Episode-1009- Permaculture Lessons and Observations from 2012

Today I want to take a look back at much of what we have learned in regard to permaculture over the mostly now passed year.  In 2012 I attended two major permaculture events, planted over 35 trees, experienced my first full season with hugulkultur beds and more.

I also received huge numbers of questions by email about permaculture that have taught me that many good permaculturists are often lousy at explaining big picture reality, myself included.  To examine that we will discuss the most common question about large scale permaculture I get today.

Join me today as we discuss…

  • What is Permaculture for those new to the concept
  • Why I think we should call most US hugulkultur simply “woody beds”
  • Why I think woody beds work so well and it ain’t what everyone says
  • What we need to start teaching the permaculture youth crowd, reality
  • Why Permaculture courses need the addition of “hard skills”
  • The missed opportunity in small scale urban design
  • Where grain fields fit into the equation
  • How can you practice permaculture/polyculture on a large scale
  • The future of permaculture at the individual level
  • The future of permaculture at the commercial level
  • Why a full working acre may be optimum for small family concerns
  • The animals I see as the “best bets” for working families

Resources for Today’s Show…

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39 Responses to Episode-1009- Permaculture Lessons and Observations from 2012

  1. Great show and thanks for the good words Jack.

  2. Jack–
    Damn that was a good episode. Which reminds me; about a year ago I was trying to understand swales. I had read 2 permaculture books and had watched many youtube videos, I still didn’t get it.
    Then, some months ago, you explained it on the podcast one day and it just clicked. It was so simple. That concept was a big barrier to my own progress. Thanks for all you do.

  3. Hi Jack, Enjoyed your summary of permaculture. I have more to learn.

    You mentioned a DVD by Geoff Lawton. Do you know which website you purchased from…?

    I especially appreciate Lawtons material seeing as Australia and New Zealand share metric system and southern hemisphere seasons.

  4. Great show Jack. Would love to meet you when around Austin. Can show you some cool places. I’m working on some interesting permaculture concepts on my property.

    • Modern Survival

      @cal, perhaps another time, I am coming, going to the wedding, sleeping and driving the 8 long hours back home first thing in the AM, ONLY my best friend could get me to make this trip right now. He is getting married and hell I got to show up for my best friends wedding.

    • Sure, and you’re welcome to carry when you come. It’s Texas by God.

  5. “I wouldn’t walk across the street for another Holzer seminar, he’s an arrogant asshole.”

    That was awesome.

  6. Dustin in PHX

    I own the urban permaculture DVD by Geoff Lawton and you’ll be amazed how much food these people are growing. In areas as small as an average driveway. Definitely a good addition to the collection.

  7. Thanks Jack. I’ve also got the Urban Permaculture DVD, and am gonna implement a lot of the things I saw there into my own garden this winter, like the herb spiral.

    Those ducks are good food, but darn funny too, flappin’ around with there silly feet. Luckily i’ve got a duck pond at about 20 meters from my house, so in a SHTF scnario i’ll be the first to grab a couple of those huge muscovy ducks from there.

  8. Who is skeeter? just curious.

    • Modern Survival

      @bluprint that would be Michael “Skeeter” Pilarski. (http://www.facebook.com/Michael.Skeeter.Pilarski) He is a permaculture teacher and a damn good one and he is also a wildcrafter extraordinaire, legendary for it in fact. When we did the Holzer event Paul Wheaton wanted me involved with the PDC that proceeded it. They wanted some other guy to teach it at first (Toby Hemingway) but for some reason that didn’t happen. So they picked skeeter instead who I am sure did a pretty good job over all.

      Before I go on, keep in mind this event was in MONTANA, LOL

      So while Paul is trying to sell me on being involved he is also trying to sell Katerina (who apparently didn’t care either way) and Skeeter as well. Unknown to Skeeter I have a business and being away from it for over three weeks just isn’t an option so I had already said no, but apparently he was dead set with “I don’t want that guy anywhere near my PDC”. I had no idea why? I know this guy only by name, never did shit to him and frankly was hoping to talk to him at the Holzer event.

      So I talked to some of the students and apparently old Skeeter is hugely anti gun. His first lecture began with a question, “What is the single biggest thing we can do to fix problems in our world”, he got dozens of well reasoned responses, things like reform modern agriculture, improve alternative housings options, etc, you know shit that actually solves problems. When no one had any more ideas he writes on the board,

      “No Guns!”

      Well given that many of people there were from this audience, many were from Montana and near by Idaho, etc, this apparently had the same expected success rate of a lead balloon! Sadly this guy didn’t want me there because I am progun and sadly for him he had a class of likely 90% of people who were the same. I know for a fact at minimum 25% of the people at the Holzer event were armed.

      I was asked specifically not to carry and Katerina stated, “tell Jack as a libertarian he should respect my rights on my property”, to which I responded “she is PERFECTLY CORRECT”. I also told Paul it doesn’t matter for two reasons, when he asked why I stated because most of the people there will be armed, it is Montana and besides I can kill you with a knife as quickly as I can with a gun anyway. Which was only sort of kind of a joke.

      This is the problem with the progressive liberal mind! First this ass writes me off simply because we disagree on one issue so much he doesn’t want me near “his PDC”, that doesn’t sound very “return of surplus” to me? Secondly he is so foolish as to believe that just because he is at a permaculture event his agenda will be well received. An event full of mostly small ranchers and small farmers that live in rural areas in states that are gun friendly?

      Katerina who was animent that I not carry didn’t set any such rules for anyone else. Why? In her mind only the crazy survival guy would do such a thing. Yep the crazy survivalist that was responsible for about 50% of the attendence at both events that funded her projects. Wheaton was responsible for the other 50%. Without Paul and I they would have had trouble finding 4-5 people to show up. I never even got a “thanks” from Katerina.

      I seriously try to get along with just about everyone, some people though make it impossible. Now to be fair Paul didn’t help much with my interactions because the big goon goes and tells Katerina “one thing I can say about Spirko is he will be packing and won’t participate if you ask him not to”. This is when she came up with the whole “as a libertarian” spiel, which I have heard multiple version of from Paul since. The reality is likely that if Paul had just not rubbed salt on that wound it might have been a bit better but who knows. I can’t blame him for simply speaking the truth about who I am even though he did get the “won’t be involved” part totally wrong.

      See most of us that are pro gun don’t expect everyone to agree but unlike the anti gun crowd we DO IN FACT RESPECT THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS, specifically on their private property.

      • Cool, thanks for the explanation. My followup was why he didn’t like you…

        Different topic, but I’m only a few miles north of you and I don’t need to water between Oct and May. I like the idea of “wood beds” but haven’t tried, but honestly I think the “needs no water between Oct and May” isn’t really that special, at least in Ark. I’d be more interested in how they perform from May to Oct.

        One difference between us: You live on that mountain and have lots of rocks, I live in the Ark river valley and have lots of sand and clay in an old pasture. I have raised beds as well, but the underlying clay surely holds water better…so even though we’re both in the same climate, it’s still not totally “apples to apples”.

        Just my two cents on that topic.

        • Modern Survival

          I didn’t say Oct. to May though did I? I said Sept – May and that is Sept 1 – May 31. In may this year we got less then a half inch of rain with average temps over 90 degrees. Additionally we didn’t have to water in June we chose to. the only plants that were suffering were the cucumbers and the only stress they were showing was bitter taste. Honestly I haven’t watered a drop since mid August except where new seeds were sown until they sprouted.

          There is also the concept of how much water during your your irrigation period. My neighbors had to water twice a day to keep their beds going, I watered about twice a week. Which means 12 times in three months or 12 out of 90 days. Then there is the results, I have pepper plants 4 feet tall so loaded with peppers if I don’t pick them fast enough they self prune, etc. You seem to be sort of crotchety lately blueprint, LOL

        • Not crotchety, I just tend be terse. It’s a personality flaw.

          Also I tend to only offer comments when I see something I think I can offer (like a clarification or correction). That’s probably a personality flaw as well (probably relates to being concise in my language overall). That might make me appear argumentative but I’m just trying to contribute to the total knowledge.

          I always enjoy and appreciate your show. Thanks.

        • Modern Survival

          Wow now you really sound crotchety, didn’t you see the LOL above?

    • Jack, if you ever come to SoCal, you are welcome in my home, but you MUST be carrying when you are on my property. Jack as a libertarian I’m sure you’ll respect my rights on my property. ;-)

      • Modern Survival

        Indeed sir as your fucked up state will make me risk my freedom to check my 1911 and transport it to your private property I expect you to provide a gun for me when I enter and I will return it to you when I leave.

    • I often point out that the government has every known highly dangerous virus known to man stored away someplace not very safe, lots of nuclear weapons, drones, and is busy bombing people someplace. If guns are so bad, shouldn’t the police give up their guns ? The police take their orders from the state, and the state can be corrupted .. Based on all that, I’ll be happy to give up my pointy stick or whatever weapon that makes people cringe that I may have but I just let it be known if I live in fear, what I am afraid of may be something different than what they may fear ..

  9. “unlike the anti gun crowd we DO IN FACT RESPECT THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS, specifically on their private property.”

    Something I was trying to explain to someone who lives in an open carry state. Many of his family gatherings are at an aunt’s who doesn’t allow open carry in her home. It makes some of the other family members nervous, especially those with babies and toddlers when he open carries. He usually chooses not to go if he can’t exercise his right to carry. She has rights too. Nor do I think she’d have a problem if he had carried concealed. Most likely wouldn’t have even known unless he mentioned it.

  10. Jack,

    Keep calling me an kid, I’ll start calling you old balls :)

    Great episode mate :)

  11. so let me see if I understand you correctly…you’re saying you think we SHOULD get the Urban Permaculture DVD? :-)

    good ideas. interesting topic.

    -Dan

    • and for the record those Maine Lobster guys on shark tank were idiots…if they hadn’t been so arrogant in their valuation and negotiation, they might’ve walked out of there with a deal…love the show

      • Modern Survival

        @Urvivalist Dan, I agree with two counter points.

        First I don’t think they really wanted a deal, I think they were only hustling to get on the show for the exposure. If you need 50K for a truck it is call financing, especially in an immediate cash flow positive business. I would rather pay the 3% on financing you can get right now then sell equity in a growing business to a “shark”.

        Second and not really related I like all the sharks except Kevin, his a F&^king ass! Every time he calls someone a pig and does it over and over I want to smack the shit out of the arrogant asshole. I have actually thought about trying to get on the show with on of my business interests just to tell him he is an arrogant f(*k to his face!

        If he spoke to me the way he does to some of those people I would drag his ass across his little table he sits behind and knock the shit out of him. He is a complete dick. The type of person that thinks you can shit on people just because you have money. If you watch you will notice he never says shit like that to the fitness folks when there is a big guy in front of him, he picks his targets like a cowardly little weasel. Now I feel like I just insulted the weasels.

  12. Absolutely AWESOME episode!!! One of the top three things that I have learned from this podcast in 2012 is an actual layman’s understanding of permaculture. I really did view it as a eco-hippie, tree-hugger movement to “save the world” and didn’t really understand the practicality of it. I have also taken to heart your concept of making the most of where you are now and learning all you can rather than waiting until you are on your dream property.
    On a side note..I am so pumped about the 13 in 13the challenge. Two of the skills i plan on learning are pressure canning and lacto-fermenting. Found a great website that has a plethora of info on both subjects, including how to make sauerkraut using masin jars. The site is http://www.nwedible.com.

    • @ persafe1: A great source for information on everything lacto-fermenting is Sandor Katz. His website is http://www.wildfermentation.com/.

      Making sauerkraut in mason jars is so f***ing easy the only thing you’ll be confused about is why you didn’t start it much sooner. I did 2 batches this year off my meager cabbage harvest and it came out AWESOME. I’ve read it’s even better if you hold off harvesting the cabbage until after a few frosts, as it will make the kraut sweeter.

      Happy fermenting!

  13. Hey Jack,

    I really enjoyed the summary of permaculture. It was good to be reminded of a few things. After you mentioned the fungal web under the ground, I got to thinking about a guest you might enjoy having on the show. I’ve heard him on one of my other favorite podcasts. His name is Paul Stamets, and is the author of “Mycelium Running”. He knows a heck of a lot about fungi. Also, while I’m on this subject of guests, there is one more person who you might be interested in bringing on the show. He is a guy by the name of John Liu. He is a documentary film maker who now devotes his life to restoring land to its natural state. His most known documentary is called, “Hope in a Changing Climate”. I’ll add some links for you to check out. Thanks again for a good show. Brendan

    http://www.bioneers.org/radio/2012-radio-series/working-with-nature-to-heal-nature

    http://vimeo.com/19661805

    http://pdcastsusworldradio.libsyn.com/how_mushrooms_can_save_the_world

  14. Jack,
    I just wanted to take a minute to say “Thank you” to both you and Steve Harris. I live on the south shore of Long Island, New York and SURVIVED Hurricane Sandy because of you both. The episodes about blackout prep and generators helped me get through the last few days. I also want to add that I work at Home Depot and the days before the storm, we ran out of generators and I sold out all the 800 watt inverters we had and explained everything I learned from Steven Harris. I had some of those customers come in and thank me for helping them, therefore I want to extend those thanks to you both as well. I’m not sure if Steven Harris will see this, so if you could, please share this with him.
    John Rosalia
    Mastic Beach, New York

  15. I’ve recently hooked into the benefits of fungi as well. Bought some mycorrhizal fungi off of Amazon. Put some in every time I plant a plant. It also works well with breaking down wood chips to turn it into fertile soil.

  16. Moonvalleyprepper

    Great show Jack!

    I really like Skeeters’ videos, but that comment on guns has no place in a PDC. Issues like this have made me completely fed up with the permaculture movement in the PNW. Not enough nuts and bolts mechanics, and far too many feelings, opinions and personal baggage.

    I completely agree that there is a huge opportunity for urban and suburban permaculture systems. I do have one thing to add about suburban protein production. While I do have rabbits, and they are great producers, they are not my most productive livestock, in terms of lbs/year. In my system Cortunix quail beat out rabbits almost 3:1 in lbs per year, all things being equal. I am currently producing 3.5lbs per year/cu ft of rabbit meat compared to 10.5lbs per year/cu ft of quail meat, that does not include the 20,000 eggs/year the quail produce as a bonus. Combined that’s roughly 1,200lbs of meat in 26sq ft in a 1 car garage, system is stacked 9’ vertical so ~234cu ft.

    I have a shared driveway with my neighbor, garage is less than 20’ from their door, and he had no idea I had rabbits or quail until I offered him some quail eggs one day. I figured he knew, but nope, no clue. He thought it was pretty cool when I showed him, and I thought it was pretty cool that I have a cool neighbor.

    I’m taking my PDC teacher training this summer at Midwest, and I assure you carrying will always be allowed at my PDC courses / events.

    Love the show man!

    • Modern Survival

      Hey if you would like to be on TSP to talk about raising quail that would be awesome! Just fill out the guest form,

      Jack

    • I deinfinately want to hear about raising quail!

      • Yes, please! Would love a show on raising quail. I have been looking into it more as my wife is iffy on raising rabbits right now. But I think that she would he okay with quail.

    • Moonvalleyprepper

      Wow, I would be honored to be on TSP. I am by no means an expert, but I have made a ton of mistakes I’m willing to share to help fast track anyone that’s interested. I’ve been meaning to start a thread on it in the livestock forum, I’ll see if I can get it going with some pics this weekend.

  17. Jack, like pretty much all of your shows regarding permaculture this one gave me plenty of stuff to chew on. Not necessarily because it discussed individual strategies I hadn’t heard of before (I’m one of those people who consumes EVERYTHING permaculture, like you do), but because you put things together in ways that I hadn’t necessarily thought of myself. Which makes me THINK about these things, and I can’t think of any instances where thinking something over doesn’t lead to eventual positive results.

    First, I agree with you that Skeeter was WAY, WAY, WAY off base with his “No Guns” comment. It’s unfortunate, because I really like a lot of the stuff he’s done that Paul Wheaton has put up on his YouTube channel. Why anyone involved in permaculture has to focus on the BS that divides us instead of the positive actions that we can unite around is beyond me. And let me be clear — I say this as someone who does not have a concealed carry permit and does not own a handgun (although both of those are on the to-do list).

    Second, I took a PDC last year and was very disappointed with the lack of “hands-on” activities we did. This course was not a 2-week immersion, but was conducted over 5 months, one weekend per month. I showed up every weekend wearing my Carhartt overalls, Muck boots and old army gore-tex field jacket, ready to do some good manual labor — and we hardly picked up a shovel throughout the entire course. While I think that a lot of the classroom stuff IS valuable, I also think that many PDCs waste far too much time on it to the exclusion of actually DOING things that provide a tangible result at the end. While I’m no stranger to manual labor in my spare time, there were many other people in the course who probably didn’t even know how to use a shovel in a productive way. I agree completely that we at least need to be incorporating some manual activity into these courses just so people get a real feel for the kind of work that is involved in setting up these systems, even on an urban/suburban scale.

    Last, I LOVED your comment at the end about doing what you can where you are. I dream about having my own 5-10 acres, but right now have 1.3. To be honest, I’m discovering that this 1.3 is quite sufficient for the kinds of things I have time to do right now, while still leaving over 1/2 of the yard as a recreational area for the kids.

    Thanks for another great show!