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8 forms of capital agroforestry apples beans bees beneficial berries biodigester blackberries blackthorn book review brain budget build building campesino capital Celtic festivals change changes chemical-free chickens circular clay pot climate change climate solutions climbing cob comfrey community compost compost teas connection consciousness conservation cooking coppice coppicing cordial cosmology crafts crisis cultural emergence culture cycles design diary diversity DIY do it yourself earth care Earth's energy economics ecopoetry ecosystem edges education efficiency elements energy ethics fair shares Fairtrade farming feedback feminine ferns figs firewood flowers food food forest forage foraging forest garden forest gardening fruit fruit trees future future care gardening garlic gift economy gin global poverty grapes greenhouse grow grow your own growing guilds habitat harvest harvests hazel hazelnut health healthy soil hedging herbs holistic planned grazing home homestead Hugelkultur humanure IBC tanks Indigenous inexpensive influence jam land landscape life livelihood livestock logs low cost market garden market gardening marmalade mass heater medicinal microbes mimic mindset mitigation money moringa Mother Earth multifunctional mushrooms native plants natural natural building natural fertiliser natural skincare natural swimming pool nature nitrogen no dig no-dig nutrition nuts observe off-grid orchard orchards organic outdoor shower oven oyster pallets pasture-fed patterns people people care perennials permaculture permaculture design permaculture magazine award permaculutre pests pips pizza oven plant profile plants pollinators polyculture polycultures preserving principles propagating pruning psycho-spiritual awareness psychospiritual transformation rainwater raspberries recipe recipes reduce reed beds regenerative agriculture relative location relative matter renewable renewable energy resources reuse revolution rootstock rootstocks roundhouse roundwood runner beans Scotland seasons Sepp Holzer september septic tanks sewage treatment shrubs skincare sloes slugs small solutions small-scale smallholding social justice soil health solar solutions spiritual spring stacking functions straw straw bale sustainable systems temperate terraces thistles timber timber framing toolkit tools trees upcycle urban vegan vermicomposting walnuts waste watering weeds wellbeing wetland wild food wildlife wings winter salads wood stove woodburner woodland woodland management woodlands worms year-round food yield zoning

Topics

8 forms of capital agroforestry apples beans bees beneficial berries biodigester blackberries blackthorn book review brain budget build building campesino capital Celtic festivals change changes chemical-free chickens circular clay pot climate change climate solutions climbing cob comfrey community compost compost teas connection consciousness conservation cooking coppice coppicing cordial cosmology crafts crisis cultural emergence culture cycles design diary diversity DIY do it yourself earth care Earth's energy economics ecopoetry ecosystem edges education efficiency elements energy ethics fair shares Fairtrade farming feedback feminine ferns figs firewood flowers food food forest forage foraging forest garden forest gardening fruit fruit trees future future care gardening garlic gift economy gin global poverty grapes greenhouse grow grow your own growing guilds habitat harvest harvests hazel hazelnut health healthy soil hedging herbs holistic planned grazing home homestead Hugelkultur humanure IBC tanks Indigenous inexpensive influence jam land landscape life livelihood livestock logs low cost market garden market gardening marmalade mass heater medicinal microbes mimic mindset mitigation money moringa Mother Earth multifunctional mushrooms native plants natural natural building natural fertiliser natural skincare natural swimming pool nature nitrogen no dig no-dig nutrition nuts observe off-grid orchard orchards organic outdoor shower oven oyster pallets pasture-fed patterns people people care perennials permaculture permaculture design permaculture magazine award permaculutre pests pips pizza oven plant profile plants pollinators polyculture polycultures preserving principles propagating pruning psycho-spiritual awareness psychospiritual transformation rainwater raspberries recipe recipes reduce reed beds regenerative agriculture relative location relative matter renewable renewable energy resources reuse revolution rootstock rootstocks roundhouse roundwood runner beans Scotland seasons Sepp Holzer september septic tanks sewage treatment shrubs skincare sloes slugs small solutions small-scale smallholding social justice soil health solar solutions spiritual spring stacking functions straw straw bale sustainable systems temperate terraces thistles timber timber framing toolkit tools trees upcycle urban vegan vermicomposting walnuts waste watering weeds wellbeing wetland wild food wildlife wings winter salads wood stove woodburner woodland woodland management woodlands worms year-round food yield zoning

3. Each Important Function Is Supported By Many Elements – An Original Permaculture Design Principle

Maddy Harland explains an early permaculture principle: why important functions like food, heat and water need to be supported by more than one element for greater resilience.

Written into our history is the horror of the Irish Potato Famine, when a nation of working people’s diet was almost exclusively provided by a variety of potato which failed. Another dramatic example of the poverty of monoculture was the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when arable farming laid waste the delicate ecological balance of the mid-West and made a generation homeless.

In a sustainable design, important functions are supported by more than one element. The more elements there are to support an individual function, the more stable and safe the overall system will be in the event of any one element failing.

Food

For the gardener this principle means diversity, many varieties. If we have space, we rarely plant one variety of annual vegetable and if we do, it is usually backed up by another entirely different annual that crops at the same time. Better still, find perennials or self-seeders to compliment the annual and sow them only once!

In our garden we mix and match as many crops as possible. We do grow plants like lettuce, rocket, beetroot and tomatoes for the salad bowl. We also back up these crops with almost year-round growing of plants like Egyptian and Welsh onions, sweet cicely, land cress, claytonia, numerous culinary herbs, oriental vegetables, Campanula versicolor and corn salad. By mixing conventional annuals with self-seeders and perennials and growing plants inside the conservatory/living space as well as ones that crop outside in winter, we ensure a variety of fresh food all year round. In addition, having tree crops, bush fruit, fruit and nuts from the hedgerow, an annual vegetable garden, a growing selection of perennial vegetables that ensures that our food supply is supported by many elements. And there is always the local veggie box scheme in times of need…

Heat

House design too can demonstrate this permaculture principle. A conventional house is usually heated by either gas or oil and has little insulation. If the central heating breaks down or prices rise dramatically, there are few alternatives beside electricity. Our house is a 19th century flint cottage that has been renovated. It is heated by a highly efficient gas condensing boiler, a dual combustion energy efficient woodburning stove and passive solar heating. The south-westerly aspect of the house has been redesigned to take advantage of the heat of the sun by adding a conservatory/living space built from local douglas fir and double glazed with low ‘e’ argon filled glazing.

The house also conserves energy by being highly insulated in loft and wall spaces, by using high quality storm-proof argon filled windows and by using thermally insulating blinds in the glazed south-westerly aspect to limit heat loss at night and on cloudy winter days. The house is warm in winter but does not overheat in summer due to good passive solar design and the blinds, reducing our heating bills significantly. We also have evacuated solar tubes on the roof this year to heat our water.

There is much more that we can do in the creation of an ecological design. We intend to replace our old secondary woodburner with another dual combustion model with a back boiler to heat water and add to the loft insulation. This will heat the house and the water and when we do this we can switch off the gas entirely.

Water

Water, once taken for granted in temperate climates, is becoming scarcer in many places as climate change becomes a reality. We have this odd juxtaposition of drought and flood that is ever more unpredictable. Before we even started thinking about seperate supplies using rainwater to flush toilets and potable drinking water, we thought how we could use less water altogether. Domestically, there are many ways of conserving and harvesting water rather than relying on the one source out of the tap. In the house, water is conserved by obvious changes in habits like not running taps when we clean our teeth, not using a dishwasher and using an energy efficient washing machine which uses a spray system to rinse clothes. We harvest urine in a simple bucket and diluted and put on our vegetable garden or in the compost heap. We also use mulch to conserve moisture in the garden and water it with washing water as well as rainwater. We have a 1000 litre rainwater harvesting tank by our vegetable garden plus numerous 80 litre barrels dotted by downpipes in the front and back garden.

The rationale for diversifying sources for food, heat and water is to save money and resources, develop resilience and reduce our carbon emissions. Whilst our political leaders ignore the coming climate crisis and the planet continues to heat, we continue to implement as energy efficient and multi-functional designs as much as we can whilst encouraging others to do the same with our publishing work. It seems like the sanest thing we can do.