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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

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Donniesbrook Farm Design Concept #1

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Donniesbrook Farm:  The Permaculture Design

An example of what a permaculture design may look like…

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The Great Worm Escapade

So many things to blog about, so little time…

It is my hope to make up for long absence from writing by giving something of real quality—so here goes—I will not attempt to recap all of the exciting things which have happened over the past month and a half, but will focus instead on one…or many, actually:


Yes, this is all about my journey into the realm of the dark and mysterious world of those dirt-workhorses, the worm. You may have heard many things already about worm bins, worm composting, worm tea—I won’t attempt to cover all of these, just a couple: free range worm farming, and what I have found to be the simplest method of keeping worms in a bin.

So, first: why have worms at all (and if you have them—should you share)?

  • Worms are good…no, great little dirt-makers (ok, soil builders—I know—you purists want the right language—I prefer ‘dirt’, but like worms, I like to get down and durty).
  • Worms in your garden mean something is happening the way it should—there is balance.
  • Worms in bins mean you can make worm tea from worm castings: worm castings are GOOD, loaded with all kinds of things our plants need and want.
  • Worms are fun—as I learned in my seventh grade biology class, when we were (unfortunately) dissecting them—great fun to waggle them at lab partners and generally make a nuisance of oneself.

I’ve been studying all of the recommended methods for keeping worms so that you can use the castings and therefore the tea, but it wasn’t until I saw a presentation (see video) in what I dubbed “Free Range Worm Farming” that I realized there are potentially many ways of using worms in our sustainable/regenerative garden systems. One of our greatest tasks to undertake as permaculturists is to rebuild depleted and potentially toxic soil environments as quickly as possible, to obtain untainted yields for healthy consumption, right?

Here is one way of doing that—by creating small, concentrated planting areas, with worms as the centerpiece of the system…

Creating an optimal space within your garden for worms to feed and multiply, well, what could be better than that?

Well, you might ask: “What about the castings…and the tea?”

Ok, not a great system for that—so have two systems—one which rapidly recovers your garden soil, stacking functions right in your planting beds, and another that you can harvest castings, tea, and reproduce wormies to your heart’s content! After great deliberation and many months of research, my method for keeping worms in an enclosed space is simple: an old cooler, with convenient drain plug for harvesting the tea. What could be easier and more portable than that? (Please do not complain when visiting that I have no way to keep your beer cold, though…sorry! Grumble, grumble—can’t leave anything lying around this place—she WILL compost or upcycle it!)

Before I leave you with these ideas, let me tell you a little story about what happened while I went through the process of installing and tweaking my creations—the part that did not make it into the video…the part with the scraping dried worms from the floor, the attempts to reason with the unruly little creatures…and the shrieking. I think the neighbors have recovered by now, so I will share.

Around Day #2, second day I arrive at Casa Seranita, where the bins are stored in preparation for the free-range install—I open the front door to see (yet again), a veritable worm graveyard—a bleak and depressing landscape of kamikaze wormage scattered in a three-foot circumference of the temporary shelter I had hoped to house them in. Clearly, they saw my efforts as being no more than a refugee encampment—surely not the New World they had been promised.

I quickly set myself to adding amendments to the unfit system—gathering a bucket of straw from the half-rotten bale out by the compost bin, I brought it inside, where the water I had added was beginning to leak out of the unplugged drain. Thank goodness no one was home…

It was when I added the straw to the cooler-bin that I saw the REALLY BIG worm scurrying away under the chair nearby. By “really big” I mean: Florida red wigglers do not get that big. I had inadvertently invited a baby snake—mind you, I must have picked it up, not once, but twice, before it attempted it’s getaway in the cool shade of the furniture. “Eek!” you say? I was actually more concerned with saving what kamikaze survivors were not already stuck to the tile, but I did bravely brandish my handy spade to dispatch the critter out the door, once he reappeared. I don’t think it was poisonous—it did not behave as aggressively as the pygmy rattler I saw once at Brooker Creek Preserve–pretty sure it was a rat snake of some sort.  Can’t be too careful, though, right?

I now have a small pitchfork by the compost hay bale…