We Grow From Here's Blog

A Community Garden Project

Photo credit:  Conrad Goulet "Designing Educational Ecosystems", 2014


Leave a comment

Use and Value Diversity

‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’

There is no such thing as a monoculture in nature.  Nowhere on earth, except in places where man has intervened, will you find a single species which is independent of others.  Therefore, my choice for the quote on this one would be, instead:  “No man is an island.”

2014 Class in TN

Photo credit:  Conrad Goulet “Designing Educational Ecosystems”, 2014

My most recent immersion experience in permaculture is the best example I can possibly think of to illustrate this concept, in terms of human interactions, a class with Dave Jacke, Cliff Davis, and thirty or so permaculturists from, literally, around the world.  These are the kinds of experiences leading to the levels of bonding required to create real change, both inner and outer landscape.  Human connection is essential—this is where many efforts get it wrong.  Not only is connection essential, so is diversity—and the more, the better.  The entire philosophy of permaculture is based around the idea that natural systems do not produce mono-crops, and that lack of diversity can and does lead to weakness and ultimately disease of the system and its components.

So, I ask you—if you were a plant, what kind would you be?  There are dynamic accumulators, nitrogen fixers, mycelium, and nectaries.  There are overstory and understory, climbers and ground cover.  Consider carefully, think of what others may or may not have to say about you, in all of your dealings with others…would you be considered a ‘weed’, or ‘invasive’?  Alleleopathic even, carbon sequestering, or are you a pioneer species?  Do you encourage connections, help create diversity in your surroundings, or discourage them?  Are you highly critical of others, or helpful and supportive?   Do you take responsibility for your own welfare and that of others, or do you expect someone else to do ‘the dirty work’?

Read the following, consider the design of a food forest type of garden–take a few moments to really think about it—identify with not just what you want to be, but what history would show, from an impersonal, ego-free perspective.  Please comment, and let me know what part of your social ‘guild’ you feel best suited for.

How to maximize omega diversity in your forest garden.

You may find yourself torn in several directions while selecting species. On the one hand, it is desirable to maximize compositional diversity at the omega level. On the other hand, certain important uses and functions are limited to certain families. Nitrogen fixation is mostly limited to the legumes (Fabales) and certain orders within the rose (Rosales) and beech (Fagales) orders . Specialist nectary plants are generally limited to the Apiaceae, Araliaceae, Saxifragaceae, and portions of the Asteraceae. The great majority of fruit and nut species that can grow in cold climates are in the rose order (Rosales) – in fact, almost a quarter of all species in the Plant Species Matrix are in that order! Thus there is little avoiding the fact that your garden is likely to have heavy representation from these groups of plants.

Beyond this limitation, however, you can make an effort to include as wide a sampling of diversity as possible. Groundcovers, dynamic accumulators, and shelter and nectary plants come from a great diversity of families, and you will find a remarkable range of edibles to choose from as well. When selecting species from the Plant Species Matrix, look up their families in the table below. Keep track of the families, orders, and superorders you are including. Wherever possible, make decisions that maximize diversity. Try to avoid over-dependence on the Rose family in particular, perhaps by substituting persimmons for apples, or one of the edible honeysuckle species for juneberries. We have made an effort to provide you with a diverse assemblage of species to choose from.  (Eric Toensmeier, Maximizing Omega-Level Diversity, 2012)  [“Omegalevel diversity looks at an ecosystem’s diversity at higher levels, measuring a deeper diversity. This ‘deep’ diversity is likely to be the most important contributor of the benefits of compositional diversity. Gardening for omega level diversity (‘kinship gardening’) was developed by Alan Kapular and Olafur Brentmar, and carried forward by David Theodoropoulos.”]

http://permaculturenews.org/2012/08/25/maximizing-omega-level-diversity/

 

We had lots of Mycelium in my class—I consider myself one of those—“humacelium” I like to say.  But am I, really?  Sometimes the mere effort to create connections with people seems to lead to the dissolution of an entire system, after all.

I thought I was encouraging diversity in the random assemblage of persons in my ‘eCo-house’, Casa Seranita.  The important lesson taken from the current outcome, which leads to a dramatic re-design, is that agreement must be established first, along with an understanding of what role each person chooses or brings in by nature.  The inputs do not need to be the same, indeed they can be dramatically different—one person, for instance, may wish to provide only financial support, while others would prefer labor or caretaking.

The important component is that the understanding is there first.  The community cannot thrive or even survive if the components do not have both a full understanding and acceptance of each ones’ expected inputs and impacts on the system as a whole.  There are no islands in people systems—at least, not in sustainable, functional societies.

Rather than continuing to dance around the subject, speaking in vague generalities and using botanical metaphors—here’s what happened:

  • One man, one cat.
    • Two men, one cat.
      • Unknown quantities of undefined genders and one cat.
        • Cat herding.
          • Feral cat herding.
            • Code Violations (one woman).
  • One Cat.

“Casa Seranita is an eCo-housing permaculture demonstration site, now seeking residents (permaculture experience preferred).”

Read the Series:

Introduction:  ”Unplugging”

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


1 Comment

Use Small and Slow Solutions

‘The bigger they are, the harder they fall’ …‘Slow and steady wins the race’

David and Goliath, the Tortoise and the Hare…our fables, myths, and legends are loaded with this one, simple lesson, which is really all about focus.  If ‘the problem is the solution’, often the perspective needs to be shifted from the external to the internal, or at the very least—to ourselves.

This one is purely simple—to make a difference, take responsibility.  Start with yourself.  Start small.

    • You want to start a garden, don’t know where to begin, and have no space?  Sprout some seeds.  Learn about the process of growing through sprouting some buckwheat, alfalfa, or mung beans—it’s quite easy, and there are dozens of websites, blogs, Youtube videos, books, and other sources to get you started.  Sprouting requires very little room, few resources, and very little capital.  You will see immediate health benefits in addition to learning something about plants.  Start sprouting.
      • Once you’ve mastered sprouting, maybe you still want to get into some dirt.  Start composting—a worm bin does not require a lot of space, although outdoor storage is advisable, in my humble opinion.  With one design element, you have suddenly integrated several important concepts—you are removing food scraps from the wastestream, and creating some terrific soil amendments for your garden—whether that garden is in containers or in the ground.  Once you’ve managed to keep some worms alive for a while, you will have also learned quite a bit about how some natural cycles work, and how important balance is to all cycles—remember the ‘wheel of life’.  Life is like a bicycle wheel…when it’s on the bike, you can actually get somewhere.
    • Don’t have the time to garden?  First of all, think twice on that one, as Mollison says:  “…everything gardens”.  Wherever it is we are choosing to focus our energy is where we are gardening, however not all gardens come with dirt or green things.  Take a moment to examine your life—where is your garden?  Is it your family?  Your job?  Your social life?  What is the output of this system—what are you harvesting?  Is it beneficial to you…to others…to the planet?  We reap what we sow…be aware of what you plant.
      • Not everyone has the desire or inclination to grow their own food, and it is not necessary to do so, although it is a good idea to know exactly where your food comes from, what’s really in it, and what it took to get it to your fork.  If you don’t know, find out—ask questions, read labels—seek local sources for the bulk of what you buy—that is far more important than growing your own food.  The impact of where we spend our dollars has far more resounding effect on our environment than any other single thing—this is how we vote.  All you have to do is take a good look at what is in your garbage—your ‘wastestream’, to know who and what you are voting for.
    • Perhaps you would like to garden, but don’t have any space, in which case there are several options available—first being the fact that it doesn’t have to take a lot of space.  Take a look at what these guys have done:  Urban Permaculture.  You can grow enough vegetables and herbs for a small family on a balcony, in containers.  Of course, the space must have adequate sunlight, so not everyone has the right living space to grow food at home.
      • So, join a local community garden—they are springing up all over, as are lists to help you find them.  Ask your local extension service—they are great sources of information on local events and spaces.  Still can’t find one?  Start one—(that’s what I did), or create an exchange service, where those who have space but don’t have the inclination to garden will exchange the space for a portion of the produce.  LocallyGrown.net is a great resource for finding some of these places as well.

These are just a few ideas to get you started, the point is to start—something.  One thing at a time—just one, with commitment.
forkIn my past I was always known as the child whose ‘eyes are bigger than her stomach,’ (although, I must say I went to took great pains to dis-prove that, literally), the one who ‘bites off more than she can chew’.  What I discovered, however, is that it really is possible, if you are patient and especially if you do not listen to the voices who judge and criticize—it is very attainable to accomplish huge things, when you take it one step at a time.  Elephant in the room?  Take small bites, chew carefully, remain focused on the outcome, rather than the task(s) at hand—if you don’t know how to get there, keep taking small steps until you do——the road will become clearer the further you travel.

Perhaps the biggest change will come

When we don’t have to change much at all.

When maniacs holler “grow, grow, grow”

We can choose to be small.

The key word may be “little,”

We only have to change a little bit.

Eat a little food, drink a little drink,

And only have to shit a little shit.

Oh-wee, oh-wye, and only have to shit a little shit.

Oh-wee, oh-wye, and only have to shit a little shit.

Early in the morning I first see the sun

I say a little prayer for the world.

I hope all the children live a long, long time,

Yes, every little boy and little girl.

I hope they learn to laugh at the way

Some wicked old words do seem to change,

‘Cause that’s what life’s all about:

To arrange an

d rearrange and rearrange.

Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.

Oh-wee, oh-wye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.

Words and Music by Pete Seeger (1997)

Read the Series:

Introduction:  ”Unplugging”

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


2 Comments

Integrate Rather than Segregate

‘Many hands make light work’

“…in every aspect of nature, from the internal workings of organisms to whole ecosystems, we find the connections between things are as important as the things themselves. Thus the purpose of a functional and self-regulating design is to place elements in such a way that each serves the needs and accepts the products of other elements.” (Essence of Permaculture:  David Holmgren, et. al.)

This is permaculture design at its core—creating the entire system so that each component is so happy it performs and produces to the greatest capacity.  This goes for plants, animals, and people.  As many of us know first-hand, the people tend to bring in the greatest challenges to system design, because they come saddled with all sorts of expectations, pre-conceived notions, and often plenty of ‘life experience’ which has them convinced they know how everything should look, and behave, and think.  People come with invisible structures of their very own.

Recently it came to me that one of the reasons I found myself exhausted all the time was due to one simple change:  “Build the bridge, not BE the bridge”.  Several years ago, when I was learning about sailing, and how boats behave on the water, I made the mistake of using my arm as a dock line—I do not recommend this, by the way, in fact I strongly advise against it.  I had two others on board with me, and they had already disembarked and were on the dock, without having taken any line with them, so when I realized the boat was drifting away, I panicked and grabbed the dock, ending up suspended by fingers and toes, until came the nasty crunching sound from my shoulder.  I did not land in the water, and it did take six months to heal that arm—lucky for me, I suppose, it was the left arm.  Moral of the story, which any good sailor knows—keep your limbs away from moving parts, and never, ever, leave anything fleshy between a vessel and a dock.  Do NOT be the bridge.  Those connections between things, or people, are certainly of the utmost importance, and it is completely unnecessary for anyone to insert his or her own body parts or even less tangible stuff into that space to create the bridge—our job is to create the design so that the bridge exists, and that is all.

bridge

When we design people systems, it may seem that the danger to our physical bodies is not nearly so much at stake; however the behavior I have witnessed within social media forums might indicate otherwise.  For some unknown reason, when people begin to share their opinions it also seems inherent that certain other ‘cheeky’ body parts are also displayed.  This outcome can be attributed to several factors, most of which have been named above.  People take things personally, and we all ‘hear’ something different, because we all come from different experiences.  This is one reason that “apply self-regulation and accept feedback” is so important in social permaculture systems—we must all be willing to take a step back and understand that the others in the ‘room’ have just as much right and need to be heard as we do.  It is when we make value judgments on others that the finger-pointing starts and suddenly everyone is ‘wrong’.

Why, then, should we attempt to integrate at all, you may ask?  Not only is everything easier with numbers, but there is that other aspect which is revealed in any group—Napolean Hill called this a “Mastermind”, and had a design for what these groups should look like.  I believe in this process, and have participated in a number of different groups of this nature, with varying degrees of yield.  The variables I have observed come in for the following reasons:

  • Lack of commitment from some or all members.  A very basic, bottom-line (or ‘lowest common denominator’ as I like to say), is that all participants must be equally invested in the same desired outcome, also known as the ‘vision’.  Time and time again I have seen groups fail on this one basic point, which is also termed “a lack of alignment”.  Napolean called it “…harmonious cooperation of two or more people who ally themselves for the purpose of accomplishing any given task.” 
  • Lack of leadership.  I have yet to be a part of any group effort where sOMeone did not step up to take charge, at least in the short term.  This does not mean that the organization needs to be hierarchical—indeed, quite the opposite is true—leadership can be voluntary and shifted within the group, in fact it is optimal that each member agree to be the facilitator once in a while.  Learning some leadership skills never hurt anyone, nor does allowing others to take the helm from time to time.  Both positions require self-regulation, leadership more so, otherwise it becomes authoritarian.
  • Poor design.  If the goals of the group are poorly defined, this means the outcome or yield is indeterminate, and the entire process will be scrambled, as the participants each vie for their piece of the pie.  Remember to design from pattern to details, which means take the long view, first—where the bus is going needs to be determined before selecting the road to get there.
  • Unwillingness (aka ‘fear’) to make mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  We have all fallen flat on our faces at least once in our lives—if you haven’t–you need to live a little more.  Those who do more will also make more mistakes.  It’s ok—the only injury is to your ego, and most can do with a bruise or two.  The only caveat to this is when true threat of bodily harm is present—if this is a factor, the design must contain fail-safes to prevent harm.

So, does this all mean that we must integrate with everyone, all the time?  Well, let’s go back to the bus analogy—if you were to board a bus on its way to Tennessee, but you wanted to go to New Orleans, are your desires in alignment with the others on the bus?  The same goes for any other group activity—everybody must at the very least be facing in the same direction, before they get on board.

Read the Series:

Introduction:  ”Unplugging”

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Leave a comment

Design from Patterns to Details

“Can’t see the forest for the trees” (Essence of Permaculture, David Holmgren)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

(‘Jabberwocky’, Lewis Carroll)

Poetry utilizes some of the intrinsic patterns of humanity—we have used meter and rhyme long before written communication, because of the repetition of pattern as a mnemonic device.  Nursery rhymes were created, not only as amusements for children, but they also contain historical data as well as common-sense remedies of the day, such as the “vinegar and brown paper” headache remedy in “Jack and Jill”.  Oral traditions were used, most famously, by the early Polynesian sailors, who passed down navigation devices in songs, which were likely sung enroute from one island to another in the middle of vast oceans of water devoid of land reference.  Even the nonsensical Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is understandable, because of its regular meter and rhyme, thus transcending language—a feat any parent is likely to relate to, as we sing silliness to our infants, dogs and cats.

moonphases Patterns are everywhere in our world, readily apparent in natural systems, such as the phases of the moon, tides, seasons, and weather patterns.   The Fibonacci sequence, known in nature as “the Golden Spiral” or ratio, is present in all patterns of growth, from florets to pinecones to conch shells, as well as proportions of the human body.  Anyone who wishes to design in alignment with natural systems must, then, not only recognize and understand patterns, but also learn to apply them in both concept and practice.  Once the outline is in place, only then do we move into connecting the dots and filling in the details—to plan a garden by first choosing the elements contained within it would only be undertaken by an amateur—a true designer would begin only after a thorough site analysis.

shamrockspiral

Exponential growth is also something innate in natural systems—Gaia’s credo is “go big or go home”, which is illustrated by the unfolding of a rose, the widening arc of the spiral, the waxing of the moon.  This is not the kind of growth exemplified by our capitalistic society—an overpowering and ultimately unwieldy growth better termed as ‘cancer’.   No, the ideal natural system design would include instead not only increasing yields, but also an automatic replacement of the designer for true regenerative quality.  In nature, the pattern swells and then dies, to repeat again—over and over, each component eventually becoming a part of a future incarnation.

Nature also designs for optimization—phyllotaxis is a study of the order of leaves on a stem, the pattern being one which allows the greatest exposure to the sun and nutrients.  Similarly, the branching patterns of many plants also exhibit this type of order.

wb051369

Rather than launching into yet another ode to ‘sacred geometry’, let’s take the opportunity to apply principle #1:  Observe and Interact.  In nature, as in mathematics, growth follows certain patterns as often because of another simple factor:  growth with constraints—as Donald E. Simonek points out:  “This reveals the simple secret of spirals in nature. They often result from growth with constraints. As the nautilus grows, the open end of its shell increases in diameter, at a nearly constant rate. It is constrained to curve around the existing shell. The result is a spiral curve, something close to a logarithmic spiral, which is a Fibonacci spiral.”  In nature, there are no straight lines, no measurable, accurate, finite absolutes (well, perhaps temperature, but we’ll see about that)—everything in natural design is curved, like the planet we live on.  Grids were invented by the Romans to assist in controlling those they conquered—it being much easier to sight down a row of evenly-spaced straight streets–curved landscapes hide many activities from line of sight.  However, as we have already noted, regularity and patterns are intrinsic to our nature as humans, we are comforted by the existence of structure, whether it be visible or not.

Here’s where things get juicy in the permaculture world, because when we start talking about “growth with constraints”, well, try Googling that.  What comes up?  Article after article about economy and finance.  There’s another pattern for you—unrestrained growth leads to collapse, which is what we are witnessing right now.  The natural outcome of collapse is chaos—a scary, unrelenting absence of all which seemed to make sense in our formerly well-ordered world.  Even so, we know that order does come from chaos, it just may not do so in the time frame we prefer.

Another random-sort of thought which came to me, being a wordsmith, is the very subtle difference between “constraint” and “restraint”—to wit:

ConvsReIt would appear that the essential difference between the two words has to do with the existence of a ‘thing’ or a ‘force’, as in a device in the case of restraint, as opposed to a rule or law or force, as in constraint.   To me, being visual, I see a constraint as in natural forces—the growth of a shell in a spiral shape, for instance, or the way a river flows—never straight, but always on an “S” shaped curving pattern.  ‘Restraint’, on the other hand, I think of as a safety belt, or being held back by other people from falling or fighting.

These might be seemingly unimportant details, but when we talk about systems design, it is vital to get both the ‘big picture’—the pattern—as well as the details, right.  This is where communication, and thus the correct word or description or definition, comes in like a Tsunami—get it wrong: devastation and chaos.  Get it right, however, and you’ve not only designed a system pleasing to the client, yourself and the community, but you’ve also prepared for those pesky 100-500 year events—like the ones we are now witnessing with alarming frequency.  This does not mean we have to get it ‘right’ the first time—as we move from pattern to details, this is where the magic happens–this is where creativity and willingness to fail is an asset.  This is also where it is most beneficial to work in collaboration, in community—one the pattern is established, the more diversity invited into the mix, the better.

In people systems, as well as in nature—this is where things tend to get messy.  This is where the ‘weeds’ crop up everywhere, and we must take a step back and re-define what we think of as ‘weeds’.  This is where I find myself with my eCo-housing project “Casa Seranita”, in fact—seemingly overnight, it appears to have become a frat house, but that is only when perceiving from the ‘old paradigm’ perspective.  Yes, it is a mess, and things must be tidied, both for the benefit of the residents as well as staying below the code enforcement radar—but in that chaos lies some really interesting pioneer growth.  Or, so I hope, anyway!  This could very well become the perfect Segway to Principle #8:  “Integrate rather than Segregate”.

Read the Series:

Introduction:  ”Unplugging”

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Leave a comment

Produce No Waste

“Waste not, want not”, “A stitch in time saves nine.”

Today I drove through the aftermath of what has been referred to already as a five-hundred year event.  While this country’s West coast is in the midst of drought conditions, here in the Southeast, this winter has brought unprecedented severe cold weather in areas completely unprepared for freezing snow and ice.  All along route 95 heading North of Savannah the shoulders were littered with tree limbs downed by icy winds.  The first words that occurred to me, of course, were “mulch!” and “hugelkultur”, but I highly doubt that this is what the average motorist in the region might be thinking.  This is, however, the permaculture mindset:  “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade”…and then compost the remaining lemon rind, or soak in vinegar for cleaning solution.

North of Savannah on US 95, hundreds of trees downed by '500 year' freezing weather

North of Savannah on US 95, hundreds of trees downed by ’500 year’ freezing weather

1911723_10152296828051554_1299127917_n

If there were one quintessential concept I feel is most important for those who wish to embrace permaculture, it is this one:  “produce no waste”.  Seems simple, yet, as we saw in “Use and value renewable resources and services,” these concepts have not exactly been adopted by the masses, yet.  ‘Frugality’ does appear to be something of a dirty word in our culture, where the entire economy is driven by waste and consumerism, and yet I believe this one principle is the fast track to getting the whole of systems theory.  Start small.

For me, it began with water—Florida being in such dire straits with our sensitive and easily depleted aquifer (because, you know, it’s so much more important to pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of water into strip mining for phosphates which we don’t even use here), I personally feel that this is THE issue to address—hopefully before salt water begins to infiltrate.  As I embarked upon my first experiments with graywater and gardening, I wanted to ensure that the impact of growing food onsite would not be to deepen my water footprint, leaving behind a muddier mess.  So, I looked into all kinds of retrofit systems—for toilet flushing, for diverting graywater—and ended up with the simplest solution:  rather than going to the trouble and expense of installing something which may or may not have an impact, why not simply experiment with one simple step at a time?  In this case, it was flushing the toilet with clean, fresh water—I mean, whoever thought that one up was simply insane anyway!  The easiest way to do this, for me, was to stopper the tub while showering, and use a small bucket to transfer the water to the toilet.  Soon, I developed a system around this, saving ice tea bottles which I filled and left at the ready—the remainder I carried out to the garden for hand-watering.  For two years I did this—literally practicing Zen-like “Chop Wood, Carry Water”.  I think two years is a solid time frame to calculate impact, and indeed it was quite the impression.  Even though I had also installed an array of perennial trees and bushes in this same time frame, as well as a few annual food sources—my water consumption and thus the bill dove to a fraction of my former near-average usage.  The real ‘tells’ were my bills after having guests in the house—a stay of less than one week for two family members tripled the bill for the entire two-month period over one holiday!

Just.  One.  Thing.

Pick it—whether it’s water, or plastic, or maybe starting a compost pile or worm bin—choose ONE thing to focus on, and do it—give it at least a month, preferably six weeks, and see what happens.  Play mad scientist and keep a log, formulate a hypothesis, have fun with it—just be certain to look at all of the potential impacts—did removing or adding this one thing cause you undue stress?  Did it lighten the load, did you find yourself overwhelmed?  In the first year or so of my water experiment I did find myself frustrated from time to time, particularly when I’d left a tub full of water and needed to take a shower in a hurry.  Over time, I learned to plan ahead and redistributing the liquid immediately became part of the routine.  There is one essential component, by the way:  routine.  It takes six weeks to form a habit, so just imagine–after practicing so many habits which have negative impacts on our planet—only six weeks to completely turn it around and make a better choice.  Imagine if just two people stopped using fresh water to flush the toilet after reading this post, and they each told two of their friends, who told two of their friends, who told…

The moral of this story, if there is one, is that it does not take a total mind-shift to make a huge impact.  I can be a tad bit obsessive, it’s true, but I choose my obsessions carefully, for greatest impact.  It actually bothers me now to flush a toilet the ‘normal’ way, and I did simplify the process a year or so ago, by purchasing a simple sump pump to run the leftovers outside to the garden—no more ‘chop wood, carry water’…well, I take that back, there is the wood story—but that’s for another post.

So, if you come to visit me one day, you won’t need to ask why the water to the toilet tank is turned off, or what those jugs of water on the floor are for!

Read the Series:

Introduction:  ”Unplugging”

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Leave a comment

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

“Let nature take its course”

Garbage

Mister Thompson calls the waiter, orders steak and baked potato
Then he leaves the bone and gristle and he never eats the skins;
The busboy comes and takes it, with a cough contaminates it
And puts it in a can with coffee grinds and sardine tins;
The truck comes by on Friday and carts it all away; And a thousand trucks just like it are converging on the Bay, oh,

Garbage (garbage, garbage, garbage) Garbage!
We’re filling up the sea with garbage (garbage. . .)
What will we do when there’s no place left
To put all the garbage? (garbage. . .)

Mr. Thompson starts his Cadillac and winds it down the freeway track
Leaving friends and neighbors in a hydro-carbon haze;
He’s joined by lots of smaller cars all sending gases to the stars.
There they form a seething cloud that hangs for thirty days.
And the sun licks down into it with an ultraviolet tongue.
Till it turns to smog and settles down and ends up in our lungs, oh,

Garbage (garbage. . .) Garbage!
We’re filling up the sky with garbage (garbage. . .)
What will we do
When there’s nothing left to breathe but garbage (garbage. . .)

Getting home and taking off his shoes he settles down with the evening news,
While the kids do homework with the TV in one ear
While Superman for the thousandth time sells talking dolls and conquers crime
Dutifully they  learn the date of birth of Paul Revere.
In the paper there’s a piece about the mayor’s middle name,
And he gets it done in time to watch the all-star bingo game, oh,

Garbage (garbage. . .)
We’re filling up our minds with garbage
Garbage (garbage. . .)
What will we do when there’s nothing left to read
And there’s nothing left to need
And there’s nothing left to watch
And there’s nothing left to touch
And there’s nothing left to walk upon
And there’s nothing left to talk upon
Nothing left to see
And there’s nothing left to be but
Garbage (garbage. . .)

In Mister Thompson’s factory, they’re making plastic Christmas trees
Complete with silver tinsel and a geodesic stand
The plastic’s mixed in giant vats from some conglomeration
That’s been piped from deep within the earth or strip-mined from the land.
And if you question anything, they say, “Why, don’t you see?
It’s absolutely needed for the economy,” oh,

Oh, Garbage! Garbage! Garbage! Garbage!
There stocks and their bonds — all garbage!
Garbage! Garbage! Garbage! Garbage!
What will they do when their system goes to smash
There’s no value to their cash
There’s no money to be made
But there’s a world to be repaid
Their kids will read in history books
About financiers and other crooks
And feudalism, and slavery
And nukes and all their knavery
To history’s dustbin they’re consigned
Along with many other kinds of garbage.
Garbage! Garbage! Garbage! Garbage!

Words and Music by Bill Steele; 4th verse by Pete Seeger and Mike Agranoff (1977)
(c) William Steele. Copyright assigned 1992 to the Rainbow Collection, Ltd.

 

Perhaps you have not heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch trapped in the North Pacific Gyre—this is the over 2 Million square mile vortex of waste plastic particles floating just under the surface of the water—this is an area of 75% of the Continental U.S.  There have been a number of well-publicized efforts to call attention to this floating island of debris, including sailing ventures aboard flotsam, such as JUNK Raft, not to mention the Earthships which have been built from the wastestream.

“Plastic is Forever” was the subject of Robyn Francis’ talk at IPCC11 in Cuba.

If there is only one takeaway that the student of permaculture should take from the study of natural systems it is this one:  no sustainable system will persist where the waste product exceeds the (re)usable yield.  More simply put:  “Don’t sh*t where you eat.”  Our throwaway society has come to the breaking point, because:

There Is No ‘Away’.

If there is one, single, most pervasive example of insanity on this planet, it is this simple fact—we know that we create more garbage than the planet is capable of remediating, and yet we just keep on making more.  Plastic does not break down.  Period.  Don’t buy stuff made with it or stored in it.  This is a consumer driven economy—your dollar and how you spend it is how you vote, so each and every time you buy a 2 liter bottle of soda or a case of individual water bottles you tell the manufacturer to make more.  Perhaps you think that if you recycle your behavior is redeemed, but don’t fool yourself—the problem is far too great for the 15% of us who do recycle properly.  “Overall, U.S. post-consumer plastic waste for 2008 was estimated at 33.6 million tons; 2.2 million tons (6.5%) were recycled and 2.6 million tons (7.7%) were burned for energy; 28.9 million tons, or 85.5%, were discarded in landfills.  We cannot continue, as responsible people, to silently witness our planet choke on polymer—it is not enough to do to right thing, we must also convince others before it is too late.

“The American way of life is not sustainable. It doesn’t acknowledge that there is a world beyond America. ” 
― Arundhati Roy

 

To this situation, I like to apply a simple principle of my own, which I call “Good, Better, Best” –sort of a PC (that’s PermaCulture, btw, not ‘politically correct’) ‘rule of thumb’.  It goes like this:

  • Water--You know there are sustainability issues with your local aquifer (as in Florida, where the contingency plan is that salt water will infiltrate within the next 5-10 years), so, you:
    • GOOD:  adopt some form a graywater system, whether it be as simple as using a bucket in your shower for use in flushing the toilet or watering plants, or more complex, such as the sump-pump assisted system I have.  You absolutely DO NOT water the lawn, or any other non-edible landscaping.
    • BETTER:  All of the above, with the addition of rainbarrels and/or other water catchment for use in the garden.
    • BEST:  Installed a full-scale ‘off-grid’ rain catchment system, including a composting toilet, so that you could exist entirely free of the local municipal system, whether or not you have formally dis-connected.
  • Energy—You recognize that not only is your local power company non-environmentally-friendly, but you’d also like to save a little money, so, you:
    • GOOD:  Use you’re A/C and heat only when absolutely necessary—perhaps when temperatures are under 65 degrees or over 85 degrees for 24 hours or more.  You employ non-HVAC passive solar methods of cooling and heating (insulation, windows, windbreaks, shade trees, fireplace, etc.).
    • BETTER:  You have installed some form of solar panel augmentation to your home energy system, and/or lighting, such as LED or skylights (in addition to the above).  You use a solar or some other alternative-powered efficient water heater.
    • BEST:  Fully off-grid, passive solar designed home, or one which has enough solar panels to sell power back to local utilities.
  • Earth—You realize that food independence is the only way to truly maintain a quality nutritional diet for you and you family, so, you:
    • GOOD:  Buy the majority of your food from a local fruit stand, much of which is supplied by local growers.  You have a small garden plot which you supplement with, or some fruit trees, perhaps.
    • BETTER:  You belong to a local food co-op, where the food is sourced from no more than 100 miles away.  You pick up your weekly share by bicycle or on foot.
    • BEST:  All of your food comes from onsite or a local farm no more than 50 miles away.  You pick it up by walking, biking, or bending over.

Getting the idea?  Not everyone has the time or resources to go for the “BEST” option—we all do what we can, the best that we can—the point is to do sOMething, and DO IT NOW.  Begin with yourself and your home, your lifestyle, your choices—once you feel that all of these are within the ‘Good, Better, Best” scale, move on to Make Friends and Influence Others.  Because, it’s really best to walk the walk, before asking others to join you, now, isn’t it?

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao-tzuThe Way of Lao-tzu
Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

Read the Series:

Introduction:  ”Unplugging”

  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch and Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

© Loretta Buckner, 2014, We Grow From Here

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Loretta Buckner and WeGrowFromHere.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,816 other followers