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Design from Patterns to Details

Category            Permaculture Principles

“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.

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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.


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TONS OF FUN

“Our painful experiences become compost in which the seeds of wisdom grow.” Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo

– See more at: http://jenniferhadley.com/2013/06/freedom-activation/#sthash.Lw3LnRsI.dpuf

So, (sow?) it’s been weeks since I’ve written a blog post, and much has happened—large flurries of activity seem to blow through my life like the tornadoes they resemble. I have sat down, several times, and started to write about this or that, but simply could not get past the idea to put it to words. Perhaps not enough sun, too little fertilizer (seem to generally have plenty of that, many might say), but these seeds of inspiration just did not bring forth anything of substance.

Until today, that is—today, with the sunny rain outside, the functional AC indoors, when I read the quote above: there it was. That’s right, folks—all that time we’ve spent in the dark, dank mush-room feeding on the rot tossed to us—it’s all going to pay off, in spades. Like “Daisyhead Maisy” we shall sprout lovely blooms of pain to delight and inspire others…if I read this correctly.

(Oh no, you might rightly be thinking—this is not a happy fluffy post after all—she’s going toThe Dark Side.

But not for long, the sun keeps peaking in and out of the clouds and I cannot keep my head in the muck for long when there is Vitamin D to absorb, dirt to dig, water to flow or follow. All of these well-intentioned self-help gurus constantly force me to look at some of the cold, hard facts of intentional creation—namely: “Be careful what you ask for,” and “Be VERY specific”. Which is my somewhat awkward segway into the “tons of fun” title…my task this morning, yesterday afternoon, and two days before: loading and unloading (literally) tons of bricks. This comes on the heels of the ton (again, 2000 lbs—I counted) of potatoes I spent another three days labor on. And what kind of baby, might you ask, will several tons of labor produce?

Good question—we’ll get back to that one later.

I expect this may sprout some potato plants when all is said and done, but most certainly some nasty, stinky compost until I manage to get enough ‘brown’ added to the mix (once I’ve removed all of the bags, that is…). I did also score some nice pallets with this particular delivery, which I needed for rain barrel stands—one of the next projects to be tackled at Mi Casa. Which leads me again to The Dark Side, because at this point it does not appear that I can hold this particular project together any longer, not without much more significant help, like someone living there fulltime. Problem is, no one seems to be willing to share the space, (people are funny that way—wanting ‘privacy’…oh, don’t get me started—I may go there), which is basically what needs to happen, so I am forced to look for ‘traditional’ tenants again, at least for the short term.

There are, however, so many other worthy projects and plans in the works! The spirit of ‘Mi Casa’ may be carried forward with a larger-scale, more farm-oriented property in Bushnell fondly referred to as “The BSF”. This scope of this project is hundreds of acres of land which are slated for small farm business incubation, much of which may be livestock based—apparently that’s what our government feels is most worthy of financial aid and attention. To ‘Big Ag’—if it don’t have hooves or teeth, it better be grown in the large-scale mono-crop methods we now know have led to disastrous results for our environment. See, to conventional minds, “Farmer” means rows and tractors and chemicals…or pigs and cattle and chickens. Which is why those of us who have the “Permaculture” mindset might benefit greatly by partnering with those who grow livestock—if that is where the monetary value is given, that is what would be called “the edge” of the current system. We play in the edge—this is where the greatest growth lies (so sayeth my mentor Geoff Lawton). This place is a lovely place to begin, as we found when we herded our happy long-haired selves up there last week:

Imagine living in a place like this…where time and space blend in the symphony of nature…

~ * ~

Before we get too heavy into philosophy or politics, let’s divert back to the initial tonnage…the bricks.


That’s a lot of bricks…and yes, I counted them—I’m anal that way (and it really helps when you’re planning out designs)—it’s 2,402, to be exact. Pink Floyd would be proud of my walls! Not being so much a wall person in the garden however, these shall become pathways and edges…you’ll see. A big “thank you” to Pepe Slamdunk for the donation—along with some pots and a couple of rain barrels… the garden is beginning to look quite spiffy!

This one looks right at home, don’t you think?

We’re going to be hosting some official tours very soon, once some of the newest acquisitions have been planted and situated, so come visit, why don’t you?



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Who Are “We” Really?

1/24/2013 6:12 AM

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The prior post having been more aptly named “Who Am I?”–this one hopes to answer yet another inimitable question of the same ilk.

“We” is now an Intentional Community, aptly named “Growing Together”.  A number of other working titles were considered, containing such themes as “Eden” and “Radiant”, but simplicity and reality won.  I mean, face it—who is really radiant or exists in paradise every day, right?

“We” officially declared ourselves so, aptly on December 12, 2012:  12 ~ 12 ~ 12.  The Shift Begins.

Over the course of the past few months, beginning in October or so if I recall correctly, the talk amongst  several of us for a much longer time prior suddenly bloomed into fruition, spurred by the arrival of a family who have hit this area much like a Pacific Northwest cloudburst.   The Manninos (see Denise’s blog “Sustainable Tarpon”) are a force, to be sure—artistic, musical, and a refreshing breath of fresh “Left Coast” air for this often change-resistant ‘burg.  Our core group of six families chose to create our community “from here”, remaining in our individual single-family homes, and gathering consistently once a week for ‘family’ pot-lucks on Monday nights.  Many also gather at the Tarpon Sunday Market, where the Manninos also play their music, and the gardeners share their knowledge and produce.

We are:

  • Four musicians (maybe more…)
  • Five gardeners (or permaculturists, as some of us have gone from certifiable to certified)
  • Four Yoginis
  • Several writers
  • Several healing arts professionals and/or healers of various modalities
  • Some artistic, most creative
  • Three (couples) are families with small children; two have grandchildren
  • Many are vegan, some vegetarian, some flexatarian
  • All have respect for the Earth, our Mother, our home.

We are a chosen family, a community:  Growing Together.