stepping out of the industrial food production machines that have been steadily damaging the planet. For a fraction of the retail cost, we could easily be creating healthier, organic versions of some of the most important mainstays in the kitchen: booze and vinegar.
Please exercise due care when working with electricity
The Non Rocket-Scientists Guide To Building Your Own Wind-Powered Generator.
As you’ve probably found out by now unharnessed energy sources are literally all around us. Be it solar power from the sun or geothermal energy from the Earth’s constant core temperature we are definitely wasting money and resources when we rely on utility companies for power. Another huge asset that we can tap into, which is arguably the most reliable of all sustainable resources, is wind power.
Think about it for a second, we can’t create sunlight and digging 4′-8′ into the Earth’s surface and running geothermal tubes is a very costly and invasive process. On the other hand every time we ride a bike or wave a newspaper back and forth in front of our face on a hot day we are essentially creating wind. This wind can be harnessed to create electricity for perhaps the most self-sustainable of all resources. For example a fan turns creating electricity which can then be used to power a different fan so that more electricity can be made – the ultimate example of a perfect energy cycle.
The potential for wind powered generators is far and wide and large-scale operations can effectively supply current to homes and even industrial operations. Like any project dealing with self-sustainability building a wind powered generator involves a 3-pronged approach of – 1) starting small, 2) getting familiar, and 3) building your knowledge base and expanding. Therefore this guide will show you how to build a modest wind-powered generator to power a lightbulb so that you can see first hand how power can be created free of charge. Once you’ve mastered the bare essentials you can move on to powering your furnace with the bitter wind of Winter.
Clea Chandmal has a back ground in the Biological Sciences. She has completed an undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences, masters in Plant Breeding, and a stalled PhD in Plant Molecular Physiology; all from the University of Cambridge, UK. Clea did her Permaculture Design Certificate course (PDC) with Bill Mollison, Geoff Lawton and Greg Knibbs in Melbourne in 2008. Since 2005 she has been running a farm in Goa, India. A farm which she hopes to make a Permaculture demonstration site. When she started on the farm, it was largely infertile. Several farmers had tried their hand. By local folklore its infertlity was due to the local demon living in the big tree on the property. Today it has a flourishing food forest, vegetable plots, simple user friendly composing toilets, mud stone and wood architecture and more. Her farm has been described by many as a ‘Garden of Eden’. Her understanding of ecosystems has helped her in the practice of Permaculture. She teaches ‘Ecoliteracy’ – a unique course devised by her as a preamble to her Permaculture courses. Her ability to simplify and explain core underlying principles, has made her lectures and classes inspiring. clea hopes to address, using permaculture, the growing problem of farmers suicides in India.
Our mission is to help propel the Permaculture movement forward by developing an easy to build, 100% self-sufficient greenhouse/temple of health and abundance.
We hope that our film will inspire and support you on your quest to build a greener, more sustainable and ethical world.
To support anybody who would like to master these ideas and technologies, we wrote a complete 189 page eBook. And for those of you who would like to go one step further and build your own greenhouse of the future or some other version of it, we also created over 40 pages of professionally detailed plans.
The other day I came across this viral video titled ‘Dear Future Generations: Sorry’ from a poet named Prince Ea. In short, the video apologises immensely for all the damage we humans have created in this century due to our own selfishness and ignorance. Towards the end of the video Prince Ea ends his apology, flips the tone of the poem entirely, and reminds us humanity can make change if we get together and start acting together. Prince Ea is an inspiration for many, and his video bounces around a few good ideas as to how to go about change as it ends, yet in permaculture we like to provide practical solutions especially after reading or watching something that is inspiring. So in this article I would like to first take a look at some little-known facts about humanity, and then discuss a few simple ideas about how to put the words into action.
Societies and their inhabitant are the reason that ecosystems (such as the Amazon Rainforest) are abundant in bio-diversity and life. In Permaculture it is constantly reinforced that human disturbance leads to environmental degradation however new evidence strongly concludes that without human disturbance, eco-systems would not be as thriving if humans were out of the picture.