[permaculture] double digging PLUS machinery? etc.

Scott Pittman scott at permaculture.org
Mon Dec 7 18:12:37 EST 2009

The adage "don't sell it if it can't walk off the farm" was one of Bill's
favorite quotes from old pre permaculture farmers in Tasmania where he grew

Where I grew up, in the Texas Panhandle, the average farm was forty acres of
dryland cultivation.  With this amount of land the tenants were fed,
clothed, had medical care, and children were sent to college.  This was done
with an old Ferguson or Ford tractor that today wouldn't qualify to mow the
lawn.  Today in the same region farms are thousands of acres with multitudes
of tractors and equipment and virtually all of the biomass grown is
exported; nothing is left to rebuild the soil.  

I think anything that takes more than two horses to cultivate is virtually
impossible to be sustainable.  If all of the produce of a high end
restaurant in Berkeley can be grown in neighborhood backyards, then we can
feed everyone who needs food on much smaller plots.  The problem is with
large animal meat - that is where larger acreage is needed for grazing, but
under the right climate conditions and good rotation patterns we could do
much more on much less land.

It is inevitable that we are going to be forced to go back to smaller and
more efficient food production driven by human and animal power marketed to
our neighbors and surrounding towns.  In order for this to work we will have
to restore the grazing and forestry commons.  

Scott Pittman
Permaculture Institute

-----Original Message-----
From: permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Tripp Tibbetts
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2009 2:14 PM
To: permaculture
Subject: Re: [permaculture] double digging PLUS machinery? etc.

Thanks for that, Isabel.  I've been having a lot of thoughts along the same
lines lately.  In fact, there's been some recent chatter on this listserv
along lines of scale that don't strike me as particularly permacultural.  As
Michael Pilarski said earlier today, even a national permaculture
convergence in the US looms at a scale that is hardly sustainable, and
likely to be a short-lived, even if amazing!, occurrance.  I want to come
meet you guys, mine your thoughts, and then I want to go back to my
bioregion and deepen my permacutural existence.  Let's do it while we can!
But it all boils down to scale really, doesn't it?  Is it even possible to
be a commercial producer AND a permie?  Darren Doherty might add that old
permies in Australia say, "don't sell it if it can't walk or fly off your
My cash crop is blueberries.  I add new varieties every year, and believe
me, they are perfectly capable of both walking and flying out of my
gardens!  OK, maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.  It's a
perennial crop whose fruit is intended to be removed by highly-mobile
vectors, and planted elsewhere.  In my mouth is one of the more common
One of the most common questions I get from my family is, 'why don't you
start a permaculture business?'  And the answer is, I don't know.  I'm still
thinking about that one, and it strikes me as a really heavy question...
Tripp out.

The best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow.
-Chinese proverb

--- On Mon, 12/7/09, Udan Farm <udanfarm at yahoo.com> wrote:

From: Udan Farm <udanfarm at yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [permaculture] double digging PLUS machinery? etc.
To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
Date: Monday, December 7, 2009, 8:37 PM

A few days ago I was looking at someone's permaculture website, and they
were talking about trattoria-I guess it's a fancy word for small tractors.
I've seen a few "permaculture" websites talking about what I call BIG
machinery (anything over a push lawnmower that cost more than about $500 is
BIG to me), then the questions about double digging made me go back to
thinking about what IS and is not permaculture...

And I began to wonder-is using machinery on a REGULAR basis good
Permaculture? Is growing 6 or 8 thousand pounds of food on a small plot of
land PERMAculture? Or is it market gardening with an eco-twist
Not that I'm
trying to offend anyone who's doing it...I'm just trying to get clear in my
head what Mollison wrote about.

I then was searching on this list, and found a thread about the Paleo diet
and permaculture. Paleo-permaculture he called it.

This is pretty much what I keep coming back to, is that if you have a true
permaculture site it's not tilled rows of greens to sell, or corn.  In MY
thoughts, it's probably lots perennial veggies, some annuals here and there,
hopefully lots of nuts if you are lucky enough to live on a place with trees
old enough to harvest nuts, or even oak trees for acorns.

But in my imaginary perfect permaculture farm, there is very little corn, no
soy, no wheat, maybe some quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat (I am very anti
GRASS as food right now) and lots of sweet potatoes (I live in GA) and
potatoes in the spring.
So there are starches, but not grasses. Everything should be appropriate to
your area-so ok, if you live in Kansas you have more corn and wheat

But I was still wondering about gardening vs. agriculture
the reality of
having tractors and row-crops being not really what I'd call
wondering if any true premie uses machinery for more than
earthworks upon setup of a site...

and I was listening to Mollison's 1983 PDC
.and then he gave me my

"Agriculture always was an unnecessary activity. It is not at all necessary
to involve one's self in agriculture whatsoever. But it is very necessary to
involve yourself in gardening...A garden is something that provides a
HOUSEHOLD with it's nutrient. Agriculture is something in which you
commercially sell off your product. That leaves the question of area right
out of it. If you've got a glass house (greenhouse) in your back yard and
you've only got tomatoes in it you're in agriculture because you intend to
sell those tomatoes not feed yourself. If you've got a mixed garden in your
backyard then your a gardener. And you give away or trade a little bit of
." ( To get rid of your excesses and get something you don't have.)
"That's not commerce, that's rightful disposal of surplus where someone can
use it

Someone asked about wheat. Mollison said, "Wheat and bread and grains
generally, and grain legumes are a great problem in the system. They are the
central problem
 In my house you won't find any stored grains-we threw them
all out to the ducks. Because we can grow potatoes. And that's our staple
diet. And if we start to eat grains, we need an agriculturalist."
He did then mention that they were just beginning to try non-cultivation
method of growing grains. "But if we don't get it, we'll stick to potatoes,
and in the garden."
On that note, I threw out a bunch of things like old bulgar, some buggy
oats, and something I've had so long I don't remember what it is. Gave em to
the chickens. We have 8 bushels of sweet potatoes to get us through til
Just my two centsIsabel

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