[permaculture] On the pain of desiring land

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Tue Dec 1 20:51:07 EST 2009

I'm curious where you are hearing the difficulties being played down. 
Specifically, if you would, as I'd like to know who or what to put on my 
"ignore those idiots" list for my students.

Bill makes many references to the importance, if you want to farm, of 
finding land with good water, good soil, and good microclimate, but I 
couldn't find anything about how easy it is. I was trying to find 
statements in permaculture books, or Permaculture Activist articles 
about it being less than a lot of work to rehabilitate damaged land. All 
I can find is descriptions of projects that involve a great deal of work 
("first we dug 8 km of swales and put in two 1/4 Ha ponds, then planted 
4000 trees while living in a tent for the first 3 years because we were 
too tired to build . . ."). Holmgren's Meliodora book, one of the few 
detailed case studies out there, talks about 8 years of hard work and 
then years more of modifications.  Yes, Bill jokes about how after 5 
years of work, the designer can become the recliner, but that seems 
close to the truth from my own experience on 10 acres of degraded land. 
Of course, I finally figured out that most of that land wanted to be 
forest and not farm, so I only gardened on 1/8 acre of it, which wasn't 
too hard. But Bill writes repeatedly about asking what the land wants 
instead of imposing our will on it, and I eventually listened to him.

So who are these ignoramuses you keep running into?

and, Christopher Nesbitt wrote:

> it is just land that is not suitable for agriculture.

Boy, if there's one lesson I could get across, that would be it.


Rain Tenaqiya wrote:
> I grew up with an intense hunger for my own plot of land, and was desperate by the time I had the resources to buy some.  I really identify with the lust for land of the US "pioneers" and landless peasants.  I feel that permaculture, in its current form, does a disservice to those seeking land by playing down the difficulties of marginal land.  It is true that a lot of land that is currently considered marginal can be coaxed into producing yields for satisfying vital needs, but only with more work, money, time, energy, and other inputs than prime farming land.
> On the other hand, it is less likely that permaculturists would create dustbowls, because our practices are diametrically opposed to such outcomes.  We don't like tilling, bare soil, and overirrigation or unsustainable water use, and we like mulching, perennials, appropriate earthworks, etc.
> Rain
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