In permaculture, it’s all about designing sustainable systems. The land we develop need to produce and harvest energy in a sustainable way. To achieve this, we need to design systems which :

  1.  Last as long as possible with the least maintenance.The initial construction and any maintenance to elements of your land’s design will take both man power, machines, and the fuel they both need to function. Systems should be designed to reduce input energy/

2.  Systems should be fueled by the sun. The sun is our most available resource, and plant’s know best how to make use of it. Design for photosynthesis and use solar power whenever possible.

3. Systems should produce not only for their own needs but for the needs of the people caring for them. We want land that works for us.

When we get to designing and implementing systems, we can use energy to construct them proving they store and conserve more energy than we use in their construction and maintenance. Think surplus right from the blueprints.

  • Did you know that 1 Hour of driving a car is equal to 100 years of sunlight over one hector of land, when we talk energy accounting?



So, when we consider a peice of land we need to look at it not just at face value, but at all the potential levels of energy storage. In permaculture, it’s all about stacking the system with an abundance of energy.

You can watch a documentary about energy sustainable farming HERE

The first and most essential consideration we need to look at when answering this question of energy, is WATER.

Water is an essential part of growth and is one of the most vital forces of energy. When we consider our land, we often think within the confines of streams, lakes, creaks, rivers, ponds, and wells. But these are limited and leave plenty of land out of bounds.

The permaculture approach is that once again, the limit is in the imaginations of the designer, not in nature. There isn’t a shortage of water, there’s a shortage in water storage.

Consider that even in the Sahara desert there are flash floods and rain storms, which bring potentially adequate water, but it’s simply washed away.

So, how does it work? In permaculture design we implement a system of “swales” and dams on a small scale to soak the land with water deep into the soil and provide perfect ground for tree planting.

A swale is a ditch dug out and leveled on the land’s natural contour. The dirt you remove is heaped to for ma mound below which is then heavily planted.



This design catches and soak rain water into the land and stores it in the soil. Where before water would slip away on the surface, now it is soaked into the earth, meaning less rain fall is needed.


Dams are often considered to be environmental atrocities. At the scale we’re used to they are, but on a small scale a series of earth dams catches and stores water for your agricultural irrigation through out the dry seasons. It’s an incredibly simple concept and the output in remarkable.

Up to 15 % of your land can be zoned as surface water. A permaculture motto is walk up to the point of chaos and take one pace back. Nature is chaotic. In permaculture we look to nature for the lessons.

In Geoff Lawton’s farm (one of the founders of permaculture) TAGARI FARMS he’s implemented 48 dams and kilometers of swales on his 100 acre property. Image

Image Read the book WATER FOR EVERY FARM and start thinking!

After about ten years of catching and water soaking you can even end up with a spring.

This kind of thinking is necessary to combat our current global water shortage. How can California be in a constant state of “drought”  and still be a mega agricultural producer? If we constantly pull on our ground water, dam our rivers, and pump water for irrigation we are once again actively depleting a vital resource.


and start thinking about catching the rain water on your roof, building a natural filter and drinking it, and recycling your grey water. There are simple ways to each and every day be making the decision to be apart of the effort to conserve water for future generations.Image

With some simple plumbing changes you can even design your grey tap water from your sink to fill your toilet bowl so that you’re not flushing with clean water. Water which is in Canada and the states, DRINKABLE.

Water is undeniably important to all beings which were so lucky to appear on this planet and our current approach to agriculture, irrigation, and enormo-daming is threatening that resource. Permaculture addresses our problem and tries to remedy.



When you look at natural systems you can see an abundance of life. Life is packed into every nook and cranny of the globe. It thrives and regulates itself with ease. Each element in the web of life fills a niche, and provides a service for the system as a whole by filling it’s needs. We all understand this. Plants provide nutrients for trees, the food chain, predators must eat prey to prevent over population, even parasites and diseases pick off the unhealthy elements of an ecosystem and serve a function, but we need to apply this knowledge to our own lives if we want to operate in that circle. Right now, the way we feed ourselves pretends that we don’t participate in such primitive thing.

Permaculture began as a thought in Bill Mollison’s head when he saw that ecologists were feeding themselves from a system that went against ecology. The resulting years brought about an experimental science in using natural principals to grow and produce food and energy for people.

The first principle of permaculture is to work with nature and not against it. Nature  produces surplus on it’s own. If you can study and use the methods that nature uses to prepare soils and provide for successful productive systems, then nature will do the work for you.

Another way to think of it is to make the problem, the solution. “If you hate something, it will haunt you as long as you hate it.” Use the function of whatever is bothering you. If a weed comes up in your garden, there is a reason, discover the reason and fill that plants niche with something productive and the weed will go away while you benefit from the producer. If you have a snail problem, let your chickens or ducks in, they get fed, and keep your garden clean.

Another principle is to make the least change for the greatest effect. Permaculturists try and do energy accounting, so when they do anything, they look closely at what the results of the work will be to make sure it’s worth doing a head of time. This accounting includes, time, effort, money and energy compared to yield, pest control, wind control, water needs, and long term results. Permaculturists have had a hard time showing the effectivity of their design because it takes years for a forest to grow, and years to get the staggering results the end up getting. They say that the results, or yield of a farm is only limited by information, and imagination.

So we stack our farms. We make the areas dense with life so they can support each other. Each element serves the system and the people in many wells. It takes years of study and research but there are institutes all over the planet now doing that research. Everything gardens, so include as many elements as you can in your system, and you’ll be laughing.

Well thanks to all of our amazing contriubtees (sincerely, thank you all) we are now on an island called Koh Phangnan in Thailand learning what we always wanted and needed to learn. We’re on fire with ideas and projects. Our minds are bending in new ways,  disolving old and generating new pathways in our whole thinking.

So… have you heard about permaculture? Well you’re going to…

Permaculture: Ethical, sustainable human system design science

It is a branch of design science that looks at taking an ethical approach to the development of human/environmental system design. It looks to connect resources based on reliable patterns observed in nature in a way that is beneficial for all life.  Dissected, it’s Permanent Culture.

With the rates at which we are increasing our resource consumption, agricultural waste, and population it has become clear that we are hastily approaching the system’s capacity line.  If you look at exponential functions it looks something like this:

Things starting out small multiply, and the system (meaning our planet) can only allow for the support of that thing to a certain point. Think yeast in a closed environment. You put a pinch of yeast in a pot of water with a few cups of sugar, and it will eat and eat and eat until it produces an environment that it will drown in. Our species is in the process of creating a planet that is poison.

“the greatest shortcoming of the human race is it’s inability to understand the exponential function” ~Dr. Albert Bartlett (professor of physics specializing in global population)

So what are the causes of this climax? This foreseeable end?

It has a lot to do with the fact that we have forgotten the golden rule, Nature’s Lesson. The way ecosystems work healthily and sustainably is to ensure that their output in over their input. The amount of energy they produce for the world around them exceeds the amount of energy they consume . It’s about good accounting. When a plant pulls energy from the sun it puts back fresh air for the rest of the ecosystem to exist. Permaculture is about designing systems, agricultural, urban, energetic, that fit under this rule. It’s about how we can get all we can possibly get out of our planet while giving back more. Regeneration.

And it’s absolutely crucial that this happens. The number one factor we see as an evidence for action is SOIL LOSS.  The rich fertile soils of our planet are being drained on and lost at dangerous levels. Here’s a BBC Article about it: 

This topographic map was from 1974. Things weren’t looking good even then…  

Due to the mass scale mono-culture approach to food in the past fifty years our soil is eroding, and losing it’s vital nutrients that produce life. It’s a complex systems of nutrient balance, and we’ve detached all those connections.  The plant matter from the crop isn’t returned to the soil, the product isn’t returned, it’s been  shipped across the country, or across the globe.

Here’s a graph noting the loss in tons per acre, per year.

When you look at the five major mono crops of the world : Corn, Rice, Wheat, Soy and Potatoes, and the land assosciated with their production we’re talking 500 tons/hectare/year or 1000kg/10000m squared/year.

And it’s all topsoil. The soil that’s rich and fertile and willing and ready to grow us all that we could possible desire.


 Permaculture science is about how to do it. How we can take steps to ensure that the human occupation of the planet continues. We’re learning in right now, and we’re going to teach any one who wants to read about it, everything we learn. We need to do something, and we can.


book: Jerrod Diamond- Collapse 

book: Hiram King Farmers of forty centuries; or permanent agriculture in China, Korea and Japan

Well the Holidays are just around the corner, and Jack and I (Tamara) are excited and simultaneously sad to be spending our first Christmas so far away from home. We are going to be in Thailand to do some WWOOFing and visit Jack’s cousin who lives there.

We recently have become really interested in learning about self-sufficiency farms, alternative building, and permaculture design gardens. We’re even planning on studying these subjects formaly at a college in the states. One of the farms we’ve looked into volunteering at offers a permaculture certification program, and we were thinking (since we can’t currently afford to enroll) that this might be something some of you would be interessted in contributing to as a Christmas gift/Jack’s birthday. We would greatly appreciate any help with this goal!

It’s a 72 hour course over 12 days taught at the farm in southern Thailand. Check out the website to see how amazing it looks. They’ve built some incredible structures and the property looks like a paradise. 

We’ve set up a paypal account in order to make it easy to do. Just click the button.

“>Obviously, this is just an idea and there are absolutely no expectation to receive any gifts for the holidays. We just thought it would be a nice option for those of you trying to figure out where or how to send us something. With travelling by backpack beautiful (heavy) things aren’t really practical…, but we do love to learn to grow. 🙂