with Kareen Erbe
Excerpted from our double certificate design course.
Appropriate technology and permaculture design go hand in hand. Remember that permaculture is a design approach that meets our food, energy, shelter and other needs. Through appropriate technology, we are engineering ways in which to meet those needs in the simplest, most locally based ways possible.
The ecological crises that we are facing today is very much related to the fact that our economy, our agriculture, and our technologies are out of scale with what the planet can support. When entities are out of scale, natural patterns in the landscape are disrupted. In fact, it is our advances in technology that have led to a lot of that destruction. For example, combine harvesters have allowed us to cultivate large monocultures that have led to soil erosion and topsoil depletion.
Advances in cell phones and computers, coupled with consumerism and a global economy, have not only mined the earth of natural resources, but have created tons of electronic waste that fill our landfills.
Understanding and using appropriate technology is about bringing things back into scale and applying the permaculture principle of using small and slow solutions.
As mentioned in the video, appropriate technology is technology that is suited to the social and economic conditions of a particular region in which it is to be applied, is ecologically sound, and promotes self-reliance on the part of those using it. It is:
Often labor-intensive but energy efficient.
Reducing our consumption first.
Before you think of applying appropriate technologies, think first about reducing your consumption. Though it’s heartening to see advances in alternative energy, such as solar and wind, it seems like many of these advances are designed to meet society’s current needs, without addressing our overconsumption.
For example, people choose to put solar panels on their roofs to power their TVs, dryers, multiple appliances, and possibly even multiple cars.
While it may be a step in the right direction, alternative energy technology often prevents us from taking a good look at our consumption. What’s more, these technologies contain a lot of embodied energy. From the extraction of the base materials to the manufacturing and the shipping, the energy involved in producing a product like a solar panel or a wind turbine is substantial.
Chances are that if you live in a developed nation, you are likely consuming at a level that is not sustainable for the rest of the planet. The challenge is not to find an energy source that will support that lifestyle, the solution first lies in our willingness to reduce our consumption.
Then, we can look at appropriate technologies to meet our reduced needs.
The most obvious way to reduce consumption is through growing your own food. Reducing our transportation miles from farm to table immediately reduces our impact.
Household strategies for reducing consumption.Simple strategies in your home can go a long way. For example, though we have a permaculture homestead, we do live in a conventional home. However, before putting solar panels on our roof, which is perfectly aspected for that technology and in a climate where it makes sense, I am going to look at ways to reduce our energy use first.
This is what we have done so far:
In the coming years, our plan is to attach a greenhouse to the front of the house. This will not only provide passive solar heating, which is key in our cold climate, but serves the additional function of growing more food and extending our short growing season. Only after we’ve added a greenhouse, will I then consider solar panels. However, I’ll evaluate our energy bills at that point, balancing the expense of the panels and their embodied energy versus the energy produced.
Again, using small and slow solutions that take minimal resources is your primary goal. Below is a checklist for easily reducing your household consumption in a conventional home.
Checklist for easily reducing household energy consumption in a conventional home.
Cooking and food storage
Heating your home, cooking and food storage are some of the most consumptive ways in which we use energy. According to the aforementioned report, lighting and other appliances (e.g. toasters, ovens, blenders) comprise 30% of energy consumption in a home, and refrigeration accounts for 5%. In my video, I cover one simple and easy appropriate technology that you can start using within minutes, and touch briefly on several other technologies to consider.
Here is a link to the photo album on Facebook that I reference in the video. This will take you through the step-by-step process of building a cob oven.
Here’s some activities you could do to use what you’ve learned:
Make a blanket box for your household and cook something with it. If you need a reminder on how to make a blanket box, go back to the Cooking and Food Storage video in this module. Make a note of how long it took your meal to cook and how much energy you saved.
Invite your friends over to share a blanket box meal and get them to commit to doing the same! During the dinner, share ways in which you will be using appropriate technology and reducing consumption around your home. Ask them to commit to one action.
This miniclass is excerpted from the Appropriate Technology module of our double-certificate design course, taught by Kareen Erbe.
Kareen Erbe is the owner of Broken Ground, a permaculture business in Bozeman, Montana, USA, that teaches people how to grow their own food and become more self-reliant. She has taught hundreds of students through her workshops, both live and online, and offers consultations and permaculture design services. She and her family live on a ¾ acre suburban homestead with large kitchen gardens, a food forest of fruit trees and berry bushes, a greenhouse, a pond, beehives as well as chickens and ducks. Kareen is a regular contributor to Rocky Mountain Gardening Magazine and can be reached through her website brokengroundpermaculture.com. She also has an online course platform at brokenground.teachable.com.
Further reading on this topic
Bubel, Nancy and Mike. Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables. North Adams: Storey Publishing, 1991.
Kerr, Barbara. The Expanding World of Solar Box Cookers. Self-published. 1991. - A 79 page book with plans/diagrams for solar cookers. Here is a link to the text of the book and info about purchasing.
#appropriatetechnology #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #blanketbox #reduceconsumption
with Crystal Stevens
Excerpted from our double certificate design course.
When you begin to look at your own site with a permaculture lens, you begin to see your home as a system in which the zones and sectors can provide a foundation for your design. Zones are a tool for organizing and laying out a site so that energy, time and resources like water are used efficiently.
In classic zone mapping, the house is referred to as the centralized hub of human activity. The home is more efficient and functions better when everything has its place, when items are organized, and when clutter is minimal. Our homes are the places we retreat to. The home system is where we can reduce our carbon footprint while building a legacy of green handprints.
It is important to start at home when designing the home system since the home is the central hub for our activities. If our home functions well as a permaculture system, then our other permaculture endeavors will be more successful and we will have overall better organizational and design skills. In this mini class you will learn to view your home and its immediate surroundings through a permaculture lens.
Zone One: Home sweet home, the domestic zoneZone one includes the home, the central hub of our activity. A place where we rest and recuperate, eat, sleep, gather, dream and create.
Everyone’s home is different. Some people prefer quiet, minimalist spaces while others thrive in busy chaos. Within the shared and different preferences of the household, there is space for creating systems that reduce the amount of work needed to keep the home as you all prefer it. So often, time and energy (and tempers!) are lost looking for things. Mapping the zones and sectors inside the house can serve as a useful observation tool and help reveal fresh insights into how the house and its occupants function.
An example from my own home system:
For the last several years, I have been eliminating things that no longer serve me in my home. Each month, I dedicate a day to go through old bins of paperwork, fill a few bags of donation items, re-organize spaces that are not functioning efficiently, etc. Through this process, I have been able to organize zones of my home by categories. Because my husband and I are multifaceted and have way too many hobbies, we have several functioning zones throughout our home.
We have an area that functions as an art studio with shelves for clearly labeled art supplies.
We have an area designated to our gardening resources, which houses our seed library, gardening books, and small gardening supplies, such as small tools and gloves.
We also have a home apothecary, stocked with homegrown dried herbs, tinctures and oil infusions in process, herbal medicine making supplies, and a resource library for herbs and herbalism. We have a huge farm table in our dining room that serves multiple purposes; as a place to have family meals, an arts and crafts area, and a seed starting workspace. This table is located in a room where we host workshops.
Growing and storing food in Zone 1.There are a surprising number of things you can grow indoors, especially if you have a sunny windowsill or two. Sprouting seeds and growing microgreens can be done all year round, and are a great source of vitamins in the winter months. However, sprouting seeds works best in drier climates. In humid areas mould can be a problem so you may find you need to sterilise glass jars in the oven between crops.
Houseplants don’t have to only look nice! Spider plants are renowned for cleaning toxins the air, but they are not the only ones that do this as this poster shows. Some of these plants, such as ferns, prefer not to be in direct sunlight, leaving that sunny windowsill free for other things.
Aloe vera is a useful plant to have in the kitchen as a living part of the first aid kit. Dab some of the goo from a leaf on a burn for instant relief. (Hold the injured part under cold water first.)
There are several edible plants you can grow indoors which means that even in an apartment you can grow some of your own food. Herbs are a great addition to a kitchen windowsill, especially as you only need a small amount to transform a dish. Don’t forget to water them! Keep an eye out for aphids. These can be squished or else brushed off with the help of soapy water. Or simply swap the pot with one outside, and let the ladybirds enjoy the aphids!
A sunny windowsill is also a good place to get seedlings off to an early start in Spring. Don’t forget to protect them from frost on cold nights, especially if they are behind thick curtains, and keep the soil moist with a fine spray mist.
A pantry or a cupboard where you can store preserved food is a way of extending the season and enjoying the harvest long after the fruits have gone. Bottling or canning is a useful skill to learn, as is making jam, pickles and chutneys and also fermentation.
Zone 1 can also include the area immediately outside your house. Consider how to make best use of this space. Take advantage of the fact that it is so close and you pass it regularly. It’s worth taking time to sit or stand at the door as you make your plans.
Zone 2: The home orchard zone.This zone is fairly near the house, so is easy to keep an eye on things. You might not go here every day, but perhaps most days of the week. Think through what you want to grow that will need regular attention, such as vegetables, soft fruit and herbs.
Other components that need to be relatively close to the house include the worm bin or composting area, chickens and other small animals, the woodshed, tool shed and workshop. A greenhouse or polytunnel, and cold frames also need to be in this zone. You will learn more about these n the Aquaculture and Season Extension module.
This zone could have animal housing, rotational grazing, small pastures, cover crops, permanent raised beds, permaculture guilds, nitrogen fixers, pollinator attractors, grazing between rows, interplanting of vegetables, and ponds.
Use a big piece of paper to roughly map out zones 1 and 2 of your home system as it is today (a base map). Create a sector analysis map to understand the external influences on your home, make sure to include arrows showing the direction the physical sectors enter the space. Draw a zone map which describes how spaces are currently used either inside or outside the immediate living space.
Your current zone map could act as a real time inventory of your property, your activities and the things in it. Be transparent when creating the current zone map. Include the clutter, the chaos, and the things that are not working, and work toward eliminating those things in real life and in your dream scenario. Be sure to label the current zones.
This miniclass is excerpted from the Home Systems module of our double-certificate design course, taught by Crystal Stevens.
Crystal Stevens is an Author, an Artist/Art Teacher, a Folk Herbalist, a Regenerative Farmer, and a Permaculturist. Crystal is the author of Grow Create Inspire and Worms at Work, published by New Society Publishers. Crystal speaks at conferences and Mother Earth News Fairs across the U.S.. She has been teaching a Resilient Living workshop series for over a decade. She is the Garden Manager at EarthDance Organic Farm School in Ferguson, MO, where her husband, Eric Stevens, is the Farm Manager. They have two children and live along the rolling hills of the Mississippi River near St. Louis. Visit them at www.growcreateinspire.com, on social media @growcreateinspire and @earthdancefarms
Further reading on this topic:
Here is an article that describes how Maddy Harland, editor of Permaculture Magazine, transformed her site from grass to garden! Harland, Maddy. “How we made a garden of edible delights: monoculture to permaculture.” 9 July 2014. The Guardian
I highly recommend watching the Inhabit Film to greater understand the need for permaculture in our home systems. http://inhabitfilm.com/
#freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #foodnotlawns #thehomesystem #growcreateinspire
Some ideas for improving access to nature connection if you, or someone you are close to, has an illness or disability meaning they find it difficult to be outdoors.
Studies over the last few years have consistently demonstrated that being in nature is beneficial for both our physical and emotional health. From my own observations, I would also add that for many people connecting with the other living parts of Earth also brings increased levels of wellbeing to both the spiritual and social aspects of our lives too.
In my work as a palliative care nurse and as an unpaid Carer of several family members I have witnessed many instances where, being able to be creative about how to connect with nature, can positively influence the quality of life for people who are too unwell or disabled to spend time outside on a regular basis.
Over the past year I have become very unwell and currently spend most of my time in bed. This has given me a great opportunity to reflect further about how disabled people, who for whatever reasons find being outside challenging, can benefit from nature connection.
These are some of the ideas I have collated. Most of which I use in my own life too.
Have beautifully fragranced flowers or pots of herbs inside of a space where you spend a lot of your time. Or perhaps use essential oils in a diffuser, bath, or on a tissue. Essential oils can also help as part of a well-being plan, and some should be used with caution as they can have adverse side effects for you and people/pets around you if their use is not understood well. I can recommend permaculture practitioner and qualified aromatherapist Dave Jackson for guidance and advice. He’s based in Cambridge England, and really happy to provide video consultations for folk who aren’t local to him. Dave’s details are in the resources section below.
Ask a visiting (in real life, or digital) friend or family member to tell you about their experiences of spending time in nature. I’ve found that this can also be a great distraction from the focus always being about my illness too.
Listen to a guided mediation involving sounds of nature: the noise of the sea, river waterfalls, bird song, gentle breeze through long grasses and rain.
Watch films and TV programs about nature. Listen to radio programs and podcasts about the great outdoors
Observe patterns in nature through a window. Watch the earth cycles, seasons and changing skies.
Be creative about nature inspiration such as art, doodling, writing, textile crafts, singing, playing a musical instrument, making a collage, wildlife themed colouring books. I have also found that giving myself thinking and daydreaming time about walks, daytrips, holidays, sunny days, deep snow, summer rain, storms and gardens, for example, has been a wonderful thing to do when more practical activities are too exhausting or painful.
Have houseplants in a space in the home where you spend a lot of time, which as well as lovely to see, also help to clean the air inside from potential toxins.
With help if needed, create a nature space/table/shelf in a place where you can see it often. Ideas of things to include could be a vase of local flowers, photos, small twigs/branches in a vase, stones, shells, herbs to dry. I have such a space and love to adapt it as the seasons change.
If you are someone who has experience and knowledge about gardening, farming or other nature related activities and knowledge, could you mentor or teach others who would like to learn? Again, this could be face to face, or via digital (or written) communication: — Creating a blog, social media space or writing an article for a local paper, newsletter, or specialist publication.
Sprout seeds and pulses and/or grow herbs on a kitchen windowsill. Really easy to do by yourself, or by someone who helps you. Results in fresh, nutritious home grown food throughout the year.
Reading books, magazines and blogs about nature. Look at nature focused photos and art. Connecting with nature focused social media spaces. Perhaps find (or create) spaces on social media where there are others who are also enjoying and appreciating nature from indoors.
Eat seasonal food and drinks and/or source your food from local growers, farmers and preservers.
Be aware of any sadness, grief or loss you feel about not being able to connect with nature outdoors. Even reading this short article may generate difficult emotions. And that’s ok. I’ve found that talking it through with someone close to you or writing, drawing or any other creative expression can really help, as do other ideas mentioned here.
As well as hopefully providing some useful ideas relating to nature connection and immersion, an additional function of this article is to inspire further discussion about the urgent need for permaculture practitioners to address issues of privilege in accessing permaculture.
There are a huge diverse number of resources relating to the ideas I have written about in this article. If you need some extra inspiration or a starting point. Here are some of my current favourites.
Dave Jackson Aromatherapisthttps://cambridgearomatherapy.com/2012/08/01/cambridge-aromatherapy/
Writing by Flo Scott — Flo has written a number of articles in Permaculture Magazine and also has her own blog at http://permaculturedesigner.co.uk In particular check out Flo’s most recent post “Top 5 things to do in an Indoor Garden”
BBC Radio programmes — all of the following are available as podcasts (or on iplayer for those in the UK) at https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/new
Plus books and YouTube films by Alys
Permaculture Magazine — available via paper or digital subscription plus lots of free content at https://www.permaculture.co.uk/
Lots of fantastic books at Green Shopping https://www.green-shopping.co.uk/
One of my current favourite books from Green Shopping, including many, many gorgeous photos, is No Dig Organic Home and Garden by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty
‘She Explores’ podcast https://she-explores.com/podcast/
Facebook Group — I have recently created a Facebook Group Permaculture, Chronic illness and Disability, for anyone with an interest in the topic to join. There is already a very friendly and solutions focused culture emerging there, so please come along and join in if you are interested.
Kt Shepherd is a Permaculture Practitioner. You can discover more about her projects and permaculture interests at https://www.ktshepherdpermaculture.com and via her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
All artwork and photos in this article by Kt Shepherd
#permaculture #wellness #gardeningwithdisabilities #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen
I feel very lucky and grateful to have been invited to write a module on microclimates for a new online Permaculture design course. What I wasn’t expecting was the richness and enjoyment this extra awareness of microclimates has given me.
Imagine yourself on a scorchingly hot summer’s day, in an urban environment.
How are you moving through this landscape?
Which side of the road do you walk on?
Do you walk near trees or avoid them.
Scenario 2: a wet, cold, stormy winter’s day.
Now how do you move through the landscape?
Quite naturally most of us will unconsciously seek shade both from the sun, wind and the rain, to avoid their extremes. But in permaculture we make this a conscious process, refine this observation skill by fine-tuning our awareness for spotting differences in light, temperature, moisture and wind in the landscape: the microclimate.
This awareness allows us to make deliberate observations about a site so that we can use the microclimates and niches that become available to optimum effect. We can then make choices about adapting our environment through making modifications, like planting trees to help cool hot spots or temper the wind.
I’ve noticed that through conscious awareness of these factors, I naturally and consciously make choices about how to optimise my use of microclimates. I relate to new places more quickly, get to know them through their local climate, and make other observations such as what grows naturally, what other things could be positioned where, like where would be a good spot for a particular fruit tree to thrive.
As hunter gatherers we relied on sharp senses to provide extensive data about our environment as we moved through it. For example using sight, hearing and touch to make observations and mental notes of wind speed and directions. This information informs how the wind affects the shape of animal tracks and therefore the decision on when the track was made and thus how far away the animal might be. Our lives would depend on our ability to interpret this information, both for obtaining food and protection from predators.
When we consciously practice noticing these different microclimate factors through our senses, we reawaken our bodies’ original design, fine-tuning our awareness of our environment and what it tells us. This allows us to relate directly to it and feel much more connected wherever we are. It directly links us to the landscape through our senses. In this way it becomes easy to feel at home more quickly wherever we are.
Similarly, when we know where the sun is and the time of day, it helps us to orientate ourselves in the landscape. As well as showing us the microclimate, it allows us to feel even more connected and related to place, more comfortable and therefore more at home.
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #microclimates
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