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We both get what we want

She is mint, and wants to live in Denmark, moist and shady. He is chamomile, and wants to live in Greece: hot and dry. They both get what they want, even though they live 30 centimetres away from each other. Thats the live-changing genius of the Permaculture herb spiral.

You can get what you require and desire, no diluting or compromise, and live with people who have different desires, and set them up to get what they need too, centimeters away from you. Different temperatures, different music, different activites, without distracting each other. It takes skill and practice, and dedication to everyone getting what they want. It might also take earphones, blankets, Japanese folding screens and time-share routines, and is one of the most valuable living skills you can have.

Lets look at what the herb spiral is doing, that allows its diverse inhabitants to get exactly the home they love


The hight of the spiral allows water to drain down, making wet and dry microclimates in the one square meter. The height provides shade on one side, and intensifies the sunniness on the other side, so its not all neutral. In my shared houses, I have expensive rooms for busy high-earners, medium rooms and free rooms for volunteers who make the house wonderful. Everyone gets what they need, I just have to make sure they are all a good culture fit, that there are no exuberantly weed-like people who will encroach on the domestic bliss of my housemates, dominating with noise, mess, or however they do it. I can manage that.

Time stacking

Staggering timing can add value. In the herb version, you can plant seeds of winter crops, and get them started while the autum crop is being harvested, because its a high-attention, intensively-planted garden of small, useful things. Its eye level, and unlike the big veggie patch, its right by the back door, a few steps away from the kitchen. The old plants help protect the young ones from pests, sunburn and evaporation. When I chose housemates, I considered how they would stack up, in using the house. I considered what time they wanted to leave for work, so I didn't have 4, maybe 6 people competing for 2 bathrooms at the same time. This makes the house feel spacious, and a limited resource - bathrooms - feel perfectly adequate.

Protected not stressed.

The rocks that give structure to the spiral also buffer against wind and even out temperatures absorbing heat during the day, and releasing heat during the chilly nights. This means plants aren't stressed, we can grow a wider range, including plants that would have been vulnerable to frost or sunburn. They will taste sweeter, with thinner skins, and give their loveliness to us.

Likewise, the rent of an intesively-shared home can be kept low. When its set up so the quality of life is high and the other guests are great, the housemates are sweet to each other and me, no defensiveness, lots of generosity. Thats what happens when the design is good. Nobody notices how 'intensively' populated the house is, because they rarely feel trespass or imposed upon. Chose cool people and uncluttered interiors. Set up guidelines for managing each other, and the downside of more people is minimised, the upside of great conversations and inspiration is a daily joy.

'I have a herb spiral, that means I'm doing Permaculture' is a cute and quite common thing done by new permies, who go for the symbolism, not quite aware of why they are using that special shape.

How wonderful, that the more skilled you get in social permaculture, happily combining people with different requirements, the humble herb spirals genius reveals itself, and continues to inspire.

The central living room in my Annandale house adapted to be many micro-climates, hospitable to all kinds of poeple, it makes my brain swim just remembering. Did we reall host a visiting band who performed here, after the opera house?. Did Lateral thinker Edward de Bono and his entorage join us for yoga? Did future-creator Dr. Jordan turn up and work on his inventions on our lounge floor? And the others... so many culture-creators found a hospitable place here, and I was happy.

Curated co-existance is my extreme sport, and thanks to Permacutlure, I'm get getting better and better each year.

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