1- Learning the system
System teaches us a direction to follow. While the systems are teaching the direction, it gives examples (or the author’s exact implementation). But many people stuck on these examples rather than substituting them with locally available varieties. For example in his Restoration Agriculture book, Mark Shepard says to grow grapes under chestnut trees. If you implement this in tropics, you need to replace chestnut with macadamia and grapes with dragon fruit. Use the examples as a metaphor to understand the system but always think about what would be the substitutes in your local area. Even when you are reading the books, think about the author, his place, micro-climate, fauna and flora. Try to find him on Google Earth. Have a look at his/her climate, rain levels, geographical features, soil type etc. to understand the essence of his/her application. You might even discover the underlying reasons of a particular implementation that is not mentioned in the book.
2- Adapting to the local environment
Implementing a model/system to your environment requires tailoring it according to your land, micro-climate, local legislations, finance, reusable existing material, human power, scale and time. Once you factor in all these, the implementation may not be looking like the drawings in the book but it will be functional and similar in principle. Any additional functionality should be planned and a simple cost benefit analysis should be done too. If you are new to the “area”, you must gain the local knowledge, you need to build prototypes and thinker about how to implement the system. Starting small and scaling up in time is a very good idea.
To gain the local knowledge, you may need to live in the area at least for a year, see the 4 seasons, understand where the waters flow, where the animals paths are, and also local flora and fauna must be observed. Do not forget, we are working with nature, not against. Install some rain measurement cups as well as some digital thermometers in the land. Measure the rain and temperature for a year and you will have the best data on hand to implement your plans.
3- Continues improvement
If a tree doesn’t grow well, replace it. If some vegetables doesn’t work for your soil, replace them. Despite implementing the system by the book, if things are not working for you or they are against nature, leave or replace them.
Any improvement on the system should be done in time to solve current problems. Any improvement should be fixing the system as well as improving its efficiency. The meticulous note taking is a must. Measurements as well as recording other atmospheric conditions during these measurements should be noted. Any improvement on the system affects the total quality of the system and its outputs.
The plans on a permaculture design is usually 5, 10 or 15+ years long. You can’t cut corners as this would be devastating later in the future. You have to respect the nature as it grows a little seed into a tree. You can only support the nature to fix things like mineral composition, microbiological life, fungi/mycelium by mulching, feeding with foliar sprays, sprinkling rock dust and providing shelter for microbiological life. You can grow some nitrogen fixing plants, build a bug hotel and compost like crazy. You can feed the soil and in turn, the soil will provide you the food security you are looking for.
As you see dear reader, the above 3 key points should be kept in mind during the learning, implementation and improvement stages of your permaculture journey.