What is permaculture? A set of ethics: Care of the Earth, Care of People, Fair Share. These ethics govern twelve design principles.
1. Observe and interact
2. Catch and store energy
3. Obtain a yield
4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
5. Use and vaule renewable resources and services
6. Produce no waste
7. Design from patterns to detials
8. Integrate rather than segregate
9. Use small and slwo solutions
10. Use and value diversity
11. Use edges and value the margin
12. Creatively use and respond to change
Today we began a design project for the Borner Farm we visited earlier in the week. We broke into two groups for the design process which meant each group had 14 people. This number of people made it difficult to organize but we finally were able to figure out how to break the project down and begin. It’s good for me to remember how difficult group projects can be and how important it is to set them up correctly and provide direction and tools. My initial reaction, of course, was complete frustration and the desire to check out. But…I kept my mouth shut, hung in there and managed to ‘play well with others’ on one piece of the project.
Speaking of frustrated….A couple of landscape architecture students from the University of Minneapolis are in the class and they are frustrated that they don’t have to take ANY plant classes. It’s all architectural theory and computer work. So I’m envious of their computer skills, and they, of my plant knowledge. One of our horticulture graduates will be attending U of Minn this fall with plans to study landscape architecture. Sounds like he will first have to get a bachelor degree in horticulture and then a Masters in LA. I think the problem is these students come into the LA program without a horticulture undergrad degree. If they had been horticulture majors they would have had all these plant classes. I’m confident our GTC grad will be well prepared with plant knowledge and experience gained from working at Stein.
Daniel Halsey of SouthWoods Forest Gardens was a guest speaker today. Dan is a commercial photographer and permaculture landscape designer. Dan went through the design process with us today and discussed several projects he is working on in Texas and Minnesota. It was very interesting to see his designs and find him using Adobe illustrator for all his design work, not LandCadd or Dynascape.
Dan has been working with some people on a permaculture plant database which is pretty cool as it can be searched for attributes such as nitrogen fixer, groundcover, rodent deterrent. Various plant guilds are identified such as Black Walnut tolerant companions. They have some very cool information about natural plant associations and plant compatabilities/incompatabilities. We have access to the database as they are still working the bugs out so this may be useful. However they are using some pretty questionable plants in my mind – grapevine and comfrey are horribly invasive. Comfrey is used as a bioaccumulator and a biomass source but must be constantly hacked back or it will take over. A lot of the plants they are recommending are natives, invasives/weeds and not enough cultivated varieties or selections for my taste. What’s so wrong with using a Concord grape with decent sized fruit rather than that scraggly ‘American grape’ invasive weed with tiny little, sour grapes. So I think this will be a great database to refer to but I’ll want to add more ornamentals and cultivars. Also the permaculture people don’t seem to have any use for specialty cut flowers and I’ll want to add these to designs. Curly willow, dogwood, pussy willow, hydrangea, spring bulbs, peony, allium, grasses, herbs and supplies for basket and wreath making could really add profit to a farm, especially in the ‘shoulder’ and off seasons. Dan also talked about researching plants nutritional value to identify them as potential green manure fertilizer sources for other plants. Grow your own fertilizer sort of thing. For example tomatoes need large amounts of P and K and sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) contain large amounts so use sunchokes as a green manure or companion for tomatoes or use in a crop rotation before tomatoes.
Tomorrow we work on our design projects all day. I’m getting anxious to get home and start applying these concepts to my own yard (and see my hubby, kids and dog!). I feel like I’ve been away for a month! Big thanks to my wonderful hubby for ‘holding down the fort’ at home while I did this!
I leave here Thursday and will travel over to visit Star Valley Growers near Soldier Grove, one of the largest specialty cut flower growers in the Midwest. I’ve been wanting to tour this place for a very long time and its on my way home. I read about them in Martha Stewart magazine so they are a very big deal! Stay tuned for pictures and information on my visit at the end of the week.