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Introduction to permaculture lectures

Encouraging birds in the gardenAs I mentioned yesterday, I'm trying out Will Hooker's free online permaculture class.  The course was originally taught once a week, with each day's lecture cut in half and put on the web in two pieces.  Since it makes sense to review and react to each pair of lectures together, this post contains my take on lectures 1 and 2.

First of all, our internet was running terribly slowly when I started listening, which made it painful to jump to a spot in a video if I got interrupted partway through.  Luckily, the university didn't protect against visitors simply right-clicking and saving each video to their computers, so I recommend you do that first.  After downloading, it'll be easy to skip past all of the information that's really only relevant to local students --- like the getting-to-know you half hour that made up most of lesson 1.  In fact, if you know anything at all about permaculture you might skip lesson 1 entirely and maybe even lesson 2 (which covers permaculture ethics and principles).  The only really interesting tidbit I took away from these two lessons is the idea of adding bird perches to the tops of garden-trellis-and-staking posts to make it easier for our feathered friends to hang out and deposit manure below.

Your homework before delving into lesson three includes:

  • In Grave Danger of Falling Food --- This 50 minute video about Bill Mollison is interesting, but drags a bit, especially since you're likely to have heard everything he's talking about before.  It's intriguing, though, to hear permaculture-related stances straight from the horse's mouth, and to guess how current-day forest gardening grew out of Mollison's mixed-species garden.
  • Earth Day Ecological Footprint Quiz and Carbon Footprint Quiz --- These quizzes are fun, but suffer from a very narrow worldview.  I can understand why they don't give you the option to say you use a composting toilet and why they can't delve into the complexities of when meat-eating makes sense, but how hard would it be to let you input your actual electricity usage per year?
  • Gaia's Garden chapters 1 and 2 and Introduction to Permaculture chapter 1 --- These Introduction to Permaculturetwo books are the required texts for the course (with other books offering optional reading).  I skimmed both of these books when I first got started with permaculture many moons ago, but recent reading (with a more experienced eye) changed my review of each dramatically.  Now that I've tried a lot of permaculture techniques on the ground, I find parts of Gaia's Garden naive and overly enthusiastic, plus the book is obviously geared towards rich suburban Americans who don't really need to grow any of their own food.  On the other hand, Bill Mollison's Introduction to Permaculture has improved with age, and I can't quite figure out why such an excellent book is out of print.  Sure, it's based in subtropical and tropical Australia, so you have to use completely different plants than Mollison recommends, but the underlying themes are thoughtful and rooted in experience (and the drawings are beautiful and informative).

I'll write more specifics about the reading when I listen to the relevant lectures (3 and 4).  That post probably won't show up here until next week, so you've got plenty of time to catch up if you want to join this year's version of last summer's book club.  The more the merrier!

For a deeper look at birds in a permaculture homestead, check out my chicken ebooks, all just 99 cents apiece.


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There is a new -to me- webpage that lets you save YouTube videos (and some others) in resolutions higher or lower than the default. The easiest way is to add 'ss' in front of Youtube in the url. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjWaP0iQmWw becomes http://www.ssyoutube.com/watch?v=CjWaP0iQmWw http://www.ssyoutube.com/watch?v=CjWaP0iQmWw

I have found it quite useful with my finicky internet connection.

Feel free to delete if this feels too spammy I have no affiliation.

Comment by Michael Tue May 28 13:38:53 2013

This'd be real cool to watch. I wasnt able to access them on my ($&#%*+{) ipad,but will try on the pc and see if that works.

On a totally random note. Something was really eating up my cabbage. I suspected cabbage loopers, though I absolutely could not find any. However, the cabbage were being devastated, so I had to do something. , a search for remedies brought me an old farmer's way of dealing with these- i just dusted the cabbage with flour, plain ol' flour. Supposedly, the worms eat the flour, bloat up and die ( it actually has a similar effect on me). It worked! No more damage and the. Cabbage are recovering really quickly.

Comment by Deb Tue May 28 20:32:38 2013
I have been following along with that course! I am on lecture 7 so far and am loving it! It has been giving me so many amazing ideas.
Comment by Kristin Tue May 28 23:43:47 2013

Thanks for spreading the word about this course--I'm looking forward to it! I agree there's not much meat in the first couple lectures, but I was glad to see the course will cover more than just gardening. I'm very much just starting to learn about permaculture, but for some reason I had in my mind it was mostly about growing plants and a few animals. It's great that energy and building design are also included!

A note on the bird perches: in places where birds frequently land, they can sometimes deposit weed seeds along with their manure. Around my parents' house, for example, a new patch of poison ivy will occasionally take hold in a flower bed because some birds like to eat the poison ivy berries. For the most part, though, the bonus fertilization is the main effect.

Comment by Jake Thu May 30 23:04:59 2013

Just an FYI. I have been watching these lectures and I have found the RSS feed to be better for accessing because it doesn't reset to lecture one each time I visit. As it has links directly to the video files you should be able to access it from any system.

http://courses.ncsu.edu/hs432/common/podcasts/rss.xml

Comment by Christopher Scoggin Thu Jun 6 10:59:41 2013
Christopher --- Maybe I'm being dense (probably), but I can't seem to figure out where to click on that page to view individual lectures? (Or maybe it just doesn't work with my linux browser (iceweasel). This site also has links to each lecture, but I can't get them to play for me even after I supposedly download the linux plugin.)
Comment by anna Thu Jun 6 13:11:03 2013

Sorry to turn this into a tech heavy response, but...

I am not sure how iceweasel displays and XML file. I use Firefox (also on Linux) and it makes it all nice and formatted:

HS 432: Lecture 1
10-08-25 12:00 PM
Media files
HS432Lct1.mp4 (MPEG-4 video, 496 MB)

With the first and last lines being links to the MP4 file. If your browser doesn't pasre the file you probably get a bunch of raw XML code with like something like:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

If that is the case you would have to read through and look for lines like the following:

http://courses.ncsu.edu/hs432/common/media/01/HS432Lct1.mp4

You might also like to use a RSS reader instead and it will parse, display and often even download for you. On Linux I like to use RSSOwl. It is how I keep up with all my blogs (especailly this one :) )

Any semi-modern OS should be able to place MP4 files. I like to use VLC, personally as it play just about anything and run on just about every OS.

Comment by Christopher Scoggin Thu Jun 6 14:21:12 2013

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime