These are my own thoughts on what I think the 12 design principles mean. As I have said before I have no formal training in Permaculture and I have yet to do a PDC but I do like to try to use Permaculture Principles not only on the land but in all aspects of my life. If you disagree with my interpretation of the principles or have anything to add please do leave a comment.
1: Observe and Interact
Before you do anything, take some time to have a look around and see what’s what. This is especially true for a piece of land. You need to spend a lot of time just noting what it already growing on the land, where the sun comes up and goes down, where the water travels from and to, where the frost pockets and the sunny spots are etc. It is all to easy to jump in and start imposing our will on the land without too much thought. If you want a pond, find out if and where water naturally pools on the land. It is easier to let nature fill your pond for you. You certainly don’t want to be building your house on that spot even if it look idyllic in the summer. Constantly observe the land through the seasons and try to interact with the land instead of fighting with it.
2: Catch and Store Energy
Putting something away for a rainy day unless it is rain that you are storing and then you want to put it away for a sunny day. Rain is a good example. When it rains it pours and when it pours, most of the rain that falls on your property will run off taking topsoil and nutrients with it. Better to try and slow the flow of water and to store as much of it as possible for times of need using things like swales, ponds and mulching. There are countless other ways of storing free energy. In our geodesic dome project we are hoping to store the heat of the day in an underground water tank so the heat can slowly be released back into the dome at night. Growing vegetables and fruit that can be stored without spoiling is like catching the suns energy and using it in the winter.
3: Obtain a Yield
It needs to be worth all the effort. You need to profit from the hard work you put into your life. The profit may be tasty food that id healthier for you, cleaner water that is free from chemicals, more time spent doing the things that make you happy instead of things that don’t. It is not only important that you are rewarded but is it is important that others around you see that you are living a rewarding life and may want to emulate you.
4: Apply Self regulation and Accept feedback
5: Use and value Renewable Recourses and services
6: Produce No Waste
We all produce waste. It is how we view that waste that makes the difference. Unfortunately the majority of thee population views human waste (yes we are talking about pee and poo) as an SEP (somebody else’s problem) as Douglas Adams would have said. We flush it away without a thought of where it goes until one day when it fails to go and we call out a plumber and make it his problem instead. Both pee and poo and valuable resources that need to be kept on site and reused. We need to take responsibility (remember the prime directive?)of our own waste and turn it into something useful.
7: Design from Patterns to Detail
8: Integrate rather than Segregate
Learn to integrate systems instead of separating them out into designated areas. One thing I have never been able to understand is the way many people plan their garden especially if they have a vegetable patch and hens. Most people have flower beds and -excuse my use of a rude word- lawns near the house and then they hide things like the veg garden, chickens and the compost heap right down the the bottom of the garden preferably behind a fence so it can’t be seen. This -to me- is the wrong way around. You need to visit your hens at least twice a day and also they need to be protected from predators so the best place to the chickens is near the house where you can see them and it it easy to tend to them. The veg garden needs regular attention plus you will want to nip out in the middle of cooking a meal to pick fresh veg or herbs. You don’t want to have to go all the way to the bottom of the garden to do that every time. The compost heap interfaces with both the veg patch and the chickens so could actually be in thee chicken run. the chickens will process the compost faster, they will eat the bugs in it, they will add their own organic matter to the compost and you will see a reduction in your feed costs. Even better if you house the chickens in your glass house or poly tunnel. Chickens give off a lot of heat at night. They also produce CO2. Both of these thing will be beneficial to the plants in your tunnel. You can let the hens have temporary access to your veg beds now and then to scratch them up, eat pests and help fertilise the soil.
9: Use Small and Slow Solutions
10: Use and Value Divesity
11: Use Edges and Value the Marginal
12: Creatively Use and Respond to Change