Permaculture Principles for Site Design – workshop report

Our Aug. 1-3 weekend workshop on permaculture principles for site design focused on the full range of possibilities for creating a master plan at Stone’s Throw Ecovillage, or on any piece of land from a small lot to hundreds of acres. Nathaniel Larson, an experienced permaculture designer who lives at Steward’s Draw on the Bayfield peninsula of Wisconsin, led the workshop and it was intense. Here is a brief set of impressions from Debbie Hass, one of the newest members of Stone’s Throw.

Checking soil for new gardens

Checking soil for new gardens

As I remember my time spent with Nathaniel, I learned to think of permaculture not just as a way of planning land use. Now I think of it as a way of living and a wide-ranging philosophy. These words have stayed with me: Care for people, Care for the land, Return the excess. If our culture could embrace this concept, what a better world we would live in!

Straw bale common house at Nathaniel Larson's community, Steward's Draw

Straw bale common house at Nathaniel Larson’s community, Steward’s Draw

His simple outline for site planning went like this:
Identify your goals and the yields already available as well as those desired.
Identify your resources and restraints.
Observe the site over a period of time, at least a year.
Implement your plans incrementally– start small.
Accept feedback and reassess as you go forward.

Other ideas I loved:
Permaculture design should mimic the patterns and processes of nature to make the least change for the greatest effect.
Everything gardens. Observe: What role is this plant/animal playing in the landscape? How could I use it to garden for me?
Turn your problems into the solution. For example, when I see that a ground squirrel has dug a hole in my garden, instead of thinking, “It’s an invader come to steal my harvest,” I now think, “What a great way for water to filter into the ground.”
I tend to be a take-action-now person. The permaculture workshop challenged me to stop and sit with the land, to observe and to be more mindful and in the moment. It was time well spent.

Planting mixed windbreak of hazelnuts, white pine, white cedar, elderberry

Planting mixed windbreak of hazelnuts, white pine, white cedar, elderberry

As someone who has learned about permaculture later in life, my favorite quote was, “A society grows great when old men and women plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” I hope to be that old woman.

Permaculture playing cards - full of information - contact us to buy!

Permaculture playing cards full of information – contact us!

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