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Elfin Permaculture
P.O. Box 52, Sparr FL 32192-0052 USA.

What Does an Elfin Permaculture Design Do?
       A permaculture design helps people develop the specific lifestyle they wish to live in a specific place. Permaculture design clients typically are environmentally concerned people seeking increased self-reliance. The design is a written report of recommendations for achieving specific goals such as energy independence, food self-reliance, alternative incomes and so forth. The report compares the stated goals, preferences and resources of the residents with the potential and ecological needs of the site. The design provides the residents with a plan by which they can meet their objectives by constructive development of the site as a whole system. In fact, the design process and the design itself are based on the principles by which Nature designs her ecosystems to efficiently utilize conditions of soil, moisture, climate, sun, orientation and available species to make most efficient use of them and produce as much life as possible both in quantity and in diversity.
       Permaculture designs take a wholistic approach--everything is connected to everything else in the design for maximum efficiency. Conservation of resources--the client's and Nature's--is the overriding principle of permaculture design. Change for its own sake is avoided and designs strive to become increasingly self-regulating and self-maintaining as they mature.

How is the Design Prepared?
        Suppose that you notify us that you want a permaculture design. First, you buy from our sister enterprise, Yankee Permaculture, a copy of our Permaculture Design Client Survey. This is about 18 pages of questions for you to answer as fully as possible. Included in the purchase price is a review of your answers by the author, Dan Hemenway, Elfin Permaculture's lead designer. He will recommend how to proceed. If you decide to have a design prepared by us, we will interview everyone involved and also examine the site for which the design will be prepared. Based on what you want and what the site offers and needs, we will make our report.

What Topics are Covered in an Elfin Permaculture Design?
        Elfin Permaculture designs begin with a review of who the clients are and what we understand them to require from the design, as well as a brief description of the design site itself. It is hoped that this detached narrative will give the client another perspective on his/her situation and goals. The balance of the report consists of design recommendations.
       Topics routinely covered in Elfin Permaculture designs are:
       • Food and Nutrient Cycles. Food production is almost always part of the design. Permaculture designs typically specify tree crops, unconventional gardening methods, and solar greenhouses as part of the domestic food production system. Aquaculture, bees, small stock, poultry, and other foraging animals are frequently included. Soil management is treated in this section, as is disposition of human wastes, development of forage systems, food preservation, and control of potential pests. For some clients, commercial food production and/or processing is designed.
       • Energy. All relevant options for energy production are evaluated, typically including solar, wind, water power, biomass, and other biological forms of energy. Then we look at applications for energy such as transportation, space heating and/or cooling, cooking, hot water, food preservation, and operation of equipment. After describing relevant conservation measures, we detail specific proposals for utilizing available energy for the remaining work at hand.
       • Water. With the availability of high quality fresh water in drastic decline worldwide, obtaining useful amounts of healthful water is of paramount concern in the permaculture design. Typical domestic designs include roof catchment systems. Designs for larger properties ordinarily provide for creation of ponds where runoff can be stored for gravity feed to the point of use. Systems for treating and using greywater and other contaminated water are often part of a permaculture design. The water portion of the design follows that described for energy above, first looking at the resources and then the needs. The design represents our best thinking on utilizing such resources responsibly. In some designs, excessive erosion or destructive flood waters require special treatment.
       • Shelter. For existing housing, shelter recommendations of our designs detail retrofit for energy efficiency, food production, increase in quality living space, and housing of plants and animals appropriate to the needs and desires of the client. If new buildings are required, we often can recommend designs and construction methods which use local materials, preferably from the site. The designs for new buildings save money and energy compared with conventional approaches. Shelterbelt plantings, shade in hot weather and more efficient space utilization frequently result from design recommendations.
       • Hazards and Problems. While hazards vary considerably from site to site, usually some of the following risks can be anticipated and protected against to a degree: extremes of weather, earthquake, tsunami or tidal wave, fire, pollution and human violence. Dangerous activities proposed by clients need to be addressed. These might be use of toxic substances, unfortunately common in the practice of many crafts (e.g., chromium in leather work), or physical activities on site. For example, one set of clients proposed retiring to the country after a lifetime of professional work and urban living, and cutting their own firewood. The risk of injury to unskilled, unfit people in the very dangerous work of felling trees is about 100%. We expressed concern and proposed alternatives.
       • Special Treatments. Often, a client will have a specific goal which is best treated in its own section of the design. One client had a wetlands which could not be "developed" for environmental reasons. He wanted to get a personal benefit from it nonetheless. We designed a use strategy that improved the water storage and purification function of the wetlands, protected adjacent wetlands, and gave him some direct yields.
       • Economics. Design implementation usually costs money. Permaculture designs achieve their goals while staying within the means of the client. Almost everyone needs a certain amount of income. Our designs develop income when needed and provide ways to pay for the design implementation when needed. Often a special interest or skill of the client can earn money utilizing the site's resources.
       • Staging. Elfin Permaculture designs specify the sequence in which to implement the design recommendations and, where relevant, how long each step should take. This enables us to use one aspect of the design to prepare the way for the next, permits generating resources to implement the design as we go along, and avoids the confusion and overload of trying to implement the entire design at once. Also, we believe that lifestyle changes are best undertaken in manageable steps so that the skills and behaviors required are comfortably mastered before the next step is undertaken.

What Skills and Training are Needed to Develop a Permaculture Design for My
Home?        No new skills or training is needed to implement any properly prepared permaculture design, except those which you have indicated an interest or willingness to develop during the interview or in the survey. The design is intended to work with the client as s/he is and the site as it is with no forced changes on either part. Techniques, management strategies, products and resources which may not be readily available are all detailed in an extensive set of appendices to the design, including a bibliography for reading on specific topics, a list of people and organizations who can provide skills, information or other resources you will need, a list of suppliers of plants and products not commonly available and so forth. Our goal is to recommend practical measures which the client can actually perform in a reasonable time. Appendices also furnish background information relevant to specific design recommendations where this is the most practical way to provide it, species lists, and generic "standard designs" for problems which are common enough so that it is more useful to develop a general design solution rather than treat it in the highly customized design report.

What Living Situations Call for a Permaculture Design?
       Our design experience includes urban, suburban and rural situations, large properties and small, and even rented properties. We have design experience in almost all climatic regimes from the humid tropics to frigid climates in northern Ontario, Canada, and in maritime, humid, and semiarid climates. The main requirement for a permaculture design is to want one--to intend a lifestyle that grows increasingly self-reliant while increasingly benefiting the Earth.

Then Do You Think Everyone Should Commission a Permaculture Design?
       No! Whenever possible we recommend that the person(s) who want(s) a permaculture design learn to produce their own design. We offer a three week Permaculture Design Course, the basic introduction for people who wish to work in the permaculture movement, and a 10-day workshop, expressly for people to acquire skills to use permaculture in their own lives. Either is suitable training. We do not host these programs ourselves but wait until some individual or group wants one sufficiently enough to do the work and risk the money to host one. Permaculture is a self-reliance movement. Often someone who wants a design will host a course or workshop on their site and get not only input from the instructor but also from the students who undertake a design for the site as the major activity of the program. Only when attending or hosting a workshop or course is impractical do we recommend our professional design services. Financially, it is much cheaper to host a course, even if it loses a bit of money (and it could earn money), than to contract for a design. Sometimes a person who received introductory design training will engage us on a consultant basis to help with one component of the design where experience is critical. They then incorporate our advice into their design.

What Kind of Consulting Work Do You Do?
       We can consult on any of the areas commonly treated in the design. (See above.) Besides siting a house on the property, we think the most useful consulting work we do is to help people evaluate real estate to buy. By obtaining and completing the Permaculture Design Client Survey, many design problems "solve themselves" as the correct course of action becomes self-evident when the survey questions are answered. Elfin Permaculture is also available to do specialized design work and research for other permaculture designers.

How are Your Fees Based?
       All design work by Elfin Permaculture begins when the client completes the Permaculture Design Client Survey. If the design job is very simple, we can quote a design fee on the insights provided by the Survey responses. Otherwise, we defer our quotation until after the client interview and site visit. These are charged at consulting rates, which can be deducted from the full design fee if the client decides to proceed with a full permaculture design. At this writing, the minimum fee for any design work is US$1,000 plus direct expenses. Large and complex designs can be done in stages whereby an overall design is prepared in broad detail and very specific design recommendations are prepared as needed prior to implementation of that portion of the design. If we do not think that we can save you money through our design services over a reasonable time, we will recommend another approach.

Does a Permaculture Design Replace Architectural and Engineering Work?
       No. Permaculture supplements these other types of design when they are required. Whenever possible, it is helpful to have architects and engineers work in collaboration with the permaculture designer.

Who Does Elfin Permaculture Design Work?
Dan Hemenway, founder of Elfin Permaculture, and Cynthia Baxter Hemenway, work as a husband/wife partnership in Elfin Permaculture Designs. Dan, who does much of the design work, has taught permaculture design in a number of countries in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. He holds five diplomas from the International Permaculture Institute in Australia, operated a homestead self-reliant in food and energy for a decade and has professional experience in food production and alternative energy projects. Dan has been active in permaculture since 1981, Cynthia since 1988. She is a wholistic health practitioner and a Certified Nurse Midwife, activities that she integrates with permaculture. Dan and Cynthia have practiced permaculture in their own lives in Massachusetts, Ontario, Kansas, Florida and Georgia where they have lived. In addition, Elfin Permaculture Associates, an informal group of cooperating permaculture designers, provides us with expertise in areas of health and health care, venture economics, engineering and sustainable energy. From time to time, trainees in Elfin Permaculture's Advanced Permaculture Training (APT) program may provide input to designs under Dan's supervision.



    • 2, a. Building.
    • 2, b. Energy.
    • 2, c. Water & Sanitation
    • 2, d. Site
    • 6, a. Composting Toilet
    • 6, b. Vermicomposting
    • 6, c. Gardens
    • 6, d. Woody plantings
      • 6d, i. Poultry Yard.
      • 6d, ii. Primary Poultry Forage
      • 6d, iii. Extensive Poultry Forage
    • 6, e. Poultry
    • 6, f. Bees
    • 6, g. Greenhouse, Windows & Aquaculture
    • 6, h. Considerations and Techniques for this Site
      • 6h, i. Rock Pockets, Container Plantings & Soil-Less Media
      • 6h, ii. Pruning
      • 6h, iii. Cloudy Climate
      • 6h, iv. Mulch
      • 6h, v. Rootstock.
    • 6, i. Bare Spot.
    • 6, j. Remineralization.
    • 6, k. Aquaculture.
    • 7, a. Energy Conservation
    • 7, b. Windbreaks
      • 7b, i. First Stage--The Windbreak on the North Boundary
      • 7b, ii. Second Stage--The Windbreak on the North Boundary
      • 7b, iii. Third Stage--The Windbreak on the North Boundary
      • 7b, iv. First Stage--The Windbreak on the West Boundary
      • b, v. Second Stage--The Windbreak on the West Boundary
      • b, vi. Third Stage--The Windbreak on the West Boundary
    • 7, c. Space Heating
      • 7c, i. Solar
      • 7c, ii. Wind.
      • 7c, iii. Wood
    • 7, d. Greenhouse
    • 7, e. Cooking
    • 7, f. Hot Water
    • 7, g. Refrigeration
    • 7, h. Transportation and Access
  • CHAP. 8: WATER
    • 8, a. Catchment
    • 8, b. Secondary Catchment
    • 8, c. Supply Plumbing
    • 8, d. Greywater
    • 9, a. Greenhouse & Chicken Coop.
      • 9a, i. Glazing
      • 9a, ii. Greenhouse & Chicken Coop Ventilation
      • 9a, iii. Thermal Mass.
      • 9a, iv. Plumbing.
      • 9a, v. Greenhouse General Layout
      • 9a, vi. Deck/Upper Greenhouse
      • 9a, vii. Poultry Shelter--General Layout
      • 9a, viii. Poultry Yards--Layout and Access
    • 9, b. Summer Kitchen.
    • 9, c. Front Porch
    • 9, d. Woodshed
    • 9, e. Hallway and Stairwell
    • 9, f. South Room
      • 9f, i. Loft
      • 9f, ii. New Window
    • 9, g. Cellar.
      • 9g, i. Enclosure for Kiln
      • 9g, ii. Root Cellar
      • 9g, iii. Mushroom Production
    • 10, a. People
    • 10, b. Fire
    • 10, c. Cold
      • 10c, i. Severe Cold
      • 10c, ii. Blizzards
      • 10c, iii. Ice Storms.
    • 10, d. Pollution
      • 10d, i. From External Sources
      • 10d, ii. From Crafts Activities


    NOTE: Permaculture designs for sites in a wide range of latitudes from tropics to extreme cold are offered in our special order catalog, listed as Permaculture Paper No. 27 in the Yankee Permaculture Order Form.

    COPYRIGHT, 1991-96, DAN & CYNTHIA HEMENWAY, Elfin Permaculture, Ocala FL 34478-2052 USA. All rights reserved.

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Copyright Dan and Cynthia Hemenway, Barking Frogs Permaculture Center, Florida, USA. 2001. All rights reserved.
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