We Grow From Here's Blog

A Community Garden Project

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A Reminder: Check out our NEW Website!

Here’s the latest post ‘over there’:  New Beginnings

I may figure out one of these days how to migrate the subscribers from this site, but right now I’m knee-deep in creating ebooks and curriculum for our new classes, so why not pay me a visit “over there“?



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On the Radio: WMNF Sustainable Living and Alternative Health Show

Listen to my ‘plug’ for justice here:   Making Our Living Spaces Greener

Please come to the courthouse on August 8th at 8:30 AM to show your support for “Food Not Lawns”, and whether you can make it in person or not, please sign the petition:  Support Statewide Recognition of Permaculture Design Certificates 

Bee HappytatRead the history here:  Casa Seranita



Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

Category            Permaculture Principles

“The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children unto the seventh generation.”

Some might read this title as “self-control” and “critique”, and I love the fact that it is addressed early in the principles, because this one is key to understanding social permaculture and ‘invisible structures’.  Heard that one mentioned yet?  It’s permaculture jargon, to be sure—and it’s also something very important to know and pay attention to.  If we are to actually create the kind of change, to transition this entire planet from the energy-sucking waste pit it has become, into the harmonious, beautiful, regenerative place we know it can be—we had better understand something about people, and how they develop these ‘invisible structures’.

Principle #4 does not, in fact, refer to self-control—it is a re-iteration and a deeper understanding of ‘observe and interact’—this is the second turn of the spiral, where we go back and look again with new eyes at what we perceived before.  This is the “Hotel California” mentioned in the last section, where you can check-out but never leave–the part about where we come to recognize that we all come into every situation with our own ideas, experiences, and expectations—which may or may not be met there.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Ok, perhaps a bit overly dramatic, but the fact is—no one likes to be criticized, we all take things personally, and it takes a very long time to get to the point where one can truly self-regulate on a consistent basis—we all have bad days—I’m sure even the Dalai Lama gets irritated once in a while.  The point is to be aware of this rule—that, as permaculturists we strive to maintain a higher standard—one which allows us space to step back and re-evaluate with no judgment.   We ALL make mistakes—what this principle speaks of is the ability to open our minds to the possibility that there may just be another way, one that hadn’t occurred to us before.  This does not mean we need to go around pointing out others’ flaws, no–in fact—noticing what we consider ‘mistakes’ or ‘weaknesses’ or other character flaws can often give us great insight into our own foibles.  If not for community, how little opportunity we would have to grow as individuals!  This is one of the great values to ‘community’, and one of my personal favorite aspects of all of the permaculture courses and convergences I’ve attended—that sharing of ideas, leading to growth of each individual as well as the whole.

Personally, I’m a bit of a hermit—introvert for certain, far more comfortable in my home environment than out with people, as a rule.  There are, however, some acute disadvantages to being a ‘homebody’, which is why I choose to involve myself in many communities.  We think we get it right, those of us who are thinkers and planners and analyzers—but we must actually apply those thoughts and plans and hypothesis, because only half of the equation has taken place—the scientific method requires testing.  Sometimes over, and over and over again, until we get it right—and even then, adjustments must be made.  ‘Organic’ means that the system develops on its own—more of an evolution than an application, and what we do as designers is try to come as close to an organic system as we possibly can, mimicking the patterns of Mother Nature.  We are so embedded by adulthood into the systems we were raised in–the challenge to continually review and revise our social interactions, especially, can be daunting.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,”


If this had happened, more, at the Cuba convergence—we would not have spent half our time in lines, or waiting on buses.  We might not have missed half of the farms we intended to see.  Perhaps we might have had the time to implement some permaculture project designs, if we had not been forced to contribute so much energy to helping provide sustenance to those with specific dietary preferences, or translation for language barriers.  The old saying ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ no longer applies in the world we are creating—not if Rome is the one responsible for the breakdown of society, the economy, or our planet.  Now is when we make the choice to make a different choice, and that means constantly questioning our own thoughts and actions, and learning to listen carefully to others.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

This is us, after all, isn’t it—permaculturists, on the whole?  We are so fired up, especially during and after one of our gatherings, that the energy must dissipate somehow, somewhere.  Often that appears to be on one another, or on an unsuspecting public, still feeling their way along with blinders on.  It is our responsibility to help them to clear vision, however, not to bat them over the head with concepts they have no tools yet to understand.  (This, by the way, is me speaking of myself—this is where I fall down, over and over again—in making the assumption that the person I’m having a conversation with has come to that place having traveled the same road, which is rarely the case.)  So, I find myself applying this principle again and again—self regulation, and the harder one—accepting feedback, which I have learned to ask for when appropriate.

Here are four words to remember and to use with impunity whenever faced with the necessity to change some course of action or design—four simple words, which can change the outcome of any difficult situation:

“I made a mistake.”

Now, the next step is simple—make a new choice, change the line of the swale, the angle of the gutter, the composition of the soil, the mode of communication—change your mind, and others may as well.


“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost

(Or, as my dad likes to say:  “If you see a fork in the road, what do you do?”  …”pick it up.”)                              Image

Thanks to my dear friend Jemma Sinclair, for always helping me to see the road less traveled, and to remain happy with that choice.

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.





Catch and Store Energy

Category            Permaculture Principles

“Make hay while the sun shines.”

The first law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can be neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.

All systems create waste—natural systems evolve ways of dealing with the waste, unless something (like us) disrupts the balance. Take just a moment and think about your own personal wastestream—where does the water go, when you’re brushing your teeth? What happens to the packaging you discard, whether you choose to recycle or not? What kind of energy does it take to convert the waste product into something else useful, and what does that process do to the environment? How much energy did it take to transport the products we buy? We call these factors “true cost accounting” in permaculture.

What of the energy we use in our day-to-day interactions with other people? Have you ever experienced a group process which left you completely depleted? What about the opposite—a collaborative effort which you walked away from, completely inspired and on fire to DO something?

These are all forms of energy—the energy in manufactured products, the energy in all of our human social interactions and transactions, and the energy exchanged in any group experience—all forms of energy—all subject to “…can be neither created nor destroyed…only transferred or changed from one form to another.” It’s easy to see this in, say water—heat transforms it to vapor, cold turns it to solid—ice. What is completely fascinating to me, however, is how the entire spectrum of social interaction also follows the very same principle, thus, my interest in Social Permaculture.

In “The Collaborative Organization” By Rachel Conerly, Tim Kelley and John Mitchell, they establish five elements for creating functional collaborative systems:

Element 1: Identify the Problem (to which I would add, for permaculture design application: ALL clients, and potential clients.)

Element 2: Involve all Relevant Stakeholders (and identify ‘levels’ of involvement)

Element 3: Form the Collaborative Team (or teams, for each level)

Element 4: Create a Collaborative Plan

Element 5: Design and Facilitate Collaborative Meetings

I have been involved in many collaborative efforts personally, both prior to my ‘immersion’ last year, and within the permie landscape—helping to plan the Florida Convergence, the North American convergence, the creation of a Florida Guild, and on a smaller and more personal level, in attempting to create a team of professionals to work on local projects in both Florida and North Carolina. The process has been challenging on so many more levels than anticipated—for instance, the NC project, “Ollie’s Heartland”, puts me right in the middle as both client and collaborator. The farm which is being permacultured is my father’s farm—formerly known as “Donniesbrook Farm”, it has been his traditional organic market farm for the past five years. Now 82, with failing eyesight and health issues, he is no longer able to keep up the pace, therefore I have agreed to help. The question in this particular example is the same one I believe 99% of PDC graduates face each time they take a step to become more ‘professional’: “How do I help people, teach permaculture principles, and still make a living?”

This is what this project, and it’s ‘mother’, “Casa SerAnita” address, specifically—and this is Social and Financial Permaculture in practice. Both projects have started from nothing–zero impact and zero budget, and I intend to prove that, not only is it possible to create a sustainable food system, but it is also possible to create a regenerative business model. Thus, these are both ‘incubators’—’Casa’ is a small business incubator, and “Ollie’s Heartland” is a small farm incubator. Within the next six months, we should have positive support of my theory that, not only can permaculture careers be established successfully, but that they can also be sustained long-term and ultimately be regenerative.

So…how do we ‘catch and store’ energy in collaborative efforts? Here are five crucial factors I have identified:

  1. Carefully screen individuals for the core group, seeking those who have well-defined personal goals as well as an ability to listen to other’s ideas.
  2. Be specific in requesting a commitment of time and input from each participant. Choose a communication platform which works for everyone.
  3. Respect each member of the group, and allow every person to have a ‘voice’. No one voice gets more time than another, no one is louder than another. A ‘talking stick’ is one way to allow this form of communication.
  4. Begin each meeting with a ‘temperature check’ for each individual, and end each with some form of yield, or ‘harvest’, along with the ‘seeds’ for future planning and planting.
  5. Consider appointing a formal ‘facilitator‘—someone who is not invested in the project personally, who can guide the participants objectively.

The process of self-selection is important for objectives which are not specifically yield-related for each individual, however in collaborative efforts such as these incubators, it is important to establish a specific commitment from those involved, who stand to reap the benefits. During the screening process, not only can a level of rapport between all participants be assessed, but also each person’s willingness to compromise if necessary. Once the first two hurdles have been navigated, the rest are more or less ‘window dressing’—the way to keep meetings and tasks on topic and productive.

Photo (C) April Sampson-Kelly
[1] The proposed theme was created and designed together by Permaculture activists April Sampson-Kelly and Loretta Buckner, and Film director Gillian Leahy who collectively hold the copyright with permission for use solely by Narsanna Koppula and Aranya, as the hosting organisation for IPC17-India.

One of the single-most influential experiences I had while in Cuba was to witness several collaborative processes, in addition to observing consensus applied successfully, even in a semi-hostile environment. The focus was on selection of the 2017 IPCC, for which there were two contenders: Argentina and India. There were daily open space discussions, during which representatives from each location presented, having passed the basic requirements for hosting an international event. After four days of presentations and deliberation, the self-selected committee came to their consensus recommendation: India in 2017.

At the General Assembly on the final day of the convergence, a polite yet energetic crowd of several hundred reacted to the news with a surge of murmuring protest, the underlying dissonance hummed to the tune of “you didn’t ask ME!”

The surprise at the recommendation for some was in considering the large South American attendance at the Cuba conference—many would have assumed that Argentina would be selected. The choice, however, was based on far more factors than convenience for those in attendance, and these were all presented to the hundreds of convention attendees in a succinct, diplomatic fashion. Quite simply, Asia has been under-represented in any international permaculture gathering, and this was the eloquent refrain which ultimately composed a harmonious assembly.

Or, perhaps it was the artwork…?

© Loretta Buckner, WeGrowFromHere.com
Read the series from the beginning: