Permaculture Design: Part II

Design process.


| July/August 1984



Permaculture Design Dandelion

Photo 13. Wild blueberries, strawberries and dandelions indicate acid soils.


PHOTO: JOHN QUINNEY

The permaculture design process starts with the guidelines in Part I, adds a particular piece of land and specific farmers, and then uses the following step-by step procedure to arrive at a completed small farm or homestead plan.

Defining Goals

First, the person or persons operating a small farm or homestead must define realistic objectives and state them as precisely as possible. It's not enough to want "to be self-sufficient." Such vague statements immediately suggest other questions: Do you want to be self-reliant in everything, including energy needs? ... Or only food? ... Or only summer vegetables?

A workable goals statement could be as follows: On this land, within five years, we want to net $20,000 a year for 40 person hours of work per week and for a total capital outlay of less than $50,000.

No design will succeed if it's developed without such clear objectives. You must know what you want to do before you can figure out how to do it. So although you'll be tempted to avoid this issue and move on to the excitement of choosing a chicken breed or planning a crop rotation scheme, don't! A good design must precede the implementation. Premature zeal often results in mistakes that may be costly later.

Ideally, for the first year you should do nothing beyond defining goals and identifying the resources at hand. Rather than rushing out to dig a pond or build a barn, spend those first seasons getting to know the land and its resources. The only exceptions to this "do little" strategy are activities that are obviously necessary or involve a minimal commitment of time and money. These could include establishing herb and salad gardens near the farmhouse, upgrading insulation and weather stripping, and harvesting firewood from dead trees.

Identifying Resources

Goals can be well-defined and still be unrealistic, of course. The next step, completing a resource inventory, will give you a check with reality. Through careful observation, collect data about the on site and local resources, and closely examine your personal resources, as well.





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