Free From Techno-Confusion

Be Freed from Confusion About New Technologies

confusionThe brave step of supporting a new technology can be full of confusion.  Techno-confusion is mounting as more, and more technologies are invented. The world is desperately searching for technological improvement to help solve climate uncertainty.  [Permaculture is one technological and cultural solution.] Yet even as we discover healthy technologies, humanity will continuously aim to reduce inefficiencies.

Everyone wants to be part of the solution. Many of understand why it is good to search for clean and efficient technologies. But most of us are confused about ‘how to tell what is best’

Joy_Of_Understanding_Permaculture_Visions

How can we rid ourselves of confusion, build our confidence; make informed decisions; remain unswayed by emotion; ignore slick sales pressures and side-step [or lead] new fashion trends?

At PermacultureVisions we created a decision tool to help you determine your own values and priorities. It may also lead you to consider environmental aspects.  The least it can do is help save you time and money.

Master the Art of Decision Making

get an apLectures are useful to get up to speed on facts and figures. Tutoring helps you understand the factors in those decisions. Mentoring guides you as you tailor the choices to suit your individual needs. The table  below is part of our mentorship and teaching program.  Instead of telling you what to buy, like a sales team, we would rather help you make technological choices.

How Can I Compare All the Different Technologies Available?

We can evaluate new technologies and compare like products when we consider each feature and cost. Here is a guide to help you compare technologies or products with similar purpose. This evaluation tool was developed with our students Morgan Stephens, Tessha Mearing, and Penny Cross.

home-grown-teasThe aim of this tool is to equip permaculture designers with a means to evaluate a new technology themselves rather than being told what is best. Technologies change rapidly, so advise can get conflicting and the technology efficiency is dependent on the context of the user.

You can set your own rating value. This will reflect how important this aspect or feature is in your choice. Sit back with a cuppa, set the priorities and enjoy!

GO TO THE COMPARISON TABLE HERE

Be An Innovator

My_Car_Future-top-slice

The consumer can become the leader.  The consumer can test, adapt, and develop techniques and strategies. We can give informed feedback to the product-developers. If the product has modular parts, we often find new uses and by-products . Further inventions can be lead by the grass-roots users.

Be mentored in Your Permaculture Journey

Do a permaculture course with us today.

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Dark Side Of Double-Digging

Double-Digging Crudely Hits Pay Dirt but…

the ultimate aim of production must be to create a harmonious network of rich and free beingsDouble digging is a technique where you dig, put the soil to the side, dig a bit more and toss that second lot of soil into the first hole. Essentially, you are turning the soil and bugs upside down and letting their shocked, dead bodies feed the your new plantings. In thin soils (like dryland soils) you would be bringing up the subsoil and trying to turn it into top soil. Double digging is destructive.

Double-Digging can be Instantly Impressive

The growth on plants (and sometimes the weeds) is quick and leafy. Double digging is an old farming technique used for centuries in countries with cool climates, deep soils and a careful regime where the soil is rested for long periods to try to recover. If you are in the modern world where land is expensive and there is pressure on you to do use (no time to rest it), or you want to use the space that is close to your backdoor not far away in a forgotten back corner of your garden. Then double digging is not your best option.

There is a serious cost to double-digging. Put bluntly, double-digging does irreparable damage to your soil. Double-digging

  • kills the micro-organisms in the soil.  chicken-diggingThe dead creatures make double digging so amazingly productive. Their little bodies become instant fertiliser for the crops.
  • damages the structure of fragile soils and tempts erosion due to weathering by water and wind.
  • can bring up the useless, hard clods of subsoil unless you are digging on a rare fertile flood plain.
  • has a high risk of erosion from the moment vegetation is removed or hard-hoofed animals are put to graze. The typical Australian soil is only centimeters deep. This risk is amplified by the process of digging.
  • releases carbon into the atmosphere.

Industry is too prone to measure success in the immolate terms of cash or profit, and soil and soul can suffer in the process - L Elmhirst 1944Digging can be satisfying.

We can buy a fruit tree, dig a hole and put the tree in the ground. In a short time the tree may be fruiting and voilà we have the start of a food forest. Or do we? A real food forest captures condensation (more condensation can come to your garden than rainfall).  A Permaculture forest builds soil.  Condensation is trapped and rainfall stored in the soil.  Water is used and re-used.  Organisms are nurtured not sacrificed.  A good permaculture forest design optimises the use of natural energies and serves to increase the health of the soil.  Healthy soil gives us healthier trees and more nutritious fruit.

What Soil Really Wants

umbrella fungi North-America Badgerset farm

Good soil has 5 components:

  1. Air (digging does increase the air, but so do worms)
  2. Water (digging can increase water penetration) but if not designed well it can lead to erosion
  3. Micro-organisms (digging kills many of these). Mulching provides them habitat
  4. Nutrients (plants including weeds can mine for nutrients and make good air pockets with their long roots) Biochar can boost the nutrients in the soil as well as increase habitat for micro-organisms.
  5. rock or other growing media such as recycled brick.

Healthy soil grows in height over the years. We can see the somewhat gruesome evidence of this in ancient graveyards where the ground level has risen.

Jerry Glover
Jerry Glover displays the impressive roots of grasses versus grain

What could be more satisfying than Digging?

Simple No-dig Gardens

No-dig gardens can be designed to capture and filter the rain-water and protect the soil and micro-organisms from erosion.  No-dig gardening

  • is physically easier and faster to set up
  • suppresses weeds
  • can regenerate soil (fertile, rocky, sandy or solid clay)
  • requires less effort
  • uses waste materials and
  • evolves into a beautiful garden
our hills_hoistarium
Our abundant little no-dig garden perches on rock-solid subsoil that could not be dug by man or woman.

No dig gardening requires a little patience but the soil is regenerated, fertility is enhanced and the organisms are constantly building in numbers.

Joyous Songs of Worm Charmers

There are many traditional farming techniques where the nutrients and organisms in local forests are brought to their fields to ‘seed’ worms and nutrients into the fields to improve fertility.  Some people have turned it into a quirky sport like worm charming.

Have fun learning about healing the earth with a permaculture course.

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Biomimicry & Permaculture Today

Janine Benysus, in her ground-breaking book Biomimicry, acknowledged Permaculture as a way to create food forests by mimicking the workings of the natural forest. The insights are still relevant. She had predicted Nature would be a powerful educational model. There are now an abundance of designs based on nature. One of these thriving design sciences is evident in the number of good mature permaculture sites worldwide.

And as we develop more observation skills, Nature becomes our patient mentor.

Revisiting Biomimicry’s Principles

Janine Benyus1: “9 Basic Principles of Biomimicry and how they work:

  1. Nature runs on sunlight. This is true of nearly every living creature, but not all.  The very rare exceptions include tubeworms in the depths of the ocean that eat chemicals released from volcanos. There are recent discoveries showing a few rare organisms do not need full sunlight. And sadly, with climate change we are witnessing the struggle of some plants to survive in full sunlight. The permaculture strategy to stack plants in a food forest is valuable here. We can fit a lot of plants into an intensive space and out-compete weeds.
  2. Epping forest, London IPUK delegates from Africa and Hong Kong marvel at the wasted abundance in a major city

    Nature uses only the energy it needs. If a creature harvests more than it needs, the harvest is not wasted. Squirrels often forget where they buried their nuts, these nuts either sprout into new trees or are eaten by other creatures. The trees benefit from this forgetful relationship.
    Most predators will kill only the weak animals in a herd. Most kill only as needed. There are always puzzling exceptions. Foxes will bury their kill and dig it up to eat later, they believe in banking. But it is difficult to see the wisdom of a predator that kills all the flock of hens without leaving some animals to reproduce. Perhaps cunning doesn’t imply planning skills as seen in Ants farming fungus or aphids.

  3. Nature fits form to function.
    When a function is needed, a form evolves: The camel evolved great nostrils to minimise water-loss. The termite uses insulation to prevent the nest from overheating. Bears and skunks burrow for comfortable hibernation. Functional design today learns fr
    om nature.
    Nature Knows How - Soft Technology
  1. Nature recycles everything.
    Energy, chemicals, and matter are used and reused by nature. Where there is desolation, very little matter is moved or transformed but where there is life there is constant change.
  2.  Nature rewards cooperation.
    bumble_bee_yellow_flowerThis is essential in the web-of-life. Many plants rely on close relationship with their pollinators. Flowers reward the bees by providing them with nectar. There are often competitors and cheats in a natural system (eg. robber bees who by-pass the stamens and raid the nectar by drilling holes in the base of the lower) but the bulk of the work is done through happy, productive relationships.
  3. Nature banks on diversity.
    Through diversity, there are many different types of creatures, with a variety of habits and needs. There is an intricate co-habitation in a rich tapestry of living organisms.
  4. we found our niche and we are filling it!Nature demands local expertise. In some species, we find local expertise, size and functional diversity in the one colony. Ants are a good example of diversity and are one of the most successful and diverse species on the planet (15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass.[8)
  5. Nature curbs excesses from within. When there is a limit of resources, many natural processes will curb population growth. Some species are less fertile without adequate nutrients. Some species of animals can delay the implantation of a fertile embryo, enabling them to delay pregnancy until the season is more favourable.
  6. Nature taps the power of limits.
    This principle was more
    controversial at time of writing and is has mixed metaphores (a limit is not a power source) so it is difficult to qualify.
    Janine wrote:
    “real survivors are the Earth inhabitants that have lived millions of years without consuming their ecological capital, the base from which all abundance flows.” Our ecological capital includes energy, nutrients and genetic material.  Fortunately, for humanity, there a constant and free energy input from the sun, a strong life force and a rich bank of genetic material.  With careful management we can maintain a clean supply of nutrients.

permaculture_farm_Ideas-1024x601Limits create responses. Innovation such as variation and diversity is stimulated by limits.  Because farming exports nutrients, there are real limits. 

Some farming ideas can help reduce nutrient loss ie. with the use of good water management to help minimise erosion. We can build soil organically by supporting micro-fauna and flora.

An integrated system like Permaculture uses less ecological capital.  It recognises our limits helps us focus for resilience.
1Benyus, Janine (1997). Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. New York, USA: William Morrow & Company. ISBN 978-0-688-16099-9.

Build your resilience by learning more about Permaculture with us.
We are different by design.

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Hard and Soft Technologies

 Can’t Live Without You – Dear Technology

help-meTechnologies can be classified as Soft or Hard. Most technologies sit within the range between these two extremes. Knowing the difference helps us choose a technology to do a task with the least environmental cost.

Basically, Soft technologies are those handled by people. Whereas, Hard technologies don’t need people to watch over them.

“We use hard technologies to make things easier and faster, by reducing the number of choices for users. Hard technologies are brittle and stifle creativity. They prevent us from doing things and that is why we use them.  They are complete. Hard technologies act as filters – they structure our spaces and limit what we can do.” Jenny Mackness

Elaborating on technologies

A fire pit is a soft technology because requires a skilled operator to start it and keep it going.  However, a wood-fired oven is a slightly ‘harder’ technology because some of the physical effort is reduced by the addition of walls and a chimney.  Eventually, the electric heater was developed. It required less effort and provided speed. This is how the technology of heating became ‘Hardened’.

Very Hard technologies don’t need humans to keep them in operation. A solar passive house is the ultimate Hard technology – it functions without an operator.

Soft and Pliable Technologies

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Ferrocement – a creative soft technology

Soft technologies are flexible and empower creativity. The user has to plan and orchestrate processes. This requires skill and creativity. Soft technologies may appear to be simple but they require time, skills and observation to function.

Co-Evolution

bikeMixed technologies can be an intelligent conversion or enhancement of technologies. The bicycle is the perfect mixed technology. It is the most efficient form of transport known to man. A bicycle requires human energy, skill and observation to operate it. And so we Segway to the Motor car. The common car is a mixed technology.  The self-powered, self-driving car will be a hard type of technology.

Hard Technology Improves Peasantry lifestyle

An example of a soft technology is a house that constantly needs cleaning. Consequently, hard technology deals with inevitable issues such as waste management. One example is the The flush toilet. This is a hard technology, requiring little handling to do a vital job. A simple pit-style of toilet (the old hole in the ground) is a hard technology whereas a good composting toilet is an evolved mixed technology.

chicken-weeds-worms-towerIn a simple chicken house, the poop builds up. The chicken in the wild would not tolerate this, it would move house and allow nature to recycle the waste. The domesticated-chicken-owner is constantly cleaning up after them.

Imagine a chicken house design that is self-cleaning. The Chicken-Worm-Tower is a mix of simple animal housing technology with good flow-management strategies (the waste from the upper level becomes food for the lower levels).

Softening Up The Hard Technologies

Traditionally, a building is a hard technology however, skills can be developed to soften any negative effects of a building.  With observation and adaptations the building becomes a mixed technology.  Adaptations develop and the user learns to drive the structure. These adaptations include simple tools like opening critical windows to allow breezes through. More adaptations include the use of heavy curtains to prevent air circulation and heat loss. In more extreme cases the user reduces heat-loss by applying insulating materials and plugging drafts.

Does a Technology have to cost the Earth?

Choosing a technology deserves a little bit of environmental analysis beyond the immediate financial cost.

  1. technology-save-us?What is the embedded energy in the product?
  2. How long will it last?
  3. is it able to adapt with my needs?
  4. How is it repaired?
  5. What waste is generated?
  6. Is it easy to dis-assemble and recycle?

Hard and Soft Technology of the Permaculture Site

A young Permaculture site is a soft technology. It requires vision, care, skill and training. The user needs to be flexible and creative. As the site matures we see the space become a Harder technology.  The mature forest is robust and requires less maintenance.

The hardened environmental system rewards us with food and improved habitat. Within the mature food-forest we will enjoy being creative and we have more resources to play with.

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