Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Permaculture studies: Permaculture Fundamentals, notes on lectures 1 & 2

A while ago I stumbled across a free permaculture design course here: http://www.permaculturedesigntraining.com/ . I've always wanted to attend one of these but have never felt comfortable with spending so much money on myself with so many other demands on the purse. I'm going to give this course a try, I'm not going to promise to complete it but it will be interesting to see how far I get. To help keep me accountable I have decided to share some of my notes and thoughts about these free lessons here. Please note that I actually watched these over a month ago but have delayed posting this as I wished to finish some further reading on the subject.

First thoughts
The lessons are videos of lectures from a permaculture design course. Whilst the content was fine the quality felt a bit amateur with me often feeling left out of the loop due to not being able to see the images the lecturer was talking about or finding the sound set too low. Reading through the forum afterwards I found out that the team were working on inserting the missing pictures to the video and improving the sound quality, I suspect that they are probably completed now and that this will make a huge improvement. But even in their unpolished format these lectures were good, especially when you consider that they are being shared free of charge.

Another thing that I found awkward was that it wasn't obvious how to get started. I could find the videos but no advice on how to structure my study or any recommended reading material. Looking through the forums I found that there were many others in the same boat. Ultimately I realised that the videos were the lessons and that it is for me to decide what further reading to do or action to take if I so wish. It is a little scary to realise that I was expecting to be spoon fed this information.

Notes on lectures 1 & 2

This was one long introduction lecture split into two by Larry Korn and best watched together. It managed to hold my attention most of the time and I found it interesting learning about his background to permaculture. He spent time in Japan with Masanobu Fukuoka and was responsible for translating 'One straw revolution' into English. Much of this lecture refers back to his time in Japan on Masanobu Fukuoka's farm.

I am not going to repeat everything included in this lecture, just the high points or new to me ideas that I noted at the time.

Lecture 1
Why do we plough? - it destroys the soil structure and is usually for a monoculture crop.
Referred to Masanobu Fukuoka's farm where he grew short rice (less likely to blow over) with big heads (lots to harvest) in a field that had not been ploughed for 3 years.

Important to farm in harmony with nature.

Problems with ploughing: it is energy intensive; uses fossil fuels, encourages soil erosion.

Nature is what nature is. It's nature is the ability to improve.
The world that we have found is wonderful and inspiring. Nature is already perfect, it is for us to fit in.

Endless cycle of attempting to improve on nature.
Instead we should observe and copy.
Permaculture = Ecological agriculture

A thought provoking argument!
Fertility in ploughed soils went down from 13% to 1%. Soil erosion occurs due to ploughing, wind and rain (eg dustbowl).

Just 4% of US population live on land, it was 60%.

Ditches were shown as an example of where a resource can be turned into a pollutant.

Lecture 2
Principles and intentions. The Highest permaculture principles are:

  • Care of the EARTH
  • Care of PEOPLE
  • To SHARE the surplus
  • (possible 4th: limit consumption and be concerned about population growth)
Creating solutions with multiple functions such as the chicken shed/greenhouse.
Chicken tractor for preparing ground.

** Always start by looking at what you already have **

Work like you don't need any money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
Dance like nobody's watching,
Sing like nobody's listening.

Live like it's heaven on Earth.

Conclusion & further research
There was little new here but that's not too surprising as it was just an introduction. The one thing that really stood out to me is (the rather obvious when you think about it idea) that Earths survival is not contingent on human survival.

To follow on from this I decided to read Masanobu Fukuoka's 'One straw revolution' (I found a pdf of it online). I cannot believe how long it took me to read this relatively short book! Lots of interesting ideas that the author has developed over time and experimented with on his own farm of rice, mandarins and many other plants. Ultimately he encourages us all to consider having a more simple land based life style including a simple diet with more time for fun. I would recommend it but for me the books biggest failing is probably due to it being a translation. The script felt a bit laboured at times and I suspect that this is the reason behind it taking me a month to read!

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