Earth Ecology Methodology
RECOGNIZING THE PATTERNS OF NATURE
Earth Ecology approaches land design from a holistic, interdisciplinary position, and recognizes the powerful and beneficial influence of these various contributors to our own unique process. Each of these farming methodologies listed below have many overlapping aspects, and continue to influence each other in multitudes of ways in various contexts across the planet. However, each process stems from their own origin and perspective, and contains in their relative structures the nuance of technique and language that may speak more effectively to various types of people. All of these strategies are bound by the patterns of Nature, and they aim to mimic these patterns in order to truly harmonize with Nature.
Keyline Scale Of Permanence
2: Land Shape
4: Farm Roads
6: Permanent Buildings
2: Land Shape
4: Farm Roads
6: Permanent Buildings
Keyline Design was developed in Australia by P.A.Yeoman. Australia has a rich history of land degradation and land revival. It has old and evolved soils, and a culture that has contended with drought for decades. In this unique context, innovative land management techniques have been developed to restore land to its hydrated, productive potential. Keyline Design is one of these sophisticated strategies which recognizes the ultimate force of Nature, and attempts to work within the context of the Nature rather than against it.
The Keyline Scale Of Permanence is a system that approaches land design and management by incorporating aspects of land based on their relative scale of permanence, or 'unchangability.' By recognizing aspects of the land that we cannot change, and by designing within these restrictions, we may make proper decisions, using the natural land to our advantage, Yeoman is recognized as one of the most influential people in Australian agriculture for his contributions to land management based on water and gravity. Darren Doherty has taken up the torch of Yeoman's good work and has evolved the keyline system slightly. The Regrarian's platform is arranged as follows:
1: Climate is an outer boundary condition of any design. As Darren Doherty defines it, climate can be considered the rules of the game. Recognizing this limitation allows us to work within the context of the climate, and make decisions that will allow us to maximally utilize what already exists.
2: Landform / Geography is a defining factor for any land use design. Aeons of tectonic shifts and erosion have shaped the land as we receive it today, and though humans have developed the technology to remove mountains and terraform enormous expanses, these decisions are expensive and time consuming and negate nature as we receive her. Instead, we choose to accept the land as it exists and to work within this context.
3: Water is an aspect upon the land that we need to make work for us, but the lay of the land will make certain decisions regarding water management almost speak for themselves. Water gives us only so many possibilities, and thus we design for water first. Once our waterways are established based on natural patterns of the land as defined by the Keypoint and the Keyline (very important terminology in the Keyline Design Framework), the the rest of the design process will fall into place as is adequate in relation to the water.
4. Roads / Access, once established, can last for a very long time. The compaction of heavy machinery and the pathway of use may be embedded within a landscape for centuries. Access to remote sections of a large farm are important for harvest and management, and thus roads and pathways must be defined early in the design framework.
5. Forestry is the layer that provides potent beneficial resources quickly. Arranging tree lines in a harvestable, maintainable, and efficient manner will enable maximum activation of the land. See our Tree Planting page for more on our tree planting strategies.
6. Buildings are always important, but they must be well placed to avoid issues with water, earth moving, solar access, and vehicle access.
7. Fencing As Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm puts it, fences should be made of temporary materials until you haven't moved the fence in 3 to 5 years. Once a fence remains functional and well placed for that long, it is ready to become permanent. Using fencing right can truly activate a Holistically Managed animal operation over vast acreage.
8. Soils, though one of the most important facets of the land, are easy to build quickly once certain patterns of management are established. Well balanced soils means a well balanced farm.
9. Marketing and rhetoric become critical to success in an evolving and educated economy. Our images and our language must lead us where we want to go, and we can hone in on various strategies to make sure our brand is respectable, well represented, and trustworthy.
10. Energy The Solar Economy is the true economy of the future. Our worth will be valued by how much photosynthesis is occurring on our land. The aether is full of dense energy, and space has a natural momentum of spin to it. We can harness this natural power that surrounds us always, and use it to craft an Eden of Gaia.
Holistic Management is a design framework created by Allan Savory, an ecologist, politician, researcher, and scholar from South Africa that has studied land management and land degradation across multiple decades and multiple continents. Savory has realized that land management will always fail as long as the origin of the manager's perspective does not begin with the intrinsically interwoven and always adaptive WHOLE, which we may refer to as the Patterns of Nature, as a whole. Savory's recognition is that everything that exists in reality must be considered a whole. There are no individual parts of reality that can be observed in isolation and still provide relevant information when they are placed back in their natural context as immersed in a larger whole. Only when we start our investigation of reality from the whole will we be able to make sense of the complexity that surrounds us in Nature. This language sounds more philosophic than agricultural, but this is precisely the shift that Savory states is required of humanity if we are to truly harmonize with the complexity of our situation upon this planet. Present day physicists are in total agreement with this conceptual language, and sophisticated philosophers have been spouting this kind of perspective for aeons. If farmers can learn to integrate this kind of complexity perspective, and our management strategies can turn the page toward a new paradigm which recognizes our humanity as embedded in a larger more complex whole, we may yet have a chance to restore balance to the land.
This balance will come as a result of creating Holistic Goals for ourselves and our personal needs. If the personal needs of all people are met, and these personal needs are situated within an adequate conception of the whole that each individual exists within, then harmony must almost certainly ensue.
Earth Ecology utilizes Savory's insights, and attempts to support clients in defining the whole that they wish to manage, be it their family and their 1/8 acre lot, or be it their 11,000 acre ranch. Each Whole will have its own context, but all Wholes will be embedded within larger wholes. As we go up into larger wholes, we see that we are all interconnected on the Whole of Earth, and thus our Holistic Management strategy will reflect this interconnection.
Examples of Wholes which behave uniquely as Wholes and cannot be separated into their parts begin at the largest scale: The Universe (perhaps still larger could be the multiverse.) A whole within the whole of the Universe may be our Galaxy, the Milky Way, which envelops another whole, our Star System, which envelops yet another whole, Planet Earth, upon which more wholes exist, bioregions perhaps delineated by watershed boundaries. Within this whole may be another smaller Whole, our own individual property, within which exists the Whole of our own Family, within which exists the Whole, My Self, within which the wholes, each individual cell acting to its own accord, within which exists smaller Wholes still, each Atom, within which the individual wholes of Protons reside (protons are extremely stable and obey the conditions of a black (w)hole, making them extremely important when considering the theoretical framework of Holistic Management).
Agroforestry is a USDA labeled farming "Best Practice." Agroforestry consists of Agricultural Forestry, or the growing of forests that provide food for humanity and the animals that humanity raises for food. Agroforestry is a system with an emphasis on farming and efficient production of food. Forests are observed to consist of various vertical layers of vegetation, and thus Food Forests can me grown to mimic the natural forests in wild Nature. Agroforestry contains within its practice the strategy for growing all kinds of plants. Diverse, perennial Agroforesry systems are observed to create healthy, balanced, nutrient rich soils that sequester carbon, retain moisture, and produce more food than can be grown in annual mono-culture agriculture systems.
Agroforestry consists of growing trees in easily harvestable lines spaced adequately to provide space and sun between the tree lines, allowing for various crops to be grown in these "alleys." Alleycropping is a design strategy that creates diverse production in a single system, and allows for the succession of land use, beginning perhaps with sun loving annuals growing along side young, small trees, and transforming in production to include taller, more permanent alleys of crops as trees mature and establish their canopies. These systems are adaptive and will adjust to suit the conditions of the system as it matures. Alleys are often reserved to grow grass, and become grazing corridors for animals while the tree lines mature. These tree lines may then consist of various diverse plantings in the same row. Consider an apple tree with a grape vine growing on the tree as a trellis, with raspberries, nettles and other various berries and herbs growing alongside, with edible fungus regularly popping up from the rich moist mulch, while cattle peacefully graze behind the grass next to it all, held back by an electric line, providing fertilizer and protection from the invasion of grass. Agroforestry systems have infinite potential for diversity and variation, and have a huge capacity to restore land to a productive, diverse ecosystem - all with an emphasis of growing economically efficient food crops for human beings.
Permaculture, originating from the phrase Permanent Agriculture, was developed in Australia by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970's. Permaculture is loosely defined as an ethical, diverse, and holistic design methodology for the creation of permanent human settlements. Permaculture is deeply rooted in the ethics of "Earth Care," "People Care," "Fair Share (Return of Surplus)." In this sense, Permaculture commits to a process that is "beyond sustainable." From the context of Permaculture, we as a human species do not simply need to sustain this current paradigm of land destruction, species extinction, and over extraction of resources. Rather, Permaculture emphasizes "Regenerative" techniques of land stewardship that will heal the earth as we continue to build a healthier human civilization.
Permaculture emphasizes thoughtful and protracted "Observation." Observation is a commandment of the design process, ensuring patience and perspective enough to see the "bigger picture" when moving through the decision making process. View of the big picture allows us as designers and land stewards to adequately position ourselves in a worldly context, and to learn from the mistakes of humanity in the past in order to make more informed decisions for the future. Observing the land carefully and receptively allows us access into the key points of leverage on a landscape, where minimal human intervention will have the largest lasting beneficial effect.
Permaculture in rooted in Systems Thinking, always attempting to stack functions, allowing any single element in a landscape to support the ecosystem in multiple ways. For example, an Oak Tree will grow deep and strong roots, capturing carbon and sunlight from the atmosphere and storing it as alchemized energy and stable carbon in the soil. These same roots will stabilize a hillside and prevent erosion, while at the same time creating a home and food source for a vast community of soil dwelling organisms including fungus, bacteria, worms, etc. The trunk and branches above ground will create a balanced level of shade, preventing sun saturation on the small plants that grow beneath the tree, allowing for a longer period of growth during long hot sunny days. The leaves act as thousands of tiny fog catchment and nutrient catchment surfaces, edges which accumulate valuable resources and drop them at the roots, feeding the ecology that takes up residence under the canopy's protection. This canopy will create a humid microclimate with regulated warmth and moisture that supports the land's hydrology at a larger level than humans are yet aware of (we still have much to observe.) The leaves of the tree will fall occasionally, perhaps yearly, contributing to the process of soil building that was instigated by the roots and the organisms in harmonic co-habitation. The acorns that fall may feed humans, squirrels, rodents, and hoards of microorganisms. The tree may perform these duties for hundreds of years, building community and resilience and trust all the while, until finally the cycles will turn, and it will offer its body as a sacrifice for those present at that time. The tree may become food for the mycelium of time time, or it may cook the food or warm the house for the human, perhaps the great great great granddaughter of the woman that planted the seed. These functions are too many to count, but Permaculture strives to be aware of these multifunctional elements in a landscape, and create systems which cycle into each other, creating closed loops where outputs are never lost, and resources are ultimately valued for their true worth.