I want to believe.......

Discussion in 'General chat' started by zzsstt, Feb 11, 2009.

  1. Tim Auld

    Tim Auld Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Hi zzsstt,

    I think I did come across that article long ago, but I just read it again. It's pretty even handed, and there are a good many lessons to be gained from it. You're right, it's not clear that permaculture is suited to large scale commercial production, although I'm not sure Tagari was conclusive evidence of it. If we assume for a minute that the principles and theory of permaculture are accurate and it is the most sustainable way of living (given that there are too many of us to return to hunter-gathering), what does it mean? I think it means the model of civilisation - the way we inhabit the land and do just about everything - must change. Radically. Experiments such as Tagari Farm are testing the parameters of this change, and are useful in that light. The danger is that the lessons will not be identified or applied, it happens all too often. I think Geoff made an allusion to Tagari Farm in EaFF - saying that they pushed the envelope too far and had to scale back. In that film Geoff returns to Tagari Farm and inspects a food forest that hasn't been maintained for 7 years, and it is still producing fruit.

    Despite the somewhat disappointing demise of Tagari Farm, positive testimonies of permaculture abound, so I'm very hopeful about it. Damnthematrix on christmartenson.com said recently:

    "Farming is for people who don't know how to do Permaculture. Permaculture is FUN! Constantly looking out for ways to improve the design.... so that one day it mostly looks after itself."

    and,

    "Harvest time around here is more like browsing..... I often eat straight off the plants when wondering around checking on the fruits of my labor."

    There's a British article claiming that permaculture can feed ten people per acre, double that of conventional agriculture [1].

    Inadequate documentation is a legitimate concern of the permaculture movement. Much interesting material is produced, but often it feels like you just have to take the author's word for it. This may just be an artifact of the people attracted to it. People who enjoy getting out in nature and getting their hands dirty may not be scientifically minded. On the other hand, science, or more accurately, the mentality evoked by it, may be something of a ball and chain. Societies have developed sustainable practices in the past without it and encoded them in tradition, myths and religion. John Michael Greer has some interesting thoughts on this [2].

    The problem I have with using cash flow to define and pursue 'self-sufficiency' as you put it, is that it is not a complete accounting. For sure, at a personal and business level you must maintain a positive cash flow to remain viable. If we take the entirety of human activity, though, the flow of cash is zero sum. It's just a mechanism for working together and all the benefits we gain in the process must come from somewhere. In our drive for short term profit we make all sorts of bad decisions. They may work for a while, even quite successfully, but the lesson from the heady boom years until circa 2008 is that it can't be trusted as a long term indicator. As individuals we have control over our own cash flow, but it's becoming clear that we must change more than just that, as difficult as it is.

    Interesting question about your rotational grazing system! I would point out a few differences. The wild Bison manage themselves. Fallen or taken animals are no great problem as long as the numbers are sustainable, and will improve their fitness over time. They have a much greater amount of land available to graze (no supplemental food or shelter necessary), don't dwell in the same area enough to harbour diseases and over compact the soil. Other species are not excluded, increasing diversity in diet and pathogens. Consumption (if we are talking of following migrating herds) would be done nearby, so no shipping required. Domestication has some benefits - you can select characteristics that are beneficial to you, and you are able to pursue sedentary activities and combine them with the grazing system - yes, it can be permaculture! There's a great video on TED about a system involving grass, cattle, flies, chickens and some electric fence [3]. The whole video is worth watching, but it starts at about 11:46. You might also be interested in the book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (it's fantastic), which describes a system of moving herds around huge areas of Africa and the way the land has evolved to it. Interestingly there's conflict between the herders and cultivators :)

    [1] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... -town.html
    [2] https://www.energybulletin.net/node/48046
    [3] https://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/mich ... _view.html
     
  2. zzsstt

    zzsstt Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Tim,

    In my reading of alternative farming practices, I came across a book called "Salad Bar Beef" by Joel Salatin. It's another good read - at least for a cattle producer with aspirations towards "improvement" - that describes a system for natural, grass-fed beef production, utilising high intensity short duration grazing and poultry. Many aspects of his system hint at permaculture, though obviously it's not "food forest" based, but it does involve the concepts of pre-selling produce meat and poultry) to a group of supporters who mail order from an annually posted product list.

    I think the "farming is for..." quote has a major flaw, as we are already starting to conclude that large scale commercial PC is untenable in our current society. Perhaps "organic gardening is for..." would be better?

    My own conclusion from our discussion so far (which I have enjoyed, by the way), is largely unchanged from my thoughts when we started, being that PC is a great system for personal food production but too labour intensive for commercial production. I will read the article later, but I would not be surprised if PC can indeed feed 10 people (though probably largely vegetarians) per acre, or at least a larger number than conventional farming can. The difficulty is that I suspect it would probably take all 10 people to do it, where the acre of conventionally farmed land, plus another thousand, would be managed by a couple of men. This I think is the crux of the matter - PC is labour intensive, so producing a surplus is difficult. Each person can feed themselves and possibly one or perhaps two others, but in conventional farming a couple of guys can feed thousands. Any commercial production system relies on producing a surplus as it's reason for existence. To me this is the take home message from Tagari. It attempted to be big enough to be commercially viable, but failed becuase it could not provide the manpower to maintain itself. Hiring enough staff to manage the system removes the profit, and hence commercially the system fails, which unfortunately means that the system also fails to survive. Somewhat more of a concern in this case is that it failed commercially even with (unknown quantities of) free labour and donations from outside. However I am willing to admit that we do not have all the facts, and also we must take in to account the likelihood that it was not managed very well from a commercial stand-point - without wishing to be rude, "hippies" (for want of a better term) do not normally make the best financial managers. But then it must be hard to succeed in a system that is diametrically opposed to everything you believe in!.

    I see with your point about the entirety of human activity having a zero cash flow, but it's not strictly true. We have "inflation" to make the numbers appear bigger every year (hence a pay rise for doing the same job), and we have "development" to ensure that the extra cash we have will appear to buy us a bigger or better (insert article of your choice) than the one we could afford last year. So through this manipulation, you (not "you" specifically!) earn a huge amount (numerically) more than your father, and can afford (whilst not driving it!) a far better car than he had. Through the wonders of cheap food production and transport you can eat steak every day, or smoked salmon, or exotic and out-of-season fruits and vegetables, which he could not afford. Therefore obviously you are far better off then he ever was. The "zero cash flow" statement is true only if you compare your father to his neighbour, and yourself to your neighbour. Which, of course, nobody ever does!
     
  3. Tim Auld

    Tim Auld Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Hi zzsstt,

    One of the cool things about permaculture is that it isn't precious about specific techniques. It's more of a structured toolkit with a guide on tool use - the ethics and principles. So there's nothing 'anti-permaculture' about using techniques from sources that don't call it permaculture. Food forests are one tool, integrated grazing systems are another. LETS or a pre-selling system. It's all good, just use the tool appropriate for the situation.

    Damnthematrix's comment was in the context of someone being overwhelmed by current events and wanting to go out to the country to farm for self-sufficiency. In that sense I think the comment is fair, although as you point out the financials are (currently) questionable unless you have a lot of start-up capital or a side-business.

    I don't know if variation of the money supply changes the picture. The effect of inflation is to take some purchasing power of savers and give it to the government. The intent is to discourage saving and encourage investment! The total value represented by all the money hasn't changed, it's just changes hands.

    Cheers,
    Tim
     
  4. zzsstt

    zzsstt Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Tim,

    I just realised that the statement "Therefore obviously you are far better off then he ever was" in my previous post may not fully convey the sarcasm with which is was written, but hopefully you understood it!

    Your comments about the nature of permaculture are interesting. I have several books on the subject, and whilst they may contain chapters about the social and ethical aspects of PC - I must admit that after reading the first one I now tend to skip such sections because (as you may have gathered) I find them somewhat unrealistic - the other sections of the books all contain roughly the same stuff, comprising shelter belts, water usage, chicken tractors, food forests etc. As a result, these are what I tend to define as "permaculture". Whilst such a technique based defintion is inherently limiting, at least it gives a system that can be judged reasonably objectively. The "ethics and priciples" definition, whilst admittedly having the potential to be far better from a "saving the world" viewpoint (which is obviously the intention), carries the risk of diluting the system, and by becoming far more subjective risks a degree of abuse. For example, Tagari could not have been permaculture because it failed, and was therefore not sustainable, QED. Equally, a definition open to subjective rather than objective evaluation runs the risk that our subjective evaluations may differ. One person says the soil is being damaged by conventional farming, but the Incitec Pivot agronomist says that the soil has increasing carbon levels and healthy levels of beneficial flora and fauna. Which view is correct? The extreme environmentalist claims that many of the techniques in the PC toolbox are as bad as conventional farming. PETA says that the chicken tractor is cruel.These are all completely subjective views, that may be supported or denied by "facts" depending on who is selecting the evidence.

    ========
    Edit: the above paragraph is pure semantics, with no bearing on agriculture, perma or otherwise. It was written after a day looking at bathroom tiles and fittings, listening to so much marketing, hype and doublespeak that I was in a "dissect every statement to see what it really means" headspace, which I clearly had not escaped when I posted!
    ========

    Overall however, your approach is basically the one I am using. I am extracting the bits of "classical" permaculture techniques that I think I can use, together with bits of KeyLine, bits of biological and bits of conventional farming - the use of herbicides and conventional fertilisers is, no matter how many claims are made, the only way I have so far found to start the soil improvement process over a large area!
     
  5. Tim Auld

    Tim Auld Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Hi zzsstt,

    To be honest I glossed over that paragraph you wrote on inflation as I have read so much about it, and didn't realise you were making a joke :)

    I understand some people won't respond to the principles and ethics, and just use concrete techniques associated with pc. Everyone will have different ideas and interpretations too, as you point out. But that's the beauty of it. One of the principles is "use and value diversity". Without a rigid framework, pc becomes pragmatic, non-dogmatic and interactive. Beware of formulaic systems that claim to have all the answers! For me, it has crystalised in intuitive and easy to remember concepts a system to contextualise and evaluate ideas and set direction for my actions. For a comprehensive treatment of the pc princicles I heartily recommend Holmgren's Permaculture Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability. It's perhaps the most insightful book I've read. Among other things, it puts sustainability into context - it is not necessarily a steady state as some idealize. Life, land and society are constantly changing.

    Interested to know if you have Mollison's PC Designers' Manual. There is some discussion of broad acre farming strategies, from an business standpoint and such things as soil improvement. I don't know your specifics but, if you are willing, in the interest of mutual learning, I can humbly offer my limited design experience :) PM me if you like.

    Cheers,
    Tim
     
  6. Tim Auld

    Tim Auld Junior Member

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  7. zzsstt

    zzsstt Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Tim,

    I am actually quite happy to accept PC as "ethics and principles", and (as I think I said) such an approach is "better" for the planet. But it does run the risk of interpretation based on the individuals principles. I also get a bit uncomfortable when faced with the "if it works we'll accept it as PC, if it doesn't we won't" approach that is incoporated in such a definition. I'm not quite sure why I have an issue with this, perhaps it's years of exposure to corporate manipulation? Whilst I appreciate that it is exactly what I claim that coventional farming is doing (i.e. evolving to incorporate new practices), for some reason when you give something a name ("the Labor Party", "The Church of England" etc.) and write down what it means, to then make changes to suit media focus or modify your "belief" because it's no longer popular, somehow seems wrong. Again, I do understand that the situation with PC is not the same, and I'll work through my issues eventually!

    I have not read Mollisons book. I have a few PC books, the "Earth Users Guide" being the only one I can remember the name of - the rest are boxed up in storage until I have finished building the new house! Soil improvement is something that I have spent a great deal of time investigating.

    Unfortunately, as with all things, unless you try them yourself you cannot really know if they will work. For example, in a previous post I mentioned the N fixing bacteria (free living in the soil or in plant tissue) and just yesterday I read a report that stated that such products do not do very much, as unlike the nodules in legumes they have to compete with the existing soil organisms and often cannot develop sufficient numbers to fix much N (at least relative to what is needed by the crop). This, obviously, is at odds with what the producer of the product says! I also read (in this weeks "The Land") about a family using what appears to be a mix of PC and Natural Sequence Farming who have apparently worked wonders - thick topsoil, etc. etc. - on land that was previously (alledgedly) utterly compacted and dead. Apparently they tow a Yeomans plow behind an Antonio Carraro tractor and rip to 770mm depth. The biggest Carraro tractor is 87hp. Well, I have a three tyne Yeomans behind a 100hp John Deere, and I'd be lucky to keep moving if I tried to get below maybe 250mm. So their soil is either very light, or wasn't actually as bad as they think!

    I'll PM you.....
     
  8. Luisa

    Luisa Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Absolutely fascinating and right where I've been lately.

    "As soon as you introduce animals, non-native plants, and indeed any mixed planting you introduce labour. One plant interferes or dominates another. The chickens escape, destroy a vegetable planting and then get killed by a fox. Suddenly the citrus are covered in bronze orange bugs, or caterpillars, black sooty mould, aphids and ants. The nut trees were stripped of their buds in one morning by a flock of cockatoos, and the gallahs ripped out all the new seedlings just for fun. Nevermind the gale last night that took branches off half the fruit trees that will all require pruning and retraining. And then of course the cow/goat/sheep needs milking, all the animals need checking/feeding/watering and todays food needs harvesting. And then anything non-perennial needs to be considered with regard to sowing, thinning, planting out etc. The green manure needs digging in before it sets seed which will swamp whatever was going to be grown there next season. Then someone needs to go to the market to swap the xxxx for some xxxx which can't be produced here. Now it's getting dark, we haven't had breakfast yet and b*gger me nobody collected the eggs from the chicken run. And did anybody shut the valve that irrigates the food forest (hereafter known as "the swamp") with nutrient filled water from the acqua-culture dam (hereafter known as the "mud puddle filled with dead fish")?"

    Yep, right on. I decided some time ago that FENCES are vital for growing anything. I also decided that I would rather move food TO the animals than move the ANIMALS to the food. So I am not doing PC right at all. Some parts are Ok, the pensioner chooks in the rainforest patch for eg, but not much else. We want a veggie patch so I got a fencing contractor to build a six foot high chain link compound, 10m * 6m. Keeps horses and geese and chooks out cos if they get in ......

    I think the establishment/setting up phase is much underestimated. The routine stuff takes time and it interferes with the time you have to establish, and if you need $$ for establishment you need to go to a job and THAT takes time away and if you restructure so's you've got more time, you don't have the money and then the more exxy parts of the establishment phase don't happen cos you don't have the $$$ ......

    We have concluded we are working 2 shifts, working AND trying to get established. In centuries gone by people had the skills cos they'd grown up learning - we don't and we have to start from scratch. In addition to a paid job. They also often had a community or a farm or both, often because they grew up there and inherited the family block of dirt. We don't, we all have to start by buying and we all know what happens then.

    So it gets a bit depressing after a while.
     
  9. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Hi zzsstt,

    It seems to me that you are a pretty thoughtful fellow. I like that you don't take anything at face value and to me that indicates that you are a re-forming scientist. Seems like you no longer 'trust' a lot of the science that is bandied around as fact. Perhaps you are questioning the role of organised science, just as society has been questioning the validity of organised religion in recent times.

    I would like to recommend to you a couple of books. One is Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao Te Ching, the other is Fukuoka's excellent book on his experience with 'Natural Farming' - The One Straw Revolution. I suspect all you really need is some deeper insight into the nature of things :)

    Perhaps you could ask yourself why you think a change like this permaculture movement is important? and what it is you would like to get from permaculture? Because I think it is through the 'practice' of permaculture we can find the fulfilment we all seek, not through the potential fruits of permaculture.

    The Tao never does anything,
    yet through it all things are done.

    If powerful men and women
    could venter themselves in it,
    the whole world would be transformed
    by itself, in its natural rhythms.
    People would be content
    with their simple, everyday lives,
    in harmony, and free of desire.

    When there is no desire,
    all things are at peace.


    I don't believe Permaculture is The Answer to the worlds 'suffering', but I believe it is a worthwhile direction to take. If we are walking down a path in the forest and we find we are heading into danger and damaging the creatures beneath us, it seems unwise for us to keep bustling along the same track. It seems to make more sense to find a new path, a path that is softer, better etc., even if that path is not perfect, it is better...

    Peace
     
  10. sunnyslopes

    sunnyslopes Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Hello, and what a great thread. I have been reading over some of the post and my apology if I am repeating someone elses thoughts. I think the pop term for that is "tailgating" I like that metaphore. As I am writing I am realizing that I need to finish modifying a rabbit cage because the rats have been getting into it and eating poor bunny's food.
    One of the things that got me into permaculture is that it may not be a science in itself but it must be backed up with science. If the numbers don't add up then permculture is a waste of time for most of us. Far better to work your job and get a good pension. Find a quiet retirement community and enjoy your golden years.
    I was thinking before I saw this thread about how I need to add more root crops to my garden. If I can pull a bunch of potatos then I have reduced my need for grain crops. Also reducing the cost of transportation and the need for working more farm land. I don't have the science in front of me to back that up but I do believe someday the science will be done to show that.
    Also permaculture has been around for a long long time. I am talking about "modern" permaculture as prescribed by Mollison and Holmgren and other permaculture pioneers.
    To close I just want to say that I think permaculturist are the laziest people on the planet. We try and do everything in such a way that it benefits the most number of people. Cares for the Earth, people, and creates surplus from abundance. And in the process we are all having far more fun than we deserve. Now, how selfish can you be?
     
  11. zzsstt

    zzsstt Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    I entirely agree with the sentiment, and if consumption=production then it's correct. Unfortunately our economies and politics are so skewed that this is not always the case, which is why we end up with "wine lakes", "butter mountains" etc. When a system is set up to produce the vast amounts of product required, under the often huge financial subsidies given to farmers in many countries (though not here in Australia, sadly), production reamins constant or grows until the excess is so large that the production incentives are removed. Or until a harvest fails and the excess is used.

    There is also the other issue that "farmland" is not a constant commodity. Some is better than others, some more suited to one "crop" than another. In Australia, at present we are being told that we should cut back on meat and eat more vegies, which will, we are told, be a good thing. Apparently "we" can produce enough wheat to feed x people on the same area of land it takes to produce meat for far fewer than x people. Which would be great except that the land on which the meat is produced WILL NOT GROW WHEAT. So if we eat less meat and more wheat ("vegies") we will either have to start farming in very "marginal" areas, or import the wheat from elsewhere. Meanwhile the non-arable land previously managed for and by sporadic grazing will be taken over by feral animals and plants.......

    So "reducing the need for working more farm land" may not actually happen, and may potentially not be such a good thing anyway. Being told only half the facts is never a good thing. I often wonder whether movements and organisations ("The Greens", "PETA" etc.) are deliberately providing false or partial information, or whether they believe what they say. If scratching below the surface of the information provided clearly indicates it to be false, and worse still to find it potentially results in an outcome in direct opposition to the stated intent of the organisation, I must believe either they simply do not understand the issues, or that they have other, unpublicised agendas. [None of that was referring to PC, by the way!]

    It's interesting that you also mention PC having been around a long time. Part of my concern is that whilst I agree that this is true, that does not necessarily make it practicable today. The people practicing "permaculture" in the past, and even the more recent "pioneers of modern permaculture", do not truly reflect the needs of our current time. In ancient permaculture, the practitioners could devote 100% of their time to the production of necessaties. At worst, in all likelihood they had to pay a percentage of their production to the landowner. I really don't see my bank being happy when I offer them a couple of carrots as my monthly mortgage payment, so I need to have a job to pay the mortgage, and buy the things I cannot produce. At which point I cannot commit enough time to produce what I need. All the "pioneers" have been given the land, supported by outside financial assistance or workers, and yet most still fail (if you investigate in enough depth).

    Don't get me wrong, I think many of the techniques are great. I think there is great satisfaction to be gained from producing ones own food (heck, I get satisfaction from producing food for other people, even though I have no idea who they are!). I think food straight from the garden tastes better (though most meat needs time to hang!). I just question the evangelical "permaculture will save the world" belief, and I don't for a minute believe it is either commercially viable - and the more I investigate, the less I believe it, sadly!
     
  12. zzsstt

    zzsstt Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    I think you have your quote marks in the wrong places. Rather than "trusting" the science, you would be better suggesting that I no longer trust the "science". That would be far closer to the truth. I am (or was) a scientist, and as such I recognise that the vast proportion of what is bandied around is not, in fact, science. It is simply marketing. Whether it is someone jumping on the climate change bandwagon to obtain a research grant, or some pseudo-science presented as an attempt to sell a magnet that softens water, it has very little to do with science. I do trust science, although equally I accept that science does not know everything.

    I am not really sure that I do think permaculture is important. My interest lies in improving what I do, and how I live. Some aspects of permaculture would appear to be useful in that quest.

    I am never quite sure what to think when people start talking about "fulfilment". Especially the concept that we all seek the same "fulfilment", as is suggested by the concept that one thing (the practice of permaculture) can provide "the fulfilment we all seek". I get fulfilment from knowing I have done something to the best of my ability. As a result I spend time investigating how I might do it better. Whether the "something" is producing good beef, installing a computer system or raising a family is largely irrelevant. I could well get fulfilment from the practice of permaculture - though perhaps I would get more from improving the techniques we currently regard as permaculture - but I also get it from restoring a motorcycle or building a car. I suspect that fulfilment may simply mean a sense of succeeding in ones chosen task, and the succession of tasks that go to make up ones life. In which case perhaps permaculture, like golf (I am told), has the lure that no matter how well you do there is always opportunity for improvement? On the other hand, perhaps after a hard day of manual labour in the food forest the practitioner is simply too tired to consider being un-fulfilled!


    I suppose you have a good reason for travelling, but have you ever considered just staying where you are and seeing what happens? Why do you believe there is something better somewhere else? Perhaps if you stood still for a while, you might find that where you are now can supply all that you need. Why not learn to appreciate where you currently are, rather than spending time looking for a path to somewhere else.......... :wink:
     
  13. nsainsbury

    nsainsbury Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    I have skimmed over this, quite enjoyable, discussion, so please excuse me if have touched on this and I missed it.

    Is it not true that permaculture is designed for reducing inputs? Fuel is an input. Large scale farming for the masses requires large amounts of transport. So permaculture is not suitable.
    To effectively and efficiently harvest large amouts of food for a large population you require a crop organised in it's lay out and machinery or lots of labour. So permaculture is not suitable.

    Permaculture is designed and works for very localised communities. So unless you change the layout of our communities as a whole, permaculture does not work on a large scale. At least at a cost that would be acceptable to the consumer.

    Personally, if I can feed my family and maybe sell some excess to cover the costs of the inputs to our household, then with the jobs we do cover our mortage and bills, then when I retire become a hermit and love off my land, I will be happy.

    Plus I'm a little bit survivalist by nature so perculture fits in there too.

    Besides or that, you should never find someone totally permaculture reliant on these forums, unless they are making their own silicon.
     
  14. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Zzsstt,

    I won't bother putting quotes around what you said because this relates to everything you said in response to me...

    I think you are right.

    I don't know that I think permaculture is important anymore either. I like the philosophies and I like the idea of sustainability, but I like philosophy in general - I don't know if permaculture is actually that important to me. I get a kick out of collecting seed and I get a kick out of growing my own food and I get a kick out of growing pretty things too. I feel at home growing plants and building the soil. Perhaps the philosophies of organics and permaculture etc lead me to here, but now that I'm here it is more about being here doing the things I enjoy and that fulfil me rather than anything else.

    Thanks for your insights
     
  15. kimbo.parker

    kimbo.parker Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Believe, believe:
    Permaculture is site specific. Any improvement you make to your 'farm' along the lines of 'whole of farm design' and 'sustainability',,,will be Permaculture. There is no 'if' it will work,, there is only 'how'...and that is exciting. It's not scary because it is not expensive. However money making is a lousy thing to waste your permaculture on.
    I don't have much quid, but I have lots of abundance - and I realize that the only reason I wanted the quid was for abundance....such that the quid has become redundant!
    regards,
    Kimbo
     
  16. Cyna

    Cyna Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    All we really need for permaculture to be recognised as economically sustainable is some broadacre permaculture farms. The reality is that the majority of food comes from broadacre farms and this wont change anytime soon. There are plenty of organic and biodynamic farms, but none seem willing to adopt the permie label. Reasons? Maybe they don't want to identify with the broad range of people and practices in permaculture. Or they don't want to follow all the principles, eg each element must perform many functions.
    Until there are broadacre permaculture farms that are seen to be profitable, we will continue to be a diverse group of home gardeners and self sufficiency types. And there is nothing wrong with that.

    But for god's sake. can we get some real information. Last I heard, the Jordan Desert project had been bulldozed because they weren't making any money.
    And this bloke in England with the forest garden, the English people who do the permie thing on Wikipedia don't even know if it's still going, and according to the discussion on that page, they couldn't be bothered to find out.
    Does anyone know for sure. Or is truth the first casualty of a good story?
     
  17. Tim Auld

    Tim Auld Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    Cyna,

    If you are going to advocate "real information" in such an antagonistic way, you could at least do us the courtesy of providing it yourself. From what source did you hear that the Jordan Valley project had been bulldozed? I'm quite interested in that project, and have heard no such thing.

    Are you referring to Robert Hart as "this bloke in England with the forest garden"? You should know that he passed away in March 2000. I don't know who the current title holder is, but I don't see how it's relevant to 30+ years of successful productivity. If you are so interested in its current state, please find out yourself and report back.

    Given industrial ag's fragile dependence on credit and a steady stream of many resources, it is actually foreseeable that this will change soon. Bill Mollison posits that more resources are spent maintaining lawns in the US than are spent on industrial agriculture, and given that existing lawns provide a convenient space to grow food, it's reasonable to expect that the balance will shift to local, small acre production, as happened in Cuba [1].

    There are broadacre farms that use permaculture principles and techniques, but visibility and documentation are certainly issues. Even if there were perfectly documented examples, there are still powerful interests that would resist widespread adoption. Permaculture is unlikely to become a perfectly organised and documented movement, by its nature. All you can do is take from it what you can, contribute as much back, and don't be quick to judge.

    Regards,
    Tim

    [1] In Havana, 90% of the city's fresh produce come from local urban farms and gardens (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_Cuba)
     
  18. zzsstt

    zzsstt Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    I'm not sure where you are living, but I'm guessing it's not anywhere near me. Not expensive? Around this area earthworks will cost a minimum of about $150/hour, plus a float fee to deliver the machines (another $400 or so). A small dam will cost $3K at an absolute minimum. The "full monty" permaculture system, of course, requires several dams at various heights throughout the property, and swales to feed them or harvest other water. So for any property larger than a pocket handkerchief, "not expensive" is obviously open to interpretation! If I take a 10ha paddock (lets make it 325m square, for simplicity), build a couple of dams and swales every 50m (so thats 2km of swale), I've just spent maybe $20K at a minimum. Then I have to source and plant my green manure crop and tree seedlings along the swales. And at this stage I have nothing but a lumpy paddock, with a diminished resale value. Oh, and I've forgotten to install any pipes for moving the water about.

    I also have issues with the concept that anything that "Any improvement you make to your 'farm' along the lines of 'whole of farm design' and 'sustainability',,,will be Permaculture". It reminds me of that old corporate industry situation where if it works everyone claims involvement but if it doesn't....... Does putting up fences to create a laneway qualify as permaculture? How about spraying weeds - that has huge benefits for the (real world) sustainability of the farm, is it permaculture?

    There are a few, mostly quite small. There are far more farms that are "partially" organic, which is something that I personally find very worrying. If someone believes that organic is "better", then why aren't they fully organic? If someone believes that "chemical" is bad, then how can they justify selling "bad" product from the "chemical" areas of the farm? If, on the other hand, they have simply realised that they can sell organic produce at a higher price, (and are therefore solely profit motivated) how can we trust that they are not selling "chemical" product under the organic banner? If I have two paddocks, one growing "organic" spuds and the other "chemical" spuds, at harvest time I end up with two piles of potatoes in a shed. One pile is chemical, and will sell for x cents/kg. The other pile is organic, and will sell for (lets say) x +20% cents/kg. My only motivation for the organic produce is financial. It is almost certain that no-one will be able to tell the difference between the two piles of spuds, because I've been careful enough not to spray the "chemical" ones in the weeks before harvest. Do you really think that some of those "chemical" spuds will not switch piles?

    As for real information, as far as I can see every large scale PC project has failed when external funding is removed, if not before. The small scale ones require external imputs and support. At the start of this thread I asked if anyone had knowledge of a genuinely sustainable PC system, and as yet no-one has presented one. The normal "examples" have been mentioned, but most (all?) of them have failed or are currently failing, even with free labour and outside financial inputs.

    The sad reality is that the vast majority of people want cheap food, and don't much care where it comes from. Organics are expensive, and are almost exclusively bought by the wealthy. "Permaculture" does not mean anything to people, has no governing body to certify it's products, and in any case how would they be certified? And why would they be "better"? Would they be "chemical free" - does permaculture forbid the use of herbicides? And would they cease to be "permaculture" if they were ("unsustainably") trucked across the country?

    As for commercial permaculture, I simply no longer believe it is viable. The only excepion to that is if we do indeed remove the (my?) basic concept of permaculture as swales and manual labour, and move to the "any improvement is permaculture" (aka "if it works it's ours") definition, in which case anyone who plants a shelter belt and builds a swale can claim to have a PC farm.... and I guess that this, at least in part, is the problem with "permaculture". If we take a book like "the Earth Users Guide" as a definition of permaculture, it is almost guaranteed not to be commercially viable. But if we water that definition down to include "Any improvement you make....", then just about every farm in Australia (and probably the world) qualifies as permaculture.

    I'm happy for you, but without knowing your situation your statement does not mean much. Do you have kids? Do you drive 60km/day taking them to school and back? As I have said before, I have no doubt that PC would produce food for a couple or even a family, but that's not "real world" for most people.
     
  19. permasculptor

    permasculptor Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    IMO The real world is changing faster all the time,permaculture is becoming more and more necessary.If society,governments & industry are ignorant of it it will not be profitable in a monetary sense especially in a broad acre situation. The real world is heading for an almighty shake up where most people are going to be forced to re-evaluate, hang in there zzsstt the more permaculture you can incorporate now the better you will last in the long term but it can only be done if the focus is on real lasting prosperity not short term profit.You will need a leg in both beds till the game changes. you can help the game to change by innovating new techniques ie growing fuel and carbon and food or fodder or medicine in the one paddock.this is an interesting thread,cant help thinking that you are trying to incorporate permaculture as an element rather than a design system though.
     
  20. zzsstt

    zzsstt Junior Member

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    Re: I want to believe.......

    That statement raises an interesting question!

    (Please take the following as discussion, not relating to any particular individuals)

    For a city dweller suddenly deciding to grow there own food, become "more sustainable" or whatever, they research various ways to do this and settle upon "permaculture" as their chosen design system as you put it. And that's great. But a farmer is already, in his own mind, using "permaculture", although he may not call it that. Whilst we are constantly bombarded with all kinds of propaganda suggesting that farmers are evil, livestock is bad for the environment etc. (it's complete rubbish, but most people believe the media without question), the reality is that farmers are constantly mindful that the farm is their source of income, not just today but tomorrow and on in to the future. Not only that, but it is also their retirement fund, childrens inheritance etc. So whilst it is easy to believe the media when they say that farmers are "(whatever)", stop and think about it for a moment. If a farmer owns a piece of land of 1000ha, it has a value based on it's ability to produce a crop. If he destroys that ability, he also destroys the value of the land. Not only that, but next year he will be unable to grow his crop, so he will have no income and no asset value either. So in all things a farmer does, he is juggling not only his current harvest, but also his future harvest and the value of his asset. This, to me, is "permanent agriculture".

    I guess this is why I have issues with the concept that "if it works it's permaculture". Current farming systems have evolved to attempt to satisfy the requirements for cheap food. They may not use the practices referred to as "permaculture", but they are an attempt at "permanent agriculture".

    So yes, I suppose that does mean I am looking at "permaculture" as an element, rather than a design system, because my farm (like every other farm) already has a design system based on "permanent agriculture". There are aspects of what I read about as "permaculture" that I can, and have, incorporated in to my design to improve it. Equally there are aspects of standard farming practice that are incorporated in to permaculture. There are other systems (Keyline etc.) that have been adopted by permaculture, and also by conventional farmers who may never had heard the term "permaculture".

    As for the real world changing, I'm still not sure. I've already stated that I'm not convinced about mans impact on the climate. I'm also far from convinced about mans desire to change it. Most of the issues seem to me to be driven by motives other than the environment. Almost every issue, if we investigate beyond the "apparent truth" distributed by the media, turns out to be at the very least different to what we are told, and in most cases is utter nonsense. Almost every "solution" proposed, if investigated, turns out to have little to do with solving (what we are told is) the problem, and far more to do with making money, or getting votes. If we want people to adopt solar power, make the installation 100% tax deductible with no means testing. Half the houses in Sydney would have panels up next week! Instead we argue about how to regulate the tarrifs on power generated by a system that's too expensive for most people to afford anyway! And before anybody suggests that it is unfair that "rich" people can install solar when "poor" people can't, ask yourself whether the environment will care who generates the power and CO2! If we are worried about water, make tanks 100% deductible. But to avoid upsetting voters, we would rather risk food production by playing with rules for crop irrigation than to regulate (in any meaningful way) unproductive domestic water consumption ("wastage"). We kid ourselves that a tap or a showerhead can save water, or that a new light globe will save the environment. A couple of days ago I followed a car along a rural road. This car had a "50/50 by 2020" sticker on it. For 30km I cruised along at a constant speed, using minimal fuel, whilst watching "Mr Eco" swap between brake and accelerator, yo-yo'ing off the bumper of the car in front of him, using more fuel than me, wearing out his brakes and drive train. I didn't brake once! I have no doubt that he has switched to "eco" lights, and that he leaves them on for hours at a time. He probably spends 20 minutes in his shower, which only uses 9L per minute, although over his 20 minutes he uses far more water than I do in my "unregulated" shower with the taps only half on for 3 minutes! But he has the sticker, so the world is changing?

    It is easy to get sucked in by what the media are saying, what the politicians are saying, what the marketeers are saying, and what the bumper stickers are saying! But look behind it, investigate the realities and often we find that it is simply propaganda.

    I have been told that my cattle are destroying the environment, by producing huge amounts of carbon. I have to ask, where are they getting it from? As far as I can recall, I have never gone out and bought any carbon (with the possible exception of a few small bales of lucerne to feed any sick animals in the yards for a few days). Yes, I use a bit of diesel fuel. Yes, I use a bit of fertiliser (there's no carbon in it, but I'm sure some is used in its production and transportation). But nowhere near enough to produce the 1.75 tonnes of CO2 they tell me each cow produces each year. So where are my cows getting all this carbon from? Perhaps my neigbours are feeding it to them when I'm not looking? Unless... oh, it comes from the grass they eat? But that grass grows here, and the carbon in it is taken from the atmosphere. So they are not "producing" carbon, they are simply cycling it. The methane they produce is stable for a maximum of about 10 years, after which it is recycled again. And throughout all this, the pasture is fixing carbon in the soil, so actually the net effect is to reduce atmospheric carbon? No, of course not. Livestock are BAD, lets do the maths:

    1 cow, 1.75 tonnes per year for ten years (then the methane breaks down) = 17.5 tonnes of CO2
    1 cow per hectare
    1% soil carbon/ha = 76 tonnes carbon fixed
    My soil carbon is increasing at perhaps 0.1%/year
    So over 10 years, I will sequester 76 tonnes of CO2, in the land my cow uses to "produce" 17.5 tonnes.
    After 10 years, the methane will be breaking down at the same rate as it is being "produced" and so my cow is effectively no longer increasing the level of methane in the atmosphere*.
    After 10 years, my soil will continue to sequester carbon.

    After 10 years my cow has "produced" 17.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (methane) which was actually taken from the atmosphere, whilst it's paddock has sequestered 76 tonnes.

    So its clear that cattle are very very bad....? Well, it is if you only publish the first half of the statement = "After 10 years my cow has produced 17.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent"

    Why let the truth spoil a good story?

    No, I'm not sure the world is changing. I suspect some people have simply found a new fear to leverage in order to make money, sell a product, push an agenda or further a career. And yes, I do find that to be a very sad inditement of our species. Not that this means I don't think it would be a good idea to minimise our impact on the planet, I just don't think that as a society we have made that decision, or that most individuals are doing anything other than unquestioningly believing and doing what they are told. And what they are told to do is, for the most part, nothing to do with helping the environment.

    If we ignore all pretence of political correctness, and risk upsetting the bleeding hearts for a moment, the single biggest rule of both permaculture and common sense should be "live within ones means". Whether this means limiting our expenditure to match our income, our activities to match our resources, or our population to our ability to produce food, this is utterly basic. And how many politicians are standing up and telling us to have fewer children? Or to stop spending and start reducing our debt?

    [The following is written to stimulate thought, not out of any particular belief of mine!]
    So is the world changing? Or is it just that after the demise of the "communist menace", the widespread abandonment of religion, the liberation of women and the growing feeling of affluence and security, that a new tool was needed to control the masses?

    *As livestock numbers have been declining in Australia for several years, the reality is that they are producing less methane than is breaking down already.
     

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