Final Course Topics

 I’ll bet you thought I had forgotten to finish the course outline topics. I didn’t! I just got to it and lumped the rest of the topics together here.  Just wade on it if you want.

 Most of these are big topics that I am skimming. If you know more/have input, please chime in.

 Shelter / Structures:
 While it would be nice if we could all wave a magic wand and have
 perfectly south facing, passive solar, super insulated homes, most of us
 are stuck with our current dwellings which need serious retrofitting.  Maybe we need to give up our energy-hog single family dwellings and  consider a group housing situation that would still meet our personal needs. Maybe not. There are options that fit every need.
 Bob Waldrop’s info on retrofitting his OKC home and property (Bob is a pretty cool guy):
 Bob has self-published his EXTENSIVE permaculture design for his homestead
 Also, Bob’s Better Times site is chock full of great ideas
 Topics to consider when retrofitting/designing:
 About co-housing (and a website devoted to intentional communities):

 Fuel / Technology Agroforestry, fuelwood, charcoal, reforestation,
 Appropriate technology, tools, transportation, computer tech, alternative
 New technologies are great and can help, but a very important part of the
 fix to the mess we are in is conservation. Conservation ties in with the previous topic of
 retrofitting our homes to use less energy but it goes deeper and  the concepts of frugality and voluntary austerity can be pretty cool if viewed differently than advertisers and corporations would like us to see them.

 I was talking to a gardening group last week and had a question about our solar panels and cloudy days. I answered, that yes, sometimes we go without lots of lights or computer or TV when it is going to be cloudy the next day. I saw some sour faces at the thought of such horrors. What I wasn’t sharp enough to say at the time was that instead of those missing those things, we sit  and read to each other or have silly writing contests or just talk instead. It really isn’t such a bad trade off.
 Here are some links from Peak Oil Hausfrau (also from OKC) on wood burning:
 If you haven’t visited the oil drum…well you might feel like you been
 missing all the fun:
 I think I posted the link for The Farm’s Institute for Appropriate
 Technology, but here it is worth repeating:
 How about a “no-fossil fuel” community?? Might be fun:
 Problems with biofuels:
 People care, Adapting in place stay/go?, inventory, resources, needs, family
 considerations, meeting needs

 Adapting in place is a concept that I have embraced, for better or worse.
 Sharon Astyk’s courses are outstanding if you want to learn more.
 Here is a post she wrote for the oil drum:
 And this is a nice blog that follows the process:
 Pc for renters…the folks at Automatic Earth contend that if you don’t
 own your home outright, you might be better off renting. This is a hard concept for nesters like me but in these turbulent times, who knows.
 And as permaculture is appropriate for any scale, an apartment balcony is
 a fine place to put down some roots, if only for a while (or take them with you in pots.
 Also, the chapter on urban permaculture in the second edition of Gaia’s Garden
 really addresses how the benefits of city life can be discovered and fully

 Community, conflict resolution, consensus building, diversity, arts,
 sharing surpluses, food security , open space events, shareholders,
 visioning, Money Alternative economies (bartering, currencies)
 For these topics, you can’t do better that THE TRANSITION HANDBOOK by Rob
 Hopkins. I dare anyone to read what Rob has to say and not
 be motivated to act!

 And a couple more links on money


 Health, alternative health,  Education
These are both  personal and societal topics. Tricky combination! I’m not going to get into it any further other than to say that I think we can all agree that the current arrangement in our educational and health care systems would not meet the criteria of a good permaculture design. Each of us can find some leverage points to make change happen, even if it is only on a personal level.  Zone 0 is where we know we can exert a strong influence.




Whew! Did you get through all that? Of course! Now, let’s keep working on living regenerative lives. I loved what Toby said about a `sustainable marriage’…how dull…let’s make things better with every action.

Peace and much love,



Here are a couple recent ‘Sharon’ links:

First: City goats!


Second: A really nice post with specific plants listed for edible borders (or
any where). Sun and shade species listed.


Have you looked into the rules on keeping chickens or goats in your area? Hens
are ok in Lynchburg. I don’t know about goats. My kids said they saw a donkey in
a backyard over by LC a couple years ago.
What would work with nearby neighbors???
No one would ever know you had worms.
Bees are easy in cities or neighborhoods.
Aquaculture is certainly a choice as well.
Bunnies are quiet and produce excellent poop.
Any other ideas?

Animals in Pc Systems

Time to talk about animals today and although I do have some qualifications to speak in this area, I am going to let two others do it instead.
Also, remember the post a while ago about the permaculture hen…her needs and yields analysis. The same kind of thinking that works for other functions and elements works with animals, though we do have to consider their comfort in our plans.
Oh, I did say two people, but we can’t leave out Joel Salatin, so here goes.
Joel’s website…has some information on the farm and also is a marketing tool for his products, books and philosophy. He really must be seen giving a talk to be fully appreciated. His books, however, are pretty darn good.
Now, a post from Sharon Astyk’s blog about animals:
and, saving what I think is best for last…
This is a post where someone was answering a question about which animals are useful in permaculture designs. While the answerer does have biases toward/against some animals, it is worth the read..all of it.
On a permaculture farm, everything should be in balance. One thing should
feed/support the next.

I’m in the U.S.A., in the Pacific Northwest. So our climate/seasons are
very much the same. The main difference is on my farm I have predators you
do not have in the U.K.

So the chickens have free range of the entire farm (currently 40 acres,
hopefully 80 acres soon). They spend most of their time in the orchard

The chickens provide such good pest control, even climbing the trees for
bugs, not a single chemical has been used in the orchard the entire 11
years we’ve owned the farm. The apples, pears, and plumbs are perfect, no
insect blemishes of any kind.

The rabbit hutches are in a long row in the center of the most mature
trees on the farm (30-40 year old trees). The trees provide the shade the
rabbits need to keep cool in the summer. The chickens spread the rabbit
manure about and fertilize the trees.

The chickens also eat any fly larva in the rabbit manure, so our rabbits
are not plagued with flies. They also eat any of the food the rabbits
drop, so rats are not attracted to the hutches.

A bin is under one of the hutches to capture the manure, and we have worms
there (vermaculture). This rich mix of manure and worms is spread on our
food garden areas, and of course the chickens go wild for a shovel full of
it because of the worms.

When rotten alfalfa (hay), straw and manure are brought to the orchard, it
can be dumped in piles. The chickens will go wild spreading it about, and
eating any insects, or insect eggs in the compost.

Our hens are able to forage so much food for themselves that most of the
year the flock of 25 hens only gets 1-2 cups of cracked corn in the
evening. It’s not because they need it, but because we want them all to
come in for the night because of raccoons, possums, coyotes, and owls.
Their eggs are so rich, the yokes are nearly orange in color. Commercial
eggs at the grocery store only have yellow yokes because of dye they feed
the hens, otherwise they would have virtually no color. Not sure about the

Our sheep are turned into the orchard once or twice a year to eat any
weeds. Early spring works best, when the weeds are the tastiest for the
sheep. Just watch them to make sure they don’t go for the bark of the
fruit trees.

Our main livestock on the farm are meat goats (Boer breed). The goats have
removed virtually every single weed and bramble on the property. This
leaves more pasture/fodder for the horses, sheep, and the eventual cattle
we will have.

The sheep & goats have Great Pyrenees which live with them 24/7, to
protect the herd from predators. We have a freakishly large coyote pack
which comes and hunts our farm, about 30 coyotes strong. The Pyrenees have
also prevented bald eagles from snatching newborn lambs & kids twice now
that I’ve seen with my own eyes, and probably more times that I have not.

The rabbits are used to feed humans, but also to supplement the dogs diet,
since commercial kibble is now almost entirely made from corn. The
Pyrenees are also fed goats or sheep which might die. I was completely
revolted by that idea when it was first put forth to me. Yet it is a
natural cycle in nature. Also, even on the very best run farms, you have
about a 10% death rate of your sheep and goats, mostly kids under three
months. This prevents a farmer from having to compost, bury or otherwise
dispose of dead livestock.

It also means the precious trace minerals contained in the bones, and fur
of the livestock never leave the farm. They are returned back to the soil
here. Most farms have those minerals stripped from them over and over
again as livestock is sold off, and dead animals are shipped off for
someone else to deal with.

Our soil grows year after year, and we have a thriving
bacterial/microscopic life in our soil, not seen on farms which use

For a small farm, I would only get a duel purpose cattle, which can both
be milked and used for meat. Small farmers can rarely afford both. I would
go with Shorthorns, Belted Galloway, or possibly Dexter cattle in my area.
For just a milking cow, I would go Jersey. For just a beefer for a small
farm, I go with West Highlands. Fiesian cattle are called Holsteins here
in the U.S. They are complete crap, with 98% of them being butchered by
age four, because they are already burned out and at the end of their

I would always run goats after the cattle, so the goats would eat the
weeds the cattle left behind. That way your fields do not become overrun
with weeds.

Geese are the best watchdogs ever. Nothing gets past them. I don’t like to
eat them. They do mow the grass nicely, but leave poop everywhere. Geese
have no-place on my farm.

Ducks are messier than geese. We have a large pond, over 1/2 an acre in
size we will be stocking with fish. We do not wish to fill the water with
poop from geese and ducks. Khaki Campbells will outlay chickens, if you
like eating duck eggs. Ducks have no place on our permaculture farm.

Over the last 4 years we have planted over twelve thousand native trees.
Those trees will be our eventual woodlot, since we heat our home with
wood. The trees will also provide habitat for the turkeys we plan to get.
We will probably go with Bronze Breasted. They will be able to forage for
themselves, with minimal food to keep them nearby and use to humans. The
woodland habitat will be perfect for them. So not only will our woodlot
provide wood to heat our home, clean air for all to breath, a way to soak
up extra water in our damp climate, but they will also provide a place to
raise a food source for us. The turkeys should be able to reproduce
themselves, and indeed may need to be watched to make sure they do not
over produce.

We will also be releasing pheasants and such, mostly because we enjoy
watching them, but also to harvest a few here and there.

Our farm is already a thriving habitat for native wild birds, everything
from hummingbirds, to the trumpetor swans which overwinter here. Obviously
those birds are not food sources, but they are part of the natural cycles
of a permaculture farm.

LLamas & alpacas have no place on our farm. They can leap 9 foot fences if
they desire, and provide nothing except fiber. Certainly their flesh can
be eaten, but your neighbors would freak out to hear about your llama

If I want fiber animals I’ll stick with wool sheep, and angora goats. Both
are much easier to fence, control, handle and shear. They also do not
spit, nor stomp you with their front feet, unlike the camalids (llamas &

For pigs we want Large Blacks, or possibly Old Spots. The pigs will have a
very large paddock, right next to our food garden. Any spoiled food, or
old vines already harvested will simply be tossed over the fence to the
pigs. The pigs and the garden spot will swap places every year. That way
the pigs will root up any insects trying to gain a foothold in the garden
and expose the eggs or eat them. They will also add their own manure, and
churn in hay and straw we give them. They will also find anything we
missed harvesting, like potatoes or carrots. That way diseases will not
build up to kill the plants next time they are planted.

I have 8 horses. Three are Friesians, two Arabs, one Belgium Draft horse
mare, an Apolossa, and a large pony I rescued. Five of my horses are
rescue horses actually. I’m a sucker when it comes to horses and I have
too many of them, for my actual farm needs. Everyone has a weak point,
horses are mine.

Rheas, ostrich, and emus have no place on our farm. Some can kill an adult
person, all can kill a child. There isn’t enough meat on them to be worth
it. Their feathers can sell for a lot, but again, not worth it. Their eggs
can sell for a lot to people who do egg crafts, but cheap ones come from
Africa & China. You probably cannot raise the birds and sell the eggs for
what you would need them to bring in. No place for these dangerous birds
on our farm.

Deer also have no place on our farm. The wild deer can carry diseases to
my goats and sheep, as well as to humans (via their ticks). It might also
shock you to learn that more people are killed by captive raised deer
every year than any other form of livestock. Again, just too dangerous,
and needing too much expensive equipment to handle them. If I were
insanely wealthy, with vastly more land, I do admit I would be tempted to
have a small herd of Fallow deer (yes we can get them in the U.S.A.). They
would not be handled by humans, and they would be harvested via a riffle
shot. Deer are fantastically dangerous to handle up close and personal.

For bees we make homes for our native orchard mason bees. I think you have
them in the U.K. as well. They are much better than commercial honey bees.
Of course you do not get any honey or wax. There’s virtually zero work
with the native bees though, and they are ever so much better at
pollinating the plants. They also rarely sting. The males cannot sting.
I’m in my 40’s and have yet to be stung by one. I had my hand right over a
female too. All she did was buzz about noisily and wiggle, until I moved
my hand off of her.

Do not forget to try and have aquaculture (fish) if you possibly can.
Think about the damage an animal can do to you as well. A good dairy goat
will produce more milk on less food than a dairy cow (pound per pound). A
dairy goat cannot kick your face off if she gets mad at you. I’ve seen
what happens when a cow takes a mind to give you a good kick.

Dogs can be extremely important to a permaculture farm. We need livestock
guardian dogs, the Great Pyrenees. I also have a herding dog for helping
with the herds. I also HIGHLY recommend a 25-15 pound terrier type dog.
Large enough to take on a fox, badger, weasel, skunk, raccoon, ect, yet
small enough to get in and go places a rat might try to sneak about and

Cats are also important for rodent control.

We have barn owls which hunt our farm every night, as well as great horned
owls. Great horned owls are large enough to take a cat, or newborn
kid/lamb. We’ve never had a loss to an owl that I am aware of.

Always take advantage of the native wildlife. One evening of sitting and
watching the barn owls hunt, the pair was catching a rodent about every 20
minutes. Can you imagine how many rodents that is in a breeding season?
And you don’t have to pay for it!

We have lots of bats as well. I do not put up homes for them. I’m afraid
our cats would learn to catch and kill them at bat houses. I just let them
do their own bat thing. Simply amazing to watch them flying over our pond
and fields and realize just how many insects they are eating.

Honestly, I could go on, and on about the permaculture topic, but I’m
tired and need to go to bed before I begin to ramble too much. Hope this
helps you some.


Have a great day!


Time to look at some more topics. (FYI I am working through the outline for a PDC course I posted back in December. I’ll paste it at the bottom of this message so you can see where we have left to cover.)

Let’s get to the WATER section…It’s dry now and I hope we have a wet Spring or we are going to have a heck of a summer.

So we need to concentrate on using what we’ve got really wisely and trying to keep what get given to us.



Well, what do we have?

Most of us have clean, safe water pouring out of our taps whenever we want. We don’t even give it a thought. For those of us with wells, we sometimes have to deal with re-drilling or replacing a pump. For those of us on city water, we get to taste the chlorine, pay the bills and hope the water department does their job right.

BUT what if either of those sources dried up? Do you have some potable water stored? Enough for a few weeks? How would you flush those toilets even if you observe the old adage: If its yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down? How smelly are you comfortable getting before you have a sponge bath? How are you going to water you garden let alone your prized landscape plants or lawn (yes, I am shuddering while typing that last bit)?

How much water runs off your land when rains turn into downpours? Does it take some topsoil with it?


Conservation is, of course, essential even when we are awash in water. Clean water is a precious thing. My sister Kelly, in Haiti, challenges us all to try and live with `Haitian’ water conditions. Try this for a day…walk a mile, fill up a 5 gallon bucket of water (weight=40#), carry back a mile. Use that amount for all your water needs for the day. Oh yeah, remember, it most likely carries Cholera and could kill you without treatment.


So let’s not take our water for granted. Use it carefully.

What’s the difference between GREYWATER and BLACKWATER?

Greywater is all your household water that doesn’t contain toilet water. I hesitate to call it waste water because it shouldn’t be wasted. Grey water is safe to use following these guidelines:



Black water has fecal or grease contamination and requires treatment to be safely used. This is generally beyond home scope unless you have a composting toilet.  Permaculture methods using reed beds or wetlands to treat raw sewage and turn it into useful plant and animal products as well as clean water need to be more widely implemented.



Remember, that flushing urine down your toilet with potable water is completely crazy. As you flush with clean, potable water, you are taking a sterile nitrogen source and turning it into a pollutant. That is crazy.



I’ve posted rainwater harvesting links before but in addition to storing rainwater in containers like rain barrels or cisterns, we shouldn’t over look the storage capacity of soil. Soil high in organic material holds more moisture. Mulches slow down evaporation and swales hold onto water so it can soak into your ground. Holding all this water in your soil will help with the CSO problem in L-burg and keep your topsoil where you want it, on your land, not in the Chesapeake Bay.


And a couple other nice bits of info:



In a natural system there is no waste or pollution – the output from one natural process is always the resource for another natural process. Recycle and reuse your local resources as many times as possible within a polycultural system.

Recycle nutrients on-site (eg food scraps to compost) so that you do not need to import expensive fertiliser. Also use your wastewater to water and fertilise plants – therefore not creating polluting runoff into nearby waterways. Plant roots take up these nutrients and turn them into food, in the process cleansing the water.



Rainwater Harvesting
In permaculture we strive to design buildings and landscapes to absorb rainwater. This is not only a good idea for dry climates, but is also very important in places with plentiful moisture. Why? Rainwater is best used when it is allowed to infiltrate the soil. There it is available to plants, it is cleansed and enters the groundwater or returns to the hydrological cycle. Rainwater harvesting is an alternative to designing our outdoor environments to get rid of water – where it rushes down hillsides, streets or roadways. This is how soil erosion begins and pollutants get washed into waterways. In some circles, there is a distinction between rainwater harvesting (meaning direction rainwater and runoff towards planted areas for infiltration); and rainwater catchment where water is actually captured from roofs or other hard surfaces and is stored in cisterns. The former is simpler and less costly, the latter allows you to have access to water during dry spells, but may be more expensive.


And in case you haven’t see  the permaculture punk rock blog…



Water is a core design element. It performs vital functions with can be nicely stacked (ie: you boil pasta, save the water, let it cool and water the seedlings on your windowsill…all without leaving the kitchen OR you wash your dishes, save the wash and rinse water and flush your toilet). It is pretty easy and I think good water design starts with realizing how precious it is.

Here’s a bit on Yeomans Scale of Permanence. Note what’s said about water:

Yeoman’s Relative Permanence scale and Keyline Planning

This proposes that there are scales of permanence that guide the order in which we place attention to the design of the landscape. The first point at which we can generally make an intervention is water (since we cannot control the climate, or determine the broadscale landscape.) On this basis, the first thing to do when designing is to consider how we can guide and use water to best effect, and how we can get it to perform as many functions as possible before it leaves the site. P.A. Yeoman was an Australian who developed the Keyline System, and this has been used widely to good effect, and has transformed many previously degraded landscapes. It is a key strategy used within broadscale permaculture design. His scale of permanence is:

1.    Climate

2.    Land shape

3.    Water

4.    Roads

5.    Trees

6.    Buildings

7.    Fences and boundaries

8.    Soil


Right. Maybe we’ll have a damp August, but I doubt it. What’s your plan?


PDC outline:

Permaculture basics


Introduction to Permaculture and the current state of affairs global environmental state, peak everything, Pc history and evolution


Permaculture Ethics Care for the Earth, Care for people, Fair Share http://permacultureprinciples.com/ethics.php


Elements of Conscious Design


Permaculture  Design Principles sustainable agriculture,  energy conservation, entropy, using natural ecosystems as models, problems as opportunities, stacking functions, zone, sector, slope,climate, microclimates appropriate scale, local solutions http://permacultureprinciples.com/principles.php

Design components windbreaks, hedgerows, fire based systems, fencing, shade, swales, succession, guilds, keylines, topography, water management, buildings, animals, people http://romanyrest.net/elements.aspx

The design process “long and thoughtful observation”, visioning, ideation, feasibility, time-scale, drawing, winnowing, refining, implementation, evolution http://transition.putney.net/index.php?ID=51

Basic Needs

Food Edible landscaping, low energy food production, annuals vs. perennials, cash crops, gardening strategies, orchards , forest gardens, guilds, sheet mulching, community food solutions-csa,etc, biomass recycling, vermicomposting, composting-fast/slow, trees, soil, harvest, storage, preservation, Greenhouse agriculture


Water/Waste greywater, blackwater, capturing and reusing water, rainwater, water conservation,  waste management, nutrient cycling,


Animals wild, domestic, IPM, heritage breeds, forage, animal energy and pattern, aquatic crops and aquaculture


Shelter / Structures siting principles, passive/active solar, wind and water power, retrofitting, natural buildings, land use planning, building codes, co-housing

Fuel / Technology Agroforestry, fuelwood, charcoal, reforestation, Appropriate technology, tools, transportation, computer tech, alternative fuels


People care

Adapting in place stay/go?, inventory, resources, needs, family considerations, meeting needs

Pc for renters

Community conflict resolution, consensus building, diversity, arts, sharing surpluses, food security , open space events, shareholders, visioning

Money Alternative economies (bartering, currencies)

Health alternative  health



More topics of interest to designers and assignment for our worm/bird specialist.

Peg-what do you have to offer up on worm composting? I know you’ve done your research.

 Also since I know you are a birdwatcher, what do you suggest to attract and encourage bird helpers in the garden? Which species and types of houses?

And…Burks-pages 99-102 in Gaia’s Gardens is all about swales. I also have some small ones around here that catch water and next time we all get together, we can use scrap wood to build our own A-frame levels.

Ok , places to look for more information:

-Gaia’s Garden: part two (pieces of the ecological garden) and part three (assembling the ecological garden) is chock full of great ideas!


-Urban homesteading


-radical homesteading, not really that radical but the whole website is gung ho!  http://www.verdant.net/food.htm


-perennial vegetables

Nice short article on pc edible idea


THE book on perennial veggies


This article includes a list of perennial foods



-seed starting…including this pc version of growing media:

Growing medium is basically the medium (the “stuff”) that you grow your plants in. Plants do grow in various materials, from their natural soil to a range of man-made potting mixes. The textbooks will insist that you specifically use “seed raising mix”, you can find small bags of this in commercial stores, and it’s fairly expensive, but the reality is that you don’t need it. Seriously, a lot of it is just plain bunkum. Seeds have been naturally falling on soil and sprouting without human intervention for the last few million years before commercial seed raising mix was ever thought up. From personal experience, I find that in practice you can use virtually anything that plants will grow in to raise seeds in.



more on sheet mulching




-Food storage/preservation

You may or may not know, I am a Sharon Astyk fan. Her online course for food storage is very good as are her garden design and adapting in place classes.  (if you are interested, I saved most of the material from the classes I took. I can send it to you)

Her blogs are at:



And her book on food storage:




-Composting, aquaculture and worms…article and mp3



-Growing Power-urban farming and doing good things doesn’t get much better than this!

Lynchburg Grows is a growing power partner and has similar set ups. Oh yeah, worms here too.



-And we really do have to go here…




That’s all for now!



Links for your tool bag

Now that you’ve got the idea of the why and how of design, it is time to fill up your tool bag.

Over the next week or so, I’m going to post a bunch of links that explain different techniques and topics.  This will be a broad and incomplete overview.

When you get out there to actually dig a swale or mound up your herb spiral, you’ll need to go back over the details. But for now, I thought it would be nice to learn about some elements and the functions they perform. 

This is one of the great things about permaculture…it’s perfectly fine to take WHAT WORKS from wherever and whenever. Some of these methods are ancient, some are modern…doesn’t matter; just use them to create connections.

Concise description of ecosystems (yes, it talks about Alberta but I’m
sure you can extrapolate)

Climate versus weather








A video on swales by Geoff Lawton (all Lawton’s videos are great)



Herb spiral (we could do this!)



Rainwater harvesting. This is Brad Lancaster’s page and it is loaded with information and I highly recommend his books. Though they have `drylands’ in the title, they apply perfectly to Virginia (think August)



Rainbarrel info from someone that looks like they might have done it right. You can do it easier by just plunking a barrel under a spout, but there are problems with this method too.



Utilizing Succession in designs



Keyline design (this is hard to apply on a small scale, but it’s nice to know what it is)



 Another nice course outline with exercises, links and great info:


Have fun!


To be accurate, no design is ever really ‘done’.
But Kevin found these links:

The first one is a blog post with a design map that you can click on to enlarge.
Nice detail!


This second one is the link to how the design was implemented. Now, the presence
of a group of students, heavy machinery and tropical paradise *may not* apply to
all installations but my point is to bring to light how the plan goes from paper
to the ground.