We divided the project into four phases, each covering 3 years, through which we found a natural progression from learning, investing, implementing, and refining, and then coming full circle to learning and onward forward. The process, after all, extends beyond our lifetimes. Our objective is to create a balanced, self-sustaining system in which our role becomes minimal, leaving us time for simple, mindful living and sharing what we have learned along the way.
The process of laying it out year-by-year was important, because it forced us to examine the feasibility of accomplishing so much in such a short time, and to recognize that there needed to be an inherent flexibility in the execution of the plan, because life can always be a little haywire. Delineating the steps for each year also made it easier to see a logical progression – or rather, a series of successes that could build upon one another – and the more things progressed, the more intertwined the entire system would become, until one cannot extricate a piece without it unraveling somewhere else. In some cases, a considerable financial investment would be required to move to the next level; however, that money (if available) could also be spent in any number of different ways, and those pros and cons needed to be weighed carefully. It meant frequently returning to the goals and objectives to ensure that activities were still aligned, and recognizing, too, that priorities can change in light of other events.
It is easy to read permaculture books and want a little bit of everything – from spiral gardens to swales that carve the land on contour to the latest technologies that capture energy from the heavens. However, somewhere along the path, a reality check needs to be made. We can optimize what we have to the best of our ability and within our financial and physical means, but it does not mean that all the tricks in the toolbox need be applied to our particular situation. Sorting this out and making it your own is the art of a permaculture design.
And so, without further ado, a summary of the plan, key activities, investments, and measurable outcomes. We Also note how each phase is a foundation for the next and how they are all interrelated, with the final phase evolving into a self-sustaining system in which the “yield is unlimited.”
Overall Plan: A summary of Phases 1-4, Inputs, and Outcomes. This graphic outlines the prerequisites before each implementation stage can take place (logic counts and so do measureable results!)
Yearly Summary: Key activities and how they relate to goals
The Specifics: A yearly schedule of activities, grouped by phases – because we need to be realistic, particularly when we want it all!
- Phase-1 – Permaculture Awareness; Initial Investment in a Food Forest
- Year 1 – 2009: Emphasis: Conservation / steps toward self-sufficiency; set up of rainwater collection systems; outreach/buy-local; garlic sales
- Year 2 – 2010: Emphasis: Grow your own food, minimize impact & work toward sustainability, buy local, be more self-sufficient. Theme: “Establish boundaries.” (ha!)
- Year 3 – 2011: Theme: “This year’s garden will support biodiversity and a multitude of ecological functions, build soil rather than take from soil, minimize watering requirements, take advantage of our region’s natural amenities/peculiarities, thrive with minimal effort from me, provide food & habitat to humans and wildlife along with an assortment of other useful products, and at the same time, provide a retreat for relaxation and enjoyment.”
- Phase-2 – Building the Systems – Bees, Polyculture Gardens, Education
- Year 4 – 2012: Emphasis: Bees, scything, creating guilds; observation & practical applications of permaculture concepts. Main expenses: bees & hives; scything workshop & scythe blades; more perennial plants; adding to permaculture library; mulch and soil.
- Year 5 – 2013: Emphases: Filling in the herbaceous and groundcover layers; use of green manure cover crops; better defining guilds. Plant propagation. Seed harvest & packaging. Identifying pollen & nectar-producing plants, when they bloom, what pollinators they attract; better understanding ecosystem interactions. Beginning of PDC program!
- Year 6 – 2014: Emphasis: Working on PDC project; reading Bill Mollison’s Manual; writing up ideas and pulling them together on a website. Participation in garden show provided marketing and outreach opportunities. Fewer monetary investments in plants, soils, infrastructure, equipment. More on labor, education, marketing/outreach.
- Phase-3 – Reducing the Footprint; Capturing energy; Optimizing Zones; Building Self-Sufficiency
- Year 7 – 2015: Emphasis: Optimize current systems in zones 1 & 2, focus on efficient water capture & use. Alternative Energies: Explore solar & wind options. Build a cob/rocket stove. Build a greenhouse for propagation & season extension.
- Year 8 – 2016: Emphasis: Sustainability. Energy Capture: Solar systems. Recycle household greywater. Incorporate aquaponics system into greenhouse. Fine-tune the gardens & guilds.
- Year 9 – 2017: Household renovations for energy capture & efficiency: solar sunroom. Workshops on polyculture planting for pollinators and diversified backyard systems.
- Phase-4 – Reaching Out; Adding Small Livestock; Evolving with Succession
- Year 10 – 2018: Outdoor gathering places; small livestock
- Year 11 – 2019: Morning sunroom; rocket mass heater; livestock feed
- Year 12 – 2020: Workshops; assisting garden evolution
Budgets: The sticker shock by year, phase, and a summary for the overall project – another reality check and motivation to upcycle & DIY!