Capturing and Storing Energy with Homemade Chokecherry Wine

This post is made by one of our students as part of their PDC Completion Home Correspondence Course.

David Holmgren’s second principle of permaculture is “Catch and store energy” (Holmgren, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, Holmgren Design Services, 2002), often described with the proverb, “Make hay while the sun shines.”  The idea of this principle is that we should be alert for and take advantage of opportunities to capture energy and slow down its flow through the landscape around us, thus ensuring a steady flow of energy through the system rather than an ebb and flow.  One illustration of this principle is the pattern of any water drainage – for example, when the mountains above a river remain forested, the river flows at a more constant and predictable level year-round.  But when the forests are clear-cut, the river floods extensively during the rainy season and can run dry during the dry season or a drought – both situations devastating for human settlements and for the local ecology.  The saga of the Loess Plateau in China (denuded and desertified after centuries of overgrazing and deforestation) illustrates this phenomenon well, with the upshot being that the people living in some parts of the Loess Plateau are now working to reforest their high places, improving the vegetation, soil and water in the entire watershed in a domino effect begun simply by capturing and storing water (energy) higher on the landscape and slowing down its movement.

Chokecherries as harvested from the bush:


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The Ecology of the Aquarium – And How It Led Me to Permaculture

“…my fish tanks were essentially wastelands!”

I have had an aquarium (or two) in continuous operation since 2004 – a large goldfish tank and a small betta tank. However, between 2004 and 2010, my aquariums were really “fish tanks” by advanced aquarium hobbyists’ standards – meaning that they were focused on fish, with an artificial, decorative environment. Plastic and silk plants, plastic gravel substrate, and heavy mechanical and chemical (activated carbon) filtration were all in play in my tanks, even if I did use the occasional decorative natural stone or gravel. The “artificial, decorative environment” is a very common setup that is condoned by pet stores, aquarium stores, common knowledge and popular culture.

Goldfish aquarium

About the closest I got to an “ecology” in my fish tanks was to utilize – as all aquariums and fish tanks do – biological filtration via nitrogen-cycling bacteria as part of my filtration system (converting harmful ammonia from the fish’s waste to less-harmful nitrate). Also, various volunteer species of algae would spontaneously appear over the years, which I usually scrubbed off the glass and fake plants in order to keep the tank “clean.” These fish tanks were fairly high-maintenance, in that they required weekly water changes, monthly algae eradication, and frequent cleaning of the filter media and moving parts – all standard recommendations for aquarium maintenance. But from an ecological and biodiversity standpoint, my fish tanks were essentially wastelands!    Continue reading “The Ecology of the Aquarium – And How It Led Me to Permaculture”