Permaculture Designers Manual



Section 2.10 –

Permitted and Forced Functions in Permaculture

All key living elements may supply many functions in a system, but if we try to force too many work functions on an element, it collapses.

One cannot reasonably expect a cow to give milk, raise a calf, forage its own food, plough, haul water, and tread a corn mill.

Forcing an element to function, however, is a very different proposition from putting it in position where its natural or everyday behaviors permit benefits to other parts of the system.


Placed  correctly, a tree or chicken experiences no stress not common to all trees and chickens about their dally business.

Further, if we place any of the other elements needed close by, the tree or chicken has less stress than normal.

It is the design approach itself that permits components to provide many functions witout forcing functions (that are not in any case inherent) upon that element. The chicken may be busy, but not overworked.


People, too, like to be where their very different and complementary capabilities are used rather than being forced to either a single function (like a 30o – egg – a – year chicken or a typist confined to a computer operation in an office), or so many functions that they suffer deprivation or overload (like our cow above).

Principle of Stress and Harmony


Stress here 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 supply of essential needs.”