Monday, October 30, 2006

Permaculture in action

Some examples permaculture projects...

A rainwater catchment system, constructed of salvaged lumber and drums.

A chicken coop built from log edges, which can be collected for free from lumber mills.

Ponds are super useful! They hold water in the area, decreasing how much/often you have to water your garden (if ever). They are aesthetically pleasing and they attract all kinds of beneficial insects, animal and amphibian species. This one is also a good example of using readily available and cheap (free) resources: note the "urbanite" containing wall. "Urbanite" is an urban geologic material, i.e. broken up sidewalks and other salvaged concrete.

There's a lot of permaculture going on in this picture. This house has a sunroom along the south-facing wall to get boku passive solar gain. Even though it's in Oregon this can be appreciable. The cloches (small greenhouses) protect the abutting gardens from frost. The placement of the cloche helps retain heat in both the cloche and the house. The plants nearest the door of the house are the most frequently used in the kitchen, for example. There are probably more permaculture elements going on, but you get the point.

Suburban's a multi-family dwelling built on about 1/2 a typical neighborhood block (in Eugene). The building itself has many "green" features, with beautiful "edible landscaping" all around. Read more about this suburban ecovillage...

What is permaculture?

So I just finished a month-long course in permaculture design at an ecovillage near Eugene, OR. People have been asking, "How was it?" and "What did you learn?" and "What is permaculture?" So I figure I should put some thought to these important questions and try to explain them in the greater context of the overall work that I am up to in causing this worldwide transformation for ecological sustainability.

So, the intent of permaculture is take a comprehensive approach to how humans interact with each other and with the ecosystems that support us in order to create high-quality human settlements that minimize the input of energy and labor as well as negative impacts on the environment.

What does that mean? It's basically ecological engineering. It asks, "How can we work with nature instead of against it?" And it strives to produce the greatest yield and the maximum well-being with the least amount of work -- efficiency, in other words.

Here's an example of permaculture practice: catch water off the roof of your house and store it until the dry season, then use it to water your vegetable garden. Or, pipe it through a graywater system in your house -- like use it to flush toilets. (Using 3 - 5 gallons per flush of drinking-water-quality water to flush a pee is kind of insane, especially considering a few billion people don't have access to sanitary water to drink in the first place.)

Here's another example of permaculture practice: put plants in your garden that attract ladybugs. Ladybugs eat aphids, which eat the plants that you want to eat. With ladbugs, you don't have to spend loads of money on toxic pesticides to kill the aphids.

OK, two more fun examples...

Chickens are tractors. Chickens scratch up the soil and fertilize it with their poo. So you don't have to toil away at the plough, or dump in tons of expensive fossil-fuel based fertilizers. Just let your chickens hang out where you want your garden to be. They'll prepare the soil nicely. They work long days, never complain, and you don't have to pay them. Plus, they lay eggs, and you can eat them.

And there's the story of the north Vietnamese peasant farmer in the '60's who wanted a pond on his farm. It's a lot of work to dig a pond, much easier to build a hut. So, he built a hut where he wanted the pond to be, and waited for the US Air Force to come along and bomb his hut and excavate his pond for him. Yup, that's permaculture!

So, the main point is that permaculure is easy, fun, creative, productive, efficient, environmentally benign or beneficial, inexpensive, accessible to everyone, aesthetic, and provides for high quality of life. I'll post some pictures as well as reflection and analysis of my experiences in the course soon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A few more Glacier NP pics...

Wooly mountain goats

Looking west over the Two Medicine area

Sunset over St. Mary Lake

Monday, October 02, 2006

Grinnell's retreat

Some evidence of the effects of global warming: the retreat of Grinnell glacier over the past 150 years...

From a USGS site:

And my photo:

An aerial view from the USGS:

And my photo:

Since the nineteenth century, the number of glaciers in the park has declined from about 150 to 27. Recent estimates suggest that all the glaciers in the park will have melted by as early as the year 2021 due to accelerating global warming.

Read more about glacial retreat in Glacier park.

Scenes from Glacier NP

I spent the past week backpacking with my buddy Gary in Glacier National Park in Montana. It was incredible! Here are a few pics from the trip, although, I have to say they just don't do the scenery justice. (More to come soon...)

Looking west towards Grinnell glacier from Swiftcurrent lake:

A female bighorn sheep, in Bighorn Basin, just east of the continental divide at Dawson Pass:

A waterfall below Siyeh pass: