Peter is an ecologist turned farmer who started Mastodon Valley Farm in Southwest Wisconsin where he and his family have built an off-grid homestead and raise pastured beef, lamb, pork, and poultry that they sell direct through their meat CSA. He teaches courses on regenerative agriculture and helps beginning farmers establish profitable regenerative agricultural systems.
Food forests and forest gardening bring together the best ecological systems that allow us sustainable and high-yield harvests. In temperate northern climates we have the best resources and environment for a wide selection of plants and trees. This two-day course will focus on the permaculture design process and drawing skills. We will be using cold climate strategies for solutions and pencil process to develop professional level presentations of designs.
Zero Waste is a goal that is “Ethical, economical, efficient and visionary,” as defied by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) (also, how couldn't you love the acronym ZWIA?) Zero waste can guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use and not burn or bury them.
As we organize the fifth annual Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence, I am thinking about the unintended waste stream that is developed by this (and any other) event, and what we as organizers and attendees can do to reduce (or eliminate?) waste ultimately destined for a landfill. This blog suggests some of the permaculture principles that may inform us as we move toward such a goal.
The most obvious is Principle Six: Produce no Waste. By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
The icon of the worm represents one of the most effective recyclers of organic materials, converting plant and animal ‘waste’ into valuable plant food. The proverb “a stitch in time saves nine” reminds us that timely maintenance prevents waste, while “waste not, want not” reminds us that it’s easy to be wasteful in times of abundance, but this waste can be a cause of hardship later.
I am also reminded of principle five: Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services. This principle reminds us to make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
The horse icon represents both a renewable service and renewable resource. It can be used to pull a cart, plough or log and it can even be eaten – though a non-consuming use is preferred over a consuming one. The proverb “let nature take its course” reminds us that control over nature through excessive resource use and high technology is not only expensive, but can have a negative effect on our environment
But before we aim for a Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence that “produces no waste" or "Use and value renewable resources and services", I think we have to keep two principles in mind this year; "Observe and Interact" and "Use Small and Slow Solutions."
When we observe and interact, we take the time to engage with nature or a situation such as an event and design solutions that suit the particular situation. The icon for this design principle represents a person ‘becoming’ a tree. In observing nature and the situations we are in, it is important to take different perspectives to help understand what is going on with the various elements in the system. The proverb “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” reminds us that we place our own values on what we observe, yet in nature, there is no right or wrong, only different.
My memories of the last four convergences are that we have not generated a tremendous amount of waste. However, I know that we have had bags of trash, recycling and compostables (and some of each contaminated in with the other) that had to go somewhere. Additionally, in thinking to past convergence events, I have no knowledge of the waste stream the catering situation generated.
So while the idea of a zero waste event is extremely appealing to me, and there may be ways that we can eliminate or redirect more “waste” this year, our task as an organizing team and as participants is to observe and interact with this year’s event and with our waste stream to see what options there are to further reduce and ultimately eliminate waste by redirecting it to useful purposes for future events.
And in order not to drive ourselves to frustration, or attempt to put actions in place that actually aren’t useful or practical, or have unintended downstream consequences, the last permaculture principle to follow is number nine, "Use small and slow solutions.”
Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes. The snail is both small and slow, it carries its home on its back and can withdraw to defend itself when threatened. The proverb “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” reminds us of the disadvantages of excessive size and growth while “slow and steady wins the race” encourages patience while reflecting on a common truth in nature and society.
I look forward to observing with you, to thinking about producing no waste, to use the waste resources we have for other purposes, to taking small steps and observing and interacting with nature and our waste to work toward small and slow solutions for this and future permaculture convergences.
Interested in attending the 2018 Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence?
Interested in attending the 2018 Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence?
Water has been on my mind quite often these days. In my commitment to staying true to the ethics and principles of permaculture design, I have been in the observation phase of a 30 acre landscape in Ontonagon, MI which I recently cooperatively purchased with family. We are currently in the second year of observation with minimal interaction to care for the life already on the landscape.
We have made only one major change to the landscape before completing this observation phase; adding a well with a hand pump. The well was dug late last fall, and the hand pump was just delivered. It should be put onto the well within the next few weeks. After that, we wait for the test results from the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department to let us know the quality of our water. Here's hoping!
This was done first to ensure that one of the water sources available was potable to be able to live on the landscape all year. This action taken was done for the purpose of research. It was the only physical change made to the landscape, so far, and it was done to discover the quality of one of our water sources.
Water was also a key element in our choosing and purchasing of the landscape in Ontonagon. We first chose the Ontonagon area because this region is called a banana belt, a slightly warmer region, and is surrounded by regions that are called a snowbelt in where they see heavy snowfall in the winter, also known as, lake-effect snow. Although we appreciate snow, we weren't sure we wanted to handle as much snow as they get in the surrounding areas.
Before purchasing, we also researched the area well depths to be able to gauge an approximate depth for our own well. As we found out last fall, our estimate was close. We also researched water quality in the area to find out if we might face any issues. We saw none in the local area, but are still awaiting the final results of our own water source. Area well depths which were mostly under 200', water tables as low as six inches, and good water quality were some of the main reasons that led us to this area.
We also looked into the geography and geology of the area which helped to understand the water moving in, on and through this landscape. All of this information was found on publicly funded websites. A little online research can reveal much about a landscape including area water table levels, water qualities, soil types, soil compositions, bedrock, local plant life, and so much more without even seeing it.
When we did first see this landscape, we were experiencing it in a drier season with lower rainfalls and snowfalls over the past couple years. And now, we have seen it in one of it's wettest seasons over the past year. This has actually been a gift to us as it gives us the experience to be able to design for both dry and wet seasons.
Our most recent experience included a few big storms with heavy rain events over a couple days which revealed much about our landscape and the area water cycle. Our area did not receive as much rain as the surrounding areas - much like it is in winter with less snow. A few areas around us even experienced extreme flooding in where roads were washed away.
At that same time we were camping in a tent which stayed dry inside, plus we were on a high spot in a clearing in the woods. We experienced a beautiful light show by the hundreds of lightning bugs flying around right before the rain event. They lit up the somewhat dark night as the moon and setting sun were sharing the same sky. We also noticed that during the stillness between the rainfall is when many different bugs became very active, such as, mosquitoes, many kinds of flies, and dragon flies.
Once the rains cleared, the sun came out between the clouds, and a slight breeze moved through; those bugs became less active and others came alive. We also observed the other various life forms in nature that were hiding from the rain and became active again once the rains stopped. Experiencing this water cycle event also revealed to us the many other life cycles in and on our landscape.
Water, simply put, is one oxygen element bonded with two hydrogen elements. It comes in many forms and has it's own cycle on this planet. Water aids in the creation of life yet also has the capacity to destroy it just the same. Water is the essence of all life.... Water is life... but Water can also be death.
Because water holds the power of life and death, it is important to our survival to learn and understand it. If we do so, we can design our landscapes so that water is aiding life more than it destroys it. Water is the most abundant chemical compound on this earth and in our universe. It's importance in our lives is clear and we must always keep that in the forefronts of our minds when designing our lives and landscapes.
Just a little bit about my journey with water....
Your permaculture friend,
Effie J Truchon
We must take responsibility for our existence as permaculture practitioners' and purveyors. To work within our human social structures to respectfully share this idea where it is most needed. We need to take responsibility in the ways we purvey and practice permaculture itself in the language and living models we choose to use. Treat the idea of permaculture carefully.
This is why I spent the last few evenings cutting up tree branches to make a couple hundred name tags. Because for me, the Convergence is about learning and teaching and sharing. But mostly, it’s about getting to know new people and reuniting with old friends. And the one thing we all have in common, besides interest in Permaculture, is we each have a name