Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Pictoral Representation of Permaculture... the Temperate Climate Permaculture Header

I wanted to take a post to explain my header you see at the top of the page.  This is not just a random collection of images or something I found on the web.  Each element was chosen specifically for what it represents.  I must admit though, that my previous years as a graphic designer and my perfectionism causes me some consternation every time I look at it.  I don't think the images merge very well, but I don't have the time or the resources to make this header exactly as I see it in my mind.  But it's not too bad, and it really does represent what I see as the big picture of what Permaculture is all about.

 This central circle represents examples from the seven most important aspects, as I see it, of Permaculture.  At the top and moving in a counter-clockwise manner is:

  1. Sunlight.  All energy that we are really concerned about on Earth is derived from the Sun.  Whether this is direct as heat, indirect as solar electricity, or very indirect like petroleum.  It all came from the Sun.
  2. Water.  Without water, we have no life.  Very simple.
  3. Soil.  Healthy, living, rich soil contains all the building blocks of life.  It is not just dirt.
  4. Fungus.  Connects all living plants in an amazing underground network through the soil in a way we are just beginning to understand.  Vital to decomposition.  The fruiting bodies (mushrooms) of some fungi can be used for medicine, food, and dyes.  Pictured is a Golden Chanterelle, one of my favorites.
  5. Insect (Animal).  Vital to pollination.  Vital to a healthy soils and ecosystems.  Certain insects, like the honey bee, can be beneficial to humans by not only providing pollination, but also honey and wax.  Many other animals (and yes, insects are animals) can have symbiotic relationships with humans; we provide them a happy, and maybe shortened, life, and they provide us with many of our needs.
  6. Plants.  The sunflower represents a plant that has many uses: beauty for humans, seed for humans and animals, nectar producer for insects and birds, shade, large leaves that are great for mulch, strong central stem that could be used as a trellis for climbing beans... we need to pick plants that have many uses.
  7. Harvest.  Represented here by the apple.  The ultimate goal of Permaculture Systems is the harvest for humans.  By incorporating the Ethics of Permaculture and the Principles of Permaculture into our design, we can have sustainable harvests.

This image shows both a pasture with trees (used to represent the sustainable method of rotational grazing) and an untouched forest (used to represent Permaculture Zone 5).  The transition between the two, the Edge, is another very important concept in Permaculture.

These three images are examples of food items that can be produced from our Permaculture System.  They can be used as storage for personal use weeks to years later or sold for income as "value added" products bringing in more money than the individual ingredients.  The examples here represent:
  1. Preserving the harvest - represented with canning (vegetables, fruits, jams, preserves, jellies, etc), but also includes dehydrating, freezing, smoking, curing, etc.
  2. Food from animals - honey from our bees can be used in many ways, but meat and eggs from other animals can be used as well
  3. Fermentation -  alcohol (beer, wine, liquor, mead, etc), vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut, etc.

These three images are examples of non-food products that can be used by us or sold:
  1. Fiber - this can be from animal or plant and can make string, yarn, and rope
  2. Wood - this can be as firewood, lumber, or support (fenceposts, trellises, etc.)
  3. Seedling - as small and as personal as saving our own seed for next season to running a full nursery for added income

These images are just a partial representation of the animals that can be utilized in a Permaculture System:
  1. Cattle - large ruminants, like the Highland Cattle, provide a lot of resources but require more commitment of land, time, and energy.
  2. Chickens - meat, eggs, feathers, pest control, and more.  Can you have a homestead without chickens?  This is the Dominique Chicken, and it is the first American chicken breed.
  3. Fish - this Brown Trout can be raised in an aquaculture system, but wild or semi-wild fish in rivers, streams, and ponds are great resources as well.
  4. Ducks - provide many of the same products as chickens but can be more independant.  Used here to represent all the other types of birds that can be raised (ducks, geese, swans, guinneafowl, peacocks, pigeons, etc.).  This is a female Silver Appleyard duck, one of the most recent ducks to be added to the American Poultry Association.
  5. Sheep - The sheep represents the smaller mammals that can be kept in a Permaculture System.  There can be sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, etc.  This is a Katahdin Hair sheep, developed in Maine for its meat and lack of required shearing.

This left side panel is a grouping of plants used to represent the Edible Food Forest or Forest Garden.
  1. Canopy Layer - represented by the walnuts
  2. Windbreak - can be a canopy layer as well, represented by the birch tree trunk
  3. Subcanopy Layer - represented by the pear for the pear tree
  4. Shrub and Herbaceous Layer - represented by the red currants
  5. Soil Surface Layer - represented by the ground cover, alpine strawberry
  6. Rhizosphere (or subsurface) Layer - represented by the King Bolete mushroom (aka porcini)
  7. Climbing Layer - represented by the vining grapes
And don't forget the Ladybug here, representing the beneficial insects we need to always attract.

This right side panel represents an additional grouping of items that are important to a sustainable Permaculture System:
  1. Sustainable Energy - represented by the solar panel in the background.
  2. Perennial Vegetables - represented by the asparagus.
  3. Semi-Perennial Vegetables - represented by the sweet potato which can be grown as a partial perenial.  Not harvesting all the potatoes allows more to develop next season.
  4. Annual Vegetables - represented here with the heirloom Brandywine Tomato and Purple Dragon Carrots.  Heirloom plants are usually open-pollenated so we can save the seeds for next season.  There is nothing wrong with having an annual vegetable garden, but we should not have it exclusive to perennial food producing plants.
  5. Cooking Herbs - represented with this Basil plant
  6. Medicinal Herbs - represented with this Purple Coneflower (aka Echinacea) plant.  Herbs can often be both cooking and medicinal herbs at the same time.
There you have it.  The explanation of the elements in the header, what they are and why they were chosen.  It was rather fun creating it!


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