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Gaia . ~
Kibbutz Lotan Center for Creative Ecology
Gaia Education
Green Apprenticeship
Permaculture & Ecovillage Design
Study Notes
Permaculture - Study Notes
10. Principals and Mollisons
15. The Americas - from the autobiography, travel in dreams - Bill Mollison
18. Permaculture: ethical design for abundant living - Graham Burnett
22. Mikes organization of the 10 principals
25. The body shop - child development center - peremaculture design
28. Permaculture design
29. Some have permaculture thrust upon them
32. Our five R's
34. Example of permaculture design -In making a bamboo farm
39. Permaculture design techniques - Earth users guide to permaculture-
Rosemary Morrow
47. Landscape - The permaculture way - Graham Bell
52. Methods of design - Permaculture - A designers manual - Bill Mollison
53. Analysis
57. Observation
58. Deduction from nature
61. Data overlays, Random assembly
62. Flow diagrams
63. Zones, sector analysis
73. Pattern understanding
78. The permaculture designers goals
79. B.R.E.D.I.M
80. Design checklist
81. Professional assessment of permaculture design
82. Urban permaculture
84. In the city - Patrick Whitefield
86. Putting our houses in order - David Watkins
87. Adapting zones and sectors for the city
96. All about
108. talk - magazine
11 Rebuilding local economies
.N. .J.I Fax: 08-6356937
What is Permaculture? fli
uPermaculture simply asks people to put as much life as they demand from it.
this too much to ask to save the world?
Use principles your everyday life.
Teach your governments-
local, national and international - with the wisdom it contains. "
from his introduction to
The Permaculture Way by Graham Bell
Permaculture (permanent
agriculture or permanent
culture) is a successful
appraach to. designing
sustainable environments
which have the diversity,
stability and resilience of
natural ecosystems, whilst
also praviding far the needs of
the peaple who. use them. It is based
on the philasophy af ca-aperating with
nature and caring far the earth and its peaple.
Permaculture enables us to establish praductive
environments which pravide aur:
* Faad
* Energy
* Shelter
* Material and nan-material needs
The ethics, principles and practice afpermaculture
can be used by anyane, anywhere: in city flats,
yards and windaw baxes; suburban and
cauntry hauses and gardens; allatments and
smallholdings; an farms and estates; countryside
and conservatian areas;
cammercial, industrial
and educational premises
and, af course, an waste
Put into. practice,
permaculture empawers the
individual to be resaurceful
and self-reliant, and to. became a
cansciaus part af the salutian to the
many problems which face us, both locally
and glabally.
Faunded in Australia, permaculture is rapidly
spreading throughout the warld. There are naw
many experienced permaculture designers,
teachers and authors in Britain and many active
projects which are a testament to. the application
of its principles.
There are practical salutions to our
enviranmental problems. We are not pawerless
individuals. The philasaphy and practice af
permaculture empowers everyone, whether we
have land ar nat, to make significant, life
affirming changes and to become a conscIOUS
part af the sal uti on.
"A a is a /11'0/7"""
A task without a vision is drudgery.
A vision and a task are the hope of the world."
18th anon.
The ethics of permaculture provide a sense of place in the larger scheme of things, and
serve as a guidepost to right livelihood in concert with the global community and the
environment, rather than individualism indifference.
Care of the Earth
... includes all living and non-living things-plants, animals, land, water and air
Care of People
... promotes self-reliance and community responsibility-access to resources necessary
The Sharing of Resources
To help others achieve their needs and reduce consumption.
Setting Limits to Population & Consumption
... gives away surplus-contribution of surplus time, labor, money, information, and
energy to achieve the aims of earth and people care.
Broadly, permaculture can be defined as a system of applied design for the creation of sustainable
human habitat.
From the Permaculture Drylands Institute, published in The Permaculture Activist (Autumn 1989):
Permaculture: the use of ecology as the basis for designing integrated systems of food production,
housing, appropriate technology, and community development. Permaculture is built upon an ethic
of caring for the earth and interacting with the environment in mutually beneficial ways.
To paraphrase the founder of permaculture, designer Bill Mollison:
Permaculture principles focus on thoughtful designs for small-scale intensive systems which are
labor efficient and which use biological resources instead of fossil fuels. Designs stress
ecological connections and closed energy and material loops. The core of permaculture is
design and the working relationships and connections between all things. Each component in a
system performs multiple functions, and each function is supported by many elements. Key to
efficient design is observation and replication of natural ecosystems, where designers maximize
diversity with polycultures, stress efficient energy planning for houses and settlement, using and
accelerating natural plant succession, and increasing the highly productive "edge-zones" within
the system.
"Permaculture philosophy is one of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and
thoughtful observation, rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all
their functions rather than asking only one yield of them; of allowing systems to demonstrate their
own evolution."
-Bill Mollison 1990
Permaculture ...
. . is a practical a
from the city to the wilderness, enabling us to establish productive environments
providing our food, energy, shelter, material and non-material needs, as well as the
social and economic infrastructures that will support them.
'" is a synthesis of ecology, geography, observation & design.
Permaculture encompasses all aspects of human environments and culture,
urban and rural, and their local and global impact.
It involves ethics of earth care because the sustainable use of land cannot be
separated from lifestyle and philosophical issues.
land-use systems and
which utilise resources in a sustainable way.
From a philosophy of cooperation with nature and each other, of caring for the earth and people,
permaculture presents an approach to designing environments which have the diversity, stability
and resilience of natural ecosystems, to regenerate damaged land and preserve environments
which are still intact- David Holmgrem
Such a definition implies that permaculture designers are active in a broad range of areas. These
include the design of communities, food production and distribution systems, overseas development
among many others.
Russ Grayson
The permaculture flower
The permaculture flower shows the key domains which require transformation necessary for a
sustainable future.
Historically, permaculture has focused on the Land and Nature stewardship as both a source and
application for ethical and design principles.
Those principles are now being applied to other domains dealing with both physical and energetic
resources as well as human organisations (often called 'invisible structures' in permaculture
teaching - see chapter 4: Mollison 8; Permaculture - A Designer's Manual; 1988; Tagari
Publishers, Australia).
Some of the specific fields, design systems and solutions which have been associated with this
wider view of permaculture are shown around the periphery of the flower.
The spiral evolutionary path suggests a knitting together of these domains initially at the personal
and the local level and proceeding to the collective and global level.
believe all sorts of things and I get
into terrible trouble with Bill
Mollison because it's all supposed to
be scientific. One of the things I believe
is that we have in our genes, our genetic
make-up, in the cells of our body, every
piece of knowledge that we need to live
on this planet. Permaculture is a system
for people who have gone to school,
gone to university, believe in ingesting
information from the television, the
computer, the book, pieces of paper,
conversation ... It is a system of learning
to take people down the road enough
that they can shut out all that stuff and
start to hear.
They start to hear the world speak to
them. We can reconnect not just to the
oral tradition of our ancestors but to
what the earth tells us.
If you want to find fertile soil, you can
take the soil, put it in a test tube and give
it to the man at the health department
and he will tell you how much nitrogen,
boron and heavy metals etc. are in it. Or
you can go to the soil and feel it, smell it,
taste it. A gardener, a person with green
fingers, is just somebody whose channels
are open and receives this information.
When Bill wrote his introduction to my
book, he said, "What we need is work-
netting not . Somebody
wrote me a letter and
your book. It's very m',>rpct.r,"
does this mean?".
One of the things about permaculture
which is important is that it is about
where IS
contradictory. Permaculture is about
putting the least in to get the most out. It
is about the furthest distance
for the least effort. BiB locates something
that a lot of people who come to perma-
entitled What is Permaculture?' given at
the European Permaculture Conference,
14th August 1992
culture have found themselves, 'Tao', the
Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Much of
it is based on the philosophy that the
Whole, the One that we are, is made up
of often contradictory things which are
not in fact contradictory. What they do is
to provide a tension that holds the world
in balance.
So worknetting not networking ... We
can network forever. We can talk forever
but whilst we talk, the ship is sinking. We
are the band on the Titanic, if you like.
What we need to do is work, and work
that is moving things in the right direction.
Permaculture has had a big birth
period in Britain, maybe twelve, fifteen
years to get where it is now. In doing so
it has generated a huge enthusiasm.
There are thousands of people in Britain
who know about permaculture and think
that it is a terrific idea. There is something
about the way the idea is expressed that
is magical, that puts us in touch with an
answer. There are plenty of people who
know there's a problem, and we are all
desperate for the answer, and permaculture
seems to indicate that there is an answer
and that ordinary people can do it.
Seeing 'the Light'
The magical moment for me when I 'saw
the light' was whilst I was staying at a
friend's house. I had a book in each
hand. One of them was about Findhorn,
with beautiful of and
quotes to Eileen from devas,
and there was the first printing of
Permaculture One. There were these
rlr:lU!1;nO" the paper was bad
and it was talking about somewhere
where all the people are upside down! r
weighed the two books in my hand, but
my attraction to was that it
was something that I could do. I'm not
Eileen Caddy, I can't talk to the devas!
Taking the Time
to Look
Interestingly, having gone into perma-
culture and not into Findhorn, the plants
do now talk to me. So I have learnt that
Eileen Caddy is right, and that perma-
culture is an enabling thing. It is something
which takes people into a place where
they can be. We start, not on a mystical
basis, not with dreams and hopes, but
with 'okay, the world has lots of things
that are bad about it, but what can I do?'.
If we focus on what is bad, if we focus on
what we can't achieve, then our energy is
dissipated. If we go into the garden, we
are doing it.
I was having an acupuncture treatment
from a guy called Tony Miles and he was
telling me about how he trained as an
acupuncturist. Early on in the course,
which was very intensive, the students all
trumped into class with their books and
the professor (a world authority in
acupuncture) said, "What did you notice
on the way to the classroom this morning?
What plants were growing? What phase
of the moon is it? What's the water table
doing?", and nobody put their hand up.
He said, "Throw your books away and
go outside for an hour and come back
Lecture over".
So the process of doing has to come
from being ... Enough to be in touch to
understand, to hear what is on. So
another little we can do ourselves
is to train ourselves to to take
walks and to take time to look. We need
to help each other to do this as welL It
comBination of the
and the spiritual level. So it is a 'doing'
that is in touch with spirituality. And the
spirituality is how you see it . it is not
what anyone else tells you. So its not
that you have to be Christian or Islamic
or even whether you believe in God ..
Autumn 1992 permacl.liture
The Spirituality of
permacu !tu re
I believe that everybody believes in God.
Some people think that God is a Mercedes.
Some people think that God is
you hold in hand and pay people
with! The of whatever
you like to call It, He or She, is that there
are higher and than us that
we not control and are so
that we can never hope to understand
them. should we try and understand
them? should we not what
us? The perma-
culture is to try and find God in yourself
(as the Quakers say, "God in us") and in
the world around you. So when you act,
you act to increase the bounty of the
earth, not to reduce it. Now that sounds
terribly obvious, it almost sounds
platitudinous, but in every way we do
not do that in our everyday lives.
Creating Change With
looping Energy Flows
I went to stay in France with Steve Page.
The first thing he did was to build the
toilet. If you wanted to go to the toilet,
you had to go into the garden where
there were little trenches. His mother-in-
law came to stay. "I'm not staying here",
she said. "It's unhygienic. You've grown
food in your garden and you've done
that in it!", and went to stay in a hotel.
He said, "Mother, you eat fish and chips
and you've done that in the North Seal"
This incident was about not under-
standing energy flows. In a conventional
house, there is a straight line energy low.
From source to sink, we are throwing the
energy away. The first thing in perma-
culture is to try and make a loo'p. When
we've done that, we have only just
started. Because yield is always unlimited,
you can always have more yield.
If you have a composting system in
your garden, for example, you can return
your food waste to the soil. But if you
feed your food waste to chickens, you get
chickens as well as the food waste which
still goes to the soil via the chickens. If
you put your chickens in a chicken green-
house, you get heat in the O'l','pnhr.ncp
which can be used. In permaculture, we
are to learn how to use as much of
the energy before it passes
from us. The leak in this system is
us, and an unresolved issue for me is the
conflict between and
As I drove this I
thought, "Do nothing. Permaculture is
about finding a solution by doing as little
Autumn 1992
thinking, "It can't work!" Well actually,
if every human being on the
stopped doing two things
would happen: 1) We would all die. 2)
The earth would become a beautiful and
bountiful place in a very short space of
time. We wouldn't have to do
else to re-correct the balance of the
planet because the would correct
its own balance. the restorative
elements are here within nature.
"We Don't Need a Green
Movement ... "
One of the things that I am struck by
time and again is that the biggest difficulty
for taking permaculrure beyond a hobby
or an obsession of a few people, and
making it normal ( i.e. what evety one on
the planet does), is how do people work
together? How do people get on? The
great difficulty is that this is not a
difficulty created by permaculture. I've
seen too many organisations in which
people of good intent get together and
tear each other apart. The left of Europe
has been doing it for years and is now
bio-destructive. But it is happening in the
green movement as well. We don't need
a green movement. We don't need
movements. We don't need organisations.
What we need is doing and being as
individuals, in the place where we come
from, in the growth and spirit of learning
of the culture from which we come. In
the regeneration of the human soul, we
do not need complicated systems. We
need to have gardens. We need to plant
trees. We need to rub each other's backs,
to have quiet moments ...
What we need is spontaneous regen-
eration in as many places as possible
which can sow the seed for spontaneous
regeneration everywhere. One of the
very difficult things about this is that it
means tolerating difference, so there isn't
an orthodoxy.
When you remove a seemingly archaic
and inappropriate form of religionlbelief,
what you are also doing is removing the
fabric which holds up the house. If you
are talking about rerrofi tting a building,
for you come into abuilding
and say, "Weill wouldn't build that wall
with concrete blocks". You knock the
wall down and what The house
falls down. You can't remove the structure.
You have to work with what you have
because that structure did
accident. It arose from the nature and
time and place in history from which it
who went to work in
asked me for some advice. I
"Be careful", What I meant was
don't go in and knock the walls down
until you know why it was done that
way. Respect the structures that exist
even when they are inappropriate. It is
no to thousand acre farmers
and "Well why don't you put in a
Fukuoka wheat field here?". "Well because
I will be that's
How am I to harvest a
thousand acres and where can I get the
seed from? I don't have a let
alone know how to use one". So what
we have to do is be very careful that we
don't say, "You're over there. I'm over
here. You come over here", We need to
lead systems from where they are now.
Permaculture is about investigating
and finding the way to go back into
ourselves, to find within ourselves what
we need to live and to stop looking for it
elsewhere. Did anyone see that piece in
Resurgence by a Brazilian suggesting how
the people of South America should help
the British to clean up the North Sea?
"Stop patronising me and stop telling me
not to cut my trees down!"
What is the remnant tree cover in
Britain? It is three per cent. Let us
cultivate our garden and take responsibility
for ourselves. I believe that whenever
permaculture people meet up, they
should do something. So anyone who
would like to is welcome to join me this
afternoon and we will make a garden. I
think we should make it a practice
wherever we go to do something, to do a
piece of work. We should leave a little
something behind that we did. Every
place we go, we should leave the earth a
bit richer than we found it, by minimal
intervention, by small changes, little
things. If it is only that we did the
washing up and we gave somebody a
break for an hour, we've done something.
If we plant a tree, we've done something
Graham Bell is a permaculture designer
and teacher and former editor of
Permaculture News. He is also the author
of The Permaculture Way - Practical Steps
to Create A Self-Sustaining World, priced
8.99, available from Eco-Logic Books.
Simon Redfield, Winslow,
Buckingham MK18 3LZ
Telephone: 0296-714892
IS A to Sustainable Agriculture,
The is Abundant is a statement of hope and an invitation to join us creating a
new agriculture. The agriculture we envision is based on sustainable, ecologically sound
food production and forestry methods, which are responsive to local conditions and
human needs.
We are inspired by this task largely by the work of Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka,
author of The One-Straw Revolution, and Australian environmental scientist Bill
Mollison, author of Permaculture One and Permaculture Two. Although these men live
and work far from our region, they share a common perspective in their approaches to
agriculture. Both emphasize the practical value of minimum tillage, tree crops, perennial
plants, and soil-building combinations of grasses, legumes and nitrogen-fixing trees and
shrubs. They also stress the importance of maintaining diversity and complexity, and of
integrating plants, animals and human society into whole, self-sustaining agricultural
landscapes. We believe that the principles put forward by Fukuoka and Mollison offer a
solid starting point from which we can establish a sustainable regional agriculture.
Masanobu Fukuoka grew up in a traditional Japanese village where his family had lived
and farmed for more than 1,400 years. He was trained as a plant pathologist, and at the
age of 25 he experienced an inspiration caused him to question the fundamental principles
of modem society and led to his life's work in natural agriculture. He believed that many
of our environmental and social problems arose from people living out of touch with
nature. He returned horne to his father's farm where, over the past 40 years, he has been
demonstrating the soundness of his ideas by applying them to agriculture.
Fukuoka's approach is to interfere as little as possible with natural processes.
broadcasts his seeds in the season they would naturally fall, or lets plants reseed
themselves directly. does not plow soil, but instead keeps it soft and
a continuous groundcover white clover. Instead of using tillage or herbicides to control
weeds, Fukuoka uses the clover, a mulch of rice and barley straw, and a rotation of crops
carefully timed to discourage weeds. As explains The One-Straw Revolution,
ultimately reached the conclusion that there was no need to plow, no need to make
prepared compost, no apply chemical fertilizer or pesticide. And so my farming
has become this very simple way. It's really no more than tossing out seeds and spreading
straw, but it has taken me more than thirty years to achieve this simplicity."
The greater meaning of natural farming, according to Fukuoka, is to learn to observe and
accept the natural cycles of plants, animals, soil, water and climate so closely that they
become part of you, and you a part of them. It is difficult, however, to come to know
nature simply by looking at it. Some form of interaction is necessary. By sowing seeds
and closely watching the results, we get subtle clues from nature. From these clues we can
learn to garden and farm within natural cycles. Therefore, it is important to walk through
the garden, fields or forest regularly, watching developments and applying this knowledge
to future plantings.
In the year and a half that I worked on Fukuoka's farm in southern Japan, I came to
realize that his simple, yet sophisticated, growing methods were molded by local crops
and conditions. Although many of his techniques would be difficult to apply directly to
the Pacific Northwest, his work demonstrates how much can be accomplished in a
lifetime of persistent effort and patient observation of nature.
Bill Mollison has devised a concept of consciously designed, self-sustaining ecosystems
which he refers to as "permaculture. fI His system, involving a great diversity of plant and
animal species, emphasizes the importance of tree crops and other perennial plants wich
have multiple beneficial uses the landscape. elements are designed into an
integrated system which takes advantage of the unique conditions and attributes of each
site. They are arranged in such a way that the species which require the greatest attention
and care are located closest to the dwelling site, while the plants and animals that require
less attention are placed on the periphery. By careful design, energies which enter the area
from the outside, such as wind, sunlight, water, wildlife, are encouraged or
screened so they work to the benefit of the whole system. The idea is to design a
perennial, highly productive ecosystem which, once established, will operate with a
minimum of maintenance. Neither Mollison's nor Fukuoka's systems are "no-work"
methods, but both are guided by the principle of reducing unnecessary work as much as
Mollison's ideas have generated a great deal of excitement, and some controversy. Some
people question how such a diversity of native and exotic species will interact when
placed together, perhaps for the first time. Others doubt that the planting of aggressive
nitrogen-fixing species such as white clover, acacia and alder is compatible with the
principle of minimum maintenance. It has also been pointed out that a greater number of
interrelationships among species does not necessarily mean that the system will be more
stable, as Mollison claims. This basic assumption of pennaculture is still being actively
debated among ecologists.
The reason for the controversy, I think, is that there are few models of working
pennaculture. Although based on years of careful research and observation, Mollison's
ideas are still largely theoretical, awaiting the authority of practical demonstration. The
situation is similar to Fukuoka's, following his inspiration for natural fanning, but prior to
his return to the fann. The proof of the usefulness of the pennaculture concept will come
with its implementation
the world.
and gardens the Pacific Northwest other parts
The various models of sustainable agriculture which are being developed in the Pacific
Northwest and other parts of North America cannot be exactly like Fukuoka's
fanning or Mollison's examples of Australian pennaculture, since specific techniques
need to be adapted to local conditions. They are, instead, expressions of people's diverse
attempts to heal the damage caused by past exploitation and to establish a way of life and
a way of fanning which helps to fully realize human potential. More than simply
gardening or fanning techniques, natural fanning and pennaculture encompass an attitude
and a way of life.
Developing a sustainable agriculture in the Pacific Northwest will help restore the health
of the land and build stable human communities, and will provide a model to people in
other regions who share our goals. It will take time, patience, and a great deal of effort,
but by working together, sharing our experiences, and continuously clarifying our vision,
we can share a future of sustained abundance.
From The Future is Abundant, A Guide to Sustainable Agriculture, copyright 1982 Tilth,
13217 Mattson Road, Arlington, WA 98223.
Whats the difference between Organic Farmlng
and Permaculture?
Organic Farming promotes the use of natural fertiiisers, making use of the
carbon so that waste from plants becomes food (fertiliser) of
as are being
lost from the a of
Permaculture goes one step further. Permaculture brings the people's wastes
back into the cycle, it reduces the energy wasted in transporting the foods by
producing the foods where the people are, in permaculture the people
contribute in their daily life toward the production of their food and other
What's the difference between Organic Gardening
and Permaculture?
The Permaculture garden is more than an organic garden.
.. It is also responsible for its waste, it aims not to pollute the surrounding
environment i.e. with either excess nitrogen into the water systems or weed
seed into any natural systems.
.. It uses design to minimise the gardeners chores and energy input. Repeatative,
hard work is the joy of few permaculturalists.
.. It aims to imitate nature. Visually this is the most noticeabie difference
between organic gardening and permaculture. In permaculture gardens (home
systems is the more wholistic term) there is rarely bare soil, the conservation
of soil and water is a high priority. There is a more complex use of space.
Plants are allowed to set seed, are interplanted for pest control. You will be
unlikely to see plants in rows
.. The permacuiture system aims to harvest and maximise water, sun and other
natural energies (e.g. wind, dust, leaves, bird droppings)
.. The permaculture system aims to provide nutritious food and habitat for
people AND native animals and birds.
Permaculture is not an end or destination, but rather a means or road leading towards sustainable
and ecologically sound ways to meet human needs.
The Problem is the solution We are the problem, we are the solution. Turn constraints into
Local Focus "Think globally - Act locally" Grow your own food, cooperate with neighbors.
Community efficiency not self-sufficiency.
Anybody today see of danger
politico-economic systems, all of which are bankrupt, none of which can face facts, and all
of which are corrupted by money, power, and "market forces".
Bill Mollison - Travels in dreams, an autobiography
Ow man in
Zaheerahad. 'Don't
work so hard" sqys
I "If I don't work"
how shall! eat?"
He is nine years old.
We work in Zaheerabad, to model a food forest and water harvest-
ing by infIltration swales. There we have filled the wells and have
plenty of food. We are like an oasis in a desert of man-made disas-
ters. The disasters are funded by banks, some 'aid' agencies, indus.,.
trialists, governments. The food forests are grown by poor women,
without any help. It is the same story in Nepal, Punjab, Africa.
'Everybody asks "Is Permaculturea viable economic strategy?" ..
Only if you see life as precious beyond gold,
,can you allswer, "YesP'"
Permaculture byPermaculture Visions
Relative location
Aim to position elements in the design so that there is minimal transport between them. Use
where possible to work for you. Leaves carried by wind fall onto mulched
AV"" ...,U and fed watering Sunlight warm wall seedling
Multiple functions
should be and positioned to perform a of (Eg. a
tree is planted to provide food, mulch, shelter for the garden or house, soil conditioning, water
harvesting) Multiple elements for each function Try to satisfy a function with more than one
element (Eg. use a tent of branches as well as a low windbreak of oats; and a planting of nurse
trees to protect frost sensitive trees.)
Energy Efficiency
Use existing physical materials to maximum potential: share resources such as cars, support local
transport, build structures that can work to shelter the garden as well as store heat for night time,
require minimal energy in maintenance, and are durable. A void abandoning machinery or
computers that are not competitive without first examining ways to update/expand and increase
their efficiency. We bought second hand memory to expand our computer memory size. Many
users do not use their equipment to full potential, they are still learning the potential of the current
one while considering a new model.
Biological resources
Maximise the use of biological and physical materials. Where possible select items for long term
impact on the system (plastic is not as useful a resource as biodegradable alternatives that can be
used as mulch or compost) A wide-spreading tree is a more efficient use of resources for a shade
house than one made of wood and nails. Selecting seed that shows greatest resistance to pests is
better than resorting to pesticide (organic or non-organic).
Energy Flow
Design to capture existing energy flow (Eg. solar or running water. Even animals can be
channelled to compact and stabilise slopes on contour.) Minimise the need for human energy
input (Eg. position chickens to distribute mulch, to weed an area). Letting nature do the work.
Natural Succession
Imitate nature in your plans to help a system evolve to meet your needs. Allow the grasses to
, grow tall and pioneer that act as green
manure (Oats, Wheat, Sorghum) to protect climax species (e.g. fruit trees) from frost and insect
attack. This is discussed further in Cultivated Ecology.
Aim to include a variety of each species of food plants or animals. Diversity in nature builds
resilience and resistance to pest attack. It also us find variety works well our own
particular climate and micro-climates.
as as
wheat, oats, and 3. tall grasses like com banana, arrowroot, cassava, cardamom; 4. Ground covers
as 5. as 6.
Herbs such as lettuce, spinach, parsley, celeriac; Shrubs such as currants and
bramble berries; 8. Small trees such as Macadamia, fejoa, carob, avocado, oranges, small fig; 9.
Epiphytes and Aerial plants hanging on trees and in branches. They include stag hom ferns,
bromeliads, orchids and epiphiliums with edible fruit. 10. Vines such as Kiwi fruit, grape,
passionfruit 11. Climax Species such as LillyPilly, Mulberry, Plums, Oaks, Ice cream bean, Nut
trees. 12. Parasitic plants such as figs, mistletoe. Appropriate Technology Maximise the use of a
technology by sharing or having it work to full potential without overload. Choose simplest and
effective technologies.
Information and Observation replaces Energy
Look for the best fit between means and an end. Eg. Our Intensive systems are more productive,
diverse and can be positioned with little waste involved in transporting produce to consumer.
Robyn Tredwell became Australian Rural Woman of the Year 95-96, over 10 years she became a
phenomena, her station finally became profitable and her work is copied by many. Most of her
success is linked to her keen sense of observation, she read much about other peoples practices,
but few were in her same situation. Her station is in the Northern Territory of Australia - a
tropical climate with wet and dry seasons. Her soil was compacted, denuded and full of invasive
and dominating native and introduced species. She observed that she could use the weeds to
regenerate the soil so that more desirable species could be introduced, she then went on to use the
resources she had at hand, namely the cattle to weed and spread the seed. Look for optimum
production with minimum intervention.
Fit the design into its surroundings (avoid planting trees whose seed are carried by birds if the
design is within an area of natural fragility - e.g. Rainforest). Look at the wider social
environment as a key to what will work - plantings with expensive crops in may require more
human intervention such as security whereas a design which meets broader social needs can work
well for the design, welcoming workers and sharing produce encourages others to share. If the
area is arid, try to establish a rich, mixed system in areas natural site advantages (E.g. water
collection, condensation trapping, shelter, sediment) as occurs at an oasis. Work with the
Acknowledgment to Dan Earle who completed his PDC at Ovens Natural Park in Nova Scotia
USA July 1 our us all, Permaculture to
more clearly define Permaculture principles.
in a ",,,,,.o,m are
Everything is connected to everything else Recognize functional relationships nQ>Tu.It:>,Qn elements.
Every function is supported by many elements - Redundancy Good design ensures that all important
functions can withstand the failure of one or more element.
Every element is supported by many functions Each element we include is a system, chosen and
placed so that it performs as many functions as possible.
- Act locally" your own food, cooperate neighbors. Community
Diversity As a general rule, as sustainable systems mature they become increaSingly diverse in both
space and time. What is important is the complexity of the functional relationships that exist between
elements not the number of elements.
Biological Resources Vve know living things reproduce and build up their avai!ability over time,
assisted by their interaction with other compatible elements. Use and reserve biological intelligence.
One Calorie In/One Calorie Out Do not consume or export more biomass than carbon fixed by the
solar budget.
Stocking Finding the balance of various elements to keep one from overpowering another over time.
How much of an element needs to be produced in order to fulfill the need of whole system?
Stacking Multi-level functions for single element (stacking functions). Multi-level garden design, ie.,
trellising, forest garden, vines, groundcovers, etc.
Succession Recognize that certain elements prepare the way for system to supports other elements
in the future, i.e.: succession planting.
Use Onsite Resources Determine what resources are available and entering the system on their own
and maximixe their use.
Edge Effect Ecotones are the most diverse and fertile area in a system. Two ecosystems come
together to form a third which has more diversity than either of the other two, Le.: edges of ponds,
forests, meadows, currents etc.
Energy Recycling Yields from system designed to supply onsite needs and/or needs of local region.
Small Scale Intensive Systems start small and create a system that is managable and produces a
high yield.
Make Least Change for the Greatest Effect The less change that is generated, the less embedded
energy is used to endow the system.
Planting Strategy 1 st-natives, 2nd-proven exotics, 3rd unproven exotics - carefully on small scale with
lots of observation.
Within Nature Aiding
goes along way.
cycles results in yield and less little
Law of Return Whatever we take, we must return Every object must responsibly provide for its
Stress and Harmony Stress here may be defined as either prevention of natural function, or of forced
function. Harmony may be defined as the integration of chosen and natural functions, and the easy
supply of essential needs.
The Problem is the solution We are the problem, we are the solution. Turn constraints into resources
yield of a system is theoretically unlimited The only on the number of uses of a resource
possible is the limit of information and imagination of designer.
Dispersal of Yield Over Time Principal of seven generations. We can use energy to construct these
systems, providing that in their lifetime, they store or conserve more energy that we use to construct
them or to maintain them.
A Policy of Responsibility (to relinquish PQwer) The role of successful design is to create a self-
managed system.
Principle of Disorder Order and harmony produce energy for other uses. Disorder consumes energy
to no useful end. Tidiness is maintained disorder.
Chaos Has form, but is not predictable. The amplification of small fluctuations.
Entropy In complex systems disorder is an increasing result. Entropy and lifeforce are a stable pair
that maintain the universe to infinity.
Metastability For a complex system to remain stable, there must be small pockets of disorder.
Entelechy Principal of genetic intelligence. Le. The rose has thorns to protect itself.
Observation Protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor.
We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities
Wait one year
Hold water and fertility as high (in elevation) on the landscape as possible
The Americas
Canada, Julv 1980.
Invited to lecture at the 'Second International Futures Conference',;
in Toronto, I arrived stony broke, having talked my way past
Hawaiian customs; my only footwear a pair of thin thongs, inade- .
quate for the snowy slush of Toronto. Then I noticed blood in my
footprints, and realised that they were so thin that the boxthorn
spines they had picked up in Tasmania were pressing .through into
my feet. Christ-like, I met my student host, and rolled up in his
carpet on the floor like a moth chrysalis; he pushed a cushion in
the bottom end, and a pillow in the top (it was a cold water flat). I
slept dustily and fitfully, and next day we left on his bike for the
Harbour Castle Hilton, having breakfasted on powdered Spirulina
algae stirred into cold water.
In Toronto, I rejoin Denis McCarthy, who has travelled there with
a group of Lesbians who are catering for the conference, and liv-
ing in the sub-basement of the hotel among the air conditioning
pipes and worker's toilets. I walk down endless concrete stairs, a
little concerned for Denis, as his companions are reported to be
tough cookies, and he is a somewhat absent-minded and bookish
librarian. Also heterosexual at heart.
Not quite inside one toilet, a couple are in torrid embrace, but
pause long enough to point the way; I am tempted to say "Thank
you chaps", but don't quite know how to address them. Pushing
open the ultimate door, I look into a low room full of mattresses
and ladies in all stages of undress. Behind the door, on a mattress;
reading a journal, lies Denis.
His innocent blue eyes look up at me, "How are things, Denis?",
"Great, great, excellent food, and really nice people" he says.
Much relieved, I arrange to meet him later, and sneak away, Denis
wears a sort of loose yellow pair of pants, rather like pyjamas, and
has attended a meeting with me at New Alchemy Institute. This
proves to be somewhat incestuous, with one member speaking,
and then the others clapping; a bit un-Australian. Denis saves our
honour however by relaxing on a divan, and when the applause
ceases, emits a long and sonorous fart. His innocent and unselfcon-
scious appearance makes it difficult to believe that it is deliberate.
The problem with Spirulina (apart from the fact that it tastes
duckshit ought to taste) is that it sticks to the teeth, tongue, and
gullet, a bit like hard-boiled egg yolk. Nutritious it may be; deli-
cious it is not. Luckily, we were saved by an official buffet that
evening, featuring smoked salmon, shellfish, caviar, black
caviar, etc., etc. (you can imagine). This lasted us for another day,
as my friend had large coat pockets, and we bicycled home to a
private buffet. Without Spirulina .
Near the end of the conference, at which I had given some sched-
uled, and a few impromptu lectures and seminars on Permaculture,
I was gingerly approached by a neat gentleman uniformed in pow-
der-blue. He invited me to a private conference on the sixteenth
floor, hosted by His Excellency, the Governor (note that I do not
drop names). So, escorted by the 'aide-de-camp' (for it was he). I
entered the express lift to the Governor's
The aide swept open a door, and revealed a chap inside standing
back to a large open fire, then spoke, "Your Excellency; Mr Bill
Mollison". I stood still on the door-step, and addressed the aide,
"What's his name?" s a y ~ I. "His Excellency, the Governor of
Canada" spoke the aide .. \But what's name ?" says I. After a
few tries, the figure by the fire came forward and held out his
hand, "Come in, i l l ~ my name is Ed Schreyer" he said. "Gladly,
Ed" says I, still (of course) in my thongs, still with green teeth.
It transpired, amazingly, that a group investment bankers and
oil men (Maurice Strong of Rio fame included) had attended the
conference. They were almost equally appalled by the woo-woos
and the high-tech solutions. I was, they kindly said, one of the few
sane voices. We conversed, seventeen of us, a plush room, and
were served canapes and wine. One by one (starting on my right
and ending at me), we gave our versions all possible futures.
No..,one had any firm ideas, except that it would all end in chaos.
The forecasts were unclear, but gloomy.
When a banker said he couldn't see five months ahead, let alone
five years, another chimed in to say, "Five days more like it". And
so it went. Nobody had noticed a small girl (Janet Ades), execu-
tive assistant to Maurice, who sat in a corner. But when the round
inevitably came to her, she said (and I think I quote word for
word), "Between us, we control millions of hectares of land; we
could re-afforest an area as large as North Africa, and then our
children would have a new continent to explore".
I was astounded. To my horror, tears began to run down my face,
and I had to leave the room, go to the bathroom, and wash my
face in cold water, repeatedly. One small girl had clearly stated the
way to go; those 'in power' were quite lost. Perhaps it was all too
simple for them to understand.
I eventually returned, and gave my plan for the future. I saw it as
necessary, I thought, for us to train hundreds or thousands of
skilled people to restore native habitat and stabilise land; to create
new, self-reliant cities, and to initiate clean energy systems using
well-tried technologies. This was our only possible future. I saw it
as my job to start that training. Without widespread education, no
changes could occur.
We could not look to governments, financial agencies, or industry;
they were all too much involved in the destruction of public
wealth. We must do it from the ground up. And this may explain
to you why, for the past 15 years, I have travelled the world to
teach teachers, to alert ordinary people, and to teach the essentials
of good design. I will die at this job, for as I see it, there is noth-
ing else worth doing. For anyone. We humans must ourselves,
with our own hands, restore the damage we have caused.
It is that simple, that difficult, and it must be done if (as Janet said)
our children are to have a new world to explore. Go to it. Only
people can do it. Or our children will, understandably, despise us.
Down to my last dollar, I accept a job, after the conference, as a
consultant to a development in Quebec; and I am driven there by a
suicidal maniac. I promise, if we crash and live, to kill him with
his own spanner; this slows him down to 100 m.p.h. And it is here
I meet my first guru (of many to follow; they are all developers).
Satchananda? I get confused with all
So I do the job, charging $75, but as the ashram is a smoke-free
zone, have to walk one kilometre to puff on a ciggy; there are no
drinkies either, so life is pretty miserable. helpful couple of visi-
tors spirit me away to Boston one midnight. At the ashram, I find
the effects of acid rain (too much coal smoke - for the central
heating and all-electric fires), and every fifth tree I lean on falls
over. Chatting to Satchananda himself (he has property also in
Bermuda, and has cleared an airstrip for 'plane) I ask him if he
is not a bit, a tiny bit, worried about living in an acid rain bath. He
says he hasn't noticed it;. would I like to ajob in Bermuda?
I think not; it could be miles to the nearest ciggy, and so I arrange
a midnight escape. I confess to always feeling uncomfortable
amongst groups who eat beans by choice; and I almost invariably
find a few of them wagging school, at the nearest hotel or diner,
chomping on pies and sloshing down beer. Only a public morality;
privately, they are just like me. He sends a pair of long-distance
runners after me, t I politely refuse to go to Bermuda. I forgot to
mention, I don't Ii e places that have a lot of rules! It means that
they don't trust pe pIe, want to punish
The contrast Toronto to Boston is astounding. In Toronto, a taxi-
driver turns off his meter and takes me around the city; in Boston,
I am locked in the back seat behind bullet-proof glass by a surly
brute who overcharges. ~ Toronto, I can a good cup of tea,
cheap, at the railway restaurant; there are clean cups and saucers,
and clean tablecloths. In Boston, we get awful coffee in a plastic
cup, and everybody wades around in a mess of throwaway con-
tainers. Odious comparisons indeed; sometimes I get a hankering
for the 'old Commonwealth' (not patriotism, just a wish to relax).
The best thing the British ever left behind is fairly clean streets, a
good cup of tea,and bacon and eggs. Forget the cricket; it's a
bore. I begin to learn that Americans ,are very different nations; I
learn this a lot more as I venture to Latin America (where every-
body calls themselves Americans, and the rest of us, Gringos).
As it turns out, and as I have always suspected, cars directly and
indirectly kill and maim many more people than cigarettes, yet it
is car owners (some gurus have dozens) who point the finger at
smokers! Such is hypocrisy_ Can petrol be classified as a danger- '
ous drug? Are drivers all guilty of homicide? Are cars an addic-
tion? Does a bear copulate in the woods?
By Graham Burnett
It's become a cliche to say that we are living on the edge of eco-disaster- it's also a reality that cannot
overstated. The ecology of Gaia is an interface between land (the Geosphere), air (the Atmosphere), water (the
Hydrosphere) and life (the Biosphere), a delicate web of interconnections on the verge of unravelling right before
our eyes.
The global eco-crisis is at least partly a consequence of the way that we in the West consume- cheap post war
food production policies and a disconnectedness from the world around us have led us to overlook the true costs
of what we eat and drink. In the UK farmers have increased food production by 100% since the war, yet the
farming labour force is dwindling and the quality of agricultural land is diminishing. In addition, the energy inputs to
achieve that have 1,600%. In other words, farming is actually about eight times less ..,ffi,,..i.., ..t
now than it was in 1945. Other hidden consequences of this cheap-at-all-costsllive-now-pay-Iater ethic include
massive soil erosion, nitrification of the water table, loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitat, contamination of fruit
and vegetables with pesticide residues and the release of greenhouse gasses such as methane and carbon
dioxide caused by excessive cattle farming and ploughing. Even the humble cup of tea that you could well be
sipping as you read this very article is a product of a complex chain of inputs and outputs, few of which are ever
fully ethically or environmentally accounted for ...
But it doesn't have to be this way. Is there any good reason why our 'cuppa' can't be sourced as part of a self
reliant and abundant cycling system? (OK, so 'tea' won't grow well in the Cool Temperate UK, but there are plenty
of substitutes which will, such as lemon balm, chamomile, mint, dandelion, rosehips, raspberry leaves, nettles, etc)
Permaculture is a contraction of PERMAnent agriCULTURE (or sometimes PERMAnent CULTURE), a term
coined in the late seventies by two Australians, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison. Like Anarchy, it's a concept that
is beautifully simple, yet can be notoriously difficult to explain. One useful soundbite summary is "Creating
abundant and sustainable human habitats by following nature's patterns". Primarily permaculture is a design
system- a way of making links and connections, of looking at how elements are placed in relation to each other in
order to maximise their efficiency in creating a self sustaining, low input/high output, non-exploiting whole.
At the heart of permaculture is a core set of values or ethics. These can be summarised as 'Earthcare'
(recognising that our Earth, Gaia, is the source of all life and respecting her accordingly); 'Peoplecare' (supporting
and helping each other to change to ways of living that are not harming ourselves or the planet, and realising that
we are a part ofthe Earth, not apart from it) and 'Fairshares' (ensuring that the Earth's limited resources are
utilised in ways that are equitable and wise).
Permaculture design isn't about having to get your head around untold facts, figures, Latin names and
complicated techniques, rather it is about careful and contemplative observation of nature and natural systems, of
recognising universal patterns and principles, and learning to apply these 'ecological truisms' to our own
circumstances. These tools and strategies can be utilised to finding 'Earthright' solutions in all forms of human
activity, from energy management, sorting out efficient transportation systems, 'Green' economics and trading
ventures, waste treatment, forestry practice and land development to promoting holistic health systems and
creating sustainable homes and communities.
However, we all need to eat, and it is the issue of food production where permaculture has its origins. If we are to
feed ourselves sustainably we clearly need to be moving away from industrialised agriculture and more towards a
gardening philosophy- less high chemical input prairie farming of monocultures and more market and home
gardens; places for creating edible landscapes, polycultures, community growing projects and forest gardens. In
London alone the potential food growing space includes 14,411 ha of agricultural land, 53,600ha of protected open
space, 1.4 million households with gardens, 1388ha of derelict land and 980ha of allotments, as well as school
playgrounds, rooftops, parks, balconies, etc (figures- NFAISAFE Alliance). Not many of us would be able to grow
ALL of the food we need to live, but all of us could make an often significant contribution to our own diets, and
might even have a surplus to share or trade with friends and neighbours. Growing our own not only guarantees a
supply of fresh, locally grown high quality produce, but also has many other benefits. These include stress relief,
exercise (I particularly like Bill Mollison's description of gardening as a "form of gentle Tal Chi"), a reconnection
with the soil and an excuse to simply lean on the spade and philosophise the afternoon away.
The 'pattern language' of permaculture design prinCiples can be clearly demonstrated when applied to our
productive gardens, allotments, orchards and smallholdings;
.. Work With Nature, Not Against...
Francis Bacon's assertion in the early 1600's that we must 'bend nature to our will' has informed our
species' relationship with this fragile planet for much of the modem era Now in these days of
desertification, flooding, global warming, ozone depletion and mass extinction we are seeing just how futile
and plain wrong-headed such a philosophy truly is. Putting massive efforts into attempting to 'tame nature',
rn'''''''Tlr,n and bare is not
it is also unnecessary when we can meet the needs of
peClple and the in or even natural c;"",to,rnc;,
Everything gardens, or modifies it's environment- worms dig and aerate the land; leaf fall mulches bare soil
and adds nutrients and structure; spreading annuals such as chickweed provide an over Wintering ground
cover crop; slugs devour dead plant matter and begin the composting process which is continued by
bacteria and fungi; bees pollinate and the droppings of birds sew seeds and add fertiliser.
Instead of whipping out the Bug Gun at the first sign of pest damage, why not encourage predators such as
ladybirds and hoverflies to do our work for us by planting attractants such as limnathes, nigela or
buckwheat? Instead of damaging the soil's structure and straining our backs with constant digging, not
add compost directly to the soil as a surface mulch and utilise the worms' free labour inputs, whilst at the
same time suppressing weeds and providing protection from the elements?
4l> The Problem Is The Solution
Or, in the words of Bill Mollison, "You haven't got an excess of slugs, you've got a duck deficiency ..... It is
how we look at that make them or not For a 'weed' is often described as
any plant that is growing in the wrong place. Yet with a small shift in perspective we can change our
definition to "A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered". Nature abhors a vacuum, and any soil
that is left bare will quickly be colonised by native wild plants. Rather than constantly battling to eradicate
these 'volunteers', why not adopt a more tolerant approach? Although 'weeds' can compete with our food
crops, and given half a chance would very quickly return cultivated land to wilderness, allow some to grow
between productive areas. They increase biodiversity, act as 'dynamic accumulators' (that is, they mine the
sub soil with their roots to bring up minerals that may be deficient on the surface), attract wildlife and can
be harvested for compost or mulch material. Many are even edible or medicinal, or have a host of other
uses and properties our post Victorian/Cramphoms haughty-culture have largely forgotten ...
.. Maximise Diversity
As we enter the twenty first century the world largely relies on some twenty or so staple crops. Yet the
Cornwall based permaculture growing and research project Plants For A Future list over seven thousand
species of plants that are edible or otherwise useful to peoplekind that we can grow in the UK alone.
In a permaculture growing system each function should be supported by many elements. In other words,
nothing should be indispensable as it's loss or failure can be disastrous. A person who has had only one
well paid but highly specialised job throughout their working life would be less able to cope with
redundancy than somebody who has several small incomes earned from a variety of sources. In the same
way, the farmer who grows a wide and diverse range of edible plants as possible (a polyculture) stili gets to
eat if some of them don't make it to harvest. On the other hand, their neighbour who gives all of their land
over to one crop (a monoculture) starves if it fails.
The other side of the coin is that every element in the system should have many uses. Permaculture
people tend to spend a lot of time emphaSising the importance of planting trees. This is because of the
multiplicity of their yields and functions. Not only do they provide food crops in the form of fruit, nuts,
berries, beans and leaf protein, they also supply bio-fuels, timber, coppice, medicines and fibre as well as a
myriad of beneficial effects for wildlife and on planet wide systems.
.. Everything Cycles
In the natural world, there is no such thing as 'pollution'. Within an ecosystem, every 'waste product' is
useful elsewhere within that system. Examples include the Nitrogen, Carbon and Hydrological cycles. Yet
industrialised society seems to be all about breaking these feedback loops. Nowhere perhaps is this more
clearly typified than by our habit of flushing our bodily wastes out to sea every time we pull the toilet chain.
Not only are we causing pollution, we are wasting a valuable resource. Composting our faeces mends the
cycle of fertility, producing 'humanure' which, after a year or so to ensure that pathogens are destroyed,
can be used as a fertiliser for trees or fruit bushes rather than crops which are consumed directly such as
leaves or salads.
We have also broken the cycle of time by changing to a linear perception of it's passage. For our
ancestors, events were not singular but recurrent, governed by the movements of sun and moon, the
passing of the seasons, of sowing and harvest, summer abundance and winter scarcity. Nowadays we see
no reason why we shouldn't have spring lamb and fresh strawberries in December, but even though our
calendars might run in straight lines, our bodies are still attuned to respond to nature's patterns. Christmas
feasting was originally about stocking up with the last of the previous season's harvest in preparation for
the lean months ahead. Yet goosegrass, one of the first plants to appear the following spring, acts as a
natural tonic when drunk as a tea, flushing out the body toxins that build up over the winter. Returning to
eating what is locally and seasonally available repairs another cycle and puts us back in touch again.
4l> Correct Placement
Permaculture design is about maximising the beneficial connections between elements, in other words,
putting things in the right place. There's not a lot of point in planting 'Cut And Come Again' lettuces on your
allotment two miles away from your house if you only visit it once a week. When you are knocking up a
human nature and the law of minimum dictates that will pop round to the
nro,on,run,rc:"-.,, and a lettuce whilst your crop sits to seed ... Permaculture therefore
use the of 'zones' to them decide where best Zones are numbered from 0 to 5,
and can be thought of as a series of concentric rings moving out from a centre point, where human activity
and need for attention is most concentrated, to where there is no need for intervention at all. Zone Zero is
the house or home centre. In tenns of food production this might be about using energy efficient cooking
and storage methods, or designing an ergonomic kitchen layout. Zone 1 is your immediate back garden,
the place nearest the house where ''the gardener's shadow" most often falls. This is the place to put crops
that require frequent attention, those 'Cut and Come Again' saladings, herbs, strawberry plants, espalier
seedlings in trays, as well as greenhouse, wonn compost bin and cold trees and
bushes might be in zone 2, whilst maincrop vegetables that require weeding and watering on an occasional
basis will be a feature of zone 3 (perhaps that once a week cycling distance allotment?). Zone 4 is semi-
wild, for example coppice managed woodland used for forage and gathering other wild foods and timber,
whilst zone 5 is the wilderness, where there is no human intervention apart from the observation of natural
Permaculture provides a framework upon to Earthright thi and practice whatever one's lifestyle
choices or belief system. To me, however, it's ethical philosophies and principles sit well with Anarchist thought,
particularly concepts like mutualism, collective networking, decentralisation, autonomy, and placing an emphasis
on personal responsibility. The other thing that I like about pennaculture is that it asks us to start from where we
are now; "at the end of your nose," as Bill Mollison says. You don't have to wait until 'After The Revolution' to
sprout a jar of mung beans on your kitchen shelf or join your local lETS. Nor do you need to be able to afford to
buy acres of land to plant a windowbox full of herbs or support your nearest Fanners Market. Starting an organic
allotment or planting an apple tree are tremendously empowering acts, and positive steps towards creating healthy
self-reliant communities. At its essence, pennaculture is about making real that other 'green truism', "Think
Globally But Act locally". For cliche or not, that is where the future lies if we are to have one.
November 2001
This article was originally written for The Raven' Anarchist Quarterly
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1. Co-operation not competition in work, communications and
Share information and ideas so all people can learn to live sustainably
Co-operation with nature, conservation, co-operation with local tradition, past
knowledge and also modern progress, modern sustainable solutions, alternative
can our U."'.Ju.::;a.
2. See solutions not problems a famous mollison saying is "you don't
have a snail problem you have a duck deficiency" old GA's "you don't have a cat problem
but a shwarma deficiency" OR the problem is the solution - weeds, plants that
grow in the wrong place, a plant whose virtue is yet to be discovered. We are the
problem we are the solution. Are you part of the problem or part of the
solution? Turn constraints into resourses, everything is a gift.
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3. Use everything to its highest capacity, Make things
pay, everything cycles, energy flow ,in nature there is no such thing
as waste, no such thing as pollution, within an eco-system every" waste product" is useful
elsewhere within the system. WATER, SUN, ORGANIC WASTE, recycle grey water,
compost organic waste, use the sun to warm your house, cook your meals, warm your
water, make electricity, don't let anything leave the site, use everything as much as
possible, recycle enegy/everything as many times as possible (recycle all wastes) bio- gas
close loops.
4. each element has many functions, Ensure that each individual
element performs many beneficial functions. Everything is consciously multi functional.
Wind break, trees = food, mulch, shelter, shade, soil conditioner, wood, ,chickens, shade
5. important functions should be supported by many
elements ego To protect frost sensitive trees use different strategies like
tent of branches, low windbreak, planting of trees.
Most important for Food production - negative example irish potato famine,
75% of the worlds calories are provided by rice, maize, wheat and potatoes.
water, energy - diversity, monoculture, having a very specialized job.
6. Relative location, Correct Placement, let nature do
the work, work with nature not against, observation,
least amount of intervention for maximum effect, work
where it counts, Permaculture is
connections between elements, in other words, putting things in the right place. There's not
a lot of point in planting 'Cut And Come Again' lettuces on your allotment two miles away
from your house if you only visit it once a week
Relative Location Components placed in a system are viewed relatively, not in isolation.
Functional Relationship between components. Rainwater is collected for animals drinking
leaves from trees fall on sheet mulch garden,
Everything is connected to everything else Recognize functional relationships between
elements. Everything gardens, or modifies it's environment- worms dig and aerate the
. leaf fall mulches adds and slugs
plant matter and begin the composting process which is continued by bacteria and
fungi; bees pollinate and the droppings of birds sew seeds and add fertiliser,
encourage predators such as ladybirds and hoverflies to do our work for us by planting
attractants such as limnathes, nigela or buckwheat? Instead of damaging the soil's
structure and straining our backs with constant digging, why not add compost directly to
the soil as a surface mulch and utilise the worms' free labour inputs, whilst at the same
time suppressing weeds and providing protection from the elements?
Work where it counts only weed if you plan to replant immediately, otherwise you will be
weeding within the month. Plant a tree where it will survive, assist people who want to
7. Bring food production back into the city, everything
gardens, stacking, perennial, no dig systems and towns
where it has always traditionally been in sustainable
societies grow your own vegetables and fruit, raise
chickens, bees,.
':l'OllJJ'NI IOj7 Ilmil nN l'rnil7
8. Minimum maintenance and energy inputs to achieve
maximum yields, mini/max. Cultivate the smallest possible land
area. Plan for small scale, energy efficient intensive systems rather than large
scale, energy consuming extensive systems.
7D' OIY.l'Oj7)') illlj7\uil OIY.l')')') - 0j7)')'J'71 ilj7lrnn/il'nJN nllj7\uil n'm)il71 il:lllnill':lm7
9. energy efficiency sharing resources like cars, car pooling, support
local transport, energy efficient structures, heating, cooling, energy efficient
appliances- lighting, double paned glass windows, solar heated water
systems, appropriate technology
10. diversity:: stability polyculture as apposed monoculture, each element
has many functions, connections between elements.
Aim to include a variety of each species of food plants or animals, diversity in nature builds
resilience and resistance to pest attack. it also helps us find which variety works well in our
particular climate and micro climates.
When The Body Shop
International Pic
commissioned a
permaculture design for its
new Head Office development
in Littlehampton,. West Sussex,
it was able to put into practice
its environmental philosophy
on its very own doorstep.
What better hope for the future,
writes project designer Chris
Hoppe, than to include the
design as part of its Child
Development Centre (CDC)?
he CDC is situated at the
western edge of an acre of land
behind the impressive 'pagoda
style' main office. It is a modern, energy
efficient building with a large black-tiled
roof, which dominates its open, barren
surroundings. Before the project's start in
November 1991, the site had been
'planted up' with conventional non-
indigenous trees, shrubs, flowers and
perennial rye grass. All that remained of
this work, though - apart from the
landscaped mounds, 'hard' play-ground,
football pitch and BMX track - were
rabbit droppings - an enticing snack for
On a day to day basis, the CDC is run
and managed by staff from the creche
organisation, 'Kids Unlimited'. Facilities
inside and out are excellent by comparison
to many other creches. The centre is
financed by The Body International
and is but' - for
the staffs children. About 50 children
use the centre, 5
weeks a veaL Kids 3 months
to 5 years use the all and
every older kids - aged from 6
to II years use it after school and
during the
The ethics, principles and practice of
permaculrure can be applied anywhere.
In the child-educational context, perma-
culture encourages environmental and
ecological education and development. It
gives hands-on experience of where food
really comes from and how it grows. Fruit,
vegetables, wildlife and flowers stop being
pictures on the wall, or food from the
supermarket served up on a plate. Children
can develop a respect for their planet, an
understanding of Nature - and how to
work with her rather than against her.
The Body Shop and the CDC commission's
brief was thus 'to design an environmental
landscape using a perma-culture system
for the Child Develop-menr Centre'.
The first task was to develop a working
knowledge of the 'site'. A survey was
undertaken, and a base map produced,
detailing its physical characteristics:
prevailing wind, rainfall, aspect, topo-
graphy, soil characteristics, frost pockets,
wildlife, vegetation, infrastructure and
features of the surrounding area.
The site's users - the children, their
parents and the centre's staff - have to be
considered as much a part of the site's
ecology and physical characteristics as
the rabbits. It was consequently vital that
I develop an understanding of how and
why used the site. This was done
over a of a few weeks, during
which I both observed and ~ o o parr in
activities. observations made
it clear which characteristics of the site,
physical and human, could be considered
then balanced
with information gleaned directly from
the client and site users as to what exactly
needed, desired, liked and disliked
about the site. PASE charts (Plants,
Animals, Structures and Events) proved
effective in this process, offering them a
useful framework to gather
thoughts around. All those
who use the site were canvassed,
especially the children, as they
are to be the main beneficiaries of
the design.
The information from these PASE
charts was included in a 'Permacu[ture
Party', a one day event run by myself and
Lin Simonon of Permaculture Playgrounds,
for the client and site users. Some 50
parents and children attended. The local
press and radio also came, as did perma-
culturalists from all over the country.
The party highlighted which design
priorities to build upon. Plants were to
be native, wild and/or edible wherever
possible or appropriate. But a problem
arose with animal care. Although they
were desired, responsibility for their care
was a problem. Instead, it was decided to
encourage wildlife on to the site (with
the exception of rabbits) - and possibly to
make use of a local mobile farm service.
Structures that were prioritised included
spirals and circles, a tyre-climbing bank,
softening of the infrastructure and the
partitioning of the site into appropriate
'age zones' that were safe and could be
easily supervised. Other priorities such as
wind breaks, soil conditioning and
composting were included, along with an
organic vegetable garden and conservation
habitats - in particular: meadow, orchard,
coppice and woodland. 'Curriculum
priorities' were structures and events
specifically designed for the learning
process that should echo and compliment
those of the centre. They included herb
digging banks, wind and
water - if safe.
so, it
create this
'design ownership' in the form of an
implementation and management group.
This is headed by the Conservation Club,
bur is also to include and involve
the children, their parents and the CDC
staff whenever possible. My role now is
Autumn 1992 permaculture ~
that a the
design onto the ground necessary,
and giving guidance when requested.
The first tree planting session took
place in March '92, with a good turnout
of parents, children, Conservation Club
and local press. Both Conservation Club
and children with some fence
erection and preparation for Summer
wildflower meadow sowing this Autumn.
Over the summer the Conservation Club
nrl'nolrir"y the
(Or)PC)Sllte) is a summary of
the full design presented on 27th February
1992. It included a base map, detailed
planting plans, and a consultancy
document. The latter comprised summaries
of the analysies, their conclusions and
design priorities from the 'Permaculture
Party', suggestions for events to enhance
curriculum activities, understanding of
nature and a community spirit. Manage-
ment and maintenance recommendations,
a rolling cost and implementation plan,
plant specifications and a 'Feasibility
Study'/energy flow chart were also
Roof support beams and existing struc-
tures: planted with vines, hops, ivy and
honeysuckle far human food, wildlife
and visual 'softening' of the building. It is
particularly important that the entrance
be made less harsh.
A 1 Entrance and car-park: sheltered
from swirling North East winds by
windbreak/wildlife hedges. Compost
toilets or reed bed systems will prevent
on-site human effluent becoming an off-
site pollutant.
Creche roof provides a large surface area
for rainwater harvesting. This will be
collected in a ground level storage tank
and pumped by wind power to a 'header'
tank. From there to be fed by gravity into
the grey water system (i.e. water used for
washing and toilets), - from there to the
reed bed system. Biomass from here can go
for composting and the clean water, for
irrigation or back to the water table. This
reduces the needs for off-site
water and
Located outside the kitchen
to minimise walking, time and effort in
the collection and tending of crops.
Compost bin for kitchen and garden
Autumn 1992
outside the kitchen to
reduce pollution.
The soil will be reconditioned and
built up, using turfs lifted from the spring
meadow and compost from the neigh-
bouring mushroom farm. Both make use
of on-site/local resources that
otherwise be 'waste' products. Additional
features include a herb spiral and vegetables
grown in 'keyhole' beds. These increase
the area, the amount of
for nutrients to be drawn to and to break
lines in an
A multi-story, self-regulating, self-
perpetuating, low maintenance system.
Based on the ecological principles of a
natura! forest - but with species and
varieties selected for the production of
food and fibre for human consumption.
Combines a diverse mix of plants, often
closely spaced and with beneficial relation-
ships to each other. It also makes full use
of the vertical growing space, increasing
the area available to yield. Like the
vegetable garden it is placed close to the
kitchen for convenience.
The soil is clay and suitable for a low
maintenance mix of flowers and grasses
preferring damp, acid (pH 5.5) conditions.
Turfs will be lifted, to reduce fertility and
prevent the need for conventional
spraying off of the top growth before
seed bed preparation. This turf will be
used in the vegetable garden to build up
soil, create a 'Spiral Turf Maze' (E1) and
used in rings around trees in the orchard
for their protection, as seats and habitat
piles. All meadows will have access paths
regularly cut into them by the mainten-
ance group. The cutting of hay will be
with hand tools - an event for all to
participate in!
The crop will be removed from the
meadow to reduce fertility, and used
elsewhere on site for composting and
mulching, or will be stacked in habitat
piles: Cutting regimes for meadows,
spring and summer, reduce the amount
of maintenance required in comparison
to the existing perennial rye grass that
requires regular cutting.
E2 Spring flowering, woodland edge,
Wildlife hedge to be extended onto
mound, to accentuate contours, provide
shelter and a quiet woodland glade.
Trees added to the few already present
will be old, rare or local varieties. This is
for conservation and
suitability to growing conditions such as
soil and climate. It will be undersown
with spring meadow, and as above, will
have cut to and berween the trees
to create a maze. A totem pole is to'
stand in the orchard as a central feature
to this 'age zone'.
F1 alkaline, spring meadow on
chalk mounds. The wildlife will be
extended over the
create a age
zone, and accentuate contours.
G1 Damp, acid summer meadow in
clay soil valleys between landscaped
chalk mounds.
G2/G3/G4 Dry, alkaline, summer
meadow on free-draining chalk mounds,
with multiple use wildlife hedgerows
extended over them, for reasons as
previously detailed.
G5 A regularly cut sunny sitting area
for outdoor teaching and activities with
totem pole as this age zone's focal point.
Sited on a landscape'(j mound; its purpose
is to featurise the landscape and aid'
supervision. Tyres are to be sunk into
half of the mound's eastern edge to
reduce soil erosion and act as a climbing
frame. The other half is to be left as a
'digging bank'.
11 Wildlife hedge extended alongside
the football pitch and over the mound for
shelter, barrier, age zoning etc.
Sand-pit edges to be planted with
marram grass to create another wildlife
habitat and more realistic surroundings.
In addition, it creates a visual and
physical barrier to children on bicycles
who enjoy riding through, especially
while other children play there.
The Motte and Bailey, as weI! as fort,
pavilion and swings already there are to
be visually softened through the planting
of edible/wildlife climbers - as with the
K1 summer meadow on
a chalk mound with totem and sunny
area boundary
and wildlife hedge with edible under
B ___

Body Shop
Rabbit Fencing
Wildlife Hedge
-'- Mound
'i Native Woodland
20 metres
Drawn by C. Hoppe
Earthcare Designs
Christopher Hoppe 1992
-_. -_. -_. - .-- '--1
L 1 Mixed native woodland planting
undersown with woodland ground cover
flora. Primarily as a first wind break to
the strong prevailing south-westerlies,
but also for conservation, coppice
produce, wildlife, education, develop-
ment and natural beauty. Coppice
produce such as heatherings will be used
on site for traditional country practices,
such as hedge laying. Any excess of
produce, not just that from the woodland
can be sold or exchanged locally off-site
for cash, services, or resources needed by
the system.
L2 Tipi as outdoor teaching area.
L3 Woodland glade, with totem pole,
to be kept cut for activities, and edged by
woodland spring flowers,
This is already there but will be shortened
by a third, as to make room for
the toddler play zone, and surrounded by
wildlife hedge.
This will have a totem pole, and central
area kept cut. To be surrounded by non-
thorny trees, spring flowering meadow
and woodland flora. The
ground entrance road
via Main Office
distance from the main building is not
the inconvenience it might at first seem,
and was specifically requested by staff for
peace and quiet.
N1 These are lower growing hedgerow
trees, selected to prevent shading of
neighbouring commercial greenhouses.
Tree planting elsewhere should provide
adequate visual screening without
An eventlsupervision/featurising tower
(01) is planned for the central plateau.
This will be planted up with climbers and
surrounded by non-thorny shrubs.
Mixed native planting surrounding the
BMX track. Its function is a windbreak
from north-easterly winds, a visual and
audio screen from the commercial
greenhouses and line that are
adjacent to it. These are in addition to
functions that it has in common with 'L'
- the woodland glade planting.
This is an area of non intervention,
allowed to regenerate naturally, adjacent
to the valuable wildlife corridor of the
This feature with its marsh area is to be
surrounded by a fence and thorny hedge
to prevent unsupervised access. As well
as being another habitat and potential
source of wild food, this is a secluded
rest area for staff and a venue for extra
curricula social events. As such it will
have ...
R1 Landscaped mound with sunny
sitting area.
R2 Woodland hut.
R3 BBQ area.
The entire site will be surrounded by
rabbit fencing, to be repaired or replaced,
and wildlife hedgerow, for windbreak,
screening and wild food. Where younger
children have easy access to trees and
hedges, especially those partitioning the
site, non thorny species have been used
for purposes.
All trees, meadow mixes
etc. have been carefully as
appropriate to the soil conditions.
Chris Hoppe
Earth Care Designs
30 Lower Heyshott, Herne Farm,
Petersfield, Hampshire GU31 4PZ
Tel: 0730-267500
Autumn 1992 permaculture ;;:
Edited From the Web Site: htlp:/lwww.thefann.orglpennacultureJindex.html
'The more you understand, the more you can put nature to work for you, the less you need."
'Thafs You should be of getting out of work in six years time. You should be
onrl",nln to where you don't have to move, around on the farm and the
ways the trees are working for you.
Permaculture is the design of human living spaces around environmental principles.
Permaculture is not an end or destination, but rather a means or road leading towards
sustainable and ecologically sound ways to meet human needs.
Permaculture uses thoughtful observation rather than mindless labor. It uses cunning not
resources. It works to slow the rate of increase of entropy (disorder). It turns waste to resources
problems into assets. Permaculturists treat every situation differently work parallel to nature not at
right angles to it. They care for the earth, care for people, give away surplus, and always pick up
Permaculture attempts to answer the question: How can we live on this planet in a graceful and
healthy way, respecting the plants and animals around us, and leaving the biosphere in a more
productive and healthy state than we found it?
The answer, complex and faScinating, weaves together microclimate, annual and perennial
plants, animals, soil and water management, and human needs into intricately connected,
productive communities.
Here's an example of a Permacultural approach to a common problem. let's say you want to
partly heat your home with wood. First, you buy a very efficient wood stove. Next, you need to
locate and design your wood storage. You decide to cover it to keep the wood dry, and to indude
an overhang to keep you dry and comfortable when you go to get the wood. Next, you decide that
the wood must be convenient to the door dosest to the woodstove, to save you time and effort.
And you decide that it must be at least 15 feet from the house, to minimize the chance of your
house becoming colonized by carpenter ants or termites brought in on the wood. Now that you
have locatee the woodshed, you notice the opportunities you will have created. The woodshed
roof can be built almost flat, a railing built around it, and a ladder up to it for a children's play
platform. Railed off on one end, you ccn locate a honeybee hive, with the bees' flight pattern
conveniently out of your, and the children's way. The woodshed roof can have a gutter, to direct
rainwater to a small pond or swale that you dig nearby. This will coliect the rainwater and allow it
to percolate 'nto the ground. Now you i-lave a wet spot You can take advantage of that by
planting a pc:,ir cf kiwis on a mound ne):t :0 iT - they need the SULlfTc;r soil moisture - and traiiling
their long, lovell twining branches onto tr;e railing of the play platfo:m - very convenient for
Some Have Permaculture Thrust Upon Them
Susan Whiteway tells the story of how her family rose like phoenix from the ashes of
unemployment and homelessness and created a satisfying and self-reliant lifestyle.
Article published 'Permaculture Magazine' No. 25
So, there we were. It's the early 1990s: we have two
small children, a business that has been sunk by
recession and no home. Oh, and we're both in our
forties. Forty it seems is the decade when employers
assume that those seeking employment over that
portentous age are in the early and inevitable stages of
creeping senility. We therefore disposed of the sacks
full of rejection letters, signed on and threw ourselves
on the mercy of the local housing department. And
behold, we were granted temporary accommodation - in
a holiday camp that was itself on the verge of going to
the wall!
Camp Homeless
Now, you do meet the nicest people when you're
homeless: your fellow travellers come from every age
and stage of life. It turns previously semi-detached
monthly mortgage, conventional-type plumbing kind of
people into unconventional pulling-together gleaners
and gatherers who are having radical rethinks of what
life is all about. 'Our' holiday camp contained (as well
as ageing Pontins chalets): apple trees, bramble bushes,
wayside herbs and 'weeds' in abundance, elderflower
bushes and a cherry tree whose flowers and later fruits
were all going to waste.
We intrepid folk gathered and savoured such delicacies
as elderflower fritters, crab apple jam, elderberry
chutney, nettle soup, sorrel sauce ... We swapped recipes
and began to grow herbs in pots outside our chalets and
tomato plants and garlic inside, on the window sills. It
turned out to be one of the pleasantest times of my life,
despite the label 'homeless'. We nurtured our little
patch of earth and our new friendships and learned
forgotten or previously unknown things about how our
Gradually we were all rehoused and went our separate
ways the wiser, bearing our jars of conserves and pots of
jam. Our council house was acquired by the
combination of a kindly councillor and by virtue of me
While Nick worked in others' gardens, I got cracking
clearing ours. It took much backache and the odd broken
spade, but before long the rubbish was cleared, the soil
was being fed and we were building up herbs, plants,
fruit bushes, flowers and vegetables in the plots. We
built up four compost heaps, a wormery, a cold frame
and a barbecue: all either home made or discarded by
avid 'consumers'. Every window sill in the house grew
something and Nick trained honeysuckle and roses
around the door.
Resources Everywhere
We soon made the discovery that just about
EVERYTHING was recyclable. Fridges, freezers,
washing machines, TV s, radios, tape recorders, videos.
With masterful tinkering, and expert sorting, of what
others labelled 'scrap' and a good and electrically
qualified friend, we never had a shortage of gadgets to
freeze food, wash clothes or entertain us. I joined the
local LETS group and with my preserves, cakes and
bread to barter, I've since done what would be 3,000+
of business - but in barter currency.
Being a sewer and knitter, the acquisition of a lovely old
hand sewing machine, ajob lot of knitting and crochet
needles and a spinning wheel (via the free ads) meant I
never needed to complain of 'nothing to do'" A small-
holding neighbour taught me to spin and the farmer
across the road supplies any fleeces I want in spring.
We wasted nothing -- old scraps of wool, cotton,
cardboard, paper, food ... they could all be turned into
some-thing good. No useful evening class was wasted-
Nick became a competent basket maker and I learned
basic crochet, gained a reflexology diploma and learned
about permaculture (hey, this is what we're doing
). Oh, I went to on
and every minor ailment now has its safe horne remedy.
We learned how to plait garlic bulbs, use the plastic
'thingys' that grocers sell tangerines for storing soap
and using as an alternative to 'Fairly Liquid', and
sitting on council steps very early in the
morning until the staff (who'd had to walk round or over
me) all arrived. A nice young man, somewhat bemused
by of some of his clients,
told me, "The houses you are enquiring about are
usually used problem families". Well, it was obvious
to me we were a a problem - we'd got
no home! I pointed this glaringly obvious fact out to
him. the we wanted.
Little Gem
It was a 1920s house, not very big, but sufficient, and it
had two things I yearned for: an open fireplace and ... A
RAYBURN. The latter had lost its handles, had no
towel rail and was chipped all over - but it worked. We
soon replaced the missing bits (by cannibalising thrown
out Rayburns) and this little gem heated the house,
cooked the meals, raised the bread, dried the herbs,
warmed the fermenting demijohns filled with hopeful
hedgerow hooch, dried the washing, boiled the tea-
towels, produced the jams and chutneys as well as
sterilising the jars to put them in. (What do some people
mean: "Why do you need a Rayburn?"). It good-
naturedly burns coke or wood and keeps the kettle
singing on the hob. Furthermore, we have resisted every
attempt of the housing department to rip it out and get
rid of it.
The garden, when we moved in, was five small plots
which grew nettles, nails, hosepipe entrails, tin cans,
beer bottles, an exhaust pipe, a bag of old clothes and
one complete rusted car engine. There was also a large
swathe of bumpy tarmac which ate up one-third of the
garden - but as a Mr Brown once observed, it had
'capabilities'. House and garden were surrounded by
farms, smallholdings, fields, hedges and a road with a
regular bus service (most important: I can't and don't
intend to drive). The 'estate' had only seven houses and
we were only over-looked by the odd flock of sheep or
cows in the field behind the houses. I was alerted to this
one morning when my husband, Nick, complained that
he'd been stared at through the window when he was
dressing, by a woman with a black face - her only
comment on seeing his semi-naked body was 'Baaaa'.
Reconstituted Stepson
was shortly after this brief encounter with a ewe that
Nick decided on a new career move - he'd try his hand
at gardening; you know, "Hedges trimmed, lawns cut,
invented for every leftover. Any
food that couldn't be fed the animals.
Oh, didn't I mention the animals? Well, they aren't the
big sort. The council don't allow cows or
nor chickens come to that - can't why-
never have rent arrears if they let their tenants rear and
sen milk or would dream on.
Anyway, the animals ... these too were sort of recycled.
(and Tr""(T,PTTln
or 'grew too big'. So there was a succession of hamsters,
a mouse, and the cat - a beautiful mixture of black, grey,
ginger and white fur who we named Rainbow; she was
the love child of a farmer's senior cat and an obviously
noble female who had fallen on hard times. She
produced a motley litter, of which Rainbow was the mOS1
beautiful and polite. We adopted her and she tolerated
the arrangement with only scarcely hidden distaste of the
unpleasant human antics. She's a good rodent keeper-
downer but understands the strange human affinity with
guinea pigs and hamsters, but her attitude to the mouse
sometimes shows itselfless than friendly. The mouse
(Merlin) is fascinated by the large furry cat and shows a
foolish lack of fear!
The animals in cages produce quite a bit of manure and
old waste straw bedding: the farmer up the road has
diversified into green manure/compost, so we have a
working arrangement with him - he takes our garden
waste and work clippings and turns them into bagged
compost and mulch, and we use his compost as and
when we need it. Alas, our big bunny died just recently
(old age) and Nick - unable to find it in his heart to
throw anything away (especially when he'd made it from
a customer's thrown-away child's chalet), has removed
the roof of the rabbit hutch and is growing tomatoes in it.
(Er, we buried the rabbit, honest!).
Give Me Marginalisation Anytime
It didn't take us long to realise that we wanted to be
seriously 'green', and consequently we were drawn to
fellow greens all round the area. We bought or bartered
free-range eggs, organic veg., fish from anglers and meat
from smallholders. We couldn't afford tl1e trappings of
the consumer driven society - so we had no credit cards,
hole-in-the-wall cards, direct debits, investments etc. etc.
to we no and
according to our beloved leaders,
. Vvnat's more,
set up 'think-tanks' to find out how to unmarginalise us.
bushes pruned, borders garden waste
removed. Reasonable rates.", that sort of thing. So he
hung up his suits, kept his ties for Sundays only,
into old an 'Old Lob'
style hat and 1830s beard. that, mother-in-law
would never him on the cheek or
her never come
to terms with this reconstituted stepson who'd taken a
turn car,
customer. But with word of mouth from one satisfied
customer (and who needs advertising?), Nick soon had a
round of 'regulars' who not only paid him for his
labours, but pressed cuttings, surplus fruit and veg. and
unwanted plants on him. Not to mention the
compostable grass cuttings and lopped-off branches for
firewood. We were ready to join the Permacult!
Back to l\1ain .Menn
conlcernea that we don't to help
keep our industrialised lifestyles churning; that our
children are underprivileged because we aren't on the
Web from the and
(cardinal sin) I am a mother does not go out to work
marginalised means nT,H.","
so none us tc
subsist on microwave packaged food, and can sit around
Although we aren't totally 'permaculture', we have been
able to go some way to refusing our earth-plundering,
third-world robbing, money driven, greedy society. We
have gained good friends, unadulterated food, well paced
work with a purpose, and contentment. So, we'll drink to
that with a glass of home made rhubarb wine. Cheers!
This Page last updated Thu, Feb 24, 2005
Any comments to
Our Five R's
When researching and writing about waste reduction and the 'four R's'
mentioned by Harrison and others we (April Sampson-Kelly, Paul Kelly and
Megan Sampson) realised the importance of a 5th Redesign for: durability;
ease of maintenance and repair, use of materials that are easily re-used and
re-cycled without high energy input or toxic by-products. The use of modules
in equipment can be seen as design feature to increase waste. Modules in
many products such as white goods and cars are self-contained, and can
usually only be opened when broken. If we design for common parts, sizes
and materials with ingenious combinations and application then the design
has greater capacity for re-use and repair. Few cars or even computers have
common parts from one brand to another, this has often been to enhance the
uniqueness of the product, 'It's different, better, sophisticated and new'.
When consumers demand repair-ability, items will be promoted less on
uniqueness but common-ness or 'standards' and availability of parts.
Permaculture is mainly about re-design. Clever design finds multiple functions
and use for the waste. Waste is unused output [Mollison]. We need to re-
design our cities into self-reliant villages and our home systems into
responsible multi-function productive spaces.
You should aim to reduce imports into the system. Packaging and transport
costs are reduced when you grow your own foods, Clothes and furniture and
white goods (if repaired to maintain efficiency) could be worn longer. Buy less
gadgets, or buy one that fits several functions. Share equipment. We don't
see the justification for a paper copier in our office, it is more ecological but a
bit more time-consuming to share/hire some office equipment. We also
choose re-useable storage equipment such as computer discs rather than
paper and have needed very little paper for printing. When out shopping - take
a basket, or use the cardboard boxes the goods came to the shop in. Say "no
thanks" to plastic bags. At the butcher, take your own containers. At the
bakery ask for paper bags or take a basket and keep items fresh at home in
large canisters. You don't have to buy new containers either. Many second
hand stores are filled to the brim with unloved Tupperware and canisters.
Choose products that are able to be re-used. Avoid so called disposable items
that cannot be recycled, much less re-used. Computer Discs have a good life
for re-use, Rechargeable batteries are best but mains electricity means less
toxins in soil on disposal. Cloth nappies cost only a little more initially than
disposables. Why not buy a small towel when you're out and have forgotten a
nappy? Nappies are great rags later too. Cane baskets are easier to carry
than plastic bags, they don't cut into your fingers. Paper bags should be re-
used before recycling to store dried seed etc. Re-use plastic bags if you have
any. The only use I found for them was taking soiled nappies home. (I'm a
very mobile mum, taking babes with me) Alternatives are hard to find but an
old food container would do the trick.
As mentioned above, buy goods designed for repair, less than 20 years ago
you could buy even small items such as pencil sharpeners with replaceable
blades. But they cost more than the plastic ones, and hard to find.
Most organic items can be recycled in the home system, plastic can be
but there may be harmful gases let off during process. Get
some worms onto the job if you only have a home unit, use paper waste as
mulch or try recycled paper making.
Example Permaculture
In making a Bamboo Farm (useful system for any design)
" most in the
when grouped with tree forms. They are usually cultivated in small clumps about dwellings in places not
otherwise readily Tall slender graceful bamboos along the way and everywhere threw
wonderful would seem the time must come when some of the many forms
of bamboo "
When I speak of "building" a bamboo farm, I imply a process of design. Things that are built are
interconnected. Bamboo lends itself to human built landscapes for a variety of reasons on which I will
further elaborate. Planting bamboo as ifit were a row crop--like corn--ignores the true fractal nature of
bamboo grove patterning. Bamboo thrives through socialization with humans as well as its indigenous
association with a myriad of neighborly tree species in an agroforestry complex. Thus I introduce
conceptual themes of design by first smashing the paradigm of conventional agricultural practices. We will
then build a bamboo farm, as if we were architects of the sacred. I speak of a new ecology for the American
farmscape. In the temperate regions of the U.S., where it may be appropriate, bamboo will be a key
component in this agricultural restoration.
In the fall of 1995, Bamboo People decided to design and install a Bamboo Research Station, which would
model permaculture concepts in design, further research on varietal trials and yields specific to the Pacific
Northwest, to grow bamboo as an agricultural crop and create a body of first-hand knowledge which we
could offer to those farmers and landholders who may be interested in planting bamboo on their properties.
A careful accounting of the costs for installing and maintaining bamboo as an agricultural crop would be of
great value, as data for bamboo in North American agriculture is virtually non existent. I chose the world
"station" to honor those geographical locations in the U.S. where many of our important bamboo species
were first introduced in the early part of the 20th Century. We would strive to carry on the work of bamboo
pioneers like F.A. McClure, David Fairchild, David Bisset, and Robert Young, etc. in places like Savannah,
GA, Avery Island, Louisiana, and Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
A Place To Start
"As soon as we start doing, we learn how to proceed." - Bill Mollison
After gathering data on the site, such as aerial photos, topo maps, county soil surveys, listing a plant and
animal species index as well as information gleaned from intimate observation, we created a base map. This
included basic site information denoting existing structures, riparian areas, watercourses, springs, septic
systems, drain fields and wetlands. We roughly sketched in forested areas, pastures, paddocks, fence lines,
roads and access.
Design Strategies:
1). Virtual Design
To create our conceptual design we hired a computer technician, familiar with the CAD program for
"Computer Assisted Design". By taking very accurate measurements of distances between buildings, fence
lines, forest edges, wetland areas, and cross checking them measurements from other components in
we were to use
dimensions. would prove to be invaluable
when calculating the square footage an area, so as to the quantity and appropriate placement of
bamboo groves, spacings for trees and particularly valuable in irrigation system design.
2). Designing With Nature: The McHarg Overlay Method (Or, Design By Exclusion)
In Ian McHarg's brilliant work, Design With Nature, he details how the
can be identified and on paper) a (or a
numerical rating system)(I). After identifying, example, wetlands, riparian zones, forested areas, refugia
exclusion" .
Once you have excluded those areas of any given site from human manipulation, you will find self-
designated zones for home sites, agricultural zones and the like. From my own experiences, I would say that
the most likely scenario for rural design is the chronic retrofit of poorly designed sites, with thoughtless or
impossible access (pattern application), and most ofwmch have been randomly plopped down in the wrong
place for the most arrogant of reasons. Homes on ridgetops (lovely view, but all resources, nutrients and
firetrucks need to go uphill), homes on floodplains (good soil and owners like to be near the water, but
sometimes under it), and homes hacked out of the bush (because people want to "live in harmony with
nature" ... but spend the rest of their lives trying to exclude Her).
At our Coyote Ranch site, a former dairy farm, we were easily guided in our design process--once
again by excluding non-developed areas of forest, grazing pastures, riparian and wetland areas--
which easily narrowed it down to a couple of acres of meadowlands adjacent to a native forest
3. Using Permaculture Principles
In permaculture systems design, we mimic natural ecosystem dynamics. If we are very clever in our ability
to observe and translate this information to human built ecosystems, we can enhance diversity and yield,
while providing for our own right livelihood, provide food, habitat and structural forests for ourselves and
With a third of our site consisting of native forest, we chose to use the principle of edge effect in planting
our bamboo groves. An edge "is an interface between two mediums".(2) In our case this would be the edge
between the forest and meadow. Diversity, productivity and nutrients are enhanced at these edges. We
would utilize the edge for microclimate; the rich soils at the forest edge which had formerly grown
blackberries, nettles, and Reed Canary Grass, with a backdrop of alders and conifers, were chosen for our
grove sites. The soils at these edges were dark loam with 80 years of accumulated organic matter.
By elaborating the forest edge we place bamboo in it's ideal--and natural niche--in the farm ecosystem. The
trees reflect light and heat, creating "sunbuckets" which maximize bamboo yield and vigor. The trees lift or
modify damaging winds and pole production is observably straighter, thus more desirable.
True agroforestry grows multiple, high yield crops of fruits, nuts, berries, timber, nitrogen fixing trees and
pulses, root crops, vining plants, herbs, fungi and shoots which often have beneficial associations known as
guilds in permaculture. Bill Mollison describes guilds as, "made up of a close association of species
clustered around a central element (plant or animal). This assembly acts in relation to the element to assist
its health, aid in management, or buffer adverse environmental effects." (3) In organic gardening we refer to
Valley's excellent article, Bamboo In Permaculture Design,
Summer 1
plant associations
and nettles. Rick
In China trees such as Paulowina and Persimmons are grown commercially in association with bamboo.( 4)
In Thailand, tropical hardwoods such a mahogany are grown with bamboos, as the bam boo acts as a nursery
plant which encourages the mahogany to grow straight and tall, upwards, toward the light, a superior
timber product. We will test some observed assumptions from other sites in our bamboo/ plant assemblies at
Coyote H . ~ ~ H .
a than usual amount of a . (Robert and
Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally, pg. 266). Though similar to the principle of guilds in plant
communities, dynamic accumulators may not have specific associations with other plants particular to our
species template. However, we will use these accumulator species on site from which we Can harvest
particular mineral elements useful to bamboo or other agroforestry crops. Thus we will grow our own plant
fertilizers and recycle their elements for the growth of other plants. Though oaks are regarded in Asia, as
bamboo antagonists (5) their volumes of calcium rich leaflitter can be easily gathered in the fall and used as
mulch for bamboo. Indigenous to our site, large quantities ofbraken fern provide concentrations of potash,
and when burned release potassium. Buckwheat and mustards accumulate phosphate and improve the soils.
Many species of pulses (or legumes) are highly recommended for nitrogen accumulation, with subsequent
tillage as green manure, back into the soil. Utilizing the myriad of plant resources from the above strategies
becomes a fascinating game of chess with nature, known in permaculture as the principle of stacking
In our research groves we have begun work with local mycologists in the Pacific Northwest to determine
which species of mushrooms can be inoculated successfully in the understory to grow select species of
edible fungi starting with inoculations last fall of Shaggy Mane (Coprimus comatus). Many species are
grown in association with the silica rich leaf litter of bamboo in China. Our work in this arena in North
America has just begun.
Adam Turtle, Editor of Temperate Bamboo Quarterly, has found black morels (Morchella elata) in a grove
ofPhyllostachys aureosulcata in Oak Ridge, Tenn. and white morels (Morchella aff. deliciosa) in his Moso
grove in Summertown, Tenn.
Beneath the soil surface--at the root level, or rhizosphere--we encourage the micro-ecologies and
associations of beneficial mycrorrhizal fungi. Recent research by the United States Department of
Agriculture (6) has indicated that bamboo benefits from inoculation by these organisms at the root level.
Mycorrhizal /I fungi... penetrate the living cells of plants without harming them, and whose hyphae at the
same time range far into the bulk soil, establishing equaUy intimate contact with the micro biota of soil
aggregates and microsites. By doing so, these fungi link plant and soil, transporting mineral nutrients to the
plant and C compounds to the soil and its biota (Reid, 1990). They are therefore both agents of plant
nutrition and what we will call soil nutrition--the vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal (V AM) fungi."(7)
landscape Coyote Ranch is rolling farmland, assembled in
depressions. decision to plant most of the bamboo on contour arose from observations resource
efficiency of traditional agricultural systems in Guatemala, Mexico, Bali, Vietnam and China, We used a
a o o ~ ~
serpentine contours around the elevated mounds in the front meadow. This appropriate, low-tech tool
allowed us to extend the natural pattern of forest edge, and create a sensuous series of bamboo plantings
into the native
pennaculture. More than an aesthetic caprice,
water nutrient with maximum via Our drip
laid on these level horizons where flow will not be interrupted by elevations, which would otherwise
cause pooling and emitter clogging. Swales could (and may) be directed on the existing contours, just above
the bamboo plantings to harvest seasonal sheet flow of rainfall which would slowly infiltrate and recharge
groundwater downslope, retaining moisture in the landscape much longer. manures and
fertilizers can also be laid swales where gravity will disperse the nutrients in time release.
Bring In The Eyes
we brought in the , to bring more to the site. People trained other disciplines often
prioritize (and see) things differently. The property at Coyote Ranch is surrounded on two sides by the well-
managed Philchuck Tree Farm. We consulted with the Head Forester, and he gave us valuable infonnation
on jump starting the 200 hardwood trees which we had selected for our agroforestry nursery.
In a one acre area of the property where alders were climaxing and lodging, we chose to harvest the trees for
timber and firewood, and to replant with high value hardwoods mixed with native conifers and bamboo on
the margins. A local logging company gave us valuable infonnation on "cruising the timber"; fonnulas for
estimating the board feet of harvest and how to create the lowest impact on the site for skidding the trees out
With this infonnation I applied for a "Forest Practices Application Pennit" with the local Department of
Natural Resources. These people carefully deciphered the coding laws on pennitted logging distances from
streams/riparian areas and wetlands, etc. They walked me through the process of creating a "Forest Practice
Base Map". With high marks for mapping, I was given a pennit to log. We have created an ongoing
dialogue with this state agency which is very much interested in monitoring the evolution of our
agroforestry installation.
Next we called in local county extension agents, who could see first hand, the installation in progress, and--
we hoped--would recommend bamboo to farmers and landholders who may contact them for infonnation on
new crops. The bamboo interested them to some degree, but of greater interest was the approximately two
acres of "sheet mulch" which we had laid out over an eight-month period.
After each grove had been planted (with spacings of at least 50' between varieties), we laid down a cover of
cardboard, overlapping, to suppress the grasses, especially Reed Canary Grass). On top of this, straw (NOT
hay) was spread, to add mulch, and to cosmetically cover the cardboard.
This creates a variety of beneficial effects. The cardboard suppresses the grasses, retains moisture in the soil
and creates the ideal microhabitat for earthwonns. The earthwonns slowly consume the cellulose in the
cardboard (which is like cake to them) and they then turn the fonner sod into humus, leaving behind their
mineral rich casting very near the soil surface, and thus available to the bamboo. Nothing like having
several million earthwonns per acre to digest, aerate and fertilizer your bamboo groves for the mere price of
a few tons of cardboard. (Cardboard can be purchased in 300 lb. bales from most local recycling facilities
for approximately $1 OOlton. Or they will deliver for a bit more).
the bamboo of Reed Canary Grass, blackberries,
etc. This technique demonstrates permaculture principle "using
biological resources". could have used roundup for annual weed and grass controL We could have
and to maintain an siege
state against nature. Or we can let nature be our ally and do it for us.
use a
consulting for Bob Gow at Hacienda a large bamboo/agroforestry installation
Yucatan. mayan had cleverly interplanted com and squash open
bamboo. the next couple of years this be an area high food production (of traditional meso-
american crops) until the canopy closes. And by planting a useful food crop, they eliminated the need to
weed large open areas which where covered by acres of trailing squash vines. We will try at
Coyote In summer '97.
March of 1996, we to prep the the initial bamboo plantings. was to
our driveway parking lot as a staging area where we could most easily off-load field divisions of bamboo,
and be able to truck out to as
The staging area was canopied by a large purple plum tree, which shaded the stressed bamboo from the hot
afternoon sun. ( Murphy's Law dictates that it will always be hot and torrid and windy the day you have to
pick up bamboo from as far away as Portland (Rick Valley's Northern Groves), and it will definitely rain the
entire time you are planting it). Nature demands participation.
Bamboo People (and friends) spent several days planting approximately 500 bamboo plants. Several weeks
per year will be spent in annual maintenance. The final verdict is yet to be revealed. What were the true
costs iflabor were calculated (as opposed to donated time)? How much would a farmer have to pay per acre
for bamboo? Per plant? What are the true infrastructure costs? Investment capital? For irrigation systems?
For land (if not cooped, as in our case)? For fertilizers? Tools? Soil tests?
By keeping accurate records and detailed accounting of expenses we can begin to assimilate the broad base
of knowledge which is needed to demonstrate bamboo's feasibility as a cash crop. Trials for shoot flavor and
quality must be documented as well as size and growth ratios for the Pacific Northwest. Bamboo must be
shown to create a sustainable yield vs. an energy sink.
Consequently, the same research must be done for bamboos in the Southeastern U.S., the Desert Southwest
as well as New England and the U.S. Gulfcoast. Not everywhere is suited, and in some cases it may be an
unethical recommendation. (Adam Turtle's cardinal question is: "Where are you getting your water?")
As a research facility, these are questions we hope to begin to answer. We document and share our mistakes
as valued information. By modeling bamboo's place on the diversified farm and sustainable economics, we
walk the walk. Hopefully, we take the risk of success or failure, before we ask a farmer to follow suit. Thus
we would speak of a new ecology for the American farmscape. As architects, we will build that place.
(1). McHarg, Ian L. Design With Nature. 1971. DoubledaylNatural History Press, Garden City, New York.
(2). An Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison. Tagari Publications, Tyalgum, Australia. 1991
(3). Ibid
(4) Agroforestry Systems in China. Published Jointly by The Chinese Academy of Forestry, People's
Republic of China and International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC)
(5). (David Fairchild, Japanese Bamboos and Their Introduction into America, USDA, Bureau of
Plant Industry--Bulletin No. 43, 1903)
(6). USDA Library, Bethesda, Maryland. "Bamboo", under sub-heading "Grasses".
(7). 1. and Agriculture", 1992.
Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory,
climates plants.
Your design will involve dividing your land into
six zones, starting with your home as Zone 0 and
finishing with Zone V, which is the natural forest. Each
zone has special characteristics derived from asking
the following questions.
How productive is this zone?
How much energy, water, and other resources
does it require?
How frequently does it need your attention?
In Chapter 18 of this section you will also look at
biozones and traditional systems of sustainable land
use in other parts of the world. As well as examining
the strengths of these systems, this chapter discusses
the effects of inappropriate land use and the reasons
why many traditional cultures are now breaking
10 Developing Your Design Resources
While the major goal of a permaculture design is to
achieve sustainable land use, this will not simply
happen by increasing the biological wealth at your
place. You will require a design that places plants,
structures, animals, etc. in relation to each other so
that their fu nctions and yields are enhanced. This
is where you will need to develop your skills to be
an effective designer. Permaculture design skills
include observation, deduction, analysis, mapping,
pattern reading and experience - each of these is
described in this chapter.
The chart in figure 10.1 shows how the design
process is linked to your lis and knowledge, your
biological resources and your goals as a
permaculturist. Keep referring to the chart as you
as it v,. II give you a sequence for
them to make good design decisions. However, I
believe that every person has the potential to develop
these skills and to be sensitive and connected to what
is happening on their land.
Observations are carried out on site with a
particular theme in mind. Your observations involve
very careful recording of anything and everything
which may be connected with the problem. For
example, if you had a weed problem you might look
at animal propagators, soil and water enrichment,
and the direction of the prevailing winds. Your initial
list may be quite long and you will need to investigate
each item on the list. Sometimes this entails ng,
smelling, and even ta(ting - these are all part your
observations. The rext step is to cross off the
items. You will t!'en
items on you r and test
confined to a small garden for rest of your life
you would never know everything or be bored.
Reading patterns
This design skill is about making connections
between your observations and deductions. Patterns
exist in time, place and relationships. One very
obvious pattern is the daily and movement

Fig. 10.1 Timing and resources in the design process
( j NVE.NroR.'I'
of the sun. If you know the time of the day or the
season when part of a garden will be in shade, you
can will grow in low light
levels. In summer, if the wind comes up every
evening at five o'clock, then you see this as
a summer phenomenon. Perhaps mists will drift in
at about sunset each bringing in
so you will not have to water even
though it does not rain. Or you may notice certain
groups of plants grow well together in particular soils
or aspects, e.g. morning sun.
Experiential understanding of your land is what you
know from your own experience of being there.
Sometimes you cannnot even express your
experience clearly. For example, you may know that
one place is not good for planting, but you may not
know the reason. This is partially a gut feeling and
it should be trusted.
Analysis is a very good method for integrating new
elements into your landscape. It is particularly useful
for placing animals into the permaculture system.
Before introducing the animal into your design, you
should list all
will be products such as eggs and meat, while other
yields are behavioural, e.g. scratching ground and
pollinating flowers. food,
shelter, etc. are designed into the system so the
will human 10.2
shows the analysis design method used
Mapping is the method you have been using to
record your observations and findings on paper. You
will generally need to use a system of overlays,
otherwise your plan will become too cluttered with
information. The first map is the base plan, i.e. the
map of your land which shows the boundaries of the
property and the permanent features of your site such
as roads, buildings, dams, rivers, etc. The other plans,
which can be drawn on overlays, are your site
analysis, the sector analysis and, finally, your new
design. In some cases you can combine your plans
- see how Rosie has drawn her site and sector
analyses directly on her base plan in figure 10.3.
Your site analysis plan is an inventory of your land
and includes information relating to climate,
microclimates, aspects, views, soils, limiting factors,
~ = = = = = ~ ~ { ~
Fig. 10.2 Analysis design method for bees. By analysing the bees' needs and yields you can work out the best position
for the hives.
------------ .....
() ",/'
Fig. 10.3 Site analysis and sector analysis of Rosie's Farm

souR 50ILe::.; CAN FL.OOD
I::.xP05E.D ON WE,5TE..RN
north, south, east as
movement of the wind, sun and water. A sector
pnalysis involves identifying the type and direction
of external energies such as winds, rain, the
movement of the sun, and bushfires, that affect your
entire property. Although these energies cannot be
prevented, they need to be taken into account in
your design to minimise or accentuate their impact.
For example, although you cannot prevent a bushfire
occurring outside your boundary, you can do such
things as planting fire retardant species, which will
reduce the impact of fires on your land.
Figure 10.4 shows a sector analysis of Rob's place,
including directions of sunrise and sunset in winter
and summer, cold winter winds, summer rains, hot
dry summer winds, and the likely direction of
bushfires. The effects of the buildings next door
(casting shadows and providing protection against
westerly winds and sun) are included on the plan
because they are external influences that affect his
property and need to be considered in the design.
Zones refer to the method that permaculturists use
for placing the various enterprises on the site to
achieve minimum inputs, resource recycling, high
yields and low maintenance. They can be thought
of as a series of concentric rings, starting from the
home centre (Zone 0) and working outwards.
Your placement of plants, animals and structures
in zones on yields, functio:1S
maintenance requirem .::fltS. For example, chick"ns
are placed quite close ~ house since lay
most of your
recycling all your organic waste into fine humus.
These zones will increase your self-reliance and
provide security against toxins and unprincipled
agricultural businesses.
Zone III requires less maintenance than Zones I
and II. The plant species are hardier and are largely
self-propagating. A foraging system can be designed
to support the animals. In this area you might have
a large-scale organic orchard, a nut forest, a grain
cropping area, and an extensive organic poultry
system. The area is usually protected by multi-
functional windbreaks.
Zone IV is a longer-term development It is'
timbered and will eventually resemble a woodland.
The species planted here are harvested on a
sustainable basis for building, mulching, firewood
and precious timbers. Larger animals such as cattle,
deer and pigs can be kept at low stocking rates, or
you may decide to let indigenous animals maintain
this zone. The animals' requirements for
maintenance will be minimal because permanent
fodder is grown on site, either as fodder trees (tree
lucerne, honey locust and carob) or in understorey
Zone V is the conservation zone which protects
soils, water, air, and the indigenous plants of the
region. It fu nctions as a reserve, a regrowth area, and
a wildlife reserve. Ideally, it is connected to national
parks or reserves.
you your plan, it is often good idea
desig:ling Zone V
; ones. In
o I
OR,( WINce. IN
!>UMME-1'\ ARe: A
wE!>1ERI.), WIN05
COLO AND "IO:>T---+-7

WIND!:> 8RINe;
AREA"*, 91'51V12.
FENa:: ,-5'",

10.4 Sector analysis of Rob's Place. The sector analysis shows the type and direction of wild energies (rain, wind,
floods, fires, sun) which affect your property.
Design Strategies and Techniques
The ideas you have just read about will help you to
draw plans for the broad landscape. However, you
may have difficulty when it comes to working out
the finer details for increasing yields and using less
energy and resources. Figure 10.5 shows some of the
most common techniques used in permaculture
Fig. 10.5 Small-scale design techniques
are used to increase the area
are used in designing paths

: 'YG::' ">
. . .

::'-':-; ": ..
Spirals and circles are excellent shapes for conserving
resources because they have a small edge compared to
the inside area.

Compared to a straight line, a zig-zag trellis provides a
variety of microclimates and increases the area available
for plantings.
Simple structures can be used to extend the growing
season and increase yields by protecting plants from
weather extremes.
Small-scale suntraps are excellent for growing plants in
cool climate gardens. For example, temporary hedges of
sunflowers can be used to provide shelter for lower
growing plants.
In warm climates it can be beneficial to shade plants from
the sun. For example, a semi-circular planting of corn will
provide shade for broccoli in summer. As a result, the
broccoli will last longer and will not bolt.
e.R.ICK:' :
---, D::r---!:: ..

.:: .. \: .. ::: ... :,/.}.::::\ .... . .\ .. I . .':/::
Spaces in between brick paths can be used to grow small,
hardy heat-loving plants. The bricks will store heat and
act as a mulch.
KEyhole beds are a basic design technique used in
permacu Itu re because they:
offer a variety of aspects;
maxi.mise use of space by extending the path edge;
provide easy access to plants;
inhibit planting in straight rows (and thereby
discourage buildup of pests).
Try This
You will be learning about each zone in detail in the
next six chapters. Before you start designing your
zones, you will need to draw a sector analysis of your
The features you should include in your analysis
are winter and summer sun paths, the direction of
rain, and the direction of the prevailing winds
(including seasonality and intensity). If you live in an
area where bushfires, cyclones, floods or pollution
are problems you will also need to show these on
your plan.
Understanding the form and content of landscape enables us to place and
design human needs in context.
Maps let us to look at large spaces in two
us a language
whereby we can understand landshape
even from book. They also reduce
scale, so that we can sit at home and look
intelligently at a river valley system, or
acres, without moving. They take
the large and complex and make it
Maps are offered in a number of scales.
This is slightly complicated by the
incomplete changeover in the UK from
Imperial to Metric systems. Metric are
listed to the and Imperial to the
right below.
1:50000 Scale was 1:63 360 to the
1:25000 Scale was (2'12" to the mile)
1:10 000 Scale was 1:10 550 (6" to the
1: 2500 Scale was (25" to the mile)
and for urban areas only:
1:1250 Scale (50" to the mile, or
500sq m per map)
Smaller scale maps than these serve
little purpose in landscape or com-
munity design, although they are usefid
to view long distance communications,
or the shape of a large watershed. The
larger the scale the more expensive the
map. 1: 50 000 Scale shows roads and
footpaths. 1:25 000 includes field
boundaries. These are small scale maps
and are useful to gain a broad view. From
1:10000 Scale upwards the drawings are
technically 'plans', not maps. This scale
is the definitive map for footpaths. At
1:2500 we have field sizes and reference
numbers marked. They also show water
courses in detail, and are the base maps
from which all other maps are taken,
except that they do not show contours.
For large scale, detailed planning you
really need to work at this scale and draw
in the contours.
There are also geological and soil
maps. Geological maps (usually only at
1:50 000 scale) show the underlying
rock stmcture which has great influence
on the landscape. Soil maps show soil
types and, if accompanied by the
detailed guides which are also available,
are invaluable for determining what land
usage is possible on a site. There are also
maps showing the grading of land for
agricultural purposes on the following
Grade 1: Land capable of producing
a very wide range of crops
Grade 2: Land capable of producing
a wide range of crops
Grade 3: Land capable of producing
a moderate range of crops
Grade 4: Land capable of producing
a narrow range of crops
Grade 5: Land suited only to
improved grassland and rough
Grade 6: Land capable of use only as
rough grazings
Grade 7: Land of very limited
agricultural usage
ungraded: Built up areas
Some private companies offer satellite
or infrared aerial photographs which give
useful graphic information about
climate, building efficiency, water forms
or landshape.
Maps help us understand orientation
of a site and review the consequences of
detailed placements of buildings, stmc-
tures and trees or other crops on a site.
from map scale to map
scale and from publisher to
map should have a which
explains what all the symbols mean. The
use of symbols means that many more
pieces of information can be fitted into
a given space than if accurate miniature
drawings were made of each or if
long-winded verbal explanations were
Map is Not the Land
Maps are not the land itself, only a tool.
Microdimates don't show up, and the
contours shown are always a
isation. You will find the land has lot
more variation than is apparent the
map. For detailed knowledge, you must
walk the land. The map cannot show
climate and seasonal variation either.
Nor will it record all the detailed little
changes since the map was last reviewed.
Notwithstanding these comments, maps
are invaluable aids.
Contours are imaginary lines
every point in the landscape at a
above 'datum', which is
sea-level. The distance they are apart will
be specified on the
a language which can be 'read' to
understand landshape.
THE PERMACULTURE WAY----------------
__ 1100 __
~ 8
First distinguish valleys, which offer
from ridges, which are exposed.
Valleys tend to collect water, ridges to
drain it. Secondly, become aware of
when a slope is convex or concave. Can
you tell how steep a slope is from the
mapc Is flat land obvious? Remember
that Hat land occurs on ridge tops as well
as on hillsides, and in valley bottoms,
and not just on the great plains. If you
can understand from a map these
variations ill shape, then you are well
to see the efiects on the energy
flows in the landscape.
Water l11bles, Water Flow
No-one has access to all the landscape, or
time or strength to deal with it. This
matters, because we are always only
looking at a section of energy How. It
appears that water leaves and enters our
environment at certain points, although
water moves across whole continents
and oceans. Understanding these larger
flows is helpful.
Water operates across three dimen-
sions and time, usually flowing down-
wards. It is not just mIming over the
ground, but also under the ground and
in all living matter. The water table is the
level to which water has saturated the
ground below us. Rocks and soils will
affect differently how the water pene-
trates and is stored in the ground. Some
make impervious layers (that is-
impassable to water), others absorb and
hold water.
The height of the water table is cmcial
from the point of view of the viability of
springs and wells. Springs tend to appear
in hillsides near the top level of the water
table. In exceptionally dry weather the
water table may sink so far that the
springs dry up, or the well no longer
reaches down to a usable supply.
When water collects in sufficient
quantity it creates a How, always seeking
(as all energy does) to balance forces by
coming to rest. This it can only do at the
'lowest point'. Water naturally flows in
curved lines giving it high 'turbidity', or
a good ability to carry particles. Water
forced into straight channels loses
turbidity, and deposits any matter it is
carrying. The effect of this is silting-up
and much labour is required to dredge
straight channels clean. If the available
channel is narrowed, the speed of the
water will increase, or ifbroadened, slow
Prevailing and Other
The effect of prevailing winds on the
local scale depends on the shape of the
land and the available shelter. Other
winds, although less frequent than the
prevailing one, may be more damaging.
Three days of icy polar gales in the early
spring can min a fruit crop which
cheerfully withstands two hundred days
of cool moist winds up from the tropics.
If you have no local experience, ask
your neighbours. Detailed records can
be obtained from the Meteorological
Office in Britain. In the United States
there are TV and newspaper records,
local airports, local fire stations or the
Forestry Department. Schools and
colleges often keep records. There are
plenty of sources. The most invaluable
document you can obtain is a windrose.
This shows in printed form the duration
of winds from each point of the
compass, and the proportion of that
time for which they blew at different
stated velocities. This information can
be expensive to buy, but will soon pay
for itself in saving mistakes through bad
planning. You can set up your own
weather station, or monitor daily
forecasts and records in the papers and
on the ailwaves.
Climate (ColdlWarm?)
long slow walks on
and watching where thaw sets
can tell you a lot about where it is
very cold in winter. Frost pockets are not
the place to put dwellings or crops that
need the benefit of the ends of the
season to make their
Some slopes will be warmer,
others particularly cold. This may be
because of exposure to the sun and
wind, shade fi-om trees or buildings, or
due to wetness or dryness of the ground.
These are aU important considerations
in making appropriate placements on
Rock and Soil Structure
Rocks are a historical record of other life
on the planet, and they are
a daily inHuence on our lives. Some were
formed as the planet was made. The
outer crust has rocks which are
the inner core of the
is composed of magma - hot
rodes which are liquid. Along hmlt lines
Earth's crust we get
as magma forces its way into the
sea or the atmosphere, cooling to form
volcanic rocks. Volcanoes also throw up
ash in the form of pumice.
THE PERMACULTURE WAY ----------------
rocks may be melted by the heat of the
volcanic emption, making metamorphic
rocks. Other rocks are formed as layers of
sediment build up under water, or in
deserts. Wind, temperature changes and
water erode existing rocks which break
into smaller fi<lgments. The eroding
t()rces move these sediments across the
surface of the Earth and into the seas.
Some of the rock particles kmn soils,
often with organic matter. There are
many kii1ds of soils, from those in fertile
alluvial plains, which have been left by
nver flows as they moved their courses,
to boulder clays, remnants of previous
ice ages. Some soils, like peat, are almost
pure organic matter, built up from
rotted mosses and trees, others, like
are pure rock particles.
Sedimentary rocks remind us of their
interaction with living matter by
carrying a record of plants and animals in
f()ssil form. Chalk is entirely composed
of the remains of tiny sea creatures.
Some rocks display a preordained
their chemical composition
reflecting regular shapes, such as the
hexagonal columns of basalt in
the Giant's Causeway in Northern
Ireland. The characteristics of individual
rocks are affected by rate of cooling when
they formed, relative temperature and
pressure of their situation, and oxidation
and weathering which has taken place
Soils are usually classified as miming
ti'Olu sand through loam to clay. The
main differences between the extremes

of soil are in size and shape of particle.
Sand particles may be six thousand times
larger than clay, and are round or sharp
in shape. Clay particles are mostly plate-
shaped, giving clay its slippery feel.
Sand absorbs water and dries quickly,
Its fertility is greatly improved by large
additions of humus (rotted vegetable
matter). It is most likely to be deficient
in available minerals.
Loam is an admixture of the two
extremes and is very workable, whilst
relatively retentive of water.
Clay is mineral-rich, relatively
impervious to water, and when wet it
becomes as unworkable as cold porridge,
being a good substitute for concrete
when dry. It needs breaking up to
improve drainage and will also benefit
from increased humic content. It will
improve with the addition of lime,
'flocculating' to form larger particles.
There is little you can do to manage
rocks in a landscape on the broad scale.
Sedimentary rocks, being layered, will
split easily and make good building
materials; granitic rocks are less desirable
as building blocks because of their high
background radiation levels. At the end
of the day you only have the rocks there
are to work with.
Soil is different. It will have some
strong characteristics, which are hard to
change, but it can more easily be
improved. The ideal soils for growing are
high in humic content and slightly acid
with good mineral content. These \ViiI
support the widest range of crops. There
are, however, crops which will adapt to
a wide range of conditions from salt
marsh to freezing deserts.
Dam Sites
Certain land features suggest good
points to place dams. Dams are a
worthwhile investment, even in wet
climates, because they offer storage of
energy high in the landscape. If small
scale dams become more common, then
we reduce the necessity for large
centralised structures which are more
ecologically damaging, and more prone
to fuilure than a web of small resources.
They enable quite small scale farmers or
townships to take responsibility for their
own water supply. If recent weather
vagaries are anything to go by, they will
also offer greatly increased security
against extremes of drought. An
additional aspect is that stmtegies for soil
management which encourage the
collection and retention of rainwater will
reduce run-off. Increased water storage
will be needed to compensate for the
lower throughflow.
Valley dams are the easiest to
constmct, and can be placed in series
down descending valleys. Other sites are
possible between rounded hilltops
('saddle dams'), on any sloping hillside,
and even on flat ground, be that a ridge
or a plain. The higher in the landscape
the water stomge is created, the more
potential energy is stored.

In reading the landscape it is well to
note such potential sites early, as they are
created before other structures.
Also look for ways of channelling water
into the dams. Long collection drains
can be mn down-contour to
water into comparatively concentrated
THE PERMACULTURE WAY ----------------
areas. They can also be used to make
water run back up valleys for irrigation,
and t()[ t,rathering water from ridges, and
bringing it in to valley storages. Under-
standing slope and contour is important
for making such systems work.
Dams are potentially extremely des-
tructive intrusions on the landscape, and
should only be built with expert
knowledge. Knowing where to put them
is easier to learn. If seriously con-
templating large dam construction, take
professional advice.
Wind Sites
Where relatively small output is
required, there is less concern about site
suitability. However, on any site, winds
which are too strong will damage the
equipment. Sites with constant moder-
ate winds are better.
Where larger constructions are envis-
landshape is very important. 1i:ees,
fences, buildings, cliftS, and irregularly
landscapes all create high
turbulence in their wmd shadow. The
ideal shape for stability of performance
and safety from stress damage in
windmills is smooth flow shape. In
general this means that the best sites for
large windmills are round-shaped hills of
regular cross section. These appropriate
sites are easy to tell apart on maps from
the regularity of their contour shape.
There is an added advantage on such
sites. Windflow over such shapes causes
increased velocity above the hill and
raised pressure at ground level. There is
therefore stronger and faster wind
available for collection.
Wind velocity increases with altitude.
This is not so marked at coastal sites,
where there are already higher winds
than inland. Ground level inspection is
needed to establish that sites are usable,
as boggy ground or poor access will
make construction impossible.
Proximity to point of usage is an
important consideration. Windmills for
motive power need to work on site, and
if using the site for electricity generation,
much power will be lost through voltage
drop on long runs of cable.
Slope Management and
Erosion Resistance
In managing landscape a consciousness
of slope means also being aware of the
dangers of erosion. Slopes over 30
degrees are unsuitable for cultivation,
and should be kept in permanent
pasture, or preferably woodland. Even
the continual grazing of sheep and cattle
can lead to down-slope soil movement
and damage to the hillside. Erosion can
be extremely damaging over very small
areas, causing soil losses in thousands of
tonnes in individual storm incidents.
Once the protective cover of biomass
is breached on steep hill slopes the
degradation of the landscape can be very
quick. When ploughing hillslopes,
damage can be minimised by ploughing
at right angles to the slope, either on or
slightly off the contour. Few tractor
drivers will enjoy the discomfort of
spending their day perched at an angle
on one buttock to do this, and there is
always the danger of turning Over the
vehicle. There are (expensive) tractors
which can tilt their cabs, or adjust their
wheel angles to compensate. Horse-
drawn ploughs are an easier method of
ploughing slopes. Better still, don't till
at all.
Erosion can be stemmed by the intro-
duction of pioneer plants (biological
intervention). Seeding quick growing
species into the bare soil will help. Cross
contour barriers can be constructed of
inorganic materials (mechanical
intervention) .
In recent years expertise has grown in
the area of geotextiles. These are meshes
and woven materials designed to give
reinforcement, separation or filtration
where needed in the landscape. A steep
Roman roads, mediaeval cath-
edrals and early railway viaducts
were often built on bundles of
sticks which gave spreading ofload
to enable heavier structures to
'float' on soft ground. The use of
natural fibres is clearly more
sustainable than using petro-
chemical products. Either way
geotextiles are not a new idea.
cut bank, such as a dam, may be
seeded and overlaid with a mesh, The
mesh ITives interim protection from rain
and provides a
structure for retentive root systems as
In this case the likely seed
would be grasses. In more
exposed situations successive
be used, with a surface scattering
of rock to dissipate water
)w areas might be
porous matenal which allows
water to seep into the ground
Changing Landscape:
Earthworks, Water
Storage and Forest
many times over
years that we can
move moulltains. We have a great
in such work in the form of road
who are experienced in
,>llHLlllg and stabilising large volumes of
earth and rock They also
for doing this
LJUllUULcrs and scrapers. Do not
because these neonl" work
to the environment. The
driver who spends his
watetways is probably the
person to ask where the water fowl nest!
Earthworking on the large scale is
for constructing
diversion chann"k alld
THE PERMACULTURE WAY ----------------
flood meadows, and earth bermed
buildings, where needed. You can do
these jobs with a bucket and spade, but
this is just as destnIctive in the long nIn,
and a lot slower and more tiring. It's
better to get stuck in with heavy
equipment, and repair the damage
quiddy by reseeding and planting
appropriately. The scars quickly heal.
Diversion drains and swales nInning
round hillsides are an essential part of
increasing water storage in the landscape.
Swales are a method of designing ditches
which are absorbent to nIn-off water.
With sensitive planning there is no
reason why roads and swales cannot be
the same stnIctures on large parts of the
landscape. Our present practice of
draining and getting rid of water at every
opportunity hastens the cycle by which
water returns to the sea instead of
maximising its potential as it passes
through our system. Swales present great
possibilities for keeping water on the
contour, and increasing crop yields in
strip cultivations.
Forests are 2:reat retainers of water. The
biological structure of the trees is largely
water, and the root systems increase the
capacity of the soil to build humus and
to hold water in the tiny spaces between
particles. Planting forests along contours
will tend to trap down-slope nInoff and
erosion, creating terracing effects. If
these are slightly off contour, then gently
sloping access is left for future harvesting
Creating a forest is a major adjustment
to the landscape. The ambient tempera-
ture where I live has probably increased
ten degrees Fahrenheit in the sixty years
since Kielder forest was planted thirty
miles to our south-west. Forests are great
interceptors of moisture in the atmo-
sphere, increasing precipitation through
condensation on their massive surface
areas. They expire water vapour in large
volumes, making more humid air
available for precipitation downwind.
Forest, or at very least permanent
pasture, is essential cover for the
watersheds high in the landscape.
Degradation of this natural cover invites
dropping of the water table and erosion.
If we divide our living area into zones then energy is the dimension which
crosses the boundaries and transports all our inputs and outputs from our
home out into the community or back. Careful management of this
energy expenditure is the key to sustainable human settlements.
If you are puzzled how to select a
starting point for designing ... try
working out from the energy
Gordon L Clegg
Entropy Versus
Availability of Energy
Energy is called kinetic energy if it is
doing work, such as a rotating wheel
bearing a vehicle going downhill.
Potential energy is energy available to do
work. Thus a stationary vehicle at the
top of a hill has high potential energy.
Entropy is the state of energy when it is
chaotic. Entropy is not an absolute; it is
a relative measure. Living beings have
low entropy. As things decay or become
inert they gain entropy. The laws of
physics tell us that the tendency of all
energy is to seek forms of high entropy.
Thus heated air masses will seek to
equalise their temperature by moving
towards cool air masses. High pressure
will move towards low pressure.
with greater gravitational force attract
things with lesser gravitational In
lay terms, 'nature abhors a vacuum'.
Fasting is an act of homage to the
majesty of appetite.
Laurie Lee 1975
The fastest way to reduce wastage is not
to use energy in the first
food being one example. The principle
can be extended to more
situations. For instance, eating
may seem like a low energy input source
All well and good. But
are grown in climates using
labour and high transport costs to
them to your door. Why not grow and
your own cool climate field
Chapter 3
Any design is composed of concepts, materials, tech-
niques, and strategies, as our bodies are composed of
brain, bone, blood, muscles, and organs, and when
completed functions as a whole assembly, with a
unified purpose. As in the body, the parts function in
relation to each other: Permaculture, as a design system,
attempts to integrate fabricated, natural, spatial,
temporal, social, and ethical parts (components) to
achieve a whole. To do so, it concentrates not on the
components themselves, but on the relationships
between them, and on how they function to assist each
other. For example, we can arrange any set of parts and
design a system which may be self-destructive or
which needs energy support. But by using the same
parts in a different way, we can equally well create an
harmonious system which nourishes life. It is in the
arrangement of parts that design has its being and
function, and it is the adoption of a purpose which
decides the direction of the design.
Definition of Permaculture Design
Permaculture design is a system of assembling
conceptual, material, and strategic components in a
pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms. it
seeks to provide a sustainable and secure place for
things on this earth.
Functional sets out to achieve ends, and
the directive for function is:
A flexible and conceptual can accept progress-
ive contributions from any direction, and be modified
in the light of experience. Design is a continuous pro-
cess, guided in its evolution by information and skills
derived from earlier observations of that process. All
designs that contain or involve life forms undergo a
long-term process of change.
To understand design, we must differentiate it from
its component parts, which are techniques, strategies,
materials and assemblies:
.. TECHNIQUE is "one-dimensionaI" in concept; a
technique is how we do something. Almost all
gardening and farming books (until 1950) were books
on technique alone; design was largely overlooked.
.. STRATEGIES, on the other hand, add the
dimension of time to technique, thus expanding the
conceptual dimensions. Any planting calendar is a
"strategic" guide. Strategy is the use of technique to
achieve a future goal, and is therefore more directly
.. MATERIALS are those of, for instance, glass, mud,
and wood. ASSEMBLIES are the putting together of
technolOgies, buildings, and plants and animals.
There are many ways to develop a design on a
particular site, some of them relying on observation,
some on traditional skills usually learned in universi-
ties. I have outlined some methods as follows:
ANALYSIS: Design by listing the characteristics of
components (3.2).
OBSERVATION: on direct
observation of a site (3.3).
the lessons learnt from nature (3.4).
OPTIONS AND DECISIONS: as a selection of
,",:>Imt,"'''rc based on decisions (3.5).
""",.l"uc (3.6).
ZONE AND SECTOR ANALYSIS; Design the economic and How are we to make
<:UJLlHL<:auu' of a master (3.9).
and of our
All these methods can be used to start on sensible
elements, or assemblies)? We
can list what we know about the characteristics of any
one and see where this leads us in terms of and realistic with innovative characteristics.
Each method is described below.
The purpose of a
is to elements or such a way that
each serves the needs, and accepts the products, of
other elements.
The components of a total design for a site may range
from simple technological elements to more complex
To illustrate, we could select a homely and univers-
ally-known component, a chicken. What do we know
about this hen? We can list its PRODUCTS (materials,
behaviours, derived products>, NEEDS (what the
Legal Aids
Trade and Finance
(the characteristics of this
whether it be a Rhode
etc). See 3.1.
A broader classification would have
and ",,,,n,,t,,"
are used or can become
POLLUTANTS if not used in a constructive way by
some other part of the
INPUTS, NEEDS, or DEMANDS have to be suppl-
ied, and if not supplied by other parts of the system,
found to satisfy these demands. Thus:
A POLLUTANT is an output of any system component
that is not being used productively by any other
component of the system. EXTRA WORK is the result
of an input not automatically provided by another
component of the system.
As pollution and extra work are both unneccessary
results of an incompletely designed or unnatural
system, we must be able to connect our component, in
this case the chicken, to other components. The
essentials are:
.. That the inputs needed by the chicken are supplied
by other components in the system; and
.. That the outputs of the chicken are used by other
components (including people).
fIGURE 3.1
of these inputs and outputs are critical to CPIT--<lflIIOn",,,,
We can now list the characteristics of the as
we know them. Later, we can see how these need to be
linked to other to
each other).
Primary products are, for instance: eggs, feathers, feather
dust, manure, various exhaled or excreted gases,
sound, and heat.
Derived products are many. From eggs we can make a
variety of foods, and derive albumen. From feathers
we can make dusters, insulation, bedding, rope, and
special manures. Manure is used directly in the garden
or combined with leaf and stem materials (carbon) to
supply compost heat. Composted anaerobically, it
supplies methane for a house. Heat and gases both
have a use in enclosed glasshouses, and so on. Our list
of derived products is limited only by lack of specific
information and by local needs for the products.
Behaviours: chickens walk, fly, perch, scratch, preen,
mate, hatch eggs, care for young, form flocks of 20-30
individuals, and forage. They also process food to form
primary products and to maintain growth and body

design. A deficit in
use creates pollution.
creates work, whereas a deficit in output
3. Intrinsics
Instrinsics are often defined as "breed charac-
teristics". They are such factors as colour, form,
and how these affect space needed, and
metabolism; how climate and soil affect that chicken;
or what its tolerances or limits are in relation to
cold, predation, and so on. For instance, white chickens
survive extreme heat, while thickly-feathered
dark chickens survive extreme cold.
We can add much more to the above lists, but that
will do to start with (you can add data to any com-
ponent list as information comes in).
To enable a design component to function, we must
put it in the right place. This may be enough for a living
component, e.g. ducks placed in a swamp may take
care of themselves, producing eggs and meat and
recycling seeds and frogs. For other components, we
must also arrange some connections, especially for
non-living components, e.g. a solar collector linked by
pipes to a hot water storage. And we should observe
and regulate what we have done. Regulation may
involve confining or insulating the component or
guiding it by fenCing, hedging, or the use of one-way
valves. Once all this is achieved, we can relax and let
the system, or this part of the system, self-regulate.
Having listed all the information we have on our
component, we can proceed to placement and linking
strategies which may be posed as questions:
.. Of what use are the products of this particular
component (e.g. the chicken) to the needs of other
.. What needs of this component are supplied by
other components?
.. Where is this component incompatible with other
.. Where does this component benefit other parts of
the system?
The answers will provide a plan of relative placement
or assist the access of one component to the others.
We can choose our other components from some
common elements of a small family farm where the
family has stated their needs as a measure of
self-reliance, not too much work, a lot of interest, and a
product for trade (no millionaire could ask for more!)
The components we can bring to the typical small farm
.. Structures: House, barn, glasshouse,
.. Constructs: Pond, hedgerow, fences .
.. Domestic Animals: Chickens, cows, pigs, sheep,
Orchard, pasture, crop, garden,
Context: Market, labour, finance, skills, people,
land available, and cultural limits.
Assemblies: Most roads
and water systems.
We will not list the characteristics of all of these
elements here, but will proceed in more general terms.
In the of we know where we
can't put the chicken (in a pond, in the house of most
societies, in the and so but we can the
chicken in the barn, chicken-house, orchard, or with
other components that either supply its needs or
require its life products. Our criteria for placement is
that, if possible, such placement enables the chicken to
function naturally, in a place where its functions are
beneficial to the whole system. If we want the chicken
to work for us, we must list the energy and material
needs of the other elements, and see if the chicken can
help supply those needs. Thus:
THE HOUSE needs food, cooking fuel, heat in cold
weather, hot water, lights, bedding, etc. It gives shelter
and warmth for people. Even if the chicken is not
allowed to enter, it can supply some of these needs
(food, feathers, methane). It also consumes most food
wastes coming from the house.
THE GLASSHOUSE needs carbon dioxide for plants,
methane for germination, manure, heat, and water. It
gives heat by day, and food for people, with some
wastes for chickens. The chicken can obviously supply
many of these needs, and utilise most of the wastes. It
can also supply night heat to the glasshouse in the
form of body heat.
THE ORCHARD needs weeding, pest control,
manure, and some pruning. It gives food (as fruit and
nuts), and prOVides insects for chicken forage. Thus,
the orchard and the chickens seem to need each other,
and to be in a beneficial and mutual exchange. They
need only to be placed together.
THE WOODLOT needs management, fire control,
perhaps pest control, some manure. It gives solid fuel,
berries, seeds, insects, shelter, and some warmth. A
beneficial interaction of chickens and woodlot is
THE CROPLAND needs ploughing, manuring,
seeding, harvesting, and storage of crop. It gives food
for chickens and people. Chickens obviously have a
part to play in this area as manure providers and
cultivators (a large number of chickens on a small area
will effectively dear all vegetation and turn the soil
over by scratching).
THEPASTURE needs cropping, manuring, and stor-
age of hay or silage. It gives food for animals (worms
and insects included).
THE POND needs some manure. It yields fIsh, water
plants as food, and can reflect light and absorb heat.
In such a listing, it becomes clear that many com-
n ) n p l n t ~ provide the needs and the products of
there is a the traditional
small farm the main characteristic is that nothing is
connected to anything else, thus no component supplies
the needs of others. In short, the average farm does not
enjoy the multiple benefits of correct relative
placement, or needful access of one or
to another. This is most are
regarded as places of hard work, and are
energy-inefficient See Figures 3.2 and 3.3.
Now, without .inventing anything new, we can redesign
the components to make it for each to
serve others. See Figure 3.4- 3.5.
by the same into a
beneficial design assembly, we can ensure that the
chicken, glasshouse or orchard is working for us, not
us working for it. If we place essential components
carefully, in relation to each other, not only is our
maintenance work minimised, but the need to import
energies is greatly reduced, and we might expect a
modest surplus for sale, trade, or export. Such surplus
results from the conversion of "wastes" into products
by appropriate use.
The chicken-house heats (and is heated by) the
glasshouse, and both are heated by the chimney. The
chickens range in the orchard, prOviding manure and
getting a large part of their food from orchard wastes
and pests, and from interplants of woodlot or forest
components. A glasshouse also heats the house, and
part of the woodlot is a forage system and a
fiGURE 3.4
shelter-belt Thus, sensible placements, minimising
work, have been made. Market and investment control
have been placed in the house, together with an
information service a which can link
us to the world.
Each part of this sort of design will be dealt with in
greater detail in this book, but a transformation
such as we made from 3.2 to 3.3 is
enough to show what is meant by functional design.
A of this design can be as it was
by analytical methods unrelated to any real site
conditions. Note that before we implement
anything, before we even leave our desk, we have
developed a lot of good ideas about patterns and
self-regulatory systems for a family farm. It only
remains to see if these are feasible on the ground, and if
the family can manage to achieve them. This is the
benefit of the analytical design approach: it can operate
without site experience! This is also its weakness. Until
the chicken is actually heating the greenhouse,
manuring the orchard, or helping to produce methane
for the house, our system is just information, or
potential. Until that chicken is actually in function, we
have produced no real resources, nor have we solved
any real problems on our family farm.
Information as a Resource
RESOURCES are practical and useful energy
storages, while INFORMATION is only a potential
resource, until it is to use.
We must never confuse the assembling of information
with making a real resource difference. This is the
academic fallacy: "I think, therefore I have acted."
Note also that we have at the
need for within the
competition absorbs energy, hence consumes
slender resources. Our ideal is to allow the free
expression of all the beneficial characteristics of the
chicken, so that we avoid conflict and further regulate
the system we have deSigned in light of real-life
experience on the site.
Unlike the preceding analytic method, this way of
arriving at design strategies starts on and around the
fiGURE 3.5
site. Short practice at refining field observation as a
design tool will convince you that no complex of map
overlays, library, computer data, or remote
will ever supplant field observation for
and relevance.
Observation is not easily directed, and it is therefore
as unscientific and individualistic.
Process and events, as we encounter them on a real
are never revealed maps or other fixed data. Yet
it is from the observation of processes and events (such
as rain and subsequent run-off) that we can
devise strategies of "least change", and so save energy
and time. No static method can reveal processes or
dynamic interactions.
A camera and a notebook are great aids to observ-
ation, allowing a re-examination of information if
necessary. A good memory for events helps. Video
recorders are very useful to review processes.
How do we proceed? As we approach the problem,
we can adopt any or all of these attitudes:
APPROACH, in which "I wonder why ... " may pre-face
our actual observation.
A THEMATIC APPROACH, where we try to ob-
serve a theme such as water, potential energy sources,
or the conditions for natural regeneration.
senses as
both of
about what is seen, or pVT"Wripn('Pt1
"moles have thrown up earth on the
Make no guesses or judgements at this stage (this takes
some diScipline but gets a lot of primary data listed).
2. Later, select some observations which interest you,
and proceed to list under each of them a set of
SPECULATIONS as to possible meanings, e.g. (on the
.. That molehills are only conspicuous on fields,
and may actually occur elsewhere.
.. Or that they occur only on fields.
.. That fields are particularly attractive to moles.
And so on. Many speculations can arise from one
observation! Speculations are a species of hypothesis, a
guess about which you can obtain more information.
To further examine these speculations, several
strategies are open to the observer:
3. Confirm or deny speculations by any or all of
these methods:
.. Library research on moles, and even on allied
burrOWing species (e.g. gophers).
Asking others about moles and their field
.. Devising more observations on one particular
THEME just to test out your ideas.
Recalling all you know about moles or allied
species in other areas or circumstances.
This process will start to further elaborate your
knowledge of an existing and specific site characteristic,
and may already be leading you to the next step:
4. Examination of all the evidence now to hand.
Have we evolved any patterns, any mode of opera-
ting? What other creatures burrow in fields and are
predators, prey, or just good friends of moles? Now, for
the last decisive step:
5. How can we find a USE for an this information?
What design strategies does any of it suggest? For ex-
ample, we may now have found a lot of data on
burrowers and fields, and look upon the mole (if mole
it is) as a fine soil aerator and seed-bed provider, and
therefore to be the very We
where moles are
could well be
way as of
mole-control or data on how to prepare moles for
may have and so on.
As the research and observation
observations) goes on, the mole
to be already connected in one or
lawns, gardens,
be seen
soil Dozens
have evolved from your first
the site to
cautious trials and further observation will, in
time, confirm of moles
the total deal
practical information be gathered, will carry
over to other sites and to allied observations. A study
of earthworms may have co-evolved, and the
interconnectedness of natural systems has become
No analytic method can involve one in the world as
much as observation, but observation and its methods
need to be practised and developed, whereas analysis
needs no prior practice and requires less field research
or first-hand knowledge. As an observer, however, you
are very likely to stumble on unique and effective
strategies, and thus become an innovator!
The uses and strategies derived from observation,
experience or experiments on site are the basic tools of
aware, long-term residents. A set of reliable strategies
can be built up, many of them transferable to other
locations. Here, we have used nature itself as our
teacher. That is the greatest value of nature, and it will
in time supply answers to all our questions .
Thus, the end result of systematic observation is to
have evolved strategies for application in design. A
second and beneficial result is that we have come to
know, in a personal and involved way, something of
the totality of the interdependence of natural systems.
The impetus that started Masanobu Fukuoka(3,4) on his
remarkable voyage to natural farming was the Sight of
healthy rice plants growing and yielding in untended
and uncultivated road verges. If rice can do this
naturally, he asked, why do we labour to cultivate the
soil? In time he achieved high- yielding rice
production on his farm without cultivation, without
fertilisers or and without using mcICnmE!ry,
Via our senses (which include the sensations the
skin in relation to pressure, wind chill, and heat), and
the organised, patterned, or measured information we
extract from observation, we can discover a deal
about natural processes in the we are
In order to put our observations about
nature to use, we need to look at the follOwing:
We can imitate the structure of natural If we
have palms, vines, large evergreen trees, an "edge" of
herbaceous perennials, a groundcover of bulbs or
tubers, and a rich bird fauna in the natural system of
the then we can reconstruct or imitate such a
system structure on our site, using some native species
for bird or vine supports. We can add
to the palms, vines, trees, tubers, and poultry that
are of great use to our settlement (over that broad
range of uses that covers food, crafts, medicines, and
After studying the natural placement of woody
legumes or windbreak in natural systems, we can
imitate these in designed systems. We can improve on
local species by finding out-of-region or exotic species
even better suited to those roles than those of an
impoverished or degraded native flora and fauna.
Certainly, we can carefully select species of a wider
range of use to settlements than the natural assembly.
Apart from the structure of natural systems, we need
most of all to study process. Where does water run?
How does it absorb? Why do trees grow in some
special sites in deserts? Can we construct or use such
processes to suit ourselves? Some of the processes we
observe are processes "energised" by animals, wind,
water, pioneer trees or forbs, and fire. How does a tree
or herb propagate itself in this region? As every design
is a continuous process, we should most of all try to
create useful self-generating systems. Some examples
would be:
On Lake Chelan <Washington state, USA), walnuts
self-generate from seed rolling downhill in the valleys
of intermittent streams. Similar self- propagation
systems work for palms in the tropics, Aleurites
(candle-nut) in Hawaii, and asparagus along sandy
irrigation channels. Thus, we save ourselves a lot of
work by setting up headwater plantations and
allowing these to self-propagate downstream (as for
willows, Russian olive, and hundreds of water-plant
species, including taro in unstable flood-water
lowlands), as long as these are not a problem locally.
Birds spread useful bird forages such as elder-
berries, Coprosma, Lycium, autumn olive, pioneer trees
or herbs, and preferred grains such as Chenopodium
species. If we place a few of these plants, and allow in
free-ranging pigeons or pheasants, they will plant
more. The same applies to dogs or foxes in the matter
of loquats, bears for smaIl fruits, and cattle for hard
seeds such as honey locusts. Burrowers and hoarders
such as gophers will carry bulbs and root cuttings into
prairie, and jays and squirrels, choughs, or currawongs
spread oaks when they bury acorns.
If, in or old see that a
"pioneer" such as tobacco bush, a pine, or an Acacia
provides a site for birds to roost, initiating a soil change
so that dumps or coppices of forest form there, we can
use the same techniques and allied species to pioneer
our food forests, but selecting of more direct
use to us. Many native peoples do just this, evolving
scattered forest nudeii based on a set of pioneer trees,
termite mounds, compost heaps, and so on. We can
provide perches for birds to drop pioneer seeds, and so
set up plant nucleii in degraded lands around
perches on disturbed sites .
We can nest holes so that owls may then
move in to control rodents, purple martins to reduce
mosquitoes, or woodpeckers to control codling moth.
Many nurse plants allow insect predators to
overwinter, feed, or shelter within our gardens, as do
small ponds for frogs and rock piles for lizards. If we
want these aids to pest control, we need to provide a
place for them. Some of these natural workers are very
effective (woodpeckers alone reduce codling moth by
To limit a rampant plant, or to defeat invasive
grasses, we need only to look to nature. Nature im-
poses successions and limits on every species, and once
we know the rules, we can use this succession to limit
or exclude our problem species. Many soft vines will
smother prickly shrubs. Browsed or cut out, they allow
trees to permanently shade out the shrub, or rot its
seeds in mulch. Kikuyu grass is blocked from
spreading by low hedges of comfrey, lemon grass,
arrowroot (Canna spp.), or nasturtiums. We can use
some or all of these species at tropical garden borders,
or around young fruit trees. We can smother rampage-
ous species such as Lantana by vines such as chayote
(Sechium edulis) and succeed them with palm/legume
forests, by cutting or rolling tracks and then planting
legumes, palms, and vines of our choice. Where
rampageous grasses smother the trees, we set our trees
out in a protecting zone of "soft" barrier plants such as
comfrey, nasturtium, or indeed any plant we locally
observe to "beat the grass", and we surround our
mulched gardens with belts of such plants.
There are hundreds of such botanical lessons about
us. Look long enough, and the methodologies of nature
become clear. This is design by analogy: we select
analagous or botanically-allied species for trials. If
thistles grow around a rabbit warren, then perhaps if
we disturb the soil, supply urine and manure, and sow
seed, we will get globe artichokes (and so I have!) Or
we can pen goats or sheep on a place, then shut them
out and plant it. It was by such thinking that the idea
of chicken or pig "tractors" evoled to remove such
stubborn weeds as nut-grass, Convolvulus,
onion-weed, and twitch before plimting a new
succession of useful plants. Or we can provide fences
or pits to trap wind-blown debris (dried leaves, rabbit
and sheep manures, seagrasses), which can be gathered
for garden use. And so on ...
All these strategies can be derived from observing
natural processes, and used consciously in design to
achieve a great reduction in work, hence energy inputs.
the sides of
eX1,m;ed sunny sites all
demonstrate different opportunities, just as various
velocities and of streams or rock-falls
niches. We can and
site, whether as an aid to food
as an energy source in or as a
animal or We also create such
nnnr" .. h,,.,it;p,, over time as we groves of trees,
or excavate caves. It is
find a natural
invites new species to every area
provides a refuge from heat, and every stone pile a
moist and shaded soil site. We can plan such
evolutions, and plant to take advantage of them, using
data derived from a close observation of natural
Life is not all survival in a stable ecosystem. First by
designing well, and then observing system evolution,
we gain contemplative and celebratory time. In
celebration we can incorporate the myths and skills
that are important to future generations. In contem-
plation we find more refined, profound, or subtle
inSights into good procedures (Fukuoka
,4). To
and manage a constructed or natural
leads to a more
/j\ I ~
~ r J 0 0 0 0
~ I 1\ t\ '"
PRIORITIES Decided by ethics of use.
Practical and satisfactory results
I/If 1\ \ 1\
X 0 X 0 X 0 X 0 X
FiGURE 3.6
STAGES of procedure by urgency, finance, skills,
resorces available, energy ..... .
X A deferred, unnecessary, impractical, or
unethical path.
o Possible choices.
And so on to evolutions decided
For a site and specific occupants (or clients), a
design is a sequence of based on such things
.. Product or crop VV"VH.i>
.. Social investment options (capital available or
created) .
.. Skills and occupations (education available).
.. Processing opportunities on or off site.
.. Market availability, or specific market options.
.. Management skills.
That is, any design has many potential outcomes,
and it is above all the stated aims, lifestyle, and re-
sources of the dient(s) that decide their options. Any
sensible design gives a place to start. The evolution of
the design is a matter for trial, following observation,
and then acting on that information.
I sometimes think that the only real purpose of an
initial design is to evolve some sort of plan to get one
started in an otherwise confusing and complex situ-
ation. If so, a design has a value for this reason alone,
for as soon as we decide to start doing, we learn how to
The sort of options open to people start with a
general decision (a distant goal), which is often set by
ethical considerations (e.g. "care of the earth"). This
may lead directly to a second set of possible options, of
which erosion control, minimal tillage, and perhaps
revegetation of steep slopes are firmly indicated for a
specific site in the light of this ethic.
Thus, an option, once decided on, also indicates other
options, priorities, and management decisions. In
practical terms, we may also have to consider costs,
and perhaps decide to generate some short- or long-
term income. This, in turn, may depend on whether we
maintain a part-time, non-farm income, or (taking the
leap) gather up our retirement allowance and go to it.
All of this can be plotted, rather like the decision
pattern a tree makes as it branches upwards. Some
options are impractical, or in conflict with other de-
cisions and ethics, and are therefore unavailable. (See
Figure 3.6).
Following through the options that arise from either
our decisions, or the constraints of site and resources,
we can see an apparently endless series of pathways.
The process itself is inevitable, in that it leads to a
series of innovative and practical procedural
pathways, some of which may be very promising, and
all of which agree with the ethical, financial, cultural,
and ground constraints decided by the site and! or its
As a bonus, not one or two, but several dozen
options may remain open, and this is always a secure
position in which to be. In an uncertain world we need
all possible doors open!
Options open up or close down on readilyavailab!e
evidence or as deciSion-points are reached. AU will
affect the number and direction of future actions, hence
the overall design. To a great extent, this approach
covers the economic and legal constraints not dealt
with either of the or
observational approaches. It is wise, however, to
UUI.)!""'''''''''' a limited range of for or we
incur stress and work as a result of taking too
In design courses at modern colleges, students are
taught to labour assiduously over maps, overlays on
those maps, and overlays on the overlays. This ap-
proach should also be considered. However, as a
methodology, it is at once more expensive, possibly
more time-consuming, and potentially the most
confusing of all approaches. Like the system of options,
it leads to certain inevitable ground placements, and
perhaps to uneasy compromises not necessarily
inherent in the preceding methods. The danger here is
that the map overlays omit minutiae, and can never
reveal evolutionary processes. '.
Where a mapping and hard data approach is
weakest, however, is that some factors are not able to
be mapped (ethical, financial, and cultural con-
straints), and that it is very difficult to include those
site-relevant details revealed by observation, or
indicated at once by our analytic method of component
inputs and outputs. Despite this, a good site map
makes any landscape design (and this is only part of the
total design) much easier, and far more visual. A good
map indicates a lot of sensible options and hypotheses
(dam sites, soil! crop suitability) which can later be
checked with actual site conditions, available day for
dams, existing useful vegetation, threatened habitat
and so on.
The danger of the purely analytic and overlay ap-
proaches is that the very remoteness of such systems
makes flexibility difficult, occasioning unforeseen work
and expense, which are not incurred by the more
empirical and flexible "observation" and "option"
systems. The latter both allow a flexible response to
fresh conditions.
This is another analytic method, removed from the site
itself. It is of value in energy flows in the
and is also a of Because it
is based on a set of PS,;pnIli-l random selections, it
in a circle around these "connections",
up at random, make a sketch of
and see what it is that we have achieved. This frees us
education, cultural restraints, or
(See Table 3.2).
Windmill Storage box
Glasshouse ATTACHED TO Yard or
Animal shelter BESIDE Caves
Trellis AROUND Trenches
Mounds OVER Swales
Compost heaps iN Ponds
Plants ON Chickens
Ducks UNDER Fish
Windbreak " CONTAINING Barn
Having laid out a simple diagram, we can select any
one component and connect it to others, creating
images for further examination as to their particular
uses and functions. Some simple examples are:
It Glasshouse OVER house
.. Storage box IN glasshouse
.. Raft ON pond
.. Glasshouse ON raft
.. House BESIDE pond
And, using more connections: glasshouse CON-
TAINING compost heap ATTACHED TO house
BESIDE pond with cave UNDER, containing storages
boxes with plants IN these.
We can sketch and see just what it is we have
achieved in terms of energy savings, assemb-
effects for climate, increased
or easier As we do not
of these units with respect to their connections, this
simple design strategy frees us to do so, and to achieve
innovative results.
illustrated way of a random
we can then think out what would
if we did in fact build them or model them. Rafts can,
of course, be oriented to suit Caves are
cool and in them almost immune from <"",nr.,.:1_
Hon. on
houses on rafts will warm contained water and create
thermal and currents. Solar cells will
caves, and caves below houses
or warm air. Trees shade
and cool
to benefits and system
characteristics. The value of this is that it
frees us to create novel assemblies and to assess them
before trials.
Creative solutions may also be arrived at by
constantly re-examining a problem, and by
considering every form of solution, including that
important strategy of doing nothing! (Fukuoka
Restate a problem many ways, reverse the traditional
approaches, and allow every solution to be considered.
Simple solutions may be found by this process.
The art of thinking backwards, or in opposites, is often
very effective in problem-solving. It is easier to drive
an axle out of a wheel than to knock a wheel off an
axle, easier to lower a potted vine down a dark shaft
over a period of months than to grow it up from the
bottom. So, if we worry away at problems in terms of
restatements, turning things on their head and stating
the opposite, we may find that real solutions lie in
areas free from acquired knowledge and values.
For designing any special work place, from a kitchen to
a plant nursery, the preceding methods have limited
uses. Here, we call in a different method-the "flow
chart". We imagine how the process flows. In the
kitchen we take from storage, prepare, cook, serve, and
gather in the plates and food for waste disposal and
return to storage.
Thus the processes follow a certain path. The best
kitchens are V-shaped so that least
movement is necessary.
where food, plates, or and pans are needed.
items are to hand on
blocks, bench
work of
and flour mills.
an efficient work place. It should also
traditional and agree
It is advisable to involve an experienced worker in
any such design, and to research designs or new
aids to such as we find in furniture which
can be adjusted to the person. I have seen some
excellent farm such as sheds and
their associated yards by after
years of observation and experience. Some people
specialise in such design for schools, wineries, and golf
courses. In general, it is mainly work-places which
need such careful attention. Most other areas in
buildings are of flexible use, and have the potential for
multiple function.
The technique of flow charts is also applicable to
traffic-ways and transport lines serving settlements,
where loads or cargoes are to be received and sorted,
and where schedules or time-place movements are
integral to the activity.
Zone and sector analysis is a primary energy-
conserving placement pattern for the whole site. When
we come to an actual site deSign, we must pay close
attention to locating components relative to the two
energy sources of the site:
First, energy available on site: the people, machines,
wastes, and fuels of the family or society. For these, we
establish ZONES of use, of access, and of time
Second, energy entering or flowing through the site:
wind, water, sunlight and fire may enter the site. To
govern these energies we place intervening
components in the SECTORS from which such energies
arise, or can be expected to enter. We also define
sectors for views, for wildlife, and for temperature (as
air flow). To proceed to a discussion of the pattern in its
We can visualise zones as series of concentric circles,
the innermost circle being the area we visit most fre-
quently and which we manage most intensively. Zones
of use are basic to conservation of energy and resources
on site. We do not have endless time or energy, and the
we use most, or which need us often, must be
close to hand. We plan our kitchens in this way, and we
can pian our living sites with equal benefit to suit our
natural movements.
We should not pretend that any real site will neatly
accept this essentially conceptual conformation of
pattern, which will usually be modified by access, site
characteristics such as slope and soils, local wind
and the technical for
constructing curved fences in societies where title
boundaries, materials, and even the education
available is "straight",
In zonation, the village or dwelling itself is Zone 0, or
the from which we work The available energy
in Zone is human, or created on
site. Whatever the sources, these can be
thought of as available or on-site energies, In order to
conserve them, and those other essential re-sources of
work and time, we need to place components as
Zone (the house or the village).
In this zone belongs good house deSign, attached
glasshouse or shadehouse, and the integration of living
components as sod roof, vines, trellis, potplants, roof
gardens, and companion animals. In some climates,
many of these structures are formed of the natural
environment, and will in time return to it (bamboo and
rattan, wattle and daub, thatch, and earth-covered or
sheltered structures),
Zone 1
Those components needing continual observation,
frequent visits, work input, complex techniques
(fully-mulched and pruned gardens, chicken laying
boxes, parsley and culinary herbs) should be placed
very close to hand, or we waste a great deal of time and
energy visiting them. Within 6 m (20 feet) or so of a
home, householders can produce most of the food
necessary to existence, with some modest trade
requirements. In this home garden are the seedlings,
young trees for outer zone placement, perhaps "mother
plants" for cuttings, rare and delicate species, the small
domestic and quiet animals such as fish, rabbits,
pigeons, guinea pigs, and the culinary herbs used in
food preparation. Rainwater catchment tanks are also
placed here. Techniques include complete mulching,
intensive pruning of trees, annuals with fast
replacement of crop, full land use, and nutrient
recycling of household wastes. In this zone, we arrange
nature to serve our needs.
Zone 2
This zone is less intensively managed with
spot-mulched orchards, main-crop beds, and ranging
domestic animals, whose shelters or sheds may
nevertheless adjoin Zone lor, as in some cultures, be
integrated with the house, Structures such as terraces,
smaIl ponds, hedges, and trellis are placed in this zone.
Where winter forces all people and animals indoors,
joint accommodation units are the normality, but in
milder climates, forage ranges for such domestic stock
as milk cows, goats, or poultry can be placed in Zone 2.
Home orchards are established here, and less intensive
pruning or care arranged. Water may be piped from
Zone 3, or conserved by species selection.
This area is the "farm" zone of commercial crop and
animals for sale or barter. It is green
water storages, soil
feed-store or and field
W or windbreak
This zone is an area
but still for wild
needs of the pasture or range, and is
planted to hardy, unpruned, or volunteer trees. Where
water is stored, it may be as dams only, with piped
input to other zones. Wind energy may be used to lift
water to other areas, or other dependable technology
We characterise this zone as the natural, unmanaged
environment used for occasional foraging, recreation,
or just let be. This is where we learn the rules that we
try to apply elsewhere.
zone, at the best distance from our camp, house, or
village. As our very perfect "target" model does not fit
on real sites, we need to deform it to fit the "''"'''-''''''''''''',
can in fad wilderness zone
to our front door: a corridor for
and nature
(distance from centre) is decided on two
L The number of times you need to visit the
animal or structure; and
2. The number of times the plant, animal or
structure needs you to visit it.
For example, on a yearly basis, we might visit the
poultry shed:
.. for eggs, 365 times;
.. for manure, 20 times;
.. for watering, 50 times;
.. for culling, 5 times; and
10 other, 20 times.
Now, anyone component can be placed in its right
Total = 460 visits; whereas one might visit an oak tree
twice only, to collect acorns. Thus the zones are
"frequency zones for visits", or "time" zones, however
TABLE 3.3:
Factor or Strategy,
Main design for:
Establishment of
Pruning and trees
Selection of trees
Water provision
House climate,
sheet mulch.
Intensive cup
or espallier
Selected dwarf
or multi-graft.
Rainwater tanks,
wind pumps.
Stored or
generated by
Small domestic Main crop
stock & orchard. forage, stored.
Spot mulch and Soil condition-
tree guards. lng and green
Pyramid and Unpruned and
built trellis. natural trellis.
Grafted varieties Selected
and plants seedlings for
managed. later grafts,
by browse.
Earth tank and Water storage
wel/s, bores, fire control.
Greenhouse and Feed store, field
poultry shelter.
In affected As for II.
forage, forestry,
Soil conditioning
thinned to
Thinned to
varieties, or
Dams, rivers,
in soils, dams.
Field shelter
grown as
and woodlot
If this p t l e r ~ . NE AND SECTOR
site great b .
__ eneflts result.
you like to define them. The more visits needed, the
closer the objects need to be. As another example, you
need a fresh lemon 60-100 times a year, but the tree
needs you 6-12 times a year, a total of 66 to 112
times. For an apple tree, where gathering is less, the
total may be 15 times visited. the or
themselves in zones to the
visits we make to them annually.
The golden rule is to develop the nearest area first, get
it under control, and then expand the perimeter. A
single perimeter will then enclose all your needs.
Too often, the novice selects a garden away from the
house, and neither reaps the plants efficiently, nor cares
for them well enough. Any soil, with effort and the
compost from the recycling of wastes, will grow a good
garden, so stay close to the home.
Let us think of our zones in a less ordered way, as
was well described by Edgar Anderson for Central
Honduras (Anderson, E., 1976):
Close to the house and frequently more or less
surrounding it is a compact garden-orchard
several hundred square feet in extent. No two
of these are exactly alike. There are neat
plantations more or less grouped together.
There are various fruit trees (nance, citrus,
melias, a mango here and there, a thicket of
coffee bushes in the shade of the larger
trees) ... There are tapioca plants of one or two
varieties, grown more or less in rows at the
edge of the trees. Frequently there are patches
of taro; these are the framework of the
garden- orchards. Here and there in rows or
patches are corn and beans. Climbing and
scrambling over all are vines of various
squashes and their relatives: the chayote
(choko) grown for the squashes, as well as its
big starchy root. The Iuffa gourd, its skeleton
used for dishrags and sponges. The cucurbits
clamber over the eaves of the house and run
along the ridgepole, climb high in the trees, or
festoon the fence. Setting off the whole garden
are flowers and various useful weeds (dahlias,
gladioli, climbing roses, asparagus fern.
cannas). Grain amaranth is a 'sort of
encouraged weed that sows itself.'
Around the "dooryard gardens" described above,
Anderson notes the fields (in Mexico) "dotted here and
there with volunteer guavas and guamuchiele trees,
whose fruit was carefully gathered. Were they orchards
or pastures? What words are there in English to
describe their groupings?"
Anderson is the
segmented thinking of Europeans with the productive,
more natural polyculture of the dry tropics. The order
he describes is a semi-natural order of in their
right relationship to each other, but not rigorously
separated into various artificial groups. More than that,
the house and fence form essential trellis for the
garden, so that it is no dear where orchards,
house and have their where
annuals and perennials belong, or indeed where
cultivation gives way to naturaUy-evolved systems.
Monoculture man (a pompous figure I often imagine
to exist, sometimes fat and white like a consumer,
sometimes stem and straight like a row-crop farmer)
cannot abide this in his or his life.
His is the world of order and simplicity, and therefore
When thinking of placing components into zones,
remember that intrinsic properties and species-
specific yields are available from a component
wherever it is placed (all trees give shade), so that we
don't include these "intrinsics" in assessing function in
Place a component in relation to other components or
functions, and for more efficient use of space or
nutrient. Look for products that serve special needs not
otherwise locally available.
The amount of management we must always provide
in a cultivated ecosystem is characterised by conscious
placement, establishment, guidance, and control
energies, akin to the adjustments we normally make to
our environment as we traverse it on our daily tasks.
Design for a 1,000 SQuare metre block. See text.
Next in a permaculture design, we consider the wild
energies, the "elements" of sun, light, wind, rain,
wildfire, and water flow. These all come from outside
our system and pass through it: a flow of energies
generated elsewhere. For these, we plan a "sector"
diagram based on the real site.
Our sectors are more than are the
conceptualised zones. outline the compass
directions from which we can expect energy or other
factors. Some factors we may invite in to our
we need sunlight for technologies and plant growth.
Some we may exclude (such as an unpleasant view of a
junkyard). More commonly, we plan to regulate such
factors to our advantage, placing our zonal
components to do so.
Whereas settlement or house is the ground zero for
zones, it is the through point for sectors. Energies from
outside can be thought of as so many arrows
their way towards the home, carrying both destruc-tive
and beneficial energies; we need to erect shields,
deflectors, or collectors. Our choice in each and every
sector is to block or screen out the incoming energy or
distant view, to channel it for special uses, or to open
out the sector to for maximum
sunlight. We guard against catastrophic fire, wind, or
flood embankments, dense trees, ponds,
walls, and likewise invite in
or undomesticated wildlife
one component, it rotating when it is working to
govern in sector
"revolving" our zones, we find a place where our
selected component (a tree, fence, pond, wall, or
animal shed) works to govern sector factors. Given that
we have both zone and sector energies controlled, then
our component is well placed. Then we combine the
two diagrams to make a spiderweb of placements,
putting every main system in its right place in terms of
energy analysed on the site (Figure 3.10).
To sum up, there should be no tree, plant, structure,
or activity that is not placed according to these criteria
and the ground plan. For instance, if we have a pine
tree, it goes in Zone 4 (infrequent visits) AWAY from the
fire danger sector (it accumulates fuel and burns like a
tar barrel), TOWARDS the cold wind sector (pines are
hardy windbreaks), and it should also bear edible nuts
as forage.
Again, if we want to place a small structure such as a
poultry shed, it should BORDER Zone 1 (for frequent
visits), be AWAY from the fire sector, BORDER the
annual garden (for easy manure collection), BACK
ONTO the forage system, possibly ATTACH to a
greenhouse, and form part of a windbreak system.
There is no mystery nor any great problem in such
commonsense design systems. It is a matter of bringing
to consciousness the essential factors of active plan-
ning. To restate:
The Basic Energy=Conserving Rules
Every element (plant, animal or structure) must be
placed so that it serves at least two or more functions.
Every function (e.g. water collection, fire protection) is
served in two Of more ways.
With the foregoing rules, strategies, and criteria in
mind, you can't go far wrong in design.
Placement Principle
If broad initial patterning is well analysed, and
many more than we
would have designed for become obvious.
if we start well, other good things naturally follow on
as an result.
This is the broad Given that the
our animals move, how winds vary, or how water
we can evolve that achieve
other desirable ends, e.g. animals easy to
them to sites where their manure
cool winds to ameliorate excess heat
or to direct them to wind and
water to where it is needed in our
thus our neat
sector are distorted by a more realistic
landscape. To use these irregularities to our advan-
tage, we need to further consider these factors:
With zones and sectors sketched in on the ground
plan, slope analysis may proceed. High and low access
roads, the former for heavy cargo or mulch, the latter
for fire control, can now be placed. Provision for
attached glasshouse, hot air collectors, reflection pond,
solar pond, and shade house should be made at all
homestead sites where climatic variation is
Slope determines the unpowered flow of water from
source to use point, and slope and elevation will per-
mit the placement of hot air or hot water collectors
below their storages, where the thermosiphon effect
can operate without external energy inputs. The simple
physics of flow and thermal movements can be applied
to the placement of technological equipment e.g. solar
hot water panels, taking advantage of slope. Where no
slope exists, towers for water tanks and hollows for
heat collectors (or solar ponds) can be raised or
excavated for the same effect.
However, in the normal humid landscape (where
precipitation exceeds evaporation), hilI profiles
develop a flattened "5" curve that presents
opportunities for placement analysis of components
and systems, as per Figure 3.11.
The ancient occupied ridgeways of England testify to
the commonsense of the megalithic peoples in land-
scape planning, but their present abandonment for
industrial suburbs in flatlands does little credit to the
palaeolithiC planning of modern designers. The
difference may be that the former planned for
themselves, while the latter design for "other people".
Slope gives immense planning advantages. There is
hardly a viable traditional human settlement that is not
sited on those critical junctions of two natural
ecologies, whether on the area between foothill forests
and plains, or on the edge of plain and marsh, land and
"''''Ud'V. or some combination of all of these. Planners
plateau, may have
but abandon the inhabitants to
up. then have to npnpnn
environment their varied needs but have
monoultural on which to do
and been able to
draw from the resources of at least two environments.
any settlement which fails to preserve natural
uelfleIlU>, and, for clears all is bent on
eventual extinction.
The allow a
exposures, insolation, and shelter for
manage. is our easiest environment, the
shelter of forests at our the view over lake and
and the sun
snow is and trees and prevent quick
water run-off. The headwaters of streams seek to make
sense of a sometimes indefinite slope pattern, giving
way to the steep upper slopes (B), rarely (or
catastrophically) of use to agriculture, but un-
fortunately often cleared of protecting forest and
subject to erosion because of this.
The lower slopes (C) are potentially very productive
mixed agricultural areas, and wen suited to the
structures of people and their domestic animals and
implements. Below this are the gently- descending
foothills and plainS (D) where cheap water storage is
available as large shallow dams, and where extensive
cropping can take place.
This Simplified landscape should dictate several
strategies for permanent use, and demands of us a
careful analysis of techniques to be used on each area.
The main concern is water, as it is both the chief
agent of erosion and the source of life for plants and
animals. Thus the high plateau is a vast roof where rain
and snow gather and winds carry saturated cloud to
great heights. At night the saturated air deposits
droplets on the myriad leaves of the ridge forests.

Moll> 601(,..
for water conservation
supports the most viable agricultures, if the forest
above is left uncut. Here, the high run-off can be led to
the indicated
and a series of diversion
water conserved at the
in fields and
nutrients and released as clean water
from the site. (This is the ideal: the often falls far
short of it.) The lower ,,1C1lnP,,--th,nsl'
on at least--can be to immense soil-water
storage systems in a very short time (a single summer
often suffices). This is a matter of soil conditioning,
afforestation, water interception, or a combination of
The plains of area (D) are the most open to wind
erosion and the most resistant to water erosion. How-
ever, it is here that great damage can occur by salting.
Red and dusty rains and plagues of locusts are a result
of the delinquent use of the plough, heavy machinery,
and dean tillage of these flattish lands, together with
the removal of trees and hedgerows, and the
conversion of the plains to monocultures of extensive
grazing and grain cropping.
It is on the plains areas that water is most cheaply
stored, in soil and in large surface dams, where
no-tillage crops, copses and hedgerows are
desperately needed. This is where broadscale
revolutions in technique can be implemented to
improve soil health, reduce wind and water losses, and
produce healthy foods.
The forests on the high slopes, coupled with the
thermal belt [Geiger(l2l] of the house site make a
C a /\IV E)( 'Sl,..O!"f':.S
fOINTI'F lNfl..eClioN
tA1{D$ : ..ow "5l-opes +
\ W)l.TEi+?. \ F!!:5L-PS
Slope analysiS and site in relation to aspect decide
the placement of access, water
we supply such analysiS to a cool,
forests, and cropland. Here
remarkable difference to climate and soil
temperatures. Anyone who doubts this should walk
towards an forest on a and measure
the warm from
forests. If these are above Zones 1 and 2,
little or no fire Their other functions of erosion
control and water retention are wen attested.
reflection from dams adds to the
to more
Even very slight of 1:150 function to
collect water and heat if well used in the design.
The easy, rounded ridges of non-eroded lower slopes
and their foothill pediments are a prime site for
settlement. They allow filtration of wastes, inseparable
from large populations, through lowland forest and
lake, and the conversion of these wastes into useful
timber, trees, fruits, and aquatic life.
If zone and sector are imposed in plan, sun angle and
landscape slope are assessed in elevation. These
determine the following placements:
SUN ANGLE describes the arc of the sun during
summer and winter months, and so decides eave and
sill placement of windows, areas of shade, and
reflection or absorption angles of surfaces. Also, in
every situation (even hot deserts), some part of the
system should be left open to the sun for its energy
ASPECT describes the orientation of the slope. A
slope facing the sun will receive considerably more
direct solar radiation than a slope facing the shade side
(south in the southern hemisphere, north in the
northern). The shaded side of hills may delay thaw and
thus moderate frost effects in vegetation. In
mid-latitudes, we seek the sunny aspect of slopes to
achieve maximum sunlight absorption for our
settlements and gardens.
The final act in site planning is to orient all buldings
and structures or constructs correctly, to face mid- sky,
the sun, or the wind systems they refer to, or to shelter
them from detrimental factors e.g. cold winter winds
or late afternoon sun.
In summary, if the elements of the design are
carefully zoned, the sectors well analysed, the sun
angle and slope benefits maximised for use, and the
constructed environment oriented to function, then a
better ground design results than most that now exist.
As I reassure all would-be permaculture deSigners,
you can do no worse than those designs you see
about you, and by essentially
outline you may well do much better.
Incredible as it seems, these essential factors are the
most frequently overlooked or to
the and retrofit
in nature. Not to do so is to
("jp,"trl'TrtlVP influence on aU
of for energy,
, and "recreation" can think
zones in other than terms and management, as
between an (the home
for people, and the
where all things have their right to exist, and we are
only supplicants or visitors. Only excessive energy
(human or fuel) enables us to assert dominance over
distant resources. When we speak of dominance, we
really mean destruction.
What is proposed herein is that we have no right, nor
any ethical justification, for clearing land or using
wilderness while we tread over lawns, create erosion,
and use land inefficiently. Our responsibility is to put
our house in order. Should we do so, there will never be
any need to destroy wilderness. Indeed, most farmers
can become stewards of forest and wildlife, as they will
have to become in any downturn in the energy
economy. Unethical energy use is what is destroying
distant resources for short-term use.
Our zones, then, represent zones of destruction,
information, available energy, and human dependency.
The "ecologist" with large lawns, or no food garden, is
as hypocritical as the "environmentalist" drinking from
from an aluminium beer can and buying newspapers
to read of destructive exploits. Both occupations
exploit wilderness and people.
In Zone 1 we are information developers; we tend
species selected by, and dependent on, mankind. All
animal species tend their "home gardens", and an'
interdependency arises that is not greatly different
from the parasite-prey dependency.
In Zone 2 .. already nature is making our situation
more complex, and we start to learn from species other
than our people-dependent selections. As we progress
outwards, we can lose our person-orientation and gain
real understanding of the necessity for all life forms, as
we do not "need" to exploit most species. We in fact
need and use only a few species of the hundreds of
thousands that exist.
In wilderness, we are visitors or strangers. We have
neither need nor to interfere or dominate. We
should not settle and thus leave wastelands at
our back. In wilderness we may learn lessons basic to
but we cannot on the
information already available there. hi wilderness, we
learn of our little in the scheme of aU
of which we
('/,\l1nnl&>Y functions. They must
evolve of themselves.
3. We cannot know a fraction of what exists. We will
always be a minor part of the total information system.
Thus, we are teachers in our home and
learners elsewhere. Nowhere do we create. Everything
we depend on we have evolved from what is already
created, and that includes ourselves. Thoughtful people
(those who recreation from trying to understand)
need wilderness as schools need teachers. Should we
lose the or suffer it to be we will
be recycled for more appropriate life in any number of
ways, some very painful and protracted. We can also
state our first "error" thesis here; such errors, once
made, lead us into increasing problems.
Type 1 Error
When we settle into wilderness, we are in conflict with
so many life forms that we have to destroy them to
exist. Keep out of the bush. It is already in good order.
Almost all engineering design is based on small
changes to existing designs, until some ultimate limit
in efficiency or performance is reached. The whole
process can take centuries, and the end result can be
mass-produced if necessary. Kevin Lynch (1982) in
his book Site Planning writes of site designing by
incremental adaptation of already-existing designs:
design by following physical systems that have been
shown to work. He believes the best site planning of
the past to be a result of this process, and that it in fact
works very well unless some external and important
condition (e.g. market or land ownership) changes. He
maintains that this fine-tuning of successful design for
a specific climate and purpose can be totally
inappropriate if transferred out of culture, climate, or if
applied to a different purpose.
It is, however, the most successful way to proceed
after selective placement and energy conservation is
paid sufficient attention. Known effective design units
and specifications, whether of roads, culverts, houses,
garden beds, or technologies have been subjected to
long tests, and have evolved from trials (or prototypes)
to working and reliable standards. Even if
"old-fashioned" (like overshot water wheels), they may
yet represent a Simplicity and an efficiency hard to beat
without a considerable increase in expense and
Such continual adaptation is the basis of feedback in
systems undergoing establishment, where we make
additions or changes to houses or plant systems. It is
not the way, however, to satisfy the demands of a
complex system which (like a private home and
garden) has to a complex set of priorities. Nor
does it cope with futures, new information
and sets of values, or simply self-reliance and
To sum in whole farm planning and in report
writing, areas of like soil, slope, or
will crops, treatments, fencelines
land use If we what is there, ethical
land use dictates conservative and appropriate usage.
But (as may happen) if someone is determined to raise
wheat on all that land regardless of variations, they can
probably do so only if they command enough energy
or resources. I am sure we can grow bananas in
Antarctica if we are prepared to spend enough money,
or can persuade penguins to heat a glasshouse!
Insofar as we enter into village design, we may have
financial and space constraints on upper or o ~ ~ r sizes:
a "break-even" point and an "optimum" n.umber of
houses per unit area. However, if We neglect a foray
into the social effects of settlement size and into the
needful local functions related to settlement size, we
may be designing for human misery, the under-
servicing of needs, and even for such sociopathologies
as riot and crime. Such designs may be economic (in
cash terms), efficient for one use only, and totally
inhuman. But they are built every day. For example, it
was found that rats subjected to breathing in the same
airstream of their fellows experienced severe
instability, physiological stress, and consequent
pathologies akin to crowding stress. This is called the
"Bruce effect" after the experimenter who discovered it,
and this effect may apply equally well to people. Yet in
almost all cities, one can see people crammed into
16-40 storey office buildings with no opening windows
and only a single airstream!
Site designing needs not a specialist approach, but
rather a multi-disciplinary and bio-social approach
that takes into account the effects the environment has
on its intended occupants.
Perhaps if we assembled all our considerable,
diverse, and effective knowledge of both the parts and
the whole order of design into a type of computer
search or game-playing programme, we might ad-
vance the whole design process as a realm of
continuing and additive human knowledge, available
to everyone. Such programmes could deal with a great
deal of the fussy detail that now slows deSign-from
plant list specifications to home construction
details-leaving the designer with those
imponderables about the processes observed on the
land, the likely trends of future societies, future needs,
and a measure of human satisfaction.
In elaborating just some of the basic approaches to
design, without including specialist solutions, I want to
stress that all the approaches outlined are not only
useful, but necessary. Only by some sensible
combination of all the methods can one select
and assess all the elements that enter into a total design
and so evolve a that includes a large
of account details on
site, suits the ethics and resources of
features in an way, and
,,,,,,tp.,.,,,,, and access routes to
A perceived social problem.
Values of energy conservation, self-reliance,
and harmonious human occupancy.
Consideration of long-term biosocial factors.
Research and consultation with clients, or
assisting people to gain an education in design.
Allowing space, finance, and feedback to adjust
activity, and allowing for new or overlooked needs
as they occur.
A dynamic and healthy area inhabited by people
with the power and understanding to make
necessary changes.
A drive to erect monuments or make money.
Economic (as cash) considerations
and the desire for profit.
Purely functional values tor short-term
cost and material factors.
External funding, little consultation,
little clienVpeople education.
Selling off and not taking responsibility for
the results.
A dislocated populatio, powerless to effect change
easily. Hence, dependency and anxiety.
Chapter 4
The curve described by the earth as it turns is a
spiral, and the pattern of its moving about the
sun ... The solar system itself being part of a
spiral galaxy also desCribes a spiral in its move-
ment... Even for the case of circular movement,
when one adds in the passage of time, the total
path is a spiral... The myriad things are con-
stantly moving in a spiral pattern... and we live
within tllat spiral movement.
(Hiroshi Nakamura, from Spirulina: Food for a
Hungry World, University of the Trees Press, P.O.
Box 66, Boulder, California 95006, USA. )
The patterns and forms of a tree are found in
many natural and evolved structures; an ex-
plosion. event. erosion sequence. idea. germin-
ation, or rupture at an edge or interface of two
systems or media (here, earth and atmosphere)
may generate the tree form in time and space.
Many threads spiral together at the point of
deformation of the surface and again disperse.
The tree form may be used as a general teaching
model for geography. ecology, and evolution; it
portrays the movement of energy and particles in
time and space. Foetus and placenta; vertebrae
and bones; vortices; mushrooms ancLtrees; the
internal organs of man; the phenomena of vol-
canic and atom bomb explosions; erosion
patterns of waves. rivers, and glaciers; com-
munication nets: industrial location nets;
itself are of the general tree form n , , , r r , ~ , , ~ . r l
yang. swastika. infinil:V
torus of contained
of the
smoke that enCircles the
"VL\JLU"V',', Permaculture 1978.)
Everything the Power of the World does is done in
a circle ... The wind. in its greatest power, whirls ...
The life of a man is a circle from childhood to
childhood. and so is everything where power
moves. Our teepees were round like the nests of
birds. and these were always set in a circle. the
nation's hoop. a nest of many nests ....
(Black Elk.)
It is with some trepidation that I attempt a treatise on
patterns. Nevertheless, it must be attempted, for in
patterning lies much of the ground skill and the future
of design. Patterns are forms most people understand
and remember. They are as memorable and repeatable
as song, and of the same nature. Patterns are an about
us: waves, sand dunes, volcanic landscapes, trees,
blocks of buildings, even animal behaviour. If we are to
reach an understanding of the basic, underlying
patterns of natural phenomena, we win have evolved a
powerful tool for design, and found a linking science
applicable to many disciplines. For the final act of the
deSigner, once components have been assembled, is to
make a sensible pattern assembly of the whole.
Appropriate patterning in the design process can assist
the achievement of a sustainable from flows,
forms, and timing or information flux.
is the way we frame our uC'O'F,"",
template into which we fit the
and objects assembled from n!,>,p,.,,,,,,j:"UYr'l
the divination
larities beloved
"""",n7'" is
observers. We tell fortunes (or
of entrails or cathode ray
on the scatters of dice or or on arrays
of measures. Are the of tea leaves any less
reliable than the projections of pollsters? Regular
things are those few that are mechanical or shaped
(temporarily) by our own restricted world view; they
soon become irregular as time erodes them. Truth, like
the world, changes in response to information.
There are at least these worthwhile tasks to attempt:
STANDING, both as attempts at forming more general
pattern models, and as examples of natural
phenomena that demonstrate such models.
2. A LINKING DISCIPLINE that equally applies to
geography, geology, music, art, astronomy, particle
physics, economics, physiology, and technology. This
linking diScipline would apply to conscious design
itself and to the information flow and transfer
processes that underlie all our disciplines. Such a
unifying concept has great relevance to education, at
every level from primary to post-graduate disciplines.
amples of how applied patterning achieves our desired
ends in everyday life, where rote learning, linear
thinking, or Euclidean geometry have all failed to aid
us in formulating sustainable settle-ments. It is in the
application of harmonic patterns that we demonstrate
our comprehension of the meaning of nature and life.
There have been many books on the subject of sym-
bols, patterns, growth, form, deformation, and
symmetry. The authors often abandon the exercise
short of devising general models, or just as a satis-
factory mathematical solution is evolved for one or
more patterns, and almost always before attempting to
create applied illustrations of how their efforts assist us
in practical life affairs. Some are merely content to list
examples, or to make catalogues of phenomena. Others
pretend that meanings lie in pattern or number
alone--that patterns are symbols of arcane knowledge,
and they assert that only an unquestioned belief
unlocks their powers.
The models
tended to be a useful
prc.blems may be found.
We have a grasp on the behaviours of
in natural phenomena if we can explain the
things (in terms of their general pattern outlines); the
networks and BRANCHING of tributaries (gathering
flows) and distributaries (dispersal flows); the
PULSING and flow regulation within organisms or the
elements of wind, water, and magma; and illuminate
Further, if WAVE phenomena and STREAMLINES
are contained within our pattern analysis, as real
waves or as time pulses, these and their refraction and
interference patterns form another set of pattern
generators, responsible for coasts, clouds, winds, and
turbulent or streamlined flow. And, if we can show
how the pattern outlines of landscapes, skeletal parts,
or flow phenomena fit together as MATRICES
(interlocking sets), or arise from such matrices (e.g.
whirlwinds from thermal cells), then we can generate
whole landscape systems or complete organisms from
a mosaic of such patterns.
In nature, events are ordered or spaced in discrete
units. There are smaller and larger orders of events,
and if we arrange like forms in their orders, we will find
clusters of measures at certain sizes, volumes, lengths,
or other dimensions. This is true for river branches,
social castes, settlement size, marsupials of the same
form, and arrays of dunes, planets, or galaxies.
In the following pages, I will try to include all this
and to derive it from the basis of a single "simple"
model (Figure 4.1), which, understood in all its parts,
has each of these phenomena, and a great many more
subtle inferences, within it. Not all, or even many, of
these shapes, symbols, symmetries, scatters, or forms
will be individually described or figured here, but the
basic pattern parts will be briefly described and related
to each other. The basic model itself is derived from a
stylised tree form.
We should not confuse the comprehenSion of FORM
with the knowledge of SUBSTANCE-"the map is not
the of form
A . a . . ; . 1 . ~ ... PATTERN MODEL
When we look about us in the we see the
rivers, trees, and landforms generally
as a set of shapes, apparently unrelated to each other,
at least as far as a common underlying pattern is
concerned. What do we see? We can list some of the
visible forms as follows:
.. WAVES on water and "frozen" as ripples in dunes
and sandstones, or fossilised quartzites and slates.
.. STREAMLINES, as foam strips on water, and in
streams themselves.
.. CLOUD FORMS in travertine (porous calcite from
hot springs), tree crowns, and douds or as
cloud streams.
" SPIRALS in galaxies, sunflowers, the global
circulation of air, whirlpools, and chains of islands in
LOBES, as at the edge of reefs, in lichens, and
fringing the borders of salt pans.
BRANCHES, in trees and streams converging or
diverging; explosive shatter zones.
SCATTERS of algae, tree clumps in swamps,
islands, and lichens on rocks.
NETS as cracks in mud, honeycomb, inside bird
bones, in the columns of basalt (as viewed from above),
and cells of rising and falling air on deserts.
The NETS or cracks in mud and cooling lava are
shrinkage patterns caused not by flow or growth, but
by the lateral tension of drying or cooling, as are many
patterns in iceflows and the cracked pattern of pottery,
or the cracks in bark on trees. Thermal wind cells arise
at the confluence of large heat cells on desert floors,
forming a net pattern if viewed from above or below.
In all of these categories, I hope to show that one
master pattern is applicable, and that even the bodies
of animals are made up of bones, organs, and muscles
of one or more of the forms above. I will link these
phenomena-generated by growth and flow- into a
single model form. That form is a stylised tree (Figure
4.1). Around the central tree form of this model are
arranged various cross-sections, plans, longitudinal
sections, and streamline paths, all derived from real
sections, paths, or projections of the tree.
The evolution of such a form from an initial point in
space-time, I call an EVENT. Such events can be
abstract or palpable. They have in common an origin
(0), a phase of growth (TI-T6: an expression of their
energy potentia!), decay, and dissolution into other
events of a like or unlike form. The event of a tree is at
least three-dimensional, and must be thought of as
extending into and out of a plane (P). However, many
similar events such as migration patterns or glaciation
can be as well portrayed (as they are seen in aerial
photographs) as two-dimensionaL
The curvilinear STREAMLINES (51-59), are seen to
curve or spiral through the Origin, just as (in fact) the
phloem (storage cells) and xylem (sapbearing cells)
ULtv,",,,,,, the X-X axis, or earth surface plane (P),
of a real tree. Not so easy to portray is the fact that the
is external to the stems and internal to the roots,
the the reverse. At a zone in the
these cells INTERWEAVE or cross over as
they spiral out of or into the media.
This deceptively simple "apple core" or tree shape,
spiralling out of the plane (P) is a slow-moving vortex
such as we see in tornadoes and Traffic
through the streamlines is in both directions. In trees,
sugars and photosynthetic products travel from crown
to root margin, and water and minerals from roots to
each margin of our pattern is both
""W="L."'1'. and materials from different
tree trades both ways with elements of the
and there is an active water and gaseous
exchange with the media (MI, M2). Two-way trade is
the normality of plants, organs, and natural forms.
As we know, a crosscut of a tree stem, the basis of the
study of dendrochronology, reveals a target pattern of
expanding growth (by which the tree adds bulk
annually) and from which we can discover much about
past occurrences of drought, seasonal changes,
atmospheric compositon, fire, and wind (Figure 4.1-F).
Screw palms (Pandanus sppJ of the tropics develop
ascending stem spirals, very reminiscent of fan turbine
blades, and sunflowers create open seed spirals (in two
directions), so common in many whorled plants. The
stem itself forces open an ever-expanding flow
through the X-Y plane between the media, allowing
more material to pass through as time accumulates.
The event expands the initial rupture of the surface
between the media, allowing greater flow to take place,
and this too is recorded in the target pattern of the
stem, at the point of germination of the event (0).
A set of intersecting sine waves developed over a
regular square or hexagonal matrix will set up a
surface composed of our core model shapes. It doesn't!
matter if we see the sine waves as static or flowing, the
core model will still maintain its shape, and flow in the
system does not necessarily deform the pattern. Such a
pattern matrix (Figure 4.2) shows that our models
tessellate (from the Latin tesserae, meaning tiles) to
create whole surfaces. If landscapes are, in fact, a set of
such models, they must be able to tessellate.
Convection cells on deserts arise from a roughly
hexagonal matrix of air cells 1-5 km across, and
matrices also underlie the spacing of trees in forests.
Glacial landscapes show whole series of such
patterns, as do regular river headwaters. We could
equally well have created a matrix by adding in
samples of our core pattern as we add tiles to a floor.
Thus we see the Euclidean concept of points and lines
underlies our curvilinear forms. Even irregular models
(Figure 4.3) tessellate. Such tessellae are centred on
nets or regular grids.
.. (I .. @
@ 0 @.,
00 0
o 0 0 0"
II () E.
BRANCH ~ J A (,qe"MZ)
t(f{owTII ote"WAIIs!'
The general core model spirals out of a plane P (between two media
M1 and M2). Several sections are given to show some of the model
forms from projections and sections of a single event (here, a'lree').
In deserts, Such phenomena as trees have a basic matrix or spacing,
as do whirlwinds in the desert (at the junction of hexagonal cells), and
events on the surface of the sun.
('5UNrl-oWR.. )
'SfRfAI4L.1Nf!!.. PfJrTI/
TJf!{()lltil{" r, "L',
srf{If!AMIINt:.. Miff
C({OWN 10 R1X:>T({i(.oM1.')
I! :
Underlying many natural distributions (e.g. trees in a desert, heat or
convection cells) and forming many patterns (such as honeycomb and
The "growth lines" (T -series) of our models are, in
effect, a series of smaller and smaller forms nested
within the larger boundaries, as is the case with target
patterns or tree cross-sections. The process is termed
annidation (Latin nidus, a nest) and is used in practice
to compactly store bowls or glasses, one within the
other; it then becomes a strategy for fitting-in like
components of the same or different size in a compact
If we superimpose two spirals of the opposite sense
(spirals twisting in the opposite way), we develop the
petal patterns of flowers and the whorls of leaves so
common in vegetation, well illustrated by the seed
patterns of sunflowers. The effect is also reproduced by
simple reflection of such curves.
Thus we see that tessellation, annidation, or
superimposition gives us a strategy set for developing
complex and compact or for analysing
landscapes. As Yeomans(S) points out, ridges
and valleys in landscape are identical reflections. If we
model a landscape and pour plaster of Paris on the
model, we reproduce the landscape in a reversed
but now the
cracks in mud) are matrices or grids based on approximate squares,
hexagons, or intersecting sine waves.
typical of the edges of inland dunes and salt pans. This
crenellated (wavy) edge produces edge harmonics of
great relevance to design.
The study of matrices reveals that the T (time) lines
are ogives of a tessellated model and develop from the
"5" (stream) lines of the next model adjoining. We then
come to understand something of the co-<iefinitions in
our core model, and its inter-dependent properties. Sets
of such models and their marginal crenellations provide
a complex interface in natural systems, often rich in
production potential.
The earth itself is "a great tennis ball" (New Scientist,
21 April '77) formed of two core model forms. This
earth pattern (Figure 4.5) of two nested core models can
be re-assembled into a single continent and one sea if
the present globe is shrunk to 80% of its present
diameter. MyoId geology professor, Warren ("Sam")
may have been justified in his 1956 assertion that
the earth was originally that much smaller. When
re-assembled in this way, the shows an
("0" of our model) over each the north
is that of the seas, the antarctic that
continents. At that time in earth
were native to a
one sea,
continent and all fish swam in
a total <!XI"eu'''!LP!' of
fiGURE 4.3
The general model in both regular and irregular form will tessellate or
link together to form closed surfaces, spheres, or chains.
Repetitive due to wind, sand, and rare
of deserts; this of lunulate occurs in
dunes become transverse dunes due to water
the globe or by the spreading of oceanic plates cracking
the continents apart rather like the net patterns on a
mud patch, and isolating species for their present
endemic development. The whole story is being slowly
assembled by generations of biologists (Wallace,
Darwin), geologists, and technicians analysing data
from satellite surveys of the globe.
The original pattern shattered, continents now drift,
collide, and form their own life pattern by isolation,
recombination, and the slow migration of natural
processes. The process also illustrates how irregularities
may arise on an expansion of a previously regular
matrix of forms; tension caused by expanding
phenomena shatters the smooth flow of primary global
events. At the end of a certain energy sequence, old
patterns shatter or erode to make way for new patterns
and succeeding forms of energy, as a decaying tree
gives life to fungi and to other trees.
Permaculture or Sustainable design
Beware of wild, grandiose designs.
The BEST designs often look BORING.
Designing is a dynamic process because:
Living things grow and change through time.
Things do "move or change" with in the system.
Everything influences everything else.
The design will be implemented through time.
a design we get
observation, study, interviewing people, living on the site for a year, working in
the "factory, garage, ect"
When designing I am the designer, I am the builder, I am the landscape
gardener, I am the person who works or lives there. (or I imagine I am)
Within a system there is no beginning and no end.
Permaculture designs need to be practical, simple to do.
Start small and check on progress. Make changes along the way.
When designing a big area, divide the project into smaller designs.
Improve diversity
Minimum work
Maximum yield
Excess/ extra yield
The Permaculture Designers Goals
Self sustaining system.
Looks after itself as much as possible
Boundaries - D'I'l!n D'Dll.l1 ,m/J]n .m/ll!
Resources - D'JNllm-'N/n nl'9U
Evaluation - )'mnn-ilJllJil
Design -
Maintenance - Mil,?'nn ilJ.mnnJ. ilmlJn 910" -iljJlmn
Permaculture works by managing resources systematically. The concepts
and techniques in this book have been introduced to show a scalE: of
priorities, and to encourage you that it is a way of thinking which is
available to guide the actions of any person. Using Permaculture is a way
of taking personal responsibility for greening the planet.
Design Sequence
Ultimately, Permaculture is a way of
designing. That's just a word that means
consciously choosing where you put
things. You can use these methods when
working with others, or equally well,
just to make your own life easier. Here
is a useful sequence for designing
1 Assess the Boundaries
A detailed examination of the perimeter
reveals unused resources. It tells you
how often the people get that fur out
from the centre, whilst giving a good
idea of overall scale. It highlights
limitations as to what can be done with
the centre when the boundary is poorly
maintained in some way. Don't judge,
just observe.
2 Record 1{esources
Examine the whole in detail, noting all
resources, and how energy flows
through the system. At this stage le3Jn
how the physical layout of the sjte or
system affects its performance. What
financial and skills resources are there?
Do the users of the system have 'sacred
sites'? What can you observe about how
peopk and animals move about and use
the area? Maps are handy at this stage.
3 Examine Evaluate
What needs and outputs do all the parts
of the system have? How well do they
interal.:t Are thee wasted
resources, or
4 Design
Now there is sufficient information to
think about Dlacm2: things differently.
Lti.l:j. .I:'.bKMACULTURE WAY --______________ _
What can be done
available to increase
5 Implementation
the assets
Make sure that what is suggested can
realistically be done. Who's going to do
the work, have they the necessary time,
. skills" tools and money to do it all?
6 Maintenance
An average design will have 20 per cent
labour breaking new creative ground and
SOper cent labour tied up in keeping
things going. A good design will reverse
the flow, reducing maintenance to 20
per cent, and freeing 80 per cent of the
available labour time for creative
improvement. How much maintenance
is required, who's going to do it, and
have they got the necessary resources?
Design Checldist
If a designer is responsible. . . It IS no
good him stating afterwards that he
was given the wrong information.
Part of his job is to query any
conditions about which he has the
slightest suspicions, even if they are
outside the area of his expertise.
Gordon L Clegg
The &I&ction of Design
Here's a useful checklist to make sure
nothing is forgotten.
41 Who are we designing for?
41 What are their unmet needs?
.. What resoutces do they have?
.. What outputs are they not using?
.. What are the limits of the site?
.. Have we a map?
to Do we know compass directions,
contour shapes, and heights?
.. Do we have weather records?
.. What does the sun do in relation to
the site across the seasons?
.. What does the wind do here?
.. How much does it rain or snow, and
.. Is there frost and fog on this site?
.. ,lITho is responsible for maintaining
.. Do the users own the site, rent it, or
borrow it?
It What rights of way are there?
41 Is access adequate?
.. How does the site affect neighbours
and vice versa?
to Where is the nearest village or town?
An: the shops nearby, and if not how
can we get stores when needed?
41 What buildings are there?
41 Do they serve the purposes needed,
and can they be changed if not?
to How can they be made more energy
.. Can the system be made more
efficient by moving jobs about?
41 What energy SOurces are there?
.. Can more renewable energy be
harnessed here?
.. What transport system is used?
.. Is it adequate? Could a 'softer' system
be used?
.. What water is there on the sitd
.. Can it be made to cycle further to
yield more?
.. Is water of adequate quality on
entering and leaving the system?
41 How can its quantity or quality be
.. What crops are grown on the sitd
.. What is the soil type?
41 What is the underlying geologyr
41 What is the condition of the soil?
.. What species do well on this site?
.. What others might yield more or
offer more variety?
.. Is there good stacking of yields?
.. How diverse are they?
.. What stock is there here, and is it the
best mixture of breeds for the site?
1t> Av!<r OUR-7e!.-V!::V WMe1l1INi. ...

of intervention needed to achieve the
stated ain1s?
.. Is it practicable to implement my
1& Can the system be maintained once
changed in the way I suggest?
41 Can maintenance of crops be
.. What craft skills are used here?
.. If more are needed. arc thev available
It Is
adequate for the job1
needed to enable the
people to have more control?
.. What materials are imported to
.. Could or substitutes, be pro-
vided from the site?
41 What
1& Do
are from the
bring the best return they
It Is thesurroundirlg community
supportive and co-operative?
41 Are the site users supportive of their
Go '''Vh:,'. resources 3rc there in the
which could
improve life?
.. How could people on this site
enhance their surrounding area?
.. Is wilderness given a place here?
.. Is there room for more of it?
Go Are financial resources adequate?
\Vhat external sources of trade
and funding could ,
.. Could new structures be developed to
make things work better?
.. Where am I short of knowledge in
answering these questions?
41 How can I learn more?
I am suggesting the least level, ),' '
.. -----
Professional Assessment Of Permaculture
Holistic systems such as a permaculture systems require
observation and seasonal re-evaluation to meet objectives.
.. water flow
responsibility is taken capturing and water required for the system
by the system? Is at least 10% of the site dedicated to storing water?
.. How clean is the water that leaves the system? Is there a filter process?
.. How clean is the air, are there filter plants and appropriate food species that will not
concentrate toxins.
.. How is solar access managed, do any parts of the system suffer from too little or too much
., How solar passive is the home and work areas. Is there a good use of natural light and
.. Has there been a lasting reduction in imported energy (electricity, gas, water, fuel)
.. How is wind controlled, is it deflected from fragile areas, is it used for reducing work?
.. How well is the site prepared for catastrophe? Fire generated from outside the system or from
within the system.
.. Has there been a pJan for futnre needs including the next generation, aging of people and the
.. Is the system now self reliant in terms of mulch, seed, feed, and fertilizing material?
.. How much of the system provides the families needs?
.. Has the families lifestyle been enhanced by the system?
.. Were the species planted suited to the area? Is there maximum diversity and incorporation of
rare breeds?
.. Are the animals in the system enjoyed, wen positioned to harvest and clear, providing on site
fertilizer and supplying eggs or meat?
.. Are pests managed by an integrated system? Have numbers dropped?
., Wildlife species - how much has this increased in number and in species diversity? Include
insects, worms, birds, reptiles, mammals as well as larger species.
III Does each major element of the design show oppurtunity for mnltiple fnnction?
., Has the system used trees as condensation traps, frost, sunburn, erosion control and shelter for
intensive garden beds?
,. Has the rnbbish material put aside for municipal waste disposal dropped dramatically?
., Has the finances of the residents changed in focus, with more money invested in procreative
.. Has there been increased opportunity for use of alternative banking systems, ethical
investment, barter and sharing of surplus?
Drawing the plan is important to help you web the complex ideas. Adhering to the pian allows
you to assess it well later. It can be very difficult to redesign if you forget the objectives OR
get set into a design OR do not remember original pian.
Self-sustaining ecosystems
Urban Permaculture
of people in the western world
from areas
an amazing amount is often ovr"H""lrrcn
country. One of our first priorities should be to close the loop and produce
most of the needs within the city and make better use of the pollutants. In
permaculture, a pollutant is just an unused resource.
One strategy is to increase the amount of food produced within the city.
Shanghai, in China, grows most of its green vegetables, and Hong Kong is 40
percent self-sufficient in vegetables. By increasing the amount of plants and
trees grown in cities, we can transform much of the pollution, such as carbon
dioxide produced by automobiles, and at the same time create more buffer
zones between cars and people.
I would propose returning 50 percent of the streets back to nature by doing
major planting of trees and shrubs, and also by having trails for people and
bikes. This would involve digging out the creeks from culverts and integrating
a network of green corridors for wildlife and people.
Another level some people are working on is to reduce the amount of cars in
cities by replacing them with a more efficient public transportation.
Starting in your own home, you can grow food inside by sprouting a great
variety of seeds and grains, eating these raw, cooked or juiced. You can grow
many plants on the window sill, in a window greenhouse or under lights. Your
food waste can be fed to your worm box and the worm castings used to feed
the soil for your plants. Herbs are easily potted and grown inside, giving you a
supply of fresh herbs whenever needed.
The apartment balcony has great potential for growing. Most of its space can
be used efficiently and by using trellises you can use more vertical space and
grow climbing vines such as pole beans, peas, grapes, etc. You can also
have a dwarf fruit trees in big containers (roots can be pruned from time to
time to prevent root-binding). Always make sure the balcony structure will
support the extra weight of adding multiple containers filled with soil!
One technique used for growing plants in containers on rooftops and not
having to haul large amounts of soil on the roof is to use dead leaves as the
main growing some soil is added on top for seeds, or to hold
plants. If you're growing fruit trees in a small amount of space, you need to do
intensive pruning and use techniques such as espalier and growing the
branches along a wall. If you live in a cold climate you can have your planters
on wheels, and bring them inside at night or when it's freezing. Another
warmer temperature.
or windows to create a
If you live in a city or suburb and don't have access to outside growing space,
you can contact the local community garden, or create one if there isn't one.
Some people in various cities are taking over unused land and turning it into a
productive garden or orchard, feeding themselves and people the
neighborhood This is sometimes called the "green guerilla" movement.
If you have access to a small piece of land, you need to make the best use
it. same as a
area you need do it even more intensively. Start right by the door and have
all your herbs and salad greens and other vegetables you eat everyday there.
By careful observation and by being aware of the different microclimates
around each side of the house, you can put the plants that need the most sun
or shade, etc. in the most appropriate place.
Some people will replace the lawn on the boulevard with flowers, shrubs or
small trees that will create a buffer zone and absorb the pollutants from the
street. I would use a non-food planting for that purpose. Another problem
found in cities is the unknown quality of the soil. By taking many soil samples
to the university lab and asking students for a soil analysis, you will learn what
is in your soil. If any amount of heavy metal or a high concentration of one
mineral is present, you can used a technique known as "bioremediation" to
lock up those elements in trees or plants that will get composted or mulched
. in another ecosystem needing that element. (I will explore this technique in a
later column.)
Cities have an amazing amount of diversity in plant material. By joining your
local garden club, or making a connection with different ethnic neighborhoods
you can get access to hard-to-find plants or seeds. It's a good way to start a
garden with little input, by collecting surpluses, or prunings or thinnings, from
long time gardeners or neighbors. It's also a good way to meet friends and
learn more about the place where you live.
Gr'goire Lamoureux is the Director of the Kootenay Permaculture
Institute, Box 43, Winlaw Be VOG 2JO.
I t
Most people in Britain
live in towns and cities.
Patrick Whitefield, author of
'Permaculture in a
Nutshell', investigates
from a permaculturist's
point of view.
e may think there is little
scope for growing food in
cities, but that is just what
we need to do if any kind of city life
is to continue beyond the present
cheap energy boom. Enormous
quantities of energy are used just to
transport food into the cities, and it
will not be available for ever. We need
to grow as much of our food as we
can right where we live.
The potential of parks is obvious.
Over a period of time the purely
ornamental trees can be replaced
with kinds which are also productive,
such as fruit and nut trees, giving the
parks a multiple output - food as
well as recreation. City farms and
allotments also show how the city
can be productive.
The rest of the city-scape looks less
- until we start at it
in three dimensions. We can train fruit
trees the grow
climbers up them, and make great
of flat balconies.
walls are ideal spots
for most fruit trees, the
There are even dwarf forms of some
fruit which will grow in containers
the site has no
north morello cherries and
certain varieties can be
,nau",-," with currant bushes
and alpine strawberries giving high
production in shady spots. Another
useful shade tolerant perennial is
Jerusalem artichoke. There are many
others - both annuals and perennials.
Shady spots can also be made
significantly lighter with white-
painted walls - and even mirrors
reflect light into them.
All our common vegetables and
fruits can be grown in cities, and
some less common ones too - if we
make use of the many sources of
waste heat to be found there. It
remains to be seen what proportion
of our total needs can be grown in
the city - but it will certainly be far
more than generally imagined.
People whose potential growing
space is limited to a high-rise balcony,
a series of window boxes or a small
back yard can still grow a useful
amount of food. Obviously this will
not be much in terms the family's
bulk consumption, but it can be
valuable both in terms of food value
and money
The difference in value between
green which are eaten
within minutes of being picked and
which were
that are grown very close to where
A kind of lettuce
makes particularly good use of limited
space is the 'Salad Bowl' type, which
you individual leaves rather
than cutting the whole plant. If hearted
lettuce is preferred, some of the mini-
ature varieties of Cos lettuce will grow
happily in a window box.
Many leafy salad vegetables can be
grown on the cut-and-come-again
method: seed can be sprinkled or
broadcast and when the seedlings
come up they are clipped and allowed
to sprout again. This can be repeated
several times, and the repeated
clippings add up to more yield than
you could g'et off the same area by
growing plants in rows and cutting
them only once when they mature.
Herbs and garlic have a high money
value in relation to the space needed
to grow them. So these are obvious
first choices for the gardener with
little space who wants a money
from gardening. The taste and health-
giving properties of herbs are also
much greater when taken
fresh than when dried.
In some urban areas food produc-
tion is limited by air pollution. Although
or in small groups, this is one area
with on a political scale. In fact lead
has fallen to safe levels
many areas since the introduction of
cheaper unleaded petrol.
Where lead still is a
it is
Summer 1993
nearest the ual''-Vl.ll'-;:; and
or are
separated from the street by a terrace
of houses. Where there is any doubt
about lead, both soil and
can - contact your local
environmental health office for
IS an
energy system, and in
we are interested in it more
of a of the Sun's energy than
a consumer of fossil fuels. The best
way to do this is often by passive solar
design. This means that the actual
design of the building is such that it
gets most of its heating needs direct
from the Sun, without the need for
added gadgetry.
Building new houses of passive solar
design is relatively easy. It costs about
5% more than conventional housing,
but the extra cost is recouped in lower
heating bills in around five years, and
after that it's pure profit for the life-
time of the building. Retrofitting an
existing house is less straightforward,
Gardening &
May 7-11.
Enthusiastic tutors,
Plenty of practical ses-
sions, Extensive gardens,
Delicious food.
For further details l e s e send an
S.A.E to Lesley Bradnam, CAT.
Machynlletn, PoW}'s, 520 9AZ
. Tet:065!:J.. '702400
4 permaculture Summer .1993
there is that can be
Draught-proofing, though unspec-
tacular, gives the greatest in
energy for the least input. Insulation
comes next, and a passive solar
approach is to put the insulation on
the outside of the walls. Then the
walls themselves become massive
heat stores. This been
heat recovery from
ventilation system to
pa'_"'<'F;'- which has reduced np'H.rw
flats 90-95%.
Another good way to catch solar
energy is to add a conservatory to the
south side of the house, or if that's not
possible to the side which catches the
most sunlight, or even on the roof. In
winter warm air from the conservatory
can be vented into the main body of
the house, and in summer the rising
current of hot air in the conservatory
can be used to draw cool air form
the north side of the house and thus
cool it down. Meanwhile the conserv-
atory provides an opportunity to
convert some of the waste heat from
the house into food.
When making energy saving
improvements to buildings it is
important to choose materials that
respect both Earth and J?$ople. This
means avoiding such materials as alu-
minium, with its very high energy cost,
some kinds of mineral fibre insulation,
which are suspected of causing cancer
in the workers who make them, and
paints containing titanium dioxide,
which is harmless in itself but very
polluting in its manufacture.
Alternatives to all these exist. For
example Warm cell insulation material,
made from recycled newspaper.
Water supply and sewage disposal
are under great strain both in cities
and elsewhere, and much can be done
to ease the problem by making better
use of the available resources. At
present we fill the sewers with a
mixture of rainwater off the roofs,
'grey' water from sinks and baths
and 'black' water from toilets. The
rainwater can be used
as it is probably purer than what we
get out of a tap, while the grey water
can be used for flushing the toilet and
supplementary plant watering.
separating the three and using each
quality for its highest use, mains water
consumption in the can be reduced
by half at the cost of a little plumbing.
than sewage as
nothing but a we need to
see it as a resource, of
organic matter and plant nutrients.
As long as we treat it as only something
to be got rid of we will be dependent
on a input of fossil fuels
to produce artificial fertiliser, and we
continue to pollute the seas with
A great deal of work
been done on
compost toilets. If
we could the flush toilet with
them we could do away with 40% of
domestic water consumption, and
the entire expensive and polluting
sewage industry.
At least for the time being, a con-
siderable proportion of the electricity
supply to cities must continue to come
from fossil fuels. But this can be made
very much more efficient by using
the heat produced by the process of
generation as well as the electricity.
This heat represents the majority of
the energy in the original fossil fuel,
and it goes to waste in conventional
power stations. Where small power
stations are sited near people's homes,
the heat can be used for space and
water heating. This is known as
Conibined Heat and Power.
However, by far the most cost-
effective 'source' of electricity is
conservation. Reducing consumption
by any means, including installing
low energy light bulbs and other
efficient appliances, always pays
better and causes less pollution than
generating more electricity.
Putting all the above ideas together
would take us a long way towards
creating a complete package for
sustainable living. This is likely to be
more than anyone person or family
can easily take on alone, and the
attitude of local councils and utility
companies can range from indifferent
to hostile. The answer is for local
people to get together and form their
own organisations for getting things
done, and this is already happening
in various of - indeed
all over the world.
Patrick is available from
Permanent Publications. Price f4.50
+ fO.50 p&p. Discounts for bulk
And where's a more local
the problems energy waste and In
our own homes? After all, this is where we have direct control
over our inputs and outputs. Carrying out permaculture
ciples at home can lead to a richer, more satisfying way of life.
It counters the ever increasing consumption of resources,
production of waste and the continuing decrease in quality of
life. It provides us with our true needs whilst demanding less
cash. However, it is important not only to talk about change,
but also to actually do something to bring it about. We need
to take responsibility. If we all did that, the effect globally
would be staggering. So - it's time to put our houses in order!
The basic ethics of permaculture are an excellent starting
point from which to consider the energy systems in our
homes. These can be summed up as:
People Care - which is concerned with providing the
necessities for our existence - including our physical,
emotional, intellectual, spiritual and social needs.
Earth Care - which goes hand in hand with people care:
If we really care for people, then we have to care for their
environment. And by caring for the environment we also
r r
systems to put our houses in
principles will naturally lead us to contribute our
surpluses of time, money, information or energy to help
others put their houses in order. People care and Earth care
are inextricably linked and permeate every aspect of our
lives. Unlike many other prevailing systems, permaculture
relies on co-operation, not competition.
A good starting point is to look at the inputs and outputs
of our houses. It is worth considering each of them in turn.
Think about how they are produced, where they are used
and where they end up. Ask how important they are, what
their outputs are and how durable they are. Then consider
whether you really need them - and if you do - whether there
are more viable alternatives made of less harmful materials.
And can you use less? - The whole idea is to minimise inputs
and outputs passing through the home. Looking at what
goes through the system should include everything you can
think of.
The table below is a list of a typical home's inputs and
outputs - with comments to consider in relation to them.
People residents, visitors, guests, social interaction
People - time, energy, information, food, CO
babies, noise, knowledge, co.opetation
Use of time; importance of meetint social,
spiritual, emotional, intellectual, p ysical needs
Water washing, cooking, watering, drink, sewage
Contaminated water, heat
Collecting rainwater, redaiming heat,
reusing water, fluoride
Air - breathing, consumed by fires, draughts
Smoke, fumes, humidiry, dust Ventilating, draftproofing, not wasting heat
Energy heating, power, lighting Heat, gas, electromagnetic radiation Cutting demand, reducing requirements
Food - people, animals, plants
Excreta, food waste, energy) heat, steam,
dirry water, chemicals, packaging, gases
Controlling production, putting excreta back on land
Drink Urine, packaging, caffeine, gas, sugar
Collect urine as fertiliser
Clothes Damaged or unfashionable
Recycle through chariry shops or as rag rugs
Materials - cleaning, building, decoraring Toxic fumes, poisons
Use natural non-roxic products from renewable
Equipment Broken or outmoded, energy, batteries
Only n'r,
Furnishings Non-degradable materials, rox;c fumes
Use natural renewable, second hand
Books/magazines -
'" '"",,"cm
\%:1 aste paper
Use librarv; only buy essentials
p ,,'u;'v,; waste paper

w'" dC""", sharing, leddling,
- companionship, therapy, food, fibre
F, foodstuffs, soiled bedding hair, dust,
consume vast
ot high protein
Plants materials, peat, compost Oxygen, waste materials
Non-degradable oil based products Waste in production; goes into landfills or is burnt
Pollution ro us, the air, water and land
Medicines pollute
Adapting zones and sectors for the city
When permaculture was developed in the early 1970s, it emphasized agriculture
("permanent agriculture") and the design of homesteads and small farms.
Thirty years later, conditions have changed. The most urgent environmental
issues are what permaculturaiist Tim Winton calls the "hydrocarbon twins":
global warming and the end of cheap energy (Peak Oil) (1) . Since both
conditions are caused by fossil fuels, the pressing problem is how to minimize
their use. Re-examining transportation is key, since that sector is the biggest
consumer of petroleum. According to the New York Times
the transportation
sector "represents two-thirds of all oil demand in the United States and is solely
accountable for the growth of the nation's oil thirst over the last three decades"
A second emerging issue is the destruction of local communities and their
replacement by a globalized commercial culture. Local communities are critical
buffers against rising energy prices, economic dislocation and dysfunctional
national governments. Their absence puts us at risk.
Proposed solutions are often so big and general that we feel helpless. What can
one person do about the Kyoto protocol? Large economic interests dominate the
US government, so that the recently passed Energy Bill consists largely of
handouts to the fossil fuel industries (3) .
To this impasse, permaculture brings a unique emphasis on what can be done by
individuals and small groups, fostering a sense of empowerment.
This article describes how a classic permaculture technique -- zone and sector
analysiS -- can be adapted to deal with current problems.
Zones and Sectors
Zone and sector planning is a design tool for analyzing the site of a homestead or
small farm. It suggests locations for activities so they can be performed efficiently
and sustainably. The technique is regularly covered in permaculture texts and
Permaculture Design Courses (4) .
Zones are usually pictured as six concentric circles, ranging from Zone 0 (home)
to Zone 5 and activities are located so
that those frequently visited are nearer home and those seldom visited are farther
away. For intensive gardening is set in Zone 1, orchards in Zone 2 and
crop farming in Zone 3.
Bill an explanation for zones. In his Permaculture
he notes that zones are a way to manage available on
site: and fuels of the family or society." Later, as we
extend the definition of zones, we'll draw upon Mollison's understanding of energy
as the underlying zones.
If zones are for on-site sectors are a way to look at natural or wild
energies that flow across the land. Such energies include sun, wind and wildfires.
These come from outside the site and pass through it. Sectors can be
pictured as wedges in the concentric zones, though their real configurations will
be different on different sites.
As powerful as zone and sector analysis is, I found it awkward for planning our life
on the San Francisco Peninsula. This is no surprise, since the technique was
originally developed for a different purpose -- planning homesteads in rural areas.
The homesteads depicted as examples of zones and sectors would cost $1 to $5
million in our area. Our activities are not agricultural; even small-scale gardening
is a challenge in the city.
And yet there are billions of us city-dwellers in the world. Any tool that enables us
to live more ecologically sane lives would make a big difference.
Re-defining Zones
The first step in adapting zones for a wider audience is to expand the notion of
the site. The usual image of a permaculture site is that of private property owned
by an individual, family or small group attempting some degree of self-sufficiency.
The reality for most people is very different. The city-dweller ranges over a much
larger landscape, exerting energy and obtaining resources from properties owned
by different entities. An individual may work on property owned by a corporation,
buy vegetables from a farmers market (local owners) and hike in publicly owned
Just as zones can be used to minimize distances traveled on a farm, so they can
be used to reduce distances traveled in a metropolitan area.
Instead of defining zones by distance, let's define them in terms of energy
expended. (Remember the connection that Mollison drew between zones and
energy.) Since the key variable in fuel usage is the type of transportation, we
could define the zones as:
III Zone 0: Home.
111 Zone 1: Walking distance ("pedosphere").
III Zone 2: Bicycling distance ("cyclosphere").
III Zone 3: Reachable by public transportation or by a short drive.
III Zone 4: Driving distance.
Zone 5: Reachable only by plane or other long-distance transport.
Figure 1 shows the zones with their new definitions.
Figure 1. Zones based on fossil-fuel usage
Defining the zones in this way emphasizes the fact that motorized transport burns
fossil fuels and generates greenhouse gases. Zones 0 to 2 (home, walking and
cycling) are environmentally benign; Zone 6 (air travel) is an environmental no-
no (5) .
A Tool for Awareness
To apply the zones to your daily life, make a zone map. Begin by marking the
locations of your activities on a local map. Sites would include the workplace,
stores, library, parks, family, friends -- wherever one visits. Frequency of visits
can be indicated with different colored pens.
Next, outline the different zones on the map. They won't be the idealized
concentric circles of Figure 1, but will be of irregular shapes, determined by the
particulars of your situation. Walking and cycling may be bounded by barriers
such as freeways. The zone reachable by mass transit will follow the service
As with any model, modify the
bicycle or there's no public transit. Or
is a 20-mile radius.
After gone through this
What do see? The
for your own case. Maybe you don't
your definition of distance
you can transfer the information to the
make to
your energy -- your
time and the fossil fuels you use. The map is a tool for awareness, so don't be
or in a rush to make
re 2;
it's not but it's much better than it was five years
, tranSit/
A u ~ /
" ~ ~
Zones ~ Plane
figure 2. One person's zones and sectors.
As with dieting, I've found that the most lasting changes happen slowly as one
gradually modifies one's lifestyle. Draconian resolutions to cut out all car travel
don't work -- it's like the starve-and-binge routine that dieters experience.
Nor does it help that American cities and suburbs are designed for cars, not
people. Many stores and essential services can only be reached by car. Perhaps as
gas becomes more people will turn away from cars and the vision of
cities on a human-scale will come to pass; the prophecies of Richard Register and
James Howard Kunstler will be vindicated
In the there is much that individuals can do in their own lives. The big
win would be to move to a that IS for and
cyclists. There are often easy changes one can make, like skipping vacation trips
Mantra: Go Go
About traditional zones Bill Mollison "The rule is to the
nearest area and the same applies here. Make full use of what is in front of
you, what is local and available:
chores via
.. what you need at home
I've found that as I involved in local
media advertise.
system .
or musIc for example).
my schedule rapidly filled
up. I no had the urge travel I didn't have the time
will have . To make full use of
the of maps clubs
map Find routes on which you feel safe and comfortable and learn the
basics of safe bicycling. For wear bright and carry lights
and flashers for riding at night.
Re-defining Sectors
Translating zones for an urban setting is easy, but what about sectors? What
variable in the city corresponds to the natural energies of sun, wind and water?
The underlying idea behind sectors is that they map energies from outside. They
suggest ways to adapt to those energies, such as planting trees as windbreaks.
There is a corresponding set of influences in a metropolitan area -- something
that comes from outside and determines how you use resources. It's not a
physical or biological force, but a socio-economic one: the ownership of property.
At the most basic level, there is the dichotomy between our property and the
property of others. But as we consider actual cases, we see that our relationships
to property are much more complex. For example, we often make use of property
owned by family members or by the community as a whole. In fact, seven sectors
can be defined by type of ownership:
'" Personal - the nuclear family or household unit - ownership or rental.
'" Family and friends - informal but strong relationships.
Associations - clubs, churches, volunteer groups, etc.
Community - city, county, state, federal.
local businesses - local professionals, farmers and crafts
Mega-corporations - conglomerates, chains, the Fortune 500, etc.
Undefined - some resources and lands have no clear ownership, such as
underpasses, vacant lots, abandoned houses, rights-of-way, etc.
If we overlay the new concept of sectors onto the zones, we
Figure 3.
the diagram in
Figure 3. Zones and Sectors.
With the new model, you can continue the mapping exercise from before. Transfer
the information from the zone map into the appropriate zone and sector, and
you'll see where you're spending your life energy. Are you devoting yourself to
alien far-away institutions? Is this how you want spend your life?
If you want to make changes, the same guidelines hold true as for reducing fuel
use: a gradual and non-judgmental approach works best. You're fighting the
mainstream culture, so patience is required.
Shields, Deflectors and Collectors
An intriguing set of possibilities is suggested by Bill Mollison's remarks on natural
energies: "Some factors we may invite in to our homes ... Some we may
exclude ... Energies from outside can be thought of as so many arrows winging
their way towards the home, carrying both destructive and beneficial energies; we
need to erect shields, deflectors, or collectors."
In other words, we need to think deeply about the different sectors. It's Simplistic
to label one sector good and another bad The task is to understand the nature of
the sectors and to develop complex relationships with them. There's enough
material here for years of thought and discussion. As a let me offer these
stray thoug hts:
!II The are the most sector in the modern
world. As the dominant form of ownership, they control the resources that
flow area.
Re-Iocalization is the banner cry of Peak Oil activists such as the Post
Carbon Institute. argue that in a goods
will become as costs increase. If
there is widespread unemployment or an undependable national
it is better to rely on local institutions. This argument for
local is echoed by local food enthusiasts and the food security
III The "undefined" sector is large in Third World countries, where title to
property may be difficult to obtain. People build homes, businesses and
gardens without clear land ownership, and consequently live in a state of
insecurity, never knowing if the result of all their work will be taken away.
Community gardens often exist in a similar state, with developers hungry
for land to build on.
filling in the Blanks
You can use zones and sectors to expand your awareness of resources available in
your area. Draw a zone-and-sector diagram, then fill in as many of the blanks as
you can with real or possible resources. Figure 4 shows one example.
Community L t b' 11
{pl.lhlicioncS ceo. usmesses
aid facilities}
Figure 4. Getting Ideas from Zones and Sectors
This exercise demonstrates that there are many other ways to meet needs
'IOC!lin1 lots,
besides personal ownership. For example, in our area you could spend hundreds
of thousands of dollars to buy a home with a yard in which to garden. Or you
could get a plot at a community garden. Another possibility is gardening in the
yard of someone who wants a garden but can't do it herself. Shops and churches
offer other
Permaculture in a Low-Energy Future
As I write, the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the supply of oil and natural gas are
yet to be determined. Oil is topping $70 a barrel. No one can predict when we will
the traditional
of it,
with " as Richard Heinberg puts it, but it
wiil be in demand as never before. Not
be but also creative
Thanks to Rick and my PDe group in Lost Valley, for their
of an early version of this model in
nnprc:nn has been a rt:>f1rlrrar
teacher and technical writer. He
and energy issues. He is co-editor of now and writes on
.... n,o,..,-,'O/ Bulletin
Note 1
for Peak Oil in the Northern Rivers" talk by founder of The
Permaforest Trust, Tim Winton, on Thursday the 19th of May 2005 at the Byron
Bay Community Centre. [Australia]. Audio and slides (PDF) are downloadable.
Note 2
Mouwad, Jad and Wald, Matthew L. "The Oil Uproar That Isn't." New York
Times. July 12, 2005.
Note 3
Energy Bulletin website: US Energy & Roads Bills Headlines - 12 August, 2005
Note 4
Zones and sector analysis is covered in:
e Holmgren, David. Permaculture: Principles &. Pathways Beyond
Sustainability. 2002. p.13S-9.
Mollison, Bill and Slay, Reny Mia. Introduction to Permaculture. 1991.
.. Mollison, Bill. Permaculture: A Designers' Manual. 1998. p.49-55.
Morrow, Rosemary. Earth User's Guide to Permaculture. 1993. p.S9-
.. Quinney, John. "Designing Sustainable Small Farms." Mother Earth
News. Issue 88 (July I August 1984).
.. Whitefield, Patrick. The Earth Care Manual. 2004. p.27-8.
Note 5
Anushka and
travel." The Observer.
Note 6
Robin. "Rising number of greens ditch cheap air
1, 2005.
articles on New Urbanism and car-free cities:
and the End of the of Oil."
Builders website.
James Howard. Website.
III ich
and See especially the chapter on "Degrees of
Note 8
Some recent articles on local food:
.. Smith, Alisa and MacKinnon, J.B. "Living on the Hundred-Mile Diet,"
(ongoing series). The Tyee ( http:/www.thetyee.ca/).
The first three articles are compiled at
Dundas, Zach. "Attack of the $3 Tomato." Willamette Week Online.
Note 9
August 17, 2005.
Heinberg, Richard. "Peak Oil: Sustainability with Teeth." Speech at the 2004 Peak
Oil Conference sponsored by Community Solutions. Transcript at:
Top I Home
The LETSaholic Twist
- Everything you always
wanted to know about
... but didn't kno\,J'/ \lvho to
AboJJt ~ t:>QQIs
This is the information
James Taris shared with
LETS groups allover the
world on his international
LETS tours between 2002-
All About LETS
by James Taris
Article for New Community Quarterly (Australia) ... May 2003 issue
Once you've grasped the LETS philosophy, then trading in LETS points
becomes an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
My LETS philosophy is, "Don't think of LETS points as dollars. Think of
them as favours".
LETS, or Local Exchange Trading Systems, are local community trading
groups where members exchange their goods and services with each other
in a spirit of harmony and a genuine desire to help each other.
The LETS group's function is to act as a bookkeeper for the members'
transactions, keeping record of these 'favours' (also called 'beans', 'auras',
'shells', 'talents', thank yous', etc.) and putting the members' accounts into
debit or credit accordingly. An account which is in credit identifies a member
who has given more favours than he's received. An account which is in
debit identifies a member who has received more favours than he's given.
As there is no interest paid to accounts in credit, and no interest charged to
accounts in debit, neither situation is a problem, and both are necessary in
order to make transactions happen.
I've been involved with LETS since 1994, and once I understood and
accepted the principle of give-and-take with my fellow LETS group
members, I quickly noticed a sharp rise in the quality of my lifestyle.
Having a limited income meant that I could only afford to pay for the
essentials in my life: rent, gas, electricity, phone, petrol, food, clothes, and
so on. Everything else became a luxury, which I either did without, or chose
to do myself.
But that all changed with because I found that I could at last enjoy
some of these luxuries by offering a range of goods and services through
my LETS group. Very soon I was mowing lawns, removing rubbish and
painting rooms. Later on I was also designing business brochures
and newsletters. And I even traded small bookcases
and kitchenware.
In return I received massages, tuition and restaurant meals
software and web services.
All of these goods and services would've been
-ua,,;;:oc;u if I had to pay cash for them. LETS made
Hn'"AlO',IOr nrn.nIQrrl<: can emerge when members allow their accounts to
Often LETS groups place a maximum debit limit on
members' accounts to this in and encourage them to take
You can help s
James) by purch
copy of his boo
lETSaholic Twi
available in hare
softcover and E
Why not buy a I
copy and rotate it
your LETS men
information abo
LETSaholic 1
But isn't the way that members benefit. That's
LETS is all about Just as is the role it in
skills of its members.
of what
When I asked to be involved with the newsletter for my LETS
group, didn't that alone
use it LETS gave me the to learn those skills whereas would
never have been given the same opportunity in the cash economy. And
eventually that experience improved my skills to such a high level that I
began to earn cash outside the LETS system. Because of LETS, I'd
managed to build my skills adequately enough to become a professional
Desktop Publisher.
In October 2001, I took my involvement with LETS to a much higher level. I
founded the web site V\I'V\fI.o/.J.,EIS.:.l..inIsYA.G..om which is an international LETS
directory. And it's since grown to 80 pages featuring over 1,500 LETS and
Community Currency groups from 39 countries on every continent in the
world. It also has links to over 100 web sites which have information on
LETS, the money system or community currencies.
This was purely a labour of love, and little did I know that it would be the
catalyst I needed to undertake one of the greatest international exchange
ventures ever attempted through LETS. My book, Global Quest For Local
LETS (on is a collection of my travel experiences in
2002 through 8 countries (England, Spain, France, Germany, Hoiland,
Norway, South Africa and Japan) trading my speaking services in exchange
for accommodation, meals, local transport and computer use.
My involvement and interaction with these LETS groups differed with every
country I visited.
In Bristol (England) I got my hands dirty helping a LETS member renovate
his house. In exchange I was given the use of a bicycle for the week I was
there. In order to process my transactions, a temporary account was
opened and all transactions put through it. After all entries were made, the
final balance on my account was zero and my account was closed. So all
members involved in my transactions were properly rewarded.
In Erlangen (Germany) I spent a couple of days with Gunter Koch, founder
of Goldring. He had developed a unique trading system which even
rewarded members who didn't, or couldn't, trade with other members (non-
producers) . and he paid them all a monthly amount in real gold! I offered
my services as an editor for his Goldring presentation (English translation)
and was given a 5gm gold ingot in exchange.
In Amsterdam I met with from all 120 LETS
groups in the country. Their largest group, Noppes, had 950 members! And
we exchanged ideas on how to attract food suppliers, or supplies, into their
LETS groups. In Town I was involved with
LETS into the No groups existed there at that but within 5
several had taken to LETS groups in
a reality. The focus being much on establishing LETS groups in the
poor black areas the
But it's the 'LETS factor that made such a massive venture
My objective was to travel the world sharing my LETS philosophy and
highlighting the benefits of through LETS. I'm about
LETS and my belief in the LETS hosts around the
world knew that was my LETS
When it came to
time. I didn't hold back
theirs. We traded with a
So just to summarise.
LETS points should be thought of as favours, not dollars.
LETS trading should be performed with a community spirit, rather than
being profit motivated.
LETS is the perfect way to improve your lifestyle by providing luxury goods
and services.
LETS groups can help members reduce large debit balances.
LETS offers members opportunities to learn, improve or perfect skills.
LETS can be used internationally if you're genuine about helping
LETS members, and accept visiting places where you're invited, rather than
places you specifically want to go.
Happy trading,
James Taris
The 20 Most Asked Questions About LETS
(This document was prepared by John Croft, of the Gaia Foundation. It has
been editted slightly. It describes the why, the how and the what of LETS
We hope the following questions and answers meet all your requirements,
and encourage you to be an active trader in your LETSystem.
Q.1 What is a LETSystem?
A LETSystem is a locally initiated, democratically organised, not-for-profit
community enterprise which provides a community information service and
records transactions of members exchanging goods and services by using
the currency of locally created LETS Credits. The LETS Credit currency
does not involve coins, paper money or tokens of any kind but rather acts as
a scoring system, keeping track of the value of individual members'
transactions within the system. It is simply a community information system
attached to its own market-place. Different LETSystems call their LETS
Credits by different names, adding a "local flavour"
LETS works a little like a where members earn credits by
other whenever need child
minding. Unlike a LETS extends the range of
services to whatever is locally. A successful can
provide members with food, clothing, housing, transport, and legai
services, repairs, equipment, business services, entertainment and much
more, at a reduced or no cost in Federal the of a
community based credit economy.
3 of I
* Individuals and businesses can use it to advertise iocate what
either by mail or in person
Information is added to deleted any and
circulated to members.
* There are no limitations or obligations on use. LETS is its name and "lets"
is its nature
a small fee members are issued with a
Number which acts as a license to trade. On
and services are offer
In most members also elect a
Board at
to maintain LETS accounts and ULI'U"".<:::
and services available needed.
Q.3 Why start a LETSystem?
When ordinary money is in short supply, needed community projects are put
on indefinite hold, local businesses fail, people become unemployed, and
individuals and families suffer, not because they have nothing to offer, or
because they lack skills and abilities, but simply because there is not
enough money to go around.
LETSystems helps develop and free local markets by operating like a
community bank, in which members open an account. Unlike a bank,
however, it gives unlimited interest-free credit, generated at the point of
sale, to facilitate trading with other members. In this way, LETS acts like a
supplementary currency, creating an additional system of value in a
community. By supplementing conventional cash flow with a local currency,
a community can maintain full employment, and protect itself from changes
and fluctuations in the money supply.
Q.4 What other benefits are there in starting a
There are many benefits to LETSystems. Some others are ...
- Mobilising the Real Wealth of a Community: The knowledge and skills of
its people is the real wealth of a community. A local currency keeps this
wealth working in the community, even while conventional money drains
away, generating employment and income for all involved. People who have
accumulated a wide range of skills and abilities suddenly become once
again highly valued members of the community.
- Helping Community Groups: LETSystems help other local communit
organisations by giving them access to resources to extend their services to
customers or clients currently not gaining access. Volunteer burn-out is
reduced as LETS helps organisations recognise and acknowledge donated
time and effort, allowing volunteers to meet their own needs while meeting
the needs of others.
Fostering Self-Reliance & Self Esteem: In our
at the same time numbers of
met. may need care or other
services for their children. also need a range of
services or may company to combat loneliness.
a to access these and other services is
proportional to their purchasing power. LETS breaks this
making it more possible to match someone's need with another's available
labour. People are no longer upon welfare or and
self esteem benefits.
dollars. The UlSIJU:;;i:lUlle
available after basic needs are met,
who are in LETS will find
pockets at the end of each week. The rate of
therefore of community investment capital generation,
of life of everyone, will improve.
for Businesses: LETS adds a new tier to a local economy
nov",tc>c wealth that is not able to be accessed the
This wealth creates
- Creating Local Economic Control: LETS helps to the bucket of
the local economy, by creating a local currency that cannot leave the
community, thereby reducing uncontrolled and activity limiting capital
outflows. As LETS credits only have value in the community in which they
were generated, they stay circulating to create more wealth for everyone.
LETS gives community members a powerful new tool with which to "steer"
the local economy in directions which benefit everyone.
- Support to Buy Local: At present, economies of scale, transfer pricing, and
capitalising on cheap Third World labour or raw materials enables larger
multinational and interstate manufacturers and retailers to tip the so-called
"level playing field" in their direction, to the detriment of local businesses.
LETS provides an Federal dollar discount to those using local businesses,
manufacturers and retailers, while not sacrificing total income in the hope of
making it up through increased business. Local businesses thrive.
- Building Community Support Networks: Because LETS plugs members
into a local information network, it provides new or isolated residents living
in a local community with an instantaneous community support system,
which avoids the embarrassment of introductions to strangers. Through the
LETS network all members have a ready reason for calling for support or
help. Elderly penSioners, unemployed youth, supporting parents, new
arrivals, and single-income families with partners "trapped" in a dormitory
suburb, can all build firm friendships on relationships established through a
LETS connection.
- Fostering Social Justice & Equality: Because the value attached to one's
time and commitment is set individually amongst the participating members,
a LETSystem equalises the wage differential that exists in the value
attached in the conventional economy to the work of women as compared to
the work of men. This greater equality helps to prevent the polarisation of
the community between those that "have" compared to the "have-nots".
There is no value in accumulating LETS credits, as they cannot earn
interest It is only by putting them to productive work that the individual or
the community benefits. LETS fosters local participation in the community at
all levels.
- Helping Community There are many and worthwhile
community projects and activities that languish for lack of money. By
donating LETS credits to a chest, initiatives for
local or charitable work can be without putting a
severe strain on one's Federal dollar income. the local LETS
credits remain the local the wealth donated will circle back to
the donor as a form of long-term "money back , to generate
demand for the and services are providing to their
- Building a Sense of Community: The increasingly transient, temporary and
mobile lifestyle in Australia has greatly damaged our sense of belonging to
a meaningful Because a builds local relationships it
is a powerful means regenerating a sense of trust among members, a
necessary to the health of any As communities
5 of
5 u
A Multi-LETSystem is a
Multi-LETS provides a
'II(OTOlrTl like any other. Like any other
in which transactions are
statements and accounts and a or
sheet of offers and
network may trade
"'/"f'(\r,rI, to the rules conditions upon which members
may provide own separate list of offers and requests, and
own newsletter. Again, like a LETSystem, the LETS Credit units cannot be
transferred outside of their membership base or taken out of the system.
The difference with a conventional LETSystem is that in Multi-LETS, people
initially join the general register, specifying which networks they would like
to participate in. In return they receive a Single trading Registration Number
which can be used in the general register, and in any network to which they
may belong. People then have the choice whether to record the transaction
within the general system, or at the level of a particular network.
In a Multi-LETS, all transactions are recorded at the level of the Multi-LETS
register, so networks can have the advantages of a LETSystem, without
needing to worry about the recording of transactions, or the issuing of
statements. This can be an immense advantage to a particular club or group
who do not have any members interested in "running the system" but who
wish to use LETS for their own purpose, without necessarily wanting to go
through the hassle of starting their own separate LETSystem. Their
members also gain access to a wider range of goods and services through
the general register than they would in a smaller system of their own
network. In a Multi-LETS people have greater freedom of choice, as they
can choose which networks they want to participate in and which local
causes, clubs or groups they want to support whilst trading in LETS.
0.6 How do I join a LETSystem?
Each LETSystem is independent and has its own contact person or mailing
address. Once you have made a decision about which LETSystem or
systems you want to join, make contact and they will tell you how much it
costs. Generally people then fill in a sheet of offers and requests, their
name, mailing address and phone number. The LETSystem will then inform
the new member of their Registration Number within that system, which acts
as their license to begin trading. Different LETSystems have different ways
of renewing memberships, but generally members have to renew their
membership once a year .
. 7 What of req
listed what you want to receive from the LETS
what you are to contribute to that
return. These are those of others into the
There is a of a proportion of a LETS Credit per line for
each trading sheet (to the Trustee who updates the
head if not
It is a good idea, to regularly check your list to make sure that it
does reflect what you are to or prepared to receive. As
you will discover, it can be frustrating to members to have to make a large
number of calls before find a trader in that or if
you to an item, and will save your account the expense of
unwanted or and services
0.8 What Id I
works best
Rather than for someone to contact you about your
will best meet your needs if you use it o:IrTI\/P,\I
Contact someone who is
can offer. It may be that
even consider offers
never considered before Whatever it is the person
make a new LETS contact
This will give you a taste of trading, and show you how it is done, If that
person is interested in your assistance, make sure that you clearly establish
exactly how many LETS Credits you propose to charge, This may result in
some friendly "haggling", but do not proceed until a mutually agreeable
"price" has been set Make sure that both parties to the transaction have the
correct name, registration number, and amount before completing the
cheque tab, or phoning the transaction through to the Trustees,
Q.9 How do I get most personal benefit from my
Your LETSystem will have the greatest economic use to you if you look at
where you currently spend money. Have you built a personal relationship
with the people involved, or is it only a commercial transaction? If you can
recruit to the system individuals with whom you normally spend Federal
Dollars, you will find that being able to buy the same goods and services in
part for LETS will have a big effect on increasing your savings and
disposable income, For instance, if you can buy local foodstuffs and
groceries for LETS it will have a big impact upon your spending patterns
and you may save Federal Dollars! If you want help enrolling someone into
the LETSystem, ask your area coordinator, Trustee or LETS Committee, If
successful, you can start to spend local currency more widely, so creating
more jobs and increasing the wealth of your local community!
Try to develop the LETS habit by using LETS first, Federal Dollars second,
only if you have to! LETS gives people a chance to meet their neighbours in
a new way, enriches your community life and provides you with a
community support network of great strength and durability.
0.10 How much is a LETS Credit worth?
For most business transactions it is easiest to equate one LETS Credit to
one federal dollar, Business people find it hard to cope with a system of
value that varies widely between different times and different people trading.
Most transactions in a are for
that would be called personal social hobbies
or pass-times, For these, people are free to set their own value scale, which
can vary between times of the upon the amount of
free-time one or the nature of other pressures or demands may
have on their time.
As a in a you may find a wider of than you
would in a conventional market system Prices for items are negotiated
between the two people engaging in the transaction, and there is
a "set take-it-or-Ieave-it" as one finds in a conventional money
purchase, This the relationship building nature of a LETSystem,
of the
The gap In wage rates between and
between the work of men and the work of women,
between tasks that would be considered
those that are paid are narrowed or do not exist a
purchasing power in a LETSystem is equal to the purchasing power of
anyone although the demand for their services may vary widely.
you are
you can
ask for to cover this needed sure other
person understands why you are charging dollars, as this helps make sure
that they feel what you are charging is fair.
0.12 How should I charge in LETS if I run a business?
If you run a business, a useful way to start is to offer what you think would
be a fair percentage in LETS Credits and federal dollars. The other person
in the transaction is free to accept or reject, as in LETS, there is no
obligation. LETS is its name and LETS is its nature!
The only requirement is that you are prepared to consider trading in LETS
Credits for whole or part of the transaction. Make sure that the other person
understands in advance of providing the goods or services if you are not
trading any item for LETS. Not doing so will come as a nasty shock to your
customer, and may lead to them telling others of their unfortunate
experience, with the result that you may find you do little trading in the
If you are running a business and wish to trade in LETS, ask us about the
"LETS Do Business" information. We can explain how you can record
transactions in part LETS part dollars in an easy and reliable fashion.
Members of a LETSystem would prefer to trade in local currency, so you will
probably find that your number of sales, and your total cash turnover will
increase as your business joins the local system.
0.13 Do I have to be in credit before starting to buy?
No. You do not have to be in credit before making your first buying
transaction. In this way your LETS Account is very different from a
conventional Bank Account! If you wish to purchase a good or service from
the LETSystem, you can do so straight away, as when you go into debit
(which in LETS is a measure of your future commitment to the system),
someone else will go into credit The system will in this way stay balanced
at zero.
that "new LETS Credits" enter the <;:,,<;:,,n more
Credit cannot leave your
in the form of someone
in the trading As the
LETSystem, eventually they will come back to
who wants what you A debit thus is a
back This is very different to money.
.14 if I
It is a good idea to inform the Trustees or your area coordinator immediately
you shift residence. This helps make sure that can send any future
trading sheets or newsletters to the correct address,
8 of 1
out the have a number
your account open, in case you visit the area and want
to do some or if you are to services to your LETS
members who visit your new place of residence.
you This can be achieved
your balance to zero. Your area coordinator or
Trustees can show you how this may be done.
Obviously, if everyone left your LETSystem, it would become
and transactions would dry-up. This has happened to LETSystems in the
past, but nothing is lost, and no-one is hurt by the process (again, unlike the
conventional money system).
Q.15 How can a person "rip-off' the LETSystem?
Forget it They cannot. Surprisingly LETS Credits provide one of the only
theft-proof, non-rip-off-able currency systems possible in the world. Its
simple rules operate in a fashion entirely different to conventional money,
which can be stolen, and is often "ripped off'. LETS Credits operate in a
fashion wholly different to federal dollars.
Consider, for instance, the question of debt. If I borrow 100 federal dollars
from you, then I effectively have $100 of your money which you cannot
spend until I pay back. This is inconvenient to you, and, as a measure of
this inconvenience you charge me interest (I may have to pay back $110
In LETS if my account is 100 LETS Credits in debit, it means I have already
paid someone 100 LETS Credits! No-one is inconvenienced, and so there is
no interest I can discharge my commitment whenever it is most convenient
to me to do so. LETS by name and LETS by nature!
Q.16 What about Tax? Do I have to pay tax on LETS
The Australian Taxation Office ruling on LETS, released in February 13th
1991 states that there are no Taxation implications for personal
arrangements, social arrangements, hobbies or pass- times. These
constitute about 70 to 80% of all LETS transactions.
Only if! am a tradesperson, a professional, a business, or a retailer or
wholesaler and I am trading in my business is there any implication for tax.
In such cases, "Income" is income, and I have to pay tax on my LETS Credit
as I do on my federal Dollar earnings. At you should
estimate the amount of tax you would have to pay on the transaction and
charge that as part of the federal Dollars component to the person
your The "LETS Do Business"
track the amount you need to These
dollars you will have to be to the Taxman, as
you do with any federal Dollar earnings. There is no difference with LETS .
...... "''"'"..",,, across while recommend to their members
to abide by the Taxation ruling, also think it unfair. Tax on LETS should be
for in LETS - Tax on Dollars, paid for in Dollars. This has the effect on
taxes collected on local transactions in the local If you
on this
believes that tax is an individual and an individual
LETS is not a Taxation Avoidance Scheme. Your
takes no responsibility for collecting or policing tax, and will not act as an
of the Taxation Office. Under it cannot the Taxation
to view our documents.
does not
other coverage. These and
between the individuals involved in the transaction.
insurance is you may have to pay federal Dollars the other
person cover the cost of the premiums (unless the LETSystem has
managed to enrol an Insurance Company! If you would like to help enrol an
Insurance Company, contact the Trustees or the area coordinator!)
0.18 What about Social Security?
It is a matter of interpretation whether and what degree LETS is "valuable
consideration" under the Social Security Act. If you are concerned about
Social Security, it is a good idea to keep your LETS account as balanced as
much as possible, close to zero. For each positive transaction, try to provide
a negative one balancing up as soon as you can. If Social Security
becomes a matter of concern, contact your LETSystem, or ask Social
Security about the Appeals Procedure, as an appeal against any Social
Security ruling that is open to interpretation is your right under the Act In
Western Australia 50% of appeals are found in favour of the appellant, and
Social Security have to reimburse any payments lost
If you receive Unemployment Benefit, and you wish to continue to do so,
you should not allow your involvement in the LETSystem interfere with your
ability to seek full time or part time work. After- hours involvement is
probably best
0.19 How are decisions determined within this
LETSystems are democratic organisations, controlled by their members.
Your LETSystem will probably have an annual general meeting for the
election of office bearers and committee members. Committee meetings are
usually open to members and all are invited to participate. If you are
interested in participating in either the administration or development of this
LETSystem, you should get in touch with the local contact or LETS
Committee. Increasingly, all work done for LETS Administration or
Development will be acknowledged and paid through the system!
Q.20 Where can I get more information?
The Branch of the of Commerce and
Trade have a LETSystems Training Pack which and
individuals interested in LETS with the all information to start their
& There is also a
email: warwick.[QWE3.U@E3.?PQ,c;OliLctU
Permaculture Applications Consultancy & Education
46 View Crescent Dunsborough Western Australia 6281
Management Consultant "Helping Managers Learn"
Permaculture Land Learn"
ha at
This article was taken from:
20 Most Asked Questions
web: I
articles related
So find those website links listed on the same page
as the country they relate to.
Buddhist Economics
web :ll.ttJ,l:i1WWJN. gl()bClJideasPCl11 k.
L\I\[ho'ejb htrnl
Caledonia Centre
(Graham Boyd) article
Davies Roy local and Interest-Free
Currencies, Social Credit
The Fatal Trap In The Global Economy
(Graham Ferguson and Michael Bond - revised 26
web: bJiplLLw\I\[w
Graham Ferguson
Michael Bond
email: y
mobile phone: 0417 677 405 (Australia)
Grameen Bank page
web: jJ.tjp;liwww.grameen.Qrgj
lietaer Bernard
Local Currencies In the Global Economy
New Money Systems
Potential of local Currency
Reg I currencies insulate
email: Shelnn@peg.apc.org
Rathaus Community Currency page
Sidonie Seron thesis
This site covers the LETS exchange system more
thoroughly than any other site I've come across. A real
web: http://www.gmlet!i.l.t-
I htlnl
But you really need a reference with clickable link to the
core source material that is only really accessible from
'LETSystems - The Home Page'
at web:
Sidon ie's thesis is indeed a good analysis, and she refers
often to the source material, but includes NO URLLINKS to
it at all, leaving many people without any clickable link to
these prime resources for a deeper understanding of the
basic LETSystem principles.
Transaction Net
web: http://www.transar;.tiQll_._netLmQney/index.html
WIR Economic Circle Cooperative
web: http Rl)avlesl ",riel n lwiI. h_tIDl
Wissenschaftsladen Wien Empowerment
web: bt'tp:11fgiJ:fec.1. .tuwie_n.C!c:. ",tLwila_,:,
email: w11C:lwjen@C:lj:lj$,_at
Please send corrections or
Other James Taris web sites
environments be made as beneficial for
wildlife as Is Zone V area to
be left alone or established? Is it
establish 'mother
as seed banks? Is the area be Hld:Udl;CU
all once established? How do
It is clear that traditionally managed areas
are crucial to the survival of much of
Britain's wildlife. The of these
areas have now been lost and many of the
remaining fragments are abandoned or
misused. By harvesting sustainable yields
in the traditional way once again, we can
continue to manage these habitats for wild-
life and make them viable at a subsistence
or economic level. It should be remem-
bered, however, that not all wildlife
habitats require management and that
many traditional practices are neither
beneficial to wildlife nor sustainable.
Britain's wildlife has suffered an array
of onslaughts since the Second World War.
Let us hope that remaining habitats are
not threatened further by developers or
those wishing to see them returned to an
idealised 'wilderness', but can instead yield
useful resources once again and be a
haven for a great diversity of wildlife <>
References / Further Reading
A Rural Manifesto for the Highlands;
The Scottish Green Party; 1989.
Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape;
Oliver Rackham; Dent; 1976.
Woodlands; William Condry; Collins; 1974.
Woodlands and Pennaculture;
Patrick Whitefield; 1992.
Woodlands A Practical Handbook; BTCV; 1988.
Useful Organisations
All the' organisations listed below have local!
regional offices.
British Trust for Conservation Volunteers,
36 Saint Mary's Street, Wallington,
Oxfordshire OXlO OEU. Tel: (0491) 39766.
Council for Wales,
Nature, Northminster House,
PEI1UA. Tel: (0733) 40345.
Local Authorities.
Local wildlife I nature CO!lse,-v3t';0I1
c/o for Nature
Tel: (0522) 752326.
for the Protection Birds,
Bedfordshire SG19 2DL
(LETS) and announced the first
nationwide system, the Perma-
culture Exchange. Following on
from this, Angus Soutar now
answers many of the questions
that are most often asked about
LETS. This article is the first of
a series which explores the
importance and benefits of
money free trade.
hat is the connection
between a high rise estate
in London and a genteel
resort on the south coast; between
a run-down West Midlands town
and a leafy market town in Surrey?
They all have local permaculture
groups? Maybe, but I can give you
another answer ... They aU have
neighbourhoods whose inhabitants
have decided to do something
about the crazy state of the economy.
Instead of issuing tortured statements
about macro-economic policy, they
have decided to do something useful:
start a Local Exchange Trading
System (LETS).
Those who are interested in the
'people systems' side of permaculture
will probably know about this
innovative approach to the local
economy. But there are many
who know little or
permaculture, who are also
attracted to LETS and the possibility
of ethical has
articles in the national
LETS groups
had to answer so many
4W_"Ll'LJ1!O about LETS that I
thought it would be
to some of them here ...
Ti Ik!
Angus Soutar
What Are
and services to each
other. The aim is to a strong
local economy by promoting work
exchange, by improving skills and
encouraging small business start ups.
There is also a huge potential for
increasing the availability of training
and providing employment in 'right
livelihood' .
A LETSystem tries to match local
needs to local resources. It is
permaculture in action. Think about
design for a minute. Any local needs
that are not met will require inputs
from outside to satisfy them. In
terms of the local economy, this
usually means benefit payments and
grants which are often given
reluctantly. The result is usually a
rationing of payments, leading to
unmet needs and the downward
spiral of 'welfare dependency'.
As for outputs that are not used
locally, they can cause pollution. If we
put surplus money into the global
financial system it can wreak all kinds
of havoc without our knowing
anything about it. The LETS design
overcomes these problems by
encouraging members to work
ethically within their neighbour-
hoods to satisfy each other's needs,
so cutting down dependency on the
national economy.
What Does LETS Stand For?
Pacific coast of Canada about
LETS as 'Local
Winter 1992/93
bourhoods. Instead LETS goes
beneficial effects of
Michael Linton has drawn up a clear
definition of a which we will look
hut the word itself seems
life The
Local Enterprise Training System
Providing low cost and low risk ways of
establishing businesses which meet local
needs and employ local people.
Local Energy Transfer System
Looking at work in a new way, in terms
of a flow of energy circulating in the
locality. That energy can reach into areas
that money has not penetrated, develop-
skills and liberating hidden talents.
Local Education Transformation System
Establishing a learning exchange which
taps into the wide range of abilities and
experience that is available within any
The exact titles used are unimportant
because all LETS share the same
characteristics, which are:
local, community based, members'
small scale, self-started and self-
potentially self-financing with a
minimum of organisational work.
How Does LETS Work?
What is really elegant about
LETSystems is that they need absolutely
no money to get trade going. Local money
is created by trade. This is exactly the
opposite to the mainstream economy where
trade cannot take place without money.
For instance, say I join a new system. All
the members have an account in local
units (they are called 'osiers',
after the willows that grow
We each have a LETS cheque book
and a of the services on offer.
a zero balance.
J have a brochure to
and I
am at artwork. At the moment,
I am skim and I cannot afford a
But wait a minute, Linda is
the I get on the
16 Winter 1992/93
osiers leave my account and go into
As for me, I do not owe Linda
I have just made a commitment
to supply 50 osiers of work to the members
in the scheme, all of them and any of
them. There are plenty of ways to do
this; Iviax \vants some help with
and decorating; Nadine needs some
computer training; Of, I could cut up
some logs and offer those.
This is not barter. With a barter
system, I would have to repair Linda's
sofa (a grim prospect for both of
or the alternative is no trade. With LETS,
not only can we all trade, we can also
trade on our terms and have fun while
we are doing it ... And we can decide to
have fun without messing up the planet!
So the idea of LETS is a natural
extension of the baby sitting circle and
similar work-share schemes. The aim is
to acknowledge efforts put in by
members which benefit the group as a
whole. LETS can also act as a local
Exchange and Mart for the exchange
of surplus goods.
What Is Involved In Running a
The LETSystem is usually run by three or
four administrators, sometimes called the
'core group', or the 'management team'.
They have three main tasks:
* to publish a local skills directory which
includes goods and services on offer,
together with members' requests,
* to maintain the records of credits
and commitments incurred by
in the uses of the
Do We Need a Computer?
small m,'m f'\p", h:
to record members' transactions in the
accounts. A computer makes
much easier. Software is available on a
'shareware' basis low
What About
some are not. If your are in
connection with normal trade and
profession you may be liable for tax, but
remember that tax is paid on your
rather than on income. The whole
of government and to get fair treatment
for LETS members. We to
Where Can I Obtain More
Information About LETS?
Support for LETSystems is available
through LETSLINK UK, an independent
voluntary organisation run by Liz
Shephard. She is also administrator for
Trade-link, the LETSystem in West
Wiltshire. She started LETS LINK because
she saw the need for systems to keep in
touch, share resources and generally
support each other.
LETS LINK supply start up packs,
literature, computer software and
support, workshops and tons of advice.
Do not be surprised if Liz refers you on
to someone else, LETSLINK is work-
netting in action and there is already too
much work for one office to handle. You
can register with Liz as a prospective
start up which will put you in touch with
other interested people in your area.
Perhaps there is already an established
system near you that is prepared to 'twin'
with your system to help you get started.
Why not give it a go?
Angus Soutar
1 Bourne End Farm Cottages
Wootton, Bedford MK43 9AP
1'elephone: (0234) 768272
Thanks are due to Liz Shephard and
Richard Knights for their assistance with
this article and for their enthusiastic
dedication to LETS.
LETS LINK UK can be contacted at:
61 Woodcock
Wiltshire BAl2 9DH.
The Vp,'rn'orl1
members of the Permaculrure
a Full
Next Issue, 'local is so
re-generating local trade.
HLack is the root of all evil"
George Bernard Shaw
very day seems to bring bad news
about 'the economy'. Even if you
avoid the TV and the neV'.'Spapers,
you will probably have some personal
experience: friends losing their jobs,
shops closing down, a general unease.
Somehow our money systems are not
living up to expectations.
As far as the economy is concerned,
many of the finest minds in the world are
concentrating on the problems, so surely
they will come up with a solution? I'm not
so sure. I think that one of the reasons
present money systems fail is that we try
to do roo much with them. They are too
complex, out of control perhaps .. Instead
of coming up with ever more complicated
solutions, perhaps we should concentrate
on simplifying the problem.
The first step is to think about money.
Much of the confusion, irritation and down-
right fear we have about money has arisen
because of the different ways in which it can be
used. We can't always see what's going on.
The first forms of money were probably
tokens which accompanied ceremonial
exchanges between neighbouring tribes.
With the onset of civilisation, money was
used to facilitate trade between commun-
ities. Money conveniently overcame the
problems caused by barter. As an example,
that we live in a where we
of linen, But we don't have
We have "'-'""wc,u
linen. We have
for their dye.
On the other
of our linen. But can't
useful in return. One solution
to agree with all our
nellgnDours to use some kind of money.
We can then use money to our
and receive money our linen.
b iI
still based
but some money is used to distribute
between communities.
So money can serve to break the ties
of barter and it can facilitate A
related, but separate, use of money is to put
a value on the items to be exchanged. (This
coin will buy ten of cloth or four
ounces of blue dye.) So far, so good. But
with the rise of the nation state and the
need to fund commercial ventures and wars,
money began to take on another role. As
money accumulated it was seen as a source of
wealth and power. Money itself was hired
out and borrowers had to pay interest in
return, Money became a store of we'alth.
Sometimes the use of money as a store
of wealth acts against the use of money for
exchange. This is what has happened with
our present national economy. Ten years
ago, banks were falling over themselves
to lend us money. Now you can hardly
borrow a bean. Yet there is still twenty
times more money in the world than is
needed for trade alone. What is it all
used for? I certainly don't know.
Money is Not Wealth
Monev is a means of exchange, a
measu're of value, a store of wealth.
Money can only represent wealth, it is
not wealth itself. Real wealth lies in our
local resources, especially in our skills,
and in helpful people who look after us
when things get rough. Bur let's leave the
quagmire of wealth for another In
my search to simplify the problem, I am
going to focus on
local or Multinational?
When it comes to money,
often have a choice: to either from
from someone
someone who knows me, but there are
also ethical here. I would like
second is the question of resources.
The idea of
f'VlnFl0,I1JF car,l can see that
I'm to pay for it. If Francesca
employs local people and pays them a good
wage, I'm happy to support her business.
The problems begin when I cannot see
where my money is going. Every time I
visit a petrol station my mind boggles at
the thought of the oil company share-
holders. Who are they? Where do they live?
What do they do with their dividend
So that is the ownership question. It is
about who gets the money and what they
do with it. The key issue is whether profits
stay in our home town, or whether they
end up in some faraway place where they
are not available to us. It's all about
stability and sustainability. Which leads
me to think about the second question,
the question of resources.
Traditionally, local economies got their
resources locally. Robert Hart has found
this gem from H. J. Massingham: "The
craftsman invariably had a 'close' or hold-
ing of his own, the hurdler an acre or less
of coppice, the basket maker an osier bed,
the straw-plaiter a plot of corn, the potter a
stake in the clay pit, the mason or waller a
stake in the quarry." People were rooted in
their communities and were faced with
the practicalities of sustainable living. Use
of resources had to be 'economical' and
the effects of pollution were immediately
How it has all Resources come
winging in from all over the world. 'Human
resources' will travel over a hundred miles
work. Meanwhile local
It's easier to understand what's
if you draw up a resources chart for
businesses in your area. This takes the
form of a where put
In most towns and you can fill up
the 'outside - outside' square pretty
Most of the street chains fit in
Summer 1993
There's a Hole the Bucket
Water Companies
Power Companies
Street Banks
it is not our power to create local
economies where 20 per cent of money spent wi!! flow
out. It is as simple as spending money. Compare the effect of 50
spent in the supermarket with the same amount spent in a
'local-local' economy (see fig. 'A Tale of Two Economies'). In our
leaky economy, the money available soon dwindles. It only leads
to three useful transactions, with a total spending
power of 62.40.
But in a local economy that keeps 80 per cent of money
circulating within it, the picture is very different. An initial
50 brought in will enable over 20 transactions and provide
spending power of nearly 250. Perhaps it is more meaningful
if you think that every transaction represents someone's
needs being met. Which is where we started with money in
the first place.
"Aha!" cry the cynics. "But we don't have any 'local -
local' businesses." To which I reply, no problem, start them
up for yourselves.
The intriguing bit is to imagine money which is 100 per
cent local. There will be no leakages and I suppose we could
go on meeting each others needs for ever.
A Tale of Two Economies
Local Spending
1 13
Local Spending
Summer 1993
Local Food Co-ops
Milk Rounds
Local Crafts
Bus Companies
Time to say what we want from money. You might agree
that we could do with a form of money that is useful for
exchange and value but which is useless when either stored
or taken out of the locality. Something that can't be counter-
feited and doesn't cost a lot to produce. A money that can
be used ethically, for regeneration rather than degeneration.
And if we want it we can have it. Because it has already been
designed for us. It's called a LETSystem and we can use it to
rebuild our local economies. And that, for once, is good news.
Angus Soutar
1 Bourne End Farm Cottages, Wootton, Bedford MK43 9AP
Telephone: (0234) 768272.
LETS LINK can be contacted at :
61 Woodcock Road, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 9DH
Telephone: (0985) 217871.
The Permaculture Exchange is an exchange network
currently open to members of the Permaculture Association
who have completed a Full Design Course. For further
details, contact: PC 8 Helen Road, Oxford OX2 ODE.
Telephone: (0865) 721922.
eco-Iogic books
We printed our own money because we watched federal dollars come to
town, shake a few hands, then leave to buy rainforest lumber and fight wars.
Ithaca's HOURS, by contrast, stay in our region to help us hire each other.
While dollars make us increasingly dependent on multinational corporations
and bankers, HOURS reinforce community trading and expand commerce
that is more accountable to our concern for ecology and social justice.
Here's how it works: the Ithaca HOUR is Ithaca's $10 bill, because ten dollars
per hour is the average of wages/salaries in this area. These HOUR notes, in
four denominations, buy plumbing, carpentry, electrical work, roofing, nursing,
chiropractic, child care, car and bike repair, food, eyeglasses, firewood, gifts
and thousands of other goods and services. Our credit union accepts them for
mortgage and loan fees. People pay rent with HOURS. The best restaurants
in town take them, as do movie theatres, bowling alleys, two large local/y-
owned grocery stores, and 30 farmers' market vendors.
Ithaca's HOURly minimum wage lifts the lowest paid up the economic ladder,
without knocking down higher wages. For example, several of the city's
organic farmers are paying the highest farm labour rates in the Western
Hemisphere: $10 of spending power per HOUR. These farmers benefit by the
HOUR's loyalty to local agriculture. On the other hand, dentists, massage
therapists and lawyers charging more than the $10 average per hour are
permitted to collect several HOURS hourly. But we hear increasingly of
professional services provided at our equitable rate.
Everyone who agrees to accept HOURS is paid four HOURS ($40) for being
listed in our newsletter Ithaca Money. Every eight months they may apply to
be paid an additional two HOURS, as reward for continuing participation. This
is how we gradually and carefully increase per capita supply of our
acts of
on our
more potential to reach outward with ecological export industry. We can
capitalize new businesses with loans of our own cash.
We regard Ithaca's HOURS as real money, backed by real people, real time,
real skills and tools. Dollars, by contrast, are funny money, backed no longer
by gold or silver but by less than nothing - by massive national debt.
Local currency is a lot of fun, and it's legal. HOURS must be used within state
lines and denominations must be at least $1. HOURS are taxable income
when traded for professional goods or services. Local currency is also lots of
work and responsibility.
Ithaca Hours
Paul Glover, who created the HOUR system, is a community economist
and ecological urban designer, with a degree in City Management. He
has worked in advertising, journalism and barnyards, and rides his
bicycle everywhere.