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joel_bc

Finances and Permaculture design

20 years ago

This may strike people here as an odd question or topic, but bear with me.

I have read some of the Permaculture literature, known a few self-identified (and trained) Permaculturists, and have myself lived on rural land for 30 years. The Permaculture system, as I've generally seen it practiced, is great for moving toward a self-sustaining mini ecosystem (with a comfy place in it for the people living in it), but it requires considerable expense of time, energy, and materials.

Nothing inherently wrong with this -- in fact, when people dedicate themselves to it, it is an admirable thing.

BUT -- so far, I have not seen a P design textbook, or book of case studies, that considers the element of financial investment. Financial investment seems to me to be a hidden design element. It costs money to take raw land or old (possibly abused) land and make it into the Permaculture dream.

In addition, I have seen very many P experiments where marketable yield, in terms of annual $$ return, was nowhere near what was required in terms of financial investment. Must one be independently wealthy, or "retired with a bundle"? When people must take off-land jobs, it often cuts into the time needed for land development.

Would anyone care to tell me where a book (or Web site) like this may have been published?

And in addition, what are your thoughts?

Joel

Comments (54)

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Virtually EVERYTHING takes "considerable expense of time, energy, and materials", permaculture included. If you've found something besides poverty that doesn't, please let me know as quick as you can.

    But permaculture also takes thinking, sense & determination. Look at all those people who whine that they can't afford to buy a home, but get a new car every other year.

    There is an interesting, informative book that I feel could mesh well with permaculture: "How to make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres" by Booker T. Whatley.

    If you have 30 acres and use it to grow corn, hay, grain, pumpkins, etc, to sell (esp. wholesale), IMHO you're automatically going to lose money. As Whatley says, each acre has to produce a certain number of dollars of income.

    If you could set up a quarter-acre of raspberry or strawberry plants near the house, where you could spend some of your extra time weeding & watering, then sell the fruit (for instance), you could use the cash to improve some other facet of the permaculture situation. But not if you use the proceeds to live on, or repair the plumbing in the house.

    If you've already got the land and can borrow or trade for the use of a tractor, you're already ahead of the people who don't have either. Have a plan of multiple ideas & sources of income. If you've got ten kinds of crops and one or two get wiped out, you're still ahead.

    Borrow the book from the library, it's in the system. It will give ideas & common-sense suggestions.

    Sue

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks, Sue.

    Anyone else?

    Joel

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  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Permaculture in general was developed to use very simple tools (seeds, swales, use of on-site biomass and materials, sunlight and natural cooling, waste materials, etc.) combined with KNOWLEDGE. It also uses the concept of planning and does planting over time.

    Have you ever watched the Global Gardner video, available from Rodale Institute and other places? It shows Bill Mollison picking ripe fruit, and saving the pit to plant. It shows impoverished people all over the world making mulches out of available plant material, planting trees and food bearing plants, and the quick growth. Also simple water saving ideas, and so forth.

    In the West we look to very high standards of living which require a lot of money, health insurance, pensions, etc. My thought is that by simplifying requirements, a long and sometimes painful process, for me at least, we can work toward needing less and less money.

    In Alaska, most people work more than one job- maybe fish in the summer and teach school in the winter and so forth. In the summer I garden and make jelly and put up other food, and swap jellies to folks who like to hunt (venison) and fish. Fills up my freezer and pantry, and theirs!

    During the school year I work a job, covers medical and mortgage, and I order seeds, write, and so forth. Three months on the land, although last year I also started a perennial food garden at my place of employment.

    Yes, financial investment is part of PC, but most of us are on the scale of gardeners. For larger scales, think about what you can swap as part of your finances. (Hunting in fall in exchange for using their dumptruck? Haul their manure away for free? Have your local lawnmowers drop their clippings off at your place for free- no dump fees?)

    On my small scale, my next door neighbor likes me because I get rid of all her unsightly horse manure, which she obligingly places ready for me in the wheelbarrow I leave at her place! I bring home big bags of shredded paper from work, free bags of lawn clippings from work, and make the only hot compost I know of in this little part of Alaska.

    Money is partially a substitute for having friends.

    Best,

    seraphima

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Seraphima: "Money is partially a substitute for having friends" -- well, I can relate to that, in that my own on-the-land lifestyle would not have worked out, probably, if I did not have friends -- not the least for reasons that relate to the kinds of things you describe. At the same time, everyone here uses manufactured materials, e.g., lumber, plywood, roofing, insulation, pipe, glue, solder, fencing wire, nails, screws, etc. No place that I have seen in my valley has been able to get along without tools like a chainsaw, wood saw (table &/or circular), etc -- plus gasoline/deisel and electricity to run them. Then there is the dual purpose (useful info and entertainment) provided by books, magazine subs, etc. So: money.

    The only point I tried to make in the initial post is that the combo of need for money and generation of income should in itself be counted as a design factor. I say this because it may well determine when and how specific other elements are designed into the permaculture homestead. (Yes, you are right, I am thinking in terms of larger scale projects than, say, something the size of a suburban house & lot.)

    I believe that all case histories of permaculture design should include this dimension, described as specifically as possible.

    Thanks for the input, and I'd enjoy more.

    J,

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Dear Joel,

    Yes, I see what you mean. You are talking about factoring in capital for machines, breeding stock, and so forth.
    Agreed, that is all to often overlooked.

    Those who do garden-size PC plans of course have to include cost as a factor, so this should apply to large scale work also.

    Most of us PCers tend to be good scroungers, and to have a dream, so there is also a tendancy to think that if we can get the land, the rest will just come.

    We ran an organic farm in the early 1970's for several years and eventually came acropper on the following problems:

    1. Finding and developing markets for our produce.
    2. The necessity of doing everything in concert with the weather and not on our time. For example, we were supposed to go to an area-wide organic fall celebration one year, but the temperature dropped and we had to stay and harvest all the squash before frost.
    3. How much time was spent fixing machines (trucks, tractors,rototillers, etc. etc.
    4.Lack of knowledge and experience to translate gardening into agriculture.

    We went back to visit our old farm a few years ago, and there was the orchard we had planted, mature and beautiful. All the rest of the work we had done was ephemeral- garden, fields, compost, but the perennials were there and growing!

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yeah. Look at any permaculture-type homestead drawing or plan. It will show a house (with all sorts of materials involved, plus labour of course), outbuildings, one or more water systems, fenced areas, a driveway (often gravelled -- which needs renewing every decade or so), and so on. Permaculture layout and interactive-plant or interactive-animal-and-plant systems are a fine thing, but they happen within a framework of basic capital investments. A lot of permaculturists prefer to work with basic land, otherwise the layout may embody a less-than-desirable system from a permaculture point of view, or -- worse -- just a collection of someone else's mistakes!

    If you buy the basic set-up (an old homestead or rural property), many of the capital investments will be represented in your downpayment and mortgage. On raw land, you pay for the materials, then put in your own time and maybe pay the wages of a helper -- or exchange your time with theirs.

    Yes, this is what I was getting at.

    J.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Joel, a lot of what you are describing as capital investment is is just a substitute for what my grandparents called elbow grease. Take a chainsaw, for example. I have a collection of five outdoor saws, ranging in size from a folding pruning saw all the way up to a two-man crosscut saw, a total investment of probably less than $100. With those I trim, prune, cut firewood and fenceposts, drop trees, safer, quieter and more economically than with a chainsaw, if I don't charge for my labor. If your land will support a harvest of timber, you have available as hand tools everything you need to build any dwelling or outbuilding you are likely to need. If that's too much work, at least you can have your timber sawn on site to your specifications. There are ways of building without extensive use of manufactured fasteners. I use a lot of salvage lumber and building materials in my projects, as Seraphima mentioned. Using grid electricity is a choice, not a necessity. Every year I'm using an increasing amount of animal power on my farm, and I'm close to getting away from tractor power. And so on...

    I see the point that you're making, but my point is that a lot of that investment is for things that are not absolute necessities or things that have alternatives that are more fitting with permaculture.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Kevin, yours is an intriguing and inspiring story, from wht I can glean of it.

    I live in a land of 4-5 months of very cool to cold weather. The other 7-8 months is when we garden and harvest, build, maintain, and earn the bulk of our money. This has led many people to assess the advantage of power equipment (pick-up truck, chainsaw, power carpenter's saws, etc).

    I tried reliance on hand tools in my first few years in this valley. By my second year, I had invested in a used chainsaw as a way of saving time. I continued with brace & bit, hand-cranked twist drill, panel saws, hand planes, etc for quite a bit longer, but again found that the need to integrate myself into the carpentry job market meant acquiring a circular saw, table saw, jointer, etc. I had to earn money when and where I could.

    The need for money up here has to do with paying down payments and mortgages on land, land taxes, certain foods (grains, etc), and so on. I'm not saying that no one in no contemporary North American circumstances can acquire land without paying fee simple, nor am I saying that one can any longer build without bought materials, nor that one cannot farm without a tractor or pick-up truck. But few will be able to, and fewer will choose to.

    So, back to my point: how one acquires land, the seasonal and annual financial demands, the need occasionally to pay a skilled and equipped person to assist seem to be design elements -- as much as garden siting, swales, irrigation ditches, orchard plantings, etc.

    Or am I continuing to miss something?

    J.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I don't think you're missing anything, because what you are saying it true. Why it's true is sort of interesting to me. If you approximate permaculture with the sustainable lifestyles of farmers, say 50 years ago, you can get some clues. First, we don't typically have a network of neighbors that will pitch in with each other to help with the big jobs, so we need money to hire that sort of thing. As Seraphima stated, money is a substitute for friends - the same applies for neighbors and large families. Second, we are often times taking raw land that maybe was originally set up for an operation like you envision, but has been "improved" for modern agriculture. So you are starting from scratch instead of just maintaining an effective system that would have been there before. Third, we expect more these days, again as Seraphima pointed out. In my mind, to be a successful sustainable farmer or permaculturist, you have to make a conscious decision to live in poverty, to decide to do without all the latest doodads and new pickup trucks. Finally (I could go on), people tend to be less willing to wait. Say you want a patch of blackberries. Instead of buying the whole planting, you buy a minimum and propogate from them.

    What I'm saying is pretty simplistic, and I'm sure you realize all of this anyway. It just looks like you're kinda struggling with something that has a solution, but one that's foreign to a lot of our modern way of thinking about that sort of thing.

    One reason/justification for using horses is that they heal themselves and they propogate themselves. I bet it's been a long time since you've seen a tractor pull that one off. I cheat though: I've got a decent paying job and I hire the things done that I don't have time or equipment for, such as baling hay. It is probably not much cheaper than buying the hay outright, but at least I know the quality and I know that I'm not going to get screwed if the hay market goes way up.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I read the Mollison Permaculture book, and he points out that in a third world country like the Philippines, people out of necessity grow most of their food on their 1/2 to 1 acre property. His emphasis on making everything work with everything else is where the money is spared, like housing rabbits or chickens in part of a greenhouse to heat the greenhouse, provide carbon dioxide and fertilizer for the plants. His ideas for using greywater and rainwater could save money, and he doesn't use expensive technology to achieve his ideas. I think permaculture done right can cut the cost of living a lot but I don't know how to turn it into a source of income either. I take more of a penny saved is a penny earned approach, and agree that the fruit and nut orchard is the backbone of the garden. We have continuous raw fruit from June 7 until frost and as long as our apples store. Can't say much for the nuts unless we can get rid of squirrels. It would be neat to find a market gardening item to sell to make some income as well. I try to find ways to cut work. Growing sheep for meat instead of mowing would be nice but my neighbors would object.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I find this an interesting discussion. I really think empowering ourselves with knowledge will free us from the requirements that seem inherent. The sun is what sustains us, not 'the system'. The sooner we cut out the middle man, the better for the planet and ourselves!
    Bartering could re-establish itself, perhaps on a global scale via internet.
    It's difficult to see the worth of permaculture from the position of profit. It is the disappearing of profit. It is proverty but done properly! Comfort through information!
    Okay, i'm done=)

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I can't see any reason that permaculture cannot pay for itself. The problem is time. (I should add here that I have not started any of this yet, so my thoughts have no practical grounding yet) While you are getting established, you probably will be in the red. So a gradual transition is part of my plan. In fact, I am looking all the way down the road to retirement from my day job, 30 years in the future! My first goal is to start an orchard and grow enough vegetables for my family. When my mixed guild orchard is established, it will supplement my weekday job and allow more improvements- a cider press or oil press, maybe a few new rare kinds of trees and a nursery. If and when my "Weekend job" income shows enough promise, I will cut back my "weekday job" hours and devote more time to the farm (I am self employed already, so I can do that easier than most). If this dream never comes to full fruition, well, at least I still have my day job, which I enjoy anyway.

    Also, you have to think, what is the monetary value of what you grow and eat yourself? In the beginning, you are not growing for profit, but for savings. Every time you pick a handful of raspberries or strawberries, that is the same as money in the bank. You soon recoup the money spent on buying the plant, and then you are in the green.

    Other savings happen as well. Put a pair of kiwis or grape vines over your south exposure, cool your house, and spend less on fruit, wine, juice, and jams. Plant evergreens to the north, cut your heating bill in winter and stop buying Christmas trees. Get rid of your lawn and stop buying gasoline for the mower. The little drops can add up, especially over time, but are often lost in the big yen picture.

    So to sum up my ramblings, take the long view, and pay attention to your savings, as well as the income. I think that in the end, it breaks even, or even makes a profit. But I don't expect to get monetarily rich from doing it.

    Eric in Japan

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks for the most recent posts, people. I'm enjoying them.

    Eric, the kind of thinking and imaging you are doing is part of the thing I believe the Permaculture scene needs, definitely. In my opinion, too few of the more professional Permaculture designers engage in this -- and they *should*, since in most cases they do have experience living on the land and struggling with finances. It should show up prominently in their books and journal articles.

    Eric, you wrote: "you have to think, what is the monetary value of what you grow and eat yourself? In the beginning, you are not growing for profit, but for savings. Every time you pick a handful of raspberries or strawberries, that is the same as money in the bank. You soon recoup the money spent on buying the plant, and then you are in the green."

    Well, this is something I know well, since I've lived on acreages (my familiy's and my own, in two different locations) since 1972. It's true that in a way you save money, except that developing good gardens, orchards, guilds, animal sheds & pens all requires investment -- so, although you are shopping for less food in the market, you pay plenty to grow food in the beginning. Your costs are offset, and maybe someday they are essentially left behind.

    Remember that a lot of good-soil situations are already occupied by farms and orchards, and also that some good-soil situations have been exhausted by ignorant or desperate farmers over the last few hundred years. It takes time, effort, and money (often) to build soil up again -- even if you will ultimately use Permaculture-type methods to sustain your soil system.

    I hope I am not presenting any kind of gloomy picture or sounding like a pessimist. Not my intention. But, as someone said, more info is a good thing. And this has become a very realistic dialogue. Thanks again.

    Joel

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Perhaps you feel my comments were unrealistic? Well i've been known to be a dreamer, although i think i balance it with a bit of realism.
    The two major costs of my vision are property tax and internet bill. Some food and misc. items will also likely pop up. This is still a much lower requirement month to month then most existances in this country. I figure a small business making say salsa, or shittake mushrooms, could provide the necessary income when one has only to make 300$ a month say.
    I really think the internet is key, both for the shear information available and the ability to communicate, like we're doing now. At present this bill is about 80$/month. It would allow one to have a small business as mentioned above and send one's product via UPS to the 50 customers needed to make 300/month.
    Point is, by lowering the financial requirements we free up time to direct towards ourselves rather then helping someone else make money. Total self-sustainability is challenging. But if major changes take place as some predict, this may be more a case of survival then preference. But before i start talking about the collapse of the economy, i will digress.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Polypod, it's not that I believe you are fundamentally wrong or unrealistic. Our life *is* drawn from the sun. We *should* simplfy, in my opinion -- and live by efficient, creative methods that are elegantly direct. If you now live on $300/month, I applaud it. (But I would guess that that is probably without children.)

    It's the set-up expenses that are hard for people to imagine -- and with a business of any kind there are expenses in promotion, telephone, often in travel, in repairing mis-haps, etc, etc, etc. The set-up on a piece of land can be done on a shoe-string, but is often inadequate or at best provisional. But once you are set up, everything about life does get cheaper. But remember: virtually everybody feels the need to put away money "for a rainy day," so that has to be part of your annual budget, too.

    And are you going to want a kayak? A fly-fishing rig? A guitar or piano? Snow-board gear? Books to read? Videos to rent?

    In any case, good luck with the whole shot! I'm enjoying my life>

    Joel

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yes, it will take money to get started. I certainly don't live off 300/month yet. I own an acre in New Mexico but am presently working and saving to have a code-compliant home built and well dug.
    It's easier to participate in the system knowing that it is a means to an ends and not an unending giving of my time.
    My property tax is presently 12$/year(!) but will go up as i build on it(i'm in Ohio renting now). The 80$ for internet i mentioned was based on satellite access which will also require an equipment purchase, thus more starting out money required.
    But i see domes of Earth and plentiful healthy food and cooporation locally and globally. Rather then getting the 3rd world to be like us,(although i doubt this planet could support consuming like the US on a global scale anyway) they would be best served by jumping into permaculture techniques and given access to information, which is the real commodity for the future, not money.
    But alas we must play this game for now and i want to be realistic in my journey towards the dome village of love and light=)

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Joel,

    how ya doing? Haven't seen you on the SOE forum lately...

    I'm into my 8th month of setting up an organic Permaculture system on 100 acres of virgin bushland. I don't expect to pay my way with on-farm produce (although I have restaurants in town clamouring to buy all and any of my fruit and veges.) I sold my house in the city and bought this property and cabin for CASH...no mortgage. And I have solar hot water and solar electricity (no bills!).

    But I do have an off-farm income...3 or 4 days a week as a gardener!

    I don't expect that I'll ever be able to live exclusively off my own land, but what a lifestyle I have! Foregone the city stress, smog, rampant consumerism, blah blah.

    For me, this would never be a move made for financial reasons; more for peace of mind and refusal to sell my soul to capitalism. I can grow most of my own food, barter for what I can't, and sleep well after an honest day's labour. While the lifestyle involves plenty of physical work, it's so satisfying. I'm lucky to have supportive and friendly neighbours, and yes, your point about having no kids is a pertinent one. I'm on my own (except for Bess, the blue heeler) and if I had a family to support, I don't know if the whole project would be feasible.

    But life is grand!

    Regards,

    Shax

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Shax, I'm doing well. I've been involved in projects of different sorts -- and now that snow has gone, I'm back outside much of the time working on fences, gardens, arboriculture, water systems. As the guy who came up with the idea for the SOE Forum, I sometimes feel just a little funny about not posting on it much -- but while I'm aware of a lot of the dark clouds over our Earthly environment (from the human p.o.v.), I get a little fed up with finding too few postings about good env technologies, worthwhile initiatives and projects. More of that would be nice.

    Thanks for your post here, Shax. I wish you complete success in what you're doing. How long have you been on your land now? When you make reference to it as wild, what's it like? What do you do to make a comfortable zone for yourself there? What's your water source?

    The design dimension I've raised in this thread is "the fourth dimension" called "time" -- do a search on the postings on this thread for the word *time* and see how often we've all used it. It *is* a design element, one involving sequence and integration toward more than one goal.

    All the best,

    Joel

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Joel,
    only moved here last August and first thing I did was construct a tennis-court sized, rabbit and kangaroo-proof fenced area for veges, fruit trees etc. Am extending and renovating the existing tin shed into a more comfortable dwelling. Planting heaps of bird attracting native plants, plus windbreak species (Eucalypts mainly).

    The land is mountainous (hundreds of granite boulders bigger than 2 storey houses). Plenty of kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas and several magnificent wedge-tail eagles. My homesite is on a relatively flat patch on surprisingly good soil. (Of course the compost heaps are under way, but will be 6 months or so before they're ready to use).

    I have a 4000 gallon rainwater tank beside the house that collects from the roof, which I pump 100 metres up the hill to a 600 gallon header tank, which gravity feeds back the house and solar hot water tank. Water pressure is as good as in city, but sure tastes better!

    Next year I'll be selling organic produce to restaurants in town...already have 3 that will buy "anything you grow". So maybe some income there. Have had a 1/4 acre dam dug, but no rain yet...that'll be my garden irrigation. Haven't built chicken shed/run yet, but is imminent. Only been here 8 months, so am quite pleased with progress to date. Heaps to do, of course, but you're correct about "time" being another dimension. One I plan to use to the greatest advantage!

    Regards,

    Shax

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Wow that Australian thing sounds cool. As a biologist, I would be in 7th heaven. I guess that beating kangaroos to your vegetables would be quite different than my struggles with voles. Do you have poisonous snakes around too?

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hemnancy,

    yes for snakes, although luckily I've only seen the one brown snake on my place since I've been here. I have a large population of goannas, blue-tongues and shingle-back lizards, and I'm told that they eat snake eggs. Good friends to have around! Next door had 6 red-belly black snakes around the house this last Summer.

    As a biologist, you'd know that 7 or 8 of the world's 10 most deadly snakes live in Australia...

    Next time you're in Oz, you're most welcome to drop by and explore my backyard!

    Regards,

    Shax

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    In the interval since this thread began, I have been reading a most interesting book, called The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyszn. It is the most complete compilation of ideas for living a thrifty life style and it has been changing my life day by day. I like it because it is intensely practical, but also sets all practice in the framework of deciding what one's goals are, so that it not just endless pennypinching, but steps to what one really wants in life.

    Tightwaddery is one element of an overall plan for greater economic self-sufficiency. It also has a lot of tie-ins with recycling, energy conservation, and use of appropriate technology.
    (Cooking with insulated "bean boxes" for example.)

    If you analyze that last sentence, you get Cooking (as opposed to fast foods, chemicalized, nuked, etc) Insulated (as opposed to on-demand natural gas or other fuel) Beans(simple high protein seeds as opposed to large animals which must be killed to be eaten). (one cannot just eat a small piece of cow, the rest of it must then be frozen or preserved.)

    thanks,

    seraphima

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi, seraphima. You wrote: "If you analyze that last sentence, you get Cooking (as opposed to fast foods, chemicalized, nuked, etc) Insulated (as opposed to on-demand natural gas or other fuel) Beans (simple high protein seeds as opposed to large animals which must be killed to be eaten). (one cannot just eat a small piece of cow, the rest of it must then be frozen or preserved.)"

    I'll just note that the substitution of beans (or something) for meat can be economical in a sense, but that I've known a lot of homesteaders who have given up (or never got into) keeping animals and then spend time and money trying to get manure from other farms for their organic gardens. Manure can be and often is very important to soil fertility, until those nitrogen-providing plant guilds (a Permaculture technique) are well established and functioning. It can be more contributive than plant-based composts (which I myself prepare every year -- so I have nothing against compost bins).

    Trades of goods or services for the manure (i.e., barter) may work out, but it still shifts the responsibility into the neighbourhood or community. And very many people living in neighbourhoods tend to need money -- in other words, rural neighbourhoods themselves are often "cash strapped."

    Thrift, frugality, ot "tighwaddedness" tends to become the habit when one is trying to get by on the land. But some people (or their spouses or children) get tired of it, and so a lot of homesteaders get jobs off the land, in any case.

    J.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Dear Joel,

    Yes, animal manure is very useful! I wasn't implying that I think raising animals is "bad", on the contrary, it is part of a whole ecosystem. A good choice for small spaces is rabbits, either for meat or fiber (angora) and their manure is very good and easy to handle. Chickens are also a good choice, although manure is hot, and not so easy to handle unless it is deposited on leaves, hay, etc.

    For myself, the neighbor two houses away has a horse and is delighted to fill up my wheelbarrow for me so that I can cart away the manure! She sees me as doing her a service by removing it! We have repaid her kindness by planting many edible perennials on their very bare site- currants, rhubarb,blueberry, chives, mint, comfrey, and others, making a small garden with decorative properties. I also take her over fresh produce from time to time.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi, I have been reading through this thing for the last month or so. I have been reluctant to say anything, I think because I have so many things that come into my head. It might seem like a mess but here goes. I think one of the big reasons why money isnt incorporated into most of the permaculture stuff is because money and its value are based on what a few people say is valuable. I mean its all based on cheap fossil fuels and a "dominant" cultures ability to get away with destoying our natural heritage without having to pay for it. We all know this. I mean if you go to eastern europe and you buy a pack of Marlborough cigerettes they cost .30 cents american. In NYC they cost 8 bucks and in rural Iowa they cost 3 bucks. How much does tobacco cost people in sickness and erosion and the oil it takes to ship that stuff all over the world. Permaculture defies that. I think we can talk about how to build systems that encourage biodiversity and how to produce more of our or our community's livelihood from those sytems.Money is too wacky.I mean it is a huge endeavor to describe what is going on in one acre history,culture,diversity,trees.Then to add in talking about what dollar amount has been placed on something by ????? do you know what I mean?

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have to agree with Eric__Vermont. In the realm of permaculture, money is quite irrelevant. Permaculture in itself, is for those of us who no longer want to subject ourselves to others' expectations of what we should have or strive to have. I now measure my wealth in how well my garden produces or how many trees I plant this year. Well Said Eric!!!

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Sure I do (know what you mean), Eric. And I knew what you mean and felt rather radical about it when I went "back to the land" in the 1970s. But I was not able to really escape the need for money -- for all the sorts of purchases of services, goods, materials that I mentioned in my first few posts.

    Philosophically, you're onto something. Try making it practical -- not just for a year or two but for 10, 15, 20.

    It's possible to do things so funky, while avoiding money, that their durability value is extremely low. To my mind, that's to be avoided. Doing and re-doing things ties up your energy and can wind up forestalling your dream.

    J.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi, I think you have fallen victim to the dreaded ailment of not being able to hear the answers to your own questions.Philosophy 101?

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi, Eric. You wrote: "I think you have fallen victim to the dreaded ailment of not being able to hear the answers to your own questions." If so, I would not like to remain in that condition.

    What I wrote originally I intended as a start to a practical dialogue. Perhaps that dialogue has begun. I believe it has. And I thank you for your contributions.

    I have a close frtiend who teaches Permaculture and has gained a reputation in the Permaculture circles in Canada (where we live) and in western U.S. He was raised on a farm, but came out of that background not really liking conventional farming. He got trained in Permaculture, and acquired his own piece of land, about 15 years or so after I acquired my own land. We've had many useful and enjoyable discussions, and one of the topics is 'what a challenge it is coming up with money when you need it, if you don't have an off-land job'.

    And it's not to say that either of us is a failure at what we are doing -- we have food-providing soil, trees and guilds of different sorts, veggies, berries, tree fruit, seeds to save, chickens (sometimes), skills to trade, friends, community, etc. Eating low on the food chain, being frugal.

    I have complete sympathy and respect for people who want to develop a Permaculture-oriented homestead (or even an urban or suburban yard, or community garden). Nevertheless, the things I've brought up are realities. And they are realities that are recognized vividly by people who have actually paid for a place and lived on it for five years (or 25 years).

    That's where I'm coming from. Not from a place of not wishing to hear a new perspective. It's by confronting the real challenges of anything (for instance, employment versus deforestation, or the need for energy in relation to new sources of energy) that a new understanding and new habits can be arrived at.

    If after reading this explanation you still feel I'm 'not getting it', then please have the patience to explain your experience and insights. *Big thanks*.

    J.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Joel,

    I guess my only question is... what's your point? I don't mean that disrespectfully or with sarcasm, rather, literally.

    Are you hoping someone might really have an answer to "can you live without money?"

    Are you seeking to educate those starting out along the path to permaculture, to advise them that it's really not possible to completely escape the capialism inherent in society?

    You sound as though you have a ton of personal experience and are fairly grounded in your understanding of what is needed for your own existance... so what is your question? or are you looking to provide an answer rather than asking a question? I just can't figure out if you're asking for advice or giving it.

    Personally, I'm very interested in the facts you've layed out so far, as money seems to be my biggest road-block right now... I can hardly get started! The most I'm doing is planting in the back yard of my rental so I've got something to transplant IF we ever end up being able to afford our own property. And if you are indeed asking the quesion of "is it possible to start and maintain without investment?" then I, too, am ALL ABOUT finding out the answer!:)

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Heather, thanks. I welcome everyone into this conversation.

    Not trying to discourage people. I believe that people should enter into an adventure like a Permaculture homestead or land-stewardship project with eyes pretty much open. At the same time, I do realize that many worthwhile projects involve challenges and complexities undreamed of when a person first sets out -- and so, from another standpoint, our eyes can probably never be open enough.

    My hope would be that as people interested in Permaculture (or in similar land adventures, under whatever label) we recognize another design element. Possibly it could be called "time," or "sequence." If the sequence of development involves opportunities (hopefully -- for safety's sake -- more than one) for achieving income, the revenues can better support the achievement of the main goals.

    That is the zone I am angling toward. See what I mean?

    I know that someone else might characterize this extra design element in some other way -- not think of it as time or sequence.

    It's just that not all of the relevant design elements are physical (three-dimensional) or biological. Those just-mentioned factors are interwoven with the kind of element I've brought up in this thread.

    I believe that people studying Permaculture design should demand attention to this extra element from their teachers (or from the writers of books).

    J.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I think some of the comments about the system that surrounds us are very true.

    I think it is important to remember that just as the landscape can have depressions and high ground, so can the global economic landscape.

    Not being at liberty to follow this subject in a very practical way and locked into an urban dwell point, I very much feel that the principles of permaculture apply here too if they apply globally, however far from the experience of making a living from a homestead.

    If it is a practical system that can be worked, it is worked wherever it is tried and is able to be sustained. There is marginal farming as well as prairie farming in the world. It's a big world out there and seeds that don't take in one place can often find shelter elsewhere.

    Life finds a way.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Because I don't have much income, and I do need some manure, I got some chickens. I simply did NOT realize just how much manure they produce! I've got them in a chicken tractor right now, which I move around. And they will eat practically anything! I ignored my zucchinis for a few days while I was sick, and parted the leaves to find a couple of "caveman clubs". The chickens are working on them now, and think they're wonderful! Zucchini turned into manure...

    I also trade for seed on the Internet, and get stuff you don't find around here very much. When I see a tree/shrub/etc that I would like to propagate, I ask the owner about it, and they are often delighted to have me take prunings in trade for started plants that I have extra. Not everything lives, of course.

    I have an acre here, but right now I am concentrating on the immediate "back yard", with the chickens starting to work on the back 3/4 acre.

    One wise farmer said "Good farming is doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done". Good advice, but when you work for a living, that can get tricky.

    But I see in this forum that some people are equating Permaculture with a self-sufficient lifestyle, and they aren't really the same things. I strongly doubt that total self-sufficiency is even possible. You MAY be able to find ways to barter for everything else you need, but you're still depending on someone else to provide what you aren't buying directly.
    However, you can reduce your needs to some extent. As Joel pointed out, inexpensive hand tools are fine, but if time is more important than money, you have to make a change somewhere.

    Permaculture is more like the stock market: you take a small stake (time, energy, money), and with proper investing, you end up with more. But often, your investment is affected by outside influences that are beyond your control (weather, sickness, family, etc). And even if you greatly multiply your original investment, it still doesn't provide everything you need in life.

    People say money isn't everything, but those saying it usually have it. NOT having it isn't everything, either, is it?

    So, we have to plod along, doing what we can with what we've got and can scrounge. Ain't got no rich uncles in MY family!

    'Pup

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    A good, thoughtful post, 'Pup. Thanks.

    Meanwhile, in my own life, I've been working five days a week (in a fairly low-stress job)... plus weeding, picking blueberries and salad, building compost, harvesting and drying garlic, and re-building fences (deer and bears), after work and on weekends. Apples, pears, and potatoes are forming. We were recently able to buy a better, more efficient fridge -- and we plan to re-roof our house, soon. Thus the need for $$. Have also found time to attend a few festivals and take a few hikes and bike rides. Full-time subsistence might have left us without the time or money to do those sorts of things.

    J.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi Joel,

    I realize this is an old thread, but I think its an importent one, and I wanted to add my 2 cents. Like a lot of us here I am smack dab in the middle of understanding this time element in permaculture design. I now own land, with a small morgage. Yay! I would love to live and work out there year round. Except I need a winterized water system, and a woodstove I can trust when I fall asleep, and if I add anymore onto the trailer the building inspector will probably show up, so you start to dream of a real cabin, which would have to be to code,with all the inspections and expenses, even with alternative construction methods.

    Its been 3 years now and realisticly a cabin with a "real" kitchen will be another 2,3 or 4 years down the road. Due to time and money. It makes you appreciate the journey and not the destination.

    Something about growing your own food here that I think hasn't been mentioned. Food is cheap! In North America food is not a major portion of our budjet. In most other parts of the world it is. Rent/Mortgage, transportation, cloths, boots, and "time". Those are expensive. If you are developing a permaculture abode, add on building supplies, fencing, gates, piping, pumps, tools and more "time". Permaculture design principles would ask us to consider all the inputs and outputs of a system. I would ask Joel's question this way: Would you design, and install, a permaculture system the same in a culture that has expensive food and cheap time(labour), as you would in a system that has cheap food and expensive time(labour)?

    Permaculture is about designing and implementing systems that are energy efficient. Would it not make more sense when building permaculture systems to pay your neighbor, who is already established, for his organic food, and spend your far more valuable "time" working to earn money, or building and creating your permaculture dream. I can feed myself well on $5 a day. Even at minimum wage in BC that's only about 40 minutes a day. Half that for a reasonable construction wage. At this point in my design process I cannot cultivate all the food I need for 365 days a year including paying for the land to grow it, and the place to store it, in 40 minutes a day. One day I hope to be able to. But in the meantime I'm better off buying my food from my neighbor and doing more efficient things like converting my truck to run on grease, and earning as much money as I can to dump into infrastruture, tools, and to buy myself "time" to build.

    Keep in mind I'm not switching horses here. I'm not going into debt, I'm not promoting non-sustainable capitalism, and my goals are the same. To create a sustainably built, long term environmental system to answer my family's goals of food, shelter, clean water, and social and spiritual satisfaction. Permaculture answers those goals better than anything I've participated in in society. How to get there efficiently is the question. I'm sure I'm not the only one asking it.

    To take stock in where I'm at, I have to look back 10 years when this whole dream entered my mind. I wanted land, so bad, just like alot of people here. Now I have it. And although I'm years from even living permanently not to mention sustainably on it, when I sit in my plastic lawn chair in front of my shack on 'my land' and I look up to watch the stars, there is no better feeling.

    Sleepybee

    PS I do still grow some food, even though its energeticly inefficient. Who could resist?

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well my turn to say what I have on my mind.

    I know I will never be completely without a need for money. I except that I will need to continue with a cash paying job hence forth.

    However like a person saving cash for retirement I'm building the land towards that day that I "go native" (and yes I am saving cash also). The land is my retirment plan. Just like with compounding interest as time progresses and I keep adding to that "savings" the compounding will continue to increase at ever greater rates.

    The paying off the land note was one of the very first things I focused on doing. Thats one piece of land in the saving account.

    I am building my own home paying for it as I go. The metal roof just went on last month after two years of sweat. I'm now popping in the windows and doors. I spent a few years before I ever started building in collecting those doors and windows. The cost was for materials (payed for as needed and since its just me ... as in singular ... building the place I can easily keep up money wise)and my efforts and time. Add one half built house to the savings.

    In the mean time I've been planting berries and fruit trees. I'm also planting a bizillion non-food producing plants that I will use as stock for plant starts. Plants that I can sell. Add produce and income generating plants to that savings.

    All of this has taken money and time. However again using the saving account idea I now have a pretty good amount of "capital" in that account. That capital will coninue to compound interest on its own (plants continue to grow, property value increase, ect.). It is the compounding of interest that really builds savings. And as this capital continues to build I will need less and less earned income to provide for my continued well being.

    The other part of the big picture is discovering how much of what one feels they "need" is simply not the case. For instance I have built an entire house with a hammer and nails (no nail gun like everyone keeps telling me I "need"), a level, a skill saw, a wreaking saw and a table saw. Thats it except for a few other non-electric hand tools that once you have them you have'em for life (like a C-clap). I didn't need nail guns and compressors and heavy equipment and all the other tools one is told is needed to complete such a project. I also didn't need a crew to do the work.
    Most people have "needs" that are more for convenice or enteratinment, more out of disire, that can be done away with. And here its not "letting go" or "doing without" but a realization that they are things you don't want. Going on a diet would be a good example. Why do diets not work? Its the continued disire for foods not good for your well being. Its wrong thinking to believe that one is "giving up" the dounuts. A person must have a change of though to know that you don't want a dounut to begin with.

    I don't own a DVD player, wristwatch, computer (figure that one out ;o), nor do I have cable t.v., internet connections and on and on. I don't miss any of these things because I don't desire them. A person shouldn't confuse need with disire. And by not having these items and the need to maintain and replace wornout items I have also reduced my necessity for earning money. To paraphrase Thearou he wrote that things are a yoke on ones shoulders. The more you have the harder it is to pull them around with you.

    You also have to rethink old ideas. I am going to heat the above house with a wood burning stove. I am lucky to live in a mild climate in southern Mississippi. Knowing that I will need fire wood I planted a line of oaks (seedlings that were popping up on the land) some 15 years back. I am not going to go around cutting huge trees that would require a chainsaw, splitting and so forth but am growing a coppice wood lot. This use of a coppiced lot does away with all the effort cutting large trees take. A few simple hand saws that again once purchased are yours forever. And its a renewing source of firewood. Nature working with you not against.

    Now I'll tell you that I just "discovered" permaculture ... 2 weeks ago? I have been praticing permaculture and didn't even know it!

    As an example I've been allowing the area of the land that was with the worst soil (hard pan at the surface .. pure clay from over discing of the land that was open cow pasture when I purchased it) to revert back to woods. This has taken 6 or so years but its now soft, fertile soil. I'm now planting pawpaw trees along and within the forested edge. Pawpaws need shading their first few years and using the wooded cover is better way of shading the starts than any shading technique I could have rigged. I'm working with nature. The cost was in time and effort (had to clear some brush and again with hand saws not bulldozers to plant the pawpaws where I wanted) not cash.

    So yes I will continue to work at a "job" but as each day passes I am being less and less reliant on cash and more on myself.

    Mike

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Sleepybee, it puts it well to ask, as you do: "Would you design, and install, a permaculture system the same in a culture that has expensive food and cheap time(labour), as you would in a system that has cheap food and expensive time(labour)?" In Canada, the U.S., much of Western Europe, and some other parts of the world, we have relatively cheap food and expensive labour.

    The factor you are isolating here is in-line with what I consider to be an expanded and more adequate design concept. Your question could help a person to decide a game plan, in terms of sequence of development.

    Mike: I took the same approach in equipping myself for carpentry on my own homestead - basic toolset that has multiple functions, can be used flexibly and get the job done (bought a lot of my tools second-hand, actually). And I agree, working with nature in a broader sense in terms of growing food (seeing the opportunities and synergies where they arise) is a good approach. Planning with the long view in mind, being able to do without the "toys" so as to achieve the main objectives - yeah, that's necessary. A person's life game-plan must be seen as part of the "permaculture" project.

    I believe people are getting the sense of what I meant in my first posts: the design and work done on the land aren't separate from the needs and wherewithal of the permaculturists themselves. Time, sequence, needs, intentions, financial resources all come into the project. That's design in the fuller sense.

    Joel

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    There are an unbelievably huge amount of people who are willing to help you once you get started! I didn't realize that asking people for their garbage would be so fulfilling. :) Yes, the start-up costs of the basic structures could be daunting. But scavenging and making use of available resources could make a huge dent in basic costs. I have received 6 55 gallon drums from work (free for the asking) My neighbor who does landscaping for a living gives me all the browns and greens I could use (saves him a trip to the landfill and $30) I save seeds from my organic produce, and tree seeds as well.
    You are well on the way if you are planning permaculture- because it does take PLANNING to a higher level- Congratulations on identifying the economic challenges-
    So, if you know farming, you know that massive material handling is involved- so that is where my investment $ are going- Towards biodiesel, solar, and another trailer. Permaculture is based on many things, with trees, and perennials being the basis for having enough time to do the other things. You don't have to have a tiller if you do no-till. You don't have to have a plow either. You don't have to have alot of the machinery needed for a conventional farm. And that is where conventional farms put their money- in machinery.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    What an interesting thread! So Socratic... (smiles) seems like an exercise in consciousness raising.

    At one point in the progression (just a bit before BelgianPup pointed out the tendency of identifying permaculture with self-sufficiency), Joel had mentioned needing manure >>until those nitrogen-providing plant guilds (a Permaculture technique) are well established and functioning. [snip] Trades of goods or services for the manure (i.e., barter) may work out, but it still shifts the responsibility into the neighbourhood or communityI was a mite startled that neither he nor anyone else brought up using one's own manure. This is, I'm perfectly well aware, a shocking/disgusting subject to most in our culture nowadays, but it ruddy well shouldn't be. As recently as the fifties and sixties, German farmers were still using "honey pits", and hey, we all deal well enough with baby diapers! Then we suddenly come all over fastidious. And fearful.

    For an award winning and totally rational discussion, check out the link below. C'mon... be brave.

    Myself, I'm basically a greedy sort, wanting the best of both worlds, so I've dropped out and back in several times. That is, I've spent a few years at a time, living on essentially no more money than the government demands (property taxes are lots less escapable than income tax). Proved to myself I could do it (even while raising a kidelette, including bartering for such things as ballet lessons!) then opted back in to the more usual culture with TV, a/c, PC's, SUV -- and quite a bit of world travel.

    Now I'm heading into another cycle in which I make my little quarter acre in the big city a haven of 18th - 21st century technology with special adaptations for my encroaching decrepitude, both for my own satisfaction and for my grandkids to watch and learn from.

    Information + options / responsibility = freedom

    ...& fun!

    ; >

    Here is a link that might be useful: humanure

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Overrocked: I definitely agree with you about the problems of either debt from investment in machinery, or just simple over-investment even when debt can be avoided. Bedsides a Japanese pick-up truck, my total investment in machinery, being on the land since I was a kid (over 30 years ago), is probably within $8000, since I acquired only what I would use and bought a lot of it second-hand. That compares with a common investment of maybe $250,000 or more in farm equipment by commercial farmers (not counting cars and pick-ups), and often-times *much* more than this figure.

    Also, yes some things are available for free -- although in my valley, there are so many people living self-sufficient and semi-self-sufficient lives that everyone is competing for those things, and they are consequently scarce.

    So I believe my comments have taken all this into consideration. And I still basically agree with you.

    QsilvQ: one of my first gardening teachers was a Japanese woman born in a fishing-farming village in Japan. She told me about the use of night-soil in fertilization of the land, but said this is why the Japanese cook all their cultivated veggies -- otherwise, they would risk hepatitis and other grim diseases. She said this was the wisdom of the centuries over there.

    I'm open-minded to the emerging research on all this, but at present I would not buy or trade for veggies grown with humanure, myself. Save it for the fruit trees, I say.

    Happy Oester,

    J.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    A. Don't trade with anyone who might be carrying such illnesses. Spontaneous generation was disproven a long enough time ago to have gotten beyond "emerging"; otoh, cattle, horses, rabbits & poultry all carry an impressive variety of zoonotics themselves... so that leads us to B--

    B. Do "hot" compost.

    Happy springtime to you!

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Happy springtime, in return!

    To my earlier list of needed equipment (and, no, I do not own a BobCat or bulldozer of any kind) - I want to add a gas-welding rig. I'd like to acquire one (regulators, hoses, welding/brazing torch, cutting torch) second-hand. If you have any useful info for me about how to select used equipment, ensure that it's in good shape, and also what price range(s) I'd be looking at, please write your information on the thread I started over at the Homesteading Forum.

    Thanks.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I've been following this thread for a long time and wanted to add that yes, it does take some investment to do this. It's not easy to build a "solviva" house if there arent builders who can help you do so, or help you manuever around local building codes. Sometimes I think that there is very little in between the "$50 underground House" book and the very fancy MOther Earth recently described mega-homes that cost millions.

    On the positive side, I wanted to add that I like to think of investments on the patient side. That is, to think of the investment as "snowball savings" (described in the Tightwad Gazette books by AMY DACYCZYN).

    IN other words, you invest first in something, say chickens. You do so with minimal initial investment--maybe converting an free old horse trailer into a coop and free fencing for a yard. Perhaps you traded your time for some chicks and you pastured those chickens so the feed cst was close to zero.

    When you sell those eggs and chickens and make a first profit--you then invest that money into the next money making venture--for instance in seeds for a market garden. When you make a profit on that, you apply that to--

    Well you get the picture. We have tried to do this to some extent. It doesn't have to be "profit" all the time either. If, for example, you save 400$ on heating by using a wood stove someone gives you, you could apply that 400 to canning equipment or a dehydrator that helps you save money on food, etc. etc..

    It may seem tedious, but in the long run it keeps one from borrowing money.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    This has been a VERY interesting thread to read, and there is much to comment on. I live in the suburbs, which is to say really in the city. I have 2 "jobs" currently, one that is about 10 miles away in downtown San Diego, and one that is walking distance to my house. I am a massage therapist, so I could work at home, but current licensing laws don't really allow for this, and my house really isn't big enough. Anyway, I don't really envision the necessity of making my living entirely on or from my little tiny property, but I would really love to become as self-sufficient as possible with what I've got.

    The question that kept coming up for me as I read this thread was "what about the human community?" People mentioned again and again the idea of becoming entirely independent and self-sufficient, having the tools, equipment, and know-how to do everything for oneself. But I ask you, is this really possible or even desireable? We spend so much time and care designing communities for our plants and animals to live in, placing everything in beneficial relationships to one another. I think that it is absolutely necessary to create the same relationships amongst ourselves as humans. I feel sad that someone would think of himself as a failure because he needed to borrow a tool or trade for some food from a neighbor, when in reality this is exactly what neighbors are for.

    Can anyone comment on this for me? In the larger permaculture picture, shouldn't we be building sustainable communities, not just trying to create self-sufficient islands that are vulnerable as a plant living in isolation? This is very real for me, as I simply don't think it will be possible for me to be entirely self-sufficient on my little

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yes, it is good to have friends, and yes the human community is very important. No, you are not any sortoffailure if you need to borrow a tool.

    Someone up nearer the top of this thread mentioned that, in a sense, money is a sort of second-rate substitute for friends (this is just a paraphrase). At the same time, people in the country *do* sometimes wear out their welcome with one another.

    I have two sets of neighbours just down the hill from me on adjacent pieces of property, two couples about 35 years (one couple with two kids). They started out the best of friends, and while I believe they still are, it's clear that they got on each others' nerves, in good part from over-dependence of the two households on each other. It's a story that has played out many, many times in this valley.

    One guy I know has developed this 'rule of thumb': "If I have to borrow the use of a tool three times or more in a single year, I should buy my own."

    Needless to say, the same is true with time - everybody has their own projects, responsibilities, schedules. So you can't expect people to give you time (or help) every time you feel you need it. An exception,of course, is an emergency, like a house fire or something of that sort.

    Well, this is how it seems to me. Probably other people here will also have experience, and maybe differing perspectives.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hey, GardenLen, our Aussie mate... were you around when this subject was being kicked around? (Relationship between cash needs, time, sequence of development -- all viewed as design elements on a permaculture homestead.)

    Joel

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Haven't read all of what is here, but here's my uneducated $0.02.

    Manure: Assuming a "permaculture" scenario, where the critter takes in nourishment from the land it's on, and its excretion is used as fertilizer, etc- the animal did not create the nutrients in the manure, they just changed the nutrient availability.

    I have house rabbits, and use their manure. But they are pets to me- I could get the same nutrient by using their feed as fertilizer or by mulching with well shredded feed plants. Legumes fix nitrogen. I don't think that livestock ADD nutrient. They are yummy, however, and add variety to the diet I guess.

    As I stated on another thread- I'm planting hay and native legumes as feed for the 3 rabbits (planted way more than we need). Much of what is there will be composted or used as fertilizer without ever seeing the hind end of a bunny.

    Money: I would like the satisfaction of living a permaculture lifestyle, but will always have a compromise with my lovely bride-to-be. I'm OK with that, and wouldn't really want the full complexity of making ends meet with sweat equity from my property. Black soil and a killer garlic crop won't buy shoes or purses. She's not "high maintenance", but I wouldn't describe her as an EarthMama, either. She works and is successful, but both of our savings will contribute to as early of a retirement as possible. She's super understanding and at least impressed when I make stuff happen that people seem to be detatched from.

    After comtemplating the idea of making a living (money for other needs)from some craft or agriculture, I've come to the conclusion that I would best be suited to some boutique marketing via internet or in nearby Boston. I know how to grow great organic garlic. Habanero jelly is a specialty here as well, that I think could have legs. Native perrenials from seed- little investment, and has been successful (growing- I haven't tried to sell them). Rather than trying to sell organic in volume- maybe selling little pieces of the lifestyle would be the marketing angle. "Native plant, organically grown in New Hampshire"- that's sexy anyplace with a fairly liberal bent, and commands a price.

    Plan: I make a good living, and have spent some cash buying the tools, toys, and starter materials for sustainable agriculture. My fruit trees will probably bear this year (hooray!), I'm putting in the sweat equity for firewood (heats 3 times, ya know?), building soil and garden beds, building stone walls, and learning a few things about growing veggies. I have invested in a good chainsaw, a garden tractor, snowblower (250' driveway, uphill, in New England... you don't shovel 16" snow off of that). This has all cost me, but I thought to buy quality now so that it lasts. I do as much by hand as is reasonable, but cut a corner here and there because I do work more than a regular work week.

    I envision my startup spending decreasing and my dependence on what happens on my property increasing as my investments in plantings a few years ago starts to unfold. When I harvest something in the yard, I sometimes think about what the return on investment was- monetary and otherwise. I had to and still do compromise, but my money investments add to both property value and to long-term production value at home. Like most folks, there will be a balance. I feel very fortunate in what I've been able to invest to this point. I've probably traded a few more greenbacks than I absolutely needed to in the process.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    OT: I'm still trying to figure out the difference between "permaculture" and "homesteading." I thought I had it until I visited this forum. It seems that many people use these terms somewhat interchangably to describe 'self-sufficiency' and 'living off the land' (this was what I thought homesteading meant).

    My understanding was that Permaculture was a style or method of farming/gardening/growing your own food. I was defining permaculture, in my own head, as a symbiosis or synergistic way of "growing" food (both plant and animal). Is this incorrect?

    Homesteading and Permaculture practices certainly seem to intersect, but my thinking was that they had two different motives or goals that drove their philosophy?

    Back to the topic: I think your topic of conversation is a good one, and is very important for those of us that 'dream' of a self-sustaining way of life. When people 'dream' of just about anything, they tend to think about only the good/fun/easy things that interest them and tend to forget or -simply not know of- the difficulties inherent in making that dream a reality.

    In a dream of this magnitute (moving back to the land-homesteading?), costs MUST be one of the primary considerations. All residences, regardless of grandure or simplicity, will need repairs: roofs leak and need repair and eventually replacement, plumbing problems occur and need repair or updating, storms break tree branches that fall on your house or automobile, termites, rats, roaches, or bacteria/fungi come to call and eat your home/food stocks/seeds/plants. The need for money is inevitable, in my opinion.

    I finally bought a house, so I'm one step closer to self-sufficiency. It's a fixer-upper with a low mortgage that I am paying down as quickly as I can, but I've done little but shell out money for repairs since we moved in (almost two years ago). We are pretty handy, but we have no electrical or plumbing experience so that expertise had to be paid for.

    Even if you are a jack-of-all-trades, there are still the costs of repair supplies and materials, so I just don't see how anyone could hope to sustain themselves and their property with no money (not even mentioning property taxes).

    Someone said, earlier in this thread, that money was a substitute for having friends. I agree that having friends to help out certainly reduces the need for money, but as someone else pointed out, you can go too far with this and make your friends feel resentful. I agree with the poster who said that if I need to borrow a tool more than three times a year, I need to buy it for myself (and I wish my neighbors agreed with it too). How many times have you had a tool not returned or returned damaged, and had to shell out money to replace it?

    One of my biggest concerns with permaculture/homesteading(?) has to do with money. "What happens when I get too old or infirm/injured/pain-ridden to do all the things needed to sustain myself?"

    Surely people think about this when they 'dream' of going back to the land, don't they? What will you do when you can no longer climb on the roof to repair it yourself, cut down trees and chop wood to heat your home, or garden and can/put-up your produce when it all comes ready to harvest at the same time?

    Do people just work until they build-up a nest egg large enough to sustain them in the event of injury/old age? Seems like they don't, because many, many people are doing this at a young age, and unless all of them are making extremely high wages it's just not likely that they've all saved enough both for inevitable repairs AND infirmity as well as supporting themselves as they save.

    What do you do about medical insurance? Do you just figure you will stay healthy because you have gone 'back-to-nature' and you're eating home-grown foods? Do you just close your eyes and pray that you won't get sick or diseased, then push it from your mind?

    What do you do about clothes? I'm a frugal person and don't have expensive needs/tastes, but I will not even consider making my own underwear or socks. Making them would involve entirely too much time, skill, and materials when I can go to the local Walmart and buy a 6-pack of Hanes underwear for around $6, and a 6-pack of socks for about the same price.

    Even the most thrifty person has to have new underwear and socks once in a while...and you need money for that (whether you make your own or buy them).

    And what about shampoo, dish washing/clothes detergent, deodorant, analgesics (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin), antibiotic ointment, alcohol, peroxide, vinegar, toilet paper, bandaids, tampons, cold/alergy medicines, tea, coffee, sugar, flour, etc? Some of these things can be fashioned out of on-hand materials, but most are cost prohibitive to make ourselves.

    I mean no disrespect to anyone, nor am I trying to be flippant about this issue. I just don't see how anyone can NOT plan on needing money, and not just start-up money, because there are some things that will be needed that CAN'T be bartered for (Doctors, Lowes, Home Depot, and Walmart won't barter with you ... they want cash or credit)

    When I read that people expect to live with no money, I wonder what they are really thinking/dreaming about. Are they really interested in SELF-sefficiency or are they expecting to have an extended family of friends, neighbors and the community do for them what/when they cannot?

    Maybe someone should let the friends and neighbors in on this plan?

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Good thoughtful post, recluse.

    As to definition, I'm sort of a student of those people who are homesteading or farming within a Permaculture concept... I don't really make the best spokesperson. I don't teach the subject (and some people do). Plus, my household took over a small (nine-acre) old homestead, with a few layers of development contributed by several former owners. We've been here 24 years. We've changed things, but certain things (building placement, water line, main food-garden placements) were a "given" and would be both difficult and very expensive to change.

    But, from many articles read, lectures heard, and discussions with Permaculture friends, I know that Permaculture is very much design centered... whereas other homesteads may not have been planned out to incorporate the same considerations that are supposed to be planned into a Permaculture place.

    I think of Permaculture as a melding of a couple of main principles: first, 'don't fight nature', second 'think of your long-term convenience and your everyday habits' when placing the essential functions of your homestead on the land.

    The first can be illustrated a bit by looking at rural patterns that may be outdated: energy-wasting house, reliance on large meat or milk animals (like cattle), hence need for hay field, hay-storage space and silo, everyday reliance on large machinery such as a tractor, hay mower, etc. There are viable options, in many cases, to these things - and in many cases they can reduce your debt load.

    The second principle I mentioned can be illustrated by how close your everyday-used (growing seasonal) food crops are to your house's customary entrance - in other words, the nearest "zone" to your door might be where you will locate your salad veggie patch, etc.

    Other ideas common in Permaculture are the idea of self-fertilizing permanenet plant associations ("guilds") that, theoretically at least, can result in fixing nitrogen in the soil so that food-producing plants can be nourished by it. Permaculturists often think of integrating nut trees and shrubs, berry bushes, and the like into the overall scheme. The food-yielding aspects of a P.C. homestead may often be woody-prennial plants. A balanced diet for the homesteaders is a primary aim.

    The one criticism I have is that some places are planned with everything except realistic money-earning built into the "design". That's not a flaw in the design focuses that Permaculture has had - they're good as far as they go, but maybe there is a missing dimension: the sequence of land development may be inappropriate if bringing the plan to maturity involves more money than the initial plan can yield.

    Joel

    Here is a link that might be useful: Basic Permaculture definition and info

  • 8 years ago

    I am just finishing a course in Urban Farming and am really excited to get started on my first permaculture design. One of my textbooks was Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre. It was based around using permaculture to make a living.

    I don't intend to make a living at it, but I will say that I intend to scrounge quite a bit to reduce costs. I will look on Freecycle, the Craigslist Free section, friends and neighbors, scour thrift shops, and do anything else I can to keep costs down. You can spend all sorts of money getting established, but with ingenuity and creativity, you don't have to spend a lot!


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