Previously we have looked at the ethics of Permaculture which are:
Now we will start to look at the principles of Permaculture. Remember that Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human habitat.
In designing we use a number of principals to establish a system to create sustainability; which is the ability of the system to continue indefinitely without continual inputs from outside of the system and without it creating pollution (unused waste).
The first principle for designing any system is observation. This is essential for the gathering of information needed to create a system which can become sustainable. Observation is not time wasted as some may think.
It is a good idea to observe a new site for at least a year before making any significant changes to it. During this time a lot of valuable information can be collected and recorded such as:
You're starting to get the idea. The more information about your site and the locality you can get the better your end design is likely to be.
Information can come from many different sources & forms. For geographical information like landforms, water courses & weather, maps are useful. Also the Bureau of Meteorology (or whatever your local weather forecast/watchers are called) is a good source of information about general weather conditions such as annual rainfall & wind patterns in your area. Talk to long time locals and people with nice gardens. These people are a rich source of information about what grows well or doesn't, when bugs are about, what freak events have happened like the year there was a hail storm or it snowed most uncharacteristically. Libraries will often have useful historical information as well as more general info on subjects like 'life in the tropics' or whatever may be relevant to your situation. Of course, the Internet is another fantastic source of information on every imaginable topic with products & experts abounding.
There are many different forms of information you will collect to help you design your system for sustainability. It's important to record your observations so you can refer to it when the time comes to actually develop your working plan.
Keep a folder or file with things like papers and photos in it. Eventually, you'll want to develop a physical site plan using the information you have collected. There are many ways of doing this.
A good method is to start with a basic site map drawn to scale. You can do this on graph paper quite easily. Include all the boundaries and fixed objects like buildings, large rocks, watercourses, trees, hills, dams etc.
Build up your plan with a series of transparent overlays so you can look at each system independently as well as in combination. For example you could have one overlay which shows only the water flows, both existing and where you want it to be. Use different colours to differentiate between what exists & what you want. Mark on it where your plumbing is, taps, natural water catchments & flows, rainwater tanks, wells, springs, bores, irrigation systems etc. Everything to do with water on your site. You may also include information about significant water influences off your site such as the beach across the road etc. in the margins.
Each overlay will give you a comprehensive view of your system as it is and as it will become when you finally put all the information you have collected into the planning of the site. Use one overlay to show each of the important elements of your plan i.e. energy systems, nutrient flows, water flows, vegetation, infrastructures etc. This way you will easily be able to work on one part of the plan at a time when it comes to implementing it on the ground.
Perhaps you think that this sort of detailed observation and recording of information isn't necessary because you only live in a small city apartment or you want to apply Permaculture to your business. Thoughtful observation remains the most valuable first step in planning for greater sustainability in any situation. It is an invaluable practice which will serve you well in any pursuit.
To read other articles on Permaculture visit the archives.
If you want more in depth information on Permaculture look at any of the books available on the subject particularly those written by David Holmgren or Bill Mollison who were the original co creators of the system.
Many books are available through Amazon below.
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