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Please Help Fund Our “CSD” Scholarship Fund!

What’s a “CSD”?  Community Supported Design – at We Grow From Here, we don’t just start gardens–we also educate people on how to

  • Create their own edible landscapes;
    • Learn how to grow small green businesses;
      • Practice natural building skills; and
        • Earn their PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate).

In order to make our classes accessible to as many as possible and still cover costs, we are building a scholarship fund–one which will be available for partial scholarships to any of our classes.

While we encourage anyone wishing to attend one of our workshops to create their own “CSD” campaign, there are those who have limited computer access and/or skills, therefore we wish to be able to offer the option of doing a partial scholarship/worktrade, which is what this fund will be used for.

The amount is based on the number of students inquiring about scholarships and worktrade openings for our two current offerings:  The Cob Building Series, and  ‘Design Your Own Foodscape‘ PDC course.  We hope to build this fund into an ongoing pool of funds to make our courses available to anyone in the community!

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A New Home for Creative Educational Ecosystems–Sol Terra!

I am so grateful for the perfect timing of the grand opening of Sol Terra–conveniently located right downtown Old Palm Harbor, a bicycle ride away, I could not have asked for a more perfect place!

Dem Bones

King James

We begin this weekend with our ‘on demand’ Permaculture Workshop series: “Design Your Home Foodscape”, which is a PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate) qualified course, with a twist! Normally, this course is 72 hours–often onsite for a 12 day intensive, which is simply out of reach for many who work or have family obligations. So, we designed this course with you in mind–it happens two weekends per month, 8 hours per weekend, and if you can’t make it one of the weekend days, we are also adding one weekday evening to cover the material missed in that session. Accessibility is the key, so you can pay for this course by the day, the weekend, or save a bunch of dough by pre-paying the entire course upfront.

Bee Happytat

So, what are you waiting for? This is the lowest cost and most flexible certifiable course out there! Oh, and did I mention–no long boring lectures, either–we cater to all learning types, and each weekend will have onsite analyses, hands-on activities, and fun, creative learning games!  Pre-Register on Meetup, or come a little early on Saturday (Class starts at 10AM each Saturday) to register before class.  I look forward to sharing your journey through sustainability into resilience and regeneration!

Let’s Get Durty!


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Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Category            Permaculture Principles

‘Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be’

This is the last post in this series, and if you have read them all you, too, may have seen the progression in my vision, because I have indeed grown over the course of this endeavor—both as a writer and a permaculture designer.  And that is the essence of this last principle:  you don’t know what you don’t know, until you find out.  Design science is all about vision—all about taking what ‘is’ and creating something else, first in your mind, then in reality.

I can tell you from experience—the reality isn’t always what you pictured, often it is very different, which is why adaptability is so important.  If you set out, as a designer, with the goal of ‘just so’, you will fail—because nature doesn’t work that way, and none of us can predict all possible outcomes.  Our job is to go slow and adjust the design as new factors present.  In Essence of Permaculture, Holmgren states:

“The adoption of successful innovation in communities often follows a pattern similar to ecological succession in nature. Visionary and obsessive individuals often pioneer the solutions, but it generally requires more influential and established leaders to take up the innovation before it is widely seen as appropriate and desirable. Generational change is sometimes necessary for radical ideas to be adopted but this can be accelerated through the influence of school education on the home environment.”

As a second-generation organic farmer, I believe that what we are seeing is just that generational change—really no more than a re-adoption of prior practices, but as a country, the ‘wingnuts’ of our parents’ generation are now the elders of ours, and these are the ones—the baby boomers, who can easily cause a shift to happen, if they choose to be so inspired.  It happens through patience, perseverance, and passion—which means education, and commitment.  We can plant all the trees and feed all the people, and just as “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” until the changes in thinking happen on a broad scale, the system will continue to collapse—over, and over again.  Which is what we have been seeing, in the past 50 years, perhaps more—those in power sway the masses with propaganda, or simply distract them with some kind of conflict elsewhere.  This pattern has repeated itself again and again throughout history–the whacked-out visionaries lead the charge, and whether or not their intentions are good, the design is not, therefore the system falls into conflict and chaos again.  Complacency is the bane of change, and the lifeblood of corruption.

chaos

Permaculture teaches us that chaos isn’t all that bad—from chaos comes order—it is part of the pattern, it’s just not a very comfortable place to be.  It is, however, a very creative place to be—after all, how many tidy artists do you know?   OK, maybe a few—but it’s usually that they are partnered with a neat freak.  Creation is messy, whatever art form it takes.  So, why not embrace a little chaos once in a while?

May I inquire after your precuneous?  How dare I, you say?  This part of the brain, finely tuned by such creative activities as, dare I say–writing–fires up in ‘creative cognition’, and in some folks, it does not shut down… ever heard ‘there is a fine line between genius and insanity’?  That could very well be the pernicious precuneous:

“For most people, this area of the brain only lights up at restful times when one is not focusing on work or even daily tasks. For writers and creatives, however, it seems to be constantly activated. Fink’s hypothesis is that the most creative people are continually making associations between the external world and their internal experiences and memories. They cannot focus on one thing quite like the average person. Essentially, their stream of ideas is always running — the tap does not shut off — and, as a result, creative people show schizophrenic, borderline manic-depressive tendencies. Really, that’s no hyperbole. Fink found that this inability to suppress the precuneus is seen most dominantly in two types of people: creatives and psychosis patients.”  Cody Delisraty in Human Parts (The Depressing Downside of Creative Genius)

Tell that to these guys:

 Octo-3MainAlexGrey

OCTO3 Anthony Howe

Alex Grey TEDx talk:  “Cosmic Creativity:  how art evolves consciousness”

Yes, if you must ask, I have been feeling a little ‘unhinged’ lately—It does not help that two of he kes on m keboard quie suddenl and with no good reason sopped working, and he are wo of he mos commonly-used letters—“t” and “y”.  You would not believe what I had to go through to coax those just then, or the gyrations I must perform to fill in the blanks as I type.  Not fun, no—not at all.

Thank you, Universe, for providing me with yet another opportunity to unleash my creativity in response to change.

 

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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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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Produce No Waste

Category            Permaculture Principles

“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

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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.


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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)

THE SECOND COMING

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.

Image

“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.

 

 

 

010414_1409_UnpluggingN1.jpg


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Unplugging: No Longer Going Along for the Ride (or: “My Year of Permaculture Immersion”)

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (Albert Einstein)

This post comes from several events which occurred last year: beginning with a three-month stint of ‘walking the walk’ which meant unplugging from internet, cable, and house phone, through the process of learning and witnessing consensus decision-making in action at the IPCC in Cuba, and ending with layers upon layers of un-composted (raw) material—both literally and figuratively (a common theme in my life, you may have already noticed).

In January, I had been attempting to switch from one mega-company to another for what I then perceived to be essential services: phone, internet, and cable. Granted, I rarely watched t.v. at that point—but I had my favorite channels or shows which I would record on DVR to watch when I had time, but having an internet connection seemed inevitable and quite necessary to the ongoing requirements of a real estate broker. The house phone was a number I had kept from when my mother was still alive (she died in 2001), and which she had for over twenty years—from the time we moved to Florida in 1977. That was, in fact, the hardest aspect to let go of—I remember thinking that someone might call that number, looking for her perhaps—someone who wasn’t trying to sell her something. It never happened—not in the 13 years I had the number in my name.

So, I took the plunge—vowing to remain unplugged for as long as it took to prove to myself how unnecessary these seeming ‘conveniences’ really were. That period of time turned out to be three months. The very first thing I noticed was palpable—when the signal was stopped, there was true silence in my home for the first time since I’d moved there ten years before. It was as if some background noise—a buzz—a sound I’d been so accustomed to I no longer noticed it at all–was suddenly cut off–and only in its absence was the former presence recognized. This was rather unnerving.

The next phenomena which became immediately obvious was in my first chosen public venue for accessing the internet, a necessary evil to remain in business: The Library. Those once-hallowed halls of infinite knowledge, sacred palace of hushed tones and reverential awe…not so quiet anymore. People talk there—a lot, and not in whispers. I had my favorite spots—places where I could plug in my laptop to both power and internet if required, yet the constant and persistent chatter of the other patrons—conversations in normal voice tone, games and even Skype calls on surrounding computers, and parents scolding children—all proved to be more than I could handle on some days. More than once I found myself on my laptop in the parking lot, with a thread WiFi connection from inside the building keeping me connected.

Flash forward to something a young man —wise beyond his years, attending a workshop at the International Permaculture Convergence in Cuba said, regarding ‘yield’ and expectations: “…when I attend a class and do not get what I expected in terms of subject matter—I look to what other yields there may have been…often that yield may be patience.” Oh yes, this is one unexpected yield which permaculture as a culture on the whole produces in great quantity!

Flash back to my first PDC (Permaculture Design Course), which I completed either just prior to or even during my ‘unplugging’—this was my first experience with an immersion course in permaculture, therefore I was unsure whether the level of, or more correctly complete lack of organization, was in fact not an intentional outcome of the design. There is after all, quite a lot of discussion in the community regarding chaos and order and patterns…but, as it turned out, those involved in this particular course were fully cognizant of the lack of structure, and barely held onto what little there was in order to complete the required 72 hours. There were moments of clarity, to be sure, but an overall or underlying structure was completely absent. Here is where my personal interest in the responsibility of the teacher to the student outcomes became a high priority—several of the students already having a fairly high degree of knowledge in the subject matter have since pursued the creation of improved class and curriculum design as a result of the chaos in that class. Which brings us to the subject of integrity—a multi-faceted jewel of a word, to be sure—it is in the persistent, focused search and recognition of this singular concept which cuts to the very core of permaculture.

in·teg·ri·ty

inˈtegritē/

noun

  1. 1.

    the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

    “he is known to be a man of integrity”

    synonyms: honestyprobityrectitudehonor, good character, principle(s),ethics, morals, righteousnessmoralityvirtuedecency, fairness,scrupulousness, sinceritytruthfulness, trustworthiness More
  2. 2.

    the state of being whole and undivided.

    “upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty”

    synonyms: unityunificationcoherencecohesiontogethernesssolidarity
    “the integrity of the federation”

At the very core of Permaculture are its ethics: Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share (or return of surplus). The entire system is taught as a structure-based design system, based on nature and organic process, but based on structure it is. One of the most basic qualities of any structure, organic or non- is INTEGRITY. Structural integrity refers to the nature of being whole, while ethical integrity is that of being morally sound, or also ‘whole’. The whole of permaculture design systems is often depicted as a flower—each overlapping petal the various branches of system design throughout culture (it’s not ‘just gardening’, you see). The backdrop, or canvas of the entire system concept is, however, the principles:

  • Observe and interact
  • Catch and store energy
  • Obtain a yield
  • Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
  • Use and value renewable resources and services
  • Produce no waste
  • Design from patterns to details
  • Integrate rather than segregate
  • Use small and slow solutions
  • Use and value diversity
  • Use edges and value the marginal
  • Creatively use and respond to change

We will begin covering each one of these principles in depth once a week for the next 12 weeks, so please be certain to subscribe to this blog if this material interests you!

Back to consensus, and Cuba, and composting—I have yet to write my actual blog post on my Cuba experience, partly because of time factors with the holidays, but also in great part because I know that I still have some composting to do (thus the ‘raw’). It was a big experience, and one that I feel deserves time and reflection before attempting to put it into words. In fact, I do believe that would be a great way to start on the principles, with “observe and interact”. The mass consensus demonstration fits well under “apply self-regulation and accept feedback”, so we will cover it in more detail in that post—for now, let me say that it does work—I have witnessed a consensus model in action, and on a very large scale, and it worked. Was everyone entirely happy with the outcome? Perhaps not, but they accepted it as the best solution—and that is the important factor right there. This is what we strive for in permaculture—the highest yield, the best environment for not only the majority, but for everyone.

And that, my friends, is what permaculture, and regenerative systems design is all about!