Zone Analysis of Our Homestead – Part 1

This is a continuation of an introductory series exploring my study and application of Permaculture.  You can find the related articles by visiting GHC’s Site Index.  All of these topics are discussed more deeply during our Workshops and Seminars.

This turned out to be even longer than I anticipated… so here’s Part 1.  I’ll soon publish the conclusion.

Last time, we dug in to what a Permaculture Zone Analysis is and defined each zone from another.  Feel free to head over there if you missed that discussion.  It’s pretty pertinent to what we’re creating here today.  That’s because it’s time to get out from behind the desk, put down the textbooks, and get to work.  Let’s see what a real world example of a Zone Analysis might look like.

How To Create a Permaculture Zone Analysis

Create a Permaculture Zone Analysis

Below is a screenshot I took of our five acres soon after we moved in.  It was important that I have a “clean slate” picture I could reference that would not show any elements I later add.

So without further ado, welcome to our home:



After a year of observation while I’ve been adding systems… and a slew of evolving drafts… here is my current Zone Analysis of the property:


That looks a lot different from the picture perfect, cookie cutter graphic I created to explain Permaculture Zones, don’t you think?

Permaculture Zone Analysis

Permaculture Zone Analysis

Want to step through my analysis piece by piece with me?

I’ll repeat my warning in the previous explanation post to not get too hung up on specific “stuff” yet (i.e. basil here and beehives there).  Even though I’m going to talk about the “stuff” a little to help you picture things, it’s much more important that we focus on the “where” and the “why” in a Zone Analysis.

So lace up your boots and let’s take a walk around.

Zone 1 – Area You Manage Aggressively


AThis circle is where our dedicated kitchen herb garden will be.  It’s very easy to access from either the front or side door.  More important, I imagine coming home from the grocery store, pulling into the attached garage door (just to the right, or east, of the big letter A), stepping out to pluck a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme to add to the pork we just pulled out of the garage deep freeze, then carrying everything into the house to begin dinner prep.  The herbs live in an herb spiral, but that’s not as important as its location.  I mention it because an herb spiral is a cool looking element and can be something of a showcase if you understand its use correctly and can verbalize it, so I want it to be in an area with lots of traffic so we can introduce guests to Permaculture techniques… and weed or mulch it often as we walk by.

B – This rectangle is my largest annual and (needy) perennial garden area.  It’s the largest spot on my property with great southern exposure and I’ve already enclosed it with a 9 foot deer fence.  Yeah, it’s a little further away from the house than I would prefer, but open area and sunlight patterns heavily influenced this part of my design.  I’ve dug several hugelkultur beds on contour to help minimize irrigation and am installing a large Mandala pattern bed as well.

C - This rectangle will also be annuals and needy perennials for reasons I listed for letter B.  I haven’t developed this yet and haven’t decided what’s the best way to go yet though.  It will definitely be some sort of greenhouse.  Just not sure if it will be a full, traditional greenhouse structure or a bunch of raised beds that will have individual hoop house “greenhouse” covers.  We’ll see…

D & E - We spend a lot of time on the front (northern) patio and head out that way for our evening walks.  It just makes sense to plant things here that need a little more maintenance, and we can keep looking somewhat tidy for visitors.  E is the walk to the mailbox, so that area will always be visited at least once a day.  I’m excited about experimenting with D, since it gets partial to full shade.  I’ve already established gooseberries, currants, and comfrey here.

Next, let’s look at

Zone 2 – Area You Manage Often


F - Both F & G are on the border of my largest Zone 1 garden area and have perennials sprinkled around that do not need much maintenance.  F is also the future site of a large(ish) pond to bring in a lot more diversity to this part of the property.  Right now the Muscovy ducks spend most of their time in a paddock in another zone, for reasons I’ll explain later, but they will be shifted regularly to area F.  That will allow me to selectively give them access to the Zone 1 garden for slug control and whatnot.  Also, the pond here in F will be fertilized by the ducks, and I’ll use it for irrigation.

G - This is where our chicken coop is.  They also get to selectively frolic in the garden at certain times, hunting pests and eating weeds.  Right along the southern fence/property line, so about 8 feet below (or south) of the coop, is a three bin compost system I made out of pallets very similar to what I built Here out in our woods (for leaf mold composting).  When the chickens get released from their run, they have constant access to dig through those compost piles, turning and aerating it as they gobble up scraps, worms, and bugs… and as anyone with chickens can verify – they constantly add manure to the compost.  Those compost bins are easy to access for when I clean out the run’s deep litter a few times a year, and are easy to access when it’s time to top dress the large nearby Zone 1 garden with finished compost.  The pallet bins are tucked away behind the coop so they’re sort of hidden from view since composting isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing process in the world… at least it’s not pleasing to weirdos who don’t get excited about free manure from Craigslist.

Do I visit F & G every day?  Probably.  But I don’t have to.  That’s why they’re Zone 2.

I’ll also throw in that part of Making my Garden Work Harder Than I Do is being able to accomplish lots of tasks in one trip.

For example,

  • Take a look at the Zone 2 pic again and imagine myself walking out the back of the house carrying a bowl of kitchen scraps.
  • On the way into the Zone 1 garden, I empty the bowl by throwing those scraps to the chickens.
  • I fiddle around the garden for awhile, harvesting what’s ready and pulling any weeds I feel like.
  • When I’ve had enough, I walk back past the coop on my way out the garden gate, throw the pulled weeds to the birds, and add any eggs to my bowl of freshly harvested garden veggies on my way back to the house.

Alright, I think we’re already running a little wordy… so I’m going to pause here and keep you in suspense for a couple days.

Please stay tuned for a look at Zones 3-5.


Question of the Day: Have you designed in any big time savers to your day?

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What is a Permaculture Zone Analysis?

This is a continuation of an introductory series exploring my study and application of Permaculture.  You can find my other articles by visiting GHC’s Site Index.  All of these topics are discussed more deeply during our Workshops and Seminars.

If you’ve taken a look at my (lovely! beautiful!) little header graphic up there, you know my two second Permaculture pitch is, “Because Your Garden Should Work Harder Than You”.  I’m all about minimizing (human) effort while maximizing production.

Unfortunately, the first and biggest mistake usually made when planting a garden or fruit trees is throwing stuff willy-nilly all over the place.  It’s only through much site observation, critical thinking, insight discovery, and careful design that you can get nature working for you.

Until now we’ve talked about some Permaculture philosophy.  There’s more of that to come, but it’s time we start putting the rubber to the road and actually get something done.  Today we’ll discuss what a Permaculture Zone Analysis is and how to create one for your landscape.  The next post will walk you through a specific Zone Analysis I created for our five acre property.


Every home or site, when seen through a Permaculturist’s filter, has six potential zones.  In a perfect textbook world, they begin in the center of an area with Zone 0 (your house) and increase in number as they move further out from your home… looking like the above graphic.

How does one zone differ from another? … How do we define each? … Just remember to not get caught in the trap of thinking too much about “stuff” yet (i.e. tomatoes and chickens).  This analysis is all about “where” and “why”.

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How to Build a Fire Pit

I’m sure all of you are sitting there thinking to yourself, “Self, don’t read this.  It’s a waste of time.  It’s stupid easy to build a fire pit.”

And you’d be right.

However, there’s one tip I have to offer that might save you some headaches.  Besides, I took pictures of the build process damnit… so I have to post them on the internet.

Pictures like this one:


When we moved out here, the first “project” I finished during our inaugural weekend after it was too dark and we were too exhausted to carry one more box… was to drag some random rocks out of our woods, circle them up in the back yard, scavenge some limbs, wait until dark, crack open a beer, and light up a fire.

That first fire was glorious… and that primitive stone circle saw a lot of use.

But, it was something else to mow around.  Plus, you need to know my least favorite chore is weed-whacking.  I have a really nice Stihl string trimmer I’m thankful to have, but I don’t enjoy the work.

So just a couple weeks after our Version 1 of a firepit was born, and for much of its life, that stone circle would be more overgrown than a 1980′s centerfold and always badly in need of a trim.

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DIY Rain Barrel from a 275 Gallon IBC Water Tote

We’ve previously talked about Why You Want Rain Catchment and how to easily build a DIY 55 Gallon Rain Barrel.

Well, a couple weeks ago I decided my puny little guys needed a little something.  So I went balls to the wall and turned my rain barrels up to 11.

It all began with an innocent comment over dinner where I slipped in, “Hey baby, I’m thinking of adding a little volume to our water catchment.  What do you think?”  I don’t remember what details were sought… nor whether my mouth was full… nor maybe if I mumbled a little……. Who knows… The point is there was no objection and I promised they would be unobtrusive and blend right in.

Thanks to the magic of Craigslist, these beauties soon graced our driveway:


See?  Barely noticeable.

Here’s an easy step by step installation guide for amping up your  Water Storage systems.

DIY 275 Gallon Rain Barrel

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Family Resilience Essentials – Food Storage

This is Part 2 of a series discussing a few simple things each of us can do to increase our family’s chance of surviving, and more importantly thriving, during hard times… no matter how minor or serious those times may be.

In our last installment we talked about the importance of having a little extra water on hand.  This time we’re talking food.

I don’t know about you, but I like to eat.  I will eat at least a couple times today.  I ate yesterday.  I hope to eat tomorrow.  If for some reason we couldn’t make it to Kroger, or if we just want to take a little strain off our food budget every now and then, I’m thankful we’ve planned ahead with these easy and relatively inexpensive steps .

Food Storage in Three Easy Steps

Before we get into the thick of it… and just as a reminder, deciding to take care of your loved ones by keeping spare food, water, and some supplies socked away for emergencies doesn’t mean you’re a crazy person and your family should be the featured idiots on the next over-hyped reality TV show.

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Welcome to GHC!

I'm Mike, I'm new to this blogging thing, and I'm glad you're here. My goal for this space is an informative companion to my primary passions - the Workshops I facilitate on various topics and the Private Consultation I give to clients as a Permaculture Design Consultant.

Recently, our young family moved out of the cul-de-sac where society says we're supposed to live, and onto five acres outside town. If you stick around, you'll see our successes and failures in real time as we start from scratch and transform our land. Read a lot more about us Here.

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