Permaculture in Cold Climates

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Here are a couple of videos that I encountered serendipitously on the YouTube searching on “permaculture,” because I couldn’t bear to write on the Donald after spending the evening straightening out my routers when the real problem turned out to be outside the house at the ISP, snarl (it was a full moon). Anyhow, the title of the first one — ” Compost-Powered Heating in the Vermont Hills” — caught my eye, partly because Vermont has been all over the news lately, but mostly because winter is coming — as I can tell because now I hear crickets when I sit in my garden — and the prospect of winter concentrates the mind wonderfully on heating. But then I listened to it and found a lot of other great stuff. Here it is:

(Both videos are from Ben F of Whole Systems Design in Morehouse, Vermont, up new Montpelier.) I love the way the first video begins:

I didn’t learn to garden until I got to college and did an internship at a farm.

Societal implications aside, founders like (Australian) founders Bill Mollison  and David Holmgren, or propagators Geoff Lawton and Toby Hemenway, entered the field only after long careers and life experience elsewhere; they didn’t become inspired by a college internship! And while earlier generations seem much more inspired by actual contact with the land, the site, Falk’s presentation throughout is no less inspired but also informed by what feels like an interdisciplinary approach; academics at its best. We’ll see more of this in the second video, but for now, here’s Falk on his woodstove, because I’m so envious; I have a wood stove, but it’s nothing like this one:

[1:32] It heats the whole building and we cook on it and dry on it and bake in it, so it does all of these basic uses, and it’s just a wood cook stove but it’s not like your grandparents’ old wood cook stove, which is all ornate  and has a lot of air flowing through it, and doesn’t really heat well?  It’s like a high-performance wood cook stove. …

It heats all of our hot water, so we actually have to take a bath in the winter or definitely take a shower or we’ll end up with too much — it makes more hot water than we need.

It’s free hot water ’cause we’re we’re running the wood stove anyway to keep the building warm.

It’s just a little piece of stainless steel tank in the wood fire box we put the wood and there’s fire? There’s a tank that holds a couple gallons of water and that’s connected to hot water tank, and so the water flows via convection, you don’t need a pump. It flows and the cool water comes in down low and heats up and the hot water leaves the top side, and it just cycles through the 40 gallon tank.

You’ll have to listen to the whole thing for heating compost (tubing thruough the heap), and also the part about how although the tropics beat cold climates for fruit, we beat the tropics for vegetables, because I want to focus on this part at the end, on value(s):

[8:04]So you start start noticing more?[1] The place around you starts to mean more to you? You might get values from it that you thought you wanted to get, like save money doing something? But then you start to get other values you never expected that are a little less measurable sometimes. So that’s what I see happen to people when they start to take steps to engage in the world around them and empower themselves and solve problems around them.

You know there’s a big part of what permaculture is, as I started to realize by gardening and living on this land, that I could not only do less bad by living on land and homesteading a bit? But I could also actually do good. Not just less bad, not just throw away less or use less resources? But I could start to produce resources, like increase the fertility of the soil and make more habitat for more animals. So actually do good things that have a positive benefit, not just have less of a negative impact. And now to me the idea of impact, like reduce your impact, which I used to be all about, like I want to reduce my impact? Now I want to increase my impact as much as possible! I want as positive an impact as I can, in my lifetime.

I find that encouraging. When I look at videos, I always try to focus on the background, and when I look the construction and the fixtures of Falk’s house, I see wealth (of a sort), and I imagine some sort of “collapse in place,”  forty or a hundred years from now, where Falk’s House has rambled out, as New England farmhouses do, into something like Zove’s House, in science fiction author Ursula LeGuin’s City of Illusions, after an evolutionary chokepoint (in LeGuin’s case, invasion by aliens):

Zove’s House was a rambling, towering, intermitted chalet-castle-farmhouse of stone and timber; some parts of it had stood a century or so, some longer. There was a primitiveness to its aspect: dark staircases, stone hearths and cellars, bare floors of tile or wood. But nothing in it was unfinished; it was perfectly fireproof and weatherproof; and certain elements of its fabric and function were highly sophisticated devices or machines—the pleasant, yellowish fusion-lights, the libraries of music, words and images, various automatic tools or devices used in house-cleaning, cooking, washing, and farmwork, and some subtler and more specialized instruments kept in workrooms in the East Wing. All these things were part of the House, built into it or along with it, made in it or in another of the Forest Houses. The machinery was heavy and simple, easy to repair; only the knowledge behind its power-source was delicate and irreplaceable.

The work of the House and farm was light, no hard burden to anyone. Comfort did not rise above warmth and cleanliness, and the food was sound but monotonous. Life in the House had the drab levelness of communal existence, a clean, serene frugality. Serenity and monotony rose from isolation. Forty-four people lived here together. Kathol’s House, the nearest, was nearly thirty miles to the south. Around the Clearing mile after mile uncleared, unexplored, indifferent, the forest went on. The wild forest, and over it the sky.

So, a not unattractive possible future. (Being skeptical of wealth, and also of things that seem too good to be true, I wondered if Falk’s homestead had an external source of income, like a trust fund, but from his website, his small business is doing fine, costs in Vermont are not what they are in Manhattan, and if I were able to get heat and hot water for the whole winter with wood alone, and not oil and gas, you can bet the liberated extra would go right into construction and fixtures of my own!)

The second video, on “Good Design,” is a good deal longer, and seems to be part of a design class. Again, the focus moves from 30,000 feet to site-specific and back, and that seems to me to be a very new thing for permaculture (modulo what I regard as a 30,000-foot view from the fringe, or, to put it more politely, metaphysics; after all, biology and geology and hydrology are sublime in themselves, without the need of a supernatural admixture). Here it is, and I encourage you to listen to the whole thing with your coffee:

Here Falk starts with images of Vermont dairy farms and zooms out:

We need a lot of heat here, right, we’re in a storage climate. We need to get  all our resources in a small amount of time. We can generate  from what let’s say May to around this time of year really easily. If — anyone  kept a garden here?  You can make more food then you can eat in a short period of time.  The challenge is really how do you extend that harvest across  the seven or eight other months of the year that we  hopefully plan to occupy this place; that’s why I like to think of this as a  storage  climate, because we’re dormant; our  energy flow is dormant for more of the year than not.  That also has its advantages. It’s good for controlling pests,  it’s good for breaking disease cycles,  and building soil. It’s really, really good for building soil.              

  So we have some social conditions that  we’ve inherited as well as climate conditions;  what what might this be? Around here.  you see a lot of these driving around Vermont —  yeah, dairy farms, this is how they look now there’s some new siloes on this this one, but  this house, it’s boarded-up house, so it’s its hobbling along  type of situation where now  at the end we’re at the wane  of the dairy era  which was the predominant agricultural  use  for this part of the world for about a hundred years or more.  Unfortunately, this is becoming challenging, and I know many of you  you are aware of the challenges we face land use-wise, in  this part of the world, but just to touch on it briefly, we only have about 10 to 15  percent of our land base as agricultural soil  and this is how we’re treating it, right? We have a fossil fuel-based   agricultural industry where we have to bring them nutrients back on   to the land from which we harvested, and we do sell   at great expense, at great cost with fossil fuels at every   every turn, and of course beating up the soil not accruing value but   extracting value each time we do it, right? This is a good way, a   really good way to compact the soil, drive on it with   trucks loaded with liquid,  pretty heavy.   So we’re not really building value this way.   It’s more a mining process than a farming process, so we know that can’t last very  long. [Such] agricultures  never last for very long: The Fertile Crescent use to actually be fertile

Central Valley, anyone? Or Aroostook County?


Speaking of evolutionary chokepoints, I’ve been thinking about “the jackpot,” William Gibson’s premise for The Peripheral:

Droughts, water shortages, crop failures, honeybees gone like they almost were now, collapse of other keystone species, every last alpha predator gone, antibiotics doing even less than they already did, diseases that were never quite the one big pandemic but big enough to be historic events in themselves. And all of it around people: how people were, how many of them there were, how they’d changed things just by being there.

Gibson describes his thinking on “the jackpot” in an interview:

[GIBSON:] Our cultural model of the apocalypse is of a sudden event. That’s our cultural model of every apocalypse. The most likely apocalypse of my childhood would have been mutually assured destruction between the US and the Soviet Union, which actually almost occurred. We now know it almost happened a number of times. We were a hair’s breadth from the world ending. Nobody celebrates those dates, but I wish they would. The “day the world was saved” dates.

I think that’s something so basic about our culture – the idea of the abrupt apocalypse. We don’t even think about it. Something that kills 80 percent of the existing human population over 40 years – we don’t know how to react to that. We don’t know how to react to mass extinction events. But the passenger pigeons had their apocalypse. It took a long time – we had to eat them all.

If it’s not a sudden event, then it’s either completely out of our control — or potentially within the possibility of our control. That changes the way we look at the possibility of an event like that.

So if it’s slower, you could look at it and say, “There’s nothing we can do about that — these are vast systemic changes.” [But on the other hand] if it’s slower you could say, “It’s not like it’s gonna happen tomorrow, maybe we can get our sh*t together and do something about this.”

What I like about work like Falk’s is that it comes under the heading of “get our sh*t together.” Such work might not “save the world” — whatever that means — but it may well save a remnant of the world.


[1] In the transcription, with “?,” I just gave in to “The unstoppable march of the upward inflection?” So deal. And it is an interesting speech style, since it engages the interlocutor while keeping the disquisition moving forward. (And it’s not on topic for comments, OK?)

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Nobody (the outcast)

    Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective is being streamed gratis this weekend over at PRI’s site. It has an nice segment on Mark Shepherd’s farm and Ben Falk is in it as well. It’s a little light, but if you got an hour and a half to spare and are not too familiar with permaculture, then I suggest a viewing.

    I’m a bit jealous of northerners because it is so much easier to build soil up there. So much carbon can be sunk in colder climates.

    1. Ben Fitzkee

      Thank you for posting the video. I was surprised by the wonderful production quality of the film, and the great number of people interviewed. If you don’t know what permaculture is, then this is the video for you! There is a very well stitched together definition of permaculture in the introduction of the film. This is no small feat, given the breadth of the topic. It is also a great video for those of you who have a good grasp on it already, as you will recognize with many of those found in the video and surly resonate with the material.

      Thank again for posting “outcast”.


  2. Dan Lynch

    What is old is new again. Grandparents on both sides of my family lived a self-sufficient lifestyle, with large veggie gardens, fruit trees, chickens, milk cow, etc.. They didn’t have a lot of money but there was always plenty of food to eat. Are we really better off today because we have Iphones? No, not from my perspective.

    Permaculture doesn’t work too well in the arid West, though. Much of the human activity in the Western US does not seem sustainable, water tables are dropping, the climate is becoming drier and hotter.

    1. LifelongLib

      My mother and her parents had that way of life too, but they left it behind in 1942 to do war work. My grandmother was living on a ranch in Montana one month and inspecting bombers at a Boeing plant in Washington state the next. She thought she was better off. Unless we’ve experienced it ourselves, those of us who grew up in suburbs have no idea how hard rural life was and why so many people took the chance to get out of it.

      1. OIFVet

        I wouldn’t call our modern urban lives easy. It’s a different kind of hard life, and a lifestyle that I don’t think is sustainable. I had the fortune to experience both, spending childhood summers with my grandparents in a Bulgarian village before the Wall came down. It wasn’t an easy life, but definitely sustainable and self-sufficient. Their homestead has many permaculture elements incorporated into it, and my grandparents have never even heard of the concept until I told them about it. It’s simply generations-worth of acquired knowledge being expressed in the design of their homestead. I have lived in Chicago for more than 20 years now, and I wouldn’t call this urban lifestyle easy, particularly in this neoliberal age. Different strokes for different folks, as the saying goes, but all other things being equal I will take the sustainability of my grandparents life over the stress and unsustainability of my urban lifestyle.

  3. Richard

    Great life perspective on the part of Ben Falk, and excellent implementation of truly sustainable technology. One additional thought: A small passive solar greenhouse containing a full spectrum aquaponics system growing duckweed to feed fish that in turn fertilize vegetables would ease the winter storage problem, provide fresh greens and vegetables during the winter, and contribute protein to the diet.

  4. craazyboy

    “but it may well save a remnant of the world”

    I just started reading “The Peripheral”, but that’s sorta what happened. Gibson had one humorous comment so far…Things were pretty good in the 2080s – the Haves survived, the Have Nots, mostly not.

    hahahaha. To think that could happen…..

  5. Oregoncharles

    ” the tropics beat cold climates for fruit,” – Really? I don’t grow vegetables other than potatoes, garlic, and basil, because they’re so easy, but fruits on about 2 acres:
    More apples than I can deal with; plums – 4 or 5 kinds; peaches (difficult here); blackberries (a weed, but very tasty); tayberries; currants; gooseberries; raspberries; cornelian cherries (don’t really eat those); figs – 4 kinds; grapes – 7 or 8 kinds; pears; Asian pears; is that really it? Oh yeah, peppers, tomatos, and cucumbers.

    The hard part is making use of all that.

    Maybe maritime Oregon doesn’t qualify as “cold,” especially this year, but there are varieties that don’t get enough heat to ripen here, and winter before last it snowed heavily and got below zero – freak weather, granted. Now I’ll go watch the video; heating is one area where we definitely fall down, partly because there’s so much wood available.

    1. different clue

      The tropics only beat the temperates for tropical fruits. The temperates beat the tropics for temperate fruits. Things needing a yearly stretch of chill-hours won’t even grow in the tropics.

      1. Oregoncharles

        To Be Fair, the statement in Lambert’s piece is at least partly true. I just couldn’t resist the chance to brag – or to be contrary.

        Higher heat favors fruit, especially when it’s fairly consistent through the year. OTOH, the very long days of the northern (or southern) growing season favor leaf formation. We’re very close to the 45th parallel, midway between pole and equator, and have an ocean-moderated maritime climate – most years. So we have a foot in either camp.

        I grow fruit because growing annuals conflicted with my occupation, landscaping. And we have room, so it makes sense to grow trees. They’re also more resistant to our summer aridity – I don’t water most of the trees.

      2. Pepsi

        It’s amazing how many plants absolutely demand that temperature gradient. It’s something I never would have thought of had I not seen it for myself.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Mind-blowing detail: the Indonesians used to grow apples on the equator (but in the mountains) by picking all the leaves off in the “fall” to force them into dormancy.

          I doubt they do that any more – it’s easier to import them, and more lucrative to grow coffee. Which, unlike tea, CANNOT be grown in the temperate zone. Technically, it’s a fruit: red berries around those “beans.” Never tasted them when I had the chance, though.

          1. rtr

            There’s a nursery in SoCal that specializes in apples that respond well to hot climates/tropics. The have a sister site in Uganda.

  6. different clue

    I don’t have reliable access to computers with speakers. ( I may figure out how in-jackable headphones work with computers and maybe listen to stuff at the public library on the public computers). So I won’t be hearing/seeing these talks anytime soon.

    But still . . . I will guess that some of this knowledge traces all the way back to Provencal Frenchman Jean Pain and his work with pre-compost heaps made with chipped up brushwood with heat-extraction waterpipes in the piles. He also got some burnable methane gas from the same heaps. Here is the official website of his heirs and keepers of the flame.

    I believe that David Holmgren may be considered to be Bill Mollison’s “first Apostle”. (There are elements of religious observance and psychology to the whole permaculture movement). When recognized as such, it becomes possible to separate out the science and possible science from the non-science. I remember reading in an interview with David Holmgren that “quite a few” of the things that Mollison printed as fact in his several books are in fact not factual at all. They are merely Mollison’s dearly held beliefs. David Holmgren said these fact-free assertions of fact on Mollison’s part
    are referred to as “Mollisonisms” . . . within the confines of the Inner Upper founders of the movement I suppose. The problem is that David Holmgren has not so far told the public what any of the “Mollisonisms” are. That leaves millions of readers of Mollison’s books ( and the books of any Apostle who has not himself corrected the “Mollisonisms”) vulnerable to the loss of time and incurring of damage due to applying “knowledge” which is actually no knowledge at all. And that is a real problem. And as long as Holmgren keeps it a secret where the mines are buried, i. e. what exactly the Mollisonisms are and what the real facts are in each case mis-addressed by a Mollisonism, then Holmgren is permitting this damage to multiply and spread. One hopes that Holmgren will tag and explain and cure all the Mollisonisms once Mr. Mollison himself is safely dead and resting.

  7. different clue

    Western Civilization has many roots. The Apocalypse vision comes from the Semiticultural Judeo-Christian roots. Judgement Day, Book of Revelations, all that.

    The Greco-Roman roots, especially the Western Roman roots, offer a vision of a very slow winding down and decay over several centuries known as the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

    1. different clue

      Perhaps the various permaculture and transition and other such groups might envision themselves as present day Irish Monks keeping civilization alive in little monasteries through a multi-century dark age.

      Several decades ago Roberto Vacca recommended that approach for science and technology in his book The Coming Dark Age. He suggested “Irish Monasteries” of Engineer Monks to keep the knowledge alive.

  8. lyman alpha blob

    Lambert I suspect you are already familiar with these people, but others may be interested in the Four Season Farm in Maine. They’ve developed a number of intriguing methods for winter farming and many sound feasible even if you don’t have a lot of land.

    1. direction

      Couldn’t find too many specifics on their website. successional plantings and cold frames are pretty basic, you can keep root vegetables going for a long time and over winter hardier crops like fava beans, but could you elucidate more on these intriguing methods? I have friends who’ve had success with huge stone walls or banks of waterbarrels as thermal mass to boost winter temperatures in their green houses. curious about what else people have done successfully. (radiant flooring with that woodstove anyone?)

  9. Faye Carr

    THANK YOU! I’ve often wondered about permaculture up north. We do a lot of it here in North Central Florida.

    I spent 6 hours today with 28 other people working on an ongoing urban food forest on a 1/4 lot. I was especially gratifed when the biggest project was installing an row crop style annual vegetable bed, roughly 50×50 feet. Utilizing huglekulture in the walkways for water retention and future crop rotations.

    My place is a more traditional in ground – row cropping with selective permaculture features. With a closed system for soil inputs.

    But I’m always interested in seeing, working on, and learning how backyard, small scale food production systems function everywhere.

    I certainly realize how fortunate we are to have a 12 month grow season. But adapting to our new normal heat conditions is an ongoing challenge.

    How you grow matters less than that you grow. Shovels in the ground people!

  10. Bridget

    I lived on a ranch most of my adult life. Gardening, putting up vegetables and pickles, livestock, orchards, been there and done that. Yes, it has rewards. But it’s really hard, and the elements seem to never be on your side. Rain comes either too often or too infrequently. Wind, hail, sun or lack thereof, late freezes, not to mention insects the likes of which you never even imagine in urbia or suburbia, plus assorted birds, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, and other vermin and varmints laying in wait to gnaw on the fruits of your labor the minute you turn your back. (enough to make even Lambert reach for the nearest shotgun! :) )

    Lambert, you are clearly entranced with the idea of permaculture, but have you actually tried to survive on it?????? There is a reason why many people abandoned their farms the minute alternatives presented themselves.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I agree very strongly with your point; somewhere, I’ve thanked The Godd(ess)(e)(s) Of Your Choice, If Any, that I don’t depend on my garden for survival (though it’s nice to know that I have a shot). However, if things turn out as we all hope they don’t, we may not have any choice in the matter. Looking back on my posts, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the posts on Greece (rather, the Greek portion of Cyprus) emerged early on.

      I am more entranced with the beauty of the systems as such. And I also think the activity is good in and of itself; somewhere in the first video Falk speaks of gardening encouraging him to give things away. I give away most of my vegetables, and I think that’s a good thing in all sorts of ways.

    2. OIFVet

      The problem is that these alternatives are simply unsustainable. They rely on monstrous amounts of fossil fuels and we can all see where that’s brought us. While permaculture is not for everyone, industrial farming is hardly the answer even though it does a good job of giving us the illusion of plenty. Cooperative farming is a middle ground, and it’s quite widespread in some Eastern European countries. All 425 acres (and counting) that I own are part of a coop, and I am quite happy with its sustainability practices, results, and social commitments written into its bylaws and carried out in practice. It is definitely a way to make rural life easier while providing decent income, rents, and food for its members, but in the US this model would run into the USian aversion to anything approaching “cooperation” and “infringement upon USian individuality”. More’s the pity.

      1. different clue

        Are you personally allowed to have visitation ( and hands-on learning) rights on that 425 acres?

  11. Bridget

    And may I say, I love rural life. Might even return one day and try my hand at doing it a bit differently. But more in terms of greenhouses and hydroponics. Better control over pests and pestilience that way.

    1. tegnost

      Maybe we could bring back forester as an occupation, put them in charge of food foresting, then people wouldn’t need to live it to access the fruits of the forest.

      1. twonine

        My Dad practiced contour/strip crop/crop rotation farming in The County up until 33 years ago. The seaweed derived foliar spray we used to apply to potatoes was referred to as lobster sh*t. I recall mowing clover cover crop so thick it didn’t move when the cutter bar went though.

        The season after the farm was sold, it was planted straight up and down the hill and 6+” of topsoil covered my (below the field) garden. Not sure how much top soil is exported to Canada via the Saint John river each year.

        Naked short selling is not just for copper either.

        1. lambert strether

          I remember, way back in grade school, being taught that “straight up and down the hill” helped bring on the Dust Bowl, and that FDR’s New Deal had programs to encourage contour plowing…

  12. direction

    We have a lot of rain and things grow rapidly here so firewood is plentiful. The snorkel stove company makes submersible woodstoves for your hot tub which is great in the winter. I remember the first time I saw a constant hot water producing woodstove was up at Black Bear Ranch, a fairly famous commune from the 60s that still continues to this day. Theirs was basically copper plumbing wrapped around about 3 times directly in a stove’s firebox and leading to a standard watertank upstairs. The warm water drifting up of its own accord was quite magical. I don’t know why these are not more common. drilling holes in your airtight stove and putting copper against iron possibly needs to be baffled, but it seems like someone should be able to manufacture a stove with fittings for this sort of application, it’s a decent business idea anyhow…

  13. Beans

    Hi Lambert – reading your permaculture entries is a real treat. Thanks for continuing to post interesting videos like this one.
    I’ve got a challenge for you – do you have any sources that look for ways to introduce permaculture inspired ideas into medical offices? The constant disposal of nitrile and latex gloves, used sterilization bags and other medical sanitization waste seems to be a problem begging for a solution. Any ideas?

    1. lambert strether

      That’s too challenging for me! (Though iatrogenic disease and superbugs seems parallel to monocultures, maybe?) And a solution would be nice because medical waste is an especially nasty problem in landfills, where it all ends up.


    2. different clue

      I work in a hospital. I can’t think of anything an individual hospital or set of hospitals could possibly do.
      Perhaps the nationwide hospital-industrial complex as-a-whole could work with America’s petrochemical engineering-industrial complex as-a-whole to see what disposable things could be made out of near-infinitely re-cyclable materials. Use it once, throw it away to maintain sterility ( which is the whole point) and collect all the discards and send them to centrally located melt-down re-mold re-fabricate centers.

      But that’s no less than a nation-wide project.

  14. maxdaddy

    A few wood stoves may be charming. Many wood stoves are an air pollution problem and denude wooded land. I think you need to your heating/cooking/drying ideas onto a more environmentally sound basis.

      1. direction

        Agree wholeheartedly. Trees grow back, it’s a renewable resource. Plus there’s plenty of wood that’s fit to burn but not fit for lumber. Clearcutting was not due to woodstoves. Modern airtight stoves use so much less wood than the old fashioned stoves. We have a local power plant that runs off burning the secondary waste from the local lumber mills. They have chimney scrubbers to contain the particulate pollution just like any other industrial burn. I wish they’d build one in Colorado. You can drive for hours and see nothing but dead forest from the pine beetle infestation. Cutting long lines as fuel brakes and burning it to produce power could make someone a lot of money and probably save a few firefighter’s lives down the line.

          1. direction

            nice designs! I have a stone layer friend who builds those around here. His business is starting to grow. I’ve also seen him vent the flue through a stone bench before traveling back up through the roof. Heated seats! very nice idea. And they are currently redesigning one to add the water heating function as well.

    1. different clue

      100 per cent combustion all the way down to heat, CO2 and H2O, plus super efficient retention and use of the heat produced, could make woodburning more eco-benign than it now is. It could begin with revival and upgrades of the Masonry Heater concept as used for centuries in far northern Europe and far northern Eurussia. Here is a wikipage about Masonry Heaters.

    2. different clue

      Rocket Stove becomes important because rocket stoves can be mated to masonry heaters for total combustion and total retention of the generated heat. (I will offer no link to see if it is the links which have
      been placing my comments into moderation).

  15. rtr


    I am picking a spot to plug Darren and Lisa Doherty’s forthcoming documentary film “Polyfaces” about Salatin family operation in Virginia. Darren took his PDC from Bill Mollison around the same time as Geoff Lawton, and now operates his own platform called Regrarians. The Regrarian platform is based on Yeoman’s Keyline scale of permanence, utilizes holistic management as the base planning tool, and incorporates permaculture concepts such as zone design. It also leans on Elaine Ingham’s work with Soil Food Web, the biochar folks, etc.

    But here’s the trailer:

  16. Jerry Denim

    Nice post, Ben Falk and William Gibson. Two of my favorite thinkers/prophets. Falk has some fancy green technology like his stove but so much of the modern permaculture vanguard is really just un-learning the harmful practices of our modern fossil fuel era and returning to very simple and elegant systems mankind has depended on for millennia. Those elegant, highly efficient systems are still in use in some parts of the world but here in the so called “civilized world” we need people like Falk to teach us how to live in harmony with the living world around us again. Falk’s Vermont farm that is anchored by rice patties, pigs and ducks is basically an ancient asian model of permaculture , although the buffalo usually provides milk, labor, and lots of fertilizer in those places. Every human who doesn’t know how to farm without gasoline, electricity, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides is living on borrowed time. Our era of doing things the stupid and seemingly ‘easy’ way with fossil fuels is rapidly drawing to a close.

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