Saturday, December 21, 2019

Fire and permaculture design

The friggin humongous bush-fires continue in NSW right now.
Some things I see in some permaculture forums are pretty ikky. Some are great.
and permaculture does have a lot to say about fire and landscape design.

The project we did in 2011 at Djungbung was about improving fire resistance of a small town.
Holmgren has written many papers on fire resistance.

But I saw someone say 'if you are worried about fire you don't understand permaculture'
if you aren't worried about fire you aren't living in Australia.

V1.0 of my garden was pretty well designed for fire.

Fire kicked its ass. Ash from corner to corner.

V1.0 was far from fully implemented. Permy design takes time. You don't get multi story tall windblocking, ember resistant trees sheltering your living areas in a few years of growth.

Actually the center of my main living area was untouched. Remember the cardboard box? Still I'm sure I would have died if I stood next to the box.

Yet my design did recover fairly well. Steel, stone often can do exactly the same job. Many plants reshoot from the roots.

I think any design in Australia, especially in a rural area, pretty much has to assume it will be affected by fire sooner or later. possibly multiple times. Not as if I feel the power poles are any safer.
So you can't design on in 20 years these trees will make me resistant. but perhaps these trees will regrow to act as a windblock within 2 years. So my minimum fire cycle time is about 3 years.

Much as permaculture is about perennials. I'm thinking a lot more about annuals and their role.
And grasses. I've been a bit of a permy snob about grass, its just a thing you get rid of.
Still far from settled my thinking on grass and how to use, but the ideas are certainly evolving.
Grass stores carbon in the soil better than Dicotes. It usually expects to be eaten, or burnt.

So V2 of the garden just having gone through a burst of hots days has handled it really well. Ground is well covered. mostly by leaves, but mulch too. grasses and animals working well. wind blocks ok. water ok, but definitely can be better. Thinking more about pumps and control systems. Better leaky weirs and things I'll increasingly implement but at my scale the artificial systems, pipes and pumps and drippers and timers are probably more efficient and reliable.

I mean, fire would still kill all that. but design for increasing dryness and more fire is related if not the same.

V2 when fully implemented will be way fire tougher than V1.
Much wider shelter belts. better understanding of windflows. More water. Much, much thicker walls.
But it still takes time. In maybe 2 years I'd consider stay and defend. but right now its certainly still a scary summer.

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