Design Overview

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Why a Design Overview is part of this Permaculture Design

When creating a permaculture design for a client, it’s very helpful to give a clear and brief overview of the existing resources, goals and key elements of the proposed design so that they can see the bigger picture. It is also a very helpful tool should they need to explain their plans to family members, partners, investors or lenders.  


This Permaculture Design Overview was created by Midwest Permaculture for Center for Sustainable Community (CSC) and their 8.7 acres of land that immediately adjoins our local community of Stelle, IL.  This design overview was presented to the CSC Board of Directors and other CSC members in March of 2012 and was quickly approved for implementation.

Quick Overview of Key Elements in the Design. Additional Details in the ‘Directory of Design Elements’ below.


The CSC 8.7 Acres in Relationship to the Community of Stelle, IL
Here is an aerial view of the 8.7 acres in proximity to the Community of Stelle, IL


From farther up, Stelle is an island or green in an ocean of industrial agriculture.
From even farther up, Stelle is an island of green in an ocean of industrialized agriculture.

The purpose of this permaculture design is to create an agriculturally productive ecosystem that also builds topsoil each year, uses no herbicides or pesticides, and creates a safe habitat for a wide assortment of plants and animals.  We welcome others (you?) to become a part of this experiment.  We will also share of our methods and results through workshops, PDC Courses and student work/study internships.

Existing Resources and Assets

  1. An aged 2-acre apple/pear orchard with non-marketable fruit, an established pond with clean water, organic community gardening area, a 2-acre open meadow to the east, a very modest creek that dries up in summer.
  2. A garden shed, three storage sheds, reinforced steel hoop house and available grid-tied electricity.
  3. A Solar panel connected to a pump which moves water from the pond to a holding tank on the hill above to for gravity fed watering in the community gardens.
  4. Land zoned for agricultural use and bordered to the east by the community of Stelle, to the south by the organically grazed livestock of Mint Creek Farm, and to the north and west by industrial agriculture operations.  There is a hedgerow to the west and a road to the north that greatly minimizes chemical overspray.
  5. The water in the pond is some of the best found in Illinois, sourced from rainwater flowing over organic fields. The water in Kelly Creek has some contamination from farm chemicals.
  6. The CSC has 10 years of non-profit organizational experience and hosts several cooperative ventures.
  7. Midwest Permaculture has 6 years experience in delivering permaculture education and creating permaculture designs.
  8. The CSC and Midwest Permaculture host a joint work/study internship program and hold on-site educational events. Students and interns bring useful experience, knowledge, skill, and labor to ongoing projects.
  9. The community of Stelle offers a unique experience in community living for interns and students. The community is generally supportive of CSC’s and Midwest Permaculture’s work.

The Goals

  1. Restore the Environment — Put systems on the ground that will continually create soil, build fertility, increase productivity, harvest energy and grow in beauty for generations to come.
  2. Generate a Surplus — Generate food, fuel and fiber for people working on the property, for participants of CSC, and for students coming to Stelle for trainings. Also generate a surplus that can be converted into financial resources for those working the land and for CSC.
  3. Provide Learning Opportunities — Set everything up to maximize the learning/educational opportunities for interns, students and the general public.
  4. Create Authentic Community — The essence of CSC is to create authentic and sustainable community.  The development of this project will involve the participation of hundreds of generous/competent folk (possibly you?) interested and willing to make a difference in the world — to prove that it is possible to live abundantly well on the planet while leaving it in better condition than when we arrived upon it.   

The Key Elements in this Permaculture Design… 


The project has begun with the digging of our first swales.

1.  Install several Linear Food Forests on the downhill side of constructed hugelkultured swales — located on the highest part of the property at the end of the east meadow.

2.  Demonstrate various gardening techniques in the existing strip beds including biodynamic, bio-intensive and other gardening methods.

3.  Plant a hedgerow along the southern border of the property for use as a fence, windbreak, food for humans and wildlife, and coppiced & pollard for fuel and utility wood products such as poles, posts and tool handles.

4.  Construct Aztec inspired chinampas (floating) gardens extending from the shallows of the south edge of the pond.

5.  Support the community garden co-op with simple, energy-efficient hoop-houses that use interior-built compost piles for added heating.

6.  Build a greenhouse for year-round vegetable growing that makes use of underground thermal storage and downdraft wood gasification units to convert current sunlight (wood) into electricity and heat.

7.  Raise chickens in the food forest and ducks near the pond & gardens not only as a food source, but also for their natural abilities to assist with insect management, weed control, and nutrient recycling.

8.  Construct a small intern village consisting of modest camping cabins built with the most abundant material on the property, clay.  This natural building substrate can be turned into secure structures by converting it into cob, bricks, and clay slip. The seasonal cabins can be used by work/study interns.  A ‘commons’ structure with a shared kitchen will include a solar shower, moldering (composting) toilets, and a thermal-mass rocket stove.

9.  Convert the existing 2-acre orchard into a food forest with an over-story of trees that produce nuts and others that fix nitrogen in the soil.  The understory will be a full mix of fruits, nuts and vegetables to increase the total harvest to 30+ different varieties of food-producing plants instead of just the present 2 (apples & pears).


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