Looking to start/grow your own sustainable farm, ranch, or homestead? 

Tap into my experience and expertise in permaculture design and holistic management!

$60/hr          303-250-6027


Principles of Permaculture (Toby Hemenway)

Functional Design

  1. Observe. Use protracted and thoughtful observation rather than prolonged and thoughtless action. Observe the site and its elements in all seasons. Design for specific sites, clients, and cultures.
  2. Connect. Use relative location: Place elements in ways that create useful relationships and time-saving connections among all parts. The number of connections among elements creates a healthy, diverse ecosystem, not the number of elements.
  3. Catch and store energy and materials. Identify, collect, and hold useful flows. Every cycle is an opportunity for yield, every gradient (in slope, charge, heat, etc.) can produce energy. Re-investing resources builds capacity to capture yet more resources.
  4. Each element performs multiple functions. Choose and place each element in a system to perform as many functions as possible. Beneficial connections between diverse components create a stable whole. Stack elements in both space and time.
  5. Each function is supported by multiple elements. Use multiple methods to achieve important functions and to create synergies. Redundancy protects when one or more elements fail.
  6. Make the least change for the greatest effect. Find the “leverage points” in the system and intervene there, where the least work accomplishes the most change.
  7. Use small scale, intensive systems. Start at your doorstep with the smallest systems that will do the job, and build on your successes, with variations. Grow by chunking.

Living and Energy Systems

  1. Optimize edge. The edge—the intersection of two environments—is the most diverse place in a system, and is where energy and materials accumulate or are tranformed. Increase or decrease edge as appropriate.
  2. Collaborate with succession. Systems will evolve over time, often toward greater diversity and productivity. Work with this tendency, and use design to jump-start succession when needed.
  3. Use biological and renewable resources. Renewable resources (usually living beings and their products) reproduce and build up over time, store energy, assist yield, and interact with other elements. Feed methodology and sprouting!


  1. Turn problems into solutions. Constraints can inspire creative design. “We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities.”—Pogo (Walt Kelly)
  2. Get a yield. Design for both immediate and long-term returns from your efforts: “You can’t work on an empty stomach.” Set up positive feedback loops to build the system and repay your investment.
  3. The biggest limit to abundance is creativity. The designer’s imagination and skill limit productivity and diversity more than any physical limit.
  4. Mistakes are tools for learning. Evaluate your trials. Making mistakes is a sign you’re trying to do things better.


What is Holistic Management? (Allan Savory)

Increasingly people are coming to understand that management needs to be holistic, meaning management needs to embrace social, environmental and economic complexity and cannot be reductionist, or directed to limited objectives or aims without producing unintended consequences. Currently everything we “make” using some form of technology is generally successful and increasingly so if we measure success only by achievement of the objective. However, globally we are experiencing cumulative unintended consequences to society, environment and economies – some beneficial some damaging. Everything we “manage” from the global economy to agriculture, natural resources, forests, oceans, fisheries, etc. are seen, if we look at them honestly, to be running into problems culminating in agriculture producing far more eroding soil than food, global desertification, biodiversity loss and climate change.

Holistic Management involves using a “holistic framework”  I developed working with many scientists, wildlife biologists, ecologists and pastoralists over half a century. Using the holistic framework people manage culture/social aspects, the environment and economy together not as isolated aspects as we have traditionally done. This results in management decisions that are socially, environmentally and economically sound for them in their situation both short and long term. This can be done from a family in a city not dealing with land, to a national or international level in any management situation, policy or development project and of course by people on the land managing crops, livestock, forests, etc.

When managing any situation holistically all objectives of management (policy or development projects) are aligned with what is called a “holistic context” defined by the people in that specific situation. The people’s holistic context defines how those people want their lives to be, based on their culture and values, what they need to produce from their resource base to live such lives and what the environment supporting them needs to function like centuries from now for their descendants to be still living such lives. This holistic context is needed for management objectives, goals, policies, etc because all objectives and goals need a clear context to be fully achievable and not lead to unintended consequences.

In conventional management and government policies actions always have an objective as they should, however why management runs into problems so commonly is because the context for our actions or goals is that we “need” or “desire” something or we are “addressing a problem.” While such contexts serve us well with everything that we “make” using technology in some form, these are not realistic contexts for objectives and goals in management situations. The reason for this is because management always involves complexity – social, environmental and economic. Given a holistic context in any situation we find that our objectives and goals become much more likely to be achieved without unintended consequences.

When using the holistic framework, especially when dealing with nature, we automatically assume our actions are wrong and in that manner determine what to monitor to detect as rapidly as possible anything going adrift to correct it. This leads to holistic management being proactive, producing the desired results rather than reactive or adaptive management as management has tended to be for centuries. Such proactive management is proving encouragingly successful wherever practiced.

It is profoundly simple but not easy. Not easy purely because it is a new way of thinking for us, and changing our paradigms does not come easily. Where the management of land involves livestock needed to sustain people, or where there is no other possibility than using livestock to reverse land degradation, restore river flow, springs or underground water or loss of wildlife habitat  the same holistic framework and process is used with holistic planned grazing as the planning process to address that complexity involved.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by christy Hutton on March 20, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Very cool! Plus the dog with the pooper scooper is priceless!


  2. Posted by christy Hutton on March 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Hi, We would like to attend both of these events! Can you teach our dog to use the pooper scooper? We’ve been trying for years and she can’t figure it out! Paul


  3. Hahaha! Why yes, of course. I also offer training courses on teaching your basic dog house work and filing skills 🙂


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