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Use Small and Slow Solutions

Category            Permaculture Principles

‘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.


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Integrate Rather than Segregate

Category            Permaculture Principles

‘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.