Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Principle of Self-Regulation and the Litterless Box

"The purpose of a functional and self-regulating design is to place elements or components in such a way that each serves the needs and accepts the products, of other elements. (Mollison 1988, pg 37)"

In Permaculture, this one principle inspires to create a system that requires the least input for the most gain. It also encompasses true analysis of certain elements and could potentially eliminate the need for unnecessary labor and energy.

Take for example the Permaculture Chicken. The chicken has needs: food, water, shelter, grit. It has intrinsic characteristics and behavious: breed, colour, flying, scratching. Lastly, it produces elements: eggs, manure, CO2. These factors require careful analysis and consideration when planning a site or an area for chickens to thrive.

Designing around these elements will also give us an easier time when it comes to the least amount of maintenance possible.

So imagine, the manure could be scooped up and thrown into a compost bin, but instead why not put the compost bin beneath them. Even better, why not incorporate another element to eat the manure. You could put the chickens above a fish tank and allow the manure to drop in and feed the fish. The nutrient rich water could then be used to water plants. Another element that can be incorporated are worms. The manure can drop down to feed the worms.

However. . If you do use worms you have to remember that chickens scratch. This will cause them to dig up the ground and find the worms and eat them. How do you remedy this? You put another barrier where they can't reach the worms and where the manure can easily drop down to feed them. If you wanted to, you can remove the barrier and let the chickens feast on a product that they helped create.

So. ..

This principle is universal. It can be extended to any element even dogs and cats.

Here's an example with cats. A behavior of our feline friends is that they'll scratch up potted plants and do their business in it, piss and poop. People get frustrated with this and they go to extreme measures to fight it. Furthermore, they spend money buying cat litter and other miscellaneous things to keep the litter box smelling and looking nice. They even buy mechanized tools to clean the box for them, which ends up scaring our furry friends to a shitless state.

Going back to the chicken example, why not integrate existing elements to eat and take care of the elements that cats produce?

Here's our prototype. The Black Cat Collective in Ft Worth including myself came up with the idea of creating a litterless box.

Step 1. Get a box and fill it up with some leaves and bulky materials for bedding material for some earth worms.

Step 2. Fill it in with Earthwroms preferably Red Wigglers. They eat manure (yummy)

Step 3. Fill in the bed with compost and then aromatic herbs. If you put in plants, think about their needs. Some will do fine in shade and some do better in sun.

Step 4. Take away the kitty litter box and see it if works. We're trying it out right now and will post updates on the progress.

If you want to purchase one, we'll have a product in a few weeks.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, this design is utilizing not just the poop, but the urine as well. The plants should help to absorb the urine and use the urea as a fertilizer source. We'll most likely also dig the poop into the soil so the worms will get to it. A friend within the collective mentioned cats pooping in drier type soils, so the top part is lightly mulched to provide a dry surface. Hopefully, this will keep the worm bin moist, prevent the plants from drying out too much, and allow our cat friends to do the dirty inside the bin.

Mollison, Bill. Permaculture: a Designers' Manual. Tyalgum: Tagari Publications, 1996. Print.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Get your project on!

Community Cultivators is very excited to share with you the amazing community that is under cultivation in East Austin. It seems like every week several new and exciting developments happen all at once. It's been awhile since we've been able to take the time to capture some of the most amazing developments in on this site. Let's get you up to speed!

Over the course of this past year Community Cultivators started investing in development projects at the Permaculture Park in East Austin. We collaborated with ape99.org to put together few workshops and produce a couple videos you can check out here.

As development progressed, we started hosting workday potlucks to share all the fun and excitement we saw building. Each week, the potlucks ebbed and flowed and we realized that our work projects needed to expand in order to accommodate more participants. 

There were many challenges to this stage in our community's growth. At the same time as our community was expanding... part of the household that was hosting the potlucks was relocating across the street. As each new Sunday rolled around, we confronted these challenges by sharing our ideas for this new space and the community reacted with astounding love and generosity. Within a few weeks an entire 4 bedroom house was cleaned and renovated, gardens were installed, fruit trees planted and a whole yard (previously covered in rusty metal and broken glass) was cleaned, raked and sheet-mulched. It was quit an impressive show of the potency and potential of what was growing up around us!

Today, the Permaculture Park is joined by the Dead-end Homestead (across the street), The Womb (adjacent to the Park and the original location of the Sunday Potlucks... now reborn) and, most recently, The White House Austin (a developing art studio and collaborative a few lots up the road). Everyday has brought new and exciting developments to the East-end of Pennsylvania Ave.

For a time, while we were in the throes of relocation and oppressive summer heat, we considered shifting the potlucks to every other week. At first this seemed like it would relieve some of the pressure of the households involved and allow for more organization of our workdays. This, however, mostly just led to unintended consequences such as a general confusion as to when the next potluck would be held and who might or might not be there.

It wasn't long before we were back in the swing of the weekly potlucks. And, with the development of The White House Austin and the rebirth of The Womb, our original potluck location, the community took on a renewed vigor.

Thanks to the vision of Nettie Tiso and her "Womb-ates" a project board was constructed to capture the diverse array of projects that were already in process. We still haven't found a way to dispel the summer heat but we did find a way to manage our projects so that we can enjoy productive activities, in a community setting, without the threat of mass heatstroke.

Now, no matter what time you arrive on Sundays, you can almost assuredly find a project (or several) in action. This past week, while a group was helping Andy Howell construct self watering container gardens (great for apartment balconies or any area where space is at a premium) another group was building a long trail into the beautiful wood behind The White House Austin, while yet another group was touring the Permaculture Park.

We also encourage you to bring your own projects to the table. There is nothing in this word more empowering than to see a community of passionate and loving people take up a project with you. With incredible synergy you'll witness projects that would take you months to complete on your own come to fruition in mere moments!

It's truly inspiring to witness the transformation of these various spaces. The Community Cultivators mission is being actualized in spades by the activity on Pennsylvania Ave. in East Austin. Before too long, it will be time for find new fertile ground to spread the seeds of community. What's happening on your street? Could you bee the next pollinator of a community in your neighborhood?

Join us this Sunday, July 24th for a fun filled day of pallet house construction, trail building, screen-printing, sheet-mulching, building self-watering container gardens, etcetera... while sharing skills, enjoying new friendships and cultivating a vibrant community. 

There is also a very exciting event on the horizon for next week. In addition to our normal Sunday Potluck, the Dead-end Homestead will be hosting an Adventure Kickoff party for Yours Truly. That's right, on Saturday the 30th of July, you are all invited to celebrate the first day of my new adventure. Please check out my personal blog Adventures in Cultivation for more details!