Preliminary Permaculture factors and zones - Redwoodtwig

Brandon Smith (Redwoodtwig)

These maps and diagrams are my planning sketchbook and journal for the permaculture design of Gallery 21129.  There are quite a number of schools with excellent programs in how to go about doing a permaculture design for a property.  The original concepts as developed and taught by Bill Mollison were targeted at "at least a hundred acres that you inherited from your grandparents."  I attended a workshop by him in the early 80's and that was his response to a question from a fellow student about how small a property permaculture principles could be applied to.  Since then there have been many books and schools and successful projects.  A google search on the word permaculture provides plenty of material.

The permaculture zones are essentially a way to determine where to put the most human attention. In a larger property, there would be a zone 5, but since I need to walk the fence line at least a couple times a year since there are neighbours living just the other side of the property lines, no zone 5, no true natural wilderness.

Zone 1 should be close to the living quarters because that is the zone where the important food crops should be growing, along with any animal crops.  The "barn" in this property is much too far away, more than a hundred yards.  An essential part of permaculture is that the end result is supposed to be less work for the human caretakers, so put the daily chore places close to the house.  I've stuck the barn in zone 3, where it is currently serving mainly for wood and lumber storage.

Zone 2 includes the driveway and the areas where I'm most likely to bring visitors to.  It includes long term projects that need watching weekly or so. 

Zone 3 is basically the extent of human intervention in the natural growth of the area.  Paths are maintained, plant guilds are encouraged and developed that will take care of themselves for the most part.  

Zone 4 is semi wild, though much less so than it would be on a larger more rural property.  On this one, there is a fence line that needs to be maintained, and some basic forest stewardship that needs to be practiced.

No Zone 5, wilderness, here.  Well, I suppose some parts of zone 4 are close to that.

The permaculture factors are the various aspects of climate, weather, terrain, bioregion, geology, social environment, civilization infrastructure, etc.  Each of the various books and courses about permaculture have extensive discussions about the factors, but the important thing is that the factors have to be localized the the property being studied.

Studied by observation over time as well as taking measurements and researching things like soil maps and bioregional characteristics.

Sunlight is one of the most important energy inputs.  This is an initial attempt to show which areas receive full sun.  Unfortunately, I also attempted to show the directions of sunrise and sunset in winter and summer, as well as the areas evergreens keep shaded all year long.  It works as a planning tool for myself, but not if I needed to present a plan to a board of directors, for example.

The result is a much too busy diagram, but at least the sunny areas stand out and it very much helped me in understanding what grows where.

More sunlight planning needs to be done:  diagrams that shows the projected sun/shade areas in 10 and 20 years based on recent and planned tree plantings.


Sun Factor preliminary diagram

This diagram is mostly a failure due to too much information I tried to cram into it. It works as a planning tool for myself, but not if I needed to present a plan to a board of directors, for example.
The yellow areas are where there's mostly full sun most of the day throughout the year. Only a few places actually get sun all day, most have long morning or evening shade from the bordering trees.
The yellow arrows were meant to show the direction of the sunrise and sunset in the summer, while the green ones are the winter positions.
The double headed arrow in the middle is the drop off line -- to the left the slopes are steep and to the right there's only about a 3% slope, though in different directions.

Water is the second most important factor to look at.  The top image is from the version of google maps that shows 20 foot elevation lines.  The pale yellow overlay lines are my best approximation of the ridge lines that determine the drainage areas surrounding the property.

Rain will flow downhill, from the higher elevations to the lower, and the ridges separate the flow into the valleys between.

The bottom image shows the direction water flows when it is raining with the white arrows.  The dark blue is where there is some water flowing most of the year, though quite often only a trickle.  The yellow lines show where I'm thinking about putting contour line swales to help retain the water.

Going out on the land and trying to actually lay out where one of these swales runs turns out to be quite difficult:  unlike the many videos and other resources I've found online, my fields are lumpy and irregular with many six inch to a foot bumps and depressions.  Do I want to go around those, following the contour, or just cut through them?

The bottom image is a closer look at the area close to the house, zones 1 and 2.  

A great deal of the layout of a permacultured area depends on the flow of water over the area during rains and snow melts -- where does is collect as open water, where does it soak in and after soaking in where does it go.

The wide yellow lines are approximately where the ridges run, though it's hard to see in some places. The high point on the land is below this image, at and behind the barn. Water falling there flows generally north toward the house, splitting into three main drainage areas, west of the house down the forest slope to the lower pond, North west of the house toward the upper pond, and from directly behind the house out to the east and then north.

The two low spots that collect water just south of the house need to be drained toward the east or west around the house. East appears to be more sloped that way, though it's longer that way.

The thick yellow lines are approximately where ridges seem to be, with water flowing away from them in both directions.

The thick blue lines are either paths to become drainage swales to remove water, or close to contour line swales to be filled with sheet composting to trap water and create good soil conditions.

The pale blue boxes are places where water currently collects in puddles. Some of those need to be drained, while others can become more full time ponds or wetland areas.

Also water barrels to collect "pure" rain water off roofs.

Drainage and water storage

It is difficult to work with an image from directly above -- all you can see is the tops of trees.  When there is a fairly extensive forested area, it becomes a mass of greenery.  By coming in with Google Earth at a slight angle, the shape of the forest and even some individual trees is much easier to see.

The top image shows me how the forest is busy reclaiming the area that has been set up as a park and also shows me a better view of the tree cover in and next to the property.

I found it interesting that two of the native species, persimmons and locust, are the most aggressive of the trees.  A locust will get a couple of feet tall within a week when the weather is just right, and the persimmons are almost as fast growing.  What I find also fascinating is that the two species seem to be "invading" along distinct paths.  

I wonder if someone has an application that will determine tree species from the shades and textures of green?

The forest