“Stacking Functions” Department: Rabbits over Worms

I received a phone call yesterday morning from a woman in Panama who wanted to know if I knew of a good permaculture design for rabbits over worms.

I was surprised. Did she really think I personally would be able to guide her more than say, a google search? Maybe because I do this blog, and it’s called “exopermaculture,” she assumes I know a lot about permaculture as far as it applies to the land and structures on it. Well, I don’t! Instead, I make sure I align with people who do!

But her question did make me stop and think. My “specialty” seems to be more the willingness to experiment with working the “edge” (a favorite permaculture term) between farming/gardening and interpersonal relationships. See our Green Acres Village and Urban Farm. And I do think this whole area of what we could call social permaculture and how it interfaces with land-based permaculture is not nearly as developed as it needs to be. I asked a local friend and permaculture designer and teacher Rhonda Baird about literature in this area, and she said she knows of only one book and referred me to Toby Hemenway’s The Permaculture City.

Actually if you do an internet search for “people and permaculture” or “social permaculture,” or some such, there are lots of resources, some of them in ecovillage design, others in the Transition Town movement, and still others that focus more generally on systems thinking in all sorts of dimensions.

Even so, I personally know many local permaculturists who are laboring so very hard on their own land-based projects — either all by themselves or with just one other partner. No wonder that, after a few years, they tend to get burned out!

Thanks to Rhonda, our permaculture guild is now revisiting the idea of helping each other out with work days followed by potlucks. We used to do this, but then we all got busy with our own projects and let the list devolve into merely an email bulletin board where we ask each other questions. Not that this is “bad,” but we are very glad for the decision to begin working, learning, and playing with each other again.

In any case, back to yesterday’s phone call. I told Kim that I would put her question out to the local permaculture guild list. 

Within an hour I got a great response from a permaculturist who lives in Tennessee. He sent along this post, and I hoped it helped Kim. Both the question and the answer are wonderful examples of what permaculture calls “stacking functions.”

“Stacking Functions” Department: Permaculture Designs for Rabbits over Worms

Hi Kim, Anne, and the Bloomington Permaculture Guild!

We have seen some good designs for Rabbits over Worm Beds – and this is a classic Permaculture design utilizing the Principles of Multiple Elements, Relative Location, and Multiple Functions.

Even Better – Plants Over Rabbits Over Worms!  See attached

Here is some info we’ve collected:

Raising rabbits and worms together works so well because the nutrients in rabbit droppings and the wasted rabbit food and hay contains the perfect mix as a food source and as a bedding for the worms.  You can also raise the worms in compost bins or vermicomposting bins using the rabbit manure as a top dressing, for worm feed, and also as a worm bedding. Keeping worms under the rabbit cages also allows you to raise worms for fishing bait, chicken food, vermicomposting and this adds another bartering item you have on your homestead. This helps you to produce another potential source of income from your homestead and also improving your sustainability and another great fertilizer for your gardens.

The best kind of worm to use under rabbit cages is the red worm or Eisenia fetida. They are also known as brandling  worms, manure worms, tiger worms, panfish worms, trout worms and many  other names.

I hope those resources are a good help to you!

Please spread the news about our online Permaculture Design Certificate Course – run by highly-qualified teachers from the Nashville Permaculture Guild!

Lots of Love,

Alan Enzo, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Permaculture Education Center
Nashville Permaculture Guild
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