[permaculture] Comments on patterning in Permaculture

Lawrence F. London, Jr. venaurafarm at bellsouth.net
Sun Oct 25 20:28:36 EDT 2009

 From the archives:

Here's something Milo wrote about patterns and permaculture:
Date: Mon, 2 Mar 1998 13:49:25 EST
From: Milogic
To: permaculture at listserv.oit.unc.edu
Cc: bd-l at biodynamics.com
Subject: Pattern and difference

To echo Scott  on the permaculture list and Bea on the biodynamics list 
(to a
degree): core elements, for me, within the permaculture vision and 
Mollison's crazy
wisdom* are what Bateson called 'the patterns which connect" and 
differences that
make a difference. (*substitute Steiner and Biodynamics freely)

Polyculturing is patterning in ways that create differences which make
differences--and doing so within manageable microcosms.

Permaculture is dynamics in systems. People outside permaculture like 
Schwenk and Hans Jenny or Ralph Abraham are working within patterning 
ideas and
finding pragmatic links between cosmos and soil particles.

Some of the precursors in people like Rudolph Steiner, Edmund Bordeaux
Szekeley, Wilhelm Reich et al, worked earlier in time and under 
conditions no longer
available. In a remarkable way, in terms of human experience on this 
planet, we are
totally connected and totally alone together.

New ways of linking, such as this, may be creating the webs of relationship,
community, through which we can abandon reason as we have been taught 
and find
actualities in tune with now. I suspect permaculture is one of those 
linking ways.

As we try to cope with conditions presenting themselves from soil 
imbalances in my
back yard to firestorms in South East Asia, we are dealing with dynamic 
overburdened with positive feedback, thereby increasing entropic 
tendencies at
exponential rates. Reason, as we have been given to understand it, is 
irrational and failing us.

Permaculture offers pattterns, which if explored with open mind, may 
allow us to
grok differences needed which, in place, will make key differences in 
survival for humankind. Permaculture, by encouraging people to take 
action in place,
with awareness of universal sentience, provides essential anchors for 

Crazy wisdom is in short supply. Treasure every bit that falls upon you.

For those inclined to Eastern spiritual practices and thought, 
permaculture may be
understood as a grounding of bliss to find grace, one way of ending 
through finding out who we are. For those who follow such paths, it is 
clear, at
least to me, that east and west are converging into sets of 
understandings more like
parallel and converging paths.

The works which flowed through a Western mind who integrated Eastern 
patterns, Lama
Anagarika Govinda, are particularly cogent in adapting and adopting 
these sets. And
also, an Eastern Mind who groks Western mind, Tarthang Tulku, continues 
to expand
his Time, Space and Knowledge series. A Western scientist who groks well 
is Ralph
Abraham (see his Chaos, Gaia, Eros).

Perhaps the better path is simply to meld your being with the soil on 
which you walk
(if any is available to you).

Milo Clark
Berkeley CA USA
and from Lee Flier:
To: permaculture at listserv.oit.unc.edu
      Subject: Re: edge zones
      From: Lee Flier
      Date: Mon, 11 Aug 1997

 >Would anyone care to expound on the design and usage of
 >edge zones  and patterning in the context of permaculture

OK, I'll bite.

Yes, the patterning in design and the use of edge zones is very important in
maximizing use of resources on any site.  It's a really underrated and 
area of study.

"Edge zones" occur naturally at the transition point between any two 
media. This
could be between air and water, water and soil, forest and field, valley 
and slope,
etc.  The interesting thing is that the edges of anything are always 
very dynamic
and productive compared to the interiors.  For example most farmers know 
that the
yields at the edges of grain or cornfields are almost double what they 
are in the
interiors!  Also if you look at a pond, there is more potential 
diversity of species
at the edges of ponds than in the middle.

So, in designing sites we want to maximize the amount of "edge".  In the 
case of the
grain fields for example, you can plant trees, (together with herbs, 
fruit bearing
shrubs, vining plants, tubers and anything else that will do well under 
trees), and
then run 6 foot wide swaths of grain in clearings between the  trees. 
This gives
you a "perpetual edge" and you will get nearly the same yield you would 
have had if
you'd planted all grain, PLUS the yield from the trees and other plants.

Likewise with a pond, if you make "fingers" all around instead of a 
simple round or
oval shape, you will get much more edge which will yield a lot more in 
the same

Nature itself has a tendency to arrange things into certain patterns 
that appear
random to us if we aren't conscious of them, but which are often 
optimized to create
edge (as with the "finger" shape which is also in an oak leaf, the 
shapes of rivers, lungs, and tree branches, etc.)  The shape of a 
mushroom is also
prevalant; trees, bones, the flowforms of running water, and many other 
things take
on this shape.  The patterns, the reasons why the patterns occur, and the
connections between them are endless but the basic ones are fairly 
simple, and a lot
of aboriginal "abstract art" is really a map of these natural patterns, 
a way to
pass knowledge of them down to the children.  Most westerners see this 
artwork and
see it as purely aesthetic, not having a clue that they're looking at 
the equivalent
of a school textbook - only a lot easier to memorize!

The idea in learning these natural patterns is that by imitating them in 
designs (rather than patterning everything after the needs of
machinery, such as in straight lines and squares), we will get more out 
of the
system with less work and less use of resources because these are the 
things "want" to fall into without our help.  We in fact are wasting 
resources every
time we try to design a system that runs counter to these patterns.

Well that's the basic idea... I'm sure others will have something to say 

= Lee =

Lee A. Flier
lflier at mindspring.com
Atlanta and Ellijay, Georgia, U.S.A.


Graham Bell says: 'All patterns of occupation or behaviour have edges
and they offer a particularly rich envronment. This is because the edge of
anything is especially rich in species, supporting plants, animals and
activities from both its neighbouring areas, and also the species and
activities which only take place in that special zone.'

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