25 February 2014

Permaculture inside the home - 2

Yesterday I wrote about the inside work done in permaculture zones. Today we're focusing on the principles of permaculture and how they might apply in your home in addition to your outdoor area and gardens.

The 12 principles of permaculture:
  1. Observe and interact 
  2. Catch and store energy 
  3. Obtain a yield 
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback 
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services 
  6. Produce no waste 
  7. Design from patterns to details 
  8. Integrate rather than segregate 
  9. Use small and slow solutions 
  10. Use and value diversity 
  11. Use edges and value the marginal 
  12. Creatively use and respond to change 
I'm not going to write about how we apply every one of these principles here because I want everyone to think about it themselves, and maybe tell me how they could work in your home. But I will write about a couple of them to give you the general idea. You'll see that a few of them are self-evident, some will need a bit of thinking, but that's why this is helpful - it gives you different ways of looking at your work and how to remain productive in your home. Just remember that one of the interesting concepts of permaculture is that one zone, idea, action, method or principle often has multiple outcomes over several other areas. So when you apply these principles to your home, you'll probably find that one principle relates to one or two others.

For example, catch and store energy marries up with obtain a yield in my home because we have solar panels for electricity and hot water. Self regulation feeds into this too because we had to train ourselves to turn off light switches and when buying new appliances, to buy energy efficient products that cost more up front but save money and energy over a long period of time. Of the moment cash savings are often overshadowed by long term savings, fewer products being bought and less white goods waste.

Observe and interact
This is the easy one. Observation and taking time are the keys here. It requires us to not operate on automatic pilot but to be mindful, to observe and take in what we're doing in our daily work, change what we can to make our home a more productive place and to simplify our work practices. We interact with each other, discuss problems, come up with combined solutions, and, when they spend time with us, invite our grandchildren to help with the simple tasks. This interaction with Alex and Jamie taps into principles 3, 5, 8, 9, 10 and 12.

Catch and store energy
This incorporates the obvious solar panels on our roof that catch solar energy and produce hot water and electricity to use in our home but it also applies in other areas too. The jams, chutneys and sauces in the stockpile cupboard that have been produced from the garden produce out back, prepared and stored in such a way that all the energy that went into the growing of that food, is captured and stored for our use later in the year when those foods are no longer available.

Integrate rather than segregate 
This is an important principle here because for me, it deals with the family and how we all work together. Our aim has been to bring our family into the way we live - even though they don't live here and we don't expect them to do what we're doing. It is enough for us that while they're here, they respect our lifestyle, help us when they can and do not want to separate themselves from what is considered to be an unusual life. When our grandchildren are here, we show them how to plant seeds, how to pick fruit and to collect eggs. We integrate them into our living systems to slowly teach them these life skills and to help them understand us.  All our children love eating the foods we grow and share with them. They all eagerly take our home produce when it's offered to them and in that way, even though they don't live here, they show that support and become part of our home on their visits.

Last weekend, we were asked to look after Alex while Shane and Sarndra went to a concert in Brisbane. Of course we jumped at the chance to have our grandson stay over night. We had a wonderful time together and even though they didn't have to, by way of saying thank you, Shane and Sarndra bought us a kumquat tree to add to our orchard. That showed me they understand our productivity ethic, and they are part of it through that understanding. While he was here, Alex ate what was here, he integrated seamlessly into our home and we didn't have to go out and buy special food just for him. It was a real pleasure to see him standing at the blueberry bushes eating the berries he picked. While he was here, he was part of what we've created and I hope as he grows, that will develop and he'll always feel part of it and want to spend time with us.

Design from pattern to details
This encourages you to step back for a moment, look at your work practices, study your patterns of work and to decide if they're working for you or against you. For instance, if the way you do your washing/laundry isn't resulting in clothes being clean and available when they're needed -  the overall pattern isn't functioning as it should. Instead of abandoning the washing altogether, you tweak the components of that pattern - where the clothes baskets are, who is responsible for loading the washing machine, is the washing machine working properly, what cleaning products are you using, how much do they cost, where are they stored etc. All these smaller components need to be looked at individually to see what the weak points are, and then changed to make a better and more efficient system. You modify or change the details to improve the pattern.

As I said, I had no intentions of deciphering these principles and how they may work in your home for you. My intention instead was to show you a few quick examples of how they might be applied in homes and have you think about the principles in your own home and see if applying all, or some of them, might help you understand and do your work. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and I'd like to know if you think you can use permaculture, or part of it, to help you work in your own home.

And in keeping with the permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and fair share, I'm passing on some information that came by way of a comment yesterday. It might encourage you to get involved in a community project that needs support from like-minded folk.  malleepermaculture wrote:

Something that may be of interest, on this topic, to you and your readers, is a new Australian permaculture magazine that's going into print in the next few weeks. Pip Magazine is its name and it aims to help people build, connect, create, eat, grow, and nurture their way to a better life and better world. They are running a crowdfunding campaign in the spirit of the permaculture principle, "share the surplus". The campaign ends tomorrow so if you could maybe share the link in the comments or in a post, that will help them put together an Issue #2. 

Pip Magazine: pozible.com/domain/rd/pipmagazine



  1. It seems to me that this is a formula for being human! I mean, a real human being. Very sensible.

  2. I had no idea permaculture could relate so strongly to the home. Thanks for sharing Rhonda.

  3. Good morning Rhonda.......I'm enjoying your permaculture in the home posts, such a lot of food for thought, and interesting to look at how those principles apply to indoors as well as out.......another way to live mindfully and making conscious choices that suit our particular lifestyles. Slightly off-topic.......but perhaps not, my fat black hen, Brenna lay a beautiful hard shelled egg yesterday, after a few days of soft messes. I think this a good example of permaculture principles at work....I observed and interacted, applied slow and small solutions ie put her on a diet and increased her protein.....and now have obtained a yield! I hope this is ok to post here, I thought you might be interested in this blog http://thesnailofhappiness.com/masterpiece/ Jan is doing a Diploma in advanced permaculture, and as part of her final presentation, she's making a knitted and crochet blanket...her Masterpiece...with squares which represent permaculture principles. People from around the world have/are contributing and it's wonderful to see the creative squares that are turning up. Apart from that, she has a lovely interesting blog and I think you two would get on well.

    1. Thanks Nanette, I'm always happy to be referred to other blog that has something to say about things I'm interested in. The only links I don't like here, and never add them, are those advertising commercial products and links to a person's own blog. Everyone with a blog is linked to automatically from here and there is no need to add another link. It seems pushy to me. I've added the snail of happiness to my sidebar.

  4. I am loving this series on wonderful posts Rhonda, they really get me thinking and wanting to plan better than I currently do. Thank you for the continued inspiration that you give.

    I have shared the information about Pip Magazine on my blog. It looks like a great project:)

    1. Thanks for passing it along, L. Community solidarity is important and helps the small grow big.

  5. I particularly appreciated what you said about Shane and Sarndra buying the kumquat tree and this showing you they understand your ideologies and ways of life. I think that's really important in gift-giving and it does show they know what you care about and how you do things.

  6. I love the comment you make on if something isn't working or you to change it, Rhonda! I've had to do that recently. I have worked it out that the garden is all about timing - the right time to sow the right vegetables, the right time to harvest and the right time to preserve. We will be using our kayaks soon to go fishing - and that will be all about timing too. Preparing the garden beds for each season is all about timing too. Once before I thought this lifestyle was about time management but now I realise it's more about timing, really. We are re-evaluating our timing for everything now to have a more integrated lifestyle.

  7. Hi Rhonda,There are some things that I guess we've done that you could apply some of the principles to. We’re big on trying to reduce our waste. We use most of our food waste in our worm farm, and recycle cardboards, plastics etc. when possible. We've recycled all sorts of building materials as we've renovated, we’re currently recycling sofa’s that belonged to my aunt and recovering them to suit our little shack. Most of our furniture has been recycled from other family members, given a new coat of paint and a loving home. As our shack is so small we definitely use the edges and the marginal, every space is valuable, books line the tops of my kitchen pantry, storage is built in under the daybed in the sunroom, where possible each new addition to our home is thought about in terms of possible storage opportunities. This winter we’d like to integrate our old wood stove. We haven’t used it since we moved in as the flu is rusted out, but I'm hoping this winter we’ll use it to heat our shack using much of the fallen timber we get from our big trees as well as use it to have soup bubbling away at the same time. I must admit I've never really thought about permaculture inside the home, I've always thought about it in my garden and it was a challenge to relate it to inside for a change, one I'm going spend more thought on in the future.

    1. You're doing some great things there, princess. I really like the sound of that wood stove. How cosy will that be! I'm really pleased I could introduce you to some new ways of thinking about your home.

  8. Thanks for sharing these insights and experiences. I am excited about future posts you will hopefully do about applying permaculture principles in the home. I had made a table to help me keep track of what I do: I post my activities according to sections that work for me: food, energy, design, water use, laundry, reuse/repurpose/recycle, purchasing, etc, etc. I have additional fields that help me to further track what is not working (constraints), recommended improvements, benefits, etc. These will be important later, for analysis. I truly believe that in addition to the satisfaction, it can be shown there are also financial benefits to living like this. For some of them, it is challenging for me to put a financial benefit: such as improved health and safety, memories, contribution to family and community integrity, etc. It is exciting to be able to share the journey and learn from one another..

    1. I'm surprised that more people much more entrenched in permaculture than I don't write more about this subject. Surely permaculture doesn't stop at the back door? I agree with you that there are distinct financial benefits gained by living this way, although not all benefits are financial. It is enough that they are beneficial in their own way.

  9. Thanks for sharing the link, Rhonda.

    Great post. You mentioned that folks should not take the examples you give for each of these principles as being prescriptive, and that some seem self-evident. The so-called vagueness and common senseless of permaculture often results in criticism. "Why should I have permaculture tell me that when it is common sense and I know it already?" Well, permaculture is a coherent summary of these ideas. And, the people that claim that the ideas are all too common sense to be called original, rarely practice them. Think of all these principles in the context of building a new house. Now, go and drive through a new housing estate and assess whether any or all of these principles have been followed in their construction. We soon realise that as reasonable sounding as they all are, they are rarely put into practice. And if they are, it's usually coincidental. The view will usually trump the best aspect for passive solar access.

    My favourite example for 'catch and store energy' which I do think everybody should try, is to be more critical about what you let enter and leave your property boundary. I just bought a block of land. It's got a lot of scrap building materials on it--all pieces are an embodiment of energy that has been spent at a time. My challenge now is to keep and reuse as much of this stuff as I can--especially before going and buying new.

    1. I believe that originality is demonstrated in the implementation of an idea rather than in the idea itself. I like your example of catch and store energy. My husband has operated that way for the past 40 years and never throws out building materials, nails, screws, wire, timber etc "just in case". He's another exponent of that closed system lifestyle.

  10. Thank you so much for this post. It's been quite a few weeks now since I cut my work hours outside my home substantially but I've felt this kind of "inertia" because the task of decluttering, reorganising and rethinking things feels overwhelming at the moment - there's so much to do and so many changes to make! Your post has given me a framework for really considering the changes I want and need to make in a way that should lead to a much better way of living.

  11. I have honestly never heard of permaculture before though it is how I think of and live my life...I hope. Enjoyed these last two posts and will check the library for the books you mentioned.

  12. Thank you Rhonda for these posts. I have another of those 'commonsense' examples of the permaculture principle 'Use and value renewable resources.' Hang the washing on the clothes line and let the sun and wind dry, freshen and (if needed) bleach some of the stains out of our clothes, sheets etc. I wonder if people were more mindful of the smaller things, would that thinking transfer to the bigger issues facing our communities.
    Lots to think about, thanks again.
    kate x

  13. I like how have been able to link up the principles to the activities (I have a hard time doing that.) We have our clotheslines on the verandahs. The clothes prevent direct sun from hitting the walls and heating up the house and the evaporative cooling of the clothes reduces the temperature of the breezes entering the house. I agree there is much to think about. Thanks.


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