Tuesday, November 10, 2009

todays adventures

today in class, i decide to take my notes in the form of drawings, with no words, and then to reconstruct the teachings that those drawings represented later. this way, i would be forced to rephrase the teachings, and then i would retain the information much better than if i had just read it off a page. heres what i learned today. we started the day with definitions and examples of some of the principles of permaculture. some of those principles are using location to take advantage of beneficial relationships, meeting every need in a variety of ways, taking advantage of all the multiple functions of any one element, and functional interconnectedness. i drew a picture for functional interconnectedness with a circle of blue dots surrounded by a circle of orange dots. each orange dot is connected to several other blue dots, and each vice versa. the two colors represent elements and needs, meaning that every element supplies several different needs, and every need is met by several different elements. in this kind of system, all the parts are interconnected, and if one is lost the others are still able to be sustained because their needs are met in other ways. all the principles we learned today really boil down to this idea, that what we are designing is a system where all the elements form an interconnected web, just like in nature where a tree grows and provides shade for animals and the shade keeps the moisture in the ground so ground covers can grow and the ground cover is food for the animals who provide manure for the plants and everything gives and recieves and supports each other. i am quickly seeing what ethan was talking about, that there is far more collaboration in nature than there is competition. we have been looking for competition, and so we found it, because it is there, but we didnt see all the wonderful collaboration. all the plants collaborate to make the soil, they feed the animals which fertilized the soil, aerate, each organism meeting its needs and providing elements needed by other organisms. our goal is to design that kind of complex, resilient, interconnected system.
my next drawing represents the concept of zones of use. this is a really useful design tool. i represented it with a set of concentric circles in rainbow colors. the first circle, which is black, is zone 0 and represents the home, the dwelling place, the center from which you live, the place you spend most of your time. the next circle out, close to the home, is zone 2. this is the zone where you would put ecosystems that require extensive care and that will get very frequent use. this is where you would put your cooking herbs, perhaps some small fruit trees. nothing big, and no loud animals. you might keep rabbits in this zone, but not chickens for example. if you kept some dwarf fruit trees, you might graft a few varieties onto one tree to extend the period when you have ripe fruit. in zone 3 a little farther out, you place elements that need some management, but not as much, or get used somewhat less. this might be your vegetable garden, a pond, or a food forest. all these things will get visited frequently so you want them close, but they need more space than in zone 1. in zone 3, you would put elements that need infrequent management, such as pastures for animals, fruit orchards, or stable crops. all these things will only need care once a week or so, so they can be a little farther out. in zone 4, you have your elements that need very infrequent care. this is a good place for agroforestry, where you can plant trees and leave them and only need to come back to harvest. you could plant fruit trees, nut trees, or bamboo and trees for lumber. zone 5 is the untouched natural world, a vital element of the design that is used for inspiration, for connecting to nature, to replenish and regenerate and to get ideas for designs. it is important to have natural areas to observe so that you can mimic those natural systems. this tool does not only apply to farms. you could use it to design a kitchen, thinking what gets used the most, where the center is, and what should be left on the periphery. i was thinking about how to use this tool to organize my goals for my education also. what goals are most central to my life's plan? what is going to require the most care and management? which things can i start and then leave to take care of themselves/ these are fascinating questions to think about.
my next drawing describes the process of succession, in which bare earth is slowly taken over by organic matter, soil created, and a forest grows. the process starts with small grasses and weeds. this covering keeps some sun sun off the bare ground, so it can retain a little moisture. when these plants start to die, they decompose and make a layer of soil, which holds more moisture. over time these grasses become taller, providing more shade and allowing other species to grow. the soil gets thicker and wetter, the shade is thicker, temperatures decrease and moisture collects. eventually small shrubs and trees grow, first very densely, and then as the trees get taller and larger start to thin out. as the trees get tall and there is space, small plants begin to grow and an understory is created. the trees continue to get bigger and the vegetation thicker, creating homes for animals and insects and all kinds of organisms. ethan told us that there is no limit to this process, that although ecologists used to think that there was a natural ceiling past which succession would level off, studies have shown that theoretically, the process can continue indefinitely.
my last drawing is a representation of a design process. the first picture is a brain, representing the stage in which you formulate your goals. what do i want to get out of this project? the next picture is an eye, representing the phase of site evaluation and resource evaluation. this is where we see what we have to work with, what materials are available, and what space we are working with. we would also observe other factors of the environment, such as weather and soil quality. the next picture is a drawing plan, representing the design phase. in this phase, we integrate the goals and the assesment of the site to design a plan that will use the site and the available resources to meet those goals. the next picture is a hand, representing the implementation of the design. in this phase, you do the work to bring the design out into the world. the next picture is a question mark, representing the phase of evaluation. in this phase, we look at the project and say did that meet the goals? how well? what could have been done better? what was succesfull? the process makes a circle, because you can then go back create new goals based on your evaluation of your design. this process can be applied, and basically is applied to everything you do in life. ethan described how this process is used in making a sandwhich. my goal is to feed myself, so i asess whats in the refrigerator. i then design my sandwich and implement it. as im eating it, i evaluate, and ask whether it met my goals. if im still hungry, ill design a smoothie. if not, maybe im tired, and then i'll design and implement a nice long nap.
all this stuff was really fascinating, and its really only a fraction of everything i learned today. i learned a lot from watching, from watching and listening to nature, from observing ethan and dyami to see how they teach (both of them are really wonderful teachers) from observing all the other people in the course and on the farm, by talking to people and learning about their lives. i think that this trip will be the most packed learning experience ive ever had, and im very very excited. i have so many ideas buzzing through my head about all the amazing permaculture projects i could design. i want to design my parents yard at home, i want to fill the rose garden with edibles, im seriously considering doing this as a career. this is really revolutionary stuff. its really a big piece of the puzzle, and its making really big change. we saw a slideshow today that was absolutely amazing. there was a huge refugee camp in macedonia, fifty thousand kosovo refugees, and to create it they bulldozed a huge section of forest and set up tents. when the camp was abondoned, the land was ruined, totally trashed.some permaculturists were working there with the refugees and managed to get a lot of funding to do a project on site, they taught a course to the local townspeople, including some refugees who had stayed, the same course that i am taking now. in the course of this course, they designed a project for this huge site.with the help of their teachers and lot of grant funding, they built their design plan, carving huge swales into the hillside and planting diverse food forests on them. they built strawbale buildings, a community center, a peace camp for kids, and others. the site is now an extensive and beautiful permaculture garden, which in its first year was able to produce 3.5 tons of tomatoes, which were sold at market, starting to create economic sustainability for the people. this was so inspirational to me. that is revolution, giving people the tools they need to be self sufficient in the long term, helping them to resist corporate globalization and to provide for their own needs. i highly encourage everyone to consider taking this course, even if you have no interest in farming. it is so important for the world that as many people as possible learn these things.
as always, i want to send my love to all my loved ones. i think of you frequently and fondly and i wish you all the best in your beautiful lives. may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live a life of ease and joy. namaste

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