Monday, April 13, 2015

Design and Consultation

I am now offering permaculture design and consultation services.  I made a page that explains more about it that you can access by clicking the tab above that says "Design and Consultation" or by clicking this link.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Spring Updates

Hectic!  That has been the last few weeks for me.  Between travelling up to Seattle to see friends and family, sickness, celebrations, and some personal matters, I haven't had much time or energy to work in the yard or update this blog.

But, things have finally settled down enough for a few other developments to become worth writing about.  Work in the yard is slowly starting up again, and I think I'm finally starting to see a good holistic design for our 1.5 acres.  With spring seemingly here already, it's time to really get started with implementing some systems on my land.

Chickens, I think, will be the first priority.  I'm planning a lot of garden space in our front yard, and getting chickens first will allow me to enlist their help with prepping the garden areas I'm planning.  I'm also planning on slowly but surely adding some food hedges around the border of our property, so that I can occasionally free-range the chickens, add a little more privacy to our property, and utilize the edge as well as possible to produce edible perennial fruits, berries, nuts, and groundcover.

Lastly, and perhaps most excitingly, I interviewed for a job almost 2 weeks ago that I think will help out with my homesteading projects quite a bit, and I begin work today.  It is essentially a feed store and nursery like any other, but it is also unique in that the owner is a permaculture designer, and seemingly everything the store does is geared towards the values that permaculturists hold rather than the traditional small-scale ag model that most feed stores follow.  Since being offered the job there, I've been thinking about it a lot and I think it'll be the perfect opportunity to get my hands dirty and really start learning and experiencing the application side of permaculture, and not just the theory.  My co-workers sound like they will be amazing resources that I can learn quite a lot from.  I think working there and getting to interact with so many like minded customers and co-workers will benefit me in a way that is far more valuable than just a paycheck.  That said, having a little extra cash to offset the cost of what I'll be spending in the same store doesn't hurt either.  Overall, it's a strategic decision for me.  It doesn't pay much at all (for now), but what I'll gain in connections, knowledge, and experience will be far more valuable in the long run that what I'd earn in wages.  Also in the long run, I think this company could end up being a long-term career for me.  As I gain knowledge and experience there, and synthesize it with my retail experience, I think I'll be able to benefit the company quite a lot, perhaps to the point where they are able to offer me a more lucrative position sometime down the road.

My ultimate life goal is and always has been to create and live on a sustainable permaculture homestead.  Whether or not this company turns out to offer a long-term career, it will benefit the projects I'm working on at home thanks to increased knowledge, experience, and cash flow (with a small discount to boot!).  If I'm able to help grow their business the way I think I can, that will also benefit the local food growers in my area, which benefits me and the community as a whole as well.  All in all, I think working there will be an awesome win-win situation, and I look forward to the opportunity if it is offered to me.

I'll keep everyone posted about my projects and job opportunities as I can.  I'll also try to make sure one of my next few posts is something meaty that can help you accomplish a project of your own, and not just an update about what's going on with my Permie Homestead.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Winter Illness

Something I forgot about this time of year is that it's cold and flu season.  I've been hit hard this last week with a flu, and I've been relying on some of my pre-written posts to fill in.  Well, I have overslept the last couple of days trying to feel better, and forgot to schedule a post for yesterday morning.  So, I'm writing this post to let everyone know that I'm resting up one more day, and going to resume the regularly scheduled posts tomorrow.

Some of my own quick tips for feeling better if you're sick this winter:

I use a homemade vapor rub on my chest at night to help clear my breathing passages.  It's much better than the name brand stuff.

Gypsy Cold Care Tea is a delicious tea that helps me feel better.  Once my herb garden starts this spring, I'm going to try to develop a homemade tea recipe that simulates this one, and I'll share that when I do.

Lastly, we went through plenty of cough drops this time around.  I haven't tried it before, but I found this recipe for homemade cough drops and I want to make some up the next time I'm starting to feel sick (by the time I found the recipe I was too sick feeling for DIY).  I'll review my efforts on the blog here too.

Anyway, sorry for the late post.  If you're feeling sick too, maybe those links can help you feel a little bit better.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ethical Abundance Permaculture Design

As I mentioned in last Monday's post, I'm working on starting a permaculture design firm that will serve the I-5 corridor from Seattle to Portland.  I'm planning on naming that business something like the title of this post, and offering permaculture design for properties as small as urban lots, and as large as 40+ acres.  Once I get an office location outside of my home, I also plan to retail select tools, books, and implementation services.

Eventually I'd like to branch out into having an officially licensed and contracted landscaping division, an educational department, and perhaps a larger piece of property which will serve as community farm, demonstration site, employee and family housing (for those who are interested), and educational campus.  As my company grows, so will the permaculture industry in the "west of the cascades" Pacific Northwest.  I envision local designers travelling small distances to their projects, which consist of as many as 6 or 8 neighboring families in some cases, or one 40 acre farm in other cases, or just an urban lot in yet other cases.  I envision those designers being not only permaculture certified, but also skilled handy-people with actual training in the arts and crafts of homestead living, such as carpentry, earthworks, electrical installation, plumbing, and other such trades.  Obviously not every designer will know all of these trades, but each designer should know at least one.

I want to develop guilds of these designers, all with permaculture knowledge, but each with knowledge in complementary areas of craft, such that a carpenter, plumber, and earthworker (or not these, but several others... guilds can be unique and will probably "evolve" over time) are coordinating on a project and working with the site owner to develop and implement an awesome permaculture design on their landscape.  My aforementioned design firm that includes education, demonstration site, training center, etc. will serve as a resource hub as well that can help connect these designers to each other and to their clients.

As it may seem, these thoughts are still rather fluid and the final form of my design firm may look rather different, from start to finish.  But I often find that my fluid thoughts are helped to coagulate by writing them down, and I can often find a jumping off point once I've read, reread, and gotten some feedback about the brainstormy ideas.  So what do you think?  Are there enough people in this world interested in getting permaculture into their backyards to support a local industry?  Is it possible to start a small business that grows and expands to include schools, tradeschools, networks, and a community of many other small businesses all doing much the same thing?  Specializations can develop, regulations can be loosened to include more ecological thinking, and the world can become slightly better all the time.  Is it possible?  I want to start trying, and any feedback you have would be awesomely appreciated.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Why I Write, and What I Work Towards

The world can be a scary place.  Climate disruption, dwindling soil, water, oil, and food supplies contribute to a feeling of scarcity; and withering liberties and increasing government encroachment make one feel as if they have no room to think or do for themselves.  I see permaculture as a serious and permanent solution to all of these problems, but there isn't yet a critical mass of people willing to take responsibility for their own lives and those of their children, and so I write.

To me, Bill Mollison nailed it with the Prime Directive.  Take responsibility for your own life and livelihood, and those of your offspring.  What else is there to do in life?  He focused on household food and energy systems, because these are the places where you can make the biggest difference.  You might fight political battles, work towards more open communications or non-violent governance, or towards space exploration and scientific progress... but none of it matters if you can't feed yourself and keep yourself warm.  Additionally, many of the world's problems stem from human beings using too much of the earth's natural resources for ourselves.  We don't leave the resources of wilderness, forests, and water alone enough to meet the needs of other species.  We don't leave the resource of fossil fuels alone enough for the diminishing forests of the world to be able to handle our carbon pollution.  So we find ourselves in the bind of having too many people using renewable resources such that they begin to act like non-renewables, and the "well" runs dry.

So, I focus on food production and human supply lines because they have the most impact on the future.  If I can figure out a way to largely take care of myself and my family on an acre and a half, then that leaves many acres of farmland to go back to wilderness, if given the opportunity.  If I find a way to produce much of my own energy, I don't need rivers to be damned or uranium to be mined to produce it for me.  Working within the smallest footprint I can to the maximum extent that I am able allows me to let my other footprints on the world blow away in the wind.

Eventually, I'd like to help others come to this realization.  That's why I write.  The more people who are working to meet their own supply lines, the smaller our collective footprints are, and the more resources and supply lines there are for the rest of life that we share this planet with.  Sure, permaculture applies to many lines of thinking and many intellectual and career pursuits, but none so important as shrinking our impact on the planet.  So while any permaculture practitioner is welcome to apply permaculture to their personal interests and hobbies, they probably shouldn't forget to apply it to the very ground they walk and live on.  To do so is NOT taking responsibility for their own lives and the lives of their children.  It is paying lip service to permaculture, without making with biggest change that permaculture can make for them.

What are your thoughts?  Why do you write, what do you live for, and how will you live your life so that others may live theirs after you?  Please share in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Plants Have Intelligence: Find Out What They're Thinking and Have a Convesration

Since permaculture focuses so much attention on plants and plant systems, it makes sense to try to have a conversation with plants about what they need.  If you observe plants, you can begin to deduce their language and understand what it is they're striving for.  With a little bit of creative thinking, you'll be able to interpret plants just as easily as you're interpreting this text.

Monday, January 12, 2015

On Settling In: Establishing a Routine

Establishing a routine can be one of the most helpful, effective things you can do to organize your day.  Since organization is a major sub-theme of my settling into this new house, I thought I might mention some thoughts about it in today's post.

Since we moved into our new place in October, it's been a lot of organizing.  Unpacking our stuff and designing where it should go in the house.  Organizing our finances around the new bills and expenses we have.  And wrapping my mind around the possibilities for this land.

I've found that coming up with a routine has helped me quite a bit with organizing my time.  So much of organization has to do with where things go in space, but much less with when things happen in time.  Organizing your time helps you establish a schedule, and having a good schedule can help you develop a routine.

In order to work towards developing a routine, I've been scheduling my days out in a written planner.  It helps me to see about how much time I think I have to accomplish all the things I want to accomplish in a day, and to be able to anticipate what's next, what I need to do then and there, and what else I can do that either supports or surrounds what I'm doing or where I'm going.  For instance, later today I'm going to be meal planning for the coming week.  It's easiest for me to do this in the kitchen so I can see what's in my fridge and pantry, so I choose to meal plan while I'm cooking dinner.  I'm stacking functions in time that way, which is what permaculture is all about.  Tomorrow, when I make the inevitable run to the grocery store, I'll also visit the post office that is co-located with my grocery store, and mail off a birthday card to a friend.  On the way home, I'll stop to get gasoline, and perhaps a tool from the hardware store across the street.  This is stacking functions in space and time, going to places that are nearby each other in a sensible order that saves me time in the day, gas in my truck, and money in my wallet.

So, as for establishing a routine, I like to wake up in the morning, shower and make coffee, catch up on some news, review what I have scheduled for the day, and then dive into it.  The more accurate I am with scheduling myself on a regular basis, the more my days become settled into space and time, and the more established and efficient my routine becomes, eventually leaving me more free time to enjoy.

Free time is the most important part of establishing a routine, in my opinion.  Everyone needs room to have fun, relax, be spontaneous, and enjoy life.  The more routine you can make the things you have to do, the more efficient they  become for you, and the more free time you'll be able to enjoy doing the things and being with the people you care about.

Are you settling into a routine this New Year?  What're you including in your routine, and how is it helping you?  Post your thoughts to the comments below, and start a conversation!  Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Benefits of Buying "Unkempt" Land

When we bought the house and the 1.5 acres it sits on last year, we got a pretty good deal on it.  We are the "poor" house in the neighborhood, with some (albeit somewhat larger) homes going for nearly twice as much as we bought ours.  And fortunately for us, the price tag didn't reflect the building or land quality, but the condition of the land and our home's interior.  With that said, we also didn't buy a fixer-upper.  The interior of the house just needed a little TLC (new paint, new carpet, some updated fixtures), what our real estate agent called "sexy money."  And as for the land, that's what the rest of today's post is about.

Our home had been on the market for nearly a month in a market when comparable homes were selling in about a week.  I think this was partially the fact that we bought during a seller's market, partially that the interior of the home needed a good amount of updating, and largely because the is rather unkempt.  I want to talk about what I saw in the land, the benefits of the untidiness, and how I'm going to use permaculture to turn some minor problems that I think turned other buyers off to this property into solutions that will contribute to it's fertility and our long-term security.

A pile of wood chips and small sticks that will make excellent garden bed cores.

We have a large pile of wood chips and small branches in the front yard.  This pile of wood chips is unsightly, and a good amount of work to move, but it will make a decent wood core for the garden beds we're going to install in the spring.

A large stretch of blackberry that's choking off a sizable corner of my land.

We have an "abundance" of blackberry on our 1.5 acres.  While this is mostly a nuisance to me as it chokes up some primes corners of our land, it will provide a good amount of berries for us to eat until I have been able to get it mostly under control.

An unused burn pile that will contribute to the cores of my garden beds.

We have what I think was intended to be a burn pile that never got burned sitting behind one of our sheds.  I'm glad the previous owner didn't burn it, because it will contribute to the wood core of our garden beds, and the rest of it can be composted and added to the top of the garden.

Arbor vitae surround my older rundown shed.

Speaking of the shed in front of the burn pile, the previous owners decided to surround it with arbor vitae for some reason.  With a little help from a naturopath friend of mine, I'll distill it into a useful ticture that sells for a decent amount of money... perhaps my first income stream off of this land!

And of course, the shed itself is unsightly and a little run down.  I'm going to try to move it from the backyard to the west side of the house, so it can serve as a tool shed for garden and yardworking tools.

My nice new shed, which might become a chicken coop.

Our other shed is rather nice.  We're also going to try to move it to the west side of the house, but within sight of the road.  I think this shed is going to make a rather nice chicken coop, or as I've taken to calling it, the chicken palace.

A dense area of "mature landscaping" that is unsightly and will be removed for garden beds.

Next we have the absurd jungles in our front yard.  These are going to get cut down and levelled out to make room for our garden beds.  The soil there should be pretty good since it's not just grass growing, and the plants we cut down can become compost.

Wood that should've gone on the firewood stack, but will become garden bed cores instead.

We also have a bunch of random wood strewn about the property.  Some of this wood will become firewood, the rest will contribute to the wood cores of the garden beds.

A small depression that gathers driveway runoff.  I'm going to plant some water loving berries here to make this more beautiful and useful.

This spot on the property floods somewhat during a good rain.  I'm going to rake away the gravel and put it back onto the driveway, then I'm going to plant boggy plants such as blueberry and cranberry to utilize the surplus water.  A nice treat to eat from when guests park at our house and walk by towards our front door!

A raked up leaf pile that is largely composted.

A pile of raked up leaves has probably been sitting here for a couple of years, and is composted enough to be ready for the garden beds.  I don't know exactly why the previous owners left this alone, but I'm grateful for the beautiful soil they left me!

Gifts from nature: A pile of natural humus that I'll borrow from here or there for garden beds and tree plantings.

And finally, all along the west side of our property there is a good sized "strip" of Zone 5ish forest.  Most of the vegetation is on our neighbors side of the fence, but quite a bit of it tilts, leans, or spills onto our side.  Aside from providing a nice buffer from the sun in the summer time, this Zone 5ish strip drops a lot of leaf litter and potential mulch on our side of the fence.  The pile pictured above is very rich "forest floor" humus, and I'll borrow from these little piles to enrich the soil of our gardens and food forest.  What a gift!

So as you can see, although the phrase "the problem is the solution" is a bit overused in permaculture, it can be true with the right mindset and with the right problems.  If my land was near a Superfund site, or doused in Roundup (also see here and here), I would have much bigger problems that probably wouldn't have a great solution when it came to growing food for my family.  But with a little creative thinking and some previous owners that were getting a little too old to take care of this much land, I've lucked into some pretty awesome gifts that will contribute to the health and fertility of my land and my family.

Do you have any opportunities like this on your land?  Take some pictures and share your thoughts in the comments.  If you have questions about how you can turn problems into solutions for yourself, please get in touch with me.  I'm always excited to help.  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

My Personal Permaculture Curriculum

During the PDC I took last year, I was reading the Permaculture Design Manual along with each chapter of the PDC released.  It was a TON of work, and I admit to falling behind a couple of times, but it was amazing to get the context of the PDC within the framework built for me by reading the corresponding chapter of the Designer's Manual prior to watching the PDC videos.  What Bill wrote and Geoff taught wove together beautifully, and I learned bunch.

I also realized that I have a penchant for book learning, and coupled with depth supplied either by a teacher or by experience I learn extremely well.  I also realized what the PDC I was taking really was; it was a detailed syllabus, with many resources to backup the importance of each subject to the student, and offer paths of further study and research to all who studied it.  Sure, the PDC offers quite a lot of depth as to how all these topics tied together, but not nearly enough to give anyone mastery of any subject.  So, I started developing my "Personal Permaculture Curriculum", or PPC.  (I couldn't help it.  Permaculture is full of acronyms, so I'm adding my own.)  Each chapter of the Designer's Manual focuses on a topic that is a doctoral career (or 3) in and of it's own.  A person could spend the requisite 10,000 hours of studying the topic of just one section in one chapter for more sections than not throughout the book, and run out of life before they've gotten through more than half the chapters.  At 2000 hours a year for the typical work week, it's 5 years to mastery.  And that's a work week of studying, 50 weeks a year, for 5 years.  Just studying and practicing permaculture.  At that rate, I'd only get through 9 chapters by the time I was 76, and only that if I spent full-time work towards it for the next 45 years.

But then I thought, that's not what permaculture is about.  It's about living healthy, taking care of your family, and having more leisure time to enjoy the abundance this planet has to offer when you are in harmony with it.  Toil and drudgery are none so grim when the fruits of your labor directly translate into livelihood of your family and your community.  I think, instead, I'll use my new PDC to do a living design of my property, and use the PDM as a jumping off point for research on studying anything I need to know in order to get going.  Then, learning mostly through experience as I go, I'll get deeper into my studies of a particular subject as needed or according to this plan.

What follows is a rough outline of the next phase in my permaculture education:

First, I'm still working through some excellent "beginner/theory books."  I'm concurrently reading "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability" by David Holmgren and "Earth User's Guide to Permaculture" by Rosemary Morrow.  I recently finished other theory books like "One Straw Revolution" by Masanobu Fukuoka, and "Thinking In Systems" by Donella Meadows.  I'll be sharing my thoughts on these books and others as I work through them.

Next, since we'll be starting our first very large garden in the spring (8000+ square feet!) I'm going to start working through quite a few gardening books, particularly books that focus on the Pacific Northwest.  Not all of these gardening books are permaculture garden focused, but I think I have enough knowledge to apply permaculture and systems thinking to those books.  I'll share my take on these books in this blog.  For a list of the books I'm going to be reading, click here.

After the garden is up and running, I'll start studying in depth and implementing some broader systems, such as the food forest and some livestock systems.  I'll be reading books like "Edible Forest Gardens" by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, and "The Small-Scale Poultry Flock" by Harvey Ussery.  I'll also be working on learning the best way to grow and improve healthy soils, and reading such books as "Teaming with Microbes" by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis (as well as it's "sequel" book "Teaming with Nutrients" also by Jeff Lowenfels).

As you can see, there is a tremendous depth of knowledge that can be explored in the systems of permaculture.  Every person is going to have different interests that they'll like to explore in depth, and obviously mine are my own and not meant to be a recipe for you.  But, if you have questions or suggestions that you'd like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments.  Not only am I willing to explore areas of interest to you, I have many ideas I can share on what books or other resources might be of interest to particular areas, even if I'm not planning on going in depth in those areas myself.  If you need help or ideas, I'm here to help!  Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Plans I Have After Taking a PDC

I signed up for and completed a PDC last year that has shaped my thoughts about my future tremendously.  Although I haven't had much opportunity to write about it because of everything I had going on with buying the house we're now living in, I have come up with several ideas and plans that I think are going to shape my future to a large extend.  Today, I'll share a brief description of each of those ideas as they are now, but I expect they'll continue to grow, evolve, and expand.  At some point in the future, I'll probably extrapolate each topic into it's own post, especially as I flesh these out a little more.

So in escalating order of scale, but not necessarily the order I came up with them in or will implement them in, here are the topics that will shape the future of my permaculture explorations, my business aspirations, my finances, and my Permie Homestead.

My "Personal Permaculture Curriculum"

During the PDC I took last year, I was reading the Permaculture Design Manual along with each chapter of the PDC released.  It was a TON of work, and I admit to falling behind a couple of times, but it was amazing to get the context of the PDC within the framework built for me by reading the corresponding chapter of the Designer's Manual prior to watching the PDC videos.  What Bill wrote and Geoff taught wove together beautifully, and I learned a bunch.  I'd venture to say that anyone who is taking a PDC will come up with a lot of moments when they think "wow, I'm going to have to look into that some more."  If you note these moments of wanting deeper knowledge, you'll be able to go back to them later and expand your knowledge in an area of interest to you.  This is the direction I'm taking my near-future permaculture research.  I think it'll be the beginnings of a curriculum.

I'm going to document this research in the form of blog posts.  If the direction is something useful or of interest to you, my readers, please leave comments about anything catches your attention and makes you want to delve deeper.

Starting a Design and Consultation Firm

What good is a permaculture design certificate if I don't do anything with it?  Sure, I'll be using the knowledge I gained to design my own homestead better than I would have otherwise, but permaculture and ecological design are not meant to be done in a vacuum.  If I want to get the most out of my training, and contribute the most I can to a world in need of ecological thinking, I have to get my hands dirty in the service of others who may not have the time to dedicate to permaculture that I have taken.  Starting a design firm is one of my top priorities after I've gotten some work done on our new place, so that I've got advertising in the form of my own homestead.

Long Term Permaculture Educator Goals

Eventually, I want to expand my design firm to include some permaculture education.  Permaculture classes, design courses, and skills training will all be a part of it.  But I have bigger plans.  Eventually, I'd like to design a permaculture oriented curriculum that is so robust it could nearly be a college alternative.  And I'd like to make it progressively educational as well.  Come study at my "institute" for a year, and you'd be qualified to work as a permaculture landscaper.  2-3 years, and perhaps you're a certified carpenter or earthworker who can build more robust systems with the assistance of a designer.  4 year "degree" and you've learned everything you need to know to build a business of your own that is geared towards making the human ecosystem a more ecological place.  Obviously at this point it's every rough around the edges, but I think an entire educational system can be created around permaculture, and that that alternative educational path will have direct paths to comfortable, earth-enhancing livelihoods.

A Permaculture Industry

I use the word industry here not in irony, or in analogy.  I believe that even the word industry can be reclaimed if it is an industry forged in the ethics of permaculture.  Along with the educational opportunities I envision for permaculture training in many fields, I imagine an entire segment of society beginning the work of permaculture with well-paying jobs as designers, tradespeople, crafters, naturopaths, nurses, permaculture farmers, engineers, infrastructure specialists, and teachers.  The more people that are out there making a living doing things a smarter, healthier, easier permaculture way, the more other people will get interested in how their lives and their jobs can become more fulfilling and meaningful.  The best way to show how the future is permaculture is to show what a tremendous positive impact it will have on your life, along with tremendous positive results for the environment.  If my long term educator goals can be as successful as I plan, I think that together we'll grow an entire industry of people working to make the world a little better, one homestead at a time.

So, those are some brief outlines of the major ideas I have after taking my PDC.  What do you think?  Have you recently gotten your permaculture certification as well?  Do you have any big goals and dreams that it inspired you to?  Please share your thoughts in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Friday, January 02, 2015

Monthly Themes in 2015, and January's Theme: Settling In

This year, I want to let my blog be guided by a themed framework.  In today's post, I will talk in brief about what those themes might be, and then introduce January's theme.

So, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I plan on making this year's posts grouped into monthly themes.  Not all posts will necessarily follow the pattern, but generally, each month will focus on projects, topics, and research into the theme.  I don't really know exactly what all the themes will be yet, but instead I plan to try to find the natural rhythm and beat of what those themes end up being on this piece of land, and in this town.

With that said, this month's theme is "Settling In".  As I mentioned, Kelsey and I bought a house last October, and we're just about done with the moving in part of moving.  Unpacking is almost done, we've painted the house and updated some details to make it feel like our own, and finally, just a couple of days ago on New Years Eve, we got the new carpeting we needed in the living room and were finally able to move the last of our furniture out of the garage.  It's time to start settling in.  Nesting is what Kelsey calls it, but I think settling in is a theme that applies even after we've got our house arranged and organized to our liking.  January is a time for settling in for the winter.  The "holidaze" are over, the frantic nature of Christmas time is one that makes settling in and relaxing a little difficult in December, and so January in future years will be settling into books, settling in to relax and enjoy the bounty of the past autumn's harvest, and rejuvenating oneself for the coming work of spring.

With that said, this month on the blog I'm going to talk about settling in slightly differently, because we're not just settling in for the winter, we're settling into a new place.  It could also be thought of as Zone 0 permaculture.  I know many people don't necessarily like the use of Zone 0 in design, but I find it useful.  I interpret Zone 1 to be any place on your land that you visit every day, perhaps several times a day.  Of course this includes the house, garage, mailbox, gardens, chicken coop, etc., and all those elements certainly add up to Zone 1 systems and require permaculture thinking to design and arrange, but what about smaller systems interconnecting to make one of those systems within Zone 1?  Sure, my garden and my kitchen are linked, which is why I'll be implementing the garden right outside of my kitchen windows, but what about the kitchen itself?  My cooking workflow is usually prepare-cook-serve-store-clean.  How do I design my kitchen so that that work really does flow smoothly through the kitchen space, without any given step interfering with the step that follows?  I think of this as Zone 0 design. 

Likewise, in my garage, how do I organize and arrange elements such as food storage, recycling bins, cars, tools, etc. to be convenient for the way they're interlinked to the kitchen and the rest of the house?  I want my recycling bins close to the garage door that leads into the house.  Likewise with food storage.  I don't need my all tools close to that door though, so I can put the "shop" element of my garage further away.  These minute details are what I like to think of as Zone 0 design, small system interlinks that make my workflow within Zone 1 more effective.  It's not as big as the garden connecting to the kitchen.  It's small, like the sink connecting to the stove.  Or my plates and bowls connecting to the sink, or prepared food on the stove, or pyrex dishes connecting to the stove and refrigerator for leftovers..  You could argue that my idea of Zone 0 is just Zone 1 in greater detail, and you'd probably be right... it's just easy for me to think of it that way.

So, this month, I'll be working on these minute systems and settling into our new house.  I'll be organizing the kitchen, organizing and reorganizing the garage, updating some features of those areas, and writing about all of it.  Hopefully my permaculture approach to interior design has some usefulness to you.  I should have a couple of projects in the works that I'll share plans and instructions for.  If you find any of it useful, or have ideas I might find useful, please make sure to let me know in the comments!  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Years!

Another new year is here, and as usual I have some Permie Homestead goals.  In past years I have rarely met those goals, but this year is different, and in this post I'll explain why, as well as share the goals I have for 2015.

Last year, in October, Kelsey and I finally bought a house on 1.5 acres of land.  It's not as much land as I had been planning on over the years, but as I spend more time here I'm learning that 1.5 acres is a lot more land than I thought it was.  I'm excited to finally have a place where I can design and implement long-term projects that will have a lasting impacts on the lives of my family, my friends, my community, and myself.

I recently saw a quote from Benjamin Franklin that I have never heard before:
Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.*
That quote, along with the excitement of homeownership, have inspired me not to give up on this blog and just implement permaculture designs without writing about what I'm doing, which I had been contemplating.  Instead, I'm going to make it a priority to update this blog regularly.  If I feel like I don't have anything to write, well that frees up time to do something around the homestead that will probably be worth writing about.  It also keeps me on point... not too much research and reading and instead lots of project and improvement work, so I have something to write about that is worthy of your time.

Sometimes, I set too lofty of goals for myself.  Sometimes, I set the right goals at the wrong time.  This year, I plan on making my Permie Homestead blogging goals the right goals at the right time.  Here are my new year's goals for 2015:
  • I'll write at least 157 blog posts this year.  That's a post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of every week of this year, plus this "bonus" post for New Years.  I reserve the right to go over that number, but will try to write at least that many.
  • I think I have a good shot at doing this and keeping it up, because this year I've done something that I've thought about but never managed to do before.  During the last month I've been writing without publishing, and building a buffer of posts to draw from starting today.  I have enough posts already written that as the speed bumps of life pop up I should have some in the hopper to publish.  I think that if I don't get so far behind in achieving my goals that I get discouraged from continuing to write, I'll be able to accomplish that lofty number of published posts this year.
  • Obviously I have plenty of goals around the homestead this year, especially in the area of food storage as well as other preps, but I won't try to enumerate them here.  Instead, a writing pattern I think I'm going to try to adopt this year is assigning each month some sort of theme or central focus.  I'll discuss the theme of the month and the goals that accompany that theme at the beginning of each month.  
  • The monthly themes will obviously have a lot to do with natural cycles, with spring probably involving gardening and new beginnings, and fall involving food preservation, harvest, etc.  It's been done before, I know, but I think I can put an interesting spin on it.
  • I have several business ideas outside of writing this blog, some involving a permaculture design firm and what that might grow into, and some related to my own education.  As I read interesting things or accomplish notable milestones in my other permaculture ventures, I'll share them on this blog, always keeping in mind that I must write something worth reading, so I'll try to make it useful for you.
  • And of course, once in a while, I'll write some posts on my thoughts about permaculture ethics or principles, homesteading, and life in general.  I never forget that I'd like this to be a window into my life for future progeny, and I hope that my more inner thoughts are at least sometimes interesting to you.  Of course, the best way to let me know is to make a comment in the post and start a discussion with me!
Thanks for reading, and I wish you the best of luck with your goals in 2015.  If there is anything I can do to help you accomplish yours, please get in touch with me and let me know how I can be of service.  And if you're curious, the best way you can help me with mine is to continue reading my blog, and become a part of the permaculture discussion with me!