What Is Permaculture?

Permaculture is an ethical system of design for creating sustainable human habitats by mimicking patterns found in nature, no matter where the place is and no matter how big or small the habitat may be. The ethics of permaculture are three-fold: Care of Earth, Care of People, and Reinvestment of Surplus back into care of earth and care of people.

Although permaculture is often associated with producing your own food, gardening and agricultural systems, it encompasses all aspects of life. Water use, soil health, air quality, energy-efficient homes and buildings, waste water treatment, alternative energy sources, recycling, and land stewardship in general are all part of it. The principles and methodologies of permaculture may also be used to create more sustainable and healthy economic and social structures.

It is a system of common sense based on the creation of healthy systems without compromising the health of other systems. The focus of permaculture is RELATIONSHIPS. The focus is not on the elements and components themselves, but rather on the relationships created among them by the way we place them in the landscape and the way we live amidst them.

More information can be found about permaculture on our LINKS page.

Kinstone and Permaculture

Kristine Beck bought these 30 acres in 1994. They were old hay/corn/oats fields and pasture that supported a small family dairy farm. She let them lie fallow until 2011 when she began manifesting Kinstone. In 2010 she was talking to her nephew, Kevin Kihslinger about the land. He told her about permaculture and suggested it may be a way to help heal this steep, north-facing, fallow land. Kevin told her about Wayne Weiseman, a permaculture consultant and teacher based in Southern Illinois with a certain ability to get in touch with the “spirit of place” and to help others do the same on their own properties.

Kinstone and permaculture go together. Both are concerned with the care of earth and the care of people. Decisions and actions at Kinstone are based on the ethics and principles of permaculture as defined in other sections on this page. The depth and breadth of permaculture make it ideally suited for those looking for information about HOW to make a positive impact on their own life and their immediate surrounding environment. It is a common sense study that help us remember all that we forgot in how to take good care of the earth so that the earth can in turn provide good care for us.

Kristine hired Wayne Weiseman in October 2010 to create a permaculture master plan for the property. Wayne worked closely with Kristine for the next  7 years. As work progressed in the early years, Wayne suggested that he would teach if we would start a school for permaculture to help others learn this life-giving method of design. Kinstone Academy of Applied Permaculture was created in 2012 to share what we were implementing here with others. Kinstone became a living permaculture classroom. We held many courses and workshops including: Permaculture Design Certificate Course (PDC), hands-on plants workshops, advanced permaculture design, permaculture teacher training, herbalism, fermentation, natural building and more. Hundreds of our students have learned more about the earth and how to live in right-relationship with it. Other items of interest (and there are many more not listed!) that would fit under the heading of “permaculture” here at Kinstone include (in no particular order):

  • Keylined the land in spring of 2011
  • planted hundreds of trees (bearing fruits, nuts, evergreens, shade, privacy and more)
  • planted a prairie (native prairie seed mix)
  • planted a food forest garden
  • created raised garden beds – planted these each season to obtain a yield of annual veggies, fruits, herbs, and more
  • created swales in several areas to mitigate soil erosion and water flow
  • created terraces in several areas to mitigate soil erosion, provide planting surface and to slow water down
  • built a cabin with light-straw-clay
  • mulched, mulched and mulched some more
  • built a demonstration solar shower and sawdust outhouse
  • built a chapel, Dragon’s Keep visitor center, and sauna with cordwood
  • thatched the chapel
  • innoculated mushroom logs
  • built a yurt and tent platforms
  • created a cob oven and shelter for it from recycled materials
  • created art with dry-stacked stone
  • built a demonstration aquaponics system
  • introduced chickens, ducks, geese, and goats into the system
  • created access paths for tourists and visitors
  • created a classroom for courses and workshops
  • created a 2000-title library of reference books and books of topical interest
  • preserved the harvest each year: drying food, canning food, freezing food, and more
  • taught classes and hosted workshops

For two years Kristine also owned and operated a Food Truck called The Kinstone Kitchen. It was used to provide food for Kinstone events, classes and workshops. It was also seen at various fairs, festivals, and music events. We had a fabulous menu of local, organic foods that included meat, vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options. This truck was sold in 2018 after the sudden death of Richard Kuisle who was a big player in the operation of this truck, along with Clare Schoenfelder.

In 2018, Kristine decided to also take a break from new construction and running Kinstone as a permaculture “academy”. The highest and best use of this land may well be that it is a sanctuary; a place to spend as much time on the inner landscape as we do on the external landscape. Seven years of building, 5 years of managing the academy and a constant promotion of courses was not in keeping with Kristine’s idea of a sanctuary. After much observance and interaction with this place, she has decided to take a year or more, to do, as Bill Mollison would say, “protracted & thoughtful observation” and to listen to the land.  Next steps remain to be seen…

Permaculture Principles and Methodologies

Permaculture is a system of design.  The permaculture designer has available to them a set of ethics to follow and they also have certain principles and methodologies that guide them in their work. Kinstone has been designed and developed using these ethics and principles as a basis for design ideas and decision making. David Holmen, a co-founder of permaculture, has distilled a large number of principles into 12 main concepts. Wayne Weiseman, author, permaculture consultant, teacher and designer, has developed a larger list based on the teachings of Bill Mollison, a co-founder of permaculture.

Click the links below to see these very helpful lists of principles and methodologies. See how many you recognize in your own relationships with your living space.

David Holmgren has distilled a large number of principles into 12 main concepts that can be viewed on his page by clicking on this image:

Permaculture Ethics and Design Principles

This list was compiled by Wayne Weiseman based on Bill Mollison’s (i.e. co-founder of Permaculture) writings. This list can be obtained through Wayne’s website: The Permaculture Project, LLC.

Ethics:  The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children. Cooperation, not competition, is the very basis of future survival and of existing life systems.

Relative Location: Components placed in a system are viewed relatively, not in isolation.

Everything is connected to everything else: Recognize functional relationships between elements.

Every function is supported by many elements (redundancy): Good design ensures that all important functions can withstand the failure of one or more element.

Every element is supported by many functions: Each element we include is a system, chosen and placed so that it performs as many functions as possible.

Local Focus: “Think globally-act locally”. Grown your own food, cooperate with neighbors. Community efficiency, not self-sufficiency.

Diversity: As a general rule, as sustainable systems mature they become increasingly diverse in both space and time. What is important is the complexity of the functional relationships that exist between elements, not the number of elements.

Biological Resources: We know living things reproduce and build up their availability over time, assisted by their interaction with other compatible elements. Use and reserve biological intelligence.

One calorie in/one calorie out: Do not consume or export more biomass than carbon fixed by the solar budget.

Stocking: Finding the balance of various elements to keep one from overpowering another over time. How much of an element needs to be produced in order to fulfill the needs of the whole system?

Stacking: Multi-level functions for single element. Multi-level garden design, i.e., trellising, forest garden, vines, groundcovers.

Succession: Recognize that certain elements prepare the way for the system to support other elements in the future, i.e., succession planting.

Use onsite resources: Determine what resources are available and entering the system on their own. Maximize their use.

Edge effect: Ecotones are the most diverse and fertile area in a system. Two ecosystems come together to form a third which has more diversity than either of the other two, i.e., edges of ponds, forests, meadows, currents.

Energy recycling: Yields form system designed to supply onsite needs and/or needs of local region.

Small scale: Intensive systems start small and create a system that is manageable and produces a high yield.

Make least change for the greatest effect: The less change that is generated, the less embedded energy is used to endow the system.

Planting strategy: 1st-natives, 2nd-proven exotics, 3rd-unproven exotics- carefully on small scale with lots of observation.

Work within nature: Aiding the natural cycles results in higher yield and less work. A little support goes a long way.

Appropriate technology: The same principles apply to cooking, lighting, transportation, heating, sewage treatment, water and other utilities.

Law of return: Whatever we take, we must return. Every object must responsibly provide for its replacement.

Stress and harmony: Stress in this context may be defined as either prevention of natural function, or of forced function. Harmony may be defined as the integration of chosen and natural functions, and the easy supply of essential needs.

The problem is the solution: We are the problem, we are the solution. Turn constraints into resources.

Mistakes are tools for learning.

The yield of a system is theoretically unlimited: The only limit on the number of uses of a resource possible is the limit of information and imagination of the designer.

Dispersal of yield over time: Principle of seven generations. We can use energy to construct these systems providing that in their lifetime they store or conserve more energy that we use to construct them or to maintain them.

A policy of responsibility (to relinquish power): The role of successful design is to create a self-managed system.

Principle of disorder: Order and harmony produce energy for other uses. Disorder consumes energy to no useful end. Tidiness is maintained disorder.

Chaos has form but is not predictable. The amplification of small fluctuations.

Entropy: In complex systems disorder is an increasing result. Entropy and life-force is a stable pair that maintains the universe to infinity.

Metastability: For a complex system to remain stable there must be small pockets of disorder.

Entelechy: Principle of genetic intelligence, i.e., the rose has thorns to protect itself.

Observation: Protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor.

Hold water and fertility as high (in elevation) on the landscape as possible.

We are surrounded by limitless opportunities.

Wait one year.

Scale of Permanence

The Scale of Permanence is a list of landscape characteristics that anyone can use as a tool to analyze a site. The characteristics are ranked in order of how long they persist over time and how much effort is required to alter them.  It gives a good structure for reviewing a design site and a way to think through how to design in collaboration with the prevailing conditions.

The Scale of Permanence that has been used at Kinstone is shown below. This one, commonly used in current times, is based on the original scale developed by P.A. Yeomans in the 1950’s and then modified by Bill Mollison (co-founder of Permaculture) and later by Dave Jacke (author, ecologist, permaculture teacher and designer) and others:

  1. Climate
  2. Landform
  3. Water
  4. Access and circulation
  5. Microclimate
  6. Buildings and infrastructure
  7. Zones of use
  8. Soil
  9. Aesthetics
  10. Other factors: Culture, Economics, Political, Social, Spiritual

The first factors of Climate and Landform are more or less fixed and one usually cannot change them. The other characteristics are somewhat more flexible and by modifying them one can accomplish a thoughtful and elegant approach to site development.

More information about the scale of permanence can be found at the Permaculture Research Institute  –  Scale of Permanence.

  • Kinstone Chapel
  • Kinstone Flora and Fauna

What’s Happening @KinstoneCircle

Our Mission

Kinstone blends conscious care of the Earth with art to form sacred spaces that invite and inspire people to connect with and experience the creative power of the land to transform, energize and revive the body, mind and spirit.

Read More About Our Vision, Mission, & Values

Visitor Comments

“This place is utterly, unspeakably beautiful.” ~Janee H.

“I did not expect to feel as if I had come home when I visited Kinstone. And, like going home, I will return. There is much there that stirs me, and leads me to reflection and peace. Thank you.” ~Kathy Z.

Events Calendar

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Upcoming Events

Feb 23


February 23 @ 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Mar 08

International Women’s Day Gathering

March 8 @ 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Mar 19

Last Sunset of Winter – Vernal Equinox Sunset Observance

March 19 @ 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Fountain City WI
Mar 20

First Sunrise of Spring – Vernal Equinox Sunrise Observance

March 20 @ 6:30 AM - 8:00 AM
Fountain City WI
Mar 24

March New Moon Women’s Circle 2020

March 24 @ 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Fountain City WI