Core Model Man

My work with the GLPDC has had a number of effects. One of the things that has happened is that we advanced how we each understand and explain Mollison’s idea of the core model. I’d like to take this opportunity to capture my interpretation of it and share it with the world.

It starts as a seed – at origin. In the body it’s navel, 2nd chakra, or dantien. From that point expands the trunk, to arms then fingers reaching out; lobular. As above, so below – the same expands out to the toes. Our power can spiral upward from the ground, through our feet and be channeled into any direction out our hands. The negative space becomes a torus of Von Karman vortices and Ekman spirals appear under our arms and as we move.

I’ve put some of these ideas together in an animated gif. 

So what is this thing? It’s simply a model for the fundamental pattern of nature. Of course, all models have their imperfections and this is no exception. What it does do is connects together many of the patterns we use in permaculture as tools, giving us a sense of the interconnected nature of existence. The better we can sense that, the more accurate our designs can be.  

Rocket Stove 2017

A new project for the new year, a rocket stove!

I’d like to build a rocket stove in a greenhouse with a batch box. So, the testing begins. The basic design is drawn from Peterburg Batch Box Dimensions and my working knowledge.

It’s only got a 4” riser and with the box being 9” x 11.5” x 5.75” super small. That’s not much difference than just a standard J tube size. The P channel taller than it should be and there is no funnel for ash.

Let’s fire it up and see what happens! The original design for the chimney was just not going to work so I improvised some with some 8″ stove exhaust. Of course it smoked like crazy until things heated up. 

This thing is on fire, where’s the smoke? Oh yeah, it’s a rocket stove.  


Yup, I’ts burning. Cooking even.

It works! I am impressed to see that the torus down the tube in the base of the chimney. The small box burned up the fuel pretty quickly. The next build will be a bigger design, built for a 6″ chimney. Since the limiting factor on box size is width of a brick that will as big as I can build with what I’ve got. Eventually I’ll need to get some alternative materials to build bigger boxes. Then perhaps a larger one and clay slip to seal things up?

This will be great to show off at the GLPDC 2017 design course near Ann Arbor, MI!

Permaculturists as Time Scouts

When we design, we are always building for future floods, future fires, future droughts, and planting a tree a few inches tall that will be future forest giants, throw future shadows. Future populations will need future soils and forest resources, shelter, security. So somebody needs to range ahead in time, scout out the next century. We are not daydreaming. We are time scouts. – Bill Mollison

Time scouts eh? I like that. We are looking to the future. Note that this implies that others are not, even worse they’re pretty good at it. 

It seems our culture needs a change. We need many time scouts to create a future worth living as opposed to where we’re heading now.   Will you be a time scout?

We need many people to plant trees, the shade of which they will never see…

Permaculture Flower II

Permaculture FlowerI’m feeling really good about my new thinking on the permaculture flower, my thinking has congealed a bit since I first posted on it. All of a sudden I see what I previously perceived as a mundane categorization, as a valuable tool when examining and balancing any system.

David Holmgren, the co-originator of permaculture says “The permaculture flower shows key domains that require transformation to create a sustainable culture.” That is, each petal (or domain) represents a category into which we can apply permaculture in the world. But if you try to use the flower as a directional compass to orient yourself in that particular category, you’ll always find every domain simultaneously. Again and again there are always aspects of each topic that fit into each petal.

That is precisely what makes flower useful. Any subject, from something as general as farming to something as specific as a solar panel, manifests in all of these domains of the flower simultaneously. Together the flower represents the different facets of any single topic or object, therefore we can improve our designs by observing and interacting with each of these domains as we do our work.

As it manifests, permaculture is most obvious in the domains Land, Building, and Tools & Technology, in the physical world. It is less obvious in the other four domains of Education & Culture, Health & Spiritual Well-being, Finance & Economics, and Land Tenure & Community Governance. They represent what has been called “invisible structures” but perhaps is better called social systems as their patterns are quite visible, just often overlooked. An undeveloped petal would be a drag on any system, while conversely an over developed petal can not make up for the lack of development in the others.

In Practice

So for example, when we put up a gutter on a building not only does it interact with the flow of water and change the way that flow is distributed in a physical place(Land & Nature Stewardship), it is made of materials that were sourced and transported with a certain effect on the larger landscape (Building), and represents its own set of tools and concepts in its construction and installation (Tools & Technology). At the same time it also has a whole set of information about when and how we use it (Education & Culture), how it affects us physically and through our own vision of ourselves (Health & Spiritual Well-being), there is a whole economy behind that gutter as well as our means to obtain it (Finance & Economics), and finally there are certain regulations about what you can or can’t do in putting it up (Land Tenure & Community Governance).

In the example above, putting up a gutter may be no simple act when we consider all of the domains. It comes down to how wide of a view we’re willing and able to take. It also takes some prioritization to realize what is significant or what we can actually change. That’s where the ethics and principles or tools like the scale of permanence or the 8 forms of capital can help us to examine and connect to the different domains and create lasting, beneficial change in a healthy system.

The different petals together represent:

Land & Nature Stewardship – A specific place and its inhabitants, how they increase or decrease the ecology. What is the cause?

Building – The manmade environment. Specific structures and their construction. What is the total cost our effect over the whole life of the structure?

Tools & Technology – Physical objects that are required to manipulate the environment and concepts relating to how they function. What tools are commonly used?

Education & Culture – Specific, local ideas relating to how life is lived and how that information is transmitted. What is unique about the local culture?

Health & Spiritual Wellbeing – The effect that something has on its environment, both physically and mentally. What does it’s scale and demeanor tell us about ourselves?

Finances & Economics – How the materials are obtained and brought to a site vs how they are extracted. The larger flow of materials and its scale. How does it fit into the economy?

Land Tenure & Community Governance – How decisions are made about a space or it’s inhabitants. Who is included. In what ways do you or the world around you participate?

In the permaculture course with the GLPDC, in each of the topics we teach, we strive to fill our designs with all the domains of the petals.

Design Methods, Mapping & Process

Systems Thinking & Pattern Language

Ethics & Principles

Patterns & Pattern Application


Reading the Landscape




Economic Systems

Invisible Structures

Pattern Language & Conceptual Design

The Design Interview

The Local Ecosystem

Trees, Forests, Plants, and Cultivated Ecologies

Tropical, Arid, & Cool Climates

Broadscale Landscape Design

Urban Permaculture

Ecovillage and Neighborhood Design

Climates/ Biogeography

The Built Environment

Energy & Appropriate technology

Garden Design/Seed Saving/IPM

Waste & Bioremediation

Climate & Biogeography

Home System



Design for Catastrophe

Access to Land (Settlement Patterns)

If you’re interested in learning more about permaculture taking a PDC, especially a local one. Check out our PDC in the SE Michigan area at

Don’t “Drop Out”, Participate in Replacements To

2015-09-23-09-03-21It’s not about “dropping out” of the system or removing yourself in any way. While that’s the end goal we actually need to “drop into” something first. What we need to do is create the things that will replace the system by meet our needs, from the place where we live. Only then will we be able to let the system, and all the damage it causes, go.  

Thanksgiving Synchronicity

I had a small synchronicity leading up to and over the Thanksgiving holiday…

First, I showed up to harvest microgreens Tuesday before Thanksgiving and ended up listening to J. H. Kunstler interview Chris Martenson.  Kunstler is a bit of a cranky but eloquent old man, Chris Martenson is behind the Crash Course and has sort of an investor/scientist take on things. 

718o1ebxibl1Now, a long time ago I had read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It’s a very good book and an easy read. The premise is an analysis the of the leavers vs. the takers, using the story of Adam and Eve to chart the move from a foraging to agrarian culture. I had forgotten about it but just recently had another of Quinn’s books, Beyond Civilizationshow up on the Face, so I checked it out using interlibrary loan for some Thanksgiving reading. This one is a set of simple premises that build, asking how does one exit civilization. 

At nearly the same time this Chris Martenson interview with Daniel Quinn appeared on my newsfeed. I’m particularly fond of this quote Chris pulls out from Beyond Civilization:

“If we go on as we are, we’re not going to be around for much longer. A few decades, a century at most, if we’re still around a thousand years from now, it will be because we stopped going on as we are.”  – Daniel Quinn, Beyond Civilization

So taken all together, I’m realizing these are excellent resources. A framing of the entire problem from Quinn contrasted with the mechanics of how it’s playing out from Martenson and a little cranky but eloquent old man thrown in for fun. I think I’m going to recommend this as one of my standard courses of study.

Leveraging a Job

“…Although people deeply involved in a system often know intuitively where to find leverage points, more often than not they push the change in the wrong direction.” – Donella Meadows

This morning I had a realization that having a job is a very important leverage point; there is so much effect that we can create by how we work with this one concept. In the past I had thought that we strive for the “right” job, one that fits our temperament and skills exactly. It would be even better if it doesn’t exploit the environment or people. Perhaps it even did some good in the world. But, what I realized in that moment is that using the word job sets us on a different path than if we say “what we do for a living”.

2016-05-26 12.46.00Having a job implies that you are going to sell your labor to the economy and then in return buy what you need from the economy.  It pretty much cements the loss of control, limiting your choices to ones that amount to dead ends. On the other hand, making a living implies that you’re working to live. As we are the person making the decisions about how we provide for ourselves, we have some control over what and how things happen. Having the right job is not going to make change, even thinking of what we do as a job pushes the wrong way. What we need is to craft appropriate lives that match to the reality of our environment.

Now think of all that we have that is dependant on a job. Where we live, what we eat, how we play, transportation, heat, electricity, internet, everything we have. Any one of these would be terrifying to lose. But each is a thing that exploits people and the natural world far and wide and each could be replaced with something more local that we can directly connect to and depend on to live. Any exploitation would be right in our faces, we would be more likely to suffer from our own actions, and we would at least have a chance to deal with it.

So, what is this state of being that we would be moving into? What would this alternative be like? We can imagine but just don’t know exactly what it looks like, as there is little space for that in the existing system. Much of it is illegal, someone with a gun would come and kill or arrest you if you didn’t comply with their demands. And, it’s something that we’re going to have to build from the ground up. Fit into the cracks of the existing order, always looking for new ones to appear, sort of a hybrid world. Keeping ourselves alive with the old systems, while simultaneously building a new world.

The less we identify with having a job, the more energy we can put towards the future.