Welcome to the Permabyte for Friday, June 6th, 2014.This episode are my musings on the importance of experimenting and experience in permaculture.
Before beginning I would like to thank Jason of The Fifth World RPG for sponsoring this episode. Imagine a collaborative, structured, storytelling experience where you and your friends can come together and explore what the future could hold for your descendants, hundreds of years from now. The Fifth World is a free open source, open world RPG that uses the framework of permaculture to consider these possibilities. Find out more at TheFifthWorld.com.
Experimenting and Experience in Permaculture
Experimentation is important to our work as permaculture practitioners because it expands our personal understanding though experience, adds to the body of knowledge available to the community, and allows us to expand on the common permaculture answer, “It depends.”
This topic came to mind because of the experiences I’ve had recently sitting in and documenting an apprentice program being run by my friend and colleague Ben Weiss, and the experience of sealing a pond with natural methods. The gley technique currently being tried is the third different attempt.
As the newspaper was peeled back from the fermented manure, a conversation began peppered with questions:
- “What should we expect to see under the paper?”
- “Ben, what are you looking for?”
- “Did the manure ferment long enough?
- “How long will it take the suspended solids to filter out?”
- “When can plants go into the pond?”
Even as the water filled the pond space and it appeared to be holding water, more questions arose and the conversation continued. In many cases, there were no clear answers, just a diverse consideration of what was possible, and what would be learned whether or not the pond held water, with an understanding that we could learn as much, if not more, if the pond lining failed.
At that time we didn’t know if the pond would hold water. Even after filling it, several hundred gallons later, more questions arise. As we work through this, there will be more places for success, and failure, but on the other side of it all everyone involved in the project, even me documenting and discussing from the sidelines, will have learned something from the process. We’ll know more than was known at the beginning of the process, and be able to say more than simply, “It depends,” when asked a question about pond building. You can see pictures of this pond building exercise at facebook.com/thepermaculturepodcast and I’ll be adding more as the experiment continues. An episode is also planned with Ben Weiss to discuss the process and what was learned throughout.
I use this as a single example of experimentation and learning more, but implore all of you engaged in this work to ask questions, experiment to find answers, and share what you find with others. Be, as Stephen Harrod Buhner implores us, to be citizen scientists. Add to the wealth of human knowledge, and the application of permaculture. If you’ve seen a tree growing in shade, but all the literature says that it shouldn’t do well there, plant one of your own and see whether or not that example you found was an outlier, something distant from other observed data, or something unobserved before.
Take the permaculture model and design something you do with it. Jason Godesky wrote The Fifth World Role Playing Game with permaculture in mind. I use permaculture when designing educational materials in cooperation with friends, an when creating the online PDC+ programs.
Even with this podcast, a lot of the work is an experiment within the framing of permaculture. Stepping back to see what is and isn’t working. Asking for feedback, applying it and trying new things, such as the Permabytes. Now, when a friend asks me for advice about running a podcast, I can answer their questions. When sitting down to talk with a friend about permaculture, the answer now makes more sense than it ever did when I tried to define the word succinctly. There’s a method, a dialog, and understanding that I could not properly relay before gaining further personal experience.
We can all do this. We can all experiment. Use the prime directive, the ethics, and a set of principles, whether Holmgren’s or someone else’s, and play with them. Try different things. See what works. See what doesn’t work. Then share it with the community.
Whatever your experiments and experiences are, I’d like to encourage you to keep trying and doing more, and let me know how things work out. Get in touch.
The Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann
P.O. Box 16
Dauphin, PA 17018