Constraints before goals in early design stages

In Permaculture design there exists a chicken and the egg paradox concerning the early design stages. Of course it doesn’t matter which came first, merely that the chicken or egg existed in order to create the other. Goals & Assessment fit snug into this paradox, and it begs the question…which first?

First, analyze yourself.  Actually…do this for your own benefit anyway, often. How well do I work towards accomplishing tasks? Does it help to set goals? Do goals gear me into action to acquire the knowledge I need to start achieving my goals? or Do I need to understand more of the system before I make goals? Do I need to know my constraints to avoid error? Do I have trouble letting go of previously determined goals? What works best for me?

Once you’ve done questioned yourself thoroughly with those and similar questions the answer might be clear as to how you want to approach your goals and assessment. However, I have an argument to make here and this is it…constraints before goals in early design stages.

I have been spending some 4-5 hours a day here at Sun One Organic trying to understand what kinds of systems are here. I do this based on the Scale of Permanence, which is adapted from P.A. Yeomans. There are a couple different adaptations but David Jacke’s had lots of bullet points.  One may question where the information to fill in the blanks of the Scale comes from.  The answer is I don’t know, but I am trying to compile that together, because access is very important. Stay tuned for that post.

I haven’t set any goals yet, partly because I lack equity in this property and partly because I want to know my constraints.  If Permaculture is an ecological design science, then vetting constraints is like effort to disprove hypotheses. Science.

Constraints first is a psychological primer.  It puts imagination on hold and objective observation in pole position.  I focus solely on what is present, and that is where my attention is.  Imagination never stays quiet so that is present, but that is not the primary psychological mode.  Goals first is imagination.  Constraints first is observation.

Constraints are useful in the sense that they provide an absolute no.  ‘No’ is a great word, much better than ‘maybe’.  ‘No’ will discipline your mind, ‘maybe’ will clutter it.  ‘No’ will kiss you goodnight, ‘maybe’ will cause insomnia mixed with anxious love-hurt. Constraints tell me: no I cannot develop this conservation area, no I cannot manage the stony woodlands other than as forests, no I cannot put a permanent greenhouse in more than 2 places in the lower area…and one of those areas is likely to be  a parking lot.  So then what?

Once I have my ‘no’,  I’ll use that to develop goals.  Take the woodlands for example.  There are three separate wooded areas on the property.  These are situated on very stony soils and grade that is too steep for cultivation.  Assessment has provided me with proper constraints in this respect.  I shall keep the land wooded in perpetuity and then set goals as to what I want to accomplish in that particular setting.  Perhaps wildlife sanctuary, perhaps copses, perhaps lumber, perhaps mushrooming, perhaps all of these.  Chances are I’d arrive at this same conclusion regardless of when I set goals, but this is a generic example.

The constraints allow for the goal setting stages to be much more informed, and the direct experience that one is exposed to during the assessment stage leads one to understand the inherent change that accompanies goal setting.  The  inter relatedness one sees during assessment allows one to set goals that have complex flavor.

Essentially the choice is an individual one.  Both methods eventually coalesce into a goal/constraint hybrid.  If you have clients, goals probably come first.  But when it’s your time and your choice, take the time to get to know your constraints.  Even if it takes more than a year, take the time.  When we’re designing multi-decade systems, a year or two taken to understand the realities will prove useful.

“The dirt road in front of me is wide I take it.  But the choice is mine in the direction I pave it.”

-Colin

Don’t let your children grow up to be farmers and other drugs.

An article was published the other day in the New York Times in the Opinion section detailing the crumbling structure of small farming in the U.S.  It is titled “Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers”.

You can find it here.

Being a recent college graduate myself, I enjoy the impending anxious conversations with my parents about making $500 a month as an apprentice. Our head spaces couldn’t be any different. I am trying to change the inequalities in our society through Permaculture; they are trying to impress financially secure qualities in me. I understand it of course, there is a monthly nut I need to be able to cover as I find myself in a more independent adulthood.

But I am too crazy for that.

The article suggests that there should be loan forgiveness for young farmers. This is a brilliant idea. If you can believe it, farmers are less valued than teachers. I mean hegemonically of course. Politicians will pine for votes on platforms of improving teachers salaries, but there is nothing about farmers. This is systemic. The truth is we’re in the same sinking boat, but farmers are slightly lower on the crow’s nest pole. The difference is teachers, in their relatively self sacrificing occupation, benefit from eventual loan forgiveness federally. This means that a teacher may find relief after a decade of service. Not too shabby if after a Master’s degree one finds oneself to be $35,000+ in debt on the basic principle, not to mention interest (or usury depending on your views).  Though honestly, what kind of loan is that?  Pay me more than I loan you to teach our populace.  Joke.

The question we have to ask ourselves is “do we want less educated farmers?” That is the implication I personally see here. This is inequality. We’re living in the wealthiest empire ever to exist (yes empire) and we cannot even provide policy for food growers to be savvy philosophers to boot, without crippling them in debt peonage.

I consider myself to be an educated small farmer. I want to do Permaculture design but it is tough without another source of income, one I wish to find when I go back to a community college for graphic design. But the fact of the matter is that an Anthropology B.A. shouldn’t cost as much as the business B.S. This is not to mention the asinine view of a critical thinking discipline as an art and business as a science, lacking any real body of theory about the natural world we live in. An anthropology degree is of lower market value than a business degree, but the critical thinking and writing skills are essential for everyone to have access to without indebtedness. Why is the price the same?

Provide legislation to give loan forgiveness to farmers. It will provide farmers like myself with the freedom to pursue valuable polyculture research and to bolster local economies. It will provide a more educated populace equipped with the tools to break down inequality. And quite honestly, I think we can afford to give 1% of the population providing a need we have every single day a way to better themselves without unsheathing a double-edged sword.

-Colin

A Half day and a Full Anxiety

Today was the first harvest day of the week. Mondays are our largest CSA pick up day and it was thunder storming this weekend. Rob, being the ever so weather conscious boss of ours decided to give us half the day off after the harvest was done. After purple potatoes, onions, tri-basil bunches, arugula, green cabbage, baby kale, and collards, the rest of the day was ours!

I took advantage and continued to read a copy of The Name of the Wind that was gifted to me by the other intern. I usually do not read fiction yet I enjoyed the break and my imagination was let out in a nice new world.

I also took time after our chicken and rainbow mashed potatoes lunch to continue a Permaculture Site Survey I have been working on at Sun One Farms. I am currently modeling the Survey on the Scales of Permanence laid out by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, which has been built upon the original by P.A. Yeomans.

I have gathered substantial data on landform and soils on the property, so I figured I would take a crack at climate. One thing is for sure: the NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) National Climate Data Center is technical. It is very technical.

The point of the exercise is to record patterns of variation and location elements. Patterns of Variation are temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, and precipitation. Location elements are latitude, terrain, altitude, and nearby water bodies and currents.

My goal is to grab the relevant data from the NCDC and create graphs and discuss the relevance to a Permaculture project. Yet the website turned out to be a lot to take in at once.

Perhaps I will need to dive in on another half day after more familiarity with the NCDC web page.

Collected Info on the Black Walnut

http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1148.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juglans_nigra

Grafted, nut-producing trees are available from several nurseries operating in the U.S. Selections worth considering include Thomas, Neel #1, Thomas Myers, Pounds #2, Stoker, Surprise, Emma K, Sparrow, S127, and McGinnis. Several older varieties, such as Kwik Krop, are still in cultivation; while they make decent nuts, they would not be recommended for commercial planting. A variety index and characteristics guide is available from Missouri Extension.

The extraction of the kernel from the fruit of the black walnut is difficult. The thick, hard shell is tightly bound by tall ridges to a thick husk. The husk is best removed when green, as the nuts taste better if it is removed then.[citation needed] Rolling the nut underfoot on a hard surface such as a driveway is a common method; commercial huskers use a car tire rotating against a metal mesh. Some take a thick plywood board and drill a nut-sized hole in it (from one to two inches in diameter) and smash the nut through using a hammer. The nut goes through and the husk remains behind.

Plants Observed Growing Under or Near Black Walnut*

Trees

  • Japanese Maples, Acer palmatum and its cultivars
  • Southern Catalpa, Catalpa bignonioides
  • Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis
  • Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis

Vines and Shrubs

  • Clematis ‘Red Cardinal’
  • February Daphne, Daphne mezereum
  • Euonymus species
  • Weeping Forsythia, Forsythia suspensa
  • Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus
  • Tartarian Honeysuckle, Lonicera tatarica, and most other Lonicera species
  • Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
  • ** Pinxterbloom, Rhododendron periclymenoides
  • **’Gibraltar’ and ‘Balzac’, Rhododendron Exbury hybrids
  • Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora
  • Black Raspberry, Rubus occidentalis
  • Arborvitaes, Thuja species
  • ** Koreanspice Viburnum, Viburnum carlesii, and most other Viburnum species

Annuals

  • Pot-marigold, Calendula officinalis ‘Nonstop’
  • Begonia, fibrous cultivars
  • Morning Glory, Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’
  • Pansy Viola
  • Zinnia species

Vegetables

  • Squashes, Melons, Beans, Carrots, Corn

Fruit Trees

  • Peach, Nectarine, Cherry, Plum
  • Prunus species Pear-Pyrus species

Herbaceous Perennials

  • Bugleweed, Ajuga reptans
  • Hollyhock, Alcea rosea
  • American Wood Anemone, Anemone quinquefolia
  • Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum
  • European Wild Ginger, Asarum europaeum
  • Astilbe species
  • Bellflower, Campanula latifolia
  • **Chrysanthemum species (some)
  • Glory-of-the-Snow, Chionodoxa luciliae
  • Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica
  • Crocus species
  • Dutchman’s Breeches, Dicentra cucullaria
  • Leopard’s-Bane, Doronicum species
  • Crested Wood Fern, Dryopteris cristata
  • Spanish Bluebell, Endymion hispanicus
  • Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis
  • Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis
  • Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum
  • Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum
  • Cranesbill, Geranium sanguineum
  • Grasses (most) Gramineae family
  • Jerusalem Artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus
  • Common Daylily, Hemerocallis ‘Pluie de Feu’
  • Coral Bells, Heuchera x brizoides
  • Orange Hawkweed, Hieracium aurantiacum
  • Plantain-lily, Hosta fortunei ‘Glauca’
  • Hosta lancifolia
  • Hosta marginata
  • Hosta undulata ‘Variegata’
  • Common Hyacinth, Hyacinthus Orientalis ‘City of Haarlem’
  • Virginia Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum virginianum
  • Siberian Iris, Iris sibirica
  • Balm, Monarda didyma
  • Wild Bergamot, M. fistulosa
  • Grape Hyacinth, Muscari botryoides
  • Sweet Cicely, Myrrhis odorata ‘Yellow Cheerfulness,’ ‘Geranium,’ ‘Tete a Tete,’ ‘Sundial,’ and ‘February Gold’
  • Sundrops, Oenothera fruticosa
  • Senstitive Fern, Onoclea sensibilis
  • Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamomea
  • Peony, **Paeonia species (some)
  • Summer Phlox, Phlox paniculata
  • Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum
  • Jacob’s-Ladder, Polemonium reptans
  • Great Solomon’s-Seal, Polygonatum commutatum
  • Polyanthus Primrose, Primula x polyantha
  • Lungwort, Pulmonaria species
  • Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis
  • Siberian Squill, Scilla sibirica
  • Goldmoss Stonecrop, Sedum acre
  • Showy Sedum, Sedum spectabile
  • Lamb’s-Ear, Stachys byzantina
  • Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana
  • Nodding Trillium, Trillium cernuum
  • White Wake-Robin, Trillium grandiflorum
  • Tulipa Darwin ‘White Valcano’ and ‘Cum Laude,’ Parrot ‘Blue Parrot,’ Greigii ‘Toronto’
  • Big Merrybells, Uvularia grandiflora
  • Canada Violet, Viola canadensis
  • Horned Violet, Viola cornuta
  • Woolly Blue Violet, Viola sororia

*These are based upon observations and not from clinical tests.
**Cultivars of some species may do poorly.

Notice that there are 4 vegetable plant families under the “non-toxic” list. That allows for a full rotation according to usual planting practices. Jerusalem artichoke is also in there.

Shoot Pruning and Impact on Functional Equilibrium Between Shoots and Roots in Simultaneous Agroforestry Systems

http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/34870/InTech-Shoot_pruning_and_impact_on_functional_equilibrium_between_shoots_and_roots_in_simultaneous_agroforestry_systems.pdf

For that kind of intensive shoot pruning management (coppicing), it is important to select trees species that store adequate amounts of carbohydrates in the roots to provide the energy for resprouting and rapid regrowth of above ground parts. Shoot regrowth from other less intensive shoot pruning (pollarding or lopping) could be energetically supported from carbohydrate stores in stems and roots of the pruned tree stump.
The implications for associated crop management are several. Since shoot pruning removes competition for light between the tree and associated crop, it also provides a time window of almost one month when no competition in the soil can be expected between tree and crop roots for plant available nutrients. Transplanting of crop seedlings can then be made at shoot pruning to aid the early growth of seedlings. Depending on the needs of the crop, another shoot pruning of the agroforestry trees may be needed during the life of the crop, preferably before the onset of the reproductive phase of crop development.
Handarayan et al. (1997) suggested that the nitrogen mineralisation rate of prunings may be manipulated by mixing different quality materials such as high quality tree prunings of G. sepium and low-quality legume tree prunings such as Peltophorum dasyrachis (Miq.) Kurz. Pruning two weeks before transplanting vegetable seedlings and mulching with pruning may confer more efficient nutrient use on the agro-ecosystem.
The delay of hedge pruning until after the annual crop is established could result in greater water utilisation by the hedges and consequently, reduced evaporation.

Marc Bonfils

Marc Bonfils is a spiritual mentor of mine, and little did I realize that he had done some strange work on fodder trees. I’m including a number of documents of his as well.

http://www.permaculturefrance.org/fr/content/article/fodder-trees-temperate-climate-marc-bonfils

http://seedzen.wordpress.com/natural-farming-documents/natural-agriculture-documents-of-marc-bonfils/

http://www.moodie.biz/wheatsmith.html